Another Smileage Member Makes Like a Tree

Just when people were accepting the absence of Ogawa Saki in Smileage, another member is taking her leave; again, with no previous indication or warning. This time, it’s Maeda Yuuka. She will be leaving on the last day of this year, December 31st, 2011.

It was said that she will be graduating to focus on studies and getting into a university, and no statement has yet been made by Tsunku as of this post. To make things more interesting, rumors are floating around that there is to be another Smileage audition coming up as soon as next year.

Since no other information has been released on this matter, let’s get into some speculation. Could this be an act of dissatisfaction? Not even a year ago the four members seemed like a group with wild ambitions, telling everyone on television that they wanted to become the freshest idol group in the market. Surely, something had broken between then and now.

Maybe it was the announcement of a new audition. I could see the original Smileage thinking they were the next C-ute or Berryz, in that their line up was rock solid with no additions; that they alone would work together and climb to the top. But here comes Tsunku, announcing a new Smileage audition—something unheard of in H!P outside of Morning Musume.

What does that mean for the girls? Are they not selling enough? Working hard enough? Surely, it could have caused friction and stress within the group. Being eggs together for quite some time before becoming Smileage, they were an extremely tight group, and now they’re going to grow to practically double their size? Are more auditions on the way? All of a sudden, the game changed.

It’s no longer C-ute or Berryz. Smileage has become a revolving door like Morning Musume—members in, members out. Their places just became that much more vulnerable, and shook their unity. One can’t fault Tsunku for wanting to do that; I even think that it makes a lot of business sense. Smileage would become the fresher large idol group, without the name of ‘Morning Musume’ holding it down. But maybe that wasn’t what Ogawa or Yuuka signed up for. The fire that drove the core of Smileage a year ago now seems barely lit.

Leaving Smileage and studying for a University is fine, but leaving the group BECAUSE she wants to study? Whether or not my totally fabricated story has any weight to it, I can tell you with full confidence that it wasn’t in her plan book to leave barely two years into her Smileage career. So just what could it be? Whatever it is, it’s clear that something made Yuuka and Ogawa think that leaving was their best option.

My dramatic fabrications aside, it just sucks that my Smileage oshimen is leaving. Like Hayami Akari leaving Momoiro Clover, it’ll be a while until I regain interest in the group and even longer until I find another favorite member.


About Dae Lee

-Dae, aka Mizu -Writer, broadcaster, and podcaster on New School Kaidan

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  1. In a way I wonder if this does kinda back up feelings I had about S/mileage becoming the new MM over time, as you said, the same thing under a different name….

    For that tough Maeda Yuuka would have been a big part of the plan, for the long touted ‘future star of H!P’ to quit, is surely bad news for the company. I don’t buy the Uni thing either, if Nakamata Shiori can do it in AKB attending Waseda tat surely Yuuka could of mixed both aswell.

    Perhaps this really is a case of not what you signed up for, perhpas, like Saki, she did not want to be a part of something that she did not believe in anymore.

    Another question, perhpas that will have to be left unanswered is also is S/Mileage can work without Yuuka, she was the big name in that group amd now, like in MM, the is a big question mark on how things will be for them now.

    Perhpas it’s good that Karin and Jang Dayeon didn’t get into MM after all…….

  2. Ragequit, IMO.

  3. Not buying the reason behind her deciding to leave either. H!P must have some pretty substantial problems if yet another one of their groups is suffering from revolving door syndrome.

    • Another nail in the coffin for Smileage. From here on, this could be the second coming of the tragedy that was Tanpopo. That group had a rocky but promising start and as soon as the group was entirely replaced with new members, things took a turn for the worse. If there’s anything that I’ve learned about line changes ups, is that too many at such a frequent rate would not only change the image and sound of the group, but it would also deteriorate the numbers of the remaining fanbase over time.

      Remember when they won best new artist for 2010, beating out snsd? They were ecstatic and said that they would do their best to win again next year. Man, what happened? I blame Koi no Booing. The real reason why Yuuka and Saki left? So they wouldn’t have to perform that damned song live ever again. You can see the torment behind their smiling faces when they perform it, haha xD I’m only half joking here. Or perhaps they were making a sequel to Koi no Booing with advanced pig costumes and suddenly it hit Yuuka that it was time to get the fuck out

  4. Man, I’m lucky I’ve haven’t made a S/mileage oshimen yet. I mean seriously, I don’t get what’s going on. People have left the idol industry for school (Oku Minami, Ono Erena) but this early? The two girls have barely started their career and I really wonder if the new auditions caused their exit or vice versa. I wish they was more solid evidence instead of speculation.

