Guest Contributor @thenumber244 here with a look at the last month in Hello! Project land. That’s right: I scatter seeds and other food around my cul-de-sac and observe the pecking of the feral chicken on my block. You probably won’t believe it, but those pesky poultry predicted the passing of Tsunku’s producer position. 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.
October was capped off by a new single record and the graduation announcement of a popular member of the Projects. But, what you won’t see on the rankings is the YouTube Red dilemma (or the recent Country Girls news -GM). To summarize: the implementation of YouTube Red, YouTube’s new subscription service, necessitated new contracts with content providers like Up Front. For the time being, all music channels from Up Front / Hello! Project are region blocked from the USA.
This affects me greatly. The blockade puzzles me since the Projects in recent years have been all about gaining a worldwide presence- remember “reverse importation?” The current moment feels a little bit like the dark ages, but hopefully a resolution will be worked out.
And, on that note…
Rankings, Come On!
|Morning Musume '15||(+2)||Sayashi Riho graduates from Morning Musume '15 on December 31, 2015.
Well, Sayashi Riho fans … I don't know what happened. I don't know why the 9th generation member and Morning Musume '15 ace is graduating. Official reasons for RihoRiho's graduation concern her future plans and her desire to study English and dance. Most of the time, the "study abroad" graduation reason meets a good deal of skepticism; this time is not an exception. I don't want to speculate here on the Power Rankings, but something feels wrong with the timing of this graduation and the hasty manner in which Hello! Project threw it together.
With only two months to go, a graduation single and solo song doesn't seem likely. A proper graduation concert at the largest venue possible won't happen. Sayashi's last visit to her hometown Hiroshima happens/happened on October 31, and her last concert a.k.a. her graduation will be the "Hello！Project COUNTDOWN PARTY 2015 ～ GOOD BYE & HELLO ! ～" on New Year's Eve at Nakano Sun Plaza. Really? The most significant addition to the group is graduationg at Nakano Sun Plaza? Given that Rihorin threw Morning Musume on her back almost from day 1, no one doubts the huge hole that will emerge with her departure.
This being a monthly column, we'll have more of Riho's graduation in the next two months; we should, talk more about the month that was Morning Musume here. As hinted above, the "Morning Musume. '15 Concert tour Aki ~ PRISM ~" made five stops in October bringing the extravaganza from Sapporo in Hokkaido to Kumamoto in Kyushu. Although no one participated in a spicy food battle, and this is important for the foreign fas, the group maintained a strong presence on overseas television with appearances on J-Melo and Tokyo Girls Update TV, both on NHK World.
The most memorable moment on TV for October occured on the "KanJAM Kanzen Moeru SHOW ". Ikuta Erina used her lack of lines, especially in the group's breakout song "One-Two-Three", to great comedic effect. Eripon's public gripe about line distribution reminds me of Morning Musume OG Michishige Sayumi's similar shtick during the "Resonant Blue" promotional campaign. But, this is the part that really got people talking, another corner of the show highlighted the Senpai / Kouhai relationships within Morning Musume '15.
Most of us are aware of the distinct social order of Japanese interpersonal relations. Riho obviously plays senior to most of the other girls in the group including 10th generation member Sato Masaki. As fans watched MM15 analyze performance video (similar to an NFL team looking at game tape), they were noticeably divided on Riho's sharp criticism of Sato Masaki's performance. Maa-chan's meek responses to Riho's evaluations probably made matters worse.
Personally, I found the timing of KanJAM and Riho's graduation announcement too close for comfort - almost like this event and its reception begat the graduation. I highly doubt that's true though. I posit that Sayashi's sharp analysis is the effect of her looming graduation and Sayashi's limited window to influence and improve the performance level of the group.
Morning Musume '15 continues the "Morning Musume. '15 Concert tour Aki ~ PRISM ~" through December 8, where the tour will finish up with two performances at Nippon Budokan. Look for Sayashi Riho's graduation on December 31st at the "Hello！Project COUNTDOWN PARTY 2015 ～ GOOD BYE & HELLO ! ～" at Nakano Sun Plaza. I hear some of the other groups will be there, too...
|C-ute||(-1)||Up until about an hour or two ago, C-ute perched at no. 1 in these Power Rankings. I don't know if you would say that Yajima Maimi and the girls are hard luck cases, though. Unlike the mixed news from Morning Musume '15, the news coming from the Hello! Project Kids is strictly upbeat.
Things start and end with single releases here on the Power Rankings, and C-ute certainly flexed their well-toned muscles with "Arigatou ~Mugen no Yell~ / Arashi wo Okosunda Exciting Fight!". The group's 28th single is poised to post the group's best first week numbers ever with 58,347 units sold on its first day of release. Those are incredibly impressive numbers.
C-ute keep themselves busy through the rest of the year with an impressive string of tour dates that started in October. Promotion for the new single also spiked the number of television appearances the girls made in the month. While there didn't seem to be a breakthrough or lynchpin television appearance, the number of promo stops combined with the girls' recurring appearances amounted to a heavy schedule.
In the next few months, look for C-ute to criss-cross Japan on their "℃ -ute Concert Tour 2015 Aki ~ ℃ an't STOP !! ~" and "Naruchika 2015 winter ℃ -ute" tours. Meanwhile, let's keep track of "Arigatou ~Mugen no Yell~ / Arashi wo Okosunda Exciting Fight!" to see if the single has legs. Of course, Maimi, Nakky, Airi, Chisato, and Mai will make an appearance at the "Hello！Project COUNTDOWN PARTY 2015 ～ GOOD BYE & HELLO ! ～". Let's make sure to cheer on the girls, lest the Countdown Party becomes a Graduation Party.
|Angerme||(+2)||As the release date for "Desugita Kui wa Utarenai / Dondengaeshi / Watashi" approaches, Wada Ayaka, Fukuda Kanon, and the rest of the Angry Angels begin to percolate to the top of the Projects yet again.
