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The Spirit and Charm of Akihabara Dear Stage, Shining Upon the Idol War Era

アイドル戦国時代に輝く秋葉原Dear Stageの精神性・魅力
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The Spirit and Charm of Akihabara Dear Stage, Shining Upon the Idol War Era

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First of all, what exactly is the Dear Stage in Akihabara?

Just like lyrics to “W.W.D”, a song that defines Denpagumi.inc, the group had had their sights set on the world since their formation in 2008. During what was named their 2015 world tour, they performed in seven countries where Japanese otaku culture is flourishing, such as France and Indonesia. Due to their aggressive expansion overseas, at the MTV Europe Music Awards they were able to beat out other strong candidates, such as BABYMETAL, and were awarded Best Japan Act, so it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say these girls have already reached world-class popularity.

Already realizing their dream to break into the global scene, we can hardly wait to see what’s in store for Denpagumi.inc from here on out, but first let’s take a moment to touch on the group’s background. The lyrics to the song “W.W.D” paints a picture of the six members’ dark past until now, and much like the verse “semai stage kara sekai wo mezasu” (“we’re aiming for the world from this small stage”), that “small stage” is none other than Akihabara Dear Stage.

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As its name suggests, Akihabara Dear Stage is a combined café, bar, and concert space in Akihabara. The cast, called Dear Girls or Dear Boys, serves customers while performing concerts and so on as they focus on their dreams to be idols or singers in the future. It may come as a surprise, but current popular idols like Dempagumi.inc and Moso Calibration were once part of this cast back when nobody yet knew who they were. Although it’s not often published, there have quite a few people that became part of an idol group after graduating from Dear Stage. In an interview, Hug Me from BiSH revealed she had once been a member herself.

In the past, Dempagumi.inc were so-called underground idols. Compared to Momoiro Clover Z and Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku who belong to big agencies such as Stardust Promotion, it’s easy to see there was a considerable amount of difference both in circumstance and budget. How is it that Dempagumi.inc went from the Akihabara underground to making a worldwide name for themselves? Additionally how did Moso Calibration as well others like as Shioringo and Gumi from Bandjanaimon! continue to fight their way through the Idol War Era to make their way to the forefront? I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the answer lies in Akihabara Dear Stage. Here I would like to use some quotes from Nemu Yumemi’s series (MARQUEE vol.111 Notes 006 Dempa’s Spirit, Akihabara’s Spirit) to further elaborate on Akihabara Dear Stage.

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A unique relationship from the level of awareness that exists between the cast and audience

“There was a low ring room where packing tape divided the stage and the seating. That’s where I started out, with only one line of tape separating the stage and the audience, and it really depended on a mutual understanding, you know? They weren’t cheering on real idols, but rather building us into real idols.”

“So for fans that think they’re just on the receiving end, that isn’t necessarily incorrect, but I want them to keep in mind that actually a large part is about giving. It was a kind of self-awareness to ‘Don’t just think you’re just on the receiving end’ and “You also have to give us something’. So because of that I’m grateful. At the same time I think for idols, ‘Don’t think you’re doing all the giving.’ I guess that’s something I’d really like to convey.”

“So that’s why I wrote on Twitter, ‘Both sides shouldn’t be too arrogant!’ If either side had been too smug with only that line separating us from the audience, nothing good would have come out of it. To me, it’s not a stage.”

At the current Akihabara Dear Stage there’s a real stage laid out, but at the old one (the current Akihabara MOGRA), there was only a single line of packing tape separating the audience. Whether that small space could be regarded as a stage was up to the cast and the audience, and if the audience hadn’t regarded it as a stage, then it wouldn’t have been able to further function as one. That both sides had a relationship of mutual respect was an important element that Akihabara Dear Stage nurtured.

