Land of Sayumi doll

October 23, 2011

Sayumi’s new PB, Sayumilandoll, is due to come out soon, and recently a few preview images have been made available in order to tempt our little wota hearts. I’m a huge fan of Sayumi, and her photobooks are always gorgeous, so of course I was pleased to hear about the previews. I was expecting Sayumilandoll to be somewhat typical H!P fare- Sayu standing around looking sexy in a bikini, looking forlorn in casual clothes, posing in the middle of the woods in improbably fancy dresses, and the like. I would have been perfectly happy with all of that- heck, I’m happy to see Sayumi’s blurry, overexposed blog photos. But on seeing the previews today, I’m pleasantly surprised. These images are so fun, so different from most H!P photobooks.

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This first picture reminds me a bit of synchronized swimming outfits.g

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Sayumi, the idol with a flamingo growing from her head.

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These are two of my favorites from among the preview images. And honestly, they don’t differ too radically from the usual formula H!P uses in its photobooks. Sayumi is still posing in a generally skimpy outfit, making a fairly straightforward expression. What sets these apart is their use of an interesting set and/or unusual make-up (and wigs). The soft whites of the first image set off Sayumi’s natural beauty, with the wig serving as the real kicker. We’re so used to seeing our Sayumi with black hair that the wig casts Sayu in a whole new light; we can’t just gloss over the picture and go on to the next one, because it is so unusual. Our brains can’t quite take in what our eyes are seeing. In the second picture, the theme is one we’re much more familiar with. What’s jarring about this one is the barrage of bright colors- the candy pink of the balloons (echoed in Sayumi’s liptsick), the lilac power puff, and especially the bright headband against Sayu’s dark hair. It’s almost so much that you don’t notice the inexplicable flamingo head in the background. It’s so different from the usual muted, romantic colors of a Hello! Project photobook.

A lot of people seem put off by these previews. The general consensus is that the images are too weird, too artificial, too out of the ordinary.

Excuse me? Hasn’t everyone also been upset over how “stagnant” Hello!Project has been lately? Anyone who thinks that a couple of wigs and some cosplay is too strange and daring by H!P standards needs to sit down and think for a moment about what they’re expecting from their idols. The fact that this photobook is so different is what makes it great.

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But where are her knees…?

One thing that really struck me with this PB was that it can appeal to a wider range of people than most H!P releases. The stand Hello! Project photobook is designed to give the owner of the book a feeling of closeness with the idol. It’s a way of carrying on the virtual girlfriend aspect of female Idols. Many PBs come close to mimicking a private photo albums- making the viewer feel like they’re looking back on a cherished summer vacation to Guam with his pretty girlfriend, or a few private moments in a rented cabin with his significant other. Those kinds of PBs appeal to wota more than any other demographic. True, a casual fan might still pick up a book full of Sayumi gazing languorously at the camera while lolling about on the floor,  but for the most part Hello! Project PBs are made for the wota almost exclusively.

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If you were a boy-obsessed 14  year old girl, would you really care about a romantic date in a field with Sayumi?

Sayumilandoll doesn’t bother with any of that stuff. Sayu becomes a strange, unknown creature, beautiful and fashionable and over the top. There’s nothing romantic and comforting about any of these images. While that may seem to make the PB less appealing, I don’t think so. Casual fans can pick the book up because Sayumi looks gorgeous. Stylish girls can pick it up because she’s fashionable and her make-up is done in a striking, modern way. Anime fans might buy it on seeing the Lum-like cover outfit, and of course the wota will buy it because, well, it’s Sayumi.

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I don’t want to read too much into one release, but seeing this makes me very excited about the future of Momusu with Sayumi as a front-girl. She’s a strong, interesting character; gorgeous, and relevant to more than just the wota demographic. In a way, Sayumi is one of the few Momusu members who can really pull something like this off. She’s one of the more universally visible members with her constant appearances on TV shows, and she’s appeared quite a few times in alternative fashion magazines (Kera especially has hosted Sayumi before). If it were Niigaki or Aika posing in a fluffy white floral headpiece, I might be among those people crying out that this release seems off. But because it’s Sayumi, I can accept it. And with Sayumi trying new things, it might be that we’ll start to see the other H!P members shake things up a bit, too- and if they do, it won’t feel as strange now that Sayumi’s lead the way.


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!

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?


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.


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.


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? 🙂


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.