The second season of Produce 101 Japan, which is the Japanese version of Mnet’s hit survival reality franchise ‘Produce,’ aired its last episode with its finalists forming a brand new boy band. The second season began with 101 hopeful candidates in April 2021 but only the top sixty were able to compete on the program. It concluded with eleven boys who have been grouped together under the band, INI, set to debut soon. The winners have been signed with Lapone Entertainment, which is a collaboration between Yoshimoto Kogyo and CJ E&M. The official meaning of the band’s name is that 11 of them who have crossed paths on PRODUCE 101 Japan season 2 are here to connect with their fans.
The show managed to become a superhit, garnering more than 337 million views on YouTube. Though it borrowed the format from the original Korean show and debuted with its first season in 2019 at the end of which, the boy band JO1 was formed, unlike the Korean and Chinese versions of the show, Produce 101 Japan forms permanent groups.
INI: Debut Single
The debut single of every newly-formed group is well-promoted and does get a lot of exposure and support from the fans. The group released their first song on September 25, 2021, with one of the tracks of their debut single, ‘A’ featuring two lead songs— ‘Rocketeer’ and ‘Brighter.’ The debut single of INI is all set to release on November 3, 2021, with four tracks in it— ‘Cardio,’ ‘Runway (INI Ver.),’ ‘Brighter’ and ‘Rocketeer’.
The title of the single officially means ‘the beginning’ and ‘best in quality,’ expressing both their hope and confidence in one go. While ‘Rocketeer’ is a powerful song with a heavy dose of bass and beat, best for live performances, reflecting the group’s desire to reach the sky like a rocket, ‘Brighter’ is comparatively a soft rock, resonating with people of all ages. The contrast that the two songs have against each other is so striking that we can hardly imagine a rookie group singing it.
INI: List of Members
Within just a small duration of time, all the eleven members of INI have become very close to one another and leave no opportunity to express their love and support. Hardly a few months have passed and the boy group have already amassed above 284 thousand subscribers on YouTube. It won’t be surprising if they end up becoming a huge thing in the upcoming years. But before that, we need you to get acquainted with all the eleven boys, if you are new to the fandom.
Birthday: October 10, 1997
Origin: Aichi, Japan
Let’s begin with the leader of the group, Kimura Masaya, who ranked first on the show. He has been a backup dancer for the Ideal Cut concert in Japan by the boy group, Seventeen. He is skilled in dancing hip-hop and jazz and has been chosen as the centre of INI. Kimura, who is friends with JO1 member Ren, loves to spend his time playing, making cookies and watching movies.
Birthday: June 1, 1997
Origin: Kagoshima, Japan
Nishi finished the show at number six and is now one of the most popular members in the group among the youth. Before he participated in Produce 101 Japan, he had served as a backup dancer in several music videos for many groups including Taemin’s ‘Famous’ mv, Chanmina‘s ‘Angel’ mv and Naoto‘s ‘Hibiscus’ mv. He is a great fan of the South Korean hip-hop rapper, DPR Live and loves to play video games and lift weights. Watching anime and playing soccer is some of his favourite ways of passing time.
Birthday: June 12, 1998
The only foreign member of the group INI, Xu Fengfan has his graduation done from a Japanese University where he was a member of their K-pop dance crew. He greatly admires boy groups like JO1, Seventeen, and The Boyz and considers Juyeon from The Boyz as his role model. He can speak multiple languages like Japanese, English, and Korean and feels pleasure in visiting art museums, doing a bit of photography and battling Pokemon.
Birthday: October 13, 1998
Origin: Tokyo, Japan
Securing a position in INI, ranked as the third, has been especially meaningful for Tajima Shogo, who has spent almost two years as a K-pop trainee in Korea, under Cube Entertainment and Johnny & Associates. Well, two years of training made him more experienced and skilled in dancing, primarily hip-hop and K-pop, rapping and playing the drums. He loves reading, watching shows, making music and going to cafes. He was a member of the J-pop group, G=AGE and a fan of Travis Scott, Chris Brown and Kanye West.
Birthday: April 4, 1999
Origin: Tokyo, Japan
Takatsuka Hiromu finished the survival show with second rank and is known for his amazing vocals. He is skilled in playing rock instruments, especially the guitar and art and crafts. He has been a part of an acapella group in the past and admires Da-iCE‘s Hanamura Sota. Takatsuka tags himself as a huge animal lover and has even taken care of them at a pet shop.
Birthday: June 3, 1999
Origin: Osaka, Japan
He secured the 11th position in the final ranking of Produce 101 Japan Season 2, and has been a former trainee at Big Hit Entertainment. His hobbies include reading and impersonating and possess special skills in soccer, basketball and playing the drums. He looks up to famous boy groups like BTS and ARASHI for inspiration. He can speak Spanish as well, which he had learnt back in his university.
Birthday: June 14, 1999
Origin: Osaka, Japan
Formerly known as Kinomura Takumi, Ozaki was a member of co-ed groups, α-X and Jump Up Joy before he auditioned on Produce 101 Japan Season 2, finishing off at number five. He has earlier appeared on a television reality series called ‘My Younger Prince, Winter Lovers’. He is known for his soft vocals suitable for singing ballads. He loves watching anime and is a fan of ARASHI, just like his bandmate, Goto Takeru.
Birthday: August 10, 1999
Origin: Nagano, Japan
Fujimaki Kyosuke ranked fourth on the Japanese idol competition show to join the resulting group INI. Before coming on the second season of Produce 101 Japan, he used to be active on TikTok, posting covers. He loves singing, playing baseball and going to saunas. He admires Atsushi from the boy group EXILE and imbibes inspiration from him.
Birthday: October 10, 2000
Origin: Osaka, Japan
The recently turned twenty-one idol Sano Yudai initially grabbed the attention of the public owing to his resemblance to the oldest member of BTS, Jin. Although his favourite K-pop idol is BTS’s Jungkook, his body movements while singing as well as his hairstyle looks a lot like Jin. He loves playing video games and plans on doing an online gaming live stream. He has been dreaming of entering the music industry ever since he was young. He has a keen interest in watching anime, doing DIY and impersonation.
Birthday: August 30, 2001
Origin: Fukuoka, Japan
Another BTS fanboy, Ikezaki Rihito is a passionate soul who is not only known for his stable rapping skills, but also knows how to captivate the crowd with his dignified visual presence. He has a low-pitched voice thus he said he wants to devote himself to making unique low-pitched rap. He can play multiple instruments like the guitar, the drums and likes to sing English songs. He is a calm and warm person and loves drawing portraits. Although dancing is not necessarily his field of expertise, he does find true joy while dancing and is working hard to improve.
Birthday: October 30, 2002
Origin: Okinawa, Japan
The youngest member of the band INI, Matsuda Jin is a cheerful, kind and chatty person but become a totally different person when he’s on stage. Also known as MJ by his fans, he is good at locking dance and impersonating Kudo Shinichi. He loves to play basketball, video games and read the manga. He photographs his other bandmates whenever they are asleep and create a friendly environment. Despite his age, he deeply cares for his band members, seeing through their worries and insecurities and consoles them. Moreover, he acts like the energizer of INI who can get everyone excited, not only during practice but also during conversations.