Guest Contributor @thenumber244 here with a look at the last month in Hello! Project land. That’s right: I balance two pencils at 90 degrees atop a circular list of the Hello! Project groups and chant “Charlie, Charlie, who rules the Projects?” Sometimes Charlie makes a mistake or two, but I always suss enough from the peculiar poltergeist to accurately assess the Project people. You would think I’d just create a near-comprehensive list of H!P activity by group, but that wouldn’t be nearly as fun.
July saw most of Hello! Project saddle up for the next round of releases. The groups also immersed themselves in bringing the Hello! Project Summer 2015 ~Challenger~ and ~Discovery~ concerts to venues in Aichi, Hokkaido, and Osaka. About half of the current Hello! Project roster is new as of the this year, so these concerts give the girls opportunities to learn more about each other and strengthen their bonds.
In other news, H!P announced a new monthly subscription service called “Hello! Project Mobile” for Smartphones to distribute news and other tidbits. Of course, you need a Japanese cell phone to make this work, so good luck with that.
Rankings, Come On!
|Angerme||(+1)||Two groups closely contested for the top spot this month. But, with their strong showing on the singles chart and a pincer attack on the visual medium, ANGERME takes the top spot for August. In the lead up to their 19th single, the group released the promotional videos for "Nana Korobi Ya Oki", "Gashin Shoutan", and "Mahou Tsukai Sally" to positive acclaim.
This acclaim manifested itself on release week as the single sold 42,663 units. That number represents a scant 441 unit decrase from their previous single "Taiki Bansei / Otome no Gyakushuu", and represents the group's 2nd best showing on the Weekly Oricon Chart. If you didn't realize it before, the 19th single has a good chance of becoming ANGERME's best selling single ever. That's great news in a year that seems to be the year of ANGERME!
In July, Wada Ayaka received some great news as her book "Otome no Kaiga Annai" gets a reprinting in Chinese. This makes an English release that much closer, right? But, the big print release for ANGERME was the photobook debut of Sasaki Rikako. As with all photobooks from the young girls of the idol world, nothing brings the zeitgeist of the idol otaku to the surface faster than the release of a photobook.
While I have no intention of sorting through the morals of the situation, I will note that 14 year-old Rikako already makes quite a living modeling for magazines inside and outside of her role as an idol. This photobook seems like a logical progression for Rikako whether or not she was the young face of ANGERME.
The final bell for Fukuda Kanon draws ever closer. With three months to go, expect Nyon's victory lap with solo bus tours, solo events, magazine and web interviews, and a TV appearance or two. As with the rest of the Projects, ANGERME continue with the Hello! Project Summer 2015 ~Discovery~ and ~Challenger~ tours through August. Next month, the group's "Fighting Nine" Tour will begin in Kanagawa, and I expect to start hearing news of Kanon's final single with ANGERME sometime in the next 1-1.5 months.
|Juice=Juice||(+3)||Its been a successful quarter for the Juice=Juice Girls. Most visibly, the Juicers released their debut album on July 15. In total, Juice=Juice released 29 songs spread among the three different versions of the release. Alongside with the double and triple A-side singles, "First squeeze!" featured new album only tracks and some Juicey covers of classic Hello! Project songs from Taiyou to Ciscomoon, Melon Kinenbi, Ongaku Gatas, Goto Maki, and Tanpopo.
To help with the album's reception, two promotional videos, "Tsuzuiteiku STORY" and "CHOICE & CHANCE" kept YouTube watch lists extremely occupied. In some respects, the promotional schedule for "First Squeeze!" seemed just as ambitious as any of their previous singles.
In addition to their continuing "MISSION 220" concert tour, Juice=Juice announced a pair of overseas dates, the first for the group. Yuka, Tomoko, Sayuki, Karin, and Akari take their road show to Taiwan on October 3 and Hong Kong on October 4. You can see footage of the announcement here.
Next month will be a very busy month for the girls. Between the "MISSION 220" tour and the "H!P Summer 2015 ~Discovery~ and ~Challenger~" tours, Juice=Juice will perform on a 19 of the 31 days of August in venues stretching from Tochigi to Miyazaki. If we see a downturn in their activities outside the concert halls, it's because they are exhausted.
|Morning Musume '15||(=)||Writing this Power Ranking at the end of the month as I am, the Morning Musume '15 machine seems to overwhelm the rest of the projects. But, things only really started to get going in the last week of July. So, however it seems now, the Fukumura Mizuki's team earn their third place in this edition of Power Ranking.
