The all-male pop group Chotokkyu (superexpress) is expected to become all the rage with their unique performing style and passion to improve their skills driving them on.
What makes the seven-member group unique is what is called a "main dancer, back vocal" system, in which dancers perform at centre stage and vocalists support from the sides. The group members call themselves the "younger brothers of Momoiro Clover Z," a popular all-girls pop group that belongs to the same production company, Stardust Promotion, Inc.
After debuting with the indies single "TRAIN" in 2012, the group was ranked top in the Oricon indies chart with "Starlight," which was released with the group name of "Ultra Chotokkyu." This year, the group released its first major-label single "ikki!!!!!i!!," which was ranked fourth in the Oricon weekly chart.
With the group members imagined as seven cars of a superexpress, their fans are called the "eighth car," which follows the members around.
At their free live concert in June, the "eighth car" fans were lined with glow sticks in hand. The hall was packed with not only female fans, but also quite a lot of male fans and adults who brought their children.
In their latest single "Believe x Believe" (Biri Biri), they were dressed like characters you would see in the Dragon Quest video games, such as a magician or a warrior.
Members moved in straight just like teams in many video games, making right-angled turns at the edge of the concert hall, a comical movement that drew laughter from the audience.
But their stage performance was stunning. The dancers gave sharp performances, with two vocalists with clear, strong voices supporting them.
Also worthy of attention is their sometimes weird performances.
When they put up their hands as if to shout hooray, fans emulated the movement, yelling "Hey!" in response to the performance on stage.
Catchy choruses, such as "Bun Bun Bun," would continue echoing in your ears for days after. Their performances entertain both old and young alike.
They even had a performance where it seemed as though they were being electrocuted. Watching them rolling their eyes up into their heads, saying "Biri Biri," one might wonder whether it was absolutely necessary for such good-looking boys to show such grotesque faces to their fans, yet their performances are addictive.
With popular singer-dancer units, such as EXILE and TRF, dancers add to singers' performances. However, this group's "main dancer, back vocal" turns that idea on its head.
"At Chotokkyu, dancers in the centre convey their charms [to the audience] while vocalists support the dancers by singing on the side," said Ryoga, the group leader.
But how do the vocalists actually feel about it?
"To be honest, I felt a bid odd at first. I thought I would be the one at centre stage, but I ended up performing at the back," said Koichi, a vocalist. "But as we gradually got more eighth car fans, I came to think that we [the vocalists] can perform thanks to the dancers performing at centre stage."
Takashi, another vocalist, chimed in: "Because we are at the back, we can see the dancers very well. So, I can note what needs to be improved and tell the dancers. This helps us brush up our performances. I realised that that's how we should do things."
Kai, one of the dancers, stressed the importance of the system.
"We don't dance behind [the singers] but at centre stage. I think we can serve as the forerunners for those aspiring to become dancers," he said.
Another unique point is that the group changes its lead performer every time it releases a new song. In August last year, the group leader was changed from Yuki to Ryoga.
"We attended a music festival and saw other artists' performances firsthand. I realised then that we had to advance to the next stage," Yuki said.
About the choice of Ryoga as a new leader, Takuya said: "Ryoga is a type who watches over others. We all agreed that if he became a leader and came forward, it would help reveal his interesting aspects."
The members want to improve their dancing and emcee skills so they can give a satisfactory performance at a music festival this year.
Their acrobatic and comical dancing appears to be extremely difficult, but they actually master each dance number after taking lessons a couple of times.
At first, Yusuke found the dancing rehearsals so hard he cried.
"I felt like quitting the group, but I mastered dancing because other members encouraged me," Yusuke said.
The boys sometimes have serious arguments, but they help each other and grow together. Chotokkyu, a group with unknown possibilities, will certainly grab people's hearts once they see a performance.
Chotokkyu will perform at Zepp Tokyo near Daiba Station in Tokyo on Aug. 29.
The group will also perform at an event at the open-air stage at Aomori Port Chuo Pier in Aomori on Sept. 27.
There are also plans for a concert titled "Bullet train one-man 'Christmas' show: 3rd Anniversary Special!!!!!!!!: Seinaru Ichiya (holy night)" at Tokyo Kokusai Forum in Yurakucho on Dec. 25.