ARTICLES Until the 10 member Dempagumi.inc is born-- Interview with Mofuku-chan, YGQ, and Yumiko

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Until the 10 member Dempagumi.inc is born--​

Interview with Mofuku-chan, YGQ, and Yumiko​

2021/03/16 12:00
From upper left, Kobato Ria, Amasawa Rito, Nemoto Nagi, Fujisaki Ayane, Kaname Rin, Sorano Aozora, Aizawa Risa, Takasaki Hina, Furukawa Mirin, Aikawa Kozue​

Dempagumi.inc has added 5 new members for a new 10 member lineup. We asked the producers, Mofuku-chan, YGQ, and Yumiko, about their motives and what they were looking for in order to come to this new formation!

Digital release on April 23!

"Princess Dempa Power! Shine On!"

For streaming/download only

INTERVIEW : Mofuku-chan, YGQ, Yumiko​

At the concerts held on February 15 & 16, 2021, entitled "Ultra☆Maximum☆Positive☆Story!! ~Babyu to the future☆~," Naruse Eimi, also known as Eitaso, graduated from Dempagumi.inc, and the the same time, the new lineup of the group was revealed. Aikawa Kozue and Kobato Ria (formerly of ENGAG.ING), Amasawa Rito (RITO/meme tokyo.), Takasaki Hina (graduated from Niji no Fantasista on March 1), Sorano Aozora (ARCANA PROJECT) are the five new members added to the group, making this 10 member lineup the largest in Dempagumi.inc's history. We lined up the producers of the group, Mofuku-chan (Fukushima Maiko), YGQ, and Yumiko, to ask about their intentions in selecting these new members. We also asked what sort of changes they want to happen within Dempagumi.inc. What is the true meening behind "DearStage's Avengers"...?

Interview: Munekata Akimasa
Translation: Lurkette

One set before the new member announcement​

──How do you feel about Eitaso's graduation concert and the first performance of the new lineup?

YGQ
: I prepped together with Eitaso, and because it was her last concert, there wasn't any sense of fluster or panic. That said, it doesn't feel real to me yet, I guess? I know in my head that Dempagumi.inc is now without her, but it still feels a little like a dream I had that night, like it hasn't sunk in.

Mofuku-chan : Everyone put in a lot of work to prepare for that show, and Yumiko and I cried as hard as we worked that day (laughs).

Yumiko : Like, "I hate this~!" (laughs)

Mofuku-chan : We were on the verge of boycotting, but now that it's over I feel such a sense of relief. It's a weight off my shoulders.


──You're saying you didn't want to go through with Eitaso's graduation?

Mofuku-chan
: It's complicated. But it's not like she's leaving the company, we're still going to be together. With that in mind, ever since she made her decision I did also feel like I wanted to hurry up and let her out of the nest like I should. Both Yumiko and I felt that way.

Yumiko : Yeah, but while we were searching for a way to have the best graduation day ever, I wasn't exactly moving forward proudly. I felt tense and hopeful and worried; my own confidence was in question. It was one set before the new member announcement, the result of trying to realize what Ei herself wanted to do and figuring out how to communicate that to the audience, all of those little details starting from square one. I didn't really know how to feel after a while.

Mofuku-chan : Yumiko paid the most attention to the balance between Eitaso's graduation and the arrival of the new members, down to the last of the last moments. She said, "At the end of the day, this is her graduation ceremony. The fans will be upset if that isn't the main focus." She was always thinking of how to make Eitaso the center of attention. The night before the show we added one more song unexpectedly, and she adjusted things to the millisecond. She could really see how both sides of things would turn out in the end.


──It was an interesting structure, with the new lineup having their first performance and then Eitaso coming back out. Was that also the result of fine-tuning the night before?

Mofuku-chan
: Yumiko was concerned about the setlist right up until the show. She struggled, should we do this here, what about there, what song would be good here. The staff all gladly cooperated with us, and the members responded to us quickly, so that's how we were able to make it all happen, which I'm very happy about.


──I don't think the fans thought 5 new members would be joining, either. How did you feel about their performance as 10?

Yumiko
: We are all part of this team, the members included, but I feel like I'm the only one who could see the big picture of where we were going because I was assembling the concept of how we wanted the new members to be arranged. I feel like it came out like I thought it would, personally.