  5. I didn’t read yet.. but holy fuck im pissed.

  6. :( Yuukarin was my 2nd fav member, right after Saki. Now, if Ayaka Wada leaves I’ll officially have no other reason for following this group. I’m getting the sense that Dawa will also graduate within the next year, leaving the duties of leader to kanon and a new smileage audition will be in the works.

    Man, ever since Saki’s departure things have felt like an unstable roller coaster, eh? I mean, we will be losing a total of 2 members and a promising submember in mere months. Considering that the submember promotions were only recently, things were starting to look up but Yuuka’s graduation completely quashes that for me. I’ve been following smileage before their major debut and I’ve always had high hopes for this group. I would have never imagined them being in the current state that they’re in now. It all just feels tragic to me somehow.

    To commemorate their departure towards a more promising future, here’s an awesome gif of Yuuka and Saki bustin’ a move. Ahh, good times, good times…

  7. I’m not denying that she may very well indeed be serious about her education. But to be fair, the audition was announced because Saki had discussed leaving with UFA and Tsunku beforehand. It’s not like Tsunku just decided to pop up out of nowhere and be like “Let’s fuck shit up!” Tsunku is nothing but a producer, and, as stated by UFA on several occasions, doesn’t decide the final lineup of any of the groups. I’m sure he might influence their decision but he doesn’t decide who is in and who isn’t or even when a new gen is added to MM.

    As confident and as sure as these girls were when it was just the four of them, it just seems like there was an overall shift in their attitudes ever since that audition announcement. I think Dawa has remained the most positive when it comes to the changes S/mileage has gone through, but she’s leader. It’s her job to boost morale and keep everyone in high spirits. I just feel like they try to project themselves as happy but you can tell it hasn’t been genuine since the lineup change. It feels like they’ve sort of given up.

    Like I said, I don’t doubt that she is serious about her studies. But I don’t think that’s the driving force in her leaving. I think the downside to having a group like S/mileage who has had a solid lineup for so long is that the members will eventually not handle change well, which is sad. I don’t even care if people think of groups like MM as “revolving door” groups. If one person’s time comes or they just choose to leave, they always have the option of finding new talents that make up for that loss (but not necessarily replace) and add new personalities to the mix, which often makes for a refreshing change of pace. UFA knew when Saki left that S/mileage would not have that same spark as it did. They needed to keep S/mileage in everyone’s mind. They stated in the beginning the lineup was not final, so what better time to change it than when you are at that time potentially loosing a good asset to the group? Seems logical to me.

    Like Mara said above, I think the best way to sum this up is pretty much “ragequit”. It might be too much, too soon to jump to that conclusion but considering we never get explanations for when members just up and leave for whatever reason, I’m probably going to stick with that assumption until something comes up. I think what worse is that Kanon and Dawa are left in a sucky position. They still have to help the new members adjust and adapt to work, and even with the new girls, their expectations will probably be set higher as far as making people still want to support them. Typically, Japanese fans support no matter what. But what I’ve seen with a lot of international fans is that people jump ship immediately as soon as their oshimen leave. That’s not a terrible act (I mean, for a lot of people, that marks the last of their interest in the group leaving). But I just think it sucks that they are going to have to really work to promote the new S/mileage to people.

  8. Yeah, it seemed pretty weird for me.
    First Saki left, I was really sad because it wouldn’t be the same. Saki’s voice added some character to their songs.
    And I watched videos where the 4 sub-members have sang Ama No Jaku , Yumemiru 15sai , and shortcut.
    I just couldn’t watch it because I’m TOTALLY NOT USED TO IT >A<
    But now that Yuuka's leaving, what's going?
    And the line-up change, when I heard that some members already there were going to be moved or something, I was like NO, THAT SHOULDN'T BE HAPPENING!
    Maybe something happened that made Saki and Yuuka make their decisions. Or maybe they just thought it wasn't the right path for them anymore.
    Pretty much "ragequitted"
    :/ I'll stay a S/mileage fan, but it's getting harder and harder to keep up and stay a fan.

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