Wednesday, November 23, 2016

From Stand-Up! Hearts to Iketeru Hearts: One Last Stage in Singapore


Idol group Iketeru Hearts (formerly Stand-Up! Hearts) performing on the second day of AFA 2015

Over three days, they had fun with, bantered with and no doubt, put a smile on the faces of the many who had dropped by their booth, their curiosity piqued by the eight vivacious girls who would cheerfully invite them to take a picture or two together.

Often performing alongside many other groups at idol events in Japan, they had the audience's undivided attention showered on them for the first time, with supporters turning up in droves to spur them on at their daily stage performances.

They were only idol trainees, yet to make their professional debut but it didn't matter. The crowd couldn't care less. To them, "Stand-Up! Hearts" was what they were there for, what made them happy the most.

Emotions were running high as they took to the stage for their final performance, to fervent cheers from the audience on the last day. Wasting no time getting into position, they launched immediately into a dance cover of sister group Afilia Saga's "ニーハイ・エゴイスト (Knee-High Egoist)".

Putting up a remarkable dance far from one by any trainees, the girls were able to execute many of the complex dance routines performed by their seniors. Spirits were evidently high as both fans and idols beamed with joy throughout the song.

It was the first time they were dancing to the high-energy track by themselves on stage and they were filled with ecstasy at the overwhelming reception.

Thanking everyone, at both front and back as the song drew to a close, the members introduced themselves as "Kirakira (Sparkling) idol kenshuusei (trainees), Stand-Up! Hearts!", waving excitedly.

"We are Afilia Saga's younger sister group," exclaimed member Yuyu Arata in Mandarin, impressing the Singaporean audience with her language prowess.

Next, each member took a few seconds to introduce themselves in English, with Yuyu taking the lead. "I am Yuyu! Please call me Yuyu!" Drawing roaring echoes whenever they uttered their name aloud, the English-speaking crowd was undoubtedly impressed with their well-articulated lines.

"Last day of AFA! It has been fast, hasn't it?" said Yuyu in Japanese as the other members cheered aloud in agreement. "Thank you for allowing us to have had such a fun time with everyone! And so, the next song..."The girls got into their positions eagerly, ready for the next act.

The next song, "空色デイズ (Sorairo Days)" saw the group executing a more dynamic dance, with visibly greater interaction with the public. Zealous fans responded with fiery passion as the idols raced to the front of the stage and roused everyone during the chorus.

A fast song with a distinctive electronic feel to it, the song, the opening theme to critically-acclaimed 2007 anime Tengen Toppa Gurenn Lagann by famous Japanese pop singer Shoko Nakagawa was littered with claps and wota (fans of Japanese idols) chants throughout.

Proving to be an apt selection for their showcase, it demonstrated the ability of the group to perform to other genres such as anisong, with their choreographed moves perfectly in sync with the track's rhythm. Injecting much energy into the crowd, it set the stage for what was to come next.

Aligning themselves to the center of the stage, they broke into "天武の舞、暁の門 (Tenbu no Mai, Akatsuki no Mon)". A callback to console games of days past, it was the opening theme of PlayStation 2 game Tamayura. Despite its age, it was an excellent song to dance to nevertheless.

Gaining on the momentum set by "Sorairo Days", the girls performed a combination of fast and agile alongside more controlled and graceful dance moves. The song resembled a battle song, one to rally brave warriors into action, with elements of traditional music incorporated it.

Together as one, the audience extended their hands in the same manner as the girls did, in a show of unity at the chorus. Containing their cheers and chants this time around, the crowd soaked in the uplifting atmosphere and cherished the performance on stage.

The group started on "蒼黒のスピカ (Sokoku no Spica)" as soon as the previous song ended. After racing through the first three songs, this one started considerably slower. However, the energy did not die down as the pace picked up and so did the cheers as the song progressed towards the chorus.

Those who had dropped by the CHEERZ booth to meet the girls would have heard the opening theme to visual novel Myself;Yourself  playing throughout the past two days. Therefore, it was rather special for many to see and hear it performed for the last time on stage.

It was a song filled with emotions, with every member evidently investing their feelings into it. Beads of sweat were clearly visible on some members' faces as they performed on stage. They were more than halfway into their performance and it was a reflection of their dedication and indefatigable spirit.

As the song drew to a close, Yuyu introduced the group once again, in a mishmash of Japanese, English and Mandarin. "We are Stand-Up! Hearts! Our songs are covers of senpai (seniors) Afilia Saga's, anime and game songs but we're getting our major debut next February!" to which they received a warm applause, with language proving not to be a barrier.

