Generation 9: The Kids Strike Back

December 27, 2010

I’m pretty sure that title was meant to be a Star Wars pun. Um.

HEY! There are 9th generation auditions going on, you know! let’s talk about them, okay? OKAY!

For those of you not in the know, there are currently five finalists aged 11-13 vying to become Morning Musume’s 9th generation. We’ll learn the winner(s) on January 2nd.

Like many out there, I want to see all of these girls in MM. I like to have Morning Musume’s membership be in the double digits, and having a great big clump of new girls in the group could be adorable. I’m getting a very 5th generation feeling from these girls. They’re all very young and show glimmers of talent, and like the 5th gen, they seem to gel well and generally get along. It’d be adorable to see them stick together in the beginning, just like the 5th gen did before they gained their confidence. Further, if five girls entered Momusu, each girl could be matched with a mentor, just like in the old days! So cute!

The five girls are Ikuta Erina (Why? Why did she have to have that name?), Sayashi Riho, Mogi Minami, Suzuki Kanon and Otsuka Aina. Below I’ve reviewed them individually based on my initial reactions to what brief footage of them I’ve seen, then calibrated their chances of getting in using sophisticated measures that are much too complicated and important to explain here.

Sayashi Riho

Just like everybody and their mother, I’m rooting for this girl like she’ll explode if I don’t. She is hands down the most talented dancer, singer, and performer out of the five hopefuls. She also happens to be very pretty, which never hurts. If we were to compare her to anyone in the 5th generation, she’d be Ogawa Makoto, who was the clearly talented, fun one during the audition (only to be eclipsed by Takahashi later on). I love her for her confidence and competence.

Her clear superiority could make her a shoo-in, but it could also hurt her. The last time I can remember Tsunku choosing the initially talented girl as a winner of any audition was when he chose little Suzuki for H!P Kids. Since then he’s chosen girls who have one or two talents and many, many flaws. Eri was painfully shy, sang without emotion and could barely talk on TV shows, but was a good dancer.  Sayumi was cute, and, well, was crap at everything else. God even knows what Koharu had going for her. She liked rice and umeboshi, which seems to be a trend within H!P, so maybe Tsunku was just thinking of the caterers when he picked her. Nobody saw Mitsui as the obvious choice for 8th gen. Yuu and the other girls were each individually more talented at singing and dancing and other Idol-riffic things in general. But it was Mittsi who Tsunku chose. Personally, I’m tired of mediocre girls being chosen. I’d love to see a girl who has clear talent being chosen right off the bat. It worked out well for Airi, didn’t it? In the end, we just don’t know how Tsunku will see Riho. Hopefully he’ll realize that she could be an unstoppable, wallet-draining, wota-seducing force.

But I doubt it.

Chance of getting in: 6/10

Chances of joining AKB48 if she loses: 10/10

Mogi Minami

The one that everyone seems to hate. If we continue the 5th gen comparison, Mogi would be Konno. Clearly far behind the others in terms of talent and basic life-skills. But in the end, everyone wanted to root for Konkon and see her persevere, and that’s the feeling I get for Mogi. She has the potential to become the most awesome little-sister character ever, because all you want to do is pat her head and comfort her and make her stop crying. I bet she and Takahashi will get along. and during graduations, they will probably fall apart from dehydration.

As far as her luck with getting in the group… again, Tsunku’s insane and will probably turn her into the next Koharu. Mogi is young and \clearly tends toward the negative. Tsunku might like her simply because he likes the malleable, impressionable types. Rather a lot like Koharu, actually.

Chance of getting in: 7/10

Suzuki Kanon

I. this girl. What. I mean, she. It’s like there’s this thing and I don’t even know what. And how is it that this happens there to eleven. Electric chocolate pudding?! SURREPTITIOUSLY!!! Wuh… ?????

Um. Let’s try that again. Something about Kanon is really, really disturbing to me, but at the same time, I find myself drawn to her, and it’s confusing me. I can tell that she’s a weirdo with a funny, quirky personality, which has me rooting for her. But her dancing is almost… grotesque. When she’s practicing alone in the beginning of the second clip, it’s just kind of gross to watch her dance. And yet, she has that weird deep voice, and she looks so ridiculously chipper when she’s recording Aitai Lonely Christmas that I can’t not laugh.  She is this mixture of repulsive and alluring that entices me to no end. I know that if she ends up in Morning Musume I’m going to end up adoring her, just like Forehead Girl Sekine Azusa and Linlin. But right now… uh… buh… hu wuh rah?! Whrr? HUBHUBHUBHUB!

Because Tsunku appears to like messing with my brain, this girl is probably going to be his favorite. I really want him to pick her to be in the group, if only to give me another chance to figure her out.