Mofuku-chan : I remember Mizuno (Dempagumi.inc's director) saw the first rehearsal and suddenly went, "What!? This is so good." When I saw Yumiko's choreography, I immediately understood how the story was being carried out and by whom.

Yumiko : Because of the choreo?

Mofuku-chan : Yep. The audience really got it, too, don't you think? Hyadain's (Maeyamada Ken'ichi) lyrics show a high level of awareness, so using that as a base, we were also keenly aware of the line distribution for everyone's respective histories and characters. I think that got across to the audience, too. "Future Diver" right after that was completely different from how it's been before, and I think it ended up as a performance that showed what things would be like from now on.

YGQ : In idol groups, graduations and additions are a pretty sensitive subject, right? There's a lot of risk involved if you do it wrong, where fans might give up on the group. It was the same thing when NemoPero (Kaname Rin, Nemoto Nagi) joined, but I think this was the right time to declare our decision to move forward with the discord we stirred up by adding in 5 people.

Mofuku-chan : The truth is, we did talk about disbanding the group at first (laughs).


──Wait, really?

Yumiko
: I feel like the discussions about breaking up or keeping it going racked up with each year that went by.

YGQ : Ultimately, the feeling was, "In every possible scenario, we have to break up. There's no way for everyone to be happy."

Mofuku-chan : When we told the members, "I'm sorry, but we're going to dissolve the group," they said, "Absolutely not!"


──When was that?

YGQ
: Maybe fall of 2019? We got all the members together and talked to them about it.

Mofuku-chan : I didn't expect that everyone wanted to stay, like, "I don't want to break up! I want to keep going." Mirin (Furukawa Mirin) plainly told us she wanted to add new members.

Yumiko : Taking that perspective into account, it was like, okay, let's think about how to preserve Dempagumi.


As the DearStage Avengers​

──You were going to break up the group, but then you ended up declaring your intent to change the lineup. Why did things change?

Mofuku-chan
: I guess it's because everyone strengthened their resolve. We were going to keep going no matter how much people criticized us, no matter how unpopular we got, no matter what happened (laughs).

Yumiko : It was less about, do we change generations or say no, and more thinking about what kind of group Dempagumi is. I think the concept at the very start was getting these characters together and showing how perfect it was. Then, the times changed, and now I feel like there's less focus on community: thinking about the individual has gotten more prevalent, instead. So then we thought about how to make a new group comprised of individuals from different areas. The phrase "DearStage Avengers" came out at some point between us (laughs). A collection of girls living different trajectories.

Mofuku-chan : Each of them carry a different world on their backs.

Yumiko : I guess our way of thinking changed from the presumption that Dempagumi.inc is a community.

YGQ : I think Dempagumi is a completely different beast, we're setting a precedent with no other point of reference. There is of course Negicco, they continued even after the members got married, but they have also maintained the same 3 members for their entire existence. Change is something particular to Dempagumi, part of its DNA, and it's like they said, "DearStage Avengers." It feels like we're walking through uncharted territory.

Yumiko : We always cooked with the ingredients we had in front of us. It wasn't like we were thinking, "We're going to cook this so I need these ingredients," rather, "We have these ingredients so what can we make out of them?" That was how, by chance, we ended up with the 5, the 6 we started with. We painted a picture of community formed between the members, but now it's like we've changed how we cook, now in a direction where it's a collection of individuals. Still, no matter the era,
I want to treasure the special characteristics of the members we have for that particular moment in time.


──When did you start thinking about which members to add?

Mofuku-chan
: I guess we started thinking about it at the end of 2019.

Yumiko : Actually selecting the members was maybe last summer?

Mofuku-chan : Hmm, roughly around then, I think. We were still planning. Our very first candidate was probably Hina (Takasaki Hina).

Takasaki Hina

Yumiko : Hina was very quick in lessons; she really picked up on my peculiar, abstract explanations and comments. I felt like I wouldn't be able to make Dempa the production I wanted if they didn't have the ability to understand how I was feeling, but Hina really got it. Mofuku-chan and I told her there might be a path for her to get there someday, and we pretty quickly started having conversations about it.

