Paint the Moon: Reflections on LOONA and Fandom

Photo Credit: Blockberry Creative

So lately I’ve had this weird, meditative, engaging, crazy trip on what it is to be a fan these days — conveniently packaged in a span of two weeks. As previously stated a few entries ago, I went down the rabbit hole and found myself vibing towards a number of KPop groups.

This recent journey on fandom started during LOONA’s comeback on 28 June 2021 with PTT (short for “Paint the Town”). If you wanna check it out, here’s the video:

For those curious on why I like the group, it was way back in 2019 when I saw a tweet GIF by what seems to be a result of some random Twitter algorithm. In the post I saw this KPop girl group in a dance studio where they made a V-formation with solid pacing and synchronization. Now that was my pre-rabbit hole days (Blackpink was the only group I was listening to at that time) and so I just shrugged it off, diving back into my usual socmed durdling.

However, somehow the image kept playing at the back of my head, and soon I decided to return to it (‘coz I would usually watch some cool choreos once in a while to pass the time). When I tabbed back to Twitter I couldn’t find it anymore. I started asking around—from former students, to my KPop stan friends, to even members of our local MTG Community—about this girl group “who could pull off a perfectly cool V-formation” but all I got were other groups when I tried to search for the suggested names they had provided. So I just carried on, and it kinda bugged me knowing that there was no closure to my query.

Fast forward to the summer of 2020, while passing the time at home (during the days of stricter community quarantine due to the pandemic), as I was in the process of falling into the KPop rabbit hole, I stumbled upon one Youtube channel’s post on the history of LOONA. I just clicked on it, not knowing what to expect, and somewhere on the video I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was the group I was looking for back in 2019! (And I also discovered that it was a dance cover of NCT 127’s Cherry Bomb)

The personal stanning wasn’t really an instant process, given that LOONA at that time already had a good number of songs out, so it was quite confusing where to start. Good thing I have a friend who’s also a fan, and she gladly provided me with a recommended listening order, first of which was to follow the singles in a particular flow. The tracks are pretty eclectic, but I felt at home with the ones which had groovy beats and synths (e.g. Yves’s “New” and Olivia Hye’s “Egoist” and Kim Lip’s “Eclipse”). Also: LOONA’s synchronized dancing (and smart stage positioning) is no joke. They’re really, really good in that department, and it’s one of their key strengths.

Phases of the Moon

What made LOONA further stand out for me was that Blockberry Creative (or BBC) — the company managing the group — introduced the members by showcasing one artist at a time, particularly every month with a respective solo track (they didn’t start as one complete lineup, which was a total contrast to the usual industry practice). Slowly the sub-units were formed (1/3, Odd Eye Circle, YYXY), and then finally they were gathered into one unit of 12 members. In short: just reiterating what this channel has stated, they pulled off an “Avengers introduction” which—for me at least—was one tough gamble. And, well, I have a thing for supporting small groups who take major risks. There’s a certain “hero’s journey” appeal to it.

What made things more interesting was that in the process of completing the members, a lore was slowly created, becoming the LOONAverse (which is a mix of sci-fi, anime, and Sailor Moon). Even until now they’re still deep into the concept. And despite having a lore, it doesn’t really hinder new people from getting into the fandom.

But like any other grand plan, the execution wasn’t really that smooth (especially when the company was a newbie in the industry way back in 2015-ish). I don’t think I can explain the issues in detail here but you might wanna check out some of the videos on YouTube (you can search for “LOONA history”) to see what I’m talking about—but to give a glimpse of several matters: funding complications, company politics, and tension between the Creative Director/Music Producer versus the company (with the former suddenly walking out and leaving behind the entire project). Add the fact that one member went on hiatus some time in 2019 for health and healing matters. But despite the challenges (and a lengthy absence), the group and the company pushed forward and managed to survive. In 2020, LOONA earned their first chart win in one of the countdown shows. It served as a critical manifestation of the group’s power and their fan’s total commitment.

