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, feed the information to a highly evolved koala bear by embedding the printouts in eucalyptus leaves, and interpret the “output” into a highly subjective ranking of the groups.
Most of the month saw the entirety of Hello! Project engaged in the annual Hello! Project Winter Concert. A great overview of the Projects, the WinterCon almost runs like a State of the Union. The most visible news item from the concerts was the debut of Morning Musume ’15 and the MM 12th generation. Additionally, we also got early looks at Angerme performing their debut single, and Country Girls performing their debut single. Not to be outdone, a new Kenshuusei unit received the OK from Tsunku during the H!P WinterCon. Still unnamed, the new unit will consist of Kenshuusei Fujii Rio, Hirose Ayaka, Nomura Minami, Ogawa Rena, Hamaura Ayano, Taguchi Natsumi, Wada Sakurako, and Inoue Rei. Hamachan, in the subsequent month took a starring role in the Hello! Project 2015 HinaFest Member Selection video.
All told, with the new TBA unit, Angerme, Country Girls, and Morning Musume 12ki, Hello! Project boasts a total of 20 new girls. To help us all navigate the young blood, LoGiRL is releasing interviews with each new member. It’s time to pick your new favorite Project Girl! And, with all of that out of the way, Rankings COME ON!!
|ANGERME||(=)||In an unexpected turn of events, the group formerly known as S/mileage sit atop the Power Rankings for a second straight month. Just last month, things looked sour for Angerme when Nakanishi Kana dusted off her French translation of Paradise Lost and created the most unfortunate portmanteau ever. Given the acrimony over the name change, it took a giant wave of momentum to bring Angerme back to good graces with Hello! Land. Luckily for Wada Ayaka et al., the wave has a name, and that name is Sasaki Rikako.
Little Rikako seemed like she was everywhere in January. She figured into 14% (percentage totally fake) of the tweets produced during the month. On top of the recent magazine spreads with third generation Angerme, Sasaki featured in a solo magazine shoot for UTB and a surprise appearance on the FujiTV New Years SP. As a sign of things to come, Rikako is the first new Hello! Project girl to release a "Greeting" Blu Ray). If you're unfamiliar with Hello! Project's "Greeting" series, imagine following 13 year old Sasaki Rikako around for the better part of an hour as she walks home from middle school (Yeah, that doesn't sound creepy at all. -GM). If you think that's interesting, then "~Greeting ~Sasaki Rikako~" is the Blu Ray disc for you!
The rest of 3rd generation S/mileage get in on the magazine action with their feature in Cool Up Girls, which is nice, though it feels like they just threw Murota Mizuki and Aikawa Maho a bone. Oh, well. News flash though - Murota Mizuki is the business.
What really got us excited this month is the PVs for "Taiki Bansei / Otome no Gyakushuu". "Taiki Bansei" in particular electrified the fandom. Any worries about the future of the group given Tsunku's decreased presence in H!P have been relieved, at least for the moment. The song's funky energy and the snappy choreography got nearly universal praise. The darker themed "Otome no Gyakushuu" does not disappoint, either. The violin accents and unsettling, taunting vocals make the song sound every bit the Victorian Gothic horror you would expect from a group named "Angel Tears". The single, due on February 4, and its performance on Oricon will give us a good idea whether the tactics implemented at the close of 2014 succeed in revitalizing
In softer news, the group recently reshuffled member colors. Cynically, the new name and new generation costs wota more of their Yen since Fukuda Kanon is now a member of pink club. Top to bottom, Wada Ayaka = red, Maro = deep pink, Nakanishi Kana = light pink, Takeuchi Akari = blue, Katsuta Rina = orange, Tamura Meimi = purple, Murota Mizuki = light blue, Aikawa Maho = green, and Rikako = yellow. Also, Juice=Juice (too obvious, needed to be included).
Finally, Angerme's next major concert was announced at the beginning of the month. Nippon Budokan will play host to Angerme on May 26. Get your penlights ready.
|Morning Musume '15||(+1)||The obvious news item for Morning Musume '15 was the 12th generation and their debut performance. The new girls seemed well integrated in their performance at the Hello! Project Winter Concerts as they performed "TIKI BUN". Those of us who could not attend the concerts got a first look at MM15 on a CDTV performance of "TIKI BUN". But, concerning the first Morning Musume '15 single we have been left high and dry. Nary a morsel of information from Up Front has touched our eager lips. At least we have other distractions, right?
First, Morning Musume continued their Doki Doki Dokkiri streak with a prank involving OG Musume Yoshizawa Hitomi and Tsuji Nozomi playing scary senpai to a mostly filial 12th generation, and a supernatural concert prank which didn't play out according to plan. The winner of the Dokkiri by unanimous decision was Makino Maria. Maria refused to sell out her oshimen by declaring her love for Michishige Sayumi even as Yossi intimidated her generation mates into a kowtow.
