Event Report: The Hoopers 9th Single – Tower Records Shibuya, 6.26.18

2019年3月4日

One of my favorite groups, The Hoopers, have had an eventful several months. The group’s leader Makoto graduated in February, and just as they had begun acclimating to having 7 members instead of 8, it was announced that popular member Haruki would suspend her activities indefinitely due to poor health. The group continued doing their best with 6 members, but had definitely entered a period of uncertainty.

Then in April, the group released a YouTube video with a big announcement. Shibuya Azuki, a member of seiyuu (voice actor) idol group i☆Ris, would join the group as a temporary member for their 9th single, “Jewel no Koudou ga Kikoeru ka?” i☆Ris’ image is pretty much opposite to The Hoopers’, but after undergoing a major image change a few years ago, Zucchan began embodying an ikemen joshi (handsome girl) style offstage and in other work, like modeling for genderless fashion brand KINGLY MASK. I knew she was a fan of groups like The Hoopers and their predecessors Fudanjuku and I’d become a fan of hers in spite of not knowing a lot about i☆Ris, but it felt like a weird dream that this individual idol I admired would join a group I loved so much, even if only temporarily!

Because of her activities with her main group, Zucchan was only able to participate in 3 of the many pre-release and release week events, so I knew I didn’t want to miss this rare chance to see her on stage alongside The Hoopers.

My mother was in town visiting, and though she often asks about my favorite idols and has come to two Fudanjuku events with me, she had yet to make it to a Hoopers event with me. We met up after work on Tuesday and headed to Tower Records in Shibuya. The huge yellow building houses a livehouse in the basement that seems to be especially popular for “flying get” events– ones held the evening before a new album or single’s official release day when fans can grab their new CDs a bit early.

We were told when we got in that all the seiriken (entrance tickets) had already been distributed, but I knew that didn’t necessarily mean a full house. A trend I’ve noticed among Hoopers fans is that lots of folks will stand in line to receive entrance tickets several times and only use the one with the lowest number, so I was pretty confident we could still make it inside. Sure enough, the venue was only about ⅔ full, with plenty of space towards the back for my (much taller than the average Hoopers fan) mother and I to stand without blocking anyone’s view.

The minilive portion included rock Shamrock, the new single’s upbeat coupling song Clear Sky and fan favorite New World. Before leading into the title song of the new single, dance leader Lee had a special set of instructions of audience participation. Unlike other Hoopers songs, Jewel no Kodou Kikoeru ka? asks fans to turn off and stow their penlights for takeoff and landing and perform furikopi (fans mimicking artist choreography) with their bare hands. The motions included waving some finger guns around, throwing fists in the air, and pointing at your favorite member, all of which were easy enough for even a furikopi-impaired fan like myself.

As the minilive wrapped up, lead singer Mirai referenced the recent announcement that Haruki would be participating in events again from July. She acknowledged that everyone must be impatient to see her, and said that she was too, and that she wanted us to see Haruki soon, too. “You all want to see her, right?” she asked. Of course, the audience emphatically answers yes. She asked again, and the calls of “we want to see her!” were even louder. Finally Haruki, dressed in casual clothes, emerged from backstage to cheers and a handful of sobs. Her first appearance since the announcement of her break, which included a complete social media silence since the end of February!

Zucchan and the other members welcomed her back, and Haruki apologized for making everyone worry. She joked that she wants to hug, kiss, and push everyone who worried about her onto a bed. (Spicy.) MC specialist Sena questioned if that’s a good choice for someone still in recovery, but Haruki seemed undeterred. Zucchan and Haruki traded some meaningful hugs, with Haruki thanking Zucchan for holding her spot and Zucchan saying that what she’d really wanted was to perform alongside Haruki, too. Since Zucchan wouldn’t be able to participate in another event until the very last one, she joked that she would lend her costume to Haruki if it weren’t already sweaty. But oh, what’s this…? From offstage, Zucchan produces… another costume, for Haruki? It’s announced that Haruki will rejoin the group for the remainder of the week’s events, including the final event at which Zucchan would also appear, once again bringing their member count up to 8. The members poke fun at Mirai (who’s very close with Haruki) who has been crying basically the entire time, and the event comes to a conclusion in preparation of the attraction-kai (the portion of the event including handshakes, photos, etc.)

This event’s attraction-kai included handshakes, photos taken on your phone, and a personalized autograph session on the new CDs. At the members’ and fans’ request, Haruki was permitted to participate in the handshake even though she was in plain clothes and the staff had obviously not planned for it. It was a really nice surprise for everyone to be able to welcome her back personally!

The highlight for me was being able to take a picture with The Hoopers– and my mom! The Hoopers offer fans a pretty unique option of taking photos solo, or with up to three friends. One picture for each person, so if 4 people take a photo all at once, they get 4 photos essentially for the price of one! Definitely recommended to team up with other fans if you can. Anyway, sitting down for the photos with my mom and hearing all of the members go, “Mama? Mama!!” at her was absolutely adorable, and she even ended up with Mirai’s arm around her during one of the photos. But, like mother like daughter, we both share Cecil as our favorite, which I made sure to tell Cecil during our autograph session. (Cecil raised her arms in excitement and then said, “Oops, I can’t finish your autograph like this!” and continued writing.)

I’m extremely fortunate to have a mom who not only approves of my idol habit but is intrigued enough in my hobbies to come check them out for herself, and I felt lucky to be able to share these memories with her! It was a particularly emotional event for a lot of people, and I’m definitely glad I could attend.