Archive for December, 2007

Dec 29 2007

Aki Houkago no Essence Full Review

Published by under c-ute,reviews

Here is the promised review of C-ute’s latest concert tour “Aki Houkago no Essence”. If it seems like I’m focusing on some parts more than others, it’s because I am.

The concert opens with a nice performance of “Tokaikko Junjou”, though I have yet to see a bad performance of that song. Kanna mouthing “are you ready” at the beginning is the best part, but what I’m more inclined to pay attention to are their awesome costumes. Seriously, they’re wearing some of the best costumes I’ve seen from Hello Project in years! I especially like Nakki’s. Speaking of Saki, she gets the award for “most enthusiastic” this concert. I love watching that girl dance, because even if Maimi is technically better, Saki always looks like she’s having a blast out there.

http://img232.imageshack.us/my.php?image=1193989294qa4.jpg

I question the wisdom of putting “Meguru Koi no Kisetsu” next, because that’s putting two very demanding dances back to back, and you can tell they’re out of breath. Next is “Sakura Chirari”. All 3 of their major singles in a row in reverse order?? Anyway, C-ute’s first single bores me, and it probably always will. Shuffling in place on stage does NOT count as a dance.

The transition to “Endless Love” is nice. Fortunately, this song does have an enjoyable dance, and I am impressed by how Mai handled her lines, though I remain confused by her having so many of them in a song this mature-sounding. I kind of dislike the song itself though, since it’s recycled T&C Bomber material. Good thing C-ute’s getting a new album so they can have more songs of their own to perform.

The next number, “Time Capsule” is a Maimi/Saki duet. Bring on the only song in C-ute’s arsenal that bores me more than “Sakura Chirari”! It doesn’t help that Miss Saki is not sounding her best here. So, overall, this section is not my favorite part of the concert, but don’t worry; it gets better.

It’s Buono time! <3 Momoko and her speaking voice. I'm quite tickled by the thought of Berryz leads as guests at a C-ute concert. I do like Berryz, but I think C-ute deserves a bit of revenge for playing 2nd string to the Berryz for so long. It broke my heart a little bit when C-ute was being interviewed, and they talked about how they all attended Berryz Kobou’s first concert and cried the whole time. I doubt Momoko and Miyabi are humiliated or anything, but I do wonder if it stings a little for them to be dancing backup for C-ute during the encore.

Coincidentally, shortly before I watched this I had viewed another C-ute concert DVD. It was their first full concert DVD in fact: Hajimette yo Cutie Show. I couldn’t help but compare the C-ute of today to the C-ute of about one year ago and marvel at how far some of them have come both in stage presence and vocal ability. I can see noticeable improvement in everyone except maybe Airi, and she was already ahead of most of the others anyway, so it’s more like they’ve caught up to her a bit than that she’s fallen behind. I’m going to go ahead and give the “Most Improved” award to Kanna, with Erika in a close second. In their first concert, Kanna can be easily picked out as the worst singer in the bunch and the least confident on stage, but in the more recent show she’s finally holding her own with the other girls. She still looks bit..worried…sometimes, but she’s definitely doing better. Erika has also shown noticeable improvement in vocals. I imagine she’s been working pretty hard on improving her voice. Let’s look at the perfect example from this concert, Erika and Kanna’s duet of “Tsuugaku Vector”. Yeah, Airi did it better, but I’m still going to give these two kudos for doing as well as they did.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h0xZqFSPeU

Next is “Everyday Yeah Kataomoi”. Aren’t they a little old to be singing this song anymore? Oh well. Just goes to show that you can’t totally take the cute out of C-ute. I like that everyone is wearing a costume of “their” color. It helps you to figure out who is cheering for who when you look out at the glowsticks in the audience. Lots o’ green out there…

Following that, it’s a full group rendition of “Disco Queen”. Awesome! Talk about a song that’s really grown on me. It seems a bit strange to have everyone out there singing what was originally a duet, but I like the look of everyone doing the dance together, so I’m going to give this one a thumbs up.

