Let’s talk about… K-pop!

May 17, 2011

Alternate title: The post that Rebecca’s been working on for too long and is finally going to just PUBLISH whether it’s done or not.

Aaah, K-pop. Everyone’s new favorite kind of music. All of the cool kids are now following Kara’s butts, and K-pop groups have garnered high profile fans such as Maeda Atsuko, Takahashi Ai, and the entire Japanese schoolgirl population. Suddenly, everyone and their mother adores K-pop. Wonder Girls are performing in the US, and Kara has gone from a slightly angsty 4-girl R&B group to being certified platinum in Japan and… whatever you’d call URAKARA.

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I can’t say that I mind. K-pop is like J-pop’s louder, sexier, attention-grabbing younger sister. For years she’s been the bratty kid who threw sand at you at the beach. But suddenly she went away to summer camp and returned a woman, having gone through puberty and gained a slammin’ body, ready to outshine her older sister at all costs.

Did I just say “outshine?” I did. Everywhere that J-pop is failing in recent years, K-pop is succeeding.

J-pop has never really grown up. True, there’s Koda Kumi tossing her lady parts around left and right, but the overwhelming focus of J-pop is on youthfulness. Part of that is of course because of Japan’s preoccupation with youth and cuteness. Nearly everything about Japanese culture reflects that love of adorability. Look at some of Japan’s most famous, most successfully exported characters:

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The Japanese creations were entirely fabricated with a cute and non-threatening image in mind. They have round features, lack expressive limbs and faces, and  their overall appearance is benignly non-human. They convey no real emotions. It is the viewer who projects his or her own emotions onto the character. Their harmless cuteness allows them to appeal directly to the cute-obsessed culture that Japan has cultivated.

In a similar manner, Japan’s pop scene* generally revolves around wide-eyed teens who project cute, non-threatening images. They are hard-working, always pretty, and occasionally talented. They generally cultivate a simple, non-assertive persona which the public can project onto, and in that way they are most different from their K-pop counterparts: K-pop’s artists tend to be more in your face, less outwardly concerned with whether they can appeal or not. For the most part, the gamble of being so aggressive has payed off: The public loves K-pop’s firm, fierce personalities.

Where was I going with this? Ah yes, the degree to which kawaii culture is enmeshed in Japan’s pop psyche. Above, I mentioned Japan’s collective Peter Pan syndrome, the obsession with youth. Though I implied that youth obsession was one of Japan’s failings, I didn’t mean to say that it is entirely so. Japan’s love of youth is enchanting. It brings those who immerse themselves in Japanese pop culture into a world that is always bright, cheerful, overflowing with the energy of childhood. You can hear that exhilarating childishness in songs like Berryz Koubou’s Yuujou Junjou OH Seishun and AKB48’s Ponytail to Shushu. The beauty of J-pop and kawaii culture is that it so brilliantly captures what is most wonderful about youth: its abundant energy, its innocence, and its ephemeral nature.

So then what of K-pop? What room does J-pop’s overwhelming youthfulness leave for K-pop’s glib sultriness? Well… plenty. Youth and innocence are wonderful, but who doesn’t get exhausted after playing with children all day? The sag in the J-pop music industry that began a few years back is indication enough of a market exhausted by all that cutesy youthful joy. K-pop happened to be just what tired-out listeners needed. The sound was a refreshing change from J-pop- not only more mature, but in an entirely new language! But it also retained some familiarity. SNSD’s songs have an undeniably “kawaii” side, as do many of KARA’s. Groups like 2NE1, T-ara and F(x) straddle the border between cute and mature well, with Brown Eyed Girls standing with their 9-inch stilettos planted firmly on the adult side of the field.

The nature of the K-pop/J-pop relationship then is this: A rivalry, but one with mutual benefits… much like the relationships between real sisters. When J-pop fans want a break from constant brightness and noise of kawaii culture, they can use K-pop as a breather (I suppose the opposite could also be true, though as a fan primarily of J-pop I cannot say for sure). And when they want to go back to the familiar and the innocent, J-pop is there with open arms.

