Being an idol is difficult enough, but can you imagine being an idol group far from the Japanese epicenter of the scene? SEISHUN YOUTH ACADEMY is one such group! After their experiences in Japan as members of the idol group Seishun Gakuen, twin sisters Ally&Sally forged their new group from the local talent in Vancouver. Seishun Youth Academy are a sister group of Seishun Gakuen creatively supported by Seishun Gakuen mastermind SHUN and the NoMake talent agency. The group performs Japanese idol-style lives that include songs from their Seishun Gakuen family translated into English as well as Seishun Youth Academy exclusive songs brought straight from Japan. With ambitions to perform worldwide, Seishun Youth Academy recently wrapped a set of 13 performances at Anime Expo in Los Angeles in the span of four days.
Recently, Seishun Gakuen began a crowdfunding project to get the girls to Japan for their first ever live stages including much anticipated performances with the entire Seishun Gakuen Family at @JAM EXPO in Tokyo (more on this later … or you can support now – [English] [Japanese]).
We caught up Seishun Youth Academy in between performances at Anime Expo where we chatted about ORIGIN STORIES, IDOL LEGITIMACY, and the LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT.
New School Kaidan is giving away a signed T-Shirt and a signed light stick (pictured above)! Details are located below the interview. GOOD LUCK!
Hello everyone! We’re Seishun Youth Academy! It’s nice to meet you, piko!
Sally, Emily and I have been here before. Stella, you have too, right?
I’ve been twice, but I’ve never been to Anime Expo.
I’ve only ever been to Disneyland, so this is my first time in LA and at Anime Expo.
This is my first time in the USA! It’s been very exciting and very crazy these last few days. I experienced an earthquake for the first time, as I’m originally from Hong Kong which doesn’t have them. At first I didn’t even notice, but the other members said “It’s an earthquake! Go under the table!” Right after the earthquake we had a police incident across from our hotel as well.
We got to see American police in action!
How many cars did we count?
There were 15 police cars and 2 helicopters!
Yeah, they were arresting someone!
There was a big spotlight on the scene from the helicopter. It was like an American TV show!
It looked very serious with the helicopters. Something very, very bad must have happened!
America is crazy!
I know that Ally and Sally have quite a story about how they became idols. It could be a whole interview in itself. Is there a short version of that story?
In 2016 Ally and I went to Japan on a study abroad with our university. During that time, we became members of rock idol group Seishun Gakuen. We were members in Japan for 8 months, and we were able to participate in the CD release for our album “Seishun☆Wasshoi!”, as well as TIF2017 and @JAM EXPO 2017. We took part in over 100 performances in the 8 months we were in Japan.
We put out an audition and the other members applied!
When I first started liking idols, I was more interested in the dance and singing portion of it. I couldn’t picture idols making mistakes, they had to be perfect and talented people. But since then, I’ve realized that that’s not really what a lot of idol fans want. Many want to see idols grow as people and connect with them on a personal level.
I was born in Toronto and grew up in Hong Kong, and because of how close Hong Kong is to Japan, there are a lot of idol fans. I started liking idols and then started my own dance group with Kuyumi, a girl who went on to also become a member of Seishun Gakuen slightly before Ally&Sally. It’s a very small world!
Kuyumi and I once happened to talk on the train once about a friend she happened to have in Vancouver…
And I applied! I have my experience of leading a dance group from before, but it’s not nearly as difficult as being an idol. We look at being in Seishun Youth Academy more as a job and a profession. It’s obviously a lot more serious.
How do you view idols now after becoming a member?
I don’t think it’s changed that much because I used to watch the AKB documentaries. I already knew that they go through really tough training and difficult times. One thing surprising about being an idol is that time management is very important. If you can’t balance practice, performances, and your own health and daily life properly it’s very easy for you to break.
I’ve always liked listening to J-POP. At first I thought that all idols were supposed to be cutesy and wear fancy outfits. After watching Seishun Gakuen’s videos online and seeing SHUN and the members singing and dancing together with the audience, I knew I wanted to experience that, that I wanted to enjoy that moment along with them.
Seishun Youth Academy is the Canadian sister group to Seishun Gakuen. After gaining experience as Seishun Gakuen members, we wanted to bring the culture and positive environment where girls can grow and explore their talents back with us to Canada, but it was just a dream.
