The first week of July just ended, but this post is still somewhat relevant. Their second circus tour CIRCUS already ended back in May and the CIRCUS album release events also ended last weekend. This month begins their official summer schedule of lives throughout summer music festivals and other venues. And of course, their first live outside Japan also coming this summer. We already know about this, otherwise, you can read about it here.
I would have written this review post under the REVIEWS category, but that would mean that I would have to review all of their concert goods. Like everything else in Japan, nothing is cheap, and MADKID merchandise ain’t cheap. Therefore, I only paid for the items that I really wanted to get, rather than the whole must get all because it’s MADKID, etc. like the mindset that I had from my past fandom.
How was I able to get these merchandise even if I was outside Japan and never attended a single CIRCUS live? Not that hard to explain. Meet and make some good AXCEL friends who often go to their live events. Of course, automatically, you would have to find a Japanese Axcel who speaks a good amount of English, which really isn’t easy to find. Or, you can find someone from outside Japan who’d be kind enough to purchase the goods for you. 1 But, this is what our Discord Chat server is for. We may be a small community right now, but hopefully, if you can help us spread the word, we can gradually grow.
For me personally, I was very fortunate to have Karu-chan of Letters @ AXCEL STYLE as my closest AXCEL friend. After all, we’re both locals to each other, and it was easy for us to have our get-together at least once a month or whenever we have the time to do so. 2 This year, I asked Karu-chan to purchase a few of their CIRCUS live event goods for me. We’ve only known each other for over a year, but this was the first time that I asked her to buy some things for me.
Our Get-Together Traditions
Karu and I started doing our get-togethers last October, mainly to celebrate both SHIN’s 25th birthday3 and my birthday4 and of course, finally to get to know each other in person and not just online. At that time, a new branch of Gong Cha just opened in downtown San Francisco, so we decided to stop by there before we head to BART 5 to go our separate ways home. Ever since then, we’ve been doing this small routine at our future get-togethers.
Since our May get-together, we also started taking photos of ourselves with a bit of some MADKID merch, like the featured photo you see above.
This year, we’ve been having our get-togethers a little more often than last year. A small series of events on my end somehow got us to do more get-togethers almost once a month. I’ll write about this a bit later.
Besides Gong Cha, we also made another tradition: DM’ing and/or directly tweeting SHIN of our get-together photos, mainly of us hanging out at Gong Cha. For long-time Axcels who are already used to seeing the members’ activities in social media, SHIN is one of the five (if not the only one) who takes the time to read every single tweet, IG comment, and IG DM he receives from fans around the world, Japanese or English, maybe in languages he doesn’t understand or read at all. How do we know that he reads them? When he goes on his usual livestreams on LINE LIVE, he would actually acknowledge them when he sees the original commenter present in his streams. More on this later.
We will be having another get-together this month on the 21st to celebrate both Kazuki’s 6 25th birthday and Yuki’s 7 25th birthday together. However, instead of San Francisco, it will be in San Jose, where Crunchyroll Expo will take place. Lucky for the venue location, there is a Gong Cha nearby.
Okay, let’s get on with the merch reviews!
My CIRCUS Merchandise
Before Karu took a 2-3 weeks vacation to Japan late May, I gave her some money and this original list of the items I’d like to purchase when she gets there:
- CIRCUS pouch (designed by SHIN)
- CIRCUS jersey jacket (designed by LIN)
- SHIN Koro-chan keychain
- SHIN SLYKY button pin8
- All of the SHIN solo “gacha” pics (if possible)
- All of the group “gacha” pic (if possible)
- If I had any leftover money, buy something, anything, from the Miyazaki KONNE Shop. 9
I’ll go through each item one by one.
CIRCUS Pouch (designed by SHIN)
Shin may be an airhead personality-wise, but he’s also one of the most clever people I’ve ever met. In my opinion, among all of the CIRCUS goods that each member designed, his pouch is the most practical, useful item. Everybody 10 needs a pouch to store all their favorite things, from their snacks, cosmetics, pencil/pen storage, and all other knick-knacks.
