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!

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.


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.


A bit of follow-up…

August 9, 2010

So to recap: Most of the WotaWorld is in tears, my fandom has been shaken to the core, Tsunku needs his testicles mangled by a cat…

And now we move on to the next biggest concern: What’s next?

I have a silly little theory that will probably not pan out. From the translations of Tsuntsun’s comments on the 9th gen audition website, it seems as though they’re only looking for one girl to add to the group.

Only adding one girl at this point would be ridiculous. 6 members? For Morning Musume? No way! This is the group that had to split in half in its hey-day, because there were just too many freakin’ members!

So, either all of the translations are wrong (quite possible, it’s tough to translate that quickly) or something else is in the works.

My guess is that Tsunku might be thinking of adding some Eggs to Morning Musume this time around. He must know that certain fans have always pined over Kikkawa Yuu’s lost MM opportunity, and the addition of Linlin opened the way for other Eggs to find their way into the Flagship of H!P.

So let’s look at a couple of likely Eggs, shall we?

Kikkawa Yuu

Everyone’s favorite MM-reject aside from Kashiwagi Yuki, and probably the most popular Egg. This girl has beauty, brains (no, I have no proof for that one, she just seems smart), talent, personality, and a fanbase. In short, she’s perfect. If Tsunku were putting Eggs into MM, there would only be one major obstacle in her way: Tsunku hates being wrong.  He seems like the type who would look at Yuu and say, “Well, I mean, yeah, she’d be a great addition to the group, but no is no, and I already said no to her once. So there. Nyah!”

I personally would love to see Yuu in Momusu.  She reminds me a bit of Iida Kaori’s more natural side. She’s so elegant and sweet.  She’d be a great counterpoint to Aika’s scrappyness and Reina’s annoyingness.

Kitahara Sayaka

Arguably the other most popular Egg due to her time in Milky Way*, Sayaka ought to be put into MM if only for the sake of her killer abs. She also happens to have a unique, cool personality. Now, I know Tsunku hates girls who show personality right off the bat, tending to go for little lumps of malleable clay, but I have always loved cool personalities (blame Yossy). I want a cool girl in MM!

Sekine Azusa

My personal favorite Egg, Forehead-girl! Think of the brow-themed merchandising possibilities! Think of the hats she could sell! Instead of mufflers in the winter, balaclavas! Instead of wristbands, headbands! Tsuntsun would be a fool to pass her up!

Okay. Joking aside, this girl reminds me of Linlin, so I want her in MM so badly that I can taste it. She’s so energetic and such a talented performer. She loses herself in the moment, just like Lin, and I just want to watch her grow and grow as a performer! Sekitty is an Egg that I don’t want to lose to obscurity.

Don’t pass this up, Tsunku! (Psst, if he feels like adding more than one Egg… look how great these two are together!)

Sengoku Minami

A lot of people say that Minami is freaking hot. I don’t think so. To me she seems completely average in terms of looks and talent. It’s because of that, however, that I think she might become a part of the 9th generation.

I can’t say it enough: Tsunku loves average girls. He loves that idea that they can grow and blossom from being average to being something great. What he doesn’t realize is that sometimes average girls are really just average. No growth potential. Maybe this applies to Minami, maybe it doesn’t. I’m not saying that Minami has no potential, I’m just saying that I don’t see it as much as a lot of other people do. So yeah, if Tsunku picks any Egg for MM, it might just be her, and if it is, I’ll be sad.

Hirano Tomomi

This would just be hilarious, and entirely like Tsunku. I have no idea why Tomomi is an Egg- I always feel like the point behind the Eggs is to find children so young that they have no choice but to be malleable and easy to shape into Super Idols. I’ve never heard Tomomi sing or seen her perform. In fact, the only video I can find of her is her introduction as an Egg, during which everyone in the audience freaked out when she announced how old she is. She is the least likely to become a part of MM’s 9th gen, but then, Tsunku likes surprising us.

Well, these are my main bets. Of course, there is one more person who might just end up in Morning Musume… Well, not really a person at all. More of a vicious killer and devourer of Idols. In fact, now that it’s come down to it, I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before: This freakish three-part graduation is all part of her plan. Her plan to infiltrate and devour Morning Musume!

