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.
Hello! Project’s big event in November was the Satoyama / Satoumi event on the November 21st weekend. Although no big announcements were made, Morning Musume ’15 did perform their new single “One and Only”. The event seemed more somber than usual with Sayashi Riho’s graduation little more than a month away. As if it was a prequel to her actual graduation, Riho sang “Cabbage Hakusho ~Haru Hen~” solo during the Opening Ceremony.
November was a month of coming and going for the Projects as a whole. In the closing months of 2015, Hello! Project will see the graduation of a group’s long-time anchor and bridge to the Project’s past, and the center and brightest star of the flagship group. In their place, three new members join the Projects with the possibility of more fresh faces by the end of the year.
And, on that note…
Rankings, Come On!
|Angerme||(+2)||The incredibly dense month of extreme ups and downs edges ANGERME over the top and into first place this month. November began with the group's 20th single release "Desugita Kui wa Utarenai / Dondengaeshi / Watashi" delivering underwhelming first day sales with 14,916 units - just more than half of their usual numbers. Sources tell me this unexpected number had something to do with late delivery of box sets for the Fukuda Kanon swan song. Things eventually righted with great weekend numbers including an impressive 13K day on Friday (when was the last time an H!P group sold more than 10K on a Friday? C-ute's (Kokoro no Sakebi wo Uta ni Shitemita / Love take it all" in 2014).
The first two metal laden ANGERME tracks, "Desugita Kui wa Utarenai" and "Dondengaeshi", are dead serious takes courtesy of LoVendoR's Uozumi Yuki and Uchuu Kei. The former song features an impressive operatic guitar solo. "Watashi", the Fukuda Kanon solo graduation song, features a Taisei composition and original lyrics by Kanon that have me scratching my head - do I really notice the inside Kanon, her charming part? Well, I do know Kanon eventually shelves her glass slipper.
Fukuda Kanon, of course, figures greatly on ANGERME's ascension to the top of the Power Rankings this month. Nyon's graduation on November 29 seemed a changing of the guard in Hello! Project. Her ceremony was a wonderful event where Kanon turned back into Cinderella one last time complete with a big pink dress, a fur collar, and a studded tiara. ANGERME's performances have become very powerful with the influx of heavy hitting songs this year, and the graduation concert served in many ways as a showcase for the evolution of S/mileage.
In a segment conceived by herself, Fukuda Kanon sang a short duet with each of the members of ANGERME in a medley that highlighted the charm of her group-mates (full set-list here). Seriously, I can see this medley becoming a staple in all graduation concerts to come.
Finally, the new member of ANGERME was revealed to be Kamikokuryo Moe, a 16 year-old from Kumamoto who participated in the Morning Musume 12th generation auditions. So far, Moe seems to be greeted with positive reviews - cute looks, good voice, should be a good match for the Angel Tears. The bridge to the future of ANGERME stands at 150 cm, and can be heard singing karaoke in the shadows of her now defunct Twitter account (or here) if you are impatient for her debut next year.
|C-ute||(=)||C-ute began November with a big bang. Their 28th single, "Arigatou ~Mugen no Yell~ / Arashi wo Okosunda Exciting Fight!" sold 69,952 (read: a micro-miniskirt away from 70K) before anyone's Halloween hangover officially dissipated. If you keep track of these things like I do, you noted that the final C-ute single of 2015 is their best selling single to date just on its first week sales figures.
That's power: beating your entire discography with just one week on the charts. Congratulations are due, and everyone should eat cake. However, the sobering month in the other reaches of the Projects seems to have dampened the celebration just a bit.
C-ute did much more in the month than just sell platters like deli-trays at a Bar-Mitzvah. The queen bee group of the Projects was everywhere in November with their "℃-ute Concert Tour 2015 Aki ~℃an't STOP!!~" and "Naruchika 2015 Fuyu ℃-ute" tours, where the group played a total of 17 concerts in 30 days.
Incredibly busy, yes; but no rest for the weary. The girls of C-ute will likely anchor performances in both the "Hello！Project COUNTDOWN PARTY 2015 ～ GOOD BYE & HELLO ! ～" and "Hello! Project 2016 WINTER ～ DANCING！SINGING！EXCITING！～" concerts in the coming month. C-ute's 2015 was a banner year from the group, but with graduation and induction on the minds of HaroWota everywhere, I wonder how long the group can keep up their pace.
|Morning Musume '15||(-2)||Morning Musume felt like it was reeling from shock the entire month of November. Not surprising since their ace, Sayashi Riho, announced her graduation on October 29. Of course, RihoRiho's graduation is not completely unprecedented: the ninth generation Morning Musume members are already the longest intact generation, and shortly after Riho's graduation Fukumura Mizuki, Ikuta Erina, and Suzuki Kanon will enter the top ten length of tenures for the group.
