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, run them through multiple sophisticated statistical software systems, and output a highly subjective ranking of the groups. If you pay attention to Hello! Project at all, then you already know the one huge news item from November. Tamura Meimi cut her hair!!!
The biggest thing you won’t see in the rankings is the formation of a new group! It’s actually a reformation, because Country•Girls is the continuation of Country Musume. The group includes Satoda Mai as the “General Manager” and Tsugunaga Momoko as “Playing Manager”. I guess when Mai starts playing the role of baseball wife (pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 20), the relatively inexperienced Girls will need an experienced hand among them. Momo will become a full time member of Country•Girls when the inevitable happens on March 3rd. The Girls will include two Kenshuusei: Yamaki Risa (beautiful), Inaba Manaka (incredibly talented); and three Morning Musume 12th generation finalists: Morito Chisaki (local idol), Shimamura Uta (largely unknown), and Ozeki Mai (cutie child model). Since they haven’t done much of anything yet, I’m not going to include them in the Power Ranking until they have a proper debut or activities. Until then, you can read more about the new group at TheNumber244.
And, with the announcements out of the way, let’s start the December Hello! Project Power Rankings!
|Morning Musume '14||(=)||Michishige Sayumi.
Writing this article on the morning after Sayumi's graduation, it really felt like the world stopped for a few moments last night. As an idol, Michishige Sayumi had no discernible talents in the Western sense of the word. But, with her looks, her personality, and her determination she became the most relevant thing in the world for a brief 2.5 hours. To many (myself included), Sayu's accomplishments are the essence of idol-dom. She is nothing, yet everything. Sayu's ability to brighten a mood with a smile, her looks, or her off-key singing is very definition of an idol. No matter which side of the Sayu you fall on, you have to admit her graduation, and the passing of the last link to the first generation and the golden generation, dominated Hello! Project discussion this month.
Not that other things didn't happen in November. Newly confirmed sub leader Ikuta Erina spent her November 12 at the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Pacific Ocean Masters Pro-Am Charity Golf Tournament with
One of the things that's coming is the new Morning Musume "Alo Hello". The DVD, shot in Hawaii this summer got it's preview at the end of an excruciatingly long "Haru! Station". I'm not joking when I say the video consists primarily of Kudo Haruka eating a steak dinner while "The Manpower (Updated)" loops in the background. BUT, if you can make it to the end of the video (Seriously, just skip to it. -GM), you are rewarded with images of Morning Musume '14 frolicking at a water park. The girls are a couple of years older than the last Alo Hello in 2012. Let's just say that the two years makes a big difference. The Alo-Hello! photo book goes on sale in December and the Alo-Hello! DVD goes on sale in January.
With each ending is a new beginning, and so we need to talk about the 12th generation. You may have seen them standing with their seniors during "Mikaeri Bijin" or saying their goodbyes to Sayumi. Ogata Haruna, Nonaka Miki, Makino Maria, and Haga Akane were featured in three magazine features this month (Gravure the Television, Young Gangan, and Monthly Entame). And in the ending to the ending, Sayumi revealed the oft-debated leadership of Morning Musume '15. Fukumura Mizuki ascends to the leader position while Iikubo Haruna remains sub leader. In a surprise move that made Sato Masaki giggle, Ikuta Erina became a new sub leader for Morning Musume. This means Morning Musume finally becomes the Mizukingdom with HoneyPon. Or is it just HoneyPonPon? Or maybe PonHoneyPon?
|Berryz Koubou||(+3)||We all know that "Romance wo Katatte / Towa no Uta" is the farewell single from Berryz Koubou, and we probably expected the single to be Berryz highest selling single ever. Perhaps unexpected though is the single's 77,285 first week units sold, the most units ever sold by an H!P Kids unit. Even more impressively, the single currently places just ahead of 2001's "Love Namida Iro" by Matsuura Aya on the all-time Hello! Project first week sales list. In fact, the last non-Musume Hello! Project single to break the 70,000 unit barrier is Matsuura Aya's 2003 single "Ne~e". So, yes, Virginia: the single is a big seller. Beyond those numbers, the songs manage to remain upbeat and hopeful, retrospective yet not sentimental. I think Tsunku hit a home run with these songs as they seem like the perfect send-off for such a breakthrough group.
