Berryz and C-ute, H!P, Morning Musume, New York Concert, S/mileage

In Which Isilie Reviews 2014 ~

Hello_Project-497011I think saying, “What a year!” is quite the understatement. The number ones, the graduation of the legendary Usa-chan, the rise of of C-ute and fall of Berryz, the Momusu concert in New York…

Oh, and some other stuff happened in H!P too. Ask the question: “What changed?” and the answer is “What didn’t?” Some of it…ANGERS me.


Ok, sorry. Ahem. Seriously though.

I know this is ridiculously late, it being FEBRUARY and all, but it took me a long time to write this post. I didn’t know where to start, especially since I basically only paid attention to Morning Musume this past year. I was so distracted by other things and disheartened by the lack of subs for much of anything that I think I was in a bit of rut. I couldn’t think of anything interesting to blog about and if I found something I would lose my motivation very quickly.

The concert in New York reinvigorated me in many, many ways and taught me that my fandom is far from over. It also taught me that I need to watch more unsubbed things, because I’ve missing out, big time. But that’s for future posts. Let’s do a (very late) review! Berryz Throws in the Towel

Berryz Koubou will be gone very soon. I think I expected a lot more angst about this from Berryz fans, but the last couple of years of them floundering around trying to find their sound as adults really seemed to resign people to this. Most of the reaction seemed to be, “Well, we pretty much saw this coming.”

Their so-called hiatus unfortunately doesn’t ensure us a break from Momochan’s incessant nyan-ing. I can’t talk about the new Country Musume Girls until I’ve seen them perform something. I have yet to watch their introduction, but I’m sure as long as Momo stays off stage as much as possible I can get into that.o0480036012814976180

As for Diamond-Sucker and Oatbag, I haven’t a clue what they’re going to do. We’re losing two of the strongest and most popular performers in the company. Despite my issues with Risako’s perpetual misery (well, what else is that face she always makes supposed to tell me? That she’s having a lovely time smelling something bad?), I love her voice. Oatbag Miyabi’s vocals were special even when she was a child squeaking her way through Special Generation. And vocal and dance talents aside, I will sorely miss Maasa’s smile, Chinami’s manic energy, Captain’s loveliness and Kumai’s sheer height.

They are scrambling to try and fill the Berryz gap with new groups and new members of old groups, but it will be a while before we stop feeling like a huge part of H!P is gone.

I’ve never been a huge fan of theirs, but I like them enough to be disappointed that they’re going. I think it’s time though, especially because the girls just don’t seem satisfied with their jobs anymore. 2013 seemed like a year that they worked their arses off struggling to make us interested in all the random stuff Tsunku gave them, but nothing really stuck out. I don’t know if it was the material or their slow decline in enthusiasm that made the singles so boring. Blame isn’t constructive anyway. At least they decided as a group that they were ready to move on.

Berryz singles became uncharacteristically somber (at least to me) and contemplative, instead of a parade of experimentation. We got songs about being obsessed with losing weight, about being an adult and making your own decisions, about being an idol for so long that you realize you’ve sacrificed your youth to it, and the wonderfully aggressive single:

Ai wo Itsumo Kimi no Naka ni/ Futsuu, Idol 10nen Yatterannai Desho Bryz_SgTA-愛はいつも_CDh14

Nothing I don’t love about this single. Aside from Okaebi Boy WAO a couple years ago, this is probably as aggressive as Berryz has ever been. And the lyrics couldn’t be more convoluted.I think the point is, things are what they are; One love is not greater or lesser than another love. Even if you want to be seen one way, you can’t help being what you are.

Whatever Tsunku was getting at, it’s a fantastic song. The pv is cheap as can be, but the girls are dancing the hell out of this. It’s my gym/strut/I’m-a-bit-pissed-off-and-want-to-walk-really-fast song.

The Idol-10-nen song I am less enthusiastic about simply because the first time I watched the pv I remember thinking that it was the pv equivalent of foreshadowing.Yes, it’s saying a lot of sweet things about being proud and loving their jobs, but I remember feeling like they were preparing to say goodbye.

