Hello everybody, TheNumber244 here to bring you up to date with the new month of Hello! Project rankings. Big changes rocked the Projects with the graduations of two favorites from the Western fandom, overseas performances from a senior group, the announcement of a major new concert, and the affliction of one member sinks a promising new group. With the Hello! Project release schedule finishing its first half in May, we now turn to the schedule reset. On the horizon for the Projects, yes EVERY group, are the “Hello!Project 2016 SUMMER ～ Sunshine Parade ～ and ～ Rainbow Carnival ～” scheduled for 20 performances between July 16 and September 3, 2016. As the groups rehearse for the extravaganzas, we can expect to start hearing previews of the next set of releases from the Projects, as well as some intergroup shenanigans. Shenanigans. Say it.
And with that brief preview out of the way,
Rankings come on!
Morning Musume ’16 finished up their biggest month of the year with the graduation of Western fandom favorite Suzuki Kanon. The event rallied the fandom together at Nippon Budokan through livestream events throughout Japan and internationally. Zukki graduated wearing a sunflower bedecked gown as bright as the smile she gifted us for the past five years. Rather than sadness, Suzuki left us with joy as she begins the next chapter in her life away from the idol scene. In perhaps the most memorable performance of the night, Zukki played her DJ character from the latest Morning Musume ’16 single, “Utakata Saturday Night” executing quick changes from sunflower graduation gown to her DJ costume to her Utakata Saturday Night costume. Streamers and balloons filled Budokan with Suzuki Kanon green, and we all wonder how Morning Musume will continue without the humor, steadiness, and smiles from the Ninth Generation player.
Morning Musume ’16 finished their month with “Utakata Saturday Night”, which is fitting since the 61st single, “Utakata Saturday Night / The Vision / Tokyo to Iu Katasumi“dominated the month for Hello! Project. The 61st single from the flagship group continued their streak of 100K sellers with a first week Oricon total of 113,961 copies sold. This may go without saying, but “Utakata Saturday Night” almost doubles the next highest first week single sales from Hello! Project this year (C-ute’s “Naze Hito wa Arasoun darou? / Summer Wind / Jinsei wa STEP!“).
Morning Musume ’16 launch into the second half of the year at the back of the single release line and down a member. Naturally, a few question marks loom for the group. Morning Musume seems to be losing members at an increased rate, and the senpai 9th generation is now down to its two eldest members: leader Fukumura Mizuki and subleader Ikuta Erina. Another loss would seem like a mass defection for the group. Morning Musume wrapped up at least one of its loose ends with the announcement that 12th generation baseball otaku Makino Maria would take over for Suzuki Kanon’s “Itsudemo! Kanon Smile Radio”. The new rebranded radio show “Morning Musume ’16 Makino Maria no Marian♥LOVErin Desu♥” begins in June, as does the new 11nin Morning Musume ’16. Will this be the rebirth?
After spending last month atop the Projects, Angerme drop down a peg to number two. The group’s 21st single “Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku / Itoshima Distance / Koi Nara Tokku ni Hajimatteru” still burning grooves a month after its release, Angerme unleashed a new toy on their YouTube channel early in May. Enter: the 360 idol Experience PV! You now have a choice to watch the 360 Idol Experience or the 360 Idol Whisper. I don’t know where we are going with these novelty PVs, but they are a bit of fun!
Unfortunately, May brought the graduation of Tamura Meimi from the group. Meimi’s May 30 ceremony returned the group to the Budokan stage for a solo live, something the group now makes a regular habit. Although the concert felt a bit more traditional (no duet medley with the other members), Angerme surprised us with a few tricks. The attitude laden new spirit of the group was complemented with an impressively theatrical light and laser show. And then, the stage elevated Angerme a good 15 feet above the crowd as they performed “Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku“. By the end of the concert, Meimi wore her wonderfully old-fashioned polka-dotted dress and straw hat and addressed her groupmates and her audience for the final time. I’ll never be able to fully explain that girl, but she left the projects in style.
Meimi’s farewells marks the first time a second generation member left the group. In a very real sense May 30 began a new era for Angerme. The second generation members, once the hyperactive children of Hello! Project, now feel more like senior guardians of the new generation. As the group continues to grow, I can’t help but express my excitement for the future of the group. One thing is for certain: a giant void in Angerme’s vocal performances needs to be filled. Who among the new girls will step up?
