Growing up with Idols

August 31, 2011
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In my last post I mentioned grabbing an old notebook at random from beside my bookcase in which to write. I keep all sorts of old things in that space- calendars (which I hate), wrapping paper from birthday presents, school things which I can’t bring myself to throw away, and all of my notebooks from freshman year up until graduation. After arriving at Ben and Jerry’s and ordering my sorbet, (but before setting out to write my Sumer Refreshment post), I opened the notebook and leafed through it.On discovering that I had picked up  my all-purpose notebook from Freshman and Sophomore year, I was immediately drawn in by the nostalgia. What interested me most were the page dividers. On each one I had doodled, scribbled, and generally left record of all of the dull and confusing math and science classes I’d ever been in.
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Y’know who else gets bored? Eri. Eri gets bored. But not Koha!
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Most of those doodlings had to do with Hello! Project. In my freshman year I had been a fan of H!P for two years. My scribbles were mostly about my most and least favorite members each group. On one page I explained that I hated Michishige Sayumi, that I couldn’t stand Sugaya Risako, and that Airi’s line-hogging annoyed me to no end.

On the next page, I wrote down ideas for various sub-groups, mostly in jest. One was Maxi-Moni, consisting of Yurina, Maasa, Koharu, Maimi and Erika. Another, somewhat less well-intended group was untitled but consisted of Matsuura Aya, Okada Yui, Saitou Hitomi and Goto Maki.

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Gee, wonder what this group oughta be called…
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On another page I had set up a challenge for myself: To remember all of Morning Musume’s singles in order. I didn’t do too poor of a job, and from Ai no Tane to Resonant Blue the only song I ended up missing was Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari (incidentally my least favorite Morning Musume song). Still other pages had little caricatures of my favorite members, charts drawing up proposed revivals of the old sub-groups (long before Tsunku had the idea!), and lists of those girls whom I considered the most talented singers.After leafing through all of the pages and eating half of my sorbet, I sat back. I looked around the shop and noticed that I was the only person eating alone. But most of the other people sitting around me looked sweaty and bored, while I felt pleasantly distracted. When I realized that, I sat forward in my seat and wrote these lines:”I have been a Hello! Project fan for five years now. For all of those years, Idols have been my main hobby. Whether I’m bored at school, alone at a restaurant, trying to fall asleep after a long day, or flying to a foreign country, Idols and their music have been my constant and sometimes best companion.”

I’d be lying if I said I had no regrets regarding the four years I spent in high school. But all in all, I had a lot of fun with friends, clubs, and school trips. Throughout those years, Idols were my soundtrack, my distraction, and my hobby. All of the songs on my ipod are more to me than just background music, and the videos I’ve favorite’s on Youtube aren’t just  entertainment. When I listen to Genki+ I am taken back to the plane ride to Greece during my junior year. Whenever that song comes up on my iPod I remember how excited I was, but also how close-minded. I was ready to judge and look down on all of my party-obsessed classmates. I also remember how much I opened up on that trip, how I was able to get along with the very kids I’d set myself up to despise. Whenever I feel myself starting to prejudge someone, I think of Genki+ and I remember to give them a chance.

Similarly, whenever I watch an episode of Ayaka’s Surprise English Lessons, I remember the time in my sophomore year when, lonely and shy, I set myself in the corner of the library and watched Ayaka teach Yaguchi how to say “I want to be naked on a deserted island.” To my surprise, a few kids came over to watch, and those kids soon became my friends.

Just a few days ago I packed up all of my things and moved to New York for college. I’ve been here a few days, and the uncertainties and feelings of timidity and the desire to prejudge are already upon me. I have to find a job, find all of my teachers’ offices to arrange interviews, and for the first time in my life do all of the little things that make up life without parents. Amidst all of the future uncertainties, one thing is solid. I know, without a sliver of doubt, that Idols will continue to be there for me. Even if all of my most beloved groups disband tomorrow, there will always rise up another group of smiling young women with questionable musical talent. I’m not going to go into why I think the Idol phenomenon in Japan will never die (at least not in this post)- this post is simply meant as a reflection on my past and future, and all of the ways in which Idols have and will affect me.

