Guest Contributor @thenumber244 here with a look at the last month in Hello! Project land. That’s right: I secure a piece of duct tape on my mustache, (painfully) rip off the adhesive strip, and interpret the hirsute residue like an oracle. The stakes, of course, are the fate of all of humanity…err, the July Power Ranking for Hello! Project. 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.
In the Projects, the groups busily prepare for the upcoming “Hello! Project 2015 Summer ~Discovery~” and “Hello! Project 2015 Summer ~Challenger~” concerts. The concerts will run every weekend from July 11 through August 29, meaning the girls do not get a summer vacation the way you and I did. Pictures of the members from different groups crossing with each other emerge with greater frequency during these concerts; expect to see new and exciting combinations and performances!
Even though she is not technically a member of Hello! Project anymore, I’d like to note that Natsuyaki Miyabi wants a new group, and YOU can be a part of it! All you need to do is apply and audition in Japan for the as-yet-unnamed “Miya Group” sometime in July. You can read the details of the group and the application process here. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Miyabi since she always seemed to have the total idol package combination of looks and talent. Maybe I’ll see one of you on GREEN ROOM?
Rankings, Come On!
|Country Girls||(+3)||Depending on how you look at things, Country Girls should either be near the bottom or near the top of the monthly ranking. Although I like to rank the Hello! Project groups according to great things that happen during the month, Country Girls breaks the trend, and hearts everywhere, with the most affecting news in the Projects for a while. Even with a minimum of event and release related news, the talk generated proved significant enough to warrant a place atop the Hello! Project Power Ranking.
Shimamura Uta left Country Girls and Hello! Project on June 12.
If you did not pay attention to Hello! Project in the last half year, Shimamura stole practically everyone's heart with her debut. Uta's doll-like looks and "aw, shucks" demeanor provided new life to H!P.
Even her fellow idols seemed mesmerized by Uta-chan. After the Country Girls' debut single"Itooshikutte Gomen ne / Koi Doboru", Shimamura positioned herself among the leaders of the new generation of Hello! Project. All of the hope ended with an ugly contract dispute between the Shimamura family and Hello! Project (You can read more about it here.
Of course, time waits for no idol, and the Country Girls must press ahead with their new five-member lineup. The August 5 release date for their next single "Wakatteiru no ni Gomen Ne / Tamerai Summer Time" quickly approaches. The Girls performed "Wakatteiru no ni Gomen Ne" at the TV Tokyo Ongakusai to favorable, if not bittersweet, response. Sooner than you can say "Momochi is Obasan" we will see whether the Country Girls can continue their cute girl manifest.
|Angerme||(-1)||An upcoming release and a new photobook announcement help keep ANGERME near the top of the monthly ranking. Firstly, one of the other rising stars of H!P, Sasaki Rikako, announced the news of her upcoming debut photobook.
The news did not (or, should not) actually surprise anyone: Sasaki steadily works as a model for Pichi Lemon. Even though she recently debuted, Rikako already boasts more magazine appearances and gravure work than most of her senpai.
The group released all three of the promotional videos for its July 22 release "Nanakorobi Yaoki / Gashin Shoutan / Mahou Tsukai Sally" during the month of June. "Nanakorob Yaoki" brings a cool yet dangerous sound to the release (you can read my article on the song/PV here). Meanwhile, Gashin Shoutan keeps the funky flame alive, thankfully without the overalls from Tamura Meimi.
"Mahou Tsukai Sally" rounds out the release with an audience pleasing PV that features third generation members Murota Mizuki, Aikawa Maho, and Rikako playing kouhai witches to the first and second generation's senpai witches. ANGERME just might repeat the magical performance of "Taiki Bansei / Otome no Gyakushuu" with this release.
All of this brings us to the forthcoming changes in the group. Changes. Again.
Leader Wada Ayaka announced the "2015 ANGERME Shin Member Audition" on Hello! Station #123. Of course, the really sharp saw first news of the audition mistakenly leaked on the "New Natsuyaki Miyabi Group" audition site.
That's neither here nor there, of course, since we now have official word. Hello! Project plans to expand the group even further than the current nine-member lineup. Naturally, concern over the group's chemistry and further impending graduations surfaced with the audition.
Maybe we all need to exhale a little. Try it with me...phewwww!
|Morning Musume '15||(-1)||For Morning Musume '15, things certainly seemed quiet in June. The above groups made so much noise in the month of June that the rest of the groups seemed mouse-like in comparison. If you dig deeper into the Projects, a couple of items surfaced for the flagship during the month, so I think we should take a closer look.
If you did not hear anything about MM15, you probably were not listening for news about "Triangle". The Sci-Fi musical featured all of the girls of Morning Musume '15 in some capacity - sub-leaders Ikuta Erina and Iikubo Haruna and 9th gen member Suzuki Kanon "appeared" in off-stage speaking parts. T
he musical adaptation of the manga title "α -Alpha" by Kuramochi Fusako also marked the debut musical appearances for the 12th gen girls Ogata Haruna, Nonaka Miki, Makino Maria, and Haga Akane. Having recently wrapped from its June 18 through June 28 run, the girls' focus on these performances kept them plenty busy during the month. For those of us who could not attend, a six-track soundtrack album materializes on July 15 with a DVD/BD release likely following.