It’s not like we asked SHUN, it was just an “Oh, it would be nice” kind of thing. I’m not sure how SHUN heard of this…
It’s only because SHUN gave us permission and in a way “told” us to start SYA that we’re able to do Seishun Youth Academy now. We weren’t about to turn down a challenge from him, especially after everything both SHUN and Seishun Gakuen did for us in Japan.
It was during a regular performance on stage that SHUN told us to make Seishun Youth Academy. Sally and I knew then and there that we had to.
There are always people who say “They’re not Asian, they aren’t Japanese, they can’t be idols”. This is an interesting way of thinking, and we’re always going to be criticized because of it. We often get thought of as a cover group as well, which can be frustrating. These are all our original songs. Seishun Gakuen is not only the female members in the Joshi-bu, but also dansou idol group Qupasar, their brother group Asteroid Ryuuguu, the Seishun Gakuen Fukuoka members, Seishun Kids, SHUN, and of course, Seishun Youth Academy. All groups are one big family, together as Seishun Gakuen.
Seishun Gakuen in Japan never performs our English songs so it’s interesting some people have that perspective. We definitely do feel like we have to fight for legitimacy.
No one would refers to JKT48’s “Fortune Cookie in Love” as a cover, and yet when our songs are in English, for some reason they are called covers. It is a source of frustration for us.
We also have our exclusive song “World’s Friend”, specifically made for us by SHUN based on our member’s story together. It’s currently the theme song of a Japanese TV show “Yahho!” that’s airing in Japan.
I think people are mainly used to cover groups, so that’s why they just categorize us under something they’re used to. We’d like to change that perception and create a new culture for groups in North America.
There’s also the question of “what is a cover group?” versus “what is an idol group?”. I don’t think that’s defined enough yet, both here and in Japan.
It’s mainly me doing translation and adaption of English lyrics, along together with Ally for support. It’s almost like rewriting the lyrics so sometimes it’s a very stressful process. For “World’s Friend” we worked on the lyrics all together as a group, so I think both English and Japanese versions have their own flavour.
Each performance has a specific concept which we try to achieve with our setlist. The setlist is decided by us members but then approved by SHUN, just as it is in Japan. The audio is also all provided to us from Japan.
In Japan, we had practice with a dance teacher to go over choreography all together once a week for three or four hours. We also had practices just us members where we would break into smaller teams.
For Seishun Youth Academy, we practice together around three times a week for five to six hours each, so it’s quite different in that regard. Unlike in Japan, we do long performances and we don’t switch in and switch off members. Not only do we have to be physically fit, we have to have the vocal and physical stamina.
On Saturdays and Sundays we would do multiple events when we were in Japan. Generally there would be one in the morning, afternoon, and evening. You’d get there about an hour before the event starts, go on stage for 10-15 minutes, do the meet & greet for an hour and then head to the next venue. It’s definitely different from Canada where we usually only have one performance a month, sadly. This weekend here at AX we’re doing thirteen performances so it’s a lot closer to the experience of performing in Japan.
There are a lot of differences, but there are even more similarities! We find ourselves running into the same sort of issues as they have in Japan. Stuff like fan manners, and what not. It’s really interesting!
The age range and type of fans in Japan versus Canada are very different. Idol fans in Japan are also often only interested in idols, not video games, anime, or any other subculture hobbies. Here everyone enjoys a range of interests passionately.
Our ultimate goal is to create a new form of idol culture in this side of the world by fusing the style of Japanese idols with our own multicultural Canadian style and beliefs. With this we’d really like to expand into the music industry here.
We want to make a new and unique culture along with our fans.
It runs the gamut for each group, but I’d say “love ban” contracts don’t exist. There’s a lot of different ways and strategies companies can control their talents. Like Jessica mentioned earlier, time management is really important. It makes it hard to do anything in your life outside of work if your schedule is packed to the point of exhaustion. Some may have noticed, but in Seishun Youth Academy, our third “school rule” is to “fall in love”!
It depends on each group, but we don’t have anything like that. It’s important to be happy and live your youth!
As we sing in “Seishun Youth Academy”…
ALL: Seishun Youth Academy school rules! Number one! “Be energetic and true to yourself!” Yeah! Number two! “Never stop giving your all!” Yeah! And number three is… “Let’s fall in love”!
