H!P, Morning Musume, Musings

In which Nostalgia is the Problem


mm4It’s been far too long. Sorry. I fail so hard at posting more…

Read this @ Wota in Translation (what might be the best site in the world).

It seems a lot of Japanese wota consider the “platinum era” one of the strongest and most memorable in the group’s history. They seem to agree with my own opinion that it didn’t really begin until Resonant Blue (yay!) and that it ended with Lullaby Game and the gorgeous Rival Survival Concert.

It made me think about being a fan of Momusu and how different it is from other groups and how I’m realizing the paradoxical nature of this fandom: MM’s strength is their biggest weakness.

The Platinum Era was the first era I’ve lived through in which I was a hard-core fan. I became a fan during Yossy’s reign as leader and was just about in love by the time Kanashimi Twilight rolled around. Then we had some shaky transition and the game-changing Resonant Blue.

Yes. This single was the game-changer.vlcsnap-2013-06-30-18h14m33s120

I’ve defended this line-up quite a lot on this blog. I loved this era, despite the lack of an interesting television show, or much line-distribution (the era of Winky was tough, man). Instead of stand-out personalities we got more of a familial one-unit vibe from them. Their performances were so much fun because of their talent, but also because of that family feeling. The stage antics and member-ai were awesome.

Well…most of it was said in the aforementioned WotainTrans article.

Two things: It kinda pissed me off. Because I’m petty. I got this feeling of, “where was all this praise when they were active, anyway?” when everybody (it seemed) was whining about ‘stagnation’ and rage-quitting because everything ‘sounds the same’. NOW you all acknowledge that their level was so high-??

Then I remember that nostalgia gives anything a rose-coloured hue. And also that all this praise is coming from Japanese fans. As for the non-Japanese bloggers out there who hated this era and stopped following H!P, I wonder if they’re not looking back and maybe re-thinking a few things.

Maybe not. Who knows?

The second thing: even as much as I enjoyed this era, as close as it is to my heart (being an actual ERA that I actually LIVED through, not something I looked up on youtube or read about in old blog articles), I was still discovering Momusu history during this period. I was deep in my Yossy-girl-crush and devouring anything about her that I could find. Which then led me to their older singles and variety shows. Utaban. Hello! Morning. Ahhh, there is such a wealth of hilarity and awesome associated with past generations of Momusu.

Now I find people who became fans in recent years are doing the same thing, wishing they’d been around for Linlin’s one spectacular concert solo, or maybe seen live the best performance of Namidacchi (this, for me, is their defining song and performance, even more so than RB). I’m not saying they didn’t have their problems, but considering how 98% of Momusu are newbies now, the level of performance is completely different. The concerts are a different experience again. We’ve full on entered the new era.

a81a45f2a73a4fbba514f44b36bb62f91292554625_fullI’m loving it, but it’s not the same.
Just like how Platinum wasn’t the same when Yossy first left.
But then they won me over.

It feels like no matter when you become a fan of this group, whichever era you fall in love with, you’re going to spend a lot of time looking backwards, longing for something about the ‘old days’.

This post from Wota in Training was talking about AKB, but used Momusu as a comparison. The ever-changing line-up was their defining element, but ironically, it made it easier for fans to lose interest. On one hand, yes it keeps the group “fresh” and “young” and allows the sound to evolve, but the members who made you interested in the first place will only be there for so long. Once they leave, and the group is full of newbies, there’s no guarantee that you’ll like their image, sound, or the members much anymore, if at all. This makes people constantly look back and long for “the good ol’ days”, whenever that might have been for them. It also makes learning about the past (songs, shows, etc) of the group nearly overwhelming for new fans, not to mention the new members.

mydearboy4thgen2sv

Nine times out of ten, people cite 4th gen as the generation that should have been the last., or that they’re the last generation to really impress.
I mean…the YOSSY…Rika…TsujiKago…how the hell can the 5th gen possibly measure up against this firestorm?

tumblr_lsewyf7YOx1r0qfhk

My favourite generation, the Gokkies, didn’t come out of the gate strong, like 4th gen, but I loved watching them work through their shyness (YES, even Takahashi) and become vital (Takahashi and Niigaki) or fondly remembered (Kon-kon and Makoto) members later on. I don’t really understand why people cite their joining as the “beginning of the end”, but it probably has to do with the way they didn’t seem as strong in the beginning.

Bro and I watched Ishikawa Rika’s Alo Hello dvd a couple days ago and rather than the usual ‘stare-at-camera-to-music’ nonsense, Ishikawa actually got to do things. They weren’t even particularly interesting things, minus the surfing. She just got her nails done, bought and made jewelery and had dinner…but it was SO much fun. Ishikawa knows how to entertain: she never forgets that the camera means “people are watching this” and keeps a constant dialogue with the viewer. She teases the staff, makes shop owners nervous, unabashedly preens over her new nails and fails delightfully to speak any English. I loved it, but as always it made me long for the good ol’ days when dvds meant actual events, dialogue, and challenges for the members.

Is it really as simple as ‘all the new members are weak’, or are we forgetting the climate when 4th gen joined? Forget about popularity, they still had original members who had internalized the idea of the group and how vital a persona was to success. Each of them had a mentor senpai who taught them one-on-one, they still had managers who yelled at them if they didn’t speak up during an appearance, Utaban still existed (and still gave a crap), and most importantly so did Hello Morning.