Mofuku-chan : She's incredibly sharp. In Dempa, you can't just do as you're told. You need to have a strong ability to interpret what you're told with your own answers, and if you're not someone who has the faculties to be able to bounce back everything we ask of you, it's pretty challenging. If we're deciding that Dempa is going to go on for a long time, too, in terms of age, the young and wise Hina became a very important component.


──Who did you decide on next?

Yumiko
: I think Ria and Kozu (Kobato Ria, Aikawa Kozue)?

Mofuku-chan : Yep.
Kobato Ria​
Aikawa Kozue​

──Those two are former members of ENGAG.ING, the group Yumiko personally looked after, so it was a bold choice to pick those two.

Yumiko
: Right. Their names had come up before the disbandment of ENGAG.ING was announced. We told them after the breakup, though. Kozue has had a special career, and she has ties to Mirin way back at the start of Dempagumi, so that was the impetus for picking her, thinking it would be fun for those two to be together. She definitely has practical skills and she can also interpret what I say to put it into action, so she's a really strong addition. Ria was special because she is really part of the DNA of the cafe. In addition to her interpretive abilities, she has great singing skills and has the personality of a main character, so she was for sure going to be asked.

Mofuku-chan : But I feel like they were decided kind of at the last minute. ENGAG.ING's disbandment happened because of the coronavirus, so at first it seemed like they were going to be concurrent members.


──When did you decide on Sorano Aozora?

Mofuku-chan
: She was next. We were talking in the conference room about the future of Dempagumi. We had written, "Hina, Ria, Kozu," and felt like it was a little gloomy (laughs). No matter what we did, it seemed like the group would get darker without Eitaso, in terms of the atmosphere in the dressing room and such. Dempa had zero brightness (laughs). Then Yumiko said, "Wouldn't Aonyan's (Sorano Aozora) cheerfulness be a match for Eitaso's?" She also did choreography for ARCANA PROJECT so she understood her character.

Yumiko : When I thought about who could bring that brightness, Aonyan popped into my head. Her name had not come up before.

Sorano Aozora​

Mofuku-chan : No, it hadn't. I had thought she'd find it difficult doing two groups at once. But as a personality, she was the best choice.

Yumiko : The Avengers conversation happened during our meetings, but at some point we ended up talking about the idea of concurrency with ENGAG.ING, but the scope of ARCANA PROJECT's work was really wide so it seemed like those members would be biting off more than they could chew. But when we did decide to make it the DearStage Avengers, talking about it, she seemed like the obvious choice.


──That means the final piece is Amasawa Rito.

Mofuku-chan
: A lot happened there. I remember clearly that at the very beginning, everyone but Yumiko said Rito would be good (laughs). But Yumiko said no. Yumiko is the person closest to the members and understands their personalities from doing lessons with them, so we felt like if she said no, it must not be the right fit. But after that, to put it simply, Rito changed.

Yumiko : I did think she would be good! At first, we discussed the things meme tokyo. was doing, and since I was giving those members extensive guidance, not just limited to staging, I thought, "Hmm... if Dempagumi needs someone with special abilities, it might still be too difficult for them," but after that, her powers of absorption got super fast and Rito was really charming. So at the very end, I said that now they'd be fine! She's a good choice! I'm really sorry, it's my fault discussions stopped on the Rito plan (laughs).

Mofuku-chan : From the start, we talked to Yumiko about how we wanted girls with star quality. Which is such a vague phrase, star quality, but there has to be something there. Moga (Mogami Moga), for example, was someone I felt had it. It wasn't like she could really dance or sing in the beginning, but I don't know what it was: she was just a star from the get-go. We talked about it, "The final piece is someone with star quality, that's what I want, someone who, you can't put your finger on it, but you notice her, your eyes follow her when she's on stage." Looking over DearStage, we talked about it and the most fitting candidate, taking potential for the future into account, was Rito.

Amasawa Rito​

Yumiko : When we thought about the long-term, who would stay with the team the longest, we had to have someone who was trustworthy. Combined with the star quality, that was the last piece. In the very end, and I mean the very end, Rito had this dazzling transformation, so it was like, "Oh, this is it!"

An incredible welcome to the changes​

──What dramatic developments! The first performance was of the new song written and composed by Hyadain, "Princess Dempa Power! Shine On!" As I heard it, the song was born from the idea of combining three different people's perspectives. The theme is, "A prince won't make you happy, you have to grab onto your dreams yourself," and so then the message becomes, "Don't get carried away because you've joined Dempa." What sort of concept did you have for the song?

