Making it Big on Niconico: Successful Talents who Started with a Dance Cover
The world of idols has long been dominated by agencies who produce carefully selected talents, presented to the audience as shining and flawless. These days though, the path to stardom is not limited to the professional track. The advent of content creation on video sharing platforms has created a window for anyone and everyone to be a star in their own right. For some, it brings them even further and lands them in commercial success.
Niconico is one of the most accessed websites in Japan and is known for its sub-platforms such as “utattemita” and “odottemita” (literally “I tried singing” and “I tried dancing” respectively). The strong community and open atmosphere of Niconico allows content creators to build up a fan base and a consistent platform to upload videos at their own freedom.
The odottemita category has been churning out an increasing number of people who achieve mainstream popularity. They went from filming dance covers at home to signing on with a record company, reaching the level of orthodox idols but through a more unconventional, organic process.
The five-member dance rock group is one of the most well-known success stories that originated on Niconico. Before forming the band, the individual members had already been established figures in the odottemita community. They had been part of the dance unit DANCEROID, and consistently led the charts with their individual videos as well. Their dance covers to date have millions of views combined—youngest member Manako saw a surge in recognition after several of her videos went viral online, starting with her dance cover of the ending theme song of hit anime Yokai Watch.
Despite already having made a name for themselves as skilled dancers, the girls went on to show their singing prowess by venturing into the market with label Kadokawa and releasing their own singles. They burst into the scene with their bold vocals and an aggression on par with mainstream artists, setting a new precedent for the odottemita community.
What started as a gathering of fans grew into one of the most successful male idol groups on Niconico, which would later lead to recording contracts and live concerts all over Japan and even abroad. In 2012 eleven young men formed a group and named themselves “morning musumen” as homage to female idol group Morning Musume, whose songs they performed dance covers to. Their first cover was an instant hit, reaching the top spot on the chart and cementing their popularity as a male dance cover unit.
The following year, however, the group shifted into high gear and begin to take their activities even further. They released their own original song and put on their first solo live show. Several albums and sold-out concerts later, they are now a force to be reckoned in their own name. The group, now consisting of nine members, renamed themselves “Mesemoa” in January 2017 to symbolize the new step they are taking forward to push themselves further into the spotlight.
Before she became a member of world famous idol group Dempagumi.inc, Fujisaki Ayane was simply known as Pinky to thousands of fans who watched her dance covers online. She’d already gained a strong following on Niconico, and often did collaborations with other established dancers. She regularly appeared at events, performing covers on stage and attracting audiences with her sharp dancing and cute features. Her stage has only grown bigger since those years—the cosplay lover debuted as a member of Dempagumi.inc in 2012 after idol producer Fukushima Maiko saw her videos and decided to recruit her.
Throughout her jump from odottemita crowd favorite to pop idol, Fujisaki has continued to protect her passion for dancing. She started a new path with the intention to dance in front of an even larger audience, and is still going strong almost five years after her debut. Even as a Dempagumi.inc member, she still retains her nickname—a reminder of where she had once created her own dance legacy.
Fellow member Furukawa Mirin was also an avid user of Niconico, with at least 20 dance covers to her name on her channel.
She may be one of the youngest to come out of the odottemita world, but her energy and charisma is impossible to overlook. With an astounding 161,000 followers on Twitter and almost 200 dance covers under her belt, it’s hard to believe that Ririri is only 11 years old.
She posted her first video at age 5, the pint-sized Osaka native in oversized glasses dancing well albeit slightly clumsily to the techno-pop tune of “Happy Synthesizer”. Needless to say, the adorable performance was well-received on Niconico and netizens started to follow her in droves, eagerly anticipating each new video of the precocious Internet celebrity. As the years went by Ririri gradually grew and so did her fame; she is consistently invited to live events and has made television appearances, even starring in commercials for media companies G-Cluster and LINE. She also just released her first digital single, titled “RIRIRI ANTHEM”.
It’s no easy feat for an 11-year-old to be juggling school and a rapidly growing career as a performer, but Ririri manages to do it all with a big smile that hasn’t changed since her early years.
The Asibuto Penta brand is quite literally a homegrown one. The 21-year-old created and grew her own community right in her own home, where she filmed her first dance cover in 2010 and consistently does live streams to this day. The beloved Niconico dancer forged her own unique reputation with her sharp, dynamic dance and original choreographies, complete with her doll-like appearance. Creative talent gives her an edge; her self-designed goods, often featuring a hand-drawn mascot, sell out fast at events.
Asibuto Penters (as her fans are endearingly referred to) are consistently growing in number as her reach expands further, even to foreign countries like China and Singapore. The Penters community is a tight-knit yet welcoming one, led by Asibuto Penta herself who makes it a point to connect with her supporters.
The power of video sharing and the opportunities it brings are breaking boundaries and redefining fame in the entertainment world. Regular people have a chance at making it big, carving out individualism like never before—these are the people who simply produced videos because they wanted to show their performance to the Internet. The presence of Niconico is certainly growing bigger, and turning out some of the biggest online trends of today.
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