Two of the eight members, Rie and Nijika were performing overseas for the first time.

Rie exclaimed that she could not speak English very well and was very worried before she came here. However, she felt that everyone was so kind and she had such a fun time. "These three days have really been wonderful!" she thanked the audience.

Nijika took to the microphone next, expressing that she was slightly anxious and worried but the loud cheers of everyone really gave her much courage and she expressed her heartfelt gratitude to everyone for the past three days too.

Yuyu then pointed at a fan holding a lightstick with Nijika's favourite colour, pink, which caught her by surprise. At the same time, she thanked those in the crowd who were waving their blue lightsticks in support of her.

(Note: Photos from Day 2 are used for "Drawing Again)

"Next song will be a song that involves a "play train"," said Yuyu, forming a human train with the other members, beckoning for the crowd to follow along. "Let's make a huge train on the last day of AFA in Singapore!" shouted Karin and with that, the girls launched into their next song, "Drawing Again".

A happy and upbeat track, the song was radiating happiness and energy from its first line. Like "Sorairo Days", it definitely got the audience's attention and energy level up again. Brimming with life, the air was one of jubilance whenever the girls dashed to the front of the stage to rally the crowd once more.

The song ended quickly no sooner after it started, leaving the fans longing for more. Time truly flew by quickly as everyone enjoyed themselves.

Launching into their next song "オペラファンタジア (Opera Fantasia)" immediately, the girls lined themselves up at the front of the stage and began waving to the crowd. With considerably less dancing this time, they demonstrated their vocal prowess this time, pouring their heart out into every single lyric.

A bittersweet anthem, where everyone's voices aligned at the chorus, it was the kind of song that you would usually hear as the final song of a performance. Spirits remained high and it was a heartening sight as everyone in the audience waved along in a show of unity.

Signs of weariness were showing on a few of the members' face as they performed but they gave their all till the end and remained unfazed with the audience's unwavering support. As the song drew to a close, they broke into one final dance, waving and smiling at the audience for one final time.

"That's all! We're Stand-Up Hearts!" said Yuyu as the song ended, signalling the apparent end of their performance. Taking one long, final bow, they thanked everyone for their support and waved to the audience as they made their way backstage.

As soon as they were out of view, something magical happened. Immediately, the audience began chanting in unison. "Encore! Encore! Encore!" It was so sudden, could they just leave so abruptly? No sooner had they said that did the girls return on stage again.

"Thank you so much! It's the first time we have received a call for an encore!" the girls exclaimed, visibly over the moon. Wasting no time getting into stage centre, they readied themselves for the encore song, "Triangle Wave", another song in senior sister group Afilia Saga's repertoire.

If there was ever a right time to shed any tears, this would be it and not. With three days of wonderful memories surging through their heads, the girls did their best to put on a brave front and end off on a high, spurred by cheers of the sea of people that had gathered to watch them.

Finishing off as superbly as they started, they infected everyone with their high spirits and happy face. The message was clear- there was no doubt the people loved them, with the crowd affirming "Ore mo! (Me too!)" as the girls belted "Daisuki da yo! (Love you!)" at the chorus.

Determined not to let their emotions get the better of them, their faces were marked with expressions of glee as they saw the dance off with professionalism to the very end, cheering along with the audience for one final time, for real this time.

Gathered at the front of the stage, they thanked the audience for one final time. Casting glances at one another, they lowered their microphones and locked their hands together this time. "Ijou, Stand-Up! Hearts deshita (That's all, we're Stand-Up! Hearts)."

"Arigatou gozaimashita! (Thank you!)" cried every member in unison as they raised their interlocked hands and gave one long, final bow, longer than the previous one. Taking in the moment, with heads humbly bowed, they were greeted by a loud standing ovation.

It had been three unforgettable days for themselves, and the many new hearts they had won over. In two days, their name would be changed to Iketeru Hearts, to herald in a new age with their major debut. However, they were not about to let the name Stand-Up! Hearts fade away so easily, and what a way it was to send that name off.

Photos by Joshua Mak and Eugene Chua

Iketeru Hearts (formerly Stand-Up! Hearts) will be returning to Anime Festival Asia this year! Catch them live at the Akiba Mini Stage this weekend from 25-27 Nov!

Friday, 25 Nov: 5.15PM
Saturday, 26 Nov: 12.50PM & 3.45PM
Sunday, 27 Nov: 10.55AM & 2.10PM

Iketeru Hearts's 3rd single "ルミカジェーン"