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The 2nds-in-Command: When Tsunku Gets it Right Part 2


In my last leader-related post (When Tsunku gets it Right), I mentioned Sub-leaders very briefly. I’m still not sure what their specific job description would be. I don’t even think anyone tells them what it actually means, but I don’t doubt the sense of responsibility they must feel when Tsunku says, “hey [insert name of bewildered Musume here], you’re the sub-leader.
The word ‘leader’ is a loaded one.

I love that when asked what Tsunku actually said to her when she became leader, Takahashi just pointed to herself and said, “Riida.”
Absolutely no segue. He just points and says it.

Her expression was priceless, like, “Did you expect him to say more?”
Like I’ve said, the Musumes have accepted Tsunku is freakin nuts.

When reviewing my leader post I realized that I originally set out to talk about the best leaders and really ended up just listing the leaders in general. I do think that they all rock, but I didn’t exactly do what I set out to do. So let’s be clear in this post that I will talk about the actual sub-leaders in ascending order rather than simply the best ones.

Fortunately for us, we haven’t had a bad-subleader yet.

It’s harder to do a subleader post. A lot harder. I’ll do my best, but at this point all I can do is speculate about the leadership skills of these lovely girls. Let’s just call them the second-in-command, as a working definition.

Here we go.

I really wanted to start with Kei.


Yasuda Kei
Co-leader with Kaori

Kemeko-san!! Oh, Yasuda Kei, how you’ve delighted me for so many years. Kei has a face that is so recognizable for so many reasons. The eyes are paramount. They’re very distinctive, plus she used to wink nearly every time the camera focused on her. She was the original Winky, if you like, but she did it in a way that did not inspire the near violence that Reina does in me.

Her performance was perfect: she had (has, but we’re putting this in past-tense) smooth, almost sultry vocals, no matter the song and she danced as if her very life depended on it. If you watch some performances of The Peace for example, her head is just bobbing and rocking away like her neck is gonna give out at any moment. Every little bit of her body screamed that she loved what she was doing. At least, that is how it seemed to me.

I think Utaban also needs to be mentioned here. Nakai and Ishibashi teased her. Mercilessly. And she took it with gusto. She thanked them for it. There was genuine affection in their absolute abuse at her expense, to the extent that Yossy got quite serious about it [I think this was in the Souda We Are Alive episode].

“I’ve realized I can’t support her anymore,” she said. “It’s like the fire of competition is burning inside me.”

Ok, so what does this have to do with her leadership skills? So she was a good sport on Utaban and a great performer. And-?

AND…

It was on these Utaban appearances that I noticed how much Kei was taking care of her kouhai. Rika was the one she was assigned to look after. It’s no coincidence that everyone said she acted just like Kei after Kei had graduated.

According to what the others have let drop in various appearances, cause let’s be honest, that is my only reference here, being like Kei involves these things:

Singing your every line like you’re a freakin’ star, because hey, if you’ve got a line, you’re pretty damn lucky. My example is ANY LINE SHE EVER HAS IN ANY SONG. Especially songs like ‘Otome no Shinrigaku’ on the second album. Everyone always talks about the 4th gen on, but they really lucked out with the second generation. They harmonize so well.

Looking after your kouhai, because they’re gonna be really nervous and they’ll be scolded a whole lot just like you used to be. I get my example from Ogawa Makoto’s grad dvd, when she told a story about Kei practising singing with her “while she held my hand. I remember that really well.” First of all, huge “Awwwws” for the hand holding. That just seems like a very motherly thing that she would do. Also, the fifth gen have that sort of feeling to them: the earnestness of Mame, the nervousness of Konno, the shyness of Ai and the vulnerability of Makoto? One wants to take care of them.
I have another example, which is rather more indirect. On the Futarigoto where Takahashi and Niigaki have lunch, they talk about that couple of minutes where Mame was in Tanpopo with Ishikawa. She said that she was nervous about it. It really reassured her when Rika emailed her to see how she was doing and encouraged her. She visited with Rika and Kei later and Kei said she’d taught Rika “everything.”
I’ m all for tough love, when it’s needed, but this sort of support is needed too. Kei seems like she might overdo it sometimes, but I think it’s because she can’t hold herself back. She really cares for people, even if means she has to look earnest. That, in my opinion, takes guts.

