First Impressions: Brainstorming

This comes in at a weird time, as I’m going to be completing a comprehensive rundown of how bad Morning Musume PVs have gotten. It’s more negative than I like to be at a place called “Happy Disco,” but it’s things that I think need to be said. However, I’m so excited because,¬† much like Abed from Community, “I guess I just like liking things.”

Yes I am just using this as an excuse to put Community in Happy Disco. Go watch the show if you aren’t already.

So while I’ve been pretty positive as a whole about Morning Musume lately, I’ve been wondering about their future. I was, thus, pleasantly surprised this morning when the new dance shot for Morning Musume’s newest single, “Brainstorming,” came out.
Here are just a few of my immediate thoughts on this.

Dancing Musume

For the most part, current Morning Musume feels very dance heavy. This has also been noted by others (in Chiima’s look at it she calls this the dancing era of Morning Musume). However, it is notable that for the past few singles that the first thing to come out is a dance shot, which for other groups might not even be a thing. This shows that one of the first thing management wants you to see isn’t the actual girls, but the dancing skills, which says something about the values and focus of the current group.

This is really reinforced by this dance shot. This dance is strong, there is a good amount of parts where stronger dancers are emphasized and put forward, and there’s even the lovely mini dance battle with arguably two of the best dancers of the group, Riho and Ayumi. I’ve wanted dance solos for so long, because in Hello!Project often the lead singers get put in the front and the girls who are strong in dance don’t really get to shine. So this mini dance battle makes me hopeful that Hello!Project is starting to get it.

No Crummy Greenscreen!

One of the things I’m writing a lot about right now is how terrible the greenscreening is for Help Me. Which it is. But I’m glad to see that’s taken a break and they’re back to good sets. The production values look decent here, with good looking costumes and a good looking set. I’m really hoping they don’t mess it up with terrible effects in the post-production phase (a la 1 2 3 and Wakuteka Take a Chance), but nothing here looks cheap and terrible. Which is a good thing.

I Like the Song!

While I’ve seen other people calling this song a rehash of other Morning Musume songs and their recent style (which may be true; the section that’s very similar to Wakuteka Take a Chance is telling), I think this might just blow the others out of the water. While it is very similar in style to Morning Musume’s past efforts, it’s a step up. They’re keeping similar styles while improving and breaking new ground. The instrumental feels fuller and more complete, and the melody is immediately catchy. I honestly don’t mind that this is very similar because it’s just good.

They’re Finally Starting to Use More Girls!

By far my biggest surprise of the song was Haruna’s (albeit heavily autotuned) solo line. While yeah, MM is still the Reina and Riho show, this overall feels much more like a group effort than anything in the Reina and Ai era of Morning Musume. While the part that gives everyone short solo lines is very reminiscent of Wakuteka Take a Chance, it is still a great way to integrate the rest of the group together. I was personally happy for the bigger Ayumi solo line, and even the dance felt like Morning Musume was an integrated whole. This is something that Morning Musume really has lost for a while, and it feels good to have it back. The only lines that really felt out of place were the Sakura lines, personally; I didn’t really dig the sudden belting singing. But hey, it’s nice that they fit her style into Morning Musume’s current overall style.

So ultimately, I’m honestly really positive about this release. I’ve felt issues with Hello!Project in the past, but if this is the future of Morning Musume, the future looks really bright!

Proud to be MD: Why I Go Oshimen

Last week I read the very well done article on Pure Idol Heart about being an idol fan and picking a favorites. If you have yet to read what Paul wrote, look here. It’s well worth a read if you’re at all interested in thinking about the nature of being an idol fan.

Personally, I agree with what Paul writes, in theory at least. I think you should like who you like, despite the predominant idea in idol culture that you should pick an oshimen. Being a DD, someone who likes everyone, is all fine and good, I think. However, I consider myself to be an MD (Minna Daisuki) which means that while I like pretty much every idol in groups I like, that I support one as my oshimen.