I guess what I’m really trying to say in this post is a huge thank you. To Idols, to their producers, to their fans, to their questionably sane costume designers, their choreographers, and to everyone I have met as a result of this unusual hobby. True, more often than not I have found things to complain about. I will continue to rail against the evils of the Manobeast, and Tsunku will probably never be fully on my good side. I’ll probably never be able to look at S/mileage and not think of Wada’s xenophobia, and AKB48 will continue to confound me. But even that is all part of what’s so wonderful and fun. So thank you, Berryz Koubou, Morning Musume, C-ute, H!P Eggs, AKB48, Onyanko Club, and all the rest. I’ve had a lot of fun these past five years thanks to you. I look forward to every fluffy-skirted and squeaky voiced moment that you will provide me with in the future.

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Thank you!
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International Wota Summer Refreshment Program!

August 15, 2011

As some of you may know, International Wota has been hosting a series of posts dedicated to Summer refreshment, Idol style. Since this has been a hot summer, I decided that as long as someone else was paying, I might as well go out, get myself a refreshment, and think about Idols while enjoying it.

To that end I grabbed an old notebook that was laying about next to my bookcase and headed into the only significantly large town in Vermont. Being a Vermonter, a few things are near and dear to my stomach. Maple syrup, cheese, creemees (soft serve to the rest of you), apples, and perhaps our state’s most famous export, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I love Ben and Jerry’s ice cream enough to ignore that I’m lactose intolerant, but today I was feeling like a good girl, so I bought…

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Sorbet! One scoop of Berry Berry Extraordinary and one scoop of Lemonade. Delicious and refreshing, and no stomach-ache later!

After sitting down to eat my guilt-free sorbet,  I opened the notebook and proceeded to write a long, heartfelt something-or-other concerning how much of my history has been inextricably linked to Idols. The idea was good, and I’d still like to turn it into a post, but there was nothing Summer-y,  nor anything refreshing about it. So I scrapped it, and spent a few weeks oscillating between conviction that I’d get my Summer Refreshment post done THAT VERY HOUR, or never get it done at all and be forever ten dollars in debt to Ray, a prospect which terrifies me. The solution to my terror came as I was staring at the cover of Buono!’s mini album, Partenza. Staring, in fact, at Miyabi’s legs. Her pants, to be even more specific. What a great change of pace to see an Idol in pants for once, how intriguing, how… refreshing.

Look at almost any random photo of an Idol. If she is from H!P, she will be wearing a poofy, glitzy tutu-monstrosity with dead birds and beanie-babies glued all over it. If she is from AKB48, she’ll be wearing a bikini. If she’s from any of the other dozens of Idol groups currently on the market, she’ll doubtless be wearing one of those two, or a school-girl uniform. Of course, you say. Why not? Idols thrive on their appearance of cute, attractive femininity. What better way to show that off than in a skirt, dress, or few centimeters of bathing suit?

For that very reason, seeing an Idol wearing pants is extremely refreshing. The look is so rare, so casual and slightly boyish that it can cast the Idol in a new light. Pants make you do a double-take, whether they’re part of an official costume, or a casual snap-shot from a blog entry. In appreciation of that fact, I dedicate my Summer Refreshment post to the Best of Idols wearing Pants.*

First off are the pants that sparked the idea for this post. On further inspection we find that these are, indeed, capris. No matter. Miyabi’s legs look long and slim, especially next to Airi’s giant maxi skirt. As a note, Momoko also wears pants in the alternate outfits for this mini-album. Jeans, even!

Speaking of jeans, Takahashi Ai is our next Idol in Pants. Ai’s blog is a great spot to find these kinds of pictures, since Takahashi’s love affair with denim has been recorded extensively in her near-daily outfit snaps.

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Ai-chan’s jeans tend to be slouchy and boyish. While Ai’s choice in legwear doesn’t rectify the impression she’s been giving off lately that she is G-dragon’s less feminine twin, she still looks great.