As the release date approaches, the promotional videos of "Sukatto My Heart", "Oh My Wish!", and "Ima Sugu Tobikomu Yuuki" were released. These videos were almost immediately overshadowed by the talk of the girls' body shapes. "Oh My Wish!" came with talk of Suzuki Kanon's weight loss and new center position. Meanwhile, attention for "Ima Sugu Tobikomu Yuuki" immediately diverted to Sayashi Riho, her weight gain, and her state of health/mental exhaustion.
Personally, after four years of shouldering the flagship group under intense scrutiny (Riho started this when she was 13!), I'm not too surprised she short-circuited. We can only hope the long term effects of this affair aren't detrimental to this young talent.
In lighter news, Morning Musume '15 made a couple of key television appearances in July. In news relevant to me, Ikuta Erina, Iikubo Haruna, and C-ute's Okai Chisato competed on Pussuma's Spicy Food Battle. Over the episode, the girls get plenty of screen time as they play a "Morning Musume Dance Intro" game (in which Eripon gets to apply the "Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke" slap to Yuusuke), Yuusuke eats Eripon's vegetables for her, and Eripon cheers on Yuusuke. You can watch the fun here.
If you want more of the girls in your viewing, you can also watch Morning Musume '15 perform "Renai Revolution 21 (updated)" with Funassi during Fuji TV's midyear music special "FNS Uta no Natsu Matsuri".
Morning Musume '15 releases its 59th single, "Oh My Wish / Ima Sugu Tobikomu Yuuki / Sukatto My Heart", on August 19. You should expect the promotional machine to hit throttle in the coming weeks.
More immediate than Morning Musume '15s' release is the second single by the Country Girls. "Wakatteiru no ni Gomen ne / Tamerai Summertime" hits stores on August 5, less than a week after I'm writing these Power Rankings. Both promotional videos are now live on YouTube and cement the group's reputation as a throwback idol group.
Each of the songs evoke musical styles from a bygone era while the girls typify the cute girl-next-door expected from a traditional idol group. The true test here will be to see how well the girls withstand the loss of (arguably) their most visible and charismatic member, Shimamura Uta. You can check their progress on my Twitter.
In other news, Morito Chisaki appears to be the newly chosen center of the group. You can see her at center of "Wakatteiru no ni Gomen ne" especially. As befitting the center girl, Chisaki released the digest version of Greeting ~ Morito Chisaki" mid-July. You can preorder the Blu Ray at e-Hello with a shipping date somewhere in September.
Single ordered, all that's left for now is the chart watching.
|C-ute||(-1)||Considering the group kept to a sparse schedule in July, I'm a tiny bit surprised that C-ute moved up one spot in the Power Ranking. Well, maybe not too surprised. Listen, with Kobushi Factory release their debut in about one month, the rankings here at the cellar of the Projects are a bit murky. Okai Chisato and Suzuki Airi generated most of the noise coming from the senior Hello! Project group. For her part, Airi continues her modeling duties with Ray Magazine.
However, what seems to be a bigger story is the increasing presence of Chisa on television. As we saw in the Morning Musume section, Chisato participated in the Spicy Food Battle on Pussuma. Chisato also announced in July that she would begin appearing regularly on Chou Shiritoriaru (Tokyo TV). With her other regular appearances on Haraichi no kami app! (Tokyo MX), Afro no Hen (Fuji TV), and J:Tele Style (J:COM), Okai now appears on four programs. Kudos to Suzuki and Okai for keeping C-ute and the rest of Hello! Project in the public eye!
Up next for C-ute are appearances in the Rock in Japan Festival on August 2 and a new single announcement projected for sometime in the next month. Further ahead we have Mexico and "℃-ute Cutie Circuit ~¡Vamos a México!" on September 19.
|Kobushi Factory||(=)||Honestly? I feel a tiny bit guilty putting Kobushi Factory in these rankings ahead of their first single release. But, consider that Inoue Rei currently holds the most regular television jobs in Hello! Project with her work on Oha Star. ReiRei alone gives the group a fighting chance in the Power Rankings!
That aside, these are exciting times for Magnolia Girls! Their association with the "Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san" continues. The September 2 street date for their major debut, "Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan / Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta / Nen ni wa Nen (Nen'iri Ver.)" approaches quickly. Looking at the Hello! Project timetable, we should see promotional videos for the songs in the very near future.
Very soon, Hirose Ayaka, Fujii Rio, Nomura Minami, Ogawa Rena, Hamaura Ayano, Taguchi Natsumi, Wada Sakurako, and Inoue Rei make their debut in the Tokyo Idol Festival 2015. The performance looks to me like a little push out of the womb for the new idol group. Looking forward to more from the Factory Girls!
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 contemplate the near-nakedness of the ladies of Juice=Juice.