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IW Roundtable: The Morning Musume Tenth Gen Auditions Announcement

The surprising news of the tenth gen auditions was enough of a shock to lead to a spur-of-the-moment roundtable discussion among the IW staff. To add to the fun, we invited Siggy of Conflict Productions to share his opinions as well – many thanks to Siggy for taking a break from his studying to do this.

Here’s a handy guide as to who’s who in the conversation:

Ray.

Brian.

Murr.

Aoi.

Siggy.

maiZe.

* * * * *

Okay, place your name before typing what you say.

Easier for transcribing later.

Why should we specify who is who? Morning Musume isn’t…

 

And so we have the first zinger of this roundtable.

First easy question: what was your reaction on hearing the news?

I first heard it on Twitter and just thought of it as a passing remark while watching the C-ute concert on Ustream. No news source, just a friend on Twitter. But then it became a matter of trending on Japanese Twitter. Still not official, I’m a man who likes to take things with a grain of salt. Then the official word. “Wow. Really?! This fast?!” Those are the words I remember me yelling out to my roommate at 2 something AM. I don’t think anyone was expecting it. Seriously, the ninth generation have only officially started within one month. Incredulous. With my attention switching between C-ute and Morning Musume it took a while for it to really sink in. But wow! We have ourselves a new generation!! Really exclamation marks are the only way to capture this.

Of course it broke on Twitter; all news breaks on Twitter! I was watching the Ustream C-ute concert with people on Twitter. My first thought was:  “Oh cool! It’s been years since they added new members.”

 

I found out when I woke up. I woke up to do some internetting, as is my habit, and like always the first thing I open up is my reader. Can you imagine my surprise when I read FIVE posts on the subject already?

 

I was getting ready for bed having gotten home late after watching the Pacquiao fight. I was doing my usual Twitter check before sleeping and saw everyone getting excited for C-ute’s concert on Ustream. But in the midst of all the C-ute comments, it was one tweet which stuck out like a sore thumb: “MM 10th gen auditions?” Thinking it was totally random, and that someone was just… I don’t know, maybe hoping, that tenth gen auditions would be coming soon, I went to bed without giving it further thought. Imagine my surprise when I woke up in the morning and saw that there were multiple posts in my feed announcing tenth gen auditions… At this point, I realized it wasn’t just someone’s wishful thinking. While I’m seeing a lot of people saying that it’s too soon, my first thought was that Tsunku must be thinking that the elder members will have to start graduating soon (obviously starting with Aichan during the fall tour), and he needs to process a load of newbs in to get experience from their sempais before they graduate.

I was at Starbucks with the family when I was looking over the morning’s Twitter and saw the news. I’m pretty sure I said “What the fuck?” out loud because Barb asked me if something was wrong. And yeah, Twitter seems to be the place to get news nowadays.

Wait a minute. C-ute had a streaming concert last night?

I found out about it through Twitter as well. I think my reaction was “Wait. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!” Honestly, my first reaction (after disbelief) was excitement. I mean, what’s bad about new members? But then I thought about the ninth gen, and I just felt annoyed. It seems a disservice to them to toss in new members in such a short time – so I was generally surprised and grumpy about the whole thing (with a hint of tentative optimism tossed in there for fun).

Yeah, my first thought was also about ninth gen and how they were just getting started. I’m just now getting back into Morning Musume because of ninth gen, even listening to the old stuff I used to enjoy, and this kind of threw me for a loop.

I should add that I really hate that first single from the new Morning Musume, “Maji Desu Ka Ska”, but that doesn’t deter me from wanting to like the new line-up. That song is pretty fucked up bad.

These were the logical first thoughts for me too. With the ninth generation being so fresh, won’t the new tenth generation disrupt the balance between new and old members. I really feel then that management are banking on the fresh dynamic of Morning Musume rather than the stable line-up that they had been sticking to for a while after Yoshizawa graduated.

