Hello everybody, guest contributor TheNumber244 here to bring you up to date with the new month of Hello! Project rankings. Before we get started, we need to recognize the natural disaster in April. The Kumamoto earthquake destroyed much of that Southern Japan town’s resources and housing. In the process, more than 40 people lost their life and thousands have lost homes and/or businesses. It’s probably a world removed from you, but for Hello! Project idols Kamikokuryo Moe (Angerme) and Ikuta Erina (Morning Musume ’16) the earthquakes literally hit home- both idols are from Kyushuu and have family in Kumamoto with Kamikochan hailing from Kumamoto proper. For their part, Hello! Project set up donation boxes at their recent events for the charitable Harowota. You can read details of H!P relief efforts at the Up Front Link Facebook Page. If you are reading this from abroad, The Japan Times lists some resources to get you started with your charitable and humanitarian donation.
And with solemnity,
Rankings come on!
Atop the Projects this month is ANGERME and their undeniable jam of a single. “Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku” was worth the wait: exciting, catchy, and filled with drama. Like “Taiki Bansei last year, Wada Ayaka and co. set the bar high for the rest of the groups: I’ve already heard the “song of the year” honors bestowed in the April single. And, the single charts treated the 21st single well. “Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku / Itoshima Distance / Koi Nara Tokku ni Hajimatteru” became Angerme / S/mileage’s best selling single of all time with 52,682 first week units sold. While it wasn’t the best selling Hello! Project single this month, it definitely positions ANGERME ahead the rest of the post-Berikyuu H!P roster. How’s that for a welcome, Kamikokuryo Moe?
And, how’s that for a farewell, Tamura Meimi? The fanged one leaves her group and H!P on May 30 when the group performs their one-man live at Nippon Budokan. I’ll be honest: it feels crazy to say goodbye to a member of the shin-S/mileage generation. But, considering AMeRiKa have been in the Projects since 2011 we shouldn’t be too surprised. Afterall, 9th generation Morning Musume joined H!P that same year, and we’re seeing that group of girls slowly graduate, too. Angerme will lose one of their main vocalists, and will be forced to rely on some of their new, young talent to carry their sound.
If you are not lucky enough to attend the Tamura Meimi graduation in person, Hello! Project will stream Meimi’s graduation (and Suzuki Kanon’s graduation) at a number of locations in Japan as well as in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The rest of us will have to wait for DVDs.
If someone needed to be number one for May, then by necessity, someone needs to be number two. These honors belong to the girls from C-ute. Firstly, congratulations to Yajima Maimi and crew ! Their “Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou? / Summer Wind / Jinsei wa STEP!” release continues to mark the group as one of the top idol groups in the land. The girls opened above 50,000 units (59,522 to be exact) for the 8th straight single release- a string that extends all the way back to 2013’s “Kanashiki Amefuri / Adam to Eve no Dilemma“. I personally think this incredible sales record is completely earth-shattering for an idol group. Comparatively speaking, most idol would kill for that kind of a streak.
Seemingly lost amid all the news in April is the next set of overseas performances for C-ute. May 21 and 22 bring the C-ute girls to Hong Kong and Taipei! I know that announcement doesn’t make an entire article, but we should probably note Hello! Project’s noticeable increased presence outside of Japan. Let’s not forget that Morning Musume visited Houston, TX less than three months ago, Juice=Juice visited Taiwan and Hong Kong 7 months ago, and C-ute made their way to Mexico City only 8 months prior. Consider also the relationship H!P maintains with NHK World’s “J-Melo“. C-ute’s upcoming trip now looks like the latest overtures from the Projects to hook in the overseas wota … those bastards.
So with all that good news, why did I put C-ute in second this month? Well, those 59,522 units represents a modest decline in sales for C-ute. The last time the group missed breaking the 60K barrier was in 2014 with “The Power / Kanashiki Heaven (Single Version)“. Admittedly, the 29th single took the group out of their comfort zone with genre sounds and oldies vibes (which I expounded upon on my mothership blog). Given this, I think a dip in sales was expected. So which C-ute showed up in April: the experimental group who maintained high sales numbers or the idol group experiencing a dip in sales? I’ll leave that punditry to someone “smarter” than me …
With a single release in a matter of days, Morning Musume ’16 is on the charge up… one spot to number 3. It can’t be helped: C-ute and Angerme did so well in April that they effectively pushed the flagship group down in the ranks. Not that Morning Musume ’16 will stay down for long. With a few magazines (Kyuukies in Gravure the Television, Kudo Haruka in UTB+, and the whole group in BLT) and assorted media to choose from, I think I’ll focus on the group’s appearance on the Pussuma Idol Dance Club. Morning Musume ’16 get to teach the guys the dance for “Wakuteka Take a Chance“. Of course, the usual hijinks ensued in this two-part special. MaaDuu get paired and are destroyed laughing at the dance skill of the Idol Dance Club. It’s a fun watch for all.
