Guest Contributor @thenumber244 here with a look at the last month in Hello! Project land. That’s right: I write the names of each Hello! Project group on a strip of paper and encourage my four-year-old niece to play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”. The stakes, of course, are the fate of all of humanity…err, the May Power Ranking for Hello! Project. You would think I’d create a near-comprehensive list of H!P activity by group, but that wouldn’t be nearly as fun.
The Hello! Project groups kept themselves busy during April. Three of the six groups included in the ranking this month released a single, resulting in some favorable chart positions and some high profile advertising campaigns for Morning Musume ’15 and Juice=Juice. Hello! Project also revealed one major overseas concert in the coming months. All the while, spring tours continue for Morning Musume ’15, C-ute, and Angerme.
If all of that news wasn’t enough, Hello! Project created a new group for us to follow! I don’t want to scramble your eggs too much, but the group’s name, named with assistance from Shimizu Saki, is “Tsubaki Factory”. You won’t mix it up with the other Factory group: Kobushi means “Magnolia” and Tsubaki means “Camelia”. See how easy that is? The new unit will be the debut of Hello! Project/NICE GIRL Project! Kenshuusei Ogata Risa, and Hello! Project Kenshuusei Yamagishi Riko, Niinuma Kisora, Tanimoto Ami, Kishimoto Yumeno, and Asakura Kiki. You can see the moment of truth for the new Factory girls (and a killer live performance PV from Tsubaki Factory) on Hello! Station #115.
OK, then! Let’s get on with the Hello! Project Power Rankings for May 2015!
Rankings, Come On!
|Morning Musume '15||(+1)||Morning Musume climbs back to the top spot in this month's ranking with a number two ranking on their weekly Oricon Chart battle. The good news for MoWota - "Seishun Kozou wa Naiteiru / Yuugure wa Ameagari / Ima Koko Kara" continues the flagship group's string of 100,000 sellers. I don't know if I can call this bad news, but the 58th Morning Musume single barely hit the 100K mark by selling 101,275 units on its debut release.
While that's an impressive number, the debut for the 12th generation sold about 24K less than its predecessor, the Michishige Sayumi swan song "TIKI BUN" . Then again, "Seishun Kozou wa Naiteiru" stacks up favorably against the debut releases for the other three active Morning Musume generations (9th gen debut "Maji desu ka Ska sold 33,698, 10th gen debut "Pyoko Pyoko Ultra" sold 31,094, and 11th gen debut "Help Me! sold 93,286). What does it all mean? Well, in the tradition of any good statistical observation, it means whatever you want it to mean: half-empty or half-full.
The single also came with a promotional campaign that included a billboard ad in Shibuya and a mural ads in Shinjuku Station. The Shinjuku ads proved particularly memorable as printed wraps of each girl adorned the columns in the station. Basically, the columns provided nice photo ops with one's favorite member.
Meanwhile, Makino Maria got busy throwing the first pitch at a recent Nippon Ham Fighters game. I'd say she overthrew a little.
Wrapping up the Morning Musume '15 news, a trio of new DVD/Blu Ray releases surfaced in the month. Firstly, 9th generation member Sayashi Riho released "Sixteen", the redundantly titled the video companion release to her recent photobook, "Juurokusai". Ogata Haruna and Nonaka Miki also released preview videos for their upcoming "Greeting" DVDs. Haachin's DVD features long awaited footage of the selfie queen showing off her ice skating skills, while Chel showcases her piano playing prowess in her video preview.
Both DVDs look to be shot in the same "following an H!P member around afterschool" style, so you know what you are getting into. By the way, this leaves Haga Akane as the only 12th generation member without a "Greeting" release.
|Juice=Juice||(+3)||Let's put this loud and clear right at the beginning - Juice=Juice accomplished something no other current group in Hello! Project ever accomplished. Juice=Juice even accomplished things no other group in Hello! Project history ever accomplished! One can paint, bend, and interpret the facts in many ways, but Juice=Juice hit the top spot on the weekly Oricon charts with their April 8 release "Wonderful World / Ça Va? Ça Va?". Their 34,127 first week units sold falls right in line with their previous releases and makes all of my talk of the group's decline seem silly.
No other current H!P group ever garnered a weekly number one. Not one. In fact, you need to go back to 2005 before finding a Hello! Project group not named "Morning Musume" hitting the top spot - DEF.DIVA's "Suki Sugite Baka Mitai". There are even more talking points for the single! "Wonderful World / Ça Va? Ça Va?" hit the top spot without a composition by Tsunku, which has never happened. Ever. What's more, every Hello! Project Weekly Number One 1 single came from a group with at least one Morning Musume member except...you guessed it..."Wonderful World / Ça Va? Ça Va?"