At this point, I don’t think it matters that ninth gen is still so fresh. Like I was saying, Risa, Reina and Sayumi (and to a lesser extent, Aika) have a very limited shelf life for how long they can continue to be in Morning Musume. I think Tsunku’s really trying to get more girls in so they can benefit from the 8-10 years of experience fifth and sixth gen have before they go.

This might be beneficial to the ninth gen. This might alleviate some pressure off of them. I remember a time when new members joined Morning Musume (Kamei Eri, Konno Asami, etc.) and were thrown into the background forever.

Of course, being a member of Morning Musume means you are in the background of the idol world forever already. Anyways…

Brian, doesn’t this make it more likely that the ninth gen will be tossed to the back? Isn’t that putting more pressure on them- pressure to work hard and be moved up to the front? Poor girls. They haven’t even had a chance to relax and get used to being in Morning Musume before they have to worry about being displaced by rivals.

The pressure to stand out is a good thing though. When you automatically get exposure “just because,” you get Takahashi Ai’s bland self.

 

But Takitty didn’t get exposure right away. It was Ogawa all the way for a few months.

 

Ogawa was SMOKING HOT at the beginning. Like the most pedolicious MM EVER.

 

You know, I hear people talking about Ogawa being the pushed one in the beginning but I never saw it. Hm. It makes me realize just how much I still don’t know about Morning Musume’s history.

 

Speaking of  history, everyone who doesn’t know about the Kago / Orange Range rumor should look it up. Best Scandal Ever.

And the best example of Ogawa’s hawtness was Suki Suki Beam something. That PV. Those shorts and the way she… God, talk about fappable H!P.

So wait. What were we saying?

IRRELEVANT.

 

Anyways, back to the tenth gen! With auditions comes graduations. Lots of people are speculating that the tenth generation would be followed by the graduation of Niigaki Risa. Do you think Risa is going to graduate?

 

I think Risa will end up going around the time she’s 25 as well. So I think at most, she’ll be around for around 1.5 more years.

 

As a big fan of Gaki-san ever since I got into Morning Musume, I hope not. The rationale that Takahashi has been in for 10 years-plus very much applies to Gaki-san yet she’s still in. So management must have plans for keeping Gaki-san. Besides my personal bias, Gaki-san has that love and charisma for the group that I feel can not let the group down. And since we have two new tenth generation members coming in, there needs to be a core group of old members to balance the new. I couldn’t see anyone else but Gaki-san leading the bunch.

God, I sincerely hope not. I think Risa has a lot to look ahead to for leading Morning Musume. It’s her type of personality that I think could bring Morning Musume out in variety shows or various talk shows they may be invited to… Or at least, I hope so. If UpFront doesn’t realize this, then they are losing someone very valuable. *sigh* Risa is like the greatest hype man Morning Musume has ever HAD.

I don’t doubt that Risa has a great love for Morning Musume, but Aichan has it too. Whenever any of the other members talk about her, they say how they are able to be Morning Musume because they have Aichan as their leader. I don’t doubt that Risa will be able to hold the girls together as well with her love for the group, but at the same time, Sayu who would be next in line after Risa is always going on about her love for Morning Musume and how she wishes more people would realize how great they are. While I’ve haven’t been a huge Sayumi fan over the years, she’s been growing on me in recent months and I believe that she would make a good leader as well.

I hope they boot Risa and toot sweet. Honestly, I never really liked fifth gen all that much – and I came into Morning Musume at the start of sixth gen, so it wasn’t like they were “new” to me, I just didn’t like them. And the ones I SORTA liked left earlier than the ones I most detested.

I want to see Sayumi lead Morning Musume more than Risa, and I want Winky gone too, while we’re at it. I used to like Reina, but it’s time for her to move on.