What I like about this pouch 11 is that the plastic material is thick and very durable that you’d normally see on everyday pouches, it’s also clear/see-through, 12 meaning this pouch was made for daily, everyday use.
You can’t really tell from the photo shown above, but the pouch is a lot bigger and roomier than you think. It fit all of my daily use pens, pencils, and art supplies with more room left over for more. I was very pleased with it that now I can carry this pouch along with all of my favorite pens and markers for my adult coloring books on the go. The pouch also saved me so much room on my backpack too for my other things like books, iPad, etc.
The design that Shin approached for this pouch is simple and pretty much direct to the point. Rather than going fancy with whatever graphics that may take one’s attention away from the group’s name, he used the titles of all their songs from the CIRCUS album in pink and yellow and in different typefaces from handwritten text to fonts. 13
Props and mad respect to Shin for this pouch and I’m loving it every day. Thank you for this awesome pouch!
CIRCUS Jersey Jacket (designed by LIN)
When the jacket was promoted, the item in Katakana was indicated as ジャーシー (jersey). When I received it in my hands, it turned out to be a track jacket. The jacket is obviously the most expensive item out of all the CIRCUS merch, but after wearing it for the first time, I think the jacket is well worth the price. 14 I’ll delve a little further.
Right now as I’m writing this entry, uncharacteristically for a Bay Area summer, the weather right now is like spring weather of cloudy that looks like it’s about to rain and windy cold. I’m currently wearing the track jacket and I’m feeling really warm from the chill. The jacket is black, just like their previous GIANT KILLING parka jacket, 15 but the material is where I’m really impressed.
The jacket is 100% polyester but it’s really lightweight and perfect for early morning jogging 16 and everyday sports and outside activities under chilly weather. It’s not quite water resistant but it does dry up fast. 17 It has double zippers so you can open and close the main zipper from the top or from the bottom. The side pockets also have zippers, so you can keep all your items in your pockets safe and prevent from falling off. 18
The jacket was sold in a “one size fits all” size. 19 I was at first a little nervous with the size because I’m a tad bit overweight for my height, 20 but their Large size turned out to be a lot larger than I thought for me. The polyester material is a little bit stretchable too, so it can provide a bit of breathing room for those who may be a tad wide. I even compared the size of this jacket to my Adidas track jacket (which is also Large, U.S. women’s size), and the CIRCUS jacket felt a lot roomier and a tad bit larger than my Adidas jacket.
Like the way Shin designed his pouch, Lin also directed his design to a more minimalistic approach. The front has both the group name and the album name. The one on the back looks like this:
At first, I wasn’t sure what the design was, then later, just before I received the jacket, I figured out what it was. It was a silhouette of the members sitting down on the couch. I don’t have the exact original photo of them sitting down with the silhouette of their legs, but somehow I felt that I have seen it somewhere before. When I find it, I’ll update this post and post the photo here. 21
That’s it for the jersey jacket! Thank you very much LIN for this wonderful jersey jacket. You seriously know the true meaning of comfort in motion.
Moving on to the next item.
SHIN Koro-chan Keychain (CIRCUS version)
If you haven’t been an Axcel for that long as you’re reading this post, I’ll give you a little intro. Koro-chan is the official mascot of MADKID’s record label, Nippon Columbia. You can see how Koro-chan looks like by visiting the official Nippon Columbia Twitter account. 22 Since GIANT KILLING, their collaborated keychains all have the likeliness of Koro-chan per member.
If you would like a closer look on the keychain, you can just look at the featured image of this post, along with the Kazuki Koro-chan keychain. Unlike the RISE version of the keychain, 23 I haven’t decided where I’m going to hang this keychain. Gone are the days of cellphone keychains from the 2000s decade and the majority of us are now using smartphones.
I placed my keychain on the top zipper of my work laptop backpack, just to be kept intact and not get the design chipped off if I mix it with my set of keys. Eventually, I’ll find a place for the CIRCUS Shin keychain soon.
