In Which I Respond to Isilie and Reaffirm Myself as a H!P Fan

I don’t read a lot of blogs. I am a bad member of this fan community that way. But one blog that I always read and always love is Itsumo Genki. If you haven’t already, you should go read Isilie’s latest post there, in which she ponders the stagnation of H!P (its de-evolution, in her own words). The post affected me strongly, and after I read it, I began typing out a response. Well, that response ended up being… VERY long. Rather than take up all of Isilie’s comment space, I’ve fiddled with  my response a bit, and am now posting it here. I’ve tried to make this reply understandable even if you haven’t read Isilie’s post… but seriously, why wouldn’t you want to? Go read it! (And then come back.)

Isilie’s post made me very sad, for a lot of reason: because it put to words some of the worries I’ve been mulling over lately; because I don’t think I could have said it quite as gently and clearly as she did; and because I value Isilie’s opinions as a fellow blogger, so it makes me sad to see her at something of a low point in her fandom.

That said, my opinions on most of the points she made don’t match up with hers.

The first point that I take umbrage with is the idea that H!P groups ought to stop performing certain songs. To quote Isilie, “Some songs should just retire, not because they aren’t amazing, classic songs, but because H!P just isn’t the same place anymore.” I must disagree.

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I look forward to the times when H!P covers itself. Because I love all of the girls so much (with a few REINA exceptions), it’s a pleasure to see them succeed, fail, or even just meet expectations when performing another artist’s songs. It shows another facet of them, aside from their personally sculpted idol persona. Some song choices play into that persona, of course: Momoko singing Momoiro Kataomoi, Gaki singing Boogie Train, etc. But as Isilie mentioned, other choices are surprising. Maasa singing The Bigaku? Who would have expected that? But it gave us a chance to see her perform with a kind of sparkle and energy that is such a deviation from her usually my-pace character. Shin Mini Moni, the youngest bunch of performers in H!P, performing a sultry T&C Bomber number? I loved it. I would never have known that Karin could bend her voice in such amazing ways had I not seen that performance.

That said, I agree that there are times when covers flop. When the first BK vs. C-ute concert was announced, I envisioned a section in which the groups would cover each other. I wanted to see how the girls could transform, if the crazy girls of Berryz could badass it up in Tokaikko Junjou, and if C-ute could let it go and be crazy and fun with something like Piriri to Yukou. When no such thing happened on a major scale, I was sad. Disappointed. I felt like an opportunity had been wasted.

But now I think that might’ve been a mistake. Imagine today’s BK singing and dancing to Kiss Me Aishiteru. They’re a versatile group, but their recent experiment with sexy has made it clear that their strength lies in their fun, out-there ability to sing about monkeys with conviction. And C-ute. They’re great at the kind of cool, strong dance tunes that they’ve been putting out. Momoiro Sparkling was cute, but seemed so tame and dull when compared to the fierceness that we’ve grown used to C-ute hurling at us. Experimentation is great, but some groups have a niche, and H!P seems most comfortable letting them stay within that niche.

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Compare this…

But when the groups go outside of that niche, and fail… isn’t that all part of their growth as artists? Even the most ear-rending performances are valuable in that way. Take Risako. A few years ago, 12-year old Rii performed Matsuura Aya’s famous ballad, Hajimete Kuchibiru wo Kasaneta Yoru. She sounded awful. Terrible. She looked confused, and nervous, and, frankly, like a 12-year old child singing a song far outside of her comprehension. Five years later, she again performed the song, and look at her progress. She made that song into something that she could tackle. Maybe her singing still isn’t Aya-level, but that’s not her strength as an Idol. We as fans would never have been able to truly appreciate Risako’s handling of the song in this latest concert if we had not seen her fail at it so miserably when she was young.

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…to this.

And then, Isilie takes on the factor that fans try and fail to scrutinize- The Tsunku factor. Why, we wonder, has his music lost its popularity? Why continue to give Aya boring ballads when her upbeat songs sold so well? How the heck is he picking his auditionees? And just how much control does he have?