Scold your kouhai; Sometimes you just have to be scary, so they remember who is really in charge. Example? Sayaka mentioned in her message to the members that Kei always “corrected her” when she made a mistake, which I find kinda hilarious, simply because she seems to have treated her like a kouhai even though they were in the same generation (of course, this is only speculation – I know embarressingly little about Sayaka). Kei was the oldest in the second generation and I think, while she certainly has that mothery side we just addressed, she could probably be rather stern. It seems like she’d be irritated, almost. While Kaori would stop you and seriously talk to you about your mistake, Kei seems like she’d sigh loudly and say something like, “You don’t have it yet?? Get it together man!” She’s accused a lot of being “too intense.” It’s pretty obviously true. I think she’s the closest we have to Yuuko in a sub-leader.

Throw yourself into it even if everyone is laughing at you or begging you to stop. Observe any Haromoni theatre where Kei’s inevitably intense and hilarious characters torture everyone they come into contact with. Ogawa definitely seems like a disciple of hers. Just so we’re clear, I mean this in a good way.

Pairing her with Kaori makes sense. They both seem like big sisters to me. I think Kei is the more motherly of the two. It seems Kaori would know when to pull herself back, while Kei might not quite know when to stop advising. There’s that tiny bit of egoism to Kei that makes her so delightful. She loves herself just enough to seem confident. She doesn’t take herself so seriously that she can’t take a little teasing. You can laugh at her smothering and tell her to tone it down, but she’s probably someone who you can really count on when you don’t expect it.

Seriously, watch her perform ‘The Peace’. It will make you very happy.

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Yaguchi Mari
2nd Subleader to Kaori

Aaaah, the first girl to catch my eye in Momusu!! Even before Yossy and Abe, I was watching her and that is something pretty amazing. Her dancing was what got me first. Then as I began watching more and more shows where Mari would speak, she began to dominate, even when she wasn’t on screen. You can always tell it’s her laughing. Before Yossy’s amazing pwn-age, Mari was the one I would look for. She just…shines. Her voice is just sweet enough to be interesting on its own and downright gorgeous when it blends with another voice. Her personality is big enough to almost overcompensate for her tiny, tiny size. She’s one of the first to dye her hair blonde, the first to create her own sub-group, the first to lead her own sub-group and is hosting so many shows right now that I’ve basically stopped keeping track.

I remember a hello morning when Tsuji (because she was still a freakin child at this point) started crying because she didn’t win the yakisoba and the team who had were basically being jerks about it. While Kaori immediately started patting her on the head, Mari walked right up to her and yelled in her face. “You idiot, aren’t you already fourteen years old?” It made me laugh, her complete lack of patience for that. Considering how Tsuji and Kago seemed to torture her in Mini Moni, it’s no wonder she was constantly yelling at them for being immature.

Pairing her with Kaori is just hilarious because hey, shortest and tallest. Seeing them standing next to each other is just…hilarious.
I know, I know. I’m a terrible person.
But come ON!

I have so much I can say about Mari, so I’ll have to try and restrain myself. I know as the leader of Mini Moni she was very reliable and seemed to be able to teach everyone a lot. I don’t doubt it was frustrating. Because of her strong personality, she’s very leader-ish.

She seems like she’d give you a nickname and tease you to help you feel at ease, but would also teach you the ropes. Hey, look what she did with Yossy! She definitely will yell in your face if you’re asking for it, but she’ll give credit when it’s due.

On an early Utaban, when Kaori had first become leader, she said to the hosts that thought Kaori was doing her very best. She had to fill Yuuko’s shoes, which she understandably did not want. Mari understood her nervousness and said that she was doing well so far, leading in her own way, especially because it was so hard for her. Her encouragement made Kaori start crying. I wish I had more examples of her with her kouhai. I know at least that Tsuji and Kago truly respected her when they graduated, despite the torture (remember when Kago sucker-punched Mari in the crotch on Utaban? hilarious, but think about it. She punched her IN THE WOMB for NO REASON).

Mari seems, to this day, like someone you wouldn’t be nervous taking a lesson with, someone who you’d go out for drinks with afterwards and make fun of everyone with. I just get this very boisterous, down-to-earth feeling whenever she speaks.  As far as subleaders go, I think she is the perfect mix of that girl who yelled at a crying Tsuji to grow up about the damn noodles and that girl who told us to believe in ourselves and eat our green vegetables.

Fujimoto Miki
Subleader to Yossy

Ok, I don’t even know where to start with her. I understand her on one level. I get that she’s not the ‘idol-type’ and so less inclined to slap on bunny-ears and peace-sign until her hands cramp. I understand that some of those girls would cause ANYONE to basically want to rip their own hair out so they have some way to strangle them. I get that she’s that cool type that infuriates me so much because they get to hide underneath the umbrella of the “misunderstood misanthrope” label.
And I truly love her voice. Love it. I love how strong it is and how distinctive. I love her  album and her style as a soloist. And she is freakin gorgeous, let’s not deny it. The woman is hawt. Yes. Hot with a ‘w’.