However, one reason I pick an oshimen, and this is a bit of a confession to make: I have a hard time following/supporting idol groups without a firm favorite member.

I’m not quite sure why this is the case, but there are some idol groups where I can get behind them as groups, but since there isn’t an idol that stands out to me that much as an individual I just can’t have that group be one of my favorites. This was a problem for me with SKE48, for a while; I had an oshimen in the group I was a fan of, Yagami Kumi (who, for the record, I think is super fantastic), but since she wasn’t at the level of my other 48 oshimen SKE48 became the 48 group I followed least, even though I think they’ve put out really great stuff. However, now that Kuumin is leaving SKE48, I expanded my horizons, and after a couple of missteps (mainly becoming a fan of Ogiso Shiori… who then announced her graduation), I’ve become quite a fan of SKE’s Hata Sawako. So we’ll see if Shawako is enough to make me follow more of SKE48.

This also came into play with Morning Musume. While I have a blog post planned about my on and off again relationship with Hello!Project and Morning Musume in particular, in short I’ve thought about completely quitting Hello!Project for some time now. However, recently my interest in Ishida Ayumi has grown to the point where she’s one of my top current idols. I’m now actively supporting Morning Musume (through merch purchases, mostly; I bought Ayumi’s birthday shirt), and this is entirely because of one girl and the fact I think she’s amazing.

I also think that having an oshimen is helpful in larger groups that have a lot of merch. While Momoiro Clover Z, for example, is really great about having merchandise for Hako Oshi (MomoClo fans who support the whole group), not every group may have that, and it might be easier (and financially more viable) to support one member. For example, for a while I supported the second generation of S/Mileage as a unified whole, and while those are still four of my top five current Hello!Project members (2-5, Ishida Ayumi being #1). However, this made me resistant to getting merchandise because four girls is kind of a lot on my college student budget. However, once I decided on being a Meimi fan, I felt more able to get merch.

The idol industry also supports the whole “you have to pick an oshimen” idea through songs like Team B Oshi, which not only tells you to pick an oshimen, but to support Team B. (Interestingly enough, it also says that changing oshimen, also known as oshihenning, is OK, but only if it’s to that individual girl. Most idol fans look down on someone who oshihens a lot.)

That being said, while having a specific oshimen is important to me liking an idol group, I think the “Minna” part of my Minna Daisuki thing is important, as well. Occasionally I see people who only like one girl and one girl only, disliking almost everyone else. While that’s your choice, it still feels like that would make liking that idol group frustrating and flat out not fun, especially if you’re not a fan of the group.

One thing of note, however, is I think that the oshimen dynamic changes depending on what group you’re supporting. If you’re an AKB48 fan or a fan of those groups, so much rides on the senbatsu election and the Request Hour Setlist Best 100 election, so that not choosing an oshimen would pretty much disqualify you from this part of the AKB48 fandom. Larger groups or popular groups, where there are elections or rivalries within the groups, it’s hard to not have an oshimen because they encourage you to support your particular member of choice. On the other hand, I feel it’s a lot less vital for smaller, indie groups (like the ones mentioned in the Pure Idol Heart article), and that it’s honestly less important to focus on one girl in particular. The biggest factor, though, is the word of “support,” whether that means one particular girl or your favorite group.

Ultimately, though, it is your choice, and regardless of what other people feel you should enjoy idols however you want to. Because really, idols are meant for fun.

There’s no Ban on Love Songs!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy Disco readers! Whether you’re single or in a relationship, I hope you’re having a nice day. Even though love is a common theme in many idol songs, here are some ones that I find outstanding, and fitting of the day.