Ai’s partner in crime also occasionally dons pantaloons, as seen here:

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See how excited Gaki is? That’s because she can now do a deep-knee bend and a cartwheel without fear of flashing Ai. Not that Ai would mind…

Speaking of giant lesbians, there is one woman whom stylists put in pants at any opportunity. I almost considered not including her in this post, because it would be too easy. Luckily I came to my senses in time to provide you with these excellent images of Yoshizawa:

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Ignoring the fact that she looks vaguely clown-like with those shoes and socks, here we can see Yoshizawa doing what she does best- looking absolutely cool and princely, with just enough of a feminine edge to make EVERYONE question their sexuality. Here, have more:

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I hate jeans with holes in them. I think they’re silly. But those jeans… are good. I like them VERY much. 😀

Ayaka got the picture a long time ago, when she taught Yossy a very useful phrase:

She does, Ayaka. She does.

Let’s keep speaking about giant lesbians for a minute, and move on to Sayumi. Unlike Yossy, it’s nearly impossible to find pictures of Miss SugarPinkBunnyPrincess in pants. But they do exist, and I, dear readers, have found one for you:
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This is one of my favorite pictures of one of my favorite Idols, so if you were planning on scrolling past it quickly on the way to the rest of the post, I must humbly request that you stop and look again. And then again. For a full minute. Or else.**

Now that we’ve moved on to bikini shots, let’s consider the group that’s turned the bikini shot into high art; AKB48. One member of that group in particular is extremely fond of jeans. So fond, in fact, that back in 2009 she felt the need to share her love of jeans in her “private video.” I’m talking, of course, about Miyazawa Sae.
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(Apparently 2009 was also before they invented charisma. OOOOOH.)

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YEAH!

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The rest of AKB48 have worn pants rather more rarely. The most significant instance of it in my (admittedly lacking) memory would be this stage, Himawari-gumi’s first:

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Back when AKB still had the image of Idols you could Meet, I think jeans really suited them. The casual, girl-next-door vibe of denim worked in their favor. They look so relatable. When all is said and done, I think that the relatability factor is what I love the most about seeing Idols in pants. Take away their piles of glitter and enormous costumes, and they’re just girls…

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…albeit extremely beautiful ones. I am practically piddling myself over Koharu’s modeling career. Even more chances to see those legs in gorgeous, tailored pants!

Before I sign off on this post, let me leave you with a few videos that feature Idols in pants, in all of their leggy glory; from the classics, to the new, to the downright horrific:

The moment when Yoshizawa’s fate for the next five years was sealed. Also the last time real men were allowed in a Momusu PV.


Sayaka in paaaaannnntsss…

And now, the truly horrific, only in this post because the lovely Murr reminded me of its existence…

The murdered stuffed animals attached to their hips like war trophies, and Reina’s entire everything (those leggings, those “Say YEAHS”… Uuuugh),  are only saved by how unequivocally sexy Kamei and Gaki are in their jeans. Yum.

This post has been ridiculously fun. Expect to see a part 2 in the future!

Finally, enjoy the last few weeks of your Summer!

*Full-body jumpsuits, overalls, and male Idols are not included. Unless they look REALLY good.

** Or else what, you ask? Well, if you’re a little girl, Sayumi will come and molest you like she has Riho and Mizuki, and if you’re not a little girl, she WON’T come and molest you, and you’ll be sad (this joke was entirely tongue-in-cheek. 😉 )


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

June 29, 2011

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?


An Announcement (because I like to keep things exciting)

April 21, 2011

*This is the part of the post where I talk at length in an entertaining and/or thought-provoking way. If you are the kind of person who relied on SparkNotes in school, you may want to skip to the end of this post, where there will be a shortened explanation of what your more ambitious peers have decided to read. Be warned: You may come to regret your decision next class…

I have gone through many different phases during my five years as a Hello! Project fan. When I first stumbled across a H!P PV (Berryz Koubou’s Waracchaou yo Boyfriend), I threw myself into a rush to absorb general knowledge- who was whom, which group sang which songs, and basic H!P History. A little while later, I began to treat my love of H!P as more of a hobby. I absorbed all of the specific information that was readily available, concerning myself with height in centimeters, favorite flowers, and obscure groups like Sheki-Doll. The next phase of my journey as a fan came swiftly on the heels of the last as I realized that facts just weren’t enough anymore. I wanted to contribute more to the English-language H!P community. Around that time I began to read blogs, and the next phase of my fandom began as I made the decision to start my own blog. Since then, much like any fan, my interest in H!P has fluctuated. Currently my love for all things UFA is stronger than ever.