The first four generations were raised and bolstered on shows like Utaban and Hello Morning. The shows forced them to put themselves forward, compete with each other and embarrass themselves (and each other). And it forced the senpai and kouhai to face each other head on. Remember the tension whenever a new member had to face Nakazawa for the first time?tumblr_m3armpO2Mf1r63vf2o1_500

Take a member like Masaki-kins. She has so much potential in her that seems to be wasted on random nothing backstage. She seems versatile enough that she could pair with any member (although BOSS stands out) and be successful. Without a steady variety show to encourage and train that child-like instability she has, much like it trained TsujiKago’s combined insanity, I worry it’s going to just disappear.zukkiribizarrehugtumblr

Or take someone like Zukki, who started out all nuts and silly and now seems to feel she has to demure (hopefully out of some feeling of wanting to be mature, rather than discouragement). Someone who is naturally relaxed in variety situations should be able to show her stuff, not be snuffed out because she’s not skinny.

(I really do wish they had a proper variety show…I won’t stop wishing for that, no matter how much I love the new era.)

It’s not even just the shows though. The whole attitude to joining and towards senpai is different, isn’t it? I feel like in the past there was a certain awe and respect and now it’s more of a girl-crush feeling for new members. Other than Fuku-hime, how many of the new members auditioned because they truly love the group, not because they needed money, or wanted to be famous, or, dare I say it, because they couldn’t get into AKB? And the current couple of leaders (Takahashi, Niigaki, Shige), would they emphasize character as much as manners, responsibility and choreography?

If Tsunku had kept Momusu the way it was after 4th gen, would they have lasted nearly twenty years? The success of acts like Dream Momusu can be chalked up to nostalgia, but there is a ton of talent there from girls who grew into their roles with confidence. Would things still be ideal if all our originals, favourites and legends were still there? How would the music sound? Would Hello Morning still be around, or some incarnation of it?

Remember: Momusu didn’t add any new members for a couple of years (another defining characteristic of the Platinum Era) and a lot of people complained that it “stagnated” (that word annoys me) and the group needed new life. How do you know it wouldn’t have been the same if they’d stopped auditioning at 4th Gen? I love 4th gen too and I miss them, but I still wonder. Don’t forget too, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation girls all, at some point, wanted to leave the group. Where would that leave the remaining members?

Remember also: girl idols have an expiration date. It’s basically illegal for a woman to be an idol beyond maybe 25. Unfair, but true.

Many people have said that Momusu’s past is harmful to its present. The more one looks back, the more disappointed one is with whatever they’re doing now. Isn’t 20090201this the case for all the fans? Everyone seems to have gotten into the group because of a certain member or song and then whenever things change (and in this group they change a lot), those same fans find themselves disillusioned. Even looking back can be strange: There’s no one left from the beloved “Golden Era”. As much as you may like the song Koi no Dance Site, it must be strange to watch the pv and not recognize anybody, just like watching something like Brainstorming must be bewildering to those who left around Mikan.

So what is the solution here, since it’s not gonna change any time soon?

We need to just get over it and find a balance.

When I say that, I don’t mean “settle”. I don’t mean accept everything they do regardless of quality. I mean, don’t let the past haunt you so much that you can’t enjoy the present on any level.

Balance between appreciation for the past and excitement for the future. Honestly, I can’t tell you not to look into Momusu history, because you’d be missing out. I also can’t honestly say that there is nothing to look forward to either, because I really think there is.

I love that we can watch so many years of transformation and you never know who you’re going to meet when a new member comes along. I love that all these girls became part of something together, all these different ages and personalities trying to create one thing. I love what they were because they created something that makes me so happy; I love what they are now, because even though it’s “not the same” (and I will probably never fall for another member the way I fell for Yossy), it still makes me happy.

I just love seeing what they do, how they handle their appearances, how they present themselves onstage… I can’t help it.

There is nothing wrong with looking back and appreciating Hello Morning’s glory days or old tunes like Otome no Shinrigaku or perhaps a little Dekiru Onna (two of my personal favourites from different eras)? Just don’t miss out on gems like Namidacchi and What’s Up ~ Ai wa Dou nano yo.

Every time an era ends, we’re going to lament the loss of it, but every new era brings in new fans. Fans kinda graduate too, don’t they? Then new fans join. The paradox of MM: its long history hurts its present as much as it helps.

As with everything, it’s up to you. Momusu is never going to be exactly what it was when you first got into it, no matter when you got into it. Accept that before you do anything else.

Honestly, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Nostalgia can tell you that things will never be as good as they used to be, but if everything stayed the same, Momusu wouldn’t be what it is.

Maybe you shouldn’t trust nostalgia so much.

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Yeah, there ain’t two of those in the world.

~Isilie

4 thoughts on “In which Nostalgia is the Problem”

  1. Great post. While I don’t mind nostalgia in small amounts — such as my Wota in Translation post you linked (thanks for the kind words about my site by the way :)) — I find that it really hinders my enjoyment of not only idols, but all things where I find myself looking back too much instead of living in the “now”. I don’t want to get stuck on the thought of “good old days” too much because, like you said, time and nostalgia definitely shows everything in a better light than what it really was. Actually, writing this comment now, I remember Penn & Teller: Bullshit doing an episode of this very subject before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbh59wdCEnc

    PS. Incidentally that Alo-Hello! was also translated by me. That was a good one. πŸ™‚

    1. No way!!! XD This should just have the tag line: Henkka is awesome. I’m seriously loving your site. It’s interesting to see the Japanese perspective, even when it’s unsettling. ;p And yeah, the more I thought about nostalgia the more I started getting annoyed because as nice as it is, it lies. This Golden Age of MM’s had it’s problems too, but it’s hard to remember now because it’s so beloved. I feel like you can’t be a fan of MM for too long unless you can accept the simple fact that things are going to change, probably sooner than later. And it doesn’t have to suck. Checking out the youtube link now. πŸ˜€

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