It felt like they were testing the waters: do you all even realize how long ten years actually is? Do you all realize that we never had a youth and now we’re “too old” to continue what we devoted our lives to? Will you let us go? It’s a good song and very catchy, but I found it bittersweet.

And let’s talk about C-ute

And their release, the only one I truly paid attention to (I flirted briefly with The Power, but it didn’t hit my heart like this one)

I Miss You/ The Future C-ute The Future lyrics coverI’m a bit obsessed with the song, The Future. I Miss You is pretty and the girls look incredible in the pv, but I am in love with The Future. I love the dance, I love the music and I love the lyrics. Where was I when this came out, anyway?

Very recently, I remember watching the dance-shot version of I Miss You with Bro and saying outloud, “They’re just amazing, aren’t they?” It’s like I looked away for a second and they decided to turn perfect. Even though I’m not a fan of Brat and Chompy is hit or miss with me, as a unit C-ute feels perfect. I don’t know much about their variety skills, but as performers, I’m never disappointed. Their voices are strong and their choreography straddles the line between Momusu-style-formation and their own brand of athletic flailing.

Like I’ve said elsewhere, Brat isn’t twenty yet, so they’ve got at least a few years before they have to do that awkward, “Oops, we’re too old for H!P now” and go on ‘hiatus’ forever.

Man, that day will be sad. They might be the most powerful group in H!P.

I mean, Chisato ALONE.

And Aiririri’s voice just keeps getting more impressive.

Damn, C-ute!

Smile-time tries to ANGERME…

By changing their name for no concievable reason. Is this because Tsunku just wants to make a new group without actually making a new group? I don’t really understand why this happened. I mean didn’t they do pretty well this year, getting into ANGERMElogo-katakanaBudokan and such?

Can we please romanize it as ‘Angel-May’? Or ‘Angle-May’? ANGERME just looks absurd.

Their new logo is pretty though. And I’m pretty happy with the new members (Rikako is adorable) and 2015’s two new singles. But, this is about 2014, the year Smileage just ended.

I guess I don’t have a suggestion as to how this could have been done more delicately than simply telling fans that Smileage is over and now we have to have ANGERME.

Or Angel Tears. Angel tears?! ANGER = angelu ME = may

And yet, ANGERME in all caps is the best romanization they can come up with?

Bah. Whatever. Stupid name aside, I am very much on board with this new version of Smileage. The only Smileage thing I even paid attention to in 2014 was:

Chikyuu wa Kyou mo Ai wo Hagukumu

AXxkLFWI saw this in concert and fell in love with the song. I don’t know about it’s fellow A-side but I just find it really catchy.

I don’t even remember watching the pv more than once and at the time thinking the colour scheme was a little odd.

I guess mentioning this is silly, since I don’t have anything to say other than ‘I liked that one!’, but I think it’s interesting that this their last single. By that I mean Smileage’s last. Because they are gone.

After all this time, they just got rid of that name. It’s an odd feeling. I realize the girls are all still here, but with the addition of these new members and the logo change Smileage, as we knew it, is just simply gone.

Angel-May (I refuse to write ANGERME anymore), at least so far, is completely different than Smileage. Their first two songs are a mix of genki-catchy-awesome and bat-crap-crazy-creepy. It’s interesting and it feels like it’s going somewhere. Smileage has always felt like it zig-zagged all over in terms of image, once the first two original members exited. I assume they’ll keep all the Smileage songs under the new name regardless.

We have JJ for the ero-kawaii thing; We have C-ute for the adult-tongue-in-cheek idol-pop; Momusu is the flag-ship robo-dance and Berryz is on their way out. Country Girls will be cutesy for sure. Angel-may can take over Berryz as the fun, experimental group, can’t they?

I’m kinda interested now.

Bitter & Sweet

You need to check them out. Now.