Bishoujo Shinri is an awesome song, and a nice followup to “Disco Queen”. It’s like they took the dance style and kicked it up a notch. I like how everyone gets lines in the verses, and they all do very well with them. C-ute really is the group with no weak link. They’re not all spectacular, but none of them are bad singers. Airi, of course, does most of the work here vocally, handling all of the difficult chorus lines. Surprisingly, she struggles a little on her first section, though she does seem to get it together by the end, it looks like she’s working really hard to hit those notes. I almost feel sorry for her. Couldn’t they give someone else a line of the chorus to give Airi a chance to catch her breath?

“Massara Blue Jeans” is one of my favorite performances of the concert. The energy goes up another notch from Bishoujo Shinri. I love it when sets build on themselves like this. Maimi stood out the most to me in this number, as she seemed to have energy to spare despite having every right to be exhausted. From watching her, I get the feeling that she really enjoys performing this song. I was rather impressed with her vocals as well, but then it was brought to my attention that she may well be lip-syncing her way though this concert due to having a sore throat. Hmm. Her voice sounded fine while she was talking, but come to think of it, she really should sound more out of breath than she does. It’s kind of sad if she is lip-syncing. I hope she doesn’t have any kind of chronic condition.

Can’t seem to find Massara by itself, so here it is with Bishoujo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y5pgyw5eIk&feature=related

After shedding a layer of costume, Mai and Chisato emerge to sing “Futari wa NS” with Chisato taking Koharu’s lines. This might just be the best thing ever. Attention to whoever makes the setlists for concerts: LET OTHER PEOPLE SING MORE OF KOHARU’S SONGS. I can’t believe how much more I like the song with Chisa singing it instead of “Kirari”. It makes me wonder how many of Koharu’s songs really are good, but I can’t appreciate them with her grating voice smeared all over the music. It makes this performance all the cuter that Chisato and Mai are friends in real life. Wait a minute… is Mai taller than Chisa now?

I’ve already mentioned Maimi’s solo, but to recap: Maimi= too hot to be only 15.

Everyone’s back on stage for the last set. The costumes look suspiciously like they have feathery bustles, but I’m going to let this one go since they aren’t large enough to make the girls resemble exotic fowl. “That’s the Power” is usually a song that I’m fond of, but Erika decided to spice things up a bit by yelling something about towels all the time. I’m not sure if it’s some kind of Japanese cultural thing that I don’t understand, but I found it to be really annoying.

“As One” was good. I had never noticed before, but Maimi and Erika are harmonizing with Airi while she sings the lead chorus part. Is it sad that it’s a novelty for an h!p group to do their own harmonizing on stage? It does seem that some of them are capable, and it really does add something to the show. I don’t see why they don’t do it more often. Also, LoL at Airi always singing “as wow” instead of “as one”.

“Yes Shiawase” is also recycled T&C Bomber fare, so meh. The galloping across the stage is cute I guess. Oh, and Chisato grabbed and kissed Maimi when they were supposed to only be pretending to kiss in a move that will go down in both C-ute history and a plethora of animated GIFs.

I was deeply disappointed that they gave Chisato’s opening lines in “Bokura no Kagayaki” to Airi. The girl has so few lines as it is! Why oh why did you give away some the best lines that do belong to her!?! It’s not that Airi sang them badly, but I was so angry that it ruined the whole song for me.

By the time they get to “Jump” the girls are clearly tired, so it’s not the best performance of the song I’ve ever seen. It really is mean to put a song that requires you to jump up and down at the end of a long set. They give it their all though. I believe that Saki was jumping the highest (which is why she’s the “most enthusiastic”)

Encore! First is “Ookina Ai de Motenashite” with the aforementioned Berryz leads as background dancers. Of course, being “Ookina Ai de Motenashite” it’s adorable, and the addition of Momoko makes it even more so. It’s a Momo kind of song.The final number was “Wakkanai Z”. Not much to say about that one. It’s a good closer.