Looking to the future, Berryz Koubou will hold their final stage on March 3 at Nippon Budokan, the same date as their debut single "Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai" in 2004. Three events on February 28, March 1, and March 2 lead up to the Budokan live and give all Berryz Kobo fans a chance to fill up on the girls for the last time. Finally, Berryz Kobo will release their final album "Kanjuku Berryz Kobo The Final Completion Box" on January 21. It is said that the final album will contain the group's entire ten-year history. That's going to be one thick box!
|C-ute||(+1)||Getting the numbers out of the way, C-ute's "I Miss You / The Future" sold 60,120 copies during it's first week. The number is impressive enough to be the group's 4th best selling single, just barely less than 2013's "Kanashiki Amefuri / Adam to Eve no Dilemma". "I Miss You" features intertwining vocal parts rarely heard very much in idol music and a split-screen, one-take video that will make your head scratch if you're paying attention. "The Future" takes a more conventional approach, but features a swinging 12/8 time signature that relentlessly thumps along. So even though it placed fourth on Oricon's Weekly sales list, that fourth place feels like a punch in the gut.
While I may not like the fourth place ranking, things rolled C-ute's way in other ways. The girls staged a November 11 concert at Nippon Budokan...again. It's odd to say, but in Hello! Land only C-ute would make a performance at Budokan seem like status quo. Finally, though, an announcement at the Budokan live indicated that the girls are moving ahead to a larger venue (more on this later).
Hey, let's put on our speculation/unfounded theory hats! Firstly, C-ute's leader, Yajima Maimi, is now queen bee at Hello! Project. Every person who believes Sayumi had a great influence on the selection of 12th generation and the direction of Hello! Project over the last 2.5 years should have every reason to believe that Maimi's leadership will lead to, at the very least, subtle changes in the Projects. It remains to be seen whether this means an increased focus on dancing in Hello! Project like I'm predicting. Second, as Suzuki Airi releases her "style book" titled "Airi sT" on November 27, it looks like Airi will be the reigning photo book queen of Hello! Project. I don't think I'll get many complaints about that since Airi has, ahem, grown up quite nicely.
To finish things, and this is not speculation, C-ute's 10th birthday celebration will take place on June 11 at Yokohama Arena. C-ute will be the first non-Musume group to perform at the Arena since the rebirth of Hello! Project. Let's hope the rest of the groups follow in C-ute's footsteps!
|S/mileage||(-2)||To be frank, the rest of the groups in Hello! Project did not produce much in the way of news this month. S/mileage gets the better of the Juicers because of a couple of things. With the news of generation 3.0 still fresh on everyone's mind, the fans are already lining up behind the new girls. To help everyone get better acquainted, Hello! Station #94 contains a long interview segment with 3.0 S/mileage and leader Wada Ayaka. For some visual stimulation, the 12/16 issue of UTB will contain a supplement called "Princess Bambino" featuring S/mileage's 3.0 member Sasaki Rikako and Kenshuusei Hamaura Ayano, and MM's Kudo Haruka and Makino Maria. There's also Gekkan Entame (here and here). The new generation of S/mileage contains some of the real gems from the Kenshuusei system, and we are all figuring out which girl(s) are our new favorites. Finally, the new S/mileage got their stage debut as the opening act for Michishige Sayumi's Yokohama Arena graduation. Talk about starting big!
Oh, and Tamura Meimi cut her hair.
|Juice=Juice||(-2)||Although they've kept a low profile, Juice=Juice have kept themselves busy this month. The Juicers began the month with a performance at Ajinomoto Stadium for the "Ajinomoto Stadium 6-hour Endurance Relay Marathon". While this may not sound like much, the performance gives the girls their first taste of performing for a stadium-sized audience. That experience must have been handy as Juice=Juice also performed as an opening act for Morning Musume '14's Yokohama Arena concert (you know the one).
But, the real occupation for Juice=Juice in the month of November was the "Koisuru Hello Kitty" play. Portraying a world-wide icon like Kitty is a tall order, so I'm sure the girls paid close attention to the outcome of the performances. For us, we get a mini-album of the musical numbers.
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 write about (mainly) Hello! Project Idols and marvel at the beauty of Perfume and Nocchi’s legs.