Hello! Project Power Rankings April 2015

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Guest Contributor @thenumber244 here with a look at the last month in Hello! Project land. That’s right: I take the last month of activity from the Hello! Project groups, create representative audio clips for each group, and use a highly complex spectrum analysis to decide which Hello! Project groups were hot and which groups were not. It is a tiresome business that consumes most of my precious karaoke butchering time. Remember, I’m doing it all for you!

The biggest news, and I mean paradigm shifting news that would make Thomas Kuhn wet his pants, that I did not include in the rankings this month was the “indefinite hiatus” of longtime Hello! Project group Berryz Koubou. The graduation of the group represents one of the few times a fandom truly saw an entire group of young girls grow up, become women, and gracefully exit the idol world. By now most of us Hello! Projectors have (somehow) seen the final concert, the final bows, and the closing of the Grand Drape (you can read my personal live tweets from the concert at my blog TheNumber244). From the opening “Special Generation” to the beautiful and tearful piano arrangement of “Love Together“, “Berryz Koubou Last Concert: 2015 Berryz Koubou Ikube!” provided the perfect bookend to their fabulous career. Bravos to Shimizu Saki, Tsugunaga Momoko, Tokunaga Chinami, Sudo Maasa, Ntasuyaki Miyabi, Kumai Yurina, and Sugaya Risako. Berryz Koubou forever!

As the whole of Hello! Project readied itself for the March 28-29th “Hello! Project Hina Fest 2015 ~Mankai! The Girls’ Festival~” at Pacifico Yokohama, we have a chance to reflect on the last month in the Projects. With all of that out of the way, let’s start the power ranking!

RankGroupLogo Comments
Country Girls

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(+4)I'll admit that I'm being a bit biased putting Country Girls at number one this month. But, before you go on Twitter and complain about how I've been bewitched by Shimamura Uta's cute mannerisms or Yamaki Risa's emerging beauty, I'd like you to consider a few things. The group's re-debut "Itooshikutte Gomen ne / Koi Doboru" placed third on the weekly Oricon Chart with 45,032 units sold, soundly ahead of the week's other idol contenders: Fairies and Rev from DVL.

Even more astounding, the single is the highest selling single from a current H!P group not named "Morning Musume" or C-ute. Remember how great Angerme's "Taiki Bansei / Otome no Gyakushuu" was last month? Country Girls outsold it. The fresh young group brings hope and reassurance to HaroWota reeling from the loss of Berryz Koubou with their pure and innocent idol characters and the familiar face of Tsugunaga Momoko.

Reports from release events show a young, fun group showcasing their new singles as well as performing classic Country Musume songs (as their successors). You can watch the reports from MAiDiGiTV, Oricon News, and JIJIPRESS. Along with this promotion, Country Girls sparkled in a huge billboard at Shibuya.

We can only hope that Up Front realizes that with a steady hand and the right nurturing they could have a wild success with the Country Girls. As this promotional cycle ends, I wish Momo, Risa, Manaka, Chisaki, Uta, and Mai much luck. They are going to need it to stay in the idol game.
Morning Musume '15

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(=)As of writing, we have two weeks until the release of the 58th Morning Musume single "Seishun Kozou wa Naiteiru / Yuugure wa Ameagari / Ima Koko Kara". We now have all the evidence needed to assess the first Morning Musume '15 release. The month started off with the "Pretty Cure All Stars: Spring Carnival" cross promotional song "Ima Koko Kara". Generally, reaction seems to be "WISH THIS HAD LESS PRECURE".

The freshly released "Seishun Kouzou wa Naiteiru" packs a punch to many listeners with its staccato rhythms and enough breathing room to inhale a whole bottle of Tsunku's cologne. "Yuugure wa Ameagari" delivers bittersweet tears accompanied by a piano heavy instrumental and ballet-like choreography. I'll sum up my thoughts about the songs on my blog soon, so you can wait for that if you like.

On the media watch, leader Fukumura Mizuki does her part by appearing on the cover of Young Gangan again. This time, we also celebrate Fuku-hime's graduation from high school with a 16-page accessory photo book. This month also gave us Sayashi Riho's fourth photo book, the appropriately named "Juu Roku-sai (Sixteen)". The preview photos confirm an incrementally more adult collection of photos from everyone's favorite MoMusu ace. Sub-leader Ikuta Erina gets in the game with a co-host gig on NHK's "Karada Ugokasu TV" where Eripon gets to play offbeat sports like disc golf and indiaca.

Unfortunately, the Kyuukie streak of good fortune ends here. Suzuki Kanon found herself on the wrong side of a leg injury and was unable to participate in the filming of the "Seishun Kouzou wa Naiteiru" and the "Yuugure wa Ameagari" PVs. In her place, UF decided to have Juice=Juice's Miyamoto Karin perform. This is where things got ugly. The fair amount of outrage over Karin's screen time even caught 2ch's eye as evidenced by this translation (credit: Jicchan).