For LOONA, there was a death and rebirth factor in the narrative, and the process of rebirth was made possible due to heavy fan engagement. If you wanna know the fandom name, it’s “Orbit.” Orbits themselves have this distinct set of characteristics which sets them apart from other fandoms — something which includes humor and mythmaking (more like meme making actually), and it can get a little crazy (in a fun way) sometimes. LOONA also has strong support from the LGBTQ+ and international communities (they’re actually more popular outside South Korea).

Reflections on Fandom

Now going back to 28 June 2021, LOONA has just made another comeback with a mini album titled “&” (pronounced as “And” and not, um… ampersand? Hehehe) with the carrier single PTT. What makes this comeback important is that they’re back to being “OT12” — meaning: they’re finally complete (and we’re quite happy that the member who went on hiatus has successfully healed and recovered).

For the uninitiated, for every comeback event there’s a promotional campaign period, and the community is always fully engaged in putting their favorite group on top of the charts during such period.

Now here’s the thing: this particular comeback is quite big (from a standpoint of a small company at least, since BBC is not part of the “Big Four” of the KPop industry). If we’re to observe their carrier single’s MV, there’s this monstrous surge of views on the site within a very, very short span. If you compare it with LOONA’s previous videos, PTT got 30+ million views in just one week, already surpassing the views from Star, Why Not?, and So What? (which they all took a longer amount of time to amass such numbers). The highest views is still 2019’s Butterfly—which is a very underrated, underappreciated track in the history of KPop. I’m serious here.

At first I wasn’t really aware of it, but more or less I found myself following the progress of their recent promotions on various social media platforms, with #LOONA_PTT or #STANLOONA as my guide references. I kept track of the YouTube views and was quite vocal on the comment sections of related videos. When there was an opportunity to join in the voting phase for a weekly event I did something which even until now surprises me — I decided to participate by downloading the app and spending all the necessary points for the votes. And in the process I got completely anxious when I saw how close the fight was with another rising KPop group. Holy shit, I was biting my nails for this already. It felt really, really surreal.

Just last week, 5 July 2021, hours before the announcement of the winner, I tried to distance myself from my social media accounts to steer clear from any possibility of becoming anxious the whole day (especially at work). The other group which was also vying for the top spot had major digital sales and the gap with LOONA was way too wide. I had to go zen mode, I kept telling myself that “well, yeah, whatever happens, we all did our best right?”

It was in the evening when I accidentally opened one of my social media accounts that I saw the final result. Here’s what happened: I was in line waiting for our take-out at Jollibee and so I took out my mobile phone to pass the time. It was just an automatic muscle memory that I opened my Instagram and boom, I saw one random post: LOONA won.

It felt somewhat euphoric. I remember letting out a big sigh and almost tearing up. I also had to stop myself from shouting “fuck yeah.” It was like finding satisfaction in witnessing the end of one long story arc — that they finally won as a complete unit, and all the promotions and fan efforts were all worth it. Holy shit, I was really deep into it now. Did I just become a full Orbit?

Quite crazy when I still think about it, but yeah, maybe I’ve gone full Orbit (add the fact that I’m saving up for either a physical album or an official lightstick). The feeling remains strange as I reflect on it. There’s something about fandom which I still find fascinating—and scary. There’s still so much to unpack and learn, especially when the pandemic is still looming, and we’re all stuck at home, with our social media accounts serving as our virtual windows because we can’t go out much. I’ve been a part of several fan communities (I’m a Magic: the Gathering Vorthos, a Trekkie, a Marvel fanboy, a Battlestar Galactica nerd, hell I even consider myself a Slipknot “Maggot”)—but the KPop realm feels unique in some way. With social media, there’s just so much participation, and at the same time a strong demand for consistent content. And the fan wars—hell don’t get me started—the battlefield can be quite gruesome sometimes (just this weekend I’ve witnessed some fandom feud on twitter, and a few months ago I almost got into a fight with someone from another KPop fandom). It’s all there, all packed in this complicated ball of love & crazy & noise & feelings.

