2011 was another big year; they released four fantastic singles (though Z Densetsu Owarinaki Kakumei and D’ no Junjou were pretty basic as far as singles go) and they put out their first album, the stellar Battle and Romance. While I’ve reviewed Battle and Romance before so I won’t do that again (it’s a phenomenal album, though), the biggest things that happened this year were the graduation of Hayami Akari and the rebranding of Momoiro Clover to Momoiro Clover Z.
As a fairly early fan of MomoClo, the video where Akari talks about her plans for graduation honestly breaks my heart a little bit. While I’ve been a fan of Sasaki Ayaka from the start, I like all the members of Momoiro Clover a lot, so hearing Akari say that she doesn’t feel suited to be an idol hurts. She’s been relatively active post-MomoClo and has had a reasonably successful career, so I’ve been glad to see her doing well. Still, I just hope she’s been happy.
The main thing that I think is interesting, though, is the rebranding from Momoiro Clover to Momoiro Clover Z. While Momoiro Clover gained traction as a group, Momoiro Clover Z is where they skyrocketed. So my question is – without this rebranding, would Momoiro Clover still be where it is today? It’s a really tough question. I want to say yes, but at the same time becoming Momoiro Clover Z is when they started to get more and more experimental and more out there with their music and presentation.
I think it shows a great deal about how much Stardust focuses on the members, though; rather than continuing on without Akari, Momoiro Clover chose to change to Momoiro Clover Z, almost because there isn’t a Momoiro Clover without Hayami Akari. And while Battle and Romance features Z versions of all the songs (so you don’t get the Akari versions of Ikuze, Pinky Johns and Mirai Bowl) I think it’s a lovely way to show how the group valued Akari. Momoiro Clover Z doesn’t shy away from remembering Akari (their first Kouhaku Uta Gassen performance included Akari in the chant for Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo).
The rebranding did, however, allow them to adopt a more super sentai image (rather than the lingering traditional Japan image) which I think suits their current music and style. Even when their current music doesn’t focus on sentai heroics, it still fits MomoClo Z as a group.
Even though I was unsure of the rebranding at the time, and kind of went back and forth as to whether I even liked “Momoiro Clover Z” as a name, I think it’s served them really well and was ultimately a good call on management’s part.