If the two new generations are supposed to be rekindling the old days of Morning Musume, then I see Niigaki Risa playing the role of Iida Kaori or Abe Natsumi. At the time of the 6th generation, both Kaori and Natsumi were adults that seemed out of place surrounded by teenagers. The age difference might look awkward for fans that are used to every member being around the same age, but it’s not unheard of.

Well, yeah, that goes back to the very beginning…

 

In an attempt to analyze this round of auditions as some kind of playback to the olden days, it feels much like that. The final two first generation, five generations ahead. The final two fifth generation, five generations ahead. Coincidence? In the crazy head of someone out there maybe not. Conspiracists like myself like looking for this stuff. Great find Brian. The age gap is certainly not unheard of. Nostalgia is always a strategy and a poetic parallels strategy may be kind of in the works. With Dream Morning Musume out and about, we might see a rekindling of older Morning Musume mechanics, especially if management feel that their plans were not panning out.

Speaking of age differences.. does anyone else find it strange that the members of Berryz Koubou and C-ute have more H!P seniority and are the elders of TWO GENERATIONS of Morning Musume? I remember when those groups were just breaking into the idol scene…

On that note, I miss Murakami Megumi!

You and me both, did you hear she’s in some kind of dance talent agency?

 

Yah, but it seemed like a very local production. Have you ever seen your local town’s drama club performance of Annie Get Your Gun? That kind of stuff is unbearable to watch…

 

Do you think that they’ll look for a wide range of age this time, instead of all of them being around the same age?

 

The age range thingy is from 10 to 17, so… Maybe. I hope the new members are older than 15. I like the youth of the new members, but it feels a little out of place against members like Gaki and Ai.

 

I hope they stick with the pedobait. But that’s just me.

 

We know.

 

One of my really delayed reactions to the news was age range. Another age range of 10-17 convinces me that they might be shooting for a group of fresh young girls to overcome all the odds and become the nation’s top idols. I’d like to say that in any audition they’re not fishing for a prescribed age range, wiithin the official age range. I’d personally like to see girls older than ninth generation. That’d make for a great senpai-kouhai mechanic. But it’ll really come down to the auditionees. Hopefully the recent flash of 9th generation have been enough to catalyze the crowds of idol hopefuls. Whether or not they’re super young or on the older end, we’ll see soon.

As a matter of fact how old is Cuca? She better get on this audition if she’s the right age.

Heh… yeah, too bad Cuca’s only 8 years old. I feel like she’d blast through auditions for Morning Musume. Though, at the same time, Tsunku picks… You never know what goes through that man’s mind.

 

Though on a serious note, pedobait additions are better in that they have more time to train and work themselves into peak idols. I mean, that’s the whole point of the H!P Kids and then the H!P Eggs, right? Start them off young and make sure they fit the corporate idol mold UFA wants.

 

Good point. Though I like to believe that H!P Kids was a trainee unit and Morning Musume is more of the flagship drop in. New talent should not be trained over a long time but trained as fast as possible and let the rest of their hard work and talent show up over time. I mean the ninth generation are probably being worked harder than any generation + H!P Kids before them. But haha, if we followed this rationale we’d have something of a UV catastrophe in the form of talent training for new members. Stop talking physics, Siggy…

But nothing ever happened with the H!P eggs unless they left H!P. Except S/mileage. And now we only have eight of ‘em left (actually, all of the “old” ones ARE gone now, so… Ray might be right).

 

Being a trainee in H!P is never a good or guaranteed thing. In fact, I’d worry for the tenth gen if it does turn out that they won’t debut until after Ai graduates. H!P seems to lose track or forget members exist if they aren’t in the spotlight. Ice Creamusume, that Korean girl, all of the Eggs…

 