Yajima Maimi and crew claim the bronze prize in this month’s Power Rankings. During May, the group racked up yet another pair of overseas performances with “℃-ute Cutie Circuit ~Let’s go to Hong Kong & Taipei!~”. Hello! Project continues to make forays overseas, and C-ute seems to be leading the charge with their fifth and sixth overseas concerts since 2013. This time abroad, the group accented their usual press appearances with sightseeing, a trip to a night market in Hong Kong, and the requisite helping of dining. Back to business, C-ute performed to sold out venues, burning through an 18 song set and trying their tongues with Cantonese and Mandarin greetings.
As for the sad news, late in the month, Okai Chisato broke the news of a break from activities to undergo vocal cord nodule surgery. Being the powerhouse vocalist she is, when Chisato takes a break from singing the entire composure of C-ute changes. In my mind, the loss of Chisato effectively kills all performances from the group. Vocal nodules may be a part of the business, but Chisa’s late June surgery makes her status during the Summer Hello! Concerts questionable. I’m crossing my fingers for the girl; I dearly hope Chisato or the rest of the group won’t miss many Hello! Concerts or their performance on August 14 at the Rock in Japan festival.
The big announcement took nobody by surprise. Juice=Juice is the latest Hello! Project group to reach a solo live at Nippon Budokan. The surprise announcement hit ears on May 4 during the group’s “Juice = Juice LIVE MISSION 220 ~ Code3 Special → Growing Up! ~” stop at Nakano Sun Plaza, just more than one year after the group stated its goal of performing at the storied stage. The road to Budokan took the group through hundreds of performances throughout Japan and a television drama appropriately titled “Budokan”. The LIVE MISSION 220 continues until November 7, where the Juicers take the stage for ”
Juice = Juice LIVE MISSION 220 ~Final Code → Nippon Budokan – (Title tentative)”.
As for future releases, the Juicers were first in the 2016 release schedule with “Next is you! / Karada Dake ga Otona ni Nattan ja nai“. Even though this puts the group at the top of the new release schedule, I’d guess the group will time their next release to coincide with their November 7 date with Budokan. Given this scheduling gap between the July Summer Hello! Concerts and November 7, expect to see Juice=Juice take dip in these Power Rankings in the next few months.
Kobushi Factory spent much of their May on the road with the “Live Tour 2016 Spring ~ The Cheering Party! ~“, performing 16 performances spread amidst the 31 days. While that’s not a “sexy” headline, it definitely shows the effort in the background the group of youngsters. Along those same lines, we saw last month’s release item, “Hamaura Ayano and Wada Sakurako~Greeting~“. Now, Hamachan is the first Factory Girl with a photobook with the self-titled “Hamaura Ayano” released June 4 available through E-Line Up.
Finally, fresh off the news wire, Kobushi Factory begins the next round of Hello! Project releases their third single, the triple A-side “Bacchikoi Seishun! / Samba! Kobushi Janeiro / (as yet untitled)“. That third untitled track is their tie in with the 2016 Idol Matsuri; I imagine the song won’t go untitled for very long. Of course, the single’s July 27 release means we should expect to see a lot from Hirose Ayaka and company of the next two months.
Closing out the Power Rankings, we have Country Girls living in the basement of the Projects. Like Kobushi Factory, Country Girls spent a good deal of May on the road with their “Country Girls Live Tour 2016 Spring and Summer“, which will continue until June 26. Unlike Kobushi Factory, Country Girls offered refunds for any poor HaroWota bitterly disappointed by the loss of Inaba Manaka due to her asthma complications. This said, May proved a mixed month for Tsugunaga Momoko’s Country Girls.
Although there is no news of a fourth single, the Girls performed two new songs on their tour, “Viva Barairo” and “Rhythm ga Yonde Iru”, with the former performed on Hello! Station #170. Even though there’s nothing much on the Country Girls Schedule past the Summer Hello! Concerts, a new single seems unlikely with the absence of Inaba Manaka, the group’s dance leader and heart. Let’s hope the girl returns to the group before the fickle fans switch to the next group on the horizon (whoever that would be).
Like always, you’re free to disagree. In fact, please disagree! That’ll 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 Kobushi Factory’s Inoue Rei waits patiently for you. Until next time!