Hello everybody, guest contributor TheNumber244 here to bring you up to date with the new month of Hello! Project Power Rankings.
Due to some personal summer vacation time at the beginning of the month, I was able to bring you up-to-date until this very late point in the month. Apologies to anyone who was affected by this delay. At one point I seriously contemplated skipping July and heading straight into August for the Power Rankings. But with so much happening in Hello! Project’s June, I felt it unfair to leave it until next month. You’ll find these Power Rankings a bit briefer than in most months, but I believe I still hit all the notes needed to correctly characterize the month that was.
Rankings come on!
Well, did you see ℃-ute ascend into idol legend? With their final concert at Saitama Super Arena, Yajima Maimi, Nakajima Saki, Suzuki Airi, Chisato Okai, and Hagiwara Mai ascended up the steps and into the clouds … literally. As reckoning, we are talking about a group of women who spent 15 years of their lives in Hello! Project, released 4 indie singles, 31 major singles, 9 albums, and made the journey from the youngest to the most senior Hello! Project group. For much of the fandom, the career trajectory of ℃-ute mirrored their personal journey with H!P: from top to the bottom and back to the top again.
Luckily, most of the group haven’t been out of sight since their date with destiny. Saki, Chisato, and Airi opened official Instagram accounts and update daily. The group even took a group vacation to Hawaii that was chronicled through their official accounts. In some respects, ℃-ute became more visible after their disbandment. With most of the group staying on with Up-Front, the girls may return to spotlight sooner than we think.
You see, the retirement of Tsugunaga Momoko is just as important as the disbandment of ℃-ute, but perhaps twice as bittersweet. The forever pink idol created a special outdoor venue in Odiaba on June 30, 2017 that was threatened with rain right until the last moment. All of Hello! Project provided the opening entertainment, and Momochi emerged from a giant peach bathed in pink lights. Tsugunaga sang highlights from her 15 year career spanning from ZYX to Berryz Koubou to Buono!. The second half of her set starred Country Girls with Momoko front and center. In the closing moments, Momoko raised her fist, her trademark pinky out, and descended into the stage. In that last moment, Momoko clasped her pinky to tell us her time as an idol finally expired. If you’re not a Hello! Wota, then this probably sounds incredibly cornball; but, if you have some sort of history with H!P I’m sure you, like me, were hit right in the feels.
So, what’s all this bittersweet talk?
Well, as detailed here at New School Kaidan, the remaining five Country Girls are now subject to the grand experiment of Hello! Project. Briefly (you can get more details following the previous link), Yamaki Risa and Ozeki Mai are now only part-time members who are devoting their time to finish their studies. Morito Chisaki transferred into Morning Musume ’17 as the sole 14th generation member. Yanagawa Nanami (along with H!P Kenshuusei powerhouse Danbara Ruru) received transfer papers into Juice=Juice, and Funaki Musubu (and H!P KSS Kawamura Ayano) are now the 6th generation of ANGERME. Notice that these transfers are not part-time, and they are not temporary. Chisaki, Nanami, and Musubu are now full-time members of groups that are not called Country Girls.
And, Country Girls is now reduced to a part-time group. This certainly sounds like an ending, doesn’t it?
Since we just finished talking about it, we might as well start with the 14th generation news. Morning Musume.’17 has a 14th generation member and her name is Morito Chisaki. After that sinks in, we can talk specifics. Chisaki DID audition audition for Morning Musume back in 2014, where she subsequently failed to join the flagship group but was instead extended an invitation to join the still-coalescing Country Girls. Chisaki’s dance acumen reportedly earned her the nickname “the Sayashi Riho of Tochigi”, but in Country Girls she was terribly overlooked dancing next to Inaba Manaka. Her admired senpai in Morning Musume? SAYASHI RIHO and Iikubo Haruna. I hate the dissolution of Country Girls, but I LOVE Morito Chisaki in Morning Musume.’17. I’m conflicted, to say the least.
Before I get too long-winded here (I’m on a strict schedule), I’ll mention that Morning Musume.’17 continued their international appearances with a June 25 concert in Hong Kong. This was the first trip to overseas for the 13th generation girls, Kaga Kaede and Yokoyama Reina. Of course, until we might not know the adventures the girls got themselves into until the usual concert DVD is released. Not date on the DVD yet, BTW.
Isn’t this something? ANGERME release “Ai Sae Areba Nanni mo Iranai / Namida Iro no Ketsui / Majokko Megu-chan” to great sales, and it isn’t enough to get them into the top three in the Power Ranking. Hey, don’t blame Wada Ayaka and the rest of the girls. The group’s 23rd single sold 45,101 units (according to Oricon), which makes it ANGERME’s second best selling single (or maybe its best selling single depending on who’s counting). Before all the “reorganization of Hello! Project” talk blinds us, we should really appreciate these numbers. Without a doubt, ANGERME now takes the second spot behind the flagship Morning Musume. That, my friends, is a long strange journey to the top.
And, how about that reorganization? How about that 6th generation? Funaki Musubu, the chosen successor of Tsugunaga Momoko, boasts some real talent in both the vocal and dance departments. Without a doubt she will add a boost to the vocal color of the group. Kawamura Ayano, like the rest of ANGERME, took a long strange path the get here. Kawamuu spent 2011 through 2016 with the Kochi based idol group Hachikin Girls, giving her probably more experience that most of the “new girls”. She left the group to join the 26th generation H!P Kenshuusei, which was probably an “all-or-nothing” gamble for the young girl. I heard a lot of talk about her age (Ayano is 18) making her too old to debut in Hello! Project; I’m glad that was just all talk from the experts.
Continuing of to fifth place, we have Hirose Ayaka and Kobushi Factory bracing themselves for impact. These Power Rankings being told in past tense, we know that big trouble hits the Factory girls in July (Fujii Rio’s contract termination and Ogawa Rena’s hiatus). Here in June, the 8nin released their final single with their starting lineup. “Shalala Yareruhazusa / Eejanaika Ninjanaika” sold 22,493 units and barely missed the top three weekly sales. You could probably have clued out that trouble was brewing, but the other shoe won’t drop until next month. So, we will just leave it here.
With a world tour upcoming, you would probably expect a higher ranking than 5, right? Well, that just goes to show how much happened in the projects in June. The Juicers released the details for the bulk of their World tour early in the month. And in the end of the month, the Juicers received the gift of Ruru. Danbara Ruru. Ruru started in Hello! Project in 2013 as a 20th Generation Kenshuusei with notables Yamaki Risa (Country Girls), Niinuma Kisora (Tsubaki Factory), Haga Akane (Morning Musume), and Funaki Musubu (Country Girls/ANGERME). Can you believe this ASH graduate (Sayashi Riho, Babymetal, Perfume, etc.) won the 2014 public vote, was the 2015 Runner up (to Funaki Musubu) for Judge’s Special Award – Singing, and won the 2017 public vote during those years’ “Spring Public Ability Diagnosis Tests”? Yes, Danbara Ruru is rightfully one of the most anticipated debuts in Hello! Project. The Reorganization also brought Country Girl Yanagawa Nanami to the group. No, she doesn’t have the same pedigree as Ruru. But, Yanamin is a FEARLESS performer who adds a great MC persona to the group. If this doesn’t convince you … well, Nanami is actually one of my favorite girls in Hello! Project.
Here at the basement you will find Tsubaki Factory. In June, the biggest news in Camelia town was Asakura Kiki’s herniated lumbar disc. This put Kiki out of commision for a while. In July, Tsubaki Factory are going to set the world on fire. Just wait for it.
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 where you can look back at my twitter series “24 Views of Fukumura Mizuki“. Until next time!