They announced the ninth generation auditions at the end of the H!P Summer concert tour and ninth gen was announced in January – 5 months. It the same timeline follows, 10th gen won’t be picked until somewhere in October in the midst of Aichan’s graduation tour. Which makes me wonder – would the successful applicants be announced mid-tour and then go into hiding to train? Or would they be integrated into the tour for one song in the way that ninth gen was with “Tomo” at the H!P Winter 2011 concert tour? But even if they are announced after Aichan graduates, I don’t think they’d be forgotten about, as I doubt that an entire generation of Morning Musume members would be left in the dark. At least one would be picked as a front girl depending on how many girls get in… Though at the same time, when talking about a generation being pushed to the back… eighth gen…

Okay, Gaki of Pure Idol Heart mentioned something that made me think about all this, that one of the motivations for calling the new auditions now is because the country needs something to bring uplift and be hopeful about. Does that hold traction for any of you?

 

That idea kind of reminds me of one of the theories for the massive success of “Love Machine.” The idea that it was so well-loved because it was uplifting during a time of crisis (in this instance, Japan’s recession). If that really was a factor toward the single’s success, and Tsunku (or Naoki or whoever made this decision for new members) was thinking of that… well, I don’t think that two new girls added to a pop group that’s in decline are exactly in a position to uplift Japan. And if that’s really the thinking… why can’t ninth gen be uplifting?

Uh. Uplifting the country’s spirit? I don’t really believe that. Didn’t they release “Ai wo Katsu” in part to do so? Aside from raising money for the disaster relief efforts.

 

I don’t know… I remember when the Nippon Professional Baseball league started their season about a month after the earthquake/tsunami. There were many complaints ranging from logistics to personal and conservation issues (Read Solace in the Stadium as Baseball Resumes in Japan – NY Times). But there were people who welcomed the distraction of the baseball season. I just am not sure that Morning Musume is relevant enough to provide such a distraction.

In the small off chance that this was someone’s idea. I agree, this might be misconstrued as too soon. Or it might just be all “part of the plan”. The uplifting concept sure would be great if it was done well. But like Aoi said, this is unlikely, just seems too small of something of a bigger picture. On the other hand if AKB can open their auditions, I don’t see why Morning Musume can’t. In fact, maybe they’re battling with auditions!? Imagine that.

I agree with Brian that Morning Musume may not be big enough right now to provide that much of a distraction to Japan as a whole… But at the same time, they will definitely provide a distraction to their die-hard fans. As the girls have all been saying on their blogs, they want to do what they can to bring a smile to even just one person’s face through these trying times. I think having ninth gen so new, and the thoughts of what this new tenth generation will be like could be a good distraction to at least this group of people… And who knows, it new interest could possibly be sparked. Even a small increase in interest would still be more interest.

Well, that brings up the issue of Morning Musume’s stature in the current idol world…

 

They’re still introduced as National Idols on television shows and the like. They are still held in high regard amongst the entertainment world, I believe.

 

And their sales figures…?

 

Do not reflect that at all. Just because the entertainment world loves them does not mean that the public holds the same opinion. They’re still respected, but if the public doesn’t want them on television, as ratings might reflect, then they won’t be on.

 

And in general, what the public doesn’t care about eventually falls out of favor in the entertainment world, as well, at least in terms of TV shows and the like. If you’re a variety show, who would you rather have, the passe MM members that no one can name, or Itano Tomomi?

Then again, lately MM and H!P have been more present than ever in the media. The excitement of the new soloist, new single, new generation are all having a positive effect on H!P’s standing. Maybe UFA recognized that and decided to try to push the envelope with even more new things – NEW GENERATION YAYYYY.

Without being in Japan, I have felt this surge out of H!P recently too. It is one of the best things you can do to garner interest. I’m hoping that the ninth generation audition alone was a litmus test for UFA to see what plans they could go for. If UFA have learned anything in the past couple of years, I suppose now they’re showing their moves.

How would you rank this, anyway, in terms of controversial graduation / audition moves for H!P? I see it as potentially being second most controversial, after the Pandas joining eighth gen. THAT caused a riot in the wotasphere.

