The essential Dempagumi.inc

I must confess, I have a much more passing, casual interest in Asian music than many of our lovely writers here at Rice Digital, but one group that I keep coming back to time and time again is idol outfit Dempagumi.inc.

At this point, I’ve actually forgotten what switched me on to exploring them in the first place — I’m pretty sure it was curiosity about the term “denpa music” being mentioned in some game or visual novel at some point. I’d never come across the descriptor before, so I investigated, and Dempagumi.inc happened to be the first group that I stumbled across. Intrigued, I listened to their album WWDD — and I was immediately hooked.

Dempagumi.inc
One of many lineups the group has had over the years!

Dempagumi.inc’s origins date back to the year 2007 and the opening of the live house DearStage — initially in the basement of a building near Suehirocho Station in Tokyo and subsequently in the DEMPA Building. In late 2008, two employees of DearStage named Mirin Furukawa and Akari Owata formed the original incarnation of Dempagumi and released a single called Mirror Magic? via an independent label.

In 2009, Risa Aizawa (known as Meme Nishimura at the time) and Nemu Yumemi joined the group. While Owata only remained with the group until mid-2010 and Yumemi until 2019, Furukawa and Aizawa remain part of the lineup to this day.

Accounts vary as to why the “.inc” was added to the end of the group’s name; explanations range from the popularity of names with computer file-style extensions in Akihabara to the desire to make it sound like a “company name” via attempts to avoid ending the name with “-gumi” and drawing comparisons to popular ’80s duo Ushiroyubi Sasaregumi.

Regardless of the reason behind their peculiar name, the group as a whole has stuck around in one form or another for well over a decade now — and five new members joined in early 2021, bringing the present lineup to ten, still including veterans Furukawa and Aizawa as well as Ayane Fujisaki, who has been with the group since 2012. So they ain’t going anywhere just yet.

So let’s look at a few top tracks from this delightfully cheerful outfit — and I defy you not to have a smile on your face by the end of at least one of them.

Akihabalife

This cheery number and its accompanying retro-style video is a good summary of what to expect from Dempagumi.inc — energetic, cheerful, pastel-coloured joy and a willingness to celebrate the nerdy side of life.

This track was released as a single — hence the video — but also appears as part of the 2016 album GOGO DEMPA.

DearStage e Youkoso!

This track, found on the WWDD album, really struck me the first time I heard it, as it was incredibly evocative and atmospheric; the album version in particular really carries with it a curious sense of “intimacy” as you’re welcomed into DearStage — the place that Dempagumi.inc originated, remember — and then treated to an incredibly energetic, joyful performance by the assembled members.

It’s an adorably cute song — and in an age where going out to a live venue and seeing performers “up close and personal” is pretty out of the question, a really fun one to shut your eyes and fantasise to.

Koukan Daybook

Released towards the end of December of 2021, this is, at the time of writing, Dempagumi.inc’s most recent music video release — and it’s another blissfully cheerful number, featuring tropical-style backings and another video with a distinctly retro feel to it, primarily brought around by the elaborate costumes and the expensive-looking house they’re all cavorting around in.

This track hasn’t yet appeared on an album, so presumably there’s something in the works for 2022 that will feature this.

PSI-desu I LIKE YOU

The most popular Dempagumi.inc track on Spotify at the time of writing, this track is perhaps best known as one of the ending themes to the anime adaptation of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. — Dempagumi.inc also contributed a number of other tracks to the series as opening title themes.

Sakura Apparition

Another popular track on Spotify, this is the closing track from WWDD, and is another vibrant party song where it feels like everyone involved was having a thoroughly lovely time. It’s got some of the cheesiest key changes you’ll ever hear — but that’s all part of the fun. Dempagumi.inc’s music is about taking joy and pride in… well, joy and pride, something a lot of us find in all too short supply these days!

It’s a lovely way to finish off the album — and an appropriate end to this whistle-stop tour of Dempagumi.inc’s appeal, too.

If you want to explore Dempagumi.inc further for yourself, they have a YouTube channel featuring all their music videos, plus their discography is available on Spotify. I know I’ve certainly found it valuable to keep them on hand any time I need an emotional pick-me-up — perhaps they can do the same for you, too. Enjoy!

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Pete Davison
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