When it was announced that Morning Musume was adding a new generation, I saw a lot of bewilderment, and a lot of finger pointing, at one person in particular.
While Tsunku might not be the one to blame in this situation (most of the decisions are made by UFA higher ups), it still is a curious situation. The tenth generation really seemed to come quickly after the ninth generation, and the 11th generation soon after. So, why do they do it?
Announcements Feel Quicker Than the Real Deal
Maybe this is a bit obvious, but to state the obvious: auditions take time. Not necessarily for every idol group, but MM likes to have multiple stages of the audition process, publicize the last bit with the boot camp, and then pick girls. Even when that’s all said and done, there’s some time between when they’re picked and when they actually become active members of the group. So even though it feels like Oda Sakura JUST joined, she was accepted into Morning Musume about six months ago. It’ll take awhile for these new girls to join, Reina will be long gone, and it might work out nicely.
No More S/Mileage/Country Musume Situations
Not that I ever think this could happen to Morning Musume, but for me one of the weirdest times was right after Eri, JunJun and LinLin left the group, but right before 9th gen entered. Five members, the first time since the group formed. Morning Musume needs a steady stream of members, so that they can maintain having a steady group of people. The reason I think S/Mileage went for the multiple generation route was because Ogawa Saki was leaving (happened after the 2nd generation announcement, but management still could have, most likely knew) and they possibly already knew Maeda Yuuka was leaving. The group wasn’t stable, so to maintain this new group they wanted new members. They didn’t want another Country Musume situation on their hands, where after the first single Rinne just had to do some solo singles until they added Asami and then Ishikawa Rika for the Country Musume ni groups. Hello!Project’s going for longevity, so they want a good number of girls in Morning Musume at all time.
Really, the Group’s not THAT Full
Reina’s leaving. This is a fact. It’s also pretty safe to bet that in the next couple of years, Michishige Sayumi will also say goodbye to the group, mostly because she’s been with Morning Musume for so long, and the age gap is getting even bigger. So when Reina leaves, there will be 10 members, and when Sayumi leaves there will only be 9 members. For those who mostly got into Morning Musume in the Platinum era that was the norm, but having more than that is by no means unheard of, right around when 5th generation and 6th generation joined.
More members can also bring in more fans; one of the ingenious things about AKB48 is it’s sheer size, and the fact that the concept (a classroom) encourages various types of girls. With all the different members, it’s easy to find at the very least one girl you like, if not more. Even if there are front girls (which is the case for pretty much any idol group), Morning Musume putting in more girls means that there are more opportunities to get fans interested. I know that I was ready to stop paying attention, but then I became a fan of Ishida Ayumi.
Stagnate Morning Musume is One to be Avoided
This is possibly the most important thing to remember. Right now, Morning Musume are making an honestly fantastic comeback, and are at the best sales they’ve had in a while. They’re starting to get more and more recognition as being more than “that group that brought you Love Machine.” Of course, they’re not mainstream popular yet, nor are they anywhere close to being the top idol group in Japan, but it feels like they’re finally putting in a lot of effort as a group. Part of that includes a fresh line up. One of the things that Morning Musume is known for, other than Love Machine and Renai Revolution 21, is their line-up changing system. And for good reason! But in their heyday, almost every single was a change in line-up; before Koi no Dance Site Ishiguro left, before Happy Summer Wedding the fourth generation joined, before I Wish Ichii left, Renai Revolution stayed the same, and before The Peace Yuko left. It generates a lot of buzz and is honestly the thing that keeps the group going; the stagnate line-up of the Platinum era did no favors, and didn’t bring in many new fans. So adding new members, if it contributes to keeping these fresh line-ups and making the group interesting again, is fine by me.