(… and then, as I’m writing this post right now, I spotted the CIRCUS pouch again…)
SHIN SLYKY button pin (CIRCUS version)
If you haven’t followed the AXCEL STYLE Instagram yet, I’ll share you how the RISE/GIANT KILLING version of the SHIN SLYKY button pin looks like close-up.
If you’re wondering how the CIRCUS version looks like, it looks almost exactly the same, except for the caption at the top and that SHIN SLYKY (the character on the button pin) is wearing the RISE outfit. There are a few differences between the two button pins, and the CIRCUS one has something I wasn’t expecting in the first place.
The button pin is autographed by Shin himself.
The one written on the side is read Nagoya, meaning this button pin was purchased from their Nagoya live venue. I don’t know if all of the button pins are autographed by the members one by one per venue or if it’s just the Nagoya venue alone, but receiving a pin that was autographed by the member himself was something I wasn’t expecting at all. I thought I’d just get the button pin by itself and then pin it in one of my backpacks like my RISE/GIANT KILLING one.
Now, I have to debate whether I should still use this pin on one of my backpacks or not pin it at all because of the autograph. Hopefully, the guys used permanent alcohol or oil-based ink so it wouldn’t be easily erased when it’s exposed out in the open. But for now, I’ll keep it in its original plastic bag.
The SHIN solo and group “Gacha” Pics
It would be so easy to just purchase all of the photos in one pack at an affordable price, however, the promo crew behind MADKID decided to play around with us consuming Axcels by making each photo as “gacha”/”WYSIWYG” 24 style. In short, you’d have to pay some amount of money to pick a number of photos you want to purchase at random. Every individual photo is hidden in a foil bag, so in short, the photos are like collecting trading cards.
I know I’ve given a good amount of money for Karu to use and try her luck in picking the photos we both wanted. She said that she didn’t have any luck with being able to pick any solo Yuki pics, but she had luck in being able to pick the ones we both wanted. Anything duplicates that she received, she traded them with the other Axcels for their duplicates.
In a way, collecting and trading these “gacha” photos are a good way of mingling and meeting new friends within the Axcel Fam. Just thinking about the moment, it’s like a whole Axcel Fam party simply with just collecting and trading. It’s like with one of those trading card game meets that a lot of hobbyists do when they collect cards of a particular theme. Even though she didn’t have any luck with any Yuki solo pics, she was able to get what she wanted and was able to get what I wanted: all three SHIN solo pics and one group pic. Sure, it would’ve been nice to have all three group pics, but one group pic is more than enough for me.
The EXTRA Extras
The last item of my bulleted list indicated above wasn’t fulfilled, as Karu didn’t have enough time to stop by the shop. That also meant that I still got a lot of money leftover that she could either return back to me or spend it for something else she thinks I may like.
When she arrived back home, she contacted me on Twitter regarding the last item of my list. She thought of returning the leftover money to me at first, and then when she looked at the inventory, she had an idea. She had an extra Type B CD and another Type A CD. I was going to go for the Type B CD since I already have Type A, but then she mentioned that her extra Type A had something extra that my Type A didn’t have, so I decided to go for the Type A + the extra.
I already wrote a CD review, so if you haven’t read it, you can read it here.
Finally, the extra that this Type A has to make up for my leftover money is here:
Again, the extra of this Type A is that it’s also autographed by the guys. It’s still wrapped in its original plastic to preserve the autographs, and intend to keep it this way. My original Type A CD has already opened anyway and already used (the DVD extra). The date indicated on the CD is on May 26, 2019, which was the date of their Nagoya venue.
Karu also gave me a few extras that are not MADKID related too. She’s also a multifan of other J-Pop groups and also took the time to watch live venues of other groups: SELLOUT and IVVY. I haven’t really checked out much of SELLOUT myself, but I have checked out IVVY since last year. She gave me 2 CDs of their latest single Light on Fire, with one with the group at the front and the other with HIROTO solo on the other. I haven’t opened the CDs yet, but I will eventually.
