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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When they leave us…

February 10, 2008

The first h!p graduation that really affected me was Konno Asami’s in the summer of 2006. I was just beginning to pay attention to individual members, and it was adorable Konno who stood out. So because I realized that she would be leaving h!p and I could no longer watch her grow and perform, it was a very personal graduation for me. After seeing a few more graduation concerts (Ishimura Maiha’s, Nono and Aibon’s and Iida Kaori’s), I came to think of graduations as sources of only negative feelings.

Thus when my all-time h!p favorite (Yossy) announced that she was graduating from Morning Musume, I was sure that nothing good could come of it. After all, I reasoned to myself, wasn’t Yossy the only member of Morning Musume I liked? Could I still listen to Momusu without my favorite member’s presence? I was already preparing to forget about Morning Musume.

However, something amazing happened. Instead of making me lose all interest in the group, Yossy’s graduation helped me to see the potential and talents of other members. Before her graduation, they were all eclipsed by Yossy’s presence and I could see only her. I had no second favorite within the group and couldn’t even tell most of their voices apart. But when Yoshizawa graduated, the other girls presented themselves to me in a whole different light. The first person about whom my opinion changed was Kamei Eri.

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Before Yossy’s graduation Kamei was one of the few current members to have caught my attention at all. This was because I had read that she used to have a shy character, then underwent a transformation of sorts and become more social and such. That sort of change appealed to me. However, she didn’t stand out to me physically in any sense; I didn’t think she had much presence within the group and quickly disregarded her to go fangirl over some Yossy performances. Now? She’s my favorite current member, and perhaps my 3rd favorite member of H!P, overall. I would never have discovered just how much I love this girl had Yoshizawa not graduated when she did (Oh, and Eri’s Maple photobook probably helped a bit, too).

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Michishige Sayumi was the next girl about whom my opinion changed upon Yossy’s graduation. Before, I held little opinion on Sayu beyond “Oh, she can’t sing very well and thus she annoys me. Plus I don’t know why everyone says she’s so cute”. Now that there’s no Yossy around to overshadow her, Sayu has suddenly taken on another dimension in my eyes: She’s become sexy (Sayumi is secretly the sexiest member of Morning musume). I’ve even started liking her singing voice- to a degree. And now I can see why everyone thinks she’s so cute: She really is!

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Reina may be the only member to have not benefited in my mind when Yossy left. I had to take notice of Reina now that Yossy had left, since she began to be pushed to the front more. And I didn’t like what I saw. I could devote a whole page towards figuring out exactly what it is about Reina that grates on me so much- her apparent dropping of the Yanki personality, her constant winking (I’m starting to worry that she should see a doctor about it) or just her voice when she tries to make it sound all cutesy- but that is perhaps the subject of another post.

In short? I’ve come to realize that the graduation of a member- whether they be your favorite, the one you never noticed, or the member you love to hate- is not nessecarily a bad thing. In my case, it was a very, very good thing indeed.