Even now, almost every month Risa Aizawa and Nemu Yumemi from Dempagumi.inc hold an event where you can enjoy their cooking at Akihabara Dear Stage. The cost is 3,500 yen, which doesn’t differ very much from the usual price of having a meal at Dear Stage. Given the amount of work they put into it and their fame, it clearly goes beyond common business sense. Nevertheless, both of them continue to hold the event, and like the relationship outlined above, they remain humble, which you can infer is because of their gratefulness to their fans. Going to great lengths like this, it’s easy to understand why their fans would want to support them.

If idols and audiences recognized it as a stage, then it can be said that Dear Stage is a real stage. On November 5th an event called Dear Stage Showcase was held at Akasaka BLITZ. The line-up was made up of idol artists who belong to Akihabara Dear Stage, and they performed in order as part of a showcase. During Mirin Furukawa’s MC, she began by saying (Akasaka BLITZ) was like Dear Stage, and that to these girls and the audience, it wasn’t just one specific place or a building, but a stage built from the relationship they shared. Dear Stage built this kind of relationship.


 

The cast’s self-made strength and effort as idols

Now, where the internet has broken down the barrier between idols and regular people, people are looking for self-made strength in idols. Whether or not idols can market themselves to customers as appealing items influences whether or not they will sell. Regarding this point, you could say that Dear Stage is the perfect environment. Nemu Yumemi said this in her series:

“I think where Dempagumi.inc differs from many other idols is that we were shop-based. Dear Stage was like soil. After announcing our own events we made everything, and of course we didn’t have real uniforms that were bought for us, so we while making everything by hand we tried to look like idols. Like I considered myself ‘less than a magical girl’, and those ‘less than magical girls’ can’t become magical girls, so worked hard and made my own costumes, stuffing them into my backpack for when the time to transform myself came, and it was a lot like that. But when that time came I was a magical girl. As to why I wanted to be one, I wanted the person I liked to turn around in front of me, or something like that, like I was wishing for something. As a shop-style or underground idol, I was working towards transforming for this reason, and in short, the period of time I spent training hard on my “less than” areas was very long. Dempagumi.inc’s training period also took a really long time. But actually it wasn’t something that couldn’t be helped.”

At Dear Stage the cast planned and managed events as PM (Project Managers), and held events daily. Risa Aizawa and Nemu Yumemi’s event was one of these. By holding their own events, the cast was able to learn their own method of appealing to others. They researched what kind of events would make patrons happy or how to present themselves in the most appealing way possible, and with an endless amount of effort they were finally transformed from ordinary people into idols. To see that amount of growth, it’s clear that it takes an enormous amount of time, but the amount of joy felt the moment they transform into idols is immeasurable.

Additionally, there were many times the Dear Stage cast spend as much as half a week at the shop. What this means is, they were given that many times to give performances. Except for a rare few, there aren’t many idols who perform three times a week. But through their day-to-day concerts and hospitality, they were able to polish their performance ability, and made great efforts to be recognized as idols. When comparing the constant, never-failing efforts of the cast to your average idol, the overwhelming difference of strength between them is obvious.


 

Finally…

With the breakthrough of Dempagumi.inc and Moso Calibration, Akihabara Dear Stage now enjoys a distinguished presence. But I wonder if only a few people have actually set foot inside the shop. The shop usually has its shutter drawn and is protected by a heavy, silver door. It’s not as easy to walk into as say, Starbucks. However once you enter inside, the stage is full of the sweltering heat from the relationship between the cast and the audience. There are more than a few there who are aiming to be the next Dempagumi.inc or Moso Calibration. If your interest is piqued even a little after reading this piece, I definitely recommend you visit it once.

Translated by Jamie.K

Related Links:
Dear Stage Official:http://dearstage.com
Dempagumi.inc Official:http://dempagumi.dearstage.com
Nemu Yumemi’s series (MARQUEE vol.111 Notes 006 Dempa’s Spirit, Akihabara’s Spirit)
:http://www.marquee-mag.com/blog/2015/10/marquee-vol111-blog-inc-notes-006.html

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Related Artists : Moso Calibration Dempagumi.inc
Author
ykmk
ykmk

Growing up in Akihabara culture, ykmk became an otaku covering idol, anime, and pop music.

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