October finds Kanyon (who will always be Cinderella to me) poised to exit the group on a high note as her graduation single shows all the earmarks of a winner. Although a bit uncharacteristic for the S/mileage part of her career, "Desugita Kui wa Utarenai / Dondengaeshi / Watashi" sees Kanon rock hard with the rest of the group.
The more serious sound of ANGERME, which the group long cultivated since (since the end of 2012) reaches a climax with "Desugita Kui wa Utarenai" and "Dondengaeshi" sounding as heavier than anything ever produced in the Projects. Whether the group will continue producing the heavy in future singles remains to be seen, of course. Regardless, HaroWota should definitely watch the performance of the 20th single: exciting times are ahead!
The girls road schedule proved challenging for all of 2015, and October was no exception. The Fukuda Kanyon farewell show made 7 stops in October as part of the "ANGERME Live Tour 2015 SUMMER / AUTUMN ~FIGHTING NINE~" show. Next month finds the nine girls playing four dates on the "ANGERME First Concert Tour 2015 Aki 'Hyakka Ryouran'" tour before finishing at Budokan for the "~Fukuda Kanon Sotsugyou Special~". Their return to the venerated venue promises bittersweet tears for the obvious reasons.
Of course I'll be chart watching "Desugita Kui wa Utarenai / Dondengaeshi / Watashi" on my TheNumber244 Twitter. With the new single release and a graduation on tap for November, look for ANGERME to rise up on their wings in the next Power Rankings.
|Juice=Juice||(=)||Juice=Juice treads water this month with a number 4 ranking. A pair of overseas concerts in Taiwan and Hong Kong provided a much needed edge for the Juicers over the rest of the Projects. Somehow, Juice=Juice beat ANGERME / S/mileage in two interesting categories: first to a weekly number 1 single and first to an overseas live. If Juice=Juice manages an Alo-Hello! before ANGERME, I think someone is going to flip tables.
Back to the overseas concerts, the one-day events seemed rushed to me. I would have liked to see Juice=Juice take their time at both locals, perhaps shoot a few videos for YouTube, or maybe even produce an actual photobook to document the events. But, like all fans, I'll just have to sit here at my laptop and want for more (I'm used to that already).
I'll briefly mention that Juice=Juice began the second leg of their "Code 220" tour with 8 dates in October. These girls are BUSY. Including the two overseas dates, Juice=Juice averaged one concert every 3 days in the month. That's a lot of performances for a group of young girls. On top of that, the Juicers announced their participation in a Fuji TV drama called "Budokan". The girls will star in the work as a five-person idol unit called NEXT YOU. The 8-episode drama will focus on the rise to fame of NEXT YOU.
None other than our friend Tsunku composes the songs and produces the imagery and choreography for the group. That sounds familiar to my ears. The drama films in November, and Juice=Juice will hold events as their alter-egos throughout the month. Look for the 8-episode run of "Budokan" next year.
Finally, Uemura Akari released her "AKARI" photobook as October closed out. I don't think I need to say much more than that. Look for Juice=Juice continuing their "Juice = Juice LIVE MISSION 220 ~ Code2 → NEXT to YOU ~" with seven dates throughout November.
|Country Girls||(+1)||With no single to promote, Country Girls stayed afloat pretty well. Their "Country Girls Live Tour 2015 Fall" made five stops in October, spreading cuteness all throughout. The tour started on rocky ground with Playing Manager Tsugunaga Momoko abset for health reasons (she was resting/recovering from vocal cord polyps).
But, Momo is back and putting her pinky power to good use. Even though the group only has two singles, the group draws on the long histories of both Country Musume and Hello! Project to fill out 19 song set list. Don't you want to see a Morito Chisaki / Ozeki Mai Robokiss?
The group continues to have a strong presence on TV with both Momoko and Inaba Manaka hitting the circuit. This month, Manakan Music hit Western music with her takes on Ne-Yo and Rihanna. Momoko, meanwhile, took the Downtown DXDX cameras to a Country Girls handshake event.
This balanced attack, albeit at decreased volume, should power the Country Girls through the end of the year, where the (say it with me) "H!P Countdown Part 2015 ~Good Bye and Hello!~" and a new single awaits.
|Kobushi Factory||(-4)||Kobushi Factory tumbles down to the cellar this month. What went wrong? Well, after spending the last few months near the top of the ranking, the Magnolia Girls cooled down a bit with their activities. Without another single to promote, the group has relatively little to do...except for Inoue Rei. ReiRei is always on Oha Star, isn't she?
Things pick up for Kobushi Factory in November when Ayapan and co. hit the road for "Kobushi Factory Live Tour 2015 ~ The First Ring! ~". This first tour will make 9 stops throughout Japan. Let's take guesses on the Berryz Koubou hits the Magnolias will perform, shall we? I'm hoping for "Gyagu 100 Kaibun Aishite Kudasai" for no other reason than my personal like of the song.
Like the rest of the groups in Hello! Project, the fresh young faces make an appearance at the New Year's Eve "Hello！Project COUNTDOWN PARTY 2015 ～ GOOD BYE & HELLO ! ～". Hold onto your hats! That new single announcement could happen any day, any time, any place!
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 come over to my blog at TheNumber244, where I check on Makino Maria‘s progress as the latest Morning Musume magazine queen. Well, she’s more of a princess at this point, right?