Throughout my journey as a H!P fan, my love for a certain group has acted as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, both preempting my general feelings toward the rest of H!P and often providing the catalyst to my move to the next stage in my fandom. It may not surprise the longtime readers of this blog (I like to flatter myself that I have a few of those) that the group in question is Berryz Koubou.

As my first H!P group, my relationship with Berryz has always been on a somewhat different level than my relationship with the rest of H!P. Even when my favorite Idol was from a different group, I held Berryz Koubou in high esteem. They weren’t my favorite group. They weren’t the most interesting group or the group with the best songs. But that didn’t matter. They were My Group. So it is fitting that My Group, the first H!P group that I encountered, will also be the first Idol group that I’ll see performing live.

When the announcement was made that Berryz Koubou would be performing at Sakura-con in Seattle, I was glad in a distant sort of way. I felt proud of My Group for getting the chance to perform overseas, even if it was at as niche a venue as an anime convention is. I didn’t think about going myself: I live on the other side of the country, and I’m a student saving up for college next year. But events conspired, and suddenly I had both the ability and the conviction to to get myself to Sakura-con.  I bought my plane ticket a few weeks ago, and Thursday morning I’ll be boarding a plane at the tiny Burlington International Airport. In just three days I’ll be seeing My Group, live, in person.

To express the excitement being able to see Berryz is bringing me is difficult. After five years of loving H!P from afar, separated by miles upon miles of ocean, it seems unreal that in a few hours I’ll be seeing Captain and the rest in person, separated by at most a few feet.

I’m planning on bringing my mother’s netbook with me to Sakura-con. Each night I’ll write some form of report on the day’s events. The report could simply be a brief summing up, to be expanded on later (I suspect that I’ll be emotionally drained by the time I have free time to write). For those of you who aren’t able to attend Sakura-con personally, I’ll try to write the posts with as much specific detail as possible. Please check back here over the next few days to catch my posts!

* I’m going to go see Berryz Koubou at Sakura-con in two days, and they’re My Group, and I LOVE them, and this is VERY exciting for me, and this will be the first H!P performance I’ll see live. Now good luck on the test next class, Mr. SparkNotes.


Where I stand on: AKB48

October 3, 2010

Alternative Title:  The Opinions of the Under-informed.

Because I am chiefly a H!P fan, this blog is very Hello! Project-centric, but at its inception, I intended it to have a broader subject matter. I don’t mind mostly talking about H!P, of course, but in the next few posts, I’d like to take the time to cover a few things that I rarely take the time to mention in this blog, a sort of  “This is Aoi♥Usagi’s Official Stance on ______.” I will try to go beyond mere opinion and provide a bit of analysis, because I don’t like my posts to be too self-indulgent. 😉

To kick this series off, I’ll start with one of the things that I do mention from time to time: AKB48.

The Quick Facts:

Favorite Member: Miyzawa Sae

Favorite Song: Namida Uri no Shoujo

Favorite Single: Oogoe Diamond, Sakura Shiori

Favorite Subunit: I still love Chocolove!

Least Favorite Member: None

First off: I don’t consider myself a fan of AKB48. In my mind, a fan is someone who goes above and beyond casual interest in a group.  I have about 30 AKB48 songs on my Ipod, watch their new PVs, can name a few members, and keep up with new happenings in their world. But I can’t name all of the girls, don’t actively search out information on them, and haven’t sat down and watched a full stage since K4. So while I certainly don’t dislike AKB48, I’m far from being a fan.

As a fan of Hello! Project, I feel as though my thoughts and wants, and those of the general H!P community, are represented and understood by those in power. Tsunku has said many times that he reads online forums. If a feeling is expressed strongly enough in the H!P fan community, we do see our desires granted. Case in point, the decision to scrap Koi wa Hassou as the 28th single in favor of Chokkan 2. The fan reaction to Koi as Hassou was less than enthusiastic, and we were heard. Although it’s not confirmed, a similar thing may have happened with MM’s upcoming 44th single, as well.