Recently LOONA is undergoing promotional hiatus due to the members being quarantined (one of the BBC staff was found COVID19 positive). Though the members of LOONA all tested negative, they won’t engage in live activities for now, just to be safe. It’s a wee bit of a downer actually, given that the comeback promotions has been cut short (plus: in two weeks most entertainment activities will be halted due to an important national event in South Korea), but nevertheless, we’re all just online, being stans, doing the usual crazy interactions on social media while waiting for their next media appearance.

We’re still here—still stanning LOONA.

Quick Tips on Fandom and Mental Health

1.) You can be supportive in whatever way possible. The easiest is by sharing any free related media (MVs, articles, fan art). There’s a lot of opportunity on various platforms. All you need to do is find the proper hashtag on the search bar.

2.) There’s also official merchandise. You can save up for them. You might want to consult in fan message boards for easy acquisitions.

3.) As an alternative—write about them. Do fan art (or, um, fan fiction?). Edit fan videos. Upload dance covers. There’s a lotta love to spread.

4.) If your idol didn’t win in the weekly charts despite you voting and streaming their stuff, don’t beat yourself for feeling short. Everyone did their best. YOU did your best. What matters is that you continue to support your idols and the community. There’s always a next time. Fighting!

5.) For the sake of your mental health, especially when you’re prone to anxiety or rage, do not engage in fan wars. Step back, take a deep breath, chill out, enjoy other things. As I’ve observed: fan wars usually expire after around six to eight hours.

6.) Lastly, spread the love. The artist survives when the community thrives. Toxic fans tend to gatekeep, preventing new members from coming in. True fans help build the community, providing group growth and healthy interaction among members (and other fandoms!). Be true fans; be better fans.

That’s just about it. As a personal bonus, I wish to share my favorite track from their new mini album, enjoy:

Little Victories

This is a really, really good book

Reading has been quite difficult for me since the pandemic started. Honestly, I don’t think I was able to finish any book last year. There was just too much mental dread and distraction going on, and it was hard for me to focus.

This year I tried my best to settle for “little victories.” It’s a way for me to beat languish (which has been quite the buzzword since the start of the year). During the first quarter I borrowed books from the library, hoping to at least respark my motivation, but eventually gave up after a few pages. Gah.

Last month I pulled a book by Sven Birkerts from our shelf at home (it’s a book that my wife found at BookSale ages ago; she still loves it and recommends the author once in a while). I checked a few chapters and liked a number of essays. I kept reading without skipping anything, but the struggle was still there, still real. Sometimes the phrases made sense. Sometimes I had to repeat certain parts to review my capability to comprehend basic lines. But I kept reading.

Just last night, at 9 o’clock, I was able to finish the book. Holy shit.

Here’s to little victories.

Pic Prompts

Despite me struggling to get back that writing stamina for prose, I still have some bursts of writing energy writing short essays on almost trivial matters (I mostly upload them on my social media site anyways). Recently I’ve dug up some old folders almost hidden in my old folders on my laptop and desktop and some of them have given me the itch to write — mostly about the stuff about the past and mostly matters which may not even be important anymore. They have at least enabled me flex my hand and fingers and unrust the writing joints. Still, I have to regain that energy which could sustain me during my freewriting and drafting phase (previously I could last at least five pages writing shitty first drafts long hand). These days I could barely complete a page without getting tired.

Anyhoo, that’s all for now. See you in a while.

Stay the Course

I’m not fighting back; I’m giving back.

Despite the two-month setback (as I was gripped with languish disguised as complete immersion in mobile gaming), here I am finally picking up the pen and stuffing my journal with entries — mostly ramblings and rants and the occasional redemptions.

Late last week and this week I’ve been writing poems, and with a quick look I realized that my theme is suspiciously under one weird umbrella (I’m not gonna reveal it yet, as it may change by the fifth or sixth entry).

Reading has been difficult and my pace has been snail-ish. I am challenging myself, once again, to finish a book that I started reading beginning April. It’s not even 200 pages long, and the entries are quite easy to read through, but there’s this weird force field slowing me down.

I’m still here, pushing my way into something more productive. I keep moving despite the shaky tempo.