*Please understand that I am speaking from the perspective of an Idol fan. I am aware of the wide variety of musicians that don’t fit in with the cute, youthful image. But the most widely known, well-loved artists (AKB48, Johnny’s artists, etc) do fit this description.


Berryz Koubou at Sakura-con: The First Day- In which I develop selective blindness for everyone that isn’t Risako, and cry

May 11, 2011

So you may have been wondering where my nightly coverage of Sakura-con was. Well, on the first night of the convention, I sat down and began recounting the day, putting down every. Single. Minute. Detail. After writing 2,000 words on just the first half of the first day, I balked. I’m sure very few of you actually want to read about what I ate for breakfast before going to BK’s Q&A session (nothing, for the curious). So I left the post to sit, and have only today felt able to come back to it.

I’ve decided to change my tactics a bit and spare you all from reading through (or skipping over) my detailed fangirl gushing. I’ve scrapped the original version of my post and re-typed it. This version will be slimmed down and broken into more parts- Days 1-3 will focus ONLY on my interactions with Berryz Kouboou, with final wrap-up post to catch the important non-Berryz moments, including reflections on meeting other fans and Japanese wota. As an aside, I did not take many pictures during the conventions, so I won’t be including many in my posts. Hello! Sayunii has some of the best photos and videos collected conveniently, so if you haven’t already, please go there.

For now, here’s Day 1.

The First Day- In which I develop selective blindness for everyone that isn’t Risako, and cry 

Events: Opening ceremonies, Q&A, signing, guest reception

I went into my first day of Sakura-con without expectations. I wanted to see the girls, and that was all. All of my energy, my focus, was on that one thought: To see them at long last. I chose not to go to the opening ceremonies, so the first time I laid eyes on Berryz was at the Q&A. When they came out, the feeling was surreal. Risako was the first one out, and for a long moment she was all that I could see. Even as the other girls came out, I could only see Rii. She was simply stunning, in the most literal sense of the word. Everything about her seemed so solid, and yet my overall impression was that she was somehow doll-like, somehow delicate. The sight of her was overwhelming, and I immediately started to cry.*

Now if you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that Risako has almost always been my least favorite member of the group, though in recent months my opinion of her has improved. I think that it might have been good that I could only focus on Risako at first; because my feelings for her (at that point) weren’t particularly strong, seeing her was probably not as mind-obliterating as seeing the girls that I really adored might have been. Seeing Risako let me ease into the shock. Imagine if Saki had come out first- I probably would’ve hyperventilated in my chair!

The rest of the girls must have come out when Risako did, but I could only focus on them once they were all seated. For the remainder of the session I spent my time staring from one girl to the next. Momoko seemed reserved, possibly a little bit sick (she constantly sniffled and coughed). Miyabi and Chinami both had oodles of energy, and Maasa and Risako seemed spaced out. Saki, my dear favorite member, seemed nervous.

For me personally, the two best moments of the Q&A were being able to speak to the girls (the interpreter chose me as the first person to explain how I’d discovered BK!), and watching Saki misinterpret a fan’s question and do an impromptu bit of hip-hop dancing. So cool, and so adorable!

I was planning on attending the signing on the last day of the convention, so my next Berryz encounter occurred that evening at the guest reception. I was lucky enough to be standing not three feet from where Berryz were gathered, waiting to go onstage and introduce themselves. They all looked somewhat nervous (but SO beautiful, of course!), and Maasa still looked spaced out, so I called out to her, “Maasa, genki desu ka?” The look of confusion that crossed over her face was too funny, but she rallied quickly and gave a forceful “genki!” in response. The girls then went onstage, and I moved until I was once again near them. I was across from Risako and Miyabi, and both of them were so sweet and friendly, waving and smiling at everyone. I caught their eyes more then once, especially Risako,  who again looked gorgeous. The first time I met eyes with Miyabi, I was so touched: She was already smiling fit to break, but on catching the eyes of a fan, she managed to smile even harder, making sure I knew that she was smiling at me. That one little moment improved my impression of Miya a thousand times.

