Guest Contributor @thenumber244 here with a look at the last month in Hello! Project land. That’s right: I balance two pencils at 90 degrees atop a circular list of the Hello! Project groups and chant “Charlie, Charlie, who rules the Projects?” Sometimes Charlie makes a mistake or two, but I always suss enough from the peculiar poltergeist to accurately assess the Project people. 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.
To begin things, it doesn’t feel quite right to put Tsubaki Factory into the rankings just yet. I should, however, note that the Camellia sextet released their debut indie single this month. You can take a watch and listen to “Seishun Manmannaka!” on the 135th edition of Hello! Project Station.
Perhaps the biggest story in Hello! Project is the shocking confirmation of Tsunku’s resignation as producer of the Projects. Most people already noticed the decrease in Tsunku’s participation in Hello! Project singles. With his new book, Dakara, Ikiru. (you can read translations here), the grand wizard of the Projects tells us that from now on he will serve as a musical contributor for Morning Musume and will leave the rest of the Projects to other producers.
Since I became aware of the inner workings of the Projects I long contemplated the inevitable life after Tsunku. Now that its arrived, I’m saddened by the circumstances that ushered the second life of Hello! Project. Well, time for us all to put on our optimistic hat and drool over the possibilities that now lay ahead for the Projects. Which guest musical producer / composer / arranger gets YOU most excited about for Hello! Project?
And, on that note…
Rankings, Come On!
|C-ute||(+3)||Top spot this month goes to Yajima Maimi and the girls of C-ute. October felt like a month of celebration for the girls. Well-deserved celebration in my opinion, as the girls celebrated their 10th anniversary and their ability to overcome personnel losses and a sales roller-coaster that finally sees the girls atop the Projects both in ranking and in seniority.
To celebrate, C-ute blasted into Mexico with "℃-ute Cutie Circuit ~¡Vamos a México!". While I didn't attend personally, it seems the concert was a resounding success. Tons of blog photos of the girls cavorting through Mexico (in general) and Cancun (in particular) also surfaced from their trip. Let's see: a group of five attractive Japanese girls in their prime celebrating in Cancun? Where do I get tickets to that!? Let's hope a photo book comes out of this, right?
Of course, 9/10 is C-ute day. This year we get news of a new single from the girls to be released on October 28. Previews of "Arigatou Mugen no Yell / Arashi wo Okosunda Exciting Fight" have made their way out. Most are pleased with the balance of ballad and rock with the single. For geeks like me, Music+ aired studio footage of the recording process of "Arashi wo Okosunda Exciting Fight" punctuated with the vocal recording sessions on DATE. If you want to see how the sausage is made, I highly recommend checking it out.
Okai Chisato continues to rule the television waves this month. This month's highlight is Chisa's appearance on the Pussuma spicy food challenge with Morning Musume '15's Ikuta Erina - watch Chisa eat here. The main news from that particular program involved Eripon, so more on that further down in the rankings. Also for your eyes, Yajima Maimi released the cover of her latest Blu Ray release, "Flowing". That October 21 release is sure to cause a firestorm around the Projects, so look out!
As we reach the end of October, look for C-ute's 28th single. I'll be chart watching on my twitter. Won't you join me?
|Kobushi Factory||(+1)||Kobushi Factory narrowly misses out on the top spot for October. The group did everything they could to overcome the Queens of the Projects, but they fell short by a slim margin. The Factory Girls launched "Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan / Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta / Nen ni wa Nen (Nen Iri Ver.)" early in the month and kept on burning throughout the month.
Don't let the weekly number 3 rank fool you: Kobushi Factory's debut 34,639 units means the single performed better than almost all of the Berryz Kobo discography, the entire S/mileage catalog, a good chunk of C-ute's early catalog, and even some Platinum Morning Musume singles. Most idol groups would kill for those numbers.
This month, Inoue Rei wasn't alone in providing exposure to the young group. Kobushi Factory shined in their own sparkling billboard at the Shibuya Crossing. The Factory Girls made their rounds through television guest spots during release to further bolster their exposure. Things wrapped up for the girls in September with their performance at Hello! Project New Fes II with Tsubaki Factory, Country Girls, and select Hello Project Kenshuusei.
Up ahead for Kobushi Factory is a set of concerts with their sister group, Tsubaki Factory, and the Hello! Pro Kenshuusei. The Hello! Project Countdown Party 2015 lies just after those concerts (spoiler: the magnolia girls won't make it to midnight). Further ahead, of course, is their as-yet-unnamed second single. That next release will really show us what these Factory girls are made of!
|Morning Musume '15||(-2)||Morning Musume '15 steps down from atop the rankings after their successful 59th single, "Oh My Wish! / Sukatto My Heart, and Ima Sugu Tobikomu Yuuki". September's most memorable event from the group was their participation in Music Station Ultra FEW this month. Dressed in fancifully plumed silver outfits, the group shone through its performance of "Love Maching (Updated)". Perhaps defiantly, Morning Musume '15 began their performance by striking poses from their most recent singles, which began a fun round of "guess the pose" for us MoWota. The Music Station performance also provided us moments with the '15 girls and their OG senpai like this and this.
