Hello everybody, guest contributor TheNumber244 here to bring you up to date with the new month of Hello! Project Power Rankings.
March came, and with it the Hello! Project groups celebrated another Satoyama/Satoumi event and Hina Fes Concerts. With the upcoming graduations of both C-ute and Tsugunaga Momoko, this set of concerts proved significantly poignant. For their part, C-ute members joined each of the lottery chosen subunit performances. Momoko got an entire concert dedicated to her: the Tsugunaga Momoko Premium Concert (Don’t worry, C-ute got their own Premium Concert, too).
Rankings come on!
Everything seemed to go in Morning Musume’s direction in the month of March. The first big celebration for the group was the return of Sato Masaki to performance. Out since the beginning of the year, Maachan rejoined the group on the first day of their “Morning Musume。’17 Concert Tour Haru ~THE INSPIRATION!~” on March 18. Many a mowota were happy to see her singing and (more importantly) dancing again. Of course, no seemed happier about Maachan’s return than Maachan herself. Fingers crossed, we don’t see another episode like this in a long time.
But HEY! March also brought the 63rd single release for the Hello! Project flagship group. “BRAND NEW MORNING / Jealousy Jealousy” put the group at the Weekly Number 2 spot with 79,206 copies. Promotional appearances for the group provided a steady stream of media ops well through the month, fueling Morning Musume ’17’s surge to the penthouse of the Projects.
You want more? Morning Musume ’17 announced their next overseas concert early in March. The group will make its way to Hong Kong on June 25, 2017. This will be the first overseas trip for the new 13th Generation (Kaga Kaede and Yokoyama Reina). Expect the inevitable DVD release.
More still? Fukumura Mizuki leads her girls into battle with the web game “Idol Nama Gassen” against ANGERME. Specifically, Morning Musume ’17 and ANGERME are split into 4 color squads (MM- red and yellow, Anju- blue and green) for a four-way melee. The game officially launched its campaign on the opening day of the Satoyama/Satoumi event. I don’t know too many details about gameplay or objectives, but I’m sure more will be fleshed out for us by the April 16 “Live Battle” event. You can watch the promotional CM here.
While we’re at it, a few magazines photo sets were released featuring Fukumura Mizuki, Makino Maria, and Ogata Haruna; Haga Akane released her “Haga Akane ~Greeting~” mini photobook; and Ishida Ayumi, Oda Sakura, Nonaka Miki, Kaede, and Reina made their way to Taiwan for an handshake event. So yes, it’s been a great month for Morning Musume.
The most important thing to know about C-ute this month is the news of their final single. “To Tomorrow / Final Squall / The Curtain Rises” saw the senior Hello! Project group debut at number 2 on the Oricon Daily Charts and take the weekly number two spot with 66,470 units counted. Unfortunately, this means Yajima Maimi and the girls will never experience a weekly number 1 single with her loved group. While those rankings may not mean much in the actual scheme of things, I imagine the lost opportunity and being locked out from wearing the “Number 1” badge might sting just a little bit.
The girls are already busy with their future plans. For their parts, Maimi and Nakajima Saki host the weekly “Furusato no Yume” show, and Okai Chisato continues to be a fixture on the variety circuit. But, the biggest winner for March seems to be Suzuki Airi. To begin with, Airi graced the cover of “Young Gangan” early in the month. Along those same lines, Airi released her commemorative photobook “Eien” featuring excerpts from her photobooks from 2010 to 2017. But, the the crown here might be the late-March announcement of Suzuki Airi as the “image girl” and star of CMs for Chiba Bank. Listen, I don’t know one Japanese bank from another, but this deal could definitely lead to more and more such jobs for Airi. Which means we haven’t seen the last of her … thank heavens.
Up next for C-ute is the release of their Last Official Book” on May 1 followed closely by the “℃OMPLETE SINGLE COLLECTION“. That final(?) CD release will be either a 3CD+BD or a whopping 6CD set depending on the version you choose. Can you feel the end approaching, yet?
I don’t want to keep talking about it, but the group’s days with Playing Manager Tsugunaga Momoko are rapidly approaching their end. This is a bittersweet moment for all of Hello! Project, but the Country Girls in particular are going to feel it. As testament to the finality, Momoko released her final photobook “Momochi” on March 6. Perhaps it goes without saying, but the photobook focused on the mature side of the Berryz Koubou member turned Country Girl.
Actually, Momoko seems to be leading her group yet again as the Country Girls are popping up on the book racks of late. First came Morito Chisaki’s solo photobook “Morito Chisaki” last month. Then, the Funaki Musubu / Yanagawa Nanami duo announced their joint Blu Ray release “Greeting ~Yanagawa Nanami Funaki Musubu~” with a great preview video (I’m biased as you can see). And, as if saying “me too!”, Yamaki Risa released her “Mini Photobook ‘Greeting ~Photobook~'” on March 25. These three girls seem quick to follow their leader’s footsteps with photobooks and magazine features just a few inches away.
