Episode One: Introduction
I’m getting ambitious, aren’t I? My first “series” was about the insane things Tsunku has done, [hence the name Tsunku’s Insanity], or rather the things that I’m blaming him for…because I’m silly and terrible like that. I don’t really take it that seriously, to be honest. But this attempt at a series I will do my best with. I love the fifth generation of Morning Musume. Love them.
For those who don’t know, these members would be (from top to bottom, left to right in picture) Konno Asami, Ogawa Makoto, Niigaki Risa (Mame!!) and Takahashi Ai. They were added in 2001, right after Nakazawa Yuuko, the group’s first leader, graduated. When they were added, Ai was the oldest at 14, Konno and Ogawa were 14 and Mame was the youngest at 13.
In the beginning they were accused of having no personality next to the explosiveness of the previous generation, ie Yossy [kakkoiiiiii<3], Rika [cute and goofy], Aibon and Tsuji [just plain nuts].
Ai, as we all know, struggles with shyness and seriousness, so it often seems that she has little to no personality. At the very least, she’s uncomfortable showing it, so unless she’s performing, she’s cute, but not much else. She’s only recently, since becoming leader, beginning to step up in that department.
I believe Mame got a lot of criticism because she had almost become image girl for Tomy, which as Wiki tells me is some sort of “entertainment company” before landing the audition. I think people believed she had used her connections to get into the group. This is a bunch of crap, of course, but she still suffered for it.
Ogawa did some entertainment work beforehand also, but I don’t know if people were upset about that or not. I do know that there was a new rule for later auditions that would not allow girls with previous connections like that to participate.
Konno is the cinderella-story, so to speak, of the 5th Gen. Tsunku quite infamously referred to her as a “failure” in everything: singing, dancing, image…whatever else. He let her pass the audition because he was curious to see her prove herself.
What eventually captured me about this generation, and always captures me about any group, was how they stuck together so well. All the girls got along, but they seemed close right away. The previous generation was close too, but they also had senpais to guide them, so Rika was often with Kei and Mari and so on and Yossy got along instantly with Goto because they were the same age. I don’t know about Tsuji and Kago, but I assume they pretty much couldn’t sit still for too long anyhow. The fifth generation, on the other hand had no senpais specifically designated to them. As a result they were always together, even to the extent that they were told repeatedly that they spent too much time together.
Another thing that intrigues me about this generation is the sense of vulnerability I got from them, right from the very start. It was like none of the girls could wrap their heads around the fact that they’d been chosen. It wasn’t false modesty, they just honestly never thought of it actually happening. They tiptoed around for a few years, finding their feet while sticking close together. I love that their bonds never really went away.
Takahashi proved herself to be one hell of a performer in both dance and in song. I also think that she’s great in theatre. Her acting tends to be just short of melodramatic, which can be problematic on tv, but works perfectly in the setting of a play. Her voice has always been stronger because of her choral background. It’s interesting to note that she’d never really sung pop songs before the audition for Momusu because her choir had forbade it. Nowadays, look at her go!
Ogawa pwned her arse off in Hello Morning skits, right from the gokkies first appearance when she made everyone scream with laughter at her impression of [that wrestler who has a pronounced chin – Antonio somethingorother]. A number of H!P members have commented also that she is one of the best dancers they’ve had. I think it was Mikitty who said that she “moves like a dancer.”
Mame’s singing has always been rather powerful, at times more like shouting, but she’s gradually developed a lovely tone and much more control. Also, she’s Nacchi the second: She LOVES her job and she still ADORES Morning Musume. At least, that’s what she puts across. Her hyper-genkiness always seems genuine. And she’s not called the ‘Reaction-Queen’ for nothing.
Konno is easily one of the most intelligent members of H!P and as an interesting contrast to her soft personality, a rather fierce athlete in Gatas. I love that gap between the shy idol and the stern faced, immovable goalie. She really seemed like everyone’s pet, in the best sense of that term. There’s something calming about Konno’s presence. Her voice was never that strong, but the effort was. Her main points became her unassuming intelligence and her endearing love of food.
With the addition of these members, Morning Musume released 4th! Ikimasshoi! which is, in my opinionated opinon, one of their strongest releases EVER. There is no filler on that cd. Not only do we get perhaps the best singles Momusu ever released all on one album, but we are treated to three instances of the new members being heavily featured.
1) We have the song ‘Hajimete no ROCK CONCERT’ where young Ogawa had quite an extensive solo in the form of a monologue.
2) We have ‘Otoko no Tomodachi’ with the Gokkies singing back-up for Nacchi. Tell me seeing the four of them leaping around behind Nacchi in concert performances of that song isn’t the most endearing thing you’ve ever seen. I won’t believe you.
3) ‘Suki na Senpai’, the quintessential theme of the Gokkies. There is nothing about that song that I don’t love. It makes me teary on occaison. Tell me the very last live performance of that song at Konno’s grad didn’t make you weepy as hell. I won’t believe you.
You can always tell when it’s one of them singing. At least I can. Ai is always recognizable. Konno hangs on as best she can, bless her heart. Mame is pretty much shouting…you can almost hear the smile. Ogawa is Ogawa. Noone else sounds quite like her. Get this album. What an awesome way to start.
Like I said, these four girls intrigue me. I got the inkling to write about them when I was watching a subbed release of their audition, which I’ll talk about in this series. I already knew who would win, obviously, so I could really focus in on each girl as she went through.
My mom was watching it too and she was agonizing over each girl. “They’re so young!” she kept saying.
They really look so tiny during that time. I am so thankful to H!F who subbed the audition. I’d watched it before, but that was back when all I had was the RAW file and didn’t know enough Japanese to even introduce myself, let alone know what the hell was being actually said. To see the girls declare their intentions, to see their struggles, to see what they said when asked how they felt being chosen…it was quite moving.
I have no idea what my intentions are for this series. All I know is I want to talk about them. I’ll start with the audition and we’ll go from there. Obviously, I’ll be overanalyzing, reading too much into what are mere observations based on heavily-edited television from years ago…but, I really think that if nothing else, it’ll be a good story.
Minna-san, yoroshiku onegaishimasu!