The total of the items I spent on went a little over ¥10,000 25 that I was able to get their freebie CD containing the CIRCUS MV. Why release the CIRCUS MV this way and not on YouTube? Just why…?
A “Gong Cha Friends” Story
If you have been a long-time Axcel, or if you’re a new Axcel who had the time to get to know the members more by visiting this site or meeting new Axcel friends before you, you should all know of SHIN’s love and devotion to his Gong Cha Honey Milk Tea with Pearls. He is not afraid or ashamed to show it. Between a girl and a Gong Cha bubble tea drink, he would pick the latter.
I’ve already been a Gong Cha enthusiast for how many years now since there are two branches near my area, but because of Shin’s love for Gong Cha that got me and Karu start the whole “Gong Cha before Home” tradition when we meet up.
You can read more about how Shin and I first met (livestream) on my previous entry here. Just to make it short, our love for Gong Cha was what made us destined to meet each other, regardless of distance. But, this section isn’t about Shin’s love for Gong Cha. This section is about another extra that I haven’t posted at the beginning of this entry yet because I was saving it for this section.
It’s going to be somewhat long, so please bear with me on this one.
SPRING 2019 Personal Struggles
I’ve mentioned this a few times in my past entries here before, and I’ve also mentioned about this a few times on my Twitter and Instagram, but my entire spring season was probably the hardest period of struggle in my life. It was straight up devastating, to the point that there are times that I feel like it was all a dream and I wouldn’t wake up.
To make it short, my father passed away mid-April. Part of me wanted to ignore the tragedy that was about to happen by anticipating more on the upcoming CIRCUS album because my dad wanted me to get myself distracted so I don’t have to feel so much pain when I grieve for his death. It worked for a while, but it didn’t last long. I know there are people who are unfortunate to not have a parent who’s close to them or have to live in a broken family, but for those who do, you can really imagine how it must feel like to lose a very close family member, whether if it’s your dad, mom, sibling, cousin, uncle, aunt, grandma, grandpa, etc. I’ve blogged my entire struggles these three months from March to April in my personal blog. If you’re interested, you can read about it here.
I didn’t mention in my personal blog post, but while I took days off for bereavement from work, my workplace also offered some grievance counseling through their HR department, and I decided to use that benefit. One of the counselors suggested that one way to help me cope through this tragedy was to not just tell my story to all of my closest friends and colleagues, but to also tell my story to at least one person far away from where I am whom I feel may be able to relate with what I’m going through right now.
Right then, after thinking about the counselors’ suggestions, I then realized that I knew someone far away who may be able to relate with my tragedy. Instead of sending him an Instagram DM or even tweet about it directly to him in public, I decided to make it a lot more discreet by sharing him my story in writing.
If you’re a new Axcel and haven’t gotten familiar with Shin’s personal story just yet, you can watch this news video below and turn on the closed captions for the English subtitles:
I didn’t want to write a letter that would take me several pages long, but instead, I decided to purchase stationery set big enough for me to write my story in just one page. I even used my archival ink technical pen that would write out fine lines skinny enough to fit in the paper but at the same time legible for him to be able to read it. My Japanese writing is messy, but then I was told that I had better handwriting in Japanese than KAZUKI does, 26 so at least that gave me a sigh of relief.
Along with the letter, I took photos of my late father’s rose garden. Knowing Shin also has his love and devotion to roses, I decided to print them out, trim the photos, and send them along with the letter to him. At first, I thought about just sending this directly via air mail and he would still be able to receive it. But then I realized that maybe it would be a little more personal if I had Karu hand it to him (or rather, hand it to a MADKID staffer) to be sure that he did get the letter.
While in Japan, Karu decided to wait until the day after the Tokyo venue. Their May AXCEL MEETING was going to take place on that day, and Karu, being a long-time fan club member, was able to attend the fan club- members only meeting. Because of its “lottery”-style limitations with who gets to have entry to that meeting, the people who will be present won’t be as crowded as during their lives and their release events. It was the perfect time for her to hand him the letter.
