Guest Contributor @thenumber244 here with a look at the last month in Hello! Project land. That’s right: I balance two pencils at 90 degrees atop a circular list of the Hello! Project groups and chant “Charlie, Charlie, who rules the Projects?” Sometimes Charlie makes a mistake or two, but I always suss enough from the peculiar poltergeist to accurately assess the Project people. 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.
At the very end of this month, we got the somewhat shocking news of former Morning Musume Kago Ai’s descent and search for redemption. In an interview timed before Morning Musume 15’s appearance on Music Station, the troubled and disgraced former idol talks frankly about her public scandals and subsequent abusive marriage.
While “Kago Ai Nearly Tricked into S & M Porn” may be the big headline, I like to focus on this once-loved public figure and her tumultuous search for approval and stability. Aibon serves as a reminder that these young girls we idolize may have deep issues under the surface of their public lives which may be exacerbated by their public personas. I wish Aibon the best of luck.
And, on that unhappy note…
Rankings, Come On!
|Morning Musume '15||(+2)||The number one spot this month goes to the flagship group. This result should not be a surprise considering the success of their last single, "Oh My Wish! / Sukatto My Heart, and Ima Sugu Tobikomu Yuuki". If you only glanced at the weekly ranking, where the single scored the number two spot, you missed out on how well the song performed for the group.
"Oh My Wish / Sukatto My Heart / Ima Sugu Tobikomu Yuuki" is their third best performing single since 2002 with only "Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa / Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai / What is Love?" and "Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke / Ai no Gundan" performing better. So, if you love Platinum Era Morning Musume, then Morning Musume '15 more than doubled that lineup's best performing single (Nanchatte Renai).
As expected, the 59th single came to us accompanied by a series of media appearances, not all of which focused on Suzuki Kanon and her weight. Early in the month, the girls performed on "Inochi no Uta" to commemorate the sad 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Under the shadow of the Atomic Bomb Dome in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Morning Musume '15 sang the affecting "Ame No Furanai Hoshi De Wa Ai Senai Darou?" Later in the month, the group went on to perform "Oh My Wish" on Music Japan and on Music Station alongside AKB48, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, and Arashi.
August also gave us another edition of leader Fukumura Mizuki in Young Gangan in a pleasing photoshoot good for late-summer needs. The newest of the Musume, Ogata Haruna, also got a summer themed (read: bikini) photoshoot alongside frequent models Fuku-chan and Kudo Haruka in Weekly Shonen Sunday. Beneath that porcelain skin is a well-trained physique honed through years of competitive ice-skating. I'm not surprised if we see Haa-chin in these magazines with increasing frequency.
Up next for the flagship group is the Morning Musume. '15 Concert tour Aki ~ PRISM ~, an (boys and girls be) ambitious schedule that runs from September 19 until December 8. The tour culminates in two dates at Nippon Budokan, but I don't think anyone will be surprised if a bigger venue materializes for the tour finale.
|Country Girls||(+2)||With August barely out of diapers, Country Girls released their second single "Wakatteiru Gomen ne / Tamerai Summer" subtitled (by me) "How I learned to stop worrying and live without Shimamura Uta". As lovely as I thought the single was, the 30,087 first week units represents a 33% drop off in sales from their debut single.
Add the Country Girls' shut out from the top three spots in the daily charts, and you have yourself a fairly disastrous outing on the single charts. The optimist in me says that "Wakatteiru Gomen ne / Tamerai Summer" performed better than most of Berryz Koubou's singles, Buono!'s singles, and the early part of C-ute's career. The 2nd Country Girls single even performed better than a Morning Musume single (Mikan), a feat that seemed like a benchmark for the MoBeKiMaSu era of Hello! Project.