BUT
Wow. Confrontational much?
She’s like Yuuko, but without…the Yuuko.
The thing that bothers me about her when I encounter her, is that it sometimes seemed like the group was there to amuse her. She, as a sadist, really loved watching the others do embarressing things so she could point them out and laugh. She wouldn’t join in, she’d just laugh at them all.

This isn’t fair, of course. I realize that she was probably just embarressed. I’ve experienced that a lot in my life, thinking that I should probably join in but not wanting to embarress myself, so I would just stand there and laugh at everything. It makes sense. If she’s super critical of others, she needs to be extra careful of herself, right?

I think as a leader she would have been an epic fail. This is not because she isn’t capable. I think if she really wanted to she could tone it down and lead those girls. They’d certainly be intimidated enough. She seems to have appreciated the insanity that Momusu brought into her life, to a certain extent. But you have to have that balance of critical and empathetic. You used to suck too. You used to always get the dancing wrong. You used to be way too loud and nervous and say stupid things on television.

Ok, maybe she didn’t.

But even if she came out of the womb the perfect idol (as seems to have been the case with Goto Maki), as a leader, she’d have to have been genuinely encouraging and friendly with them all. I think that sort of thing would be hard for her. She gets embarressed when emotional. In graduations, even when she’s clearly getting teary (like in Kaori’s grad), she stays formal, to keep herself in check. I’m not saying she couldn’t, but I think she’d have to force herself to email people and see how they are and such. It seems like she simply couldn’t be bothered with that sort of thing. Not because she doesn’t care, she just doesn’t think about it. She’s very self-focused. That’s not neccessarily a terrible thing, it just doesn’t quite work for a group.

I’m trying to be careful about what I say here. I don’t hate her. I don’t think she’s a terrible person. I just think she was right in getting out of Momosu before she had to lead. I get put-off with her personality at times, because the “cool type” is annoying to me. People who are so afraid of not looking composed at all times are down-right tiring. That is my own bias. However, I don’t think many would say that she would have loved to have been leader.

But I digress. Subleader is what we’re talking about here. I think under Yossy’s leadership, most people would have done well and found their place, because she’s just that kind of woman. She pimps everyone.

Everyone.

Miki was always glued to her side, leaning on her and groping whatever part of her she could get at (as was her way – she’s the grope-y one in the Momosu family).  You got the feeling that with Yossy she was ever so slightly vulnerable because she so clearly admires her. They’ve both said that when they are together it’s so comfortable that they don’t even need to talk. Just seeing that the other is in the room is enough. They shared a dressing room for Ribbon no Kishi I believe and were often just sitting together doing their own things without talking. Their room was quiet, while the rest of the group was running around excited.

There’s something wonderful about that feeling. It really seemed like Momosu was a family with those two: Yossy and Miki, the father and mother team. It seems like all the Musume’s turn to children when they look at Yossy…  

I joke about the rest of the group being scared of Miki, but I think they just didn’t know what to make of her. It’s hard to be friendly with someone who is distant and critical at first glance and who seems to ignore you because you’re younger than her. It seems like her kouhai had to coax her out of her shell to a certain extent, which is kind of endearing. It took Ogawa a long time to invite her out to eat, but when she did, Miki said she was grateful and ended up having a good time, even though she doesn’t like to go out a whole lot.

I’m sure Miki threw some major temper tantrums that caused Yossy headaches, but she also said that Miki would do her work “quietly”, so she must have been helpful too. With those two, it really does seem like Yossy could give a command in her big-sister-prince way and if it didn’t quite resonate, Miki would glare daggers at them from behind Yossy, like “don’t even try to disobey.”

Miki worked best as a subleader because she admired her leader enough to support her even if she didn’t agree and she was forceful enough that she could keep everyone in check. The fact that she pretty much IS a misunderstood misanthrope is annoying. She can get away with all the things that annoy me about her.

Oh well. Still gotta love that voice.
Besides, we’ve always got Matsuura to keep her in check.

 


Niigaki Risa
Subleader to Takahashi

I’d like to call her Nacchi the Second. More and more lately I feel like she is one of the few still in Momosu who truly understands what it’s about, who still is in it with all her heart because it was her dream. When she found out she got into to Morning Musume, she tearfully said, “At last, my dream has come true.” So very different from the other reactions. Even now, when their days of being truly well-known seem to be over and she could complain about so many things, she’s still loving it all. You can tell whenever she is on stage.