Whew. That was tiring. Don’t expect any more entries from me for a few days. I need a vacation after this.

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Dec 27 2007

Forget Koharu, Let’s be in Denial about Maimi

Published by under c-ute

C-ute’s new concert DVD came out and nobody told me!! Aaaarg! That’s what I get for not paying attention I guess. Well, I plan to do a full write-up on the concert as my next post, but in the meantime, watch this clip of Maimi’s solo, and let the denial begin. This girl is 15 years old. You think Koharu looks old for her age? At least Koharu still has some youthful dorkiness about her. Koharu is a bit awkward, and her solo songs are aimed at kids. Maimi, on the other hand, is pure sexiness here. I can’t even imagine Koha dancing like that.


She’s only 15. Please keep telling yourself that until you believe it.

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Dec 27 2007

It’s the Ciiiiircle of Liiiife (as a Morning Musume Fan)

Published by under Momusu

Morning Musume’s 36th single has been announced with a release date of 3/6. Yay! This puts them on their usual schedule of a single released about every 3 months (3.5 in this case). It’s time for the whole process of escalating excitement that surrounds a new MM single to begin.

First we get the title and everyone tries to guess what kind of song it will be. People start looking at the chart competition for that release day and predict what rank this song will get. Then, a while later, we may get a grainy fan recording from a concert. People begin to form opinions, and begin complaining about how their favorite member doesn’t seem to get enough lines. Then, the covers, maybe a radio rip, and finally, the moment everyone’s been waiting for, the PV airs. Opinions swarm like a flock of seagulls that has spotted someone throwing bread, and almost everyone either loves it or despises it. Next is the actual release day, and everyone holds their breath waiting for the sales figures, debating about how accurate Oricon really is, and making predictions for the week’s rank. People start to get their own copies of the single and they show off pictures of their purchase to make the rest of us jealous. There are TV appearances to critique, especially the almost inevitable Utaban appearance, and weekly sales figures to analyze. The single V comes out, and we get to enjoy watching our cuties goof off backstage and pose for photos. Then, just as the single is slowing down on the charts and our interest begins to fade, the date for the next single is announced and the whole process may begin again. And so it will continue until the end of time, or until the end of Hello Project, whichever comes first.

As for the specifics of this particular single, I’m going to dust off that crystal ball and once again throw my hat in the running for “most clairvoyant h!p blogger”.

-Once the title is announced, no matter what it is, people will expect the single to be a ballad. It won’t be. It’ll be something upbeat and extremely sexified. No more cutseyness, because sex sells
-The B-side, however, will be a ballad
-Ai-chan and Reina will get the most lines (duh), Koharu will have a spoken part, Risa will have one longish-line thrown in the 2nd verse that always gets cut out of TV performances, Eri will have a small solo section in a prominent location as well as one other solo line, Aika and JunJun will each have one short solo line, LinLin and Sayumi won’t have any
-Reina will be center
-The single will sell better than Mikan, but not all that well. It’ll be in the mid 30K range for the first week, the mid 40K range overall, and get a week ranking of 4th
-The costumes will be more street clothes-like than we’ve seen in the past few singles, and they will be a bit on the skanky side with narry a sequin nor feather in sight
-Celestia will write in her blog to gloat about how all of her predictions were 100% accurate ; )free hit counter

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Dec 26 2007

Newcomer’s Poll

Published by under Uncategorized

A late Merry Christmas to everyone! Santa has been very good to me this year. I’m not going to list off all my presents, but let’s just say that a red Zune MP3 player and a new laptop with a 250 GB hard drive and 4GB of memory were among them, though I’m not sure I needed such a nice computer. My boyfriend is kind of drooling and offering to trade me his soul for it. Lol. Rest assured that both of these devices are in the process of being filled with H!P goodness.