The relationship between H!P fans and the higher ups in H!P feels established. We may not get everything we want, but our whims are generally respected. There is mutual dependence, and the relationship thus feels comfortable and solid.

(He may be the most ridiculous man alive, but at least he respects us)

The feeling I get from AKB48 is entirely different. Despite the fact that AKB fans are given a much more direct chance to affect the future of their Idols (through Senbatsu), the transient nature of that chance doesn’t give the same feeling of safety and stability as does the power relationship within H!P. With every new single or election, fans risk having their established opinions ignored. The most recent example of that is, of course, the Yuko/Acchan struggle. Fans made it pretty clear that Yuko was the girl they wanted to see as AKB’s Number 1 (she had about 600 more votes than Acchan in the Heavy Rotation senbatsu). But when the next single came around, that desire was ignored, and Atsuko was right back in the center.

This relationship is further complicated by the desires of casual fans.  Now, H!P obviously doesn’t have as many casual fans as AKB48 does. If they did, H!P’s sales wouldn’t be so dismal. But despite that, the lack of many  casual H!P fans means that the wota, those who have dedicated their love to their Idols, have a greater say in the girls’ futures. As far as AKB48, those who are really devoted to their Idols seem to be drowned out by the money-paying masses. So a H!P fan can sit back on his or her laurels, knowing that what they want will be heard, whereas an AKB fan has to worry and worry about whether or not their voice matters.

However, there is one huge positive for AKB48: Change.

I’ll say it: H!P is been fairly stagnant musically and in terms of members.  That has a huge effect on the sales of merchandise. I’m not saying that this stagnation is the sole reason that H!P’s sales aren’t what the once were, but I do think that it’s a major factor. Dedicated fans tend to dislike change. They don’t want to see their Number 1 fall from favor or, Gaki forbid, graduate. That desire is respected, and the fans feel safe. But nothing changes, and the casual public becomes bored.

The lack of safety in AKB48 means that no such stagnation is permitted, or indeed possible. The public won’t tire of AKB48 as long as those in charge of the group keep changing things up, and turning the desires of the casual fans into shocking new ideas (see my last post).

Lastly, what of the supposition that, as a H!P fan, I must automatically be an AKBhater?

Well, that’s just silly, isn’t it? 🙂


Why the worst matter

July 26, 2010

(This picture somehow seems appropriate)

We all feel this way at some point. Every time she shows her face- be it in concert, the middle of a music video, or on TV, we cringe. We want her gone. We wish the cameraman would stop worrying about spending somewhat equal time on all of the members, and just stay the heck away from this one.*

She’s a different member for each of us, but every wota can identify her in a heartbeat: Their least favorite.

I’m fairly vocal about my least favorite members, and even my friends who aren’t H!P fans (IE all of my friends…) can at least point to Risako or Reina and say “She’s the one you don’t like, right?”

So yes, I can’t stand Reina or Risako. I don’t like ManoEri either, although she’s kind of a special case (in that I’m terrified of her). I’m not going to talk about why I dislike these girls in this post. I feel like I mention my reasoning in every other post I make, and for the purpose of this article, reasons actually don’t matter all that much. I dislike these girls, and that’s all there is to it.


(Pure, murderous intent)

Whenever my least favorite gets half of the lines in their respective singles, I rail and rant about the unfairness. “It should have been Maasa/Captain/Lin/Sayumi/insertunderratedidolhere!” I say, closing my eyes in despair at the unfairness of it all.

However, there’s another layer to my Idol-Wota relationship when it comes to the least favorites. I dislike them, yes. But that’s not all.

I recently re-watched Berryz Koubou’s 2009 Aki ~Medachitai~ tour, and the above video made me angry enough to leave a comment essentially detailing everything that I hated about Risako. Someone else commented and agreed with me, and at first I was all happy to have found someone who felt the same as I did. But something in their comment didn’t sit right with me. This was their original comment (sorry, I can’t find the video again, and I don’t remember my exact comment) :

” I know! I can’t even say how much I hate her. 😛 She’s the worst in the group and she’s getting all the lines! I can’t say how much better my life would be if she just left Berryz forever. She’s just plain gross!”

What? Leave the group? Berryz Koubou without Risako’s annoying, pouty, face? Inconceivable!