Don’t Call It a Comeback

‘Coz I don’t know if it is, but I’m sure that I’m actively writing again — word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. I’ve been filling my journal with weekly notes, and I’ve been catching up with my reading quota.

I didn’t expect my little writing project to go viral. It all started as an idea when I was walking around campus, noticing the empty hallways — with my head actively filling up the spaces with memory and imagination. I took some pics, and used the pictures to prompt myself to write some short fiction. The result is a collection of kinda-connected stories (three per hallway), of things most likely happening during the school’s pre-2020 days, of this little fictional community of cats on campus.

I was quite satisfied with my work (it served as a good springboard for future concepts), but I was also completely shocked to have my work be shared by a lot of people in the community, reaching the 1600 mark. It has been a week and the post has started to ‘stabilize’ in terms of activity, but once in a while my FB notification would show an activity or two related to it.

I’m also quite happy by its ‘interactivity’ — with people also sharing their campus stories, also giving their own quick take on some of the hallways. I think this is one of the best features of social media when it comes to modern storytelling. People can participate in it, so the project evolves as it is passed around. It’s actually overwhelming as much as it is fascinating.

At this point I see a glimpse of a particular direction in terms of style and platform, but I can’t fully figure it out yet. I have two projects simmering at the back burner — one is new, and the other one is a reboot.

Cheers to this year of redemption and promise. For the curious, I’ve put below my project. I call it Hallways.

Cure for the Tabletop Itch

So my tabletop hobbies will take a break this 2021 (with a possibility that it’ll be extended ’til next year or two). I can’t play Dungeons and Dragons live (though I’ll try again via Discord — should internet conditions be favorable), and I’m sure as hell can’t play Magic: the Gathering (‘coz the hobby place closed down, and I feel iffy about playing in public spaces not meant for gaming).

I got this card by simply trading it with a friend.

Early this year I tried to close any pending card purchases from friends, and I only have one set of cards to procure from an online shop. Long story short: last year — before the trio of storms arrived in the last quarter of 2020 — the shop forgot to include in the package one card I ordered, and so I told them to just include it in my next purchase instead of sending the card alone. When is my next purchase? Well, I really don’t feel like buying cardboard these days. Every time there’s a temptation, someone residing at the back of my head would ask: When will you use the new cards? And so I would simply defer from doing any purchase.

As a way to scratch the gaming itch, after careful consideration and consultation with friends, I’ve recently downloaded Legends of Runeterra on my new mobile phone (I just got it upgraded thanks to my phone subscription’s contract renewal). So far, I’m really digging the art and lore, to the point that I’m tempted to even try playing its MOBA mobile counterpart League of Legends: Wild Rift. Being an Izzet player in MtG, I found home in Piltover and Zaun — being crazy inventors and all. So far my fave champions (from LoR) are Jinx and Victor. Right now I have around five working decks, though they’re not considered meta decks, more or less they can still win a game or two (my aggro decks have better win rates, and my tempo-ish/control-ish decks are still trying to keep up with the established strategies).

Jinx overlooking Piltover (you’ll see this and other cool images on the app)

The gameplay and primary wincon are similar to MtG: spend resources to summon followers and champions (or spells) in order to destroy your opponent’s Nexus (which has a total HP of 20). The game takes about 5 to 10 minutes, but could go as long as 15 to 20 minutes. The card pool is still small, given that it was just released last year, and so far the game only has around two expansions. Plus! instead of banning cards, they only nerf them via patch updates.

I’m not gonna lie though — I still miss the social aspect of cards games. I miss the quick chat during and after each game (especially when we’re reviewing our plays), I miss flicking and flipping cards and turning them sideways, I miss the actual feel of shuffling sleeved cardboard. Digital games, despite being conveniently available 24/7, still lacks this certain magical feel found in real, live interactions.

When the pandemic has subsided, when it’s all safe for everyone, the first thing on my to-do list is play a day’s worth of Commander games.

New Ears

Last year’s early quarantine managed to change my audio perspective. Since I got nothing much to do at home (after finishing the take home tasks) I would hang out at several social media sites to pass the time. One of my students have been posting his dance vids and one of them caught my attention. It was Ryujin’s shoulder pop move from Itzy’s Wannabe.

