Hello everybody, guest contributor TheNumber244 here to bring you up to date with the new month of Hello! Project Power Rankings. I’ll thank you very kindly for indulging me in my annual vacation, which explains the lack of H!P Power Rankings in January. Hawaii was wonderfully restorative, thank you for asking.
January always puts the girls of Hello! Project through the wringer of the company-wide Winter Concerts. This year brought two different productions: ~Crystal Clear~ and ~Kaleidoscope~. As for comings and goings, one group was suspiciously absent from the annual concerts: a prelude to the future of Hello! Project. Along those same lines, a couple of familiar faces announced their hiatus from the projects- both for health reasons. Of course, we will get to those absences in due course.
In concert news, Buono! will get a last hurrah after all! Tsugunaga Momoko, Natsuyaki Miyabi, and Suzuki Airi make a date with Yokohama Arena on May 22, 2017. No details about the performance have been made public, so you’ll have to wait for more info. For now, you can just mark your calendars.
In other news, Michishige Sayumi finally unveiled some plans for 2017. “SAYUMINGLANDOLL ~Saisei~” will run for 17 performances for M-Line Club members from March 19 through April 2. As yet there are no indications as to what will actually comprise these performances. Also, as a member of M-Line, I probably will not be reporting Sayumi’s latest news in this column after this month. Please follow her blog or Up Front Promotion to stay up-to-date.
And with that,
Rankings come on!
Atop the rankings this month are the senior group in the Projects. In order to focus on their remaining time together, Yajima Maimi and the girls decided to skip the Winter Hello! Concerts I wrote about earlier. So, it came as little shock that the group announced their new release early in the month. As yet unnamed, the group’s 31st (and presumably final) single receives a March 22 release date. So far little is known about the release: untitled, no track lists, and no indication to whether this will be another triple A-side.
In lighter news, Yajima Maimi and Nakajima Saki were announced as cohosts for the TBS show “Furusato no Yume“. I haven’t seen the first episode, which aired on January 22, but sources say the two girls feature a single town or village and the hardworking people living therein. Maybe this is an indication of the girls’ future plans?
The big new of the month involves a pair of overseas dates for the group. That’s right: C-ute will make a return to both Paris and Mexico. First, the girls will return to Mexico City with “℃-ute Cutie Circuit ～¡De vuelta a México!～” on April 13-14 (more information here) with a live on April 13 and Fan Meeting for VIP ticket holders on April 14. From there, C-ute hops on a jet plane to Paris for “℃-ute Cutie Circuit ～De retour à Paris～” (more information here). In the City of Light, C-ute will similarly perform on April 16 and hold a Fan Meeting for Premium Ticket holders on April 17.
Of course, the June 12 date with Saitama Super Arena looms.
OK, bad news first: Sato Masaki announced on January 6 that she would take a two month hiatus pending a doctor’s evaluation. Back in June 2015, Maachan was diagnosed with a suspected herniated lumbar disc, but did not undergo physical therapy. In January, it was decided that Sato could not continue activities until she had worked on healing herself and her ailing back. Because of this Sato Masaki will not participate on the group’s 63rd single.
Speaking of … Morning Musume ’17 releases their first single “BRAND NEW MORNING / Jealousy Jealousy” on Wednesday March 8, 2017. Other than the track names and Maachan’s absence, not much is actually known about the release (as of this writing). Being the 20th anniversary year of Morning Musume, a song with a rejuvenative title like “BRAND NEW MORNING” fits very nicely, although no one knows what it will actually sound like. The song titles seem to have people worked up, so I suppose mission accomplished on that tease campaign.
Finally, Morning Musume ’17 revealed a new product tie-in with Marukome Miso. In a news well-covered news conference, Morning Musume ’17 performed the purposefully re-lyriced “Morning Misoshiru” and unveiled Morning Musume themed Miso Cups. Miso soup is a breakfast staple in Japan, so the tie-in isn’t as obtuse as some believe. And, did you click that video link? The promotional video for “Morning Misoshiru” is a gorgeously shot piece with the girls camping together and (fictionally) welcoming the 13th generation to the fold with pillow fights and … wait for it … miso soup!
Things began with some celebration for Angerme. With the impending graduation of Yajima Maimi, Hello! Project was in need of a new Queen Bee of the Projects. There was a bit of fan debate about the successor (hopefully no one lost any friends over it), but during the “Hello! Project COUNTDOWN PARTY 2016 ~GOOD BYE & HELLO!~” concert, Maimi officialy passed the crown to Angerme’s leader, Wada Ayaka. Maimi also declared the Morning Musume ’17 leader, Fukumura Mizuki, will serve as Dawa’s subleader, a first for Hello! Project.