I may hate on Risako. I may scream with indignation whenever Reina thinks that, just for a change, she’ll wink during her solo line. But I would never, ever want to see either of their groups without them.

This is the part where you, reader, will sit back and say to yourself “Rebecca, I read your blog because it occasionally makes me laugh, think, cough up phlegm, or do all three at once. I enjoy your solid convictions against your least favorites. What up?” I will tell you what is up, dear reader. Least favorites are essential to keeping interest in a group alive. Without them, my favorite groups would be cool and groovy rage-free zones, yes, but also terribly dull.

(Do I really want her out of the picture?)

Not convinced? Stay with me.

Take C-ute. I have my favorite in Okai Chisato. I champion her, and I like to say that her sultry vocals can spread world peace. But C-ute is my least favorite of all of H!P’s main groups, and I barely pay attention to them. I surely devote less time to them than BK or Morning Musume (for the sake of arguments, I’m leaving out S/mileage. They’re too new). And guess what? C-ute is the sole group without one member that I dislike. True, sometimes I whine about Nakky’s duck voice, but she is just so pretty and good at dancing. Yeah, Airi has pretty much taken over the group’s singles, but damnit, she’s gorgeous and talented, and if anyone’s going to have a solo single, it ought to be her. Maimi is a freakishly gorgeous cyborg woman, and Maimai is turning into a beautiful young lady.

When I watch C-ute’s concerts, there’s no suspense. I don’t care who gets a line or when, because no one in the group makes me rage. In fact, I tend to skip over most of C-ute’s performances, because I know that they’ll be good enough, but lacking anything that I need to watch out for. After Erika and Kanna left, I didn’t worry about who their lines would be performed by because as far as I was concerned, it could be anyone and I’d be happy.

When I finished watching C-ute’s Shocking Live tour, I felt like I’d watched a good concert. I ate some rice pudding. I felt guilty about doing so even though I wasn’t hungry, then remembered that I’m Jewish and that eating and feeling guilty is what we do. I felt better. I went to bed.

Cut to Morning Musume’s Genki Pikka Pikka tour. My god. I was practically glued to the screen during group songs, flashing back and forth between Youtube and Project!Hello’s colorcodes, wringing my hands and wondering who was going to get Kusumi’s lines. I was on an emotional roller coaster. I cheered when Linlin sang “Torokeru torokeru yumegokochi” in Aishite Aishite Ato Ippun, groaned when Reina (and Ai)  got all of the graduated Nutjob’s lines in Resonant Blue. It should have been Sayumi- her voice would have been squeaky, but at least it would have been someone different. I commented multiple times to that effect, and with each new performance I felt something new- rage, happiness, relief, and at one point, extreme hatred toward all maxi dresses ever.

(I hope this fad is eaten by Lady Gaga and dies.)

What that concert was over, I stayed up late writing this article, then talked on the phone for an hour with my cousin (who is tolerant of my Wotaism and even occasionally indulges in some herself). I went to bed tired, partially annoyed, but more importantly, really excited to see the next Momusu concert. Who knows? Maybe the lines would be rearranged. Maybe Reina would lose her voice and be forced to sit to the side for the entire concert, desperately winking every time the camera swivels past her on its way to someone more talented (hey, I didn’t say that I wouldn’t mind the groups without Reina or Rii’s voices. Just their presence. 😉 )

So yes. I will continue to preach dislike of my least favorites. I might cry a little bit when once again, Saki is pushed to the back in favor of Risako. But you won’t hear me wish them out of the group. Hello! Project is all the better for their presence.

(…Yeah.)

*No, I’m not talking about Aika on a bad hair day ( Y’know. Most days).


I’m no Pengiedamus, but…

August 2, 2009

Ume in a blue shirt

In this post, I predicted (somewhat lightheartedly) that Erika would at some point decide to give professional modeling a try. For those who don’t want to click the link (Why don’t you? What’s your problem? Do you have some form of racism against links? Are you linkcist?! How do you play Legend of Zelda, huh?!), here’s the exact quote:

“- Yurina would call up her friend Erika and tell her how much fun modeling is. Erika gives it a try.”