I got really impressed by the choreo and so I searched and watched the entire video. Little did I know that I was diving right into this new musical hole.

Here’s the thing: I really don’t listen to KPop that much. In fact, during pre-quarantine era the only girl group that I listened to was Blackpink because their beats remind of electronic/tech music I used to love in the past. Itzy is part of that musical range and so I checked their other stuff — eventually getting me hooked on Dalla Dalla and Icy. Soon enough, YouTube’s algorithm caught on, showing a web of other KPop acts on the sidebar.

By the end of 2020, I was quite into the following: Itzy, Twice, Red Velvet, Stray Kids, and Loona. And at the beginning of 2021 I started listening to (G)I-dle and Mamamoo.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t change my musical taste. In fact, I expanded it, and somehow my whole head got rewired, making me appreciate more the things which I find difficult to understand. The language barrier is real, but the music remains accessible and open. Soon enough I find myself extending my ears beyond KPop, slowly treading through other musical acts from Asia.

I made a Spotify KPop mixtape with the help of my friends over at Facebook last year. Early this year I made another mixtape which is composed of mostly Southeast Asian acts (some Filipino tracks included). I’m really digging these stuff right now, and I’m quite happy to have fallen in love with music which feels more closer to home.

[Not] Looking Back

Much has been stripped from me last year due to the pandemic, namely: our hobby haven (and along with it — the sustainment of that hobby), organizational matters (as it was supposed to be rebooted at the start of school year 2020-2021), and my ability to hold an event (since I don’t get to coordinate and organize big and small activities which involve community building). On top of that I won’t be teaching any time soon (since the teachers who were on study leave are now back, and so ‘my watch has ended.’)

Of course, our lifestyle has changed. The first two months of quarantine has warped our capability to socialize. We’re more cautious and paranoid now, and our capacity to even touch (hi five, handshake, hug, etc…) has been totally diminished, if not gone. We tried to stay healthy, but being in semi-isolation without any social contact (especially if you don’t have internet) had affected much of our emotional state (that and I couldn’t go to the gym, so I got heavier again).

Our government still has a lot of answering to do in terms of managing the crisis (they’re still doing a crappy job until now — as the curve hasn’t been lowered , and mass testing is nothing but fiction), and the population is getting angrier. Perhaps there’s a tipping point somewhere, especially now that government actions have become more militaristic with all the strange arrests and constant red tagging. Suddenly, critics have become communists in the eyes of the officials.

And yet we’re still here, trying our best to survive, trying our best to keep our sanity in check. There’s so much to do this 2021, so much catching up. We kinda know now how the machine operates. We hope to be more vigilant.


Been figuring out ways to conquer my daily anxieties — symptoms include unproductivity, low confidence, self-loathing. If you see me biting my nails I’m unknowingly signalling my internal jitters. I shuffle my cards and do some solitary game of Magic: the Gathering just to kill the mass flies buzzing in my brain. I overwork my mind to numb it, like how limbs become numb after moments of carrying loads upon loads of personal burden.

The day is long, and simple tasks feel so heavy by just thinking about them. Overthinking is a dangerous habit. I try to silence my mind, but it retaliates by showing me images of recurring loneliness. I try to drink to drown out specific sorrows, but comfort is fleeting. I am doomed. I think I’m only making things worse.

So here I am writing. Trying to make sense out of everything.



Updates: 20//20

Holy shit it’s been a while. 2020 has arrived. Felt like I’ve been asleep for a long, long time. I can’t promise anything this year, but I’ll do my best to catch up on things that were left hanging ages ago.

I had a good hiatus from almost everything, and now it’s time for me to go back to the worktable and do shit — probably finish a pending project or two. Much has been learned; much has been unlearned. I’ve no idea what went on with the local literary scene, and maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should just forge forward and see what happens.

I’m playing by ear right now, and will probably improvise a whole lot more. The first month of the year is over (it was over 10 days ago, haha) — so time to get going and get grinding.

See you around, I guess. Good to be back.