Overall I had a really good time at both shows. This was the first time I've ever been to a Gamushara show or at Theater Ex and I thought the venue was decent in terms of visibility (but then again we had low 500s for one show and high 300s for the second). First show we hung out just in front of the padded barrier so that we had something to lean against, and we were almost but not quite under the right side long balcony. It was actually a good spot for being seen from the corner bit of balcony, but then across the long one the guys could only see us if they leaned over a little (which a few guys did!). Second show we wised up and moved in towards center just a little, so even though we didn't make it up against the barrier like we wanted, we were in a much better spot for the right side long balcony.
I hadn't seen most of these guys live ever, certainly not this close, and even those I had would have been during Kisumai's debut tour last, so I'm not sure you could count that as 'seeing' Marius and Sou. As always, Johnny's are always so much more attractive live than seeing DVDs/videos. I know it's going to happen, but it's still surprising at first. Even Marius, who I basically have no feelings about, startled me when he first came out on our balcony right over top of us on the corner bit. Actually he was pretty much the first person I saw, haha.
The concert had a pretty fair amount of SZ songs, so I wasn't that familiar with them, but it was still fun. Marius was reasonably entertaining in person, but Sou turned out to be super cute throughout both shows. They didn't convert me to SZ or anything, but if asked at this point I would name Sou as my favorite member. I get the feeling that once he's really an adult, all the way, that I actually might like him a lot. Also, if you think he's suddenly gotten more handsome in magazines, let me tell you how that's nothing compared to seeing him in person. It's a bit weird though because he's speaking voice is deepish but his singing voice is high.
While we're on that topic, the person who surprised me the most in person in terms of straight appearance was definitely Juri. He is like three times prettier than you think he is, and it mostly has to do with how in person he looks much less skinny. He still is, but when he's moving around it doesn't seem as noticeable? It's hard to explain. Kouchi was a little better too. Kouchi, though, spent all of both shows being super friendly with everybody, especially Reia, and he really likes to push the littler jrs forward and hand them mics and encourage them to stand out. He made a great impression, and I'm happy he's doing Gamushara this year because I think it's the type of thing that shows his strengths that way. Since I just mentioned both of them, at one point Juri and Kouchi sing a duet and it was so cute. Honestly their vocals could use a little work still, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment at all. I was happy to see them sing together (and to be really real first show Jesse/MasuRyo version of Miso Soup was hardly any better).
Jesse, Shintarou, and Hokuto all look great live. Hokuto's smile is so sweet, jesus christ. His hair is a little longer and his cheeks are a little rounder at the moment and oh, it's so nice. First show, he leaned wayyyyy over the balcony to look at our area and definitely caught eyes with me and Rory, and it was pretty kyunkyun, let me tell you. Shintarou seemed really happy and energetic both shows, bouncing around and messing around with everybody. You can tell he's still resistant to singing into the mic when he doesn't HAVE to, but he spends his time making faces and doing macho poses and putting Juri in headlocks and stuff like that. Basically, he's exactly like you think he is, lol. Second show Marius and Sou were out by themselves up on the high stage to start the next thing, and Shintarou strolled out to center stage as if it was all for him and started mouthing the lyrics, and when Sou looked down and noticed, he cracked up and elbowed Marius like "Do you see that fucking guy down there?!" Sou and Shintarou seem pretty close—second show the random selfie was the two of them eating bananas together. Shintarou and Hanazawa in particular horsed around a lot, too. During post-competition MCs, Juri and Shintarou would tend to step forward out of their lines just enough to harass each other from wayyyy across the stage. BFFs, always.
Okay, so somehow, Kauan kiiiind of won me over, and this is how that happened. First of all, like everyone else, stupidly hot in person. But mostly it was that he just seemed very relaxed, especially with Kouchi and Reia; like you can tell he isn't good friends with everybody in the same way that Juri is, for instance, but I think he eased up a lot and it turned out better in the end. Shintarou was purposefully joking around with him and including him a lot. Well, and also, so Kauan clearly noticed Rory and me first show because he was standing in the corner balcony a bit. Then second show, since we hadn't moved very far, we really caught his attention (most people were looking the other way at Jesse on the other side anyway), and he blew kisses at us, clearly pleased we were excited for him. Closer to the end of the show he came back to the same spot as if to make sure we were still there and at that point, like awww. Also he does a sort of Spanish Tsubasa-style solo and second show he decided he needed to rip his shirt open for that. HI THERE, KAUAN.
