Happy August to you! Guest Contributor @thenumber244 here, trying desperately to sweat out the remaining ramen broth in my blood from J-Pop Summit 2014. After following them for some time, I feel fortunate to have seen Tokyo Girls’ Style a few weeks ago; it certainly feels like their appearance at J-Pop Summit expanded their fandom in the last month. I’m also freshly anointed in the Church of the Fox God after seeing BABYMETAL recently too. But you’re probably here to read about Hello! Project and not my personal concert list. So moving on, this month’s Hello! Project Power Ranking might surprise you!
|C-ute||(+2)||For the first time since I started writing this column, a group not named Morning Musume is atop the Power Rankings. The girls of C-ute should probably enjoy their perch while it lasts - they have stiff competition in the coming months. But, before we peer too much into the near future, we should ask "How did C-ute accomplish this feat?" To begin to answer that question, let's look to Paris for some answers. Berikyuu (Berryz Koubou and C-ute) started the month with appearances and live concerts at Japan Expo, Paris. For those keeping score, this was C-ute's second trip to the "City of Light", Berryz Kobo's first trip, and interestingly, Bouno!'s second performance in Paris (we are counting this regardless of what you think).
After returning to Japan, C-ute began the promotional circuit for their 25th single "The Power / Kanashiki Heaven (Single Version)". Even though the single's sales were the group's lowest first week total in more than a year, C-ute's 55,570 units sold earned them a 3rd place ranking on the weekly Oricon charts.
Rounding out C-ute's month were a performance on Music Japan, appearances in magazines (including an appealing set of photographs in "Big Comic Spirits") and a preview video for Hagiwara Mai's "again" DVD (early September release). Finally, the strangest news from the group might be the most interesting news as Okai Chisato participates in the Club Dam Karaoke Idol Audition. Unfortunately, voting closed on July 31, so you won't be able to vote for her, but you can enjoy her audition video - a karaoke version of Matsuda Seiko's Akai Sweet Pea.
Up next for the group is Suzuki Airi's four-episode stint on the NHK E-TV drama "Sumo Neko" (yes, "Sumo Cat" is about a fat cat who becomes a sumo wrestler), and the C-ute day (September 10) concert at Nippon Budokan.
|Morning Musume '14||(-1)||OK, let's all have our collective freak-out now. Yes, the flagship group is in second place this month. It's not for lack of trying though! July saw Iikubo Haruna, Ikuta Erina, Kudo Haruka and Fukumura Mizuki on a few different television programs and Suzuki Kanon on "VS. Arashi" (TELEVISION!). Michishige Sayumi graced us with magazine appearances in "Junon", "An An" and "Nail Venus". The photogenic leader also released her Personal Book "Sayu", which although beautiful and interesting, will hopefully NOT be her last solo Hello! Project print release (we all want another photo book). Not to be outdone, the Morning Musume High School girls made a retro (way, way retro) fashion appearance in "Photo Technical Digital" magazine. In relevancy news, the latest Fukumura Mizuki DVD, "Pancake" is set for release on August 6 and already has a preview of the jacket image. So, prepare yourself for Fuku-chan's cakes, alright?
All of this action is secondar though. We all know Sayumi is in the victory lap of her tenure in Morning Musume. Hello! Project freshly released a tour graphic and outfit preview for Sayu's last tour, "GIVE ME MORE LOVE ~Michishige Sayumi Graduation Commemoration Special". What's more, Morning Musume '14 are winding up for the release of their 57th single: the last single for leader Sayumi. The aforementioned single's has a scheduled release date on September 17, 2014; so we have good reason to think that the next few weeks will be dominated by Morning Musume '14.
|Juice=Juice||(+1)||H!P Jesus and the rest of the girls of Juice=Juice trend upwards this month with the generous help of a new single. The latest release from Juice=Juice, "Black Butterfly / Kaze ni Fukarete" might have drawn some mixed reviews (owing mostly to the tango flavor of "Black Butterfly"), but at the time of writing the single is placed second on the daily Oricon, beating out Momoiro Clover Z's Sailor Moon OP theme. A performance on Music Japan and swanky, gigantic billboards in Shibuya and Harajuku should help them stay near the top spot for the next week. Naturally, it remains to be seen if the Juicers can sustain their sales level.
This month also saw Kanazawa Tomoko and Uemura Akari join Miyamoto Karin's assault on print media with solo pictorials in "FINEBOYS" for Rose Quartz, and "G the Television" for Uemu. Karin's DVD "KArin" also spent some time at #1 in Amazon's idol DVD ranks so she can lord that over the other girls a bit (when they're not bullying her, that is).
|S/mileage||(+1)||I don't feel right about putting S/mileage so far down the rankings this month. The former Eggs finally joined the rest of Hello! Project in the Budokan club. And, if you haven't seen the hilarious VTR that showed during the concert, do yourself a favor and watch it now!
In other surprising news, Wada Ayaka's book "A Maiden's Guide to Art" (a guide to famous paintings) spawned a web series on Ukiyo-e. Next month, the Smilers perform as a special opening act for Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 along with fellow Tsunku creations Kikkawa You, LoVendoR, Up Up Girls, The Possible and Bitter & Sweet. Their 17th single, "Aa Susukino / Chikyuu wa Kyou mo Ai wo Hagukumu" with an August 20 release date promises even more great things from Dawa, Kanyon, et. al. Certainly, there's plenty to smile about!
|Berryz Koubou||(-3)||How is it possible that a group that performed in Paris early this month lies at the bottom of this month's Power Rankings? Well, Paris was just about the only thing of note this month for the Berryz. There's really nothing more to write about here that wasn't already covered with the C-ute ranking. So, even if Tsugunaga Momoko is the hardest working girl in Hello! Project, Berryz Koubou will be looking upwards at the rest of Hello! Project until the rest of the group find some kind of regular gig.
(This ranking was written before the announcement that Berryz would be going on hiatus. -GM)
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 visit me at my main blog The Number 244, where I write about (mainly) Hello! Project Idols and contemplate the perfection that is Tokyo Girls’ Style’s Konishi Ayano. See you next time!