First off, most people don’t know what an idol is. If we say, “We’re an idol group”, they think of K-POP, or the “American Idol” or “Canadian Idol” TV shows and get very confused, so there’s that one misconception. The other one is that if they do have an idea of what a Japanese idol is, they think of a girl in a bikini or of sketchy contracts and music producers doing weird things. Coming back from our experience in Seishun Gakuen, we really want to show that Japanese idols aren’t like that.
We want to dispel a lot of the myths that the general public have about Japanese idols and J-POP.
I would say that things are successful already considering what we originally had thought and planned for Seishun Youth Academy. It’s like a dream!
We’re absolutely blessed to have such amazing members. I absolutely agree.
If I was saying Seishun Youth Academy wasn’t successful right now, I would say we’d be successful if we were touring North America and Europe and were able to release our music on a major scale.
We’re definitely still on the path, but I’d agree that with our original goals in mind, Seishun Youth Academy has been a success so far!
We’d like to very much! We want to go anywhere and everywhere.
We want to be able to spread the message of our music all over the world!
Seishun Youth Academy is willing to go anywhere! In February this year we were invited to Ai-Kon Winterfest in Winnipeg. We were so happy and so excited, but whenever I told someone they would always think I was joking. We grew up with our mom saying “Never go to Winnipeg in the winter!” so of course that’s exactly what we did.
If any fans want to see us at an event, please contact the event organizers and request us. They’ll contact our management, and we can go there! It’s that easy!
I’m so happy to be able to be here at Anime Expo! This has been one of our dreams since we started SYA. Another one of our dreams is to go to Japan and perform with Seishun Gakuen on a really large stage, and right now we have that chance. We’re doing crowdfunding on Japanese crowdfunding service called Kanatta. It’s a crowdfunding project that Seishun Gakuen’s agency NoMake has set up for us, and while it is all in Japanese, even those outside of Japan can pledge. There’s a guide on how to do so in English on our Patreon page too! Right now it’s our big chance to be able to go to @JAM EXPO. This is our chance to make it, so I really, really would like both fans within Japan and all over the world to check it out and support us there![note: here are those Kanatta Crowdfunding links again [English] [Japanese]]
It’s been very hectic the last few weeks until today. We’re really honored to be able to perform here at Anime Expo. Hopefully we can travel farther and meet more fans who don’t know much about us and idol culture!
I had such a great time at Anime Expo! I got to meet so many fans that have been connecting with us for a long time and who I wasn’t sure I would ever meet in person. So happy! I can only hope that in the future we’ll go to even more places that are far away so that we can meet even more people and make them smile.
These few days have been a very emotional for me because of fans’ reactions. I never thought that fans would cry when meeting us! I didn’t expect that. It’s been very emotional for them to tell me that our music actually gives them power and energy, and that’s what keeps them dreaming. I find it very inspiring. It tells me that I definitely did not make a wrong choice joining Seishun Youth Academy.
It’s been especially difficult in the last couple of weeks leading up to Anime Expo for us. There have been a lot of hurdles to overcome but being able to see everyone, being able to finally meet everyone, and hearing their warm support and messages really means the world to us.
New School Kaidan is giving away a T-shirt and a Light Stick signed by Seishun Youth Academy! All you need to do is follow our Twitter account @NewSchoolKaidan and tag us in a tweet with a link to this article (https://newschoolkaidan.com/a-conversation-with-canadian-idols-seishun-youth-academy/). Don’t forget to tag us! Contest ends on August 3, 2019. GOOD LUCK!
Seishun Youth Academy is a girl group based in Vancouver, Canada and is a sister unit to the Japanese rock group Seishun Gakuen. They aim to make a difference in the world with their positive message of friendship, acceptance, and never giving up. This all-Canadian girl group gets the audience pumping with their energetic performance, complete with over-the-top dance routines and live singing! All of Seishun Youth Academy’s songs are original, written and composed by the group’s producer SHUN. Ally&Sally, who are concurrently members of Seishun Gakuen, are Vancouver born and raised, and are Seishun Youth Academy’s founding members. Seishun Youth Academy’s current lineup includes members Ally&Sally, Jessica Lin, Stella Han, Emily Campbell, Yayoi, and Vivian Pimdara.
More SEISHUN YOUTH ACADEMY coverage from New School Kaidan