"Princess Dempa Power! Shine On!"Live


Mofuku-chan : First, we had a meeting about what sort of melody would be good. We watched a movie.

YGQ : My favorite movie is "The Greatest Showman." I feel like it's very Dempagumi. It's a movie about an American circus troupe, but it's about a collection of people who had a hard time living in society, so they create this special environment, the circus.

Mofuku-chan : The point is they started from behind.

YGQ : Right. There's something about them that's negative but they turn it into a positive, they use it for entertainment and they shine. I think it's close to how Dempa is. I wanted there to be a grand orchestra for the song like there is in "The Greatest Showman." We expanded our perspective to include Disney movies. There's a difference in message from the old Disney movies to the new: in the old movies, the prince would come to rescue you. Now, that's not the case. It's more like princesses use their own strength to blaze a trail, the way we think about gender has changed all over the world. That's also close to what Dempa is aiming for, so we expanded the song request to hint at that, as well.

Mofuku-chan : The movie a grandiose musical, with relatively classic ways of introducing the songs. Yumiko said, "Now all I want to do is a classical song!" We talked to Hyadain about all these things.

YGQ : There are several focal points in the song.

Mofuku-chan : We gave him materials on what sorts of members would be joining. We gave him their real information so that none of it would get leaked (laughs). That song is what he sent back. We actually didn't have to tell him not to make it about princes or to make it more modern, that message is all Hyadain.

Yumiko : It's really wonderful.

Mofuku-chan : Thank you for understanding what we wanted!


──Now that there are 10 members, the choreography has surely gotten harder, hasn't it?

Yumiko
: No, I told them I wanted to do Disney, I got what I wanted, I'm satisfied (laughs). I was influenced by the member selection, the song production, even the recording process, so it wasn't like they asked me to do the choreo once the song was done. It didn't feel hard at all. What I paid careful attention to was how to show off the personalities and charm of 10 people.


──How did you take the fan response after that first performance?

Mofuku-chan
: Honestly, it was more positive than I thought it would be. I'm really looking at numbers this time. We added a ton of girls in their teens and 20s, so it's younger and bigger all at once. We've done Dempa for a decade, so the otaku and we have aged a decade together (laughs). People in their 30s and 40s have been Dempa's main fanbase, but now it's rejuvenated, and I think we have a great future ahead of us. I think it's wonderful that we could get more young fans with our content.

Yumiko : From the audience's perspective, something they loved has ended, and I don't think entering a new era is ever a comfortable experience, so I want to understand where they're coming from. But personally, I feel like there's a lot of value in change, and I always pictured this happening at some point. The members also enjoyed the change before, like it was a roller coaster, so I feel like I can really make the most of it because I know this wind will blow past me eventually. I think it's been chaotic only because we've been asking for this to be in Dempagumi for so long. So for me, I am incredibly welcome to the changes. Because it's the identity of the future Dempagumi.

Mofuku-chan : It has never been the same (laughs).

Yumiko : I think it's the sort of starting dash like we had at the beginning. I didn't feel worried about anything or weird about the changes. I felt like the fans also felt like, hey, that was fun, right? (laughs) There were a lot of people who supported it like that.

YGQ : There are people who think that the greatest lineup was with Nemu (Yumemi Nemu) and Moga, and there are people who felt the lineup before that, with Miu (Abe Miu), was the greatest. It's fine to have an emotional attachment to a specific era of Dempagumi.

Mofuku-chan : Don't forget the era of Akari (Owada Akari) and Mirin.

YGQ : Changing the lineup doesn't mean we're erasing the past. All of our history is important, and I hope the people who love the past lineups can hold that dear to their hearts. But I want us to make our content as interesting as possible, not maintaining something similar to what we already had. The people who think it's interesting will become new fans and some will continue to support us even if they loved the past more because it's still fun. I think it's a healthy rotation, don't you?

Yumiko : It's time for me to play now, thinking of what I can do with the current group.

Mofuku-chan : Sure. As someone living in the moment (laughs).

Yumiko : If we think of change as movement, then we can recognize this as a place we've been before. That's absolutely essential. I think it's tied to treasuring the members we have together right now.

