Guest Contributor @thenumber244 here with another look at Hello! Project’s last month of activity. That’s right! I take the last month of activity from the Hello! Project groups, run them through multiple sophisticated statistical software systems and output a highly subjective ranking of the groups. Having been announced four weeks ago, I’m sure you already know the big news for August. So let’s get to it, shall we? Here is the Hello! Project Power Ranking for September 2014!
|Berryz Koubou||(+4)||Almost as soon as I finished writing last month's Power Ranking (in which I was rather down on Berryz Koubou's lack of activity) the bomb was dropped. Yes, Berryz Koubou are going on an "indefinite hiatus". This is basically a permanent vacation. Everyone who paid attention to Berryz in the last year felt this coming; the lack of activity, the (not so) cryptic, retrospective song titles, and an eerie calm about the girls all signaled a change in the works. And, while the announcement didn't signal a flourish of new work for the girls, a wave of nostalgia washed over the idol community at large over the end of a breakthrough group.
Some of you might scratch your head and mutter "breakthrough group"? Yes, Berryz Koubou were a breakthrough. Remember, we are talking about a group that began activities in 2004 when the idol landscape was very different. The proliferation of idol groups had not yet begun. Almost all of the idols you know in their early twenties saw Berryz Koubou and took the group as an inspiration for becoming an idol. If it was possible for 10-year old Sugaya Risako to be an idol, then it was possible for any 10 or 11 or 12 year old girl. And, of course, in a matter of a few year's time, most of the larger idol groups became populated with young girls looking for their chance at idol fame.
You don't need to look very far into your list of personal biases to find a Berryz fan among them. I worry that non-Hello! Project fans see the news of the Berryz Koubou's disbandment as a blip on the radar among groups who sell 10-20 times the number of singles, produce flashier PV's, and release more seductive gravure work. Among many idols and idol fans, though, Berryz Koubou's disbandment is a big deal. And in the land of Hello! Project, there was no news last month that was bigger than the end of the Berryz Kobo era.
|Morning Musume '14||(=)||The flagship keeps on truckin' with the long-awaited announcement of the new (and final for Michishige Sayumi) single, "TIKI BUN / Shabadabadoo / Mikaeri Bijin" scheduled for release on October 15. While many people scratch their head at the song titles (what is a tiki bun? it sounds like a Hawaiian themed sandwich), I am interested to hear both the Sayumi solo, "Shabadabadoo" (Where are you? / Electric Boogaloo?) and the 9/10/11th gen song, "Mikaeri Bijin" (the first non-platinum single A-side). I already like the boldly colored single outfits, so I'm optimistic for the 57th single.
August also brought a few photo book and DVD announcements. All the Duu fans can celebrate with the new Kudo Haruka photobook "Ashita Tenki ni Nare!" set for a September 27 release. Meanwhile, Ikuta Erina finally gets a new solo release with an e-Hello DVD titled "It's a Lovely Day" slated for an October release. And the queen, Michishige Sayumi also has her presumably last Morning Musume solo DVD and photo book in the works. I think we all know what to expect from a Sayumi DVD/photo book. I know my bank account knows what to expect.
In the big announcements, Morning Musume makes a return to Yokohama Arena for Sayumi's graduation concert and the Fall Tour finale. Finally, as of this writing, Morning Musume. '14 appeared on Mechaike. Although I have not watched the show, I have seen gifs of the girls getting spun around by their ankles. All of this says nothing about the group's recently concluded fan club events in Hawaii. Expect Hello! Project to mine all sorts of photo books and DVDs from the girls' stay in paradise. Next month, look for all hell to break loose as the PV's and promotions for "TIKI BUN / Shabadabadoo / Mikaeri Bijin" really begin in full force.
|S/mileage||(+1)||Disbandment news aside, S/mileage had the best month among the groups not called Morning Musume. Yes, their single sales cooled off a bit with "Aa Susukino / Chikyuu wa Kyou mo Ai wo Hagakumu" selling less than 30,000. Growing pains were probably expected since the single had none of the levity many expect from S/mileage (yup, two "adult S/mileage" A-sides). Even though the 21st single is their lowest selling effort in over a year, the girls made some notable appearances that should help their visibility.
Firstly, S/mileage's special performance in last month's Tokyo Idol Festival marked the first time a Hello! Project group participated in the yearly event. I don't know if this means we'll see more of H!P at the festival in the coming years, but the precedence has been set. In other trailblazing news, Tamura Meimi (dracula-chan) appeared in this month's issue of Rolling Stone Japan in a solo article and photo shoot. I'm pretty sure this is the first time a 2nd generation S/mileage member has made a solo appearance in print media - correct me if I'm wrong.
And finally, Wada Ayaka's third column on Ukiyo-e examining Utamaro Kitagawa's "Young Lady Blowing on a Poppin" appeared online this month. Come to think of it, the title of that wood-block print sounds a little blue. Regardless, I recommend reading the article to get a young idol's perspective on Japanese art - she ties the print back to idols, I swear!
|C-ute||(-3)||The girls from C-ute certainly filled their time with non-single related activity this month. Perhaps the neatest bit of news: the girls set two Guinness World Records in the same day! The records are Guinness World Records, so the records are corny: longest passing an egg with a spoon (1.5 hours) and the most snacks eaten in a relay (1 hour). The records were set during a live public recording, so that was also neat.
Elsewhere, Okai Chisato participated in the finals of the Club DAM Karaoke contest at the Mezamashi Live stage. With Nakajima Saki and Hagiwara Mai back dancing her performance, Chisa scored the highest karaoke score in the competition! Not that it mattered, since the judges chose another karaoke group as the winners. From the beginning, I didn't think Chisa entering the competition was particularly fair since she is basically competing by doing what she does for a living. Perhaps the judges saw it the same way as me.
To wrap things up for C-ute, Suzuki Airi's NHK E-TV drama "Sumo Neko" continues its run of bizarreness. Oh yeah, Suzuki Airi and Yajima Maimi also appeared in Young Gangan, if that's your type of game. They're pretty decent looking, right?
|Juice=Juice||(-2)||Only because someone needs to bring up the rear, we have Juice=Juice at the bottom of the ranking this month. The girls just wrapped up the promotional campaign for "Black Butterfly / Kaze ni Fukarete " which yeilded a #4 single selling 37,008 copies. Those numbers are a little bit of a downturn for the girls. Perhaps to keep "hitting it", the Juicers already have their next single scheduled! "Senobi / Date ja Nai yo Uchi no Jinsei wa" is set for release on October 1, and the song "Senobi" already has its PV debut on Hello! Station. The release date is coming up fast, so look for a step up in their efforts.
In fact, the next month-and-a-half should be pretty interesting with the new darlings Juice=Juice and the flagship Morning Musume '14 releasing singles within two weeks of each other. I believe Juice=Juice is looking to stabilize and possibly increase their expected sales. We'll soon see if there is enough budget to effectively promote an important single for Morning Musume and a new single from the new hope.
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 the insanity of Dempagumi.inc ‘s latest PV – giant mochi indeed!