In other Makino Maria news, the young girl parlayed her love of the Nippon Ham Fighters baseball club into a weekly newspaper series. Sure, the weekly feature runs in a local newspaper but, I don't see Ogata Haruna, Nonaka Miki, or Haga Akane with a weekly print feature. So, not coincidentally, Maria-sama also became the first 12ki to release a "Greeting" Blu Ray with "Greeting ~Makino Maria~". You can preorder at elineup until February 16, if you like that sort of thing.
For the rest of the group, Morning Musume '15 began the New Year with an Alo! Hello bomb. The latest edition of Morning Musume in Hawaii saw first light in a digest cleverly buried at the end of Haru! Sute. Since then, a steady stream of scraps on how the girls have...um, developed since the last Alo! Hello in 2012. Trust me, I could practically see you all salivating.
If Alo! Hello didn't satiate your appetite, You also have Fukumura Mizuki in Gravure the Television. On top of that, there's also Fukumura in Young Gangan. Man, that's a lot of Fuku-hime, isn't it? Oh wait, you want more? OK, Sayashi Riho releases a new solo Blu Ray and Photo Book . The Riho Blu Ray is due on April 8, with the photobook expected soon after.
|Berryz Koubou||(-1)||As of writing, we only have 31 days of Berryz Koubou left. That's not a lot of time. Making the most of their time, Captain's crew released a few notable things in the month of January. Firstly, the massive "Kanjuku Berryz Kobo The Final Completion Box". This 6 CD and 2 DVD/BD collection collects all of the singles, a few album tracks, stageplay songs and rarities, all of the PVs, and a few alternate version PVs. Sadly, the "Monkey Version" of "Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance" wasn't included in this collection. The (probably) final Berryz Kobo PV "Love Together" also saw release this month. The tearjerker of a PV includes bits of choreography from Berryz Kobo catalog and a surprisingly meta farewell scene.
A new photobook, probably the final Berryz Kobo photobook, titled "Berryz Kobo 2004-2015" has a February 26 release date. This won't stop Hello! Project from releasing solo photobooks and retrospectives in the future, but the release date puts this photobook right next to the Berryz Kobo expiration date. Judging from the title, we'll get to see the girls through the years as they grew as artists and young ladies.
Expect to see more nostalgic recollections of the group in the coming month. The end days are upon us.
|C-ute||(=)||The "Kyuu" part of Berikyuu continue to idle in 4th place this month. Like the rest of the Projects, C-ute began the month with the Hello! Project Winter Concerts, which doesn't seem to give the Project girls time do much else. Even so, Yajima Maimi and the girls pull off this rank primarily by virtue of magazine appearances.
Suzuki Airi played cover girl for Young Gangan and featured in RAY magazine. UTB ran a rather adult photoshoot with Leader Yajima and Nakajima Saki. Hagiwara Mai continued the streak by appearing in HMV magazine. Meanwhile Okai Chisato had...no print work. Chisa did, however, make two appearances in Pussuma. Her first appearance on January 9 showed off her flexibility in a bizarre "stupid human trick". Then on January 23, Okai and the rest of C-ute appeared on Pussuma to teach the hosts the choreography of "Dance de Bakoon!"
|Country Girls||(NEW)||The latest Hello! Project group make their debut in our charts at number 5. H!P Land heavily scrutinized the Country Girls' performance in the Hello! Project Winter Concert. It seems that the fandom approve of the debut single "Itooshikutte Gomenne". Like the rest of the new Hello! Project girls, each Country Girl gets an interview on LoGirl. Here are the interviews for Ozeki Mai, Shimamura Uta and Morito Chisaki. The interviews for the other girls are sure to follow.
Speaking of the debut single, "Itooshikutte Gomenne / Koidorobou" will get a major release on March 25. I'm a bit alarmed that the Country Girls go right to a major release without an indie release. I know Tsugunaga Momoko is there to help them navigate their way through the saturated idol waterways, but I can't help wondering if this aggressive pace spells trouble on the horizon.
Finally, the internet seems to have fallen in love with Shimamura Uta.
|Juice=Juice||(-1)||For the second straight month, Juice=Juice virtually disappeared from the news feed. Of course, this is fair enough, since all of Hello! Project spent much of the month performing in the H!P Winter concerts. Just the same, some news from the group would be a welcome sight.
Speaking of welcome sights, UTB recently featured a trailer park fantastic photoset of Uemura Akari. Yes, Uemu looks fantastic, and becomes more beautiful with each passing day. This girl has a big future in the forefront of the H!P photobook idol set.
Finally, the Juicers will be performing at Shiga Idol Collection on March 22 with Tokyo Girls' Style, Cheeky Parade, Dorothy Little Happy, GALETTe, and more. I'm excited about this line up, and I can't even go! I don't know that this will necessarily expose Juice=Juice to more fans, but there's an off chance that some Cheeky Parade fan somewhere in Japan has never heard of Juice=Juice, right? (I know...wrong).
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 ratio of Momoiro Clover Z close-ups to Gene Simmon’s tongue.