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The simple explanation is to recognize the fact that the T-man is insane… locked-in-a-padded-room-muttering-and-chewing-toothpicks insane. But there’s got to be more to it than that. There has to be SOME thought process behind what Tsunku does. He is supposed to be a businessman, a producer, a mentor figure. He has to make choices that, at the very least, make money.So, why do his decisions so often seem mind-bogglingly stupid?

At least on the outside, he has all of the power in H!P. But more and more often lately we as fans have been questioning his control. We know that he does choose line-distribution. Sayumi (who seems to provide the most insight into the inner workings of H!P lately) has made that clear. And yet, if he does, then some of his other actions just do not add up. If he chooses line distribution, then why not give lines to the two members who were supposed to help H!P expand into the rest of Asia? Tsunku allegedly has the power to have give Jun and Lin lines in H!P songs- and for some reason, chose not to. From a purely business standpoint, that was not a good choice. No girl can magically become a top-earner without any sort of push. And yet it seems as though that was what he required of them.

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God, it was fun finding pictures for this part…

Why? We just don’t know his motives. Pressure from higher ups? Maybe. Racism? Doesn’t seem so- he had Jun and Lin over for noodles rather often (according to his hilarious blog). Crack? A popular theory, but not likely.

Now we see the same kind of silly business being repeated with the 9th generation. Tsunku has his clear favorite in Riho, but how can he expect the others to become anything in the public eye if he doesn’t give them a chance to sing? Of course singing doesn’t count for everything, but a quick solo line or two might be enough to catch the ear of a new fan. Tsunku has to know that- he isn’t dumb. But if he does know that, he doesn’t seem to care.

All of that would make Tsunku seem predictable, and frustratingly so. Of course Reina and Ai will have 75% of the solos in the next single. Of course he’s going to pick one boring, seemingly talentless girl at his next audition. And yes, that would render him dully predictable… if he weren’t so damn crazy at the same time. We see his craziness all of the time- having C-ute put out passionate love songs one minute and cutesy summer songs the next, occasionally throwing the less popular members of the groups a memorable solo line, and especially in whom he chooses to be H!P’s next generation. Who could have expected that Riho would be so creepily talented, Zukki would be so entertaining, Ikuta so easy to root for, and Mizuki so lovely? If you give him credit, Tsunku could have, and did.

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Seriously, LOOK at her! SO cute.

I’ve stopped stressing about Tsunku’s motives. I’ve come to accept them as part of what’s so fun about H!P. He is part of the unpredictable craziness that we love most about Hello! Project. We never know when he’ll graduate someone, what the next song will be like, or who his next favorite will be. We don’t know if he’s just a character, or a scapegoat, or a god-figure looming over all of the project. Sure, we can formulate a pretty good guess based on his seemingly predictable past actions, but there have been so many unexpected moments that it would be silly to write the T-man off as a one-trick pony.

My love for H!P is stronger than ever. Do the low sales lately get me down? Absolutely. Do I think that H!P is in a strange limbo, both trying to move forward in the face of competition and trying to relive its glory days? Yes indeed. Is it stagnating, as Isilie posits? Perhaps. But none of that is going to stop me from loving every single moment of it. Even when I’m sobbing my eyes out over a performance of Ame no Furanai, I’m enjoying myself. I’m glad that I’m a H!P fan, and that means that I’ll take the bad with the good.

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Where else would I find images that make me burst into tears and laugh happily at the same time?

5 Responses to In Which I Respond to Isilie and Reaffirm Myself as a H!P Fan

  1. TommyVD says:

    Thank you for this post. I couldn’t agree more. I read the original post on Itsumo Genki and posted my thoughts there in a comment as well. I really enjoy reading both your blogs.

    I personally find 2011 to already be one of the more exciting years in H!P history. (9th gen, S/mileage auditions,10th gen auditions, some truly kick-ass songs, great new tv-show,…). I love it when H!P girls cover older songs. And wow, did Karin prove once and for all that she should be given something important to do. Her voice completely took me by surprise. With 6 new Eggs being added to the roster, perhaps it’s time to add her to S/mileage or Momusu 10th gen.