Optimism for the new single rides high with all three A-side promotional videos now released. Most of the fandom seemed to fixate on “Tokyo to Iu Katasumi” in the early going, but we were horribly wrong since Utakata Saturday Night” seems to now be the jam of choice. And, I can’t blame anyone: the song is a funky disco with a youthful, energetic PV featuring Suzuki Kanon as everyone’s favorite DJ. Look for the 61st Morning Musume single to spin on May 11.
At the end of this month, 9th generation member Suzuki Kanon will say her goodbyes to the Musume life in Nippon Budokan (you did see the mention of Suzuki Kanon’s graduation stream in the section above, right?). Her plan to become a social worker (or similar) really puzzles me a bit, and I get visions of Kanon working in the anime “Servant × Service“. I’m sure we’ll get a tearful goodbye: all the girls really love their Zukki. The Western fandom really loves Zukki. It’s gonna be Zukki, Zukki, Zukki. And, if I never write about the girl again in these power rankings: thank you Suzuki Kanon for all the smiles you gave us these last five years.
Last month’s number one tumbles to fourth place, their only item of note being a bit of a tragedy. After missing a number of events, Inaba Manaka officially went on hiatus from Country Girls effectively immediately. Manakan’s asthma reportedly flared up significantly after her move to Tokyo. This sounds like an environmental cautionary tale: a sweet girl from the country (wink) moves to the big city, “makes it” as an idol, only to have the very air she breathes conspire against her. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but Country Girls (and Tsubaki Factory) did cancel the brief Osaka run of their musical “Kizetsu Suru Hodo Aishiteru!” because of Manaka-loss. And, dammit- I love Manakan!
Manaka-loss is just the latest in a string of tragic circumstances that surround the one-time Country Musume (you should definitely read more about that). No date is set for Manaka’s return to the group. The six remaining girls soldier on with a live tour with dates from May 14 to June 5. Of course, everything seems up in the air after that.
Kobushi Factory spend another month near the basement of the Projects. This is the unfortunate reality of releasing one’s album at the beginning of the release cycle: whilst the other groups are promoting, there isn’t much to do. Recently, Inoue Rei ended her term as a Oha Girl, diminishing the Factory Girls’ presence even further.
A couple of brights spots sparkled for Hirose Ayaka and her troupe in April. Kobushi Factory collaborated with UNIDOL (university idols) to perform a cover of “Sakura Night Fever” in front of Sanrio Puroland’s entrance. You can see the product here. Also, similar to Angerme last year, Kobushi Factory (and Dempagumi.inc) were appointed as ambassadors for “Ai odori-sai ~Aidoru Matsuri~” in 2016. Nothing has materialized yet, but hopefully they’ll get something as fun and lively as Angerme’s “Mahou Tsukai Sally” from last year. Finally, the first Kobushi Factory “~Greeting~” DVDs have arrived! The first installment will feature Hamaura Ayano and Wada Sakurako- you can see the preview here. The series has never featured two girls simultaneously, so Hama-chan and Sakurako are breaking new ground with this DVD.
Juice=Juice move down the ladder for May- all the way down next to the washer/dryer and the sink that perpetually smells of mildew. Now a few months removed from NEXT YOU and the “Budokan” drama, the Juicers need something new to promote. April wasn’t completely devoid of activity; the girls didn’t just sit around idly at H!P HQ and flick Miyamoto Karin in the forehead. The “Juice=Juice LIVE MISSION 220 ～Code3” tour made 8 stops this month as the girls continue their campaign to perform at the real life Budokan like their NEXT YOU alter-egos. For our eyes, Karin shared the cover of UTB+ with Morning Musume ’16’s Kudo Haruka. This provided us with a great look at the young girls at play in the school swimming pool.
The drought won’t last much longer. Juice=Juice released the first single in 2016, which means their turn to release must be coming soon after Morning Musume ’16’s May 11 release. In this case, releasing first brings an advantage to the girls. And, as Juice=Juice wraps up their Mission 220 we should look for a big announcement from the group (possible tied-in with their upcoming eighth single). Keep at it, Juice=Juice. Your time is coming soon!
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!