Up next for the Country Girls is a Spring Tour that will carry the group through May. After that, the group should definitely factor in the graduation of their Playing Manager the following month.
With their major debut now in the rear-view mirror, Tsubaki Factory perhaps should take a moment to smell the blooms of their accomplishment. Their debut outsold the last single from Country Girls, Juice=Juice, and Angerme. Tsubaki Factory was still buzzing from their February 22 release with a stream of television appearances that kept the group’s profile up for the month of March. But, of course now the group begins their battle to stay relevant in the rapidly changing landscape.
Early in the month, Tsubaki Factory found themselves in Young Gangan (the same issue as Fukumura Mizuki- see above). Don’t worry, the pictures were squeaky clean with the girls donning school uniforms and horsing around at a school campus … perhaps the same campus as the “Magnificent Camelia” promotional video. Perhaps the raciest thing you’ll see from the Factory Girls is the group playing recorders.
So let’s see: the group doesn’t have an upcoming tour nor plans for second single … so leader Yamagishi Riko took it upon herself to get the gravure ball rolling with her debut photobook. Announced on the eve of the Satoyama/Satoumi event, “Riko” hits the book racks on April 27; this is just in time to keep the Tsubaki flag waving through April.
Kobushi Factory began their month with their “JK Ninja Girls” Musical where Hirose Ayaka and crew play … NINJA GIRLS. OK, I know I had a real brief synopsis of the musical last month, and I’m not going to rehash any of that. I think it’s best if I reiterate the eventual outcome: The “JK Ninja Girls” movie adaptation. For the movie’s July 18 release version, the evil Ninja girls from the musical (Inoue Rei, Fujii Rio, Taguchi Natsumi, and Ogawa Rena) will be possessed by the Ninja Oyajis rather than being actual evil ninja. I hope the movie gets some comedic mileage out of the possessions. Oh, and if you wanted the “JK Ninja Girls” soundtrack, well it hit the stores on March, 29.
In a month filled with so much eye candy, Kobushi Factory felt like they should add to the stacks of magazines and photobooks. Fujii Rio and Ogawa Rena give it their best shot with their joint mini photobook released on March 25. The “Fujii Rio・Ogawa Rena Mini Photobook Greeting -Photobook-” probably won’t be as exhilarating as anything you would find in the magazines listed earlier in these Power Rankings, but it’s a start, right?
With its “Juice=Juice LIVE AROUND 2017 ~NEXT ONE~” tour in full swing, Miyazaki Yuka and the rest of the Juicers stay out of the basement for another month. Of course, the group has some serious work to do. Juice=Juice might be a bit rusty on their singles game having not released a new work since darn near Halloween last year. Undaunted, the group release its ninth single “Jidanda Dance / Feel! Kanjiru yo” on April 26. In March, the biggest news on this single’s front was the debut performance of “Jidanda Dance” at the Hina Fes concerts. Having seen the performance on Hello! Station, I can say the song has a distinct Berryz Koubou feel- which is to say that it’s practically mental.
In more wota-centric news, the group also participated in their second fan-club tour, “Juice=Juice Fanclub Tour ~Miracle×Juice×Bus 2~ in Izu”. The group’s promotional photos features some maid-inspired costuming, so I could only imagine how popular the event was with the attendees. It’s sounds pretty special to me! (I’m anxiously awaiting the digest video for the event)
Unfortunately for all you new Murota Mizuki fans, ANGERME continues to stall in the Power Rankings. Not that Murotan didn’t try to lift the group with her hilariously energetic and “adorkable” dance routine during the Satoyama/Satoumi event. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if all anyone remembers about the 2017 event is Murotan.
There is some light at the end of this tunnel. A new single is in the works for Wada Ayaka’s girls. As yet untitled, ANGERME will fly again on June 21st with its 23rd single release. Couple this with the “Idol Nama Gassen ~Kunitori Tenka Touitsu Hen~” web game (see the Morning Musume ’17 ranking) and ANGERME seems set to Taiki Bansei into 2017 (finally).
Now the bad news: 3rd generation member Aikawa Maho continues her absence from the group, with some bittersweet news. Early in the month, AiAi indicated that her hiatus will continue until mid-May. Unfortunately, this timing precludes Maho from participating in the “Idol Nama Gassen ~Kunitori Tenka Touitsu Hen~” live battle event (Juice=Juice’s Miyazaki Yuka will take her place). With the new single announced for June 21, it seems like the the group is putting itself on hold until she returns. So, while that happens we wait.
Like always, you are free to disagree. In fact, please disagree! That will 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 Yumemiru Adolescence’s Kyouka has taken over my life. Until next time!