 

Didn’t H!P say at the very beginning of the year that H!P was attacking? Moving forward and being aggressive and other synonyms of that type of phrasing? And maybe this is one of their attempts to grab media attention for Hello Project? Because to me, this isn’t so much controversial so much as it is attention whoring. HEY MEDIA LOOK WE’RE ADDING MORE MEMBERS TO THIS GROUP THAT ORIGINATED THE REVOLVING DOOR IDEA…. YEAH. Something to that effect.

I don’t see it as “controversial” compared to the scandalous history of Hello!Project and Morning Musume. It’s definitely shocking though. However, I still don’t rank it near the top as far as all-time shocking Morning Musume auditions/graduations. There are moments such as Koharu as the sole seventh gen member, the pandas, and Makoto graduating without a concert. There is also the shocking graduation of Yaguchi Mari. She took over after YEARS of Kaori leadership and it was expected that she would be leading Morning Musume for a long, long time. A few months later, she’s gone! Miki did the same thing, but that’s expected of Miki.

I don’t view this as controversial beyond the fact that this was unexpectedly fast. Pandas joining was never a prospect that anyone could have seen coming. If we look back in history, the shortest time between a generation and the next generation was first to second generation. One single. But that’s a big exception. But wait, if we take a look at Goto Maki in the third generation, she debuted circa September 1999. The infamous fourth generation debuted May 2000. That’s a gap of roughly nine months. From ninth generation to tenth generation, it will be a comparable time interval if not less, it just depends on when the new girls will come in. Will we have a 11-nin Morning Musume right as Takahashi graduates or will they come at some to be determined time as they go through training? Only time will tell. Totally not unheard of, but exciting controversy.

I have to agree with Siggy here. It’s super fast, and while it’s obviously getting fans highly agitated, it’s not a new occurance. As Siggy said, third to fourth gen had a gap of about nine months. I think people are upset because 9th gen is still so new that they’re worried we won’t get a chance to know them before tenth gen joins, but at this point we don’t know how many members are coming in… It could be one, which would then be a flip of what happened from third (one person) to fourth (four people) gens. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be so overwhelming welcoming just one more person into the fold. If it does end up being a multiple member generation, well, it could go two ways. Fans could quickly fall in love with the new personalities the way they seem to have fallen for ninth gen, or they would quickly become bitter with tenth gen for taking the spotlight away from ninth gen. At this point, there’s no guessing what may happen.

Any final thoughts before we wrap up this ad hoc, lighting quick roundtable?

 

…. Bananas.

 

Ray is a barstud.

In all seriousness: The immediate shafting of the non-Riho kyukkies in “Only You” makes me nervous that the tenth generation will just be an excuse to ignore Kanon, Ikuta and Mizuki. But still, I’m tentatively looking forward to this. It seems to hearken back to the time when H!P was unstable and unpredictable (which everyone seemed to love). And more girls to love is always better, right? RIGHT?!

Right Aoi! I’m glad to take some time out of my busy schedule to… I guess wota out? Personally, I think it’s exciting. We really can’t tell what Morning Musume is gonna do now. I just hope that this will be a good change that I can really look forward to. Eighth generation flew way over my head. I have been following ninth generation contently since day one. I’m really looking forward to the tenth generation now!

I’m taking the wait and see stance. I didn’t quite know what to think when the ninth gen auditions were announced, but I was pleasantly surprised with the additions (particuarly Riho and Fuku-chan). I’m hoping that I’ll be pleasantly surprised once again…

 

Morning Musume? They are still around? They did “Love Machine” right…

Pretty soon they are going to have members that weren’t even born when “Love Machine” was released.

No lie, when my host father asked me what music I liked and I said Morning Musume he started SINGING THAT TO ME. Also. That’s a horrible thought, Brian. I’m still surprised when I meet people who don’t know what Y2K was. *sighs* I’m so old.

 

Just gimme more pedobait and I may become a dedicated H!P fan again.

 

Pervert.

 

No, no, barstud.