Valentine Kiss – Kokusho Sayuri

If you don’t listen to this every Valentine’s Day (either original version or Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 version), I don’t know where your priorities are. Seriously, this is THE quintessential Valentine’s song of idol music. It’s hard to say much more, because it’s pretty clear. I’m personally fond of the Warota version (understandably so, given the fact that I’m very fond of Oota Aika and Iwasa Misaki), but this song is just a classic song about Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate Damashii – Matsuura Aya

Another song that’s completely about Valentine’s; in Japan, chocolate is really the only gift given on Valentine’s, and it’s given only from girls to boys (who reciprocate on March 14th, White Day). I am super fond of Ayaya, and while this isn’t my favorite song by hers, it was a late single released right before the Elder Club graduation as a gift to her fans. Ayaya’s voice is beautiful as always, and it’s a beautiful song for Valentine’s.

Choco no Dorei – SKE48

I debated on whether to include this in my list, because the lyrics are a bit suspect. However, it’s one idol song that’s very directly about Valentine’s Day. The title literally means “A slave to chocolate” and it directly deals with the custom of giving chocolate as a way of confessing your love. It’s direct, but “A slave to chocolate” sounds kind of suspect, like SKE48 are forced to work in the chocolate factory (Gasp, so is Watarirouka Hashiritai 7!). However, I do get the meaning, and there’s no doubt as to the meaning.

Hashire – Momoiro Clover

One of the things that really sets Momoiro Clover apart as an idol group is that they don’t really focus on romance quite as much as other idol groups do. It honestly makes a lot of their music refreshing to hear; even songs that have love in the title aren’t really about confessing love to a boyfriend or anything, but feel more like large, grand declarations. However, MomoClo does have a few romantic songs, and my personal favorite is Hashire. The first lyric “I can’t stop smiling, my dancing heart isn’t stopping, I’m moving to you, Run! Run! Run!” is honestly one of my favorite idol lyrics. Even despite the lyrics, however, the whole song has a feel of a genuine expression of feelings. It’s a very sweet song, which makes it one of my favorites.

Hyadain – Hyadain no Kakakata Kataomoi – C

Speaking of sweet, genuine feelings! Hyadain’s first two singles he did are duets, and they’re both fantastic; however, the first one is the romantic one. Even though it’s a duet with himself (yes, the female voice here is actually Hyadain, but with pitch changes), this is a really cute song about first love ,suddenly falling for someone, and realizing your feelings. In my opinion, the duet aspect really adds to the song, in a way I don’t normally hear as an idol fan. It’s one of Hyadain’s best, and given the fact I consider him to be the next big idol composer, that’s saying a lot.

Ki ga Tsukeba Anata – Matsuura Aya

OK, I love Ayaya. But there were honestly too many songs I wanted to put on this list that weren’t hers. Do I go cute, happy earlier route and go with Momoiro Kataomoi? Or do I go with the later, serious route with stuff like Only One (from her most recent album, Click You Link Me). I honestly love both super idol Ayaya and more serious singer Matsuura Aya, so it was tough to pick. So, I went in between with something from what was kind of the transitional phase. The one thing that kind of amuses me about this is that this song was primarily used for iced tea ads, but yet it’s one of the most sweet, genuine love songs from Hello!Project. The lyrics are about realizing that the perfect person for you has been by your side all along (a trope I’m absolutely a sucker for), and the song itself (both Ayaya’s great vocals and the instrumental) fits the theme perfectly.

Akai Sweet Pea – Matsuda Seiko

Another classic! Not much to say about this, other than it’s one of Japan’s classic love songs. Matsuda Seiko is one of the most famous idols of all time in Japan, and this is one of her most famous songs, and for good reason.

Even More on Minegishi Minami and the Scandal that Rocked the World

Since I wrote my small take on the Minegishi Minami scandal, this thing has blown up, big time. I’ve seen news about the scandal hit various publications worldwide, and all over the internet. I was browsing Reddit (even though I occasionally comment in the JPop section, this is a primarily non-idol experience of mine) and I saw people referring to pop stars shaving her head. It’s no wonder, I think; it’s hard not to be moved by Miichan looking into the camera, crying, with a shaved head. That being said, this new wave of interest has made me think of even more things about this scandal.