In other collaborations, Morning Musume '15 appeared with former Up Front artists YuiKaori on "FujiTV NEXT Atashi no Ongaku" performing "Sukatto My Heart", "The Peace", and "Morning Coffee". You might want to check out these performances since Morning Musume '15 perform with a live band (which means no backing tracks). "The Peace" is a great collaboration with MoMusu and YuiKaori, while "Morning Coffee" gives us a wonderfully stripped down vocal / piano arrangement.
For a bit of controversy, you might want to check out the Pussuma Spicy Food Battle I mentioned early. You'll be rewarded with some Ero/Gravure models, ahem, "encouraging" Yuusuke to endure the spice. You'll also get to see Team Yuusuke pop balloons by squeezing the airbags between their bodies. Apparently, some people didn't like to see Yuusuke, a confessed Eripon wota, thrusting into Ikuta...I guess you'll just have to watch it.
Finally, I can entreat you to enjoy some Fukumura Mizuki in Young Gangan. I don't think we need to say more about that.
|Juice=Juice||(+2)||After spending last month in the basement, Juice=Juice warm up a bit in September with a couple of items of note. Firstly, an event that seems long anticipated: Uemura Akari will release her debut solo photobook, "Akari", on October 24. This seems a bit weird when you remember that I once teased the girl for having the body shape of a ladder. Then again, Akari's grown up a bit since then. The cover images of the (regular edition and Amazon edition) have been wowing people all over the social media airwaves. Will you make a place on your bookshelf for Aarii?
In other news, the group concluded the first leg of their "Mission 220" tour. The group hopes their grueling tour schedule culminates with a live performance at Nippon Budokan sometime next year. To celebrate their first step in that direction, Juice=Juice will hold (held) live performances in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Adding some magic to the experience, these visits will be the first time overseas for Kanazawa Tomoko, Miyamoto Karin and Uemura Akari.
Up next for the group are those overseas performances (of course), the "Juice=Juice LIVE MISSION 220 ～Special Code→J=J Day 2015～" on October 10 and 12 (10/10 is Juice=Juice day!), and the brief (in comparison) "Juice=Juice LIVE MISSION 220 ～Code2～". It seems the Juicers will spend the rest of 2015 bringing the juice to the people!
|Angerme||(=)||Tough decisions to be made here after. It seems most of Hello! Project took a step sideways to allow C-ute and Kobushi Factory to shine in September, including number five on the Power Ranking, ANGERME. News was a bit difficult to come by, but there are a few items of note. In sad news, Sasaki Rikako's association with Pichile magazine comes to an end as the magazine ceases publication. As pretty as she is, I don't doubt Rikako will emerge in another magazine somewhere out there.
In more bittersweet news, ANGERME spent most of September on their ~Fighting Nine~ Tour enjoying their last moments together as a group of nine. As "Fukuda Kanon Watch" enters its final month, we learned that Maro wrote the lyrics to her solo graduation song herself, a move that is unprecedented in the projects. Then again, there isn't much precedence for Kanon.
Rarely do we see the entire arc of an idol's career from training to debut to graduation. Considering her bumpy road, it must be satisfying for Kanon to hold control over the last act of her career. As more details of the release emerge, look for ANGERME to rise in the rankings.
|Country Girls||(-4)||Judging by their Power Rank for October, you would be correct in guessing that the Country Girls slowed things down a bit for the month. Inaba Manaka continues on with "Inaba Manaka's Manakan Music" corner on "Utanabi!"; this month the Country Girl highlighted Disney Music - you can see her thoughts on "Part of Your World" here.
At the end of the month, the Country Girls took a guest role in the Hello! Project New Fes 2. And really, that's it for Momoko, Risa, Manaka, Chisaki, and Mai. I don't foresee a new single for the girls before the end of the year, so it seems they have their Fall Tour 2015 starting this month, the year-end Hello! Project Countdown Party, and that's it for 2015. Let's hope I'm wrong on this.
Like always, you’re free to disagree. Give me an earful in the comments below, my personal twitter, or the New School Kaidan Twitter. You can also come over and say “Hello” at Japan Expo 2015 on October 17 and 18 in Los Angeles, where I will be following Cheeky Parade around like a lovesick teenager. Don’t forget to visit me at my main blog The Number 244, where I give Country Girl’s Morito Chisaki a good looking over in Gravure the Television.