3rd generation member Aikawa Maho, along with Morning Musume ’17 ‘s Sato Masaki, missed the Countdown Party due to poor health. At the time nothing seemed unusual. But, on January 11 the familiar “Concerning Maho Aikawa from ANGERME” hit everyone’s social media feeds, and we all discovered that AiAi had been diagnosed with Panic Disorder. With symptoms like headaches and vertigo increasing in frequency and magnitude, a break from ANGERME activities was deemed necessary. As yet, no timeline for Maho’s return has been released.
Unfortunately between Maho’s hiatus and the Hello! Project Winter Concerts, not much else came out of the ANGERME camp. A spring tour is scheduled, but barring a new single announcement the next we’ll hear from the group could be the spring Hina Fes concerts.
The Country Girls made a few waves this month with their upcoming February 8 release “Good Boy Bad Girl / Peanut Butter Jelly Love“. The group released the promotional video for “Peanut Butter Jelly Love“, and boy is it cute. Tsugunaga Momoko’s solo at the start of the song is a fitting way to send off the group’s playing manager. And, it’s just a pretty, pretty performance. As of writing, the release of “Good Boy Bad Girl” is set for release at any moment.
Aside from their latest release, Morito Chisaki announced the release of her first photobook. Appropriately titled “Morito Chisaki“, the book has a release date of February 19. Unfortunately, I can’t point you to any preview photos since none has been released yet.
Things get a little light from here on out, but, Tsubaki Factory have some real news to deliver! Formed in April 2015, the group’s future seemed tenuous as the lineup never seemed to gel and indie releases met with mixed reviews. Perhaps the deisbandment of C-ute forced Hello! Project’s hand. Perhaps the influx of second generation talent in August 2016 finally provided the mercurial mix of talent and camaraderie in correct proportion. But, with their major debut less than a month away, Yamagishi Riko’s Factory Girls released the first PV from their debut release “Hatsukoi Sunrise / Just Try! / Uruwashi no Camelia“. “Hatsukoi Sunrise” is relentlessly uptempo. The song’s monologue breaks and “Sunrise!” hook hopefully catches the group new fans. One thing is certain: Tsubaki Factory will need to gain new fans to make up for the loss of C-ute in June.
Let’s have a bit of recounting, shall we? Kobushi Factory’s debut album “Kobushi sono Ichi” reached number 11 on the Oricon album charts in late-November/early-December. That was about two months ago now. The last Kobushi Factory single “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro / Bacchikoi Seishun! / Ora wa Ninkimono” made it to number 3 on the Oricon singles chart way back in July last year. I think it’s time for a new single, don’t you? As yet there’s no news of a new single.
Only one item gives Kobushi Factory the buoyancy to stay out of the cellar. Namely, Hirose Ayaka nd Inoue Rei released a joint mini-photobook on January 14. Those two girls seem to be favorites of the Western fandom in particular, so such a release curries great favor with these charts.
OK, we have arrived at the basement. It’s a bit chilly down here, right? All I can really do is give you an update on where Juice=Juice stands. The Juicers released “Dream Road ~Kokoro ga Odoridashiteru~ / KEEP ON Joshou Shikou!! / Ashita Yarou wa Bakayarou” on October 26 last year, which means three months have passed. Juice=Juice’s performed at Nippon Budokan on November 7, so about the same amount of time has lapsed since their last major performance. What does this mean? IT’S TIME FOR SOMETHING NEW. Hopefully Miyazki Yuka and the girls are reloading a special new juice box for us, just waiting for an unveiling.
Things aren’t all bad, though! A major overseas opportunity lies just up ahead for the group: Juice=Juice are performing in Hong Kong again on February 11 and 12 as part of the “@JAMxTALE in HongKong 2017“. The event hosts other Japanese Idol favorites: SUPER☆GiRLS, Tokyo Girls’ Style, Moso Calibration, and Ariel Project. That’s a helluva silver lining.
Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come.
Like always, you are free to disagree. In fact, please disagree! That will give us something to talk about! You can give me an earful in the comments below, my personal twitter, or the New School Kaidan Twitter. Don’t forget to visit my blog at TheNumber244. Until next time!