That’s right…

MANO ERINAAAAAAAAA!

But Rebecca (you say)! She is an established soloist with a long career of boring and uninteresting singing under her belt!  She has released seven singles and an album! She is talented desu desu desu!

Well, reader, those arguments would be valid if not for the existence of a certain 6th generation member, that reluctant ex-soloist who had five singles and an album to her name (and legions of obsessive wota) when she was tossed into Morning Musume… that wonderful girl with the deep voice and raspy vibrato, Fujimoto Miki!

If Tsunku really wanted to drive home all of the hurt I feel after this awful graduation decision, he will put ManoEri into Morning Musume as a sort of homicidal Miki part 2. Fujimoto set a dangerous precedent. I’m sure she didn’t know that her addition to the group would pave the path for allowing in this Idol-eater, but it has, and we must now all brace ourselves for what is to come…

Ah well. That’s H!P.

* Am I the only one who thought that Anataboshi was a complete trainwreck? The entire blogsphere seemed to love it, but to me the song seemed rushed, with a bad backing track, and a messy, distracting PV.


Well then!

August 8, 2010

This past weekend I babysat for my adviser, taking care of his four (count ’em! Four!) grandchildren, all aged 4 or under. Every night I was too exhausted from running after naked toddlers or finding blankies to do anything other than fall into bed. As a result, I hadn’t checked for news from the Wonderful World of J-pop for three days. I logged on today, my final day of caring for the Little Monsters, not expecting to find much news.

I went to Hello!Online. Saw the same boring post about the MM girls’ lucky numbers. Whatever. Nothing new–

Oh, wait, what’s that over on the twitter feed? Hm, can’t be anything too major…

What?

WHAT?

WHAT?!

You know how older people always remember where they were when World War II ended or man landed on the Moon? I think I’m going to be the crazy old person who remembers literally falling off of her chair when she read that three members, including her first and second favorites, would be graduating from Morning Musume.

Man…

I’ve always suspected that Kamei might be the next one to graduate, but I can’t understand the way that the Pandas were tacked on. To be honest, this reminds me of when Makoto graduated- instead of being given a real graduation concert, she “shared” Konno’s. It hardly seems fair to the girl or to the fans. Let’s hope that when it comes time for them to graduate, each girl is truly honored.

I’m feeling kind of numb about this right now. The thing that scares me the most is, of course, Lin’s future. When she was in Morning Musume, I knew that she was secure. Even more than that, I had some “guidance” when it came to being a fan of hers. I know about Japan. I feel familiar with it from having spent so much time learning about its culture. I know how to be a H!P fan, where to go to find translations of Lin’s videos, where to find pictures of her, who to talk to to find out more about her. The idea that Lin is going back to China to do who knows what is scary for me as a fan. I’m afraid of not being able to be a fan of Lin as a member of H!P, because I’m not sure how to be a fan in any other way.

It’s just frightening. I always thought that Lin would be in Momusu for at least another year. If she had just stayed for another year, I could have gone to see her in Japan.

I’m sorry that this post isn’t very coherent. I’m just not sure what to feel yet.

I just always thought that I’d have the chance to get to see her.

A quick edit because someone asked me to comment a little more on my feelings about the other two:

Like I mentioned above, I thought that Kamei might be the one to go after Koharu. There was a rumor going around a while back that she would announce her graduation, and even though it ended up being just that, a rumor, I have always felt that there must have been some grain of truth in it. I adore Kamei, but I think she’s reached her peak within the group. She couldn’t possibly become any sexier, funnier, more talented. She needs to leave in order to grow. I think that her presence in the entertainment industry hasn’t ended. My guess is that after taking care of her health, we’ll see her again. Momusu will be a less gorgeous group without her.

As for Junjun, my thoughts of her are drowned out by my cares for the other two. She started out as a favorite of mine, but I eventually lost interest. Still, she’s a sweet girl with a pleasantly combative personality. I’d have liked to see her stay longer if only because she was so feisty. Plus, of course, she’s entrancingly pretty.