I want to do things we haven't been able to do before, so I'm excited​

──So then, you're having public rehearsals in March, what exactly are you doing in these?

Yumiko
: We haven't decided yet~ (laughs).

Mofuku-chan : Still, you need to decide on something (laughs). Really, though, we plan on showing people the practice for the new songs, to the extent that it will be our first performance of the new material. I don't want to hide anything.

Yumiko : Dempa's rehearsals are very particular. It's hard to put the process into words, it's like something is flowing out of us, I guess (laughs). Sometimes I'll say, "We're learning new choreo today," and we'll go in the studio and end up doing something completely unrelated to the dance. That's still one part of learning the choreography, however. Sometimes if it's necessary, it will be like, "I need you to understand something for this scene, so read this manga." So if people are coming to see our public rehearsal, what they might see before them is all the members spread out on the floor reading manga (laughs). I more or less have an idea of what the choreography should be, but I don't know if the rehearsal will be what everyone thinks it will be, so that's why I say I don't know what we're going to do.


──So in what ways do you want this new Dempagumi.inc to change?

YGQ
: I see these big signposts in the direction of things I want to do, but different things can happen while we're doing those so I could see new things to do after that. Rather than having a completely cut-and-dry decision, it's fluid, to an extent, where we come to focus on things as we happen upon them, I guess. I don't feel like we're at the point where we're talking about aiming for big challenge numbers, either, like doing Budokan or Tokyo Dome.

Yumiko : Personally, I want to go as far as I can take it (laughs). Speed it up, ride it like a roller coaster, have everyone enjoy this time together as a team.


──'Far' being a physical term, do you use it more conceptually?

Yumiko
: Conceptually, yes. But I think it's tied to something physical. If you're talking about a culture, for example, a number of places would come to mind, so it is in close relation to something physical. You could say that we'll spread pure fun to the audience.

Mofuku-chan : Now that we have the new lineup, the creative things I want to do have expanded all at once, like I want them to wear outfits like these next, or I want them to sing this kind of song next. If anything, the image we had before of "Dempagumi has to be this way" was so stressful. We had a period where things were vague; we weren't returning to anything, but we weren't progressing towards anything. Now we can kind of break free from that, and I want to do things we haven't been able to do before, so I guess that means I'm excited. I want to do more things that are "un-Dempa-like" (laughs).


YGQ : We've started doing so many things based off of things we've had going from the start, and that should turn into more interesting content. I wonder if that's because we did get trapped for a while by this feeling of "Dempagumi should be like this," "Dempa doesn't do things like that."

Mofuku-chan : Yumiko is the one who is least likely to get put in a box, so she's saving us from that (laughs).

Yumiko : Definitely, for the first 5 or so years of Dempa, I was deep in it on the creative side. When NemoPero joined, it seemed like they needed help so I came back for a few months, but aside from that, I basically wasn't involved at all with Dempagumi. I would offer them my choreography alone for a long while. For me, this now is proof that things can change and I value that, so I confirmed that the team was all ready and I came back like, "I can do it."

Mofuku-chan : The nicest thing about Yumiko, surprisingly, is that for as big a change that's happening, she makes it that much easier to digest (laughs). We unexpectedly had a lot of fans accept the new situation completely, and ultimately that's because Yumiko made it so palatable people.

Yumiko : I do want to be close with the people who have loved Dempagumi so far, and I want to take on the challenge of making things suit their tastes, as much as I can. But we are absolutely transforming (laughs). I think that because we've prepared ourselves to accept those people's reactions, we can hopefully get across to them everything that we can do!
 

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How do you like the new members so far Lurkette?

I love them, of course. Adding so many unexpectedly (their largest generation to date has been... 2, which has also been their only generation size) has really blown some fresh air into the group and I'm really curious to see their first concert in late May with how they redistribute everything. Although Mirin will be absent so it won't even be a clear redistribution yet, so the whole thing is chaos right now. Ria and Hina have my eye right now, in terms of early favorites, but I think they're all so different that it's hard to tell right now how everything will go in the future. But I'm excited! That's for sure.
 