Reia is the tiniest, palest, cutest little thing. He and Shintarou were obviously happy to get to hang out on stage together for all of this, and I'm super happy he's on Ra this year. But seeing him in person made me realize just how young and little he looks, and I felt a little bad for him that that's the situation, because he doesn't exactly look like he fits in with the guys who are his age, and so I'm sure it's not doing his career any favors. He also…I've been thinking about how to put into words what I think the problem is with him…he doesn't have much stage presence maybe? He just…seems like a backer. Hm. Like Yasui is going to be little and cute always but I never feel like I just expect him to stand in the back and wave and smile cutely. I'm sorry if this sounds mean! I like Reia a lot and he was really sweet! But seeing him in person explained a lot about how he hasn't been pushed forward much in a while. Even Ra was constantly encouraging him to take the mic, talk, say anything, c'mon Reia!!
Myuto kept hanging around our corner, and i was just like shoo! go on! He's the only guy I have kind of negative feelings about (sorry if you like him, he just gives me a creepy vibe). Oh, but there was Sanapi!! Sanada was the guest MC and I was happy to see him, even if he's lost more weight than he should too. Since he was there they did the band thing for Love You Only and it was great. MasuRyo seems SO talented during that bit. It pleases me so much to see jrs doing backing band stuff more and more frequently. I know we can't keep all these guys, so anything that seems like a niche they can fill and be happy in is so welcome. Plus the band stuff is so cool!!
Hm, what else. Juri was pretty low tension second show, whether he was just tired or what, idk. Even up on the balconies he wasn't doing as much fan interaction, mostly just standing there, so I was happy when I caught his attention. He had been right above us, then turned as if to leave, but stopped a couple steps out and turned back. At that point most people were again turned towards the other balcony, and also I have a habit of purposefully doing a strange penlight color in that circumstance, so when he scanned over he definitely paused on me like "Green? Why?" and then after that one-beat pause I thumbs-upped and smiled as big as I could for him and he gave me a cool little nod and thumbs up back. I feel like Juri more than any of the others seemed to get that it was in particular just for him, not whoever happened to walk by, and I was glad. I wanted to tell him "ganbatte" more than anyone else just because he seemed low energy/maybe down a little, especially after Ga lost both shows in a row.
There was a Hokuto bit right at the beginning of this show too (ugh he's so fucking CUTE, what even is that), and then at one point or another Hanazawa and Masuda Ryo both noticed Rory and me with some obvious attention. I guess for obvious reasons, the half juniors seem to often be the most excited about foreign fans. MasuRyo especially seemed just really nice (how can you even tell that from exchanging waves? Idk but that's what it felt like), and sort of stretched over more at us like "You! Right you! Yay~!" Hanazawa seems like such a happy and fun guy. No wonder Shintarou likes him so much.
Also, just to tell this story for the purpose of telling it, I don't feel like I had Shintarou's attention at any point really, but near the end of second show, he was fucking around doing some macho dance thing on the balcony above us, and as he scanned over Rory said that he locked onto her for a long pause as if completely puzzled, which she described as "Foreign Ra fan! What do?" And I'm still laughing about that description 24 hours later. Also during second show while they were standing in a line after skill performance, he totally realized his fly was half or all down and had to turn away to zip it. When they were playing with their penlights, he was singing into his penlight and waving his mic (Jesse was doing that shit first show — meanwhile, Juri fucked up his penlight change and had to hide it behind his back for half the song XD). Idiotssssss ah I love them.
I mean, I guess I could tell you something about the actual performances or skills, pfft. Both groups had kind of a rough morning, missing a bunch of tricks. Afternoon was better for both but not flawless. In the morning show Juri missed his back-dunk, but then the last run-up where they all pass the ball off to dunk finished fine. Hanazawa gets SO MUCH AIR for his dunks, holy shit, my jaw was hanging open first show. Second show a couple people had near misses, off the rim and stuff, so frustrating, and then they changed the last thing so it was more of two handed-off dunks rather than the long fancy one. We also noticed MasuRyo didn't do much second show—aside from skill battle, I think he was only on stage for Sanaji band and Jesse duet, oh and the other duet thing, so singing but not dancing. I hope he isn't hurt or anything.