(Oh, in terms of 5th generation similarities, this one is another Konno. She acts weird, she looks weird, but she also happens to have the biggest boobs of the five… JUST LIKE KONNO. I am so brilliant).

Chance of getting in: FLUBFLUBGAPPLESNAPEelevensixtyfour/10

Otsuka Aina

Is it bad that I think of this girl as the “other” one? She doesn’t stand out at all. There’s nothing bad about her. She’s not unattractive, nor is she very pretty. She’s not bad at dancing, nor is she wonderful. She isn’t mind-boggling like Kanon or weepy like Mogi. She’s a pretty good singer, but not so great that it really makes her shine. In terms of 5th generation, she’d be Niigaki Risa. She was the youngest one and most people weren’t really sure why she was there. A fair amount of people hated her, but others pointed out that she had a solid voice and wasn’t bad at dancing. Risa eventually blossomed into the wonderful girl that we now treasure, so who knows what will happen with Aina?

I assume that Tsunku will see something in Aina that I don’t (like a personality…) and at least consider her.

Chance of getting in: 6/10

Ikuta Erina

The eldest of the group, coming in at a whopping 13 years old! Ikuta (I will never, ever be able to call her Erina) is the worst singer of the group, but I can’t help but like her a bit. She’s somehow ethereal, a little bit removed from the reality of the situation. Her dancing hovers between long-limbs-flying-everywhere awkward and cool and elegant. In terms of the 5th generation, she reminds me of Takahashi Ai. True, Takitty was much better at singing and dancing that Ikuta is, but they both carry themselves with a similar elegance and mystery.

I can’t get into Tsunku’s mind about this girl. I want to say that he’ll choose her because she’s a little bit different than most of the existing Momusu members, but I’m also feeling like he’ll not choose her because she’s too delicate.If only the T-man were more open to my repeated attempts at reading his mind. This would be so much easier…

Chance of getting in: 4/10

The choice of who will make up Morning Musume’s 9th generation will drastically alter the future of the group. This is a great opportunity for Tsunku: he has a chance to make some real changes within Morning Musume. I sincerely hope that for once, just once, he stays out of his drug-induced lunacy long enough to make a lucid decision.

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How to Say Goodbye

December 16, 2010

As of today, Qian Lin, Li Chun and Kamei Eri have graduated from Morning Musume.

Having a favorite member graduate is, I assume, a bit like having a significant other break up with you without offering an explanation. You’re left gasping, hurting, and feeling other emotions that would be at home in a country song. For some time it seems as though the world must end. You find yourself asking questions that have no answer- “Did I do something wrong? Did I really show my appreciation for her while she was around? Was my glo-stick waving too understated?” You lose interest in the things which once brought you joy, be it mountain biking or dancing along to Mikan in your computer chair. Eventually, however, you are able pick yourself up and move on. You find someone new, someone who (hopefully) won’t doggone leave you all alone without no thing but your horse, your heart, and your lasso.*

So, what will moving on entail for those of us who are now reeling from the loss our girl, be it Jun, Lin or Eri? How will we move on? To whom will we move on? What does this departure mean for us as fans of Morning Musume?

I think that no one should have to move on from a significant loss on their own. Least of all we H!P fans. There are so many of us, and we’ve all lost a favorite before. I’ve gone through it once already (although not to this extent), with the loss of Yoshizawa Hitomi from Morning Musume back in 2007. Each graduation after that required a new recovery. Below are some of my tips on moving on from the graduation of a member. The list is specifically tailored for those who’ve lost their favorite member within a group, but the tips can apply to any moment of sadness over a loss within the J-pop world.

10 Ways to Deal with the Graduation of your Favorite:

1) Watch their graduation DVD.

This tip must seem a bit  duuuh-inducing, but when speaking online with a few other fans of Yossy, two mentioned not having watched her graduation DVD, for fear that it would be too saddening. While a graduation DVD is certainly saddening, it’s also healing. Being able to hear the last words from each of the members to your beloved, and watching her expression, is a moment of complete honesty between you and her.  It will be one of the most touching, emotional, and final things you’ll share with her as a member of H!P.

2. Get offline.

Immediately after watching her graduation DVD (or immediately after she graduates), turn off your computer and spend a little while alone. Your first instinct might be to rush to the online forums and talk with the other fans about how you feel, but I’d advise against doing so. Give your feelings time to develop on their own, without the input of others. Take a walk, lay on your bed listening to songs she’s sung, or just cry into a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

3)And then,  get online

These are your peeps. Talk to them.