You know what I really want for Christmas though? What I really really want is for all of you to vote in this spiffy poll. It’s for “Newcomer of the Year” for h!p. I’ve included both groups and individuals. Aika’s on there because she was added very late in 2006 and didn’t appear in any concert or singles until 2007, so I consider her a 2007 addition. So, c’mon! Does Ongaku Gatas make you want to cheer? Do you think that JunJun is as cuddly as a panda? Is Buono truly the Buenoest? Then get voting!

Best Newcomer of 2007


JunJun


LinLin


Mitsui Aika


KiraPika


Athena and Robikerottsu


Buono


MM 10nen Kinentai


Ongaku Gatas


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Dec 22 2007

Berryz Kobou Top 5 Songs

Published by under berryz,top lists

I’ve looked at the future of the h!p kids, not it’s time to look at the past.That meansit’s Berryz Kobou’s turn to have me list their top 5 songs. Hora!

5.Anata Nashide wa Sekite Yukenai-

I have a very bad reason for picking this song for my list. I really really like the background music/vocals. The “what a night” parts, and especially the part between the verses and the bridge. That, “da dadada dadada dadada” part. That is an absolutely terrible description, and if anyone understands the part I’m trying to reference, you get a virtual Christmas cookie. Anyway, since this is Berryz first single, their inexperience shows in their vocals, and it does seem like an odd choice to have girls that young singing this kind of song as their debut, but every time I’m about to write off the song as a bad job, those background hooks pull me back in. Go Tsunku, I guess.

4.Kohaku Funsui no Hiroba

From Berryz first single to one of their most recent, and my how far they have come with their vocals. A ballad that gets stuck in my head. That’s something new. It needs more Chinami, but the style of the chorus, with the top 4 switching off at each line is particularly appealing. It almost sounds like a conversation going on between them with one girl asking something and the next one replying. Easily my favorite Berryz song of 2007.

3.Special Generation

SU-PE-SHA-RU GENERATION! Were you wondering where this one would show up? There’s a reason that we see this song over and over again at concerts. It plays really well to a live crowd with that opening, all of the “oi!”s, and its great dance beat. This song represented a big step up for the Berryz. In a similar manner to Cute’s latest single, one great song was all it took to make people start paying attention and taking them seriously as a group. With this single they announced, “We’re not just Morning Musume’s cute little backdancers anymore”. Speaking of dances, this song has an awesome one, and I love how that little swirly move at the very beginning as become iconic for the Berryz. As a final note, major props to LinLin for doing so well with Risako’s lines in this at the newcomers concert.

2.Koshi Teru Toshi Haitsumo

Here’s a first, a song’s A-side and B-side both making the list. It seems like all too often, if a single is great, it’s B side is probably going to suck. It’s like too much of Tsunku’s talent went into the A-side, and there just wasn’t any left for the coupling track. That’s not the case with Special Generation and its coupling track, Koshi Teru Toshi Haitsumo. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, I am a complete sucker for the younger girls doing super-high falsetto singing. Since this song is full of it, I was bound to love it. Also, you can really hear the feeling that the girls are putting into their voices, and there are a lot of lines from the girls we don’t hear from very much. I should point out that the quality of the song does not suffer as a result. This song is a fitting coupling track for Berryz defining single, further cementing that Berryz are not a novelty group, but a musical force to be reckoned with.

1.Munasawagi Scarlet

This song magically went from something I didn’t even like to my absolute favorite Berryz song. I think it took me a while to ‘get’ the style of it, but once I did, it was love. The guitar is awesome, the singing is awesome, the little curtsies in the dance are awesome, and yes, the Risako is awesome too. No one can do that, “mmm yes my love” hook like her with a perfect combination of child-like poutyness and saucy sexuality. I also really like the costumes because they’re pink and red and blue. Berry colors on the Berryz at last!

As a special bonus, here’s how I currently rank the h!p kids. I may get around to explaining this someday.

1. Momoko

2. Airi

3. Saki N.

4. Chisato

5. Chinami

6. Risako

7. Maimi

8. Yurina

9. Kanna

10. Saki S.

11. Mai

12. Maasa

13. Miyabi

14. Erika

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Dec 21 2007

Growing a Mikan

Published by under Momusu,video

The “making of” for Mikan and the all singles collection have shown up on the internets. Mitekudasai!