Like all good fans, the amount of screen time one's idol receives becomes an obsessively monitored quantity. The encroachment on that screen time by an outsider (this time, Karin-chan-san) was sure to set off an explosion. Naturally, I have my own thoughts on the matter, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of New School Kaidan (I've always wanted to use that disclaimer!).

Finally, Kudo Haruka introduced us to the 12ki colors this month. After more than five months, we learn that Ogata Haruna is sea blue, Nonaka Miki is purple, Makino Maria is light pink, and Haga Akane is light orange. These are interesting choices. For Haa-chin, I hope that that "sea blue" will be distinguishable from Sato Masaki's emerald green color, which has morphed into Tanka Reina's light blue. I am glad to see that Eripon's old purple color has a place with Chelsea. Maria's and Crouton's colors are the lighter shades of their admired senpai: Michishige Sayumi and Kudo Haruka, respectively.

All of this news and Morning Musume '15 are at number 2, right? Will they have enough momentum to reclaim the number 1 spot next month? We shall see!
C-ute

(+1)After the Berryz Koubou graduation, Yajima Maimi, Nakajima Saki, Suzuki Airi, Okai Chisato, and Hagiwara Mai from C-ute are the last women standing from Hello! Project Kids. What's more, Yajima Maimi became the first home-grown leader of Hello! Project.

How did they fare for the rest of March? Well, March started with C-ute's Suzuki Airi on the cover of Young Gangan. From here, the promotional schedule went into what seems to be a lower gear. Part of that perception might be the emphasis placed on the Country Girls debut. But, with two days until release (as of this writing), C-ute doesn't seem to have the standard release package that accompanies most Hello! Project singles.

Whatever the circumstances, C-ute kicks off Hello! Project's busy April release schedule with their triple A-side "The Middle Management ~Josei Chuukan Kanrishoku~ / Gamusha LIFE / Tsugi no Kado wo Magare". The release is a powerful mix of songs punctuated with the Nakajima Takui song "Tsugi no Kado wo Magare".

In what will hopefully be standard practice, the Music+ YouTube channel featured the recording process for "Tsugi no Kado wo Magare" (parts one two three). It's a great look at the insides of a studio, where the magic is made. Here's the big question: will an 83% Tsunku free C-ute release continue the girls' recent string of success? I'll get back to you on that in about a week.
ANGERME

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(-3)Angerme finallly cooled off in March. After spending the last three months floating atop of the Projects, the girls reached the end of the promotional cycle for last month's "Taiki Bansei / Otome no Gyakushuu". The "Crying Angels" haven't completely stopped, though. Their latest single made a surprise appearance at #3 on the Oricon daily charts at the beginning of the month.

As predicted, Sasaki Rikako continues to keep her group in the public's eye with another cover appearance in the Princess Bambina magazine. Leader Wada Ayaka found herself a new gig as a regular on TV-Tokyo's "Charge 7:30", while 3ki member Murota Mizuki found herself at a strawberry farm with C-ute's Nakky and Country Girls' Manakan.

All told, March wasn't a horrible month for Angerme - they just can't match the media buzz that accompanies new releases...which brings us to a surprise at the bottom floor of the Projects.
Juice=Juice

(+1)Concerned about Juice=Juice at the bottom of the rankings every month? So am I. For a group with so much buzz and excitement around them at their debut (far more buzz than Country Girls, even), I cannot understand how the group can place at the bottom for the almost a half-year. Remember, these rankings are objective, right (lol)?

At least things are looking upwards for the girls as they have an incoming double A-side release next month with the April 8 release of"Wonderful World / Ça Va? Ça Va?". The release fits the Juice=Juice formula with one song, "Wonderful World", playing cute and playful and the other "Ça Va? Ça Va?" influenced by world music (in this case, a French theme).

The promotional cycle should do wonders for the group that seemed poised to take over the Projects. With new competition from Country Girls and Kobushi Factory, Juice=Juice have a long road ahead of them.

And then there's that issue with Miyamoto Karin, Suzuki Kanon, and the new Morning Musume '15 PVs (see above). Although blameless in the whole affair, Karin-chan-san's name is now linked with an ugly incident that seems to have brought out the worst in everyone. That's unfortunate. I can only hope that the inclusion of Chan-san in the "Seishun Kouzou wa Naiteiru" and "Yuugure wa Ameagari" PVs turns more eyes toward the Juicers, which was probably the intended effect all along.

So, who is ready for the best Chanson inspired idol release featuring an accordion, surf guitar, and timpani drums?

 
Like always, you’re free to disagree. Give me an earful in the comments below, my personal twitter, or the New School Kaidan Twitter. Don’t forget to visit me at my main blog The Number 244, where I can endlessly analyze the introductory video for the latest Hello! Project group, KOBUSHI FACTORY, while watching their debut performance on The Girls Live. Colonel Hamachan for president, right?

About NSK

New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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