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.
This first picture reminds me a bit of synchronized swimming outfits.g
Sayumi, the idol with a flamingo growing from her head.
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.
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.
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.
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.