I wouldn’t normally devote a whole post to a ‘making of’ video, but this one has so many great moments. It’s definitely my favorite ‘making of’ for quite some time, especially part 2. Here are some of my favorite moments:

Part 1:
0:15 Gaki-san petting Aika! Awww
1:05 Aika and Sayumi switch identities for a bit.
6:14 Reina’s “yaaay” shimmy
9:30 Aika’s squeaking when Ai-chan tickles her. AwwwwX2

Part 2:
0:34 JunJun while watching Sayumi pose for photos: “she’s cute… but I think JunJun is even cuter”
3:00 Eri vs rain. Eri 1, rain 0!
3:38 I don’t know what Sayu, Eri, and LinLin are doing, but it sure is funny
5:02 The camera is on the ground for some reason. <3 Aika
6:19 Group “otsukareina”
7:30 Aika (with JunJun/Ai) “We’re A team!” *risa shows up* Aika:”You’re C team!” *shoves her away*Also, the flirty way JunJun says “A-team” at the end

You may notice a lot of Aika moments. That is because of Aika’s recent exponential growth in adorableness and general idol prowess. I’m so proud of little Aika. Everyone was wondering what Tsunku saw in that girl one year ago when she was selected. Now we know.click analytics

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Dec 19 2007

I have journeyed to Kirarin Land and lived to tell about it

Published by under Kirari,reviews

It’s not that I hate Koharu, it’s just that I hate Koharu. Wait. That came out wrong. Let me try again. It’s not that I hate Koharu, it’s just that the sound of her voice when she’s in Kirarin-mode makes me want to hurl my computer speakers across the room and then stomp on them just to make sure they’re really dead. Yeah. That’s better.

Given my innate reaction to Koharu’s voice, I’m not sure what exactly possessed me to download her most recent Kirari album. Morbid curiosity maybe? Whatever it was, I can’t unlisten to it now, so I may as well do a review. I’m rating these songs on a scale of 1 c15.gif (the song is tolerable) to 5 c15.gif ‘s (we are holding a funeral for what’s left of my speakers on Sunday).

Track 1: Happy-

Koharu’s 3rd single, so you’re probably familiar with it. This also just happens to be my least favorite single out on the entirety of Hello Project. The term “musical vomit” comes to mind. She’s barely even singing. Most of the time she’s just kind of shouting at the microphone. I think I have made it clear that I do not hate Koharu, but every time she winds up for another “HAAAAPPY” I find myself wishing her serious bodily harm. Don’t even get me started on the bridge *shudders*. I have a feeling that no matter who was singing this song it would annoy me, but Koharu just pushes it to another level.
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Track 2: Chance

Koharu’s 4th single, mercifully, is a lot less annoying than Happy. I think it’s much better suited to Koharu’s voice, and I’ll have to admit that the song is pretty catchy. I almost like the, “anata yo ne” parts and the “yay!” homage to Koi Kana. Of course, she has to ruin it by baby-talking her way through the chorus. If she had just tried a bit less hard to be cutsey I might like this song.
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Track 3: Olala

Okay, I take back what I said about the verses of “Chance” because Koharu quite literally babytalks the verses of this song. That’s right; there is no attempt at singing whatsoever, just cutesy talking. Ug. She’s 15 years old, not 3. The chorus isn’t too bad, I guess. It’s this album’s first example of Kirari’s preference for choruses that consist almost entirely of nonsense syllables (see “Balalaika”). The whole thing is kind of low-key and forgettable which is probably a good thing, coming from this album.