So today after eating some delicious chocolate cake and looking in my local paper to see if anyone is giving away a set of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (no luck, although someone was advertising “4 free hens and cock”), I turned on the computer,  went to Hello!Online, and what should I see but a brief article stating that Umeda Erika would be leaving C-ute to embark on a modeling career.

Damn. I hate being right about stuff like this.

I’m not exactly surprised. Erika never exactly fit in with C-ute. She was like a sexy giraffe amongst a herd of adorable zebras, or something. But still, I’m pretty upset.

Despite my disappointment, this brings up some truly interesting thoughts about H!P the likes of which I haven’t had  in a long time. I’m going to discuss them here, and I’m going to start by comparing H!P and AKB48. Groan if you’d like, but I find this sort of comparison endlessly fascinating and, as this is my blog, will feel free indulge myself a bit. 🙂

akbbaby(Look at all those cute girls whose names I don’t know or refuse to commit to memory…)

I’m not the best fan of AKB48- In fact, the most I can say for myself is that I love all Asian idols to some extent, and AKB48 are thus on my radar. I read news about them with a kind of detached, fuzzy amazement. When I hear that three of the members are forming a group to promote nattou, read the daunting lists of TV shows that feature AKB48 members in prominent roles, or see that yet another AKB48 girl has become a successful model, I never thought too much about it. As far as I was concerned, that was just something that came with being part of AKB48, along with the songs about lesbians and prostitution- sure, it was great, but nothing to think too hard about. I honestly didn’t wonder why members of H!P weren’t doing the same things (minus the S&M themed songs). Then this happened, and I wonder how I couldn’t have wondered that.

ume(Pictures like this give me hope for her modeling career. Handled correctly, she’s stunning).

Say you are a teenaged girl in a H!P-managed idol group. Unless your name is Sugaya Risako you are probably charming and have at least some amount of talent. You perform in concerts, have handshake events occasionally, and go on variety shows with the rest of your group whenever you have a new single coming out.  Every once in a great while you might be allowed a solo photoshoot in a magazine filled with nearly identical photoshoots of other idols. If you’re not one of those bestowed with the elusive title of “Popular,” you might never appear solo in any magazine or on any TV show. That’s it- that’s the extent of your activities.

Imagine now that you turn on the TV on your day off. On every other channel you see the smiling face of a member of AKB48. You open magazines other than idol magazines aimed at single men and see an AKB48er posing in the latest designs from Paris.

You know that you can do more. You have interests- acting, modeling, advertisement. But for whatever reason, your management doesn’t allow you to do any of it. How infuriating must that be, never to be allowed to stretch out and find out the limits of your own potential? Eventually, you make the difficult choice: To find out what you’re capable of, you must leave the protection of H!P and head out on your own. Suddenly everything is in jeopardy. You’ve no idea whether or not you’ll make it outside of H!P. At least in your group you had some form of security in the knowledge that the other members were there with you. Now you’re on your own.

ume3

Members of AKB48 don’t need to worry about such things. They can go on and initiate modeling or acting careers while having AKB48 to fall back on if things don’t work out. This is a brilliant move on the part of those in charge of AKB48. When Shinoda Mariko goes to America to expand on her modeling career (It was she that did that, right?), that benefits AKB48 by generating positive publicity. What does H!P do that even begins to measure up to such accomplishments? A few anime roles, and Takahashi’s lone role in a drama that didn’t lead to a thing. Currently the only way a H!P member can expand her boundaries within the entertainment/advertisement industry is by graduating. If H!P doesn’t start changing their policies about such things very soon, they’re going to begin losing girls left and right. Erika may simply be the first in an growing pandemic of girls taking the plunge.

That’s not to say that H!P will be doomed for sure if they don’t change their ways. H!P has one thing that AKB48 doesn’t- a history of excellence (I’m pretty sure that that was my middle school’s motto…). But in the youth-driven idol industry, that will only get a group so far. The current incarnation of H!P is doing alright, all things considered. My point is simply that they could be doing so much more, so much better. The girls have the looks and the talent. Now all they need is the chance.

ume4(Just… wow. I’m secretly giddy about her modeling career).

(PS:

Happy birthday to Yurina and I- We’re 16!)