The BK bit of the guest reception was brief, but it was the closest I had come to the girls so far, and it brought me to tears once again.

The main take-away from the first day was the simple fact of the Berryz girls’ physical presence. Seeing the girls, whom I’d only ever seen before on tiny video screens, brought home the adoration-from-afar that I’d been cultivating for years up until that point. Seeing Risako walk out in real life during the Q&A session felt like the beginning of a personal paradigm shift. As the second and third days of the convention commenced, that shift became more and more evident.

*Let it be known that I cry easily, especially when I’m happy or overwhelmed. I just can’t stop the tears, and I have no desire to, either… which is lucky, because I ended up crying a lot of happy tears at Sakura-con!

Up Next: Day Two- In which I learn wotagei and cry some more


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.


Maybe one day, I’ll learn how to use this internet doohickey

February 17, 2011

This post contains technology

I may not have made this clear on this blog before, so let me do so now: I have the same grasp on technology as a 95 year old man. I mean it. I work at an elderly home, and when the residents ask me for computer help… I’m nearly useless.

Thanks to the bastards beautiful people on #wotachat, this blog now has an affiliated Twitter account. Twitter was one of those bits of technology that I just couldn’t ever understand and really didn’t care to. However this blog now has… one of those. So you can follow me or like me or add me or whatever it is that you do with Twitters. I promise to tweet (twit twote twig?) on a frequent basis, and will let you know secrets about my personal life that you could NEVER learn from reading this blog.

I’m sure there’s some way to make the link to my Twitter account appear permantly somewhere on the left hand side of this blog…

… but heck if I know how to do it.

Go here to look at my Twitter and hear me babble in 140 characters or less.


Alright, people

February 9, 2011

It’s always amusing to look and see which search terms are leading people to my blog. More often than not, the terms have no clear pattern. On the same day, a person can reach this little snippet of the internet by searching “Natsuyaki Miyabi’s twin brother” or by searching “AKB and coffee”

There is, however, one search term that always comes up again and again. It’s not particularly offensive, but the sheer number of people finding my blog by searching this term is enough to make me pause and give it my attention.

The term is “Youth and Beauty.” I’ve used it only once- in reference to Kusumi Koharu. Since making that post, the smallest number of times people have been referred to my blog via that term is 14 times in one day:

What exactly are you trying to find, Youth and Beauty people? This is not a make-up nor a fashion blog. I am not going to teach you how to make a Gaga-bow out of your hair, nor will I provide you with information on the beauty tricks used by Japan’s trendy Gyaru or Korea’s pretty (and slightly scary) ulzzangs. This is a music blog. There will be youthful and beautiful people featured here, and you will have to be content with that.

While I’m on the WTF-train, what in the world is up with someone finding my blog after searching “Man sitting on a chair looking at the moon?” Have I ever used those words in conjunction before? Ditto for “crazy old black man.” Unless it had something to do with Melon Kinenbi, I rarely mention crazy old black men on this blog. In fact, I don’t think I ever have.

Lastly, just so we’re very, very clear: No, I will not direct anyone to porn through this blog. People searching for stimulation and titillation will have to look elsewhere. (That means you, “maeda atsuko look alike porn stream” person.)


A huge thank you, and a blog you should visit!

January 16, 2011

You may have noticed that Aoi♥Usagi has gotten a bit of an upgrade,  header-wise. If you haven’t noticed that, take your eyes and lift them vertically to the top of this page. Allow the visual messages to be relayed to your brain. Process them. Now return to this text. Do you understand? That image that you just viewed is different than it was last week. You see it now? Good. I’m glad we’ve straightened this out.

Despite being a person who loves to draw and sketch, I have absolutely no skills when it comes to photomanipulation, photoshopping, and graphics in general. My first header was just a huge image loaded into wordpress and cropped to fit, and my last one, despite sporting images of the Lovely Linlin, was ugly as poo. This new header is neither of those things…

…Which ought to lead you, dear reader, to one conclusion: This current header was made by someone other than the author behind Aoi♥Usagi. The very observant among you (likely not those I had to direct to look up in the first paragraph) will have noticed a small watermark in the upper left corner. “Header by Isilie.” Does that name sound familiar at all? I hope it does!

