Following the release of their new single, The Edge, J-pop girl group ATARASHII GAKKO! are hotter than ever.
The Japanese word seishun paints a picture of youth and the energy that comes along with it. In the music industry, one group that encompasses this is ATARASHII GAKKO! (meaning “new school” in Japanese), an up-and-coming sensational J-pop girl group that has been with 88rising since 2021. While the idea of a J-pop girl group can conjure certain images in one’s head, AG! dispels all of that with their school uniforms, legendary energy and choreography, and hard-edged sound. Fresh of the release of their new single, The Edge, ATARASHII GAKKO! sat down with NYLON Manila where the girls discussed their new music, going global, and more.
GOING ON THE EDGE
The four-member group consists of Mizyu, Rin, Suzuka, and Kanon who banded together in 2015. The group says that they were, “called upon by the times,” and since then, consider each other “family by now.” AG! is also known for their distinct appearance, wearing sailor-fuku (sailor suit) uniforms with long skirts and pulled-up socks from their debut to today.
Musically, however, the group is a musical chameleon, shifting from genre to genre like the Japan city pop-inspired Otona Blue to the more hip-hop Western sounds of their international debut single, NAINAINAI. They even did a cover of Beastie Boys’ Intergalactic and were the brand of ambassadors for Nike with their promotional song, Woo Go! This has allowed the group to expand their musical oeuvre in a way where they’re not limited to any genre.
Just recently, the group released their latest single, The Edge, the soundtrack for global anime brand Crunchyroll’s new seasonal trailer which is a big honor for the quartet. The four describe the song as a “burst of energy,” and if you’ve been following the group for a while now, then it is safe to say that The Edge continues AG!’s ability to reinvent themselves with every new release.
The single mixes the group’s harmonies with some retro 8-bit style synth sounds and even peppers some funky bass lines throughout the track. Like their previous songs, each member gets to shine from Suzuka’s powerful and commanding vocals to the softer and gentler pop sound headed by Mizyu. For the song’s artwork and visualizer, the group partnered with Japanese artist and visual designer Fantasista Utamaro, whose unique ultra-pop and technicolor style complements the group’s spirit.
RISING J-POP STARS
Unlike more reserved pop groups who are often stereotypically seen as kawaii (cute) with their demeanor and vocals, ATARASHII GAKKO! prefers the loud, energetic, and often funny routines that have made them the wild child of the Japanese music industry. It’s this kind of unique identity that got them signed with global entertainment powerhouse 88rising, a career-changing moment for the girls.
In the eight years that passed since they formed, the group has grown from adolescent kids into four young women making their mark on the music industry. “We’ve developed a more open-minded approach to our craft over time,” they share. Of course, being part of a global entertainment company has granted them the responsibility of representing the Japanese youth. The group explains that they’ve “become more mindful and aware of [our] self-appointed roles in representing Japanese culture to the world,” and wish to share their message with their global fanbase.
Their international expansion has allowed them to perform outside of Japan and in numerous Head in the Clouds events such as in the United States, Indonesia, and most recently, in the Philippines last December where they were a clear highlight and fan favorite. “The audience in Manila was incredible! We were blown away by how much of our Japanese lyrics they knew,” the group recounts.
DOING THEIR THING
But after making it big overseas, how does AG! feel about all their success? For the group, they claim that it was “challenging to conform to certain expectations,” had they been like other pop groups. “To maintain a certain image, it seems like you have to appear perfect and stick to a specific genre of music,” they add. And so rather than follow the mold of other pop groups, AG! has always presented themselves as regular schoolgirls, refusing to be objectified. They’ve also prided themselves on their distinct appearance from Suzuka’s glasses and bob, Rin’s wild curls, Kanon’s straight and flowing hair, and Mizyu’s signature twin tails.
And when it comes to making the time-tested dance sequences that see them start at a ten and end at a twelve, the group prepares them by themselves. “We begin by listening and feeling the track of the song. We discuss our ideas and sometimes segment sections to see what movements come naturally. We then enter the dance studio and try out each section, allowing it to merge into one choreography.”
A core aspect of the group is the idea of seishun. The group recounts their experience performing exclusively in Japan in their earlier years and says, “We poured 100% of our hearts and souls into our shows, conveying the message of ‘seishun’ through our music.” And despite the language barrier, their message has spread throughout the world through their high-energy performance. “Our energy on stage is fueled by our intense desire to entertain the audience. We perform to see them smile, laugh, get excited, be surprised, and have fun,” they explain.
So with that said, what is next for the group? With their latest single out, it is but a taste of things to come as they have a few shows planned in Japan and are planning on more overseas performances. As for music, they say “they’re always working on new music,” so fans will have that to look forward to. The group then ended with their message to the world, saying “We love you Seishunites! Wherever you are in this world, we want to come and see you perform!”