Still, it's jarring when the center and standout performer of the group becomes the first member of her generation to graduate. As custom has it, Rihos graduation is accompanied by a single release coming at the tail end of December. Remember last month when I said a graduation single seems unlikely? Well, I was wrong. "Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only", a triple A-side again, contains the first all-English song for the flagship group, "One and Only".
The latest development, following the overseas Morning Musume concerts and the induction of a bilingual English speaker further cements Hello! Project's dreams of a worldwide idol group. Like "What is Love?", the song serves as the theme song for NHK World's "J-Melo" music program. The talented and adventurous among you can even enter the "One and Only Singing and Dancing Contest". Hope to see you on NHK soon!
Personally, I like hearing news about the PonPon combi (Fukumura Mizuki and Ikuta Erina), and there are news items for both members of the Q-ki pair. Firstly, Ikuta Erina found herself in the Mitsu Suitomo VISA Pacific Ocean Masters Pro-Am. Golfing being her thing, I greatly enjoyed watching Eripon swing the clubs again. As for Fukumura Mizuki, the leader releases her third photobook on on December 5th. Mizupon's photobooks are always great, ahem, "conversation starters" for HaroWota. Mine is already ordered, of course.
|Country Girls||(+1)||The Hello! Project renewal program mostly occupy the lower half of the charts this month. But, Country Girls is a perfect example of how November was a month of parity in the Projects. The "Country Girls Live Tour 2015 Aki Fuyu" kept the girls on the road for a part of November, and Inaba Manaka is still appearing on Utanabi! with "Inaba Manaka's Manakan Music". But, the two big items that added some buoyancy to the Country Girl bounce were not Tsugunaga Momoko's musubi.
The resurrection of Country Musume celebrated its one-year anniversary in November. I took some time to reflect on my first impressions of the group in November (and you can reflect here too!) and the roller-coaster ride on which these girls embarked one year ago. I'm personally glad the girls survived and came out stronger and tighter than ever...and with REINFORCEMENTS.
The 5-nin Country Girls lineup imminently becomes the 7-nin Country Girls with the addition of Hello! Project Kenshuusei Funaki Musubu and Yanagawa Nanami . The announcement came as a bit of a surprise, but seemed understandable given the year for the Girls. Musubu worked around the Projects as a Kenshuusei for the last two years, while Nanami (also a Kenshuusei) has only wandered the Projects for little more than a half-year. Both girls are wee slips, barely topping off at 150 cm. You can read a bit more about them at my The Number 244 site.
As yet, there is no word on a release date for the third Country Girls single. But, I can feel it in my bones. Country Girls will be releasing soon in the 2016. Beware of Momochi sized Country Girls roaming the Projects!
|Kobushi Factory||(+2)||Even though the group is wrapping their activities for the year, one big news item kept Kobushi Factory out of the cellar this month. More on that in a moment, let's briefly look at what else the Factory Girls were up to in November.
Like much of the Projects, the Magnolia girls spent time on the road with 10 performances spread over 6 days in the month. Not too terrible a schedule, but then these are rookie performers who are still in school. It's a little unreasonable to expect Kobushi Factory, or most of the Hello! Project groups for that matter, to hit the road HARD like C-ute or Morning Musume.
On YouTube, the girls started an amusing series of videos with the group members preparing and eating ramen - you can watch Hamaura Ayano and Taguchi Natsumi win their bout against ramen here. And, of course the broken record says that Inoue Rei still appears with frequency on Oha Suta.
The big news for the Factory Girls is their win for "Best Newcomer Artist Award" on the 57th Japan Records Awards. This is the same award previously won by Morning Musume, C-ute, and S/mileage. So, this award is a big deal for the Projects. The big ceremony will be held on December 30, when we will see if if they will WIN - even though they've already won? Honestly, I don't really understand it. Given the burst of energy and excitement the girls provided the Projects, I sincerely helpe they "win". Fingers crossed.
|Juice=Juice||(-2)||The Juicy girls find themselves at the bottom of the Power Rankings this month for no good reason at all. The "Juice = Juice LIVE MISSION 220 ~ Code2 → NEXT to YOU ~" continued with 5 stops across Japan and an interesting gap in its schedule from November 8 to November 28.
I have no doubt this lapse was filled with the Juice=Juice alter ego group NEXT YOU. The fictional idol group from next year's "Budokan" drama came to life in November with an Official YouTube Channel. NEXT YOU held "Homeroom Events" (handshake events) at the Satoyama / Satoumi event on November 21 and before the Juice=Juice live in Hiroshima on November 28. The fictional group even opened a real Twitter account and will have a very real single release, "Next is you! / Karada Dake ga Otona ni Nattan ja nai ", on February 3, 2016.
Interesting, isn't it? The first single from Juice=Juice in nearly a year and the first single (so far) from Hello! Project in 2016 is from a fictional group and written by a very real Tsunku.
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 get ridiculously sentimental on Fukuda Kanon’s graduation.