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 June 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.
After April’s hectic release schedule, you probably expected a downturn in Hello! Project’s pace. For the most part, you are correct: May held very few announcements for the girls from the Projects. Large-scale Budokan concerts came in a pair at the close of the month. Sadly, a graduation announcement also surfaced late in the month. With the graduation and the influx of new girls, Hello Project continues to evolve. So let’s all contemplate Heraclitus of Ephesus and breakdown the month that was Hello! Project.
Rankings, Come On!
|Angerme||(+3)||The Angel Tears lead off the Hello! Project Power Rankings this month with a May filled with ups and downs. Before things get too heavy, we should mention some of ANGERME's lighter accomplishments this month. The group took to television with its turn on Pussuma's Idol Dance Club and taught the choreography to "Taiki Bansei".
Leader Wada Ayaka also busied herself with appearances on "Charge 7:30!". Finally, Murota Mizuki releases her solo "Greeting~Murota Mizuki" Blu-ray in July, which means you can virtually follow that cute little dumpling on the train home from school and pick flowers with her at a nursery. Yeah, those DVD/BDs are still not for everyone.
In aforementioned heavy news, founding member Fukuda Kanon announced her graduation from the group and Hello! Project on May 20. Kanyon, who spent the last 11 years of her life (she's 20 years old) with H!P will hold her graduation at ANGERME's November 29 Budokan performance. Though many people considered her graduation impending, it will be strange to say goodbye to a girl that many people have known since she was 9 years-old.
I personally remember the hype during her egg days and the thrill as Kanon found success first as a member of Shugo Chara Egg! and finally as a member of S/mileage and ANGERME. Her tenure in the Projects contained enough drama to fill a Mexican Telenovela and sink more than one fragile idol, but Kanon soldiered on (mostly thanklessly). With her remaining months in H!P, I hope to see her mentor her new Kouhai to success and bow out gracefully and cutely.
ANGERME's month finished with a performance at Nippon Budokan on May 26. With Tsubaki Factory, Kobushi Factory, and Juice=Juice in tow, "ANGERME STARTING LIVE TOUR SPECIAL @ Nippon Budokan 'Taiki Bansei'" was a Country Girl short of a H!P new generation showcase.
During the performance, the Kanon graduation announcement continued with the confirmation of Nyon's graduation date and venue (above). Of course, such news puts a damper on festivities, this concert included. But to end on a positive note, during the performance, ANGERME announced and performed its next release, the triple A-Side "Nana Korobi Ya Oki / Gashin Shoutan / Mahou Tsukai Sally". This, the 19th single release for the group, hits the ground on July 22.
|Morning Musume '15||(-1)||You can always rely on Morning Musume '15 to provide a balanced mix of media appearances. Though the group cooled its heels a bit from April's single release blitz, the group filled May with some instant memories. No one will ever tire of seeing Fukumura Mizuki in a Young Gangan DVD bonus, right?
Announced via blog, 12th generation member Ogata Haruna makes her way into the magazine rack with a photoshoot for "BOMB" with Juice=Juice's Uemura Akarai. I know my bias shows when I say this, but I am going to remember one thing in particular from Morning Musume '15's May: IKUTA ERINA IS A PEN (Hello! Station #117). Oh, and Nonaka Miki's rapid fire English was also a thing, right?
The media side of things probably seemed lighter than normal in May because of a few events. The group (minus Ikuta Erina, Suzuki Kanon, and Iikubo Haruna) have been locked in rehearsals for their June musical "TRIANGLE". The three-cornered event marks the first musical appearance for the 12th generation girls (Ogata Haruna, Nonaka Miki, Makino Maria, and Haga Akane).
Morning Musume seem to have been building a strong resume of musical performances the last few years with "Stacies - Shoujo Saisatsu Kageki " and "LILIUM -Lilium Shoujo Junketsu Kageki-" so "TRIANGLE" should provide a highlight during its June 18 - June 28 run.