The one thing that really stood out to me in this English-language look is that, unless the source is one that already primarily looks into idols, that there is a general misinformation and general lack of knowledge of Japanese culture, Japanese idol culture, and AKB48 as a whole. This is a topic that I once actually considered covering on Idolminded; giving a scorecard of sorts and holding these ‘news’ sources accountable. Because a lot of articles are poorly researched and clearly just focus in on “oh, it’s weird/crazy/perverted Japan” when there’s fairly reasonable explanations for a lot of things.

One aspect that obviously got people interested is Miichan cutting off her hair. This is what gets people most appalled, and understandably so; it’s shocking and a very visible reminder of Miichan’s status in the scandal. However, there are a couple of things. One is that shaving ones head does already have a precedent in Japanese culture; I won’t go into too much detail, but it is a sign of remorse. For a bit more on this, you all should check out this article at Shoujiki Media¬†which is just in general a really great take at this situation and looking at Japanese culture. I’m not saying I agree with this situation, because I am not for the dating rules by any means, but it’s important to view this situation in its proper cultural context, instead of taking it out of context and saying “look how disgusting AKB/idol culture is.” People also forget that the rule against dating isn ‘t just enforced within AKB, but idol groups in general; remember Kanou Kaede of Super Girls? Really, if we accept that Miichan cut her hair off by her own accord, the punishment of a demotion is lighter than being completely fired.

Another question that has also been understandably brought up is the question of if Minegishi really chose to do this herself; this has been debated a bit in Idolminded, and I see this being a really tough question. Ultimately, I do believe that this was Miichan’s choice that she made. While she has never been my oshimen, I’ve always had a bit of a fondness for Miichan, and this really strikes me (and my friends who are fans of hers) as something she would do; she likely feels responsible and guilty. That being said, if we think about management potentially influencing her decision, we want to ask why. The consensus is that it would make fans feel sorry for Miichan and increase her popularity, which could be true, but shaving her hair is a pretty big risk, one that I don’t know the 48 group would take. We’ve already seen idols in the face of scandal survive (Sasshi, Sayaka) and the public does feel sympathy without this. The move to kenkyuusei is shocking enough that I don’t personally believe management influenced Miichan. The word from both Miichan and management is that she chose it on her own, and everything else is speculation.

One kind of alarming thing I’ve seen on tumblr especially is a call to get the apology flagged and removed from Youtube because it allegedly shows abuse (this is assuming that Miichan wasn’t the one who chose this. While there has been a great deal of misinformation, the one thing I worry about in this case is the effect on Miichan. the video getting removed could be see as a symbolic rejection of her apology, when I’m sure at this point she made her point and just wants to move on.

I’ve also seen criticisms of AKB48 fans, and I have to say that in following this in both English and (slightly limited) Japanese, I’ve yet to see one person negative towards Miichan; the only thing that comes close is that, in regards to the dating rule, idols know what they’re getting into, and to an extent I’d agree with that. I’ve seen people referring to the fans as being very disappointed and outraged when an idol dates, and I’ve yet to see this. So I think that while dating rules have been pretty stable, idol fans themselves have become more lenient (though, this has been the case for a while; I remember Fujimoto Miki fans were very upset with the tabloids, not Miki, when her scandal broke).

If you’re thinking or even wondering if you should stop being an AKB fan because of this, or have seen people ask something like that, I refer you to one of my favorite blog articles of all time, How to be a Fan of Problematic Things. While this isn’t about idols at all, it’s a really good look at being a fan of something, even if you disagree with some things in it. So even if you find this whole thing problematic and distateful, you don’t have to quit AKB or even idols.

Ultimately, it’s the time to support Miichan above all else, and if you’re a fan of AKB try to gently stop the spread of misinformation.