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Track 4: Himawari

The intro to this song is pretty nice. It sounds very anime, but that’s appropriate. Then Koharu comes in “singing” almost in monotone and ruins it again. I guess having her stick to only 1 or 2 notes is one way to keep her in tune, but it’s still not very pleasing to the ear. Again, the chorus is super-anime, but, listenable. It’s not as much solid-Koharu, which helps, and there are some good guitar bits. I can imagine what this song could have been had Buono sang it. I think it would have fit their style, and they could have sung it sooo much better. With that positive image in my mind, I give this song a good rating.
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Track 5: Konnichi Pa

Holy shit. How can I even describe this song? ‘On crack’ comes to mind, but that just doesn’t do it justice. Let’s see, it’s polka, Koharu is way more hyper/annoying than usual, and she becomes intoxicated somewhere around the middle. I am not joking. The middle is Koharu trying to sing while falling on her ass drunk, and nothing you say can convince me otherwise. If you are ever even the slightest bit annoyed with Kirarin, DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS SONG. It is everything that is obnoxious about Koharu’s singing magnified 1000x. Oh God, please get this song out of my ears!!!
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Track 6: Very Berry Strawberry

Another forgettable generic song made horrible by Koharu’s voice. That’s really all there is to it.
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Track 7: Hana wo Puuun

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sp;
Any track with Maimai to cut the Koharuness couldn’t be that bad, though this one puts up a valiant effort. It’s very very very strange, but there’s nothing here that requires Koharu to hold a long note unaccompanied, so despite being weird, it’s relatively non-offensive. Surprisingly, the background vocals are more terrible than Koharu’s, particularly the “Hana hana hana” part at the beginning.
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Track 8: Koi no Mahou Habibi no bi

Repeated nonsense syllable song number 2. I suppose it’s kind of catchy, and most of it doesn’t bother me much. I was almost thinking I could give this one a favorable rating, but then after the chorus Koharu had to do her trademark shouting at the microphone in lieu of singing move, and it all went out the window. Sigh. I had so much hope.
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Track 9: Futari wa NS

Maimai to the rescue again! To be fair, Kirari ballads give Koharu the least opportunity to act cute/hyper, so they generally are not as bad. The song is kind of boring, sure, but with this album, ‘boring’ is not one of main concerns. It’s kind of funny how clear it is from listening to this that little Mai can sing circles around Koharu.
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Track 10: Ramutara

Nonsense sy
llable song number 3! The sound of this song is kind of Arabic, which makes it stand out. Unfortunately, the chorus is one giant Koharu shout-fest. Ramta
TAramtaTAramtaTA… I actually wince every time she hits one of those “TA’s”. Then at the end it’s just one extended TAAAAAAA! I believe that forcing someone to listen to the chorus of this song more than once counts as torture in most of the developed world.
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Track 11: Shiawase Clover

Just when my courage was faltering, when I felt I could not go on and I may not get through one more Koharu track alive, Shiawase Clover came along. The gentle strains of a ballad hit my ears, and I thanked my lucky stars. As I continued to listen, something very strange happened… I started to like this song. Had Koharu’s voice finally robbed me of my sanity? Could it be that her voice, when paired with this song, sounds cute? Was this actually a good song, or was it but a mirage brought on my Kirari-induced delirium? In order to find out, I did the unthinkable. I voluntarily listened to one of Koharu’s songs twice in a row, and I came to the same conclusion. I like this song. God help me, but I do.
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Dec 17 2007

Ship to the Future

Published by under berryz,c-ute

Recently, I have been wondering about what the future holds for Berryz and C-ute. Being the proactive person that I am, I purchased a gently-used crystal ball off of E-bay and peered into the wikipedia of 2012 to find out what happened to the h!p kids. Here are the results.

Berryz- Breaks up in 2011 due to the departure their main singers

Risako- dishonorably discharged due to a scandal involving a relationship with a 25 year old man when she is 16. Reactions are mixed. Her haters rejoice, and her fans tear out their hair and weep openly in the streets. Later, people look at this event as the beginning of the end for Berryz Kobou since it was such a harsh blow to their image and popularity.