Finished gathering your thoughts? Good. Now go share them! Wail with the others who know exactly how you feel, share predictions as to what she’ll be doing in the future, just find someone to talk to! Talking to others will help you feel less alone, and may also bring up other aspects or moments of your girl that you’ve somehow forgotten and can appreciate all over again.

4) Keep her voice on heavy rotation

I suppose you got the joke? Good. Now stop feeling smug. It wasn’t that tricky.

Create a playlist of all of her best performances/songs and watch or listen to it over and over again. Cry. Repeat.

5)Do not, by any means, become a stalker.

The person who took this picture of former C-utie Murakami Megumi has clearly NOT moved on. DO NOT DO AS THEY DO.

Do, however, pay attention to what your favorite does post-graduation. The H!O forum is a good place to start. Dedicated people will generally post with news of what their Idol is doing with her time, especially if she’s still active in the entertainment industry. This will help lessen the shock of separation. True, you’re not seeing your girl get picked on by Gaki anymore or hugged by Ai-chan, but seeing her on her own is a unique experience that may help you appreciate new facets of your favorite’s personality.

6) Don’t renounce the fandom.

So maybe you can’t BEAR to watch them perform Ame no Furanai without either of the Pandas, or will never look at MM the same without Kamei around to be completely bonkers. But you didn’t just love the group for that one girl, right? This is the perfect chance to remember what it was about the group that first got you hooked, to re-watch the old concerts, and to get to know the others members… Which leads me to the next bit of advice…

7) Pick a new favorite.

Maybe she doesn’t sing like Lin. Maybe she doesn’t steal bananas like Jun. Maybe she doesn’t laugh like Eri. But there’s always been one girl in the group who has caught your eye, a member to whom you’ve just not had the time to give your attention in between looking at your favorite girl’s photobooks. Well, now’s your chance. Don’t think of this as replacing the girl who graduated. That’s not possible. But don’t let your girl’s graduation stop you from learning to love someone else.

8. Do not be afraid to cry

However, try not to hyperventilate like poor Non here.

“I actually cried!” “OMG, I had to try so hard not to start bawling.” “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry, but…” Comments on graduation concerts tend to follow this vein. What in the world is so wrong with crying?  Your girl certainly will be. Who can forget that moment during Nacchi’s graduation when Nono simply could not speak for sobbing? The audience would periodically let out cries of “ganbare,” but she barely managed to force out a word or two, and had to be supported by Iida and Miki. The poor girl was so upset that she had to sit backstage during the next few songs.   She had everyone’s love and support the entire time; And you can bet that the fans never felt closer to Goto Maki than when she broke down and cried while singing “Namida no Hoshi.” Crying is healing, and sharing your tears with your favorite as she prepares to move on to the next stage in her life can be cathartic.

9. She’s moving on…

If this picture still makes you howl with despair, you really needed this post.

…So you should, too. Don’t dwell on her graduation for months on end. I don’t mean to say that you should forget all about her. I for one am still guilty of the occasional outburst of “I MISS MAIHA!” However, a graduation isn’t (quite) the end of the world. Don’t post on every single photo of hers with an “Oh god, why did she have to leave?!?” for years to come.** It’s just not healthy.

10. But don’t move on too soon

You don’t need to wake up the morning after her graduation and bounce out of bed, bright eyed and bushy-wotaed. Take your time to miss her. She was important to you, after all.

That wraps up my ten tips. Needless to say, there are more than ten ways to move on. I’d love to see some of your coping strategies. How did you feel when Koharu graduated? Were you around for the Konno-Ogawa double graduation? Did the mass Elder-club exodus make you want to tear your hair? How did you comfort yourself?

Graduations (and disbandings) are, without a doubt, the most dreaded moment within the J-pop fandom. One can hear wota groaning and wailing in the recordings of this most recent graduation announcement, and when the crowd was panned during Goto’s graduation from H!P, tears were flowing. People were shocked (and some are still reeling), when SweetS disbanded. But the graduation experience is part of being a fan. It is always sad, but it isn’t entirely a negative experience. When a favorite graduates we get to see her move on to the next phase of her life and career, and her absence allows us to explore the virtues and vices of the remaining girls. The experience is bitter, but we are left cleansed, and I like to think refreshed. It takes time, but in the end, a graduation is a thing to be celebrated as well as feared.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to some of Linlin’s solos… and cry.

* Does it show that I never listen to country? I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard that all country songs must make reference to a pet, a heart (achey-breaky or otherwise) and/or being left by a loved one. This was the best I could do.

** Is it just me, or do MeguKami fans seem to do that more than anyone else? Is it the abrupt nature of her “graduation?” Or the fact that it reeks of un-surfaced scandal? I tend to pick on them a bit, so I’m sorry, MeguKami wota.