The thing that I loved so much about Nacchi is that no matter how stupid the song, or how embarressing the costume was, she made sure she really felt strongly about it. When they had the summer shuffles and Ishibashi (Utaban – I’ve seen a lot of em) told her that her hair looked like a piece of crap she turned to him and said, “Yes! Exactly! That’s my theme for today!” If she didn’t like the song, you could never tell. She had this way of making you believe that it was the best damn song ever. Or, at least, she believed it was. That was and is an important part of her job.

Niigaki is like that.
Even now.
It was part of her dream to share a stage with Nacchi and she did it.
I’m so glad she got her dream.

But, I digress…

Subleader Mame strikes me as the ultimate worried mother. She’s the one who’s always thinking ahead about everyone’s well-being, the one who chases someone outside in cold weather yelling, “you forgot your scarf! you’ll catch cold!” You couldn’t get angry with her for nagging you, because you just know that she adores you and can’t help being that way.

Watching her AloHello dvd was so delightful, firstly because, as the reaction-queen, she can’t go two seconds without having some adorable “ehhhhh??” reaction to something and secondly because she talked so casually about how she’s always thinking about the other members. She said that even when she goes out of town she wonders how they are and if she should get them souvenirs. There is a warmth in her bubbly smile that reminds me so much of Nacchi’s mother-aura that she’s rapidly becoming the face of Momosu for me.

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Let’s face it, Takahashi needs all the help she can get with this leader thing. I’m sure everyone is behind her, but to have someone from the same generation as her, who knows her so well and who she can really talk to about her worries, must be such a relief.

It seems like Niigaki enjoys people in general. I don’t really see her as a sempai who would give lots of advice and really scold too much, but I think she’s more the kind that would lead by example. She doesn’t seem like the type to really get angry, just to kinda go, “Come oooooon you guys! Let’s try harder, ne? Ne?” I think she’d understand where Takahashi would really need her help and she’d understand moments where she had to let her friend boss her around. She’d be almost amused by mistakes and find them more interesting than anything else.

I’m trying to think of something scary about her, or offputting. I guess sometimes she can be too genki. But really, it’s forgiveable because I really don’t think it’s fake.

She is THAT delighted with her work.

There’s a lot of talk around about how Morning Musume doesn’t have enough personality anymore and, on the flip side, how with the Yossy/Miki pairing, you had too much personality drowning out everyone else. They were too strong.

Now it seems like our leader and subleader are just far too nice. But like I said in the first part of this post, Takahashi can only do her best and the rest of the group will get behind her because I’m sure they understand that she wasn’t ready for the position but isn’t backing down from it. They can respect that much.

Niigaki might even be a little envious of Takahashi. Fifth gen was great because they were such close friends, but also remembered they were rivals. To have your friend as basically the lead singer of your beloved group and be pushed to the back when you used to get a lot more lines, must have been a little jarring to her pride.

But really, only a little.
I think Niigaki will always be happy for her friend.

Look at her in Resonant Blue. She’s got a few lines, but not that many. She’s stuck in the back or to the side and in black like the background they’re dancing against. Yet:

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 She kicks the arse of that dance and of all her little ad-libs. Her ‘ooh baby’ really freakin pwned. She gave it her all because it was important that people love that song and not giving it her all would have just been unacceptable. She learned that from Nacchi.
I remember clearly seeing the pv for ‘Itoshiki Tomo he’ (from that 10th anniversary group, who’s name is a damn pain in the ass to write out each time) and saying, outloud, “She needs to go solo.”
Just from her first line.

There’s something captivating and yet welcoming about her.
She’s grown so much.

I think they’ll be one of the best duos. Sure, a firm hand is fine, but I think a united front is much better.

Morning Musume should have that sort of feeling again.

~Isilie

4 thoughts on “The 2nds-in-Command: When Tsunku Gets it Right Part 2”

  1. “More and more lately I feel like she is one of the few still in Momosu who truly understands what it’s about, who still is in it with all her heart because it was her dream.”

    My god, fricken YES. That’s exactly how I feel about Gaki- that’s why I was so delighted when she was put in the tenth anniversary group as opposed to any of the others- she is one of the only ones who can really effectively channel the feel of the old-school Momusu. She’s like a reminder of what the group used to be, and could be again.

    I also love the way you described the Yossy/Miki relationship.

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