Itsumo Genki is one of my favorite blogs. Run by Isilwentari (Isilie), it’s a bit like Aoi♥Usagi in its subject matter. I never fail to laugh when I read Isilie’s blog, whether it be over her irreverent nicknames (can you guess who was dubbed “Diamond-Sucker?”) or her gushing eye-candy posts… and she always, always has an awesome header.  I commented to that effect, and without reservation, Isilie offered to make me a header for my blog!  It’s thanks to her that the lovely Airi header now graces my blog.  She made a bunch, so expect this blog to be pretty for a while to come!

If you like to laugh, to look at pretty headers, adorable pictures of the H!P girls, and a to read a good balance between light-hearted and in-depth posts, go check Itsumo Genki out!

Isilie, thank you so much!

PS: All of the Yossy in this post was for Isilie. She adores Yossy, and I say, good taste!


Damn it.

January 9, 2011

I knew it. As soon as I saw that H!O was being slower than usual, I knew that this had to be the reason.
But still. It’s too soon.


This is why being a fan is so fun

January 2, 2011

Waking up at 4:30 am to hear the news about the Ninth Gen. So. Much. Fun. Being a fan of H!P is one of the more formative things in my life, and it’s the intense moments like this that keep me hooked.

As a whole, I’m highly anticipating this generation. each girl brings a huge wallop of personality to a Morning Musume that many complain is too stale and complacent. I have the feeling that these girls will make the most of even the slightest chances tossed their way, snatching every moment of the spotlight that they can. That should make for an entertaining (and thus profitable) Morning Musume!

Suzuki Kanon

My feelings for Kanon mirror those that I have for Sekine Azusa and Lin. My initial confusion and disgust with this girl has transformed into a burning curiosity. I simply must watch her. I’m desperate to see how she grows and changes. Her goofy acting bit is already on its way to becoming legendary amongst the fans (a movement has sprung up to nicknamed her “Moshimoshi” or just “Moshi,” after her cell-phone skit. I like it). Kanon is, without a doubt, my initial favorite among the 9th generation.

Sayashi Riho

To not put Riho in MM would’ve been idiotic. Takahashi will have to graduate at some point, and there needs to be someone with enough swagger to fill some of her roles. Riho has that swagger. My Gaki, does she. I really want Riho to become the new Bitch of Morning Musume- a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners bitch, just like Miki back in the day. It would be so interesting and fun to see some real conflict happening again.

Ikuta Eri(na)

I’m both surprised and not surprised about this one. I knew that Aina wouldn’t get in, simply because nothing stood out about her. Kanon and Riho were, in my mind, shoo-ins. But then came Mogi and Ikuta. I knew that if anyone else were to get in, it would be one of those two. But which one? Ikuta made much less of an impact than poor Mogi did, but Mogi’s impact seemed to have been mostly negative. In the end, I’ll have to wait and see about Ikuta. I want to see her performing all of the old classics as her personality begins to shine through!

Fukumura Mizuki.

Aaaah, an Egg! Finally, finally, things are happening with the Eggs. her addition to the group balances out the 3 auditionees nicely. She’s more experienced and comfortable onstage. She’s clearly an emotional girl who loves being an Idol. She cried twice during her introduction concert, and she turned on the waterworks again for this occasion. I can’t blame her. Being an Egg must seem occasionally hopeless. I’m fairly sure that Mori Saki or Aoki Erina (oh gaki, another one!) won’t be debuting any time soon, and I’m sure the other girls know that their chances are slim. To see some movement amongst the Eggs (with Mizuki and now Yuu) must be so uplifting. As a fan, it’s certainly promising.

I will make a separate post about Kikkawa soon… because OMGYAYKIKKA!


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.


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.