Earlier this month, a packed Seibu Dome hosted a concert by a popular Japanese female idol group. And no, it wasn't AKB48.
The crowd, about 37,000, many of them mothers with kids in tow, jampacked the home of baseball's Seibu Lions to hear the happy, effervescent music performed by Momoiro Clover Z, a group consisting of five teenage girls between the ages of 16-19.
Like the costumed superhero group Power Rangers, each member of Momoiro Clover Z can be recognized by her own personal color that is reflected in her costume and accessories.
Formed in 2008, Momoiro Clover Z made its major label debut in 2010. The group's popularity rose at a meteoric rate, and soon Momoiro Clover Z was a familiar presence in TV commercials and on variety shows.
“I became a fan of the group because they are different from a normal idol group,” says Chie Kato, a 28-year-old poet who attended the Seibu Dome concert.
A typical Momoiro Clover Z concert showcases dazzling costume changes and acrobatic choreography.
The girls of Momoiro Clover Z can transform themselves into superheroes, salaried workers and others without missing a note.
And of course, there is the music: energetic, happy, sometimes sad, but always with a message of hope.
“On stage, their performances are powerful," Kato says. "Their figures are really shining. But their sparkles look only momentary. So I feel sorrow for them and become unable to look away from them.”
"Light the world with smiling faces and singing voices," the girls sing in Japanese in one of their popular songs.
Hisashi Muroi, professor of philosophy at Yokohama National University, said that Momoiro Clover Z's performances are so strong and honest that even though they are acting out roles, it almost seems as if their parts are reality.
"As a nation, we are still coping with the mental shock of the Great East Japan Earthquake," Muroi says. "The five members’ messages of pure love and solidarity echoes strongly.”
The lights are turned down at Seibu Dome as Momoiro Clover Z performs “Hashire!” (Run) to a waving sea of light provided by the illumination of thousands of glow sticks in the audience.
The scene, Muroi says, reminds him of a traditional “Shoro Nagashi” (Spirit boat procession), where people mourn the souls of those who died. At the same time, he says, the scene also encourages people to stand up and celebrate life again.
“Ugokidashite boku no karada. Hashire! Hashire! Hashire!” (Begin to move, my body. Run! Run! Run!), the faces in the sea of light sing along with Momoiro Clover Z.
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