Ra had a bunch of small mistakes, like Kouchi blowing his speed step right away and some fumbled rope hand-offs. Second show Kouchi almost made it!! SO CLOSE! Reia did fine with his, though, and Kauan's tricks were good. Hokuto did his kick flip thing okay but there was some fumble with the ropes there too. Right at the end the ropes randomly got knotted together and Kouchi had an obvious panic trying to separate them before Shintarou flipped off the second level (oh god he needs to stop doing that, it's so scary). In the end he kind of just swung them together. Poor Kouchi was probably freaking out. I have to say that this years routine was cool? But it didn't have the same smooth flow as last year's did. The tricks individually are cool, but it seems to pause in places.
Ra won both matches. Decibels from audience were the same both show (113 Ga, 115 Ra) and then Ra had a couple extra jr balls too. Nice to see Ra finally catching up a little. I was rooting for them so I was happy XD. Ga seemed a little fuuuuugh esp second show, which is totally understandable, but Sanada and Ra went out of their way to praise how cool some of their dunks are, and even how they look cool when they fuck up sometimes XD.
Both Ra and Ga medleys were really good. Ga did Shadow Striker, which, yessssssssss. Ra started out in blue, with the old Kisumai costumes for Hokuto-Shin-Kouchi, and they did a bunch of KAT-TUN which I was also so, so down for. Reia and Kauan both had solos which I thought showed them off nicely. Shin-Hoku-Kouchi sang together as a trio twice, first One Drop and then…hm, something. SO NICE TO HEAR SHINTAROU'S VOICE. THANK YOU. Both the blue costumes, though, and then the purple NEWS ones made it obvious that Shin-Hoku-Kouchi were a group, but then Kauan and Reia had obviously different ones. That's fine I guess? I felt a little hmm about it, and I wondered if that was a staff choice or their choice. I mean, all the colors were the same, just, I knew the blue were kisumai so I saw the difference right away, and then when it happened a second time it seemed purposeful. By comparison Ga didn't give off a vibe like that.
I guess that's pretty much all I have to say about it? I wish I could have seen some other teams to compare, especially the skating since that's new and I love Yasui, but I'm glad I lucked out with Ra and Ga because that was the only day I could go no matter who was performing. It worked out really well. You know really, especially having seen it in person, I think Gamushara in general, but in particular this summer team thing, is such a good thing for pretty much all the juniors who do it. It definitely helps them build relationships and bonds with people they don't usually work with, and it really seems to help build confidence for a lot of them. I could see a mile of difference in guys like Shintarou and Hokuto, who did this last summer, and guys who this was their first one. The leadership training alone for some of these guys is invaluable; Hokuto was so much more relaxed about it this year, about knowing when to step in between members instead of just watching them fight. Jinguji too, in the end I think last year was very formative for him and his confidence issues have seemed much less pressing ever since. Jesse I still think is struggling with it, so I'm glad Juri got moved over in what to me seems like a calculated move because Juri is so unfailingly nice and will help literally anyone.
I think the small venue with such a large number of shows definitely helps build the fan-idol relationship that JE uses to promote their popularity, but it's a pretty win-win situation there. Some of these guys are SO HAPPY when they can tell you are like "You! I'm excited about you!" More popular guys like Jesse or Hokuto maybe don't need that as much (although I'm sure it's nice, lol) but other guys like Kauan, I think it makes a lot of difference. And when they're relaxed and surrounded by guys they are friends with and doing something fun, it makes such a huge difference.
And there are a lot of guys too who this is an amazing chance to have the spotlight and show strengths they don't usually get to, especially those guys whose strong points are social like Juri or Kouchi. Groups need those kinds of guys to glue members together and help sort out conflicts, but it's not the kind of thing that gets you noticed usually. I'm sure Kouchi was always encouraging younger jrs like that backstage, but to see it in front of you is different. I just felt like I got a chance to see much more of these guys' personalities than I would have otherwise, and that's pretty universally positive in building fans for these guys. I did not give even half a fuck about Kauan two days ago, and seeing him live turned that completely around.
Also there was quite a bit of obvious SixTONES fan gear/representation, which makes sense given the two teams we saw, but I was glad to see it anyway. I really, really hope Shounentachi goes well for both SixTONES and Snow Man this year and that SixTONES can start building up some momentum again. I think having Gamushara back to back with Shounentachi is probably a good lead-up activity in terms of that, given the distribution of audience support/yelling that I witnessed for 6T members vs non-6T.