Juice=Juice got into the promotional game with their own billboard in Shibuya and release events at Venus Fort, Tower Records Shibuya, Ikebukuro Sunshine City, Urban dock Lala port Toyosu, and Laqua Garden . As a payoff, Juice=Juice thanks you for putting their single atop the charts. LET THERE BE CAKE.
Anyway you pour it out, Juice=Juice have come back from the cellars of Hello! Project. Look forward to a quick tour in May, the aptly named "Juice=Juice Fast Live Tour 2015 ~Special Juice~. Further down the line, there are rumors of a debut album for the Juicers. All this good fortune, let's look forward to increased media exposure Juice=Juice.
|C-ute||(=)||Talk about a hard luck case. C-ute are arguably the most consistent group in Hello! Project with a string of 60,000 copy selling singles dating back to 2013. Their latest triple A-side release, "The Middle Management ~Josei Chuukan Kanrishoku~ / Gamusha LIFE / Tsugi no Kado wo Magare" continues the group's stellar track record with first week sales totaling 60,698 units. Selling many units makes most idol groups envious.
However, and here's the hard luck part of my report, C-ute only managed to secure a third place ranking for their 27th major release. These results are not lackluster by any stretch, but I would think Hello! Project is itching to secure their girls a Weekly Number One. Yajima Maimi being the new queen bee of H!P should be enough to expend any amount of resources and effort to ensure the elusive top spot.
C-ute unleashed the big news during their April 26 concert (see the footage on Hello! Station#115) . C-ute's next international venture brings the group to Mexico on September 19 with their "C-ute Cutie Circuit ~¡Vamos a México!~" concert. Details are still vague, but at least the girls made a nice promotional message for us international fans.
I can tell you the concert will be held at SALA (Puebla #186 esq. Insurgentes, Col. Roma Norte, México, DF 06721) with tickets on sale...eventually in May. The information is nicely summarized here (thanks to Chia). A Hello! Project group has never ventured into Mexico before, so C-ute are once again trailblazers for the Projects. Right now, I'm weighing airfare options from Los Angeles, so maybe we can all meet in Mexico City, right?
|Angerme||(=)||Although Angerme hasn't shown itself in many news items lately, they've busied themselves with their first tour under their new name. The "ANGERME Starting Live Tour 2015 Spring" saw the girls slowly wind their way through Japan en route to their May 26 solo performance at Nippon Budokan with Juice=Juice, Kobushi Factory, and Tsubaki Factory playing support duties.
I think the most compelling thing about he Budokan performance will be the story of the Hello! Project minor leagues fulfilling its promise. For the first time, a group of H!P Eggs and Kenshuusei will shine at their biggest stage. On this day, there will be no Morning Musume and no H!P Kids acts performing at Budokan - the inmates have taken control of the asylum.
|Country Girls||(-4)||April was also a slow month for Country Girls, and the Power Ranking for the Country Girls reflects this. To tell the stark truth, I haven't heard much of anything happening in the CG camp! Don't worry, I won't just spend the next few words gushing over any of the members, even though I've been in a Yamaki Risa mood lately. I suppose a brief respite is to be expected following a release.
On the bright side, we got a brief Country Girls sighting during Hello! Stations #114 and 115 as Inaba Manaka demonstrated her dance skills with the H!P Dance Club. Maybe that will satiate the Country Girl hunger.
In any case, I hope we get news of a next single soon. You know, they really need to capitalize on the momentum built from their debut single “Itooshikutte Gomen ne / Koi Dorobou”. For the coming month, look to see Country Girls playing support to Juice=Juice on the "Juice=Juice Fast Live Tour 2015 ~Special Juice~".
|Kobushi Factory||(New)||The Kobushi Factory girls got things started with a new (indie) release and a handful of high profile live performances. Early in the month, the factory girls wrapped their "Week End Survivor" stage play with Sudo Maasa. The play also led to the group's debut single, the rocking "Nen ni wa Nen / Survivor". Kobushi Factory also leveled their exp by playing opening act on the "Morning Musume '15 Concert Tour Haru ~GRADATION~" and "Juice=Juice Fast Live Tour 2015 ~Special Juice~" performances.
It's not a whole lot to write about, but the experience of performing on these tours will be very instructive for the new group. I can leave you with this live performance of "Nen ni wa Nen" from The Girls Live. Enjoy Hamachan.
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 marvel at Shinozaki Ai’s talent(s) and tirelessly interpret the future of Hello! Project based on circumstantial pictorial evidence