Seeing as the previous two rankings mentioned "new faces of H!P", I might as well throw Ogata Haruna's name in to the mix. Haachin battled Juice=Juice's Uemura Akari in a slug-fest for the primo H!P Cutie title in the July issue of Bomb. Don't worry about the girls though, the photoshoot kept everything at a tasteful level of gravure.
I know I teased a new single release from Morning Musume '15 last month, but further developments never materialized. As it currently stands, the freshly released dates for the Morning Musume '15 Fall ~PRISM~ tour loom in the distant horizon by themselves. I still look for a new single release in time for the PRISM tour. Remember, we still have the Hello! Project Summer Concerts next month and new material frequently debuts on these stages.
As soon as I hear any news, I'll let you know.
|C-ute||(+2)||Edging in at Fourth Place in the Power Rankings, the C-ute girls took a bit of a victory lap in June. Amid the turmoil in the Projects last month, C-ute celebrated their tenth year in the idol business with their biggest solo concert ever. Yokohama Arena provided the stage on June 11 as Yajima Maimi, Nakaima Saki, Suzuki Airi, Okai Chisato, and Hagiwara Mai officially turned the corner into their second decade as idols.
Just think about how many things in your life lasted ten years (practically nothing!) and you get the idea of the magnitude of this occasion. For the more adventurous, think about how many idols last an entire decade!
Of course, we shouldn't foist a medal onto C-ute simply because they've outlasted the competition. As the group aged and survived member disappearances, Yajima and crew became a stronger unit who found incredible success late in their career (which should serve as a bedtime story for all struggling idol groups).
The group capped off the celebrations with a return to Music Station after a seven-year absence. For fun, you can compare Music Station performances: C-ute 2008 to C-ute 2015.
In the near future, look for two big performances from the girls. On September 19 C-ute brings its "Cutie Circuit" to Mexico City for the first Hello! Project concert in Central America. Also, look for the girls on August 2 when they bring out the guns for the always-massive Rock in Japan Festival.
Bonus: Enjoy as Suzuki Airi duets to The Peanuts and Matsuda Seiko on "NHK Kayo Concert Yume no Kyouen! Kayo Night!".
|Juice=Juice||(-2)||The long-awaited Juice=Juice album finally fills out its details! For your eyes, the promotional images for "First Squeeze" feature Miyazaki Yuka, Kanazawa Tomoko, Takagi Sayuki, Miyamoto Karin, and Uemura Akari in attractive, leg baring gingham mini dresses.
Like I said last month: musically this debut album release is packed! The Limited Edition releases are 2 CD + DVD releases, with Limited A bringing you a DVD of collected promotional videos and Limited B supplying a DVD of the April 25 "News=News" concert performance from Sapporo. The Regular Edition releases trade the bonus DVDs for a third CD, "The Cover Juice" containing Juice=Juice covers of six classic H!P releases. Honestly, you might need a map to navigate this release.
Just recently, the Juicers began the exhausting 33 performance schedule for the first leg of the "LIVE MISSION 220 ~Code1 → Begin to Run~" tour. By Autumn next year, the girls will have completed 220 performances all around the country. Couple this tour with the Hello! Project Tours, future releases, television, promotional events, and SCHOOL and you have yourself some exhausted Juicers. They are gonna need those juice box breaks!
Oh, and Uemura Akari appeared Bomb Magazine with MM15's Ogata Haruna. Did I mention that already?
|Kobushi Factory||(-2)||Catching many people off-guard, Kobushi Factory found a date with the debut machine! Available on September 2, Kobushi Factory offer the triple A-side "Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan / Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta / Nen ni wa Nen (Nen'iri Ver.)". Most Harowota know "Nen ni wa Nen" from their "Weekend Survivor" release. "Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta" covers the Sharam Q song from the early 90s.
Additionally, the Ramen song provides the opening for the the Drama "Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san" starring former Momoiro Clover member Hayami Akari (blue). You can watch Akari slurp her way through bowls of ramen while listening to the Factory Girls here.
In other news, the girls (along with the Tsubaki Factory girls) received official member colors on Hello! Station #120. For the record: Hirose Ayaka = turquoise, Fujii Rio = mustard, Nomura Minami = royal blue, Ogawa Rena = red, Hamaura Ayano = pink, Taguchi Natsumi = orange, Wada Sakurako = green, and Inoue Rei = purple.
(Since they will appear nowhere else in the ranking, Tsubaki Factory colors are: Ogata Risa = light orange, Yamagishi Riko = light green, Niinuma Kisora = light blue, Tanimoto Ami = light purple, Kishimoto Yumeno = yellow, and Asakura Kiki = light pink.)
Like always, if you are really jonesing for Kobushi Factory or if you cannot wait for the Kobushi Factory debut, you can always catch Inoue Rei's regular appearances on OhaStar.
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 break out of the Projects with a look at Watanabe Mayu’s latest release and a desperate attempt to play catch up and learn everything I can about Cheeky Parade…for scientific purposes.