Okay, so I could have done like I dunno maybe 4 or 5 different articles covering each Hello! Project group. They all had fairly decent years and put out some great music that I really enjoyed. This End of Year thing is going to be long enough as it is though, and I really don’t feel like adding several thousand more words to it.
So I’m just going to consolidate everything into one neat little article for both your sanity and mine. If you want a more in depth, month by month review of all things Hello! Project then check out my buddy @thenumber244’s Power Rankings. They’re really detailed and serve as excellent recaps of the monthly happenings in H!P land. It’s probably my favorite thing that gets posted on the site currently.
Before we get started I suppose I should talk about what was arguably the biggest news to come out of Hello! Project in 2015. This of course was the announcement that Tsunku would be stepping down as overall producer of the agency as a result of his battle with cancer. People were naturally saddened by this news, as well as being concerned about the musical future of the groups they’d come to love under Tsunku’s production. Well, 2015 has unquestionably been one of the most successful and musically diverse years for Hello! Project in a long time, so hopefully those concerns have been eased, even if only slightly.
I’m not really sure where to start so let’s just go with C-ute because I don’t have a whole lot to say about them. I wouldn’t say they were near the top in my personal H!P ranking but this year they did release a single that I really enjoyed. That single was the triple a-side “The Middle Management ~Josei Chuukan Kanrishoku~ / Gamusha LIFE / Tsugi no Kado wo Magare”. A nice little collection of songs that could easily have been three different singles but I guess you can’t have too much of a good thing and this definitely was a good thing.
Let’s move on to Morning Musume now. 2015 saw the group trying to steady the ship after Michishige Sayumi’s graduation the previous year, as well as trying to acclimatize its 12th generation to the expectations that were now being placed on their shoulders. A completely unenviable position to be in, but to their credit they managed it all just about as well as could be expected of them.
Musically, this wasn’t my favorite vintage of Morning Musume. Recent years have definitely been more appealing to me than 2015 was, but they still put out some pretty good music. Songs like “Sukatto My Heart” and “One and Only” stood out as personal highlights from what was a solid but perhaps not as memorable year as I was hoping for. Interesting point to note is that Tsunku retains lyric and composition duties for much of Morning Musume’s musical output. Food for thought.
As we reached the end of 2015, it looked like the going was pretty good for Morning Musume. That was until it was announced on October 29 that the group’s ace Sayashi Riho would be graduating to pursue other interests. It was a weird announcement, one that many took to imply that Riho felt Morning Musume was holding her back. Who knows if that’s actually the case or not, what we do know is that it’s another body blow to a group that had just recovered from Michishige’s graduation not even 12 months prior.
I think I’ll talk about Angerme next, yeah sure let’s go with that. The name is still taking some getting used to, but I’m not still compulsively calling them S/mileage so I guess that’s progress. Like Morning Musume, Angerme had a bit of a rollercoaster year with some comings and going but a lot of great music too.
Undoubtedly, the biggest event in 2015 for Angerme was the graduation of long-term member and one of the pillars of the group Fukuda Kanon. Unlike with Sayashi, fans at least had almost half a year to come to terms with Fukuda’s graduation. Still, she’s going to leave a large hole in the group, a hole that could be made even larger if Wada Ayaka also decides to head for the exit sometime in the coming year.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t Wada who was next to announce her departure from the group. That honor fell to Tamura Meimi, who not even two weeks ago announced she would be graduating from the group this coming spring to focus on becoming a theater actress. Losing one of its pillars and one of its best vocalists in such a short period of time is rough for any group. Even with the addition of new member Kamikokuryo Moe, it feels like Angerme have some rebuilding to do.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom in 2015 though, as Angerme continued an impressive run of high quality single releases. This included the near universally adored “Taikei Bansei”, as well as “Desugita Kui wa Utarenai” and its fellow a-side and Fukuda Kanon’s graduation song “Watashi”. It was a great year musically for Angerme, something they might struggle to replicate in 2016 after such major personnel changes, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Moving on, it disappoints me to say that Juice=Juice didn’t really do a whole lot on the music front in 2015. That’s especially disappointing for me as they’re pretty much my favorite group in Hello! Project. Well, at least they didn’t have any graduations this year so that something. You do get the feeling that there has to be at least one on the horizon though so possibly just a temporary moment of comfort on that front.
Juice=Juice released a solitary single in 2015 in the form of “Wonderful World / Ça va ? Ça va ?”. A very pleasant single that I liked a decent amount although I wouldn’t say it was my favorite thing they’ve ever done. They also released their debut album “First Squeeze!” which contained the song “Choice & Chance”, a song that could definitely have been a single in its own right. A missed opportunity perhaps, but it’s still well worth seeking out if you have the time to.
Most of the year saw Juice=Juice performing their Juice=Juice LIVE MISSION 220 ~Code1→Begin to Run~ concert tour, with the goal to perform 220 shows by fall of this year. They’re also currently preparing to star in an upcoming Fuji TV drama titled “Budokan” where they play the role of a fictional idol group called NEXT YOU. I believe a single is also in the works to be released in the next month or so.
2015 also saw the grand re-debut of Country Girls, with…fresh (some of them anyway) faces for…I guess a new generation of fans? It’s basically Tsugunaga Momoko getting some extra credits for her teaching qualification by babysitting a bunch of punk kids who release some really good pop songs.
The most notable song of course being “Itooshikutte Gomen ne” which I’m pretty sure everyone liked for one reason or another. Maybe some people like the song, but I’m pretty sure everyone loved Shimamura Uta. Which made it incredibly painful when she withdrew from the group due to a contract dispute I believe it was. I know some people who still aren’t over this to this day, it’s quite incredible and really unfortunate that Hello! Project couldn’t hold onto someone with as much adoration as Uta had.
Not to be deterred by losing what many considered to be the group’s ace, Country Girls bounced back with the release of their second single “Wakatteiru no ni Gomen ne / Tamerai Summer Time”. While certainly not as impactful as its predecessor, it was a much needed steadying hand for a group that could have come off the rails far too early in its career.
No further singles have been announced for the group at the time of writing, but they have bolstered their line-up with the addition of a hot prospect trainee in Funaki Musubu and relative newcomer Yanagawa Nanami. Hopefully a new single will be forthcoming and we get to see the new line-up really show what they’re made of.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the two newest additions to the Hello! Project family in the form of Kobushi and Tsubaki Factory. They have the near impossible task of filling the void left behind by the…on hiatus? Berryz Koubou, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
It’s still early days with both groups so they are kind of just a footnote in this rather lengthy End of Year article, but Kobushi Factory have already shown promise with their single “Nen ni wa Nen / Survivor” so we’ll see how things go on that front. Tsubaki Factory have yet to really capture my imagination but they also haven’t even officially made their debut so I’m not sweating it at all right now. 2016 will be an interesting year as we watch both groups develop and get a better idea of the directions they’re heading in.
This was quite the rundown and I intentionally left out a bunch of stuff to try to keep it brief. Like I mentioned in the introduction, if you want a more detailed account of the year that was for Hello! Project then @thenumber244 is your guy. Let him know I sent you why don’t ya?
What do I want to see in 2016 from Hello! Project? Well hopefully Juice=Juice will release more than one single this calendar year and hopefully we won’t be rocked by too many more major graduations. I’m also interested to see how Angerme develop with their new line-up and also to see what Tsugunaga Momoko has planned next for her charges.