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I love them, of course. Adding so many unexpectedly (their largest generation to date has been... 2, which has also been their only generation size) has really blown some fresh air into the group and I'm really curious to see their first concert in late May with how they redistribute everything. Although Mirin will be absent so it won't even be a clear redistribution yet, so the whole thing is chaos right now. Ria and Hina have my eye right now, in terms of early favorites, but I think they're all so different that it's hard to tell right now how everything will go in the future. But I'm excited! That's for sure.
I'm happy to hear that :hehe:
A bit of chaos sounds just about right for the group. Since all of these girls are from Dear Stage (or meme tokyo agency?, I never understood that) did you know them from earlier or are they mostly new to you?

I thought it was interesting that they had a "dempa avengers" concept for the new group since that was the idea I got when they added so many new members from in house.
 

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I'm happy to hear that :hehe:
A bit of chaos sounds just about right for the group. Since all of these girls are from Dear Stage (or meme tokyo agency?, I never understood that) did you know them from earlier or are they mostly new to you?

I thought it was interesting that they had a "dempa avengers" concept for the new group since that was the idea I got when they added so many new members from in house.

Oh yes, chaos is their specialty and it's part of why I love them so much. The new additions were mostly new to me, with the one exception of Rito. I don't follow the other DearStage groups very closely but there might be some other people like @Stan BiSH who could tell you more about meme tokyo. and Arcana Project, but I'm definitely interested in learning more about them now.

As far as the corporate structure goes, DearStage is the agency. Mofuku-chan started the DearStage Cafe as sort of a maid cafe meets idols, and she decided to create Dempagumi from some of the girls who were working there. As Dempa got more successful, DearStage became an agency to manage the group and created the Meme Tokyo record label imprint under TOY'S FACTORY. They have created more groups and also bought out the contracts of groups under smaller companies, as well as recruiting individual free agent idols, which is how they came to manage the likes of Niji no Conquistador and Beboga. So DearStage is the parent company of it all, and then Meme Tokyo is their record label. Not all artists are on that label, though, like Arcana Project being a joint effort with Lantis and NijiCon already being signed to King when they were acquired.

Dempagumi, to date, has only recruited members from outside DearStage once, when they added Moga, who was a model that Mofuku-chan happened to see at a convention, and Pinky, who was successfully doing dance covers on NicoDouga. So they were sort of already the DearStage Avengers, especially after pulling in NemoPero who were each the most popular of their individual groups. But I think this is an interesting model, coincidentally one that Tsunku recently talked about being his original idea with Morning Musume as they relate to the greater Hello! Project, and I really like that I can find new music just by the concurrences. I'm a fan, turns out. :bakacat:
 

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Oh yes, chaos is their specialty and it's part of why I love them so much. The new additions were mostly new to me, with the one exception of Rito. I don't follow the other DearStage groups very closely but there might be some other people like @Stan BiSH who could tell you more about meme tokyo. and Arcana Project, but I'm definitely interested in learning more about them now.

As far as the corporate structure goes, DearStage is the agency. Mofuku-chan started the DearStage Cafe as sort of a maid cafe meets idols, and she decided to create Dempagumi from some of the girls who were working there. As Dempa got more successful, DearStage became an agency to manage the group and created the Meme Tokyo record label imprint under TOY'S FACTORY. They have created more groups and also bought out the contracts of groups under smaller companies, as well as recruiting individual free agent idols, which is how they came to manage the likes of Niji no Conquistador and Beboga. So DearStage is the parent company of it all, and then Meme Tokyo is their record label. Not all artists are on that label, though, like Arcana Project being a joint effort with Lantis and NijiCon already being signed to King when they were acquired.

Dempagumi, to date, has only recruited members from outside DearStage once, when they added Moga, who was a model that Mofuku-chan happened to see at a convention, and Pinky, who was successfully doing dance covers on NicoDouga. So they were sort of already the DearStage Avengers, especially after pulling in NemoPero who were each the most popular of their individual groups. But I think this is an interesting model, coincidentally one that Tsunku recently talked about being his original idea with Morning Musume as they relate to the greater Hello! Project, and I really like that I can find new music just by the concurrences. I'm a fan, turns out. :bakacat:
That actually explained it really well!
I onlu knew of Dempa and Nijicon (I guess meme tokyo the group somewhat) until recently so I was surprised when I heard about the new lineup
 
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