Hello everybody, guest contributor TheNumber244 here to bring you up to date with the new month of Hello! Project Power Rankings. February 2017 saw the major debut of a Hello! Project, an overseas H!P live event, photobook news from new girls and seasoned pros, television announcements, movie announcements, single announcements, and Ninja Girls.
Perhaps most anticipated of all, however, was the new set of Hina Fes videos. If you’ve never seen them before, the entirety of Hello! Project gathers together to lottery for spots in solo performances and small group performances during the yearly Hina Fes. Taking over from Hamaura Ayano’s colonel character is Kiyono Momohime as “Supreme Commander Marshal Momohime”, and let me tell you: those aviator glasses were as cool as Kim Deal. Watch the lottery videos here:  and 
Rankings come on!
Coming in at the top of the rankings this month is Country Girls. The group’s fifth release “Good Boy Bad Girl / Peanut Butter Jelly Love” drove much of this resurgence as its sales showed a 3,903 unit improvement. Things are a bit relative, of course, since the single failed to crack the 30,000 unit mark by “just barely” (total first week sales were 29,053 units). “Good Boy Bad Girl / Peanut Butter Jelly Love” will be the last Hello! Project single to contain a member of Berryz Koubou (playing manager Tsugunaga Momoko). Perhaps this bump in sales can be attributed to this “Momoko effect”, but at the very least we can say that the Country Girls single sales have yet to settle down.
Speaking of Momochi, the release of the last Tsugunaga Momoko photobook was announced early in the month, just barely ahead of the release of the aforementioned 5th single. Now, that’s some timing! The March 6 photobook received some previews in both UTB and Flash late in February, and I know more than a few see this book as a collectible piece of Hello! Project history as well as a last peek at Momoko.
Momoko wasn’t the only Country Girl to release a photobook this month. Little Morito Chisaki donned the bikini and released her eponymous debut photobook on February 19. I’m not sure what more I can say about this release other than marvel that Chisaki is very cute in the previews and looks great in every shot I’ve seen. Is this the dawning of a new H!P photobook queen?
I feel refreshed putting Tsubaki Factory up near the top of the rankings. After a long road to the majors, Yamagishi Riko and her Factory Girls came up big with “Hatsukoi Sunrise / Just Try! / Urawashi no Camellia“. The group peaked in the daily charts at number 3, and finished the week with that same number 3 ranking and a total weekly sales of 35,241 units. NOT BAD! I know the newness of the group factored into these numbers, but Tsubaki Factory just bested the last releases from Country Girls, Juice=Juice, and ANGERME. This calls for some congratulations.
Well, before you order a second helping of cake, we should probably dissect this release just a bit further. The trend that really worries me is the lack of news outside Tsubaki Factory’s sales numbers. Truly, every item regarding Tsubaki Factory directly linked itself to the release of their single. Without building the expected media momentum, I think we still need to be very cautious about fate of the group. I hate to be the Debbie Downer for Hello! Project.
With two promotional video releases (“BRAND NEW MORNING” AND “Jealousy Jealousy“) , and upcoming single release date, a television announcement and the return of a lynchpin member, Morning Musume ’17 look ready to leapfrog to the front of the line very soon. The 63rd single is set for release on March 8 with a pair of songs that range from anthemic to funky fresh. Along for the ride for the first time are 13th generation members Kaga Kaede and Yokoyama Reina. Of course, anything can happen, right?
Announced on February 21, Fukumura Mizuki and co. get their own television program! “Tokugi☆Saikenshou Momusu DE Gozaru!” starts airing on March 8 (remember that date?) and will feature the girls attempting to verify the special skills they have listed on their official profile pages. We’ll need to tune in to find out what exactly it’ll look like.
The other big news from February is the scheduled return of Sato Masaki. Out for most of the year with herniated discs, Maachan will return to Morning Musume in March as the group begins its Spring 2017 ~The Inspiration~ Tour on March 18. It sounds like her return will be watched closely by doctors, and Masaki will be participating in the events cautiously. Then again, when has Maachan ever been cautious about anything?
Before I get accused about forgetting other news items, I’ll mention Ikuta Erina’s turn in “Konnichiwa, Joyuu no Sagara Itsuki Desu” with Momoiro Clover Z’s Sasaki Ayaka and NMB48’s Fujie Reina announced for a March airing, Nonaka Miki’s appearance on “Otona e Novel” on February 23, Kudo Haruka and Makino Maria’s photo spread on UTB+, Haga Akane’s mini-photobook release announcement, and Fukumura Mizuki’s latest turn as cover girl for Young Gangan.
I’m putting Juice=Juice at number 4 this month for their pair of concerts in Hong Kong mid-February. Miyazaki Yuka’s Juicers appeared and performed alongside SUPER☆GiRLS, Moso Calibration, Tokyo Girls’ Style, and Ariel Project at the @JAM x TALE event on February 11th and 12th at Music Zone @ E-Max in Hong Kong. Hello! Project groups performing overseas is probably the most welcome trend in recent years. So this performance should be viewed as not only the continuation of that trend, but also a signal that the group of Juicers will be making more trips outside of Japan. In my mind, the @JAM x TALE Hong Kong performances also presented a unique opportunity to see H!P group side by side with groups from other agencies.
And now for some news: Juice=Juice release their 9th single “Jidanda Dance / Feel! Kanjiru yo” on April 26, 2017. Naturally, not much information is known about this release. Stay tuned for more details!
Kobushi Factory take the fifth spot this month largely on the strength of their latest musical “JK Ninja Girls“. To tell the truth, other than the girls playing ninja, I have no idea what this musical is about. OK, the girls play “ninja girls of justice” and “ninja girls of evil” and do battle at a certain girls’ school. What’s more, the musical was deemed strong enough to receive a movie adaptation with a theatrical release date of July 17.
The counter that has me most concerned is the “Time Since the Last Kobushi Factory Single” counter. It’s been about a half-year since “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro / Bacchikoi Seishun! / Ora wa Ninkimono“. I’m telling you now: enough is enough! Let’s get some Kobushi Factory in here now!
February was a cool month for C-ute. The group provided cover shots and a set of photos for UTB+’s March 2017 issue and cover. Along those same lines the group announced the release of the “C-ute Last Official Book” for release in May, 2017. Aside from photographic content, you can expect articles highlighting each girl as well as some talk sessions between the members as they reminisce and attempt to explain what the group means to them personally. On the horizon for the group is it’s final single “To Tomorrow / Final Squall / The Curtain Rises” set for release on March 29, 2017.
I tried to scour for news items about Wada Ayaka and her group of girls, but I came up empty handed. Perhaps the group put itself on hold in hopes for the return of 3rd generation member Aikawa Maho. Personally, I hope this means the group has something big up their sleeves.
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!