In typical idol fashion, Country Girls aren't letting this sales dip affect their outlook. I'm seeing increased presence by the girls in media outlets, including Morito Chisaki in Gravure the Television. Inaba Manaka's presence also increased over the past month with her eye-catching contributions to the H!P Dance Club (seen in Hello! Station) and her Manakan Music" corner on Utabi. It seems the strategy of using Tsugunaga Momoko to leverage media appearances for her fledgling group works.
Up next for the Country Girls is the Country Girls Live Tour 2015 Fall that (so far) runs from October 13 to November 6, culminating in Sapporo. Putting the new group through two solo tours so early in their career seems a bit enterprising for Hello! Project. Intragroup relations (with Momoko-senpai as an anchor) seem very strong at the moment; let's hope this added pressure doesn't break any of the Girls.
|Kobushi Factory||(+3)||August has been very, very good to the Factory Girls. The girls released the promotional videos for all three of the A-sides from their early September release, "Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan / Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta / Nen ni wa Nen (Nen Iri Ver.)". The quality of the videos seemed to surprise HaroWota with "Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan" receiving a location shoot with extras and a loose plot. Inoue Rei also continues to provide constant exposure on Oha! Suta.
For the most impactful event of Kobushi Factory's August, look no further than their performances at Tokyo Idol Fest 2015 (seen here and here). The performances unleashed the new group on the idol world in general and heralded the new generation of Hello! Project .
You don't need to look further than September 2, when Kobushi Factory releases "Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan / Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta / Nen ni wa Nen (Nen Iri Ver.)" to see the future of Hello! Project. Against Arashi and J Soul Brothers, the Factory Girls face insurmountable opposition in the weekly charts. However, if the Factory Girls chart decently, perhaps third place, then the single and debut will look like a success.
|C-ute||(+1)||August looked like another off month for the C-ute girls. Without a new single to promote, the group seems like it is operating in neutral. The month saw C-ute performing at the Rock in Japan Festival as the sole Hello! Project representative, SOUND SPIRIT OTODAMA SEA STUDIO 2015, and (puzzlingly) at the 23rd World Scout Jamboree Closing Ceremony. This collection looks like an odd hodgepodge of performances, and I struggle to find a connective thread.
Well, that hodgepodge may be warm-up for C-ute's impending performance in Mexico City. It's finally here! You'll likely see an explosion of C-ute in the Western Fandom coinciding with their "℃-ute Cutie Circuit ~¡Vamos a México!" performance on September 19. I hear tickets are all but sold out (I haven't tried buying one yet).
After a half-year, we got confirmation of a new single from C-ute. In a blog post, Yajima Maimi revealed a new double A-side single is in the works, but was unable to confirm song titles or a release date. Hopefully, those going to see the group in Mexico will get a taste of the new songs!
Aside from this, look for more of Suzuki Airi in Ray magazine, Okai Chisato on the variety circuit (where she "revealed" that she uses dog shampoo?), and Chisato again in more Pussuma Spicy Food challenge. If all else fails, know that Yajima Maimi released her photobook "Nobody knows 23" (some preview here). That'll raise your spirits.
|It's hard for me to tell which group had the better month. Certainly, ANGERME and Juice=Juice proved unable to keep pace with the rest of Hello! Project's busy month. Perhaps the two groups needed this brief layover after their busy schedules the last two months. We all expect a little break after a release, right?
That would be a great story, except both groups currently find themselves in the middle of concert tours. ANGERME begin their "2015 SUMMER/AUTUMN ～FIGHTING NINE～" tour on August 18, and Juice=Juice continue their "LIVE MISSION 220 〜Code1→Begin to Run〜" tour. Life is tough on the Power Rankings when a group goes on tour, right?
August is probably too soon to speculate over the next single for the Juicers. But, for ANGERME and Fukuda Kanon's upcoming graduation, any news is welcome. The farewell single for Kanyon is scheduled for November 11. We don't know much about this single yet. Hang on to your handkerchiefs, prep your deep pink light pens, and get ready for Cinderella's last dance.
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 contemplate the near-nakedness of the ladies of Juice=Juice.