Morning Musume surprised me with their upcoming double A-side release. In fact, I consider both ‘One Two Three’ and ‘The Matenro Show’ to be among the strongest entries from Morning Musume in years. But what about the covers? Will they be new and fun like the songs themselves, or will I suffer another case of eye-gouging deja vu?
Morning Musume is infamous for having incredibly uninspired and recycled covers that look like 5th grade photoshop projects; pumping out the familiar messy group cover, Brady Bunch cover, and scrapbook montage cover, all seemingly done by some joyless designer in UFA who has no creative juice left. I’ve said the similar things about H!P’s songs, but they’ve pulled out enough creativity to make them fun again. Can the covers prove to do the same? Click below to embark on a journey with me, to study the latest cover offerings by Morning Musume.
[Limited Edition A]
Alright, well we’re not off to an awesome start, but it’s not bad either. The medium shot of everyone is pretty nice, and they all look psyched with a variety of different poses— but mosaic tiles is a really odd design decision, and the cropping of the bottom makes it even stranger. It creates a really restrictive space, and it’s also done very unconvincingly. Also, the title of the song and the group name are completely obscured by the colors and the layout. The mosaic styled designs are totally confusing to look at, and remind me too much of soulless murals that I see plastered on the walls of shopping centers and malls. Unless there’s a song in here that sounds like this, Limited Edition A doesn’t even come close to representing the songs.
[Limited Edition B]
This is more like it, but maybe a little too far in the opposite direction. Now it’s almost too reductive, focusing only just Tanaka Reina and Michishige Sayumi, but this is certainly way easier to read. The group name and song titles are extremely easy to spot, and the limited yet electric color palette of the clothes and type is far more effective than Limited A’s philosophy of throwing a million colors on the cover to confuse you.
The background is simply a wall with casted shadows, but it’s worlds better than photoshopping in a flat, clusterfuck background like in Limited A. This looks a lot like what you would see from a professional magazine shoot, and I’m a fan of these types of CD jackets. There are small things to nitpick like, “Why are all the titles arbitrarily tilting to the left?”, but I can buy it on the premise of the covers going for some trendy, “x-treme” look. Michishige’s pink hat saying “I Love Green” says as much. A very nice looking cover overall, even at the cost of not showing any other members.
[Limited Edition C]
Come on, again?! What the hell is that shit in the background? This cover would look 1000% better without it. It makes everything above the skirts muddled and busy. I try to look at the members faces, but get lost in the crappy, photoshopped design in the back. I shouldn’t have to strain my eyes to look at everyone. In Limited A, everyone was large and close enough together so that I could ignore the obnoxious designs and spot all the members fairly easily, but it’s a much harder task when it’s a far shot like this Limited C. The type is easy to see, but suffers from the “left tilt” syndrome, and rather than a stylistic choice, it looks like a sloppy effort to barely make it fit on the bottom.
[Limited Edition D]
Ah, I see where they’re going with these covers now. They’re releasing covers based on generation. Limited B showing off 6th gen, and this Limited D showcasing 9th gen. I assume there’s a 10th gen cover coming up.
This simple presentation of four members immediately reminds me of the old S/Mileage covers, which is more a good thing than bad. It’s nice, clean, and has a clear theme (tea time!), even though it’s odd upon closer inspection. First, none of the A-sides make me want to drink tea(I’m betting that this cover is more for the b-side song sung by 9th gen). Second, it’s four girls sitting in a straight horizontal line facing you, with no table to set their tea cups, and with Suzuki Kanon sitting at the very end with the lone kettle, creating one of the least effective ways to distribute tea I’ve ever seen. None for you, Kanon.
H!P’s love of nonsensically photoshopped backgrounds and terrible, fake shadows is on display once again. I have no idea why they couldn’t have shot this in a real room with a real wall behind them, but at least it’s a non-offensive pattern. The type treatment at the top is clear, but the font choice was strange. Wouldn’t this cover warrant the same elegant, cursive font that Limited A and C have?
[Limited Edition E]
It wouldn’t be a complete collection of H!P covers without the Brady Bunch homage. Someone on UFA’s design team has a total hard-on for cutting out individual members and arranging it into a CD cover. I’m coming to terms with the fact that it’s a necessary evil, and it’s just how things are. That said, it does look nice. The electric disco dance theme is worked throughout, and the graphics in the middle rectangle showcasing the group name and song title is easily the best of the bunch. It’s very cohesive and not too busy, while showcasing that the songs are dynamic and fun. Stop touching your faces girls, you’ll give yourself zits! Especially you, Sayumi.
[Limited Edition F]
Showcasing the new tenth generation members, it shares some of the strengths and weaknesses with 9th gen’s Limited Edition D covers. This also has a cohesive theme (victorian) and a badly photoshopped wall in the back— but it isn’t as blatantly obvious here. The members are also sitting in a more natural composition, and the type treatment here is fantastic; the way the title ‘Morning Musume’ sits inside the decorated circle is a really nice design. The border is a little distracting, but it looks better with it than without, and it ties everything together with the victorian aesthetic. It looks like a thoughtfully composed cover, and definitely among the best of the bunch.
Oh “Regular Edition”, your cover is anything but. I have no idea why Morning Musume is in this bathroom tiled, polka dotted hell but someone save them! While I like how the members are composed, I don’t like how they’re interacting with a completely flat and 2d graphic. The fake shadows just add to the jarring and confusing setting, and it just looks bad. Make it stop!
So there we go, we’ve gone through all SEVEN covers for Morning Musume’s Double A-side ‘One Two Three/ The Matenro Show’. I feel that H!P as a whole continues to wonder if they’re trying to be campy and kitschy, or contemporary and sleek, and I would say that the lack of consistent style in these covers is reflective of that.
Out of all these I would say Limited B, Limited E, and Limited F are the clear standouts. The full group shots continue to be less than stellar, but they’re admittedly hard to do well with a lot of members. Overall, this was a better showing than I expected. I normally come away with just one cover I like with H!P releases, but this time I came away with three. A markedly better result, and my hype for this release continues on.