Most signicantly, the flagship group concluded its ambitious "Morning Musume '15 Concert Tour Haru ~GRADATION~" after 2 1/2 months and 31 performances. Remember, we are talking about school-age girls traveling, rehearsing, and performing every weekend in May (and April and March). The more I think about it, the more amazing it seems. The tour capped off at Nippon Budokan on May 27 with a special performance that included openers Country Girls, Kobushi Factory, and Tsubaki Factory.
Finally, as of writing, the 59th Morning Musume single has an unofficial release date of August 19. You know what to do.
|Juice=Juice||(-1)||From their number 2 rank last month, the Juice also cooled off a little bit in May. We start off on the print side of things where Uemura Akari and Morning Musume '15's Ogata Haruna...well, I already mentioned it above, right? Osaka girls gone wild, hopefully. Maybe more interesting is the case of Miyamoto Karin and her Benjamin Button hair.
H!P Jesus released her latest photo book "Karin Sixteen" on May 27 where she proves that she is not afraid of wearing a bikini. Of course, you can see the release event footage here.
I saved the big juicy, news for last. After two years, Juice=Juice release their first album on July 15. Idol fans either love or hate the album title "First Squeeze!"; your mileage depends on your love of puns, I guess. One thing is sure: this debut album is long overdue!
As yet, the track list is unreleased. Speculatively, "First Squeeze!" is brimming with all six of their double/triple A-side releases. Miyazaki Yuka also mentions that songs performed live and a few new songs will be included on the album. I'm smelling a chock-a-block release, and I'm sure you nose it, too!
|Well, not much to write about here with the Country Girls or Kobushi Factory. The bulk of the groups' activities involved live performances. Both groups provided the opening entertainment for Juice=Juice's "Fast Live Tour 2015 ~Special Juice~". The Country Girls and The Factory Girls then showcased their talents in the "Hello Pro Kenshuusei Happyoukai 2015 ~Haru no Koukai Jitsuryoku Shindan Test~" since their members include notable alumni of the Kenshuusei system. In my mind at least, the performance set represented a graduation for the Country Girls for Yamaki Risa and Inaba Manaka, and for all of Kobushi Factory.
The next stage for both groups was the "Hello! Pro New Fest", where they were joined by Tsubaki Factory for an introduction to the new Hello! Project groups. Kobushi Factory received the additional the duties of warming for the "Morning Musume '15 Haru ~Gradation~ tour". To finish off the month, Country Girls and Kobushi Factory (along with sister group Tsubaki Factory) warmed up Budokan for Morning Musume '15 on May 27.
Individual merits also manifested for the Country Girls. OK, individual merits manifested for Tsugunaga Momoko with her TV appearances and her revealing adult gravure turn on Weekly Playboy. Now, don't get too excited: I say adult because Momoko sheds her "Momochi" image. For Kobushi Factory, Inoue Rei continued her stint on Oha Star appearing with great regularity. Not to get left too far behind, Inaba Manaka took her turn as host of "The Girls Live" on May 22.
Very soon, the Country Girls will begin their promotional cycle for their next single "Wakatte Iru no ni Gomen ne / Tamera". The August 5 street date is still ages away, but that won't stop me from hyping the hell out of it!
|C-ute||(-3)||After dropping a bomb on their April 26 "9→10 Shuunen Kinen ℃-ute Concert Tour Haru ~The Future Departure~" performance, C-ute left me wordless. No really! The group kept a low profile in the month of May, and there isn't much to write about.
I suppose I could mention Suzuki Airi's appearance in a Young Gangan bonus DVD, or Suzuki Airi in Ray magazine (along with members from Morning Musume '15), but no. Can we speculate? Maybe a new single is in the works? Well, that seems a little unlikely since C-ute just released "The Middle Management ~Josei Chuukan Kanrishoku~ / Gamusha LIFE / Tsugi no Kado wo Magare".
Perhaps the group is spending the next couple of months learning Spanish in a total immersion facility somewhere in Central America? Wait, what if C-ute are shooting a photo book in Central America along with their Spanish language boot camp! That would be something, wouldn't it?