I’m not sure if he started reading the letter that same day and decided to finish it later or he decided to read the letter during his private time. During the meeting and were already in their mingling sessions with their members, she asked him if she can take a solo shot of himself. According to her, he already knew that the solo shots would be for me, and decided to give her two poses. It may also be his response to my letter to him, in a way.
Later that day, Karu shared me the pics she took: one of him standing up and the other with his rather strange “pose” using her Polaroid camera. The strange pose that he made for the Polaroid, he dubbed it as his Gong Cha pose. When I heard of his Gong Cha pose, I knew right away that those shots were really meant to cheer me up.
Last weekend during our get-together, I finally received his Polaroid photo. The other photo that she took digitally, I decided to print it on photo paper so that no one (online) would steal it and claim it as theirs. Right then, I took both photos together in a separate shot from the others in the mini-gallery above.
And of course, here’s a closer look of Shin’s Gong Cha Pose:
The pose made me laugh and really did cheer me up. I think somehow he may have realized that I was on my lowest point around that time that he decided to do something silly. When Karu met MADKID again in their next release event before she went back home, Shin mentioned to her that he finished reading my letter.
I wondered how he felt after reading my (probably disorganized) story on that piece of paper, and how he felt about the photos of my dad’s rose garden during that time. I decided not to bother with all of that because hearing him mentioning that he finished reading my letter was more than enough for me to make me feel a little better.
Early June came and Shin decided to come online to do his usual LINE LIVE streams. I was there early, of course, and when he saw my comment saying hi, here’s what he said:
I knew right then that I felt a whole lot better. Then two weeks after that livestream, the announcement about the Crunchyroll Expo came out in public on Twitter that MADKID will be performing here on my home soil and in my home territory. I had several mixed feelings about the announcement but at the same time, my heart was rapidly beating like crazy. I thought that sending out that letter and finally reaching for a lot more positive outlook in life was more than enough for me to finally be cured out of my 3-month mourning period. Now, this?
That’s right. I’ll be meeting MADKID in real life. I’ll be meeting SHIN in real life. After over a year of us chatting on livestreams and “stalking each other” (more like tweeting him directly and him liking every single tweet I made to him), the Gong Cha Friends will be finally meeting in real life. It’s still far from this writing, but I’ve got less than two months to prepare for that fateful day.
When I purchase fan goods from my favorite groups, I normally would go for the practical stuff – stuff that I can actually use in real life. I really can’t go on the “collector route” like some fans do because I’d only see it more as clutter than an actual sentimentally valued item. Despite of the pain and mourning that I went through that entire spring season, I am very happy and satisfied with what I got.
I couldn’t thank Karu enough for all this, I really do. I feel like I owe her a lot to this and that words aren’t just enough. We may plan on something cool for the guys on our next get-together in a few weeks from today. And finally, even though we’re not in Japan, we finally get to see MADKID together, both performance and in-person one-on-one.
I don’t know how else I should conclude this really long post. But for those who are planning on purchasing their goods the next time they have another major live event, it’s best to make friends with other Axcels who would often go to their lives. It’s easier if you make any friends with Japanese Axcels, however, you’d have to at least learn some Japanese basics to connect with them.
The Discord Chat is also a great place to meet new global Axcels. Sure, most of us wouldn’t be able to go to Japan to see any of their lives the next time, but it still is a great place to connect. If I do have a chance to go to Japan to watch their lives, I’m happy to be able to buy some stuff for you.
This site should provide you a lot of info about how you can get in touch with your favorite member through livestreams, or steps that you can do to at least get them to recognize you a bit. Take advantage of it. This is why I made this site so that I’d be able to share my love and support for MADKID to the masses and introduce the group to those curious about them.
Also, when you do make some connection with your favorite member, it’s okay to share it with your fellow Axcels. Just don’t shove all of that in the faces of others who may have the same bias as you. Sharing is caring, yo~!
That’s it for the time being. Maybe next time, I’ll be writing about CRX, but that would be all the way till the end of August/early September, right? As the saying goes, and this applies to everything written here, good things come to those who wait.
Till next time, Axcels!