Miyabi/Momoko- Buono becomes a permanent unit in 2011, though it eventually loses its Shugo Chara ties after the anime is over. They go on to become one of h!p’s most successful groups.

Saki- Graduates to continue her schooling in 2009. Cries A LOT at her graduation. Momoko becomes leader.

Chinami- Following the departure of Momoko she briefly becomes leader. Berryz releases one more single with only Chinami, Yurina, and Maasa, but it sells very poorly, and the group is disbanded. Chinami joins Ongaku Gatas.

Yurina- Goes the way of Kei Yasuda. Tries to have a solo career, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Appears in the all Hello Project concerts.

Maasa- Also fades into h!p obscurity following the break-up of Berryz. People always ask, “whatever happened to that girl anyway?” but no one is really sure of the answer. It’s presumed that she returned to normal life.

C-ute- Begins a Morning Musume-like cycle of graduations and new member additions with new members being selected from the younger Eggs rather than open auditions. Still producing music.

Maimi- Graduates in 2009 to have a solo career. One of h!p’s current most successful solo artists.

Erika- Agrees to become leader following Maimi’s graduation. Graduates herself in late 2011, but her fans assume it’s because the company made her rather than because she wanted to. Becomes another of those “solo artists” with h!p that doesn’t really do much.

Airi- Graduates early 2011 to continue with Buono. Also releases a solo single on occasion. Currently the most popular Hello Project member.

Chisato- Still a member of C-ute. One of their main singers now.

Mai- Also still a member of C-ute and a main singer. Releasesseveral photobooks which prompt fierce debate about a girl her age posing so provocatively.

Kanna- Never really gets much attention. Graduated in 2010 to return to normal life.

Saki- Current leader of C-ute as of Erika’s graduation.

And if I’m wrong about all of this, why, I’ll eat my hat!

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Dec 15 2007

So sad

Published by under Personal

Please excuse me for writing a personal post. A little while ago charter buses arrived to take all of my students, who have been living here for a year, to the airport where they will board a flight to Japan, likely never to return. Saying goodbye was…hard. Really hard. Sigh.

Right now I’m being a total girl, studying for my last final teary eyed and with Berryz Koubou’s “Bye Bye Matta ne” on repeat. =,(

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Dec 14 2007

In Defense of H!P

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Hoo boy. I didn’t want to write this post, and I know I’m heading down controversy lane again, but I feel that a bit of a reality check has become necessary. There’s a perception that’s becoming more and more prevalent in the blogosphere (eww, I used to word blogosphere), that idols amount to little more than slaves. That they are worked to within an inch of their lives, exploited, severely depressed, and are generally tragic creatures to be treated with great pity. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that serious, but you get the idea. Personally, I don’t feel guilty for patronizing Hello Project, and I hate being told that I should. I’ve considered the possibility that I’m in denial about this and only believing what I want to, but after careful consideration, I think I have some good reasons to feel this way.

Yes, they work hard. There is no disputing that. However, the idea of working hard is something that’s deeply ingrained in the Japanese culture. Your average salary man works from early in the morning to late at night and probably has to come in for at least part of the weekend. Your average student goes to school 6 days a week, cleans the classroom, does club activities, and spends all of their remaining time studying or in cram school. Such is their life, and I doubt they expect anything less.

There are big differences between said salary man and a h!p idol, however. Shukan Gendai Magazine from September of this year reports that Morning Musume members makes around $230,000 American dollars a year (25,000,000 yen)). Some make more, and some make less, but that’s the average. Ayaya makes about $320,000 a year. To a successful American entertainer that may be pocket change, but America is a much larger market than Japan, and our entertainers are waaay overcompensated. The salary man would consider himself damn lucky to be making that much a year, and he probably has a family to support. H!p idols are not slaves working for beans. To be making this kind of money as a young teen is quite an accomplishment.