    And Tsunku? Yeah he’s batshit insane, but I think he’s basically a nice guy (and a musical juggernaut) that sort of lost full executive control around the time Naoki Yamazaki (head of UP-Front) took over just before Goto’s graduation.

    • Rebecca says:

      Thank you for the compliment!

      I agree that 2011 has been an exciting year, though I remember a time when events like these were the norm in H!P, so I’m seeing it more as a return to the old formula than anything. Still, it’s nice to see something happening (even if I don’t agree with everything. Lin’s graduation is still a blot on my opinion of UFA as a whole). And YES about little Karin. I’d much rather her in MM, where she could have more chances to but her vocal abilities to use. S/mileage’s musical style, at least right now, is too squeaky for that.

      Aah, I remember reading an article way back when about Naoki that basically turned him into some sort of shadowy Godfather type figure, making Tsunku run around and do his bidding. I always wondered how much of that was true. Tsunku did go and start Nice Girl Project right around that time, and a lot of people were hypothesizing that it was because he wanted more complete control over his Idols.

  2. isilwentari says:

    First of all: thank you for always being so supportive. You’re very sweet! *blush* I love this blog a lot and check it all the time, so I’m thrilled to hear the feeling is mutual.😄
    Thank you also for disagreeing with me without being confrontational or assuming I hate H!P suddenly. I think a lot of people think I just hate it, or something. I believe you can be a fan, a dedicated one, and still be able to criticize, to not agree with decisions made. I still love H!P, very much. That was the place I ended up, even after all the criticisms I made.

    Second: the main thing about Gatamekira for me was not that I object to ANY cover being done, or that I don’t think the girls should stretch themselves as performers. In fact that is a great point and one that I failed to address – if you don’t give them a chance to sing something different, how will they grow? My main point about that particular song choice was that it was sung by a version of Mini Moni and that group just doesn’t say ‘Gatamekira’ to me. I don’t object to the girls themselves and I didn’t mean to suggest they were bad performers.

    Third: Yes. Tsunku is merely a scapegoat for me. I know that he is not the one pulling every string. Of course he isn’t. And you are right: his craziness makes H!P interesting in a lot of ways. If it’s true that he’s lost most of his control, then…that pretty much sucks.
    I love this. There are a lot of points you made that I either didn’t address or didn’t think of. You’re awesome.❤ Sorry this comment is so long. ~_~

    • Rebecca says:

      Aww, thank you for having such a great, readable blog!
      I wasn’t trying to imply that you dislike H!P or anything. I see this post more as a reply to your post as opposed to a rebuttal. My thoughts that stemmed from reading your thoughts. What’s true for me is of course not necessarily going to be true for you (if it was, that would be boring. You could just come write my blog for me.😛 )

      Hmm… I see that, but… I dunno. That’s kinda part of being in H!P, you know? Remember that cover way back when of Aiin Dance no Uta by Kamei, Jun, Lin, and Maasa? It was seriously the weirdest thing ever, but it kind of made sense, because H!P is always doing that. I think that sometimes H!P worries less about the image a group puts out (they are Idols after all, and have to be able to take on different images), and more about the popularity of a song and how it would feel in the concert setlist.

      It always makes me laugh when someone blames Tsunku for a bad PV or a poor costume choice. There’s just no way that he has that much power! But he has to have some modicum of control. He’s been the driving force behind H!P since the beginning. I’d say his power grew around 2001 when other collaborators started dropping out (Like, Country Musume was originally produced by another guy who dropped out around the time Rika was added). The, for whatever reason, his power seems to have lessened in recent years. Who knows.

  3. […] In Which I Respond to Isilie and Reaffirm Myself as a H!P Fan – Aoi Usagi Aoi uses a variation of the Nixon “Mad Bomber” argument to defend Tsunku. […]

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