Monetary compensation aside, what idol work actually consists of cannot be ignored. Dancing and singing, being photographed and interviewed is harder than it looks, but you can’t really think that our salary man is having more fun sitting at his computer all day number crunching. You can’t think that a normal teen flipping burgers at McDonalds eight hours a day for minimum wage has a better job. How about janitors, construction workers, or all the other people working unpleasant, boring, or strenuous jobs? Those people are working no less hard, but there’s no way in hell that they are having more fun. I’m not saying that being an idol is a non-stop party, but I do believe that they genuinely enjoy at least some of what they do. I know from experience that there is not one iota of fun to be found in spending your summer sweating over a deep fryer and waiting on cranky demanding customers for eight+ hours a day. Not only that, all of the above mentioned groups do their work day in and day out almost completely unappreciated. H!P idols are not only appreciated, they’re adored.

Let’s not forget that the girls chose this line of work for themselves. No one forced them to be idols. They chose to audition. Some of them were very young when
they auditioned, and maybe it wasn’t what they expected, but the good news is that those contracts were not signed in blood. They can choose to leave, and some have. Maiha from Berryz is probably a good example. If they are really that overwhelmed/unhappy with idol life, there is nothing stopping them from quitting as soon as their contract expires. They probably won’t be able to work in show business again, but if they were unhappy enough to quit, why would they want to?

People tend to latch on to every negative example out there and project that onto all idols. The young idol mentioned previously in this journal, Yukiko’s, suicide is tragic, but not an excuse to assume that all idols become depressed. She committed suicide, and she also was an idol, but we don’t know if those two were related. They might have been, but she most likely also had some sort of mental illness or issues in her life, or every idol would be committing suicide. Thus far, no one from h!p has, thank God. Another often cited source is Goto Maki’s supposed reason for leaving Hello Project: a combination of health problems and being overworked. That raises some questions though, because there’s no way that she was working half as much as when she was in MM during its heyday and doing everything that came along with that, filming hour long episodes of Hello Morning, doing Pucchi Moni, doing TV dramas, and doing various commercials. The amount of appearances for Morning Musume alone should have been more than she has done with her solo career this year. She only released one album and one single! There was also the 10nen stuff, but Koharu and Risa managed to do that as well as outside anime projects and everything for MM. I’m not saying that Maki wasn’t working hard, but I think the issue was much more her health problems being aggravated by her work than an inhumane schedule. The company gave her plenty of time off to rest when she wasn’t feeling well. She missed most of the 10nen concerts and some of the shows on her own tour as well. For a final example, Kago Ai’s mom has stated that her daughter wanted to quit when she first joined MM, but decided to stick it out for a year. The often ignored continuation of that quote is that after she settled in Ai came to love her job and would often tell her Mom how lucky she felt to have it. As for the ‘problems’ Ai has had post MM, I think her family life was a major contributing factor. Her parents were very very young when they had her, her father was not in her life, she had mentally disabled younger siblings, and her mom did not seem like the most responsible person/ the best role model. Coming from that kind of background, I’d say that some underage smoking does not constitute her becoming a delinquent.

Finally, the intense work schedule of active idoldom isn’t forever. Morning Musume members seldom stay past their early 20’s. When a h!p idol gets a bit older and doesn’t possess all the energy of her teenage years, she is allowed to sit back and take on a much less demanding work schedule while still being gainfully employed. The company doesn’t just use her up and dump her. She’ll appear a couple times a year in concerts, maybe release a solo single, or take on her own projects like a stage play or a drama. Basically, she has the option of remaining in the entertainment industry with a lower commitment level. Some girls don’t choose that path and opt to return to school or perhaps get married post MM, and that’s all good too.

In short, I acknowledge that some h!p idols have very busy lives and that they may feel overwhelmed at times, but I don’t think they should be viewed as circus animals who are kept chained up and whipped until they perform. They’re not the helpless victims of a cruel and inhumane system. They are well compensated, doing temporary and enjoyable work of their own choosing, and they do have the option of leaving if it turns out that idol life is not for them. Therefore, I’m going to go ahead and listen to their music and blog without guilt, and I would advise you to do the same.

Love and Peace,

Celestia

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