This is just one example of the pwn of Bitter&Sweet.

I love Tasaki Asahi and Hasegawa Moemi. I love their voices. I love their songs.

Give them a chance. I know they aren’t strictly H!P, but they were in the concerts and even though they performed this song every single time, they were a breath of fresh air and made me so happy. I can’t wait to see more from them.

Morning Musume 03 And what can I say about my beloved Morning Musume? This was the year that they slowly started to creep back onto the charts with several consecutive number ones (even if it was only on the weekly charts) and the year that Shige stepped down, leaving H!P teeming with tiny children new talent eager to carry things on.

There’s a few things I need to speak about here.

Shige’s Grad

Honestly, all I can say is that it was one of the most impressive grad concerts I’ve seen since Konno’s. I mean impressive because of the unity of the girls, the love I felt on the stage for Shige and her determination to keep performing despite an injury that could have derailed everything.

We watched the live-stream version and at one point in the medley, Shige catches her costume on something. At least, I think that’s when the injury occurs. All I know is, she doesn’t follow the rest of the girls down the stage and although she keeps singing, there’s a moment of panic and then resignation; She’ll just have to do her best from where she is.


Then Brainstorming is just about to end and Fuku-hime suddenly breaks formation and RUNS back down the stage in time to sing Suki da na Kimi da beside Shige. The other girls take this in stride and just keep on dancing.


It’s so professional and yet so loving.


When you saw the grateful and happy smile on Shige’s face when she sees Fuku-hime running towards her…tell me you didn’t get choked up.

I won’t believe you. 


So much love!!!

They had to pause at one point during the ‘goodbye’ messages so she could sit down. The pain of her injury and her frustration that such a ttumblr_nfo6qyyEVQ1slzlmfo2_1280hing had happened were too much. The fans just kept screaming encouragement and the girls rallied around her.

Honestly, I’m not even her biggest fan and I was so emotional watching it. Shige was so beautiful in this concert. She was her cute, slightly vain self, of course. She didn’t even have a letter to read out for her farewell speech; she didn’t need one. In Bro’s words (someone who has listened to almost every episode of Konya wa Usa-Chan Peace) she’s a “very good talker”. Shige just spoke to the audience like old friends, teasing them even. “You fans are a bit weird aren’t you? I mean, there are much more talented people to like.” It had the same feeling as Takahashi’s grad, a familiarity but also the grace of a professional who is completely in her element.

I didn’t feel simply a sense of loss, but a surge of hope for the future, because she’s raised up a strong group that seems to love Momusu as much as she always loved it. 22pjseo-e1417085705303 It’s a new era, yet again. We’ll miss you Chayuu!!

It seems everyone (I haven’t seen an exception yet) chose TokiSora for their favourite single this year and while I love that one more every time I hear it, I am afraid I had to choose: Hello_Project-431513

Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai I loved all the songs on this triple-a side, but I think this one is probably the one I never get tired of. What is Love has the best and weirdest dance ever and KimiTaiyou is vibrant and addictive but I always come back to this one.

Seeing it live just reignited my love for it. I saw them perform it, close enough that I could see their expressions. The duo of Ace and Ayumin is so powerful in those final moments.

I also remember seeing their first performance of it on Heyx3 and it was just so intense, so fierce, that I was a little surprised. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was absolutely blown away. Then I saw it in person.

Which Brings us to New York 84dfcb1f

Original Post here. Warning: this is going to be a bit personal and perhaps sappy.

I don’t keep bringing up New York to be arrogant. I just want to remind myself that it happened, because it felt impossible and it went by so quickly that I forget how full of hope and joy I was for weeks afterward. Once you have an experience like that and you get back to reality, it’s easy to forget.

It’s not just that I was able to see Morning Musume in person, as mind-blowing as that was, it was the fact that the whole thing was an adventure and it brought me back to myself. I don’t like to get too personal on here, because I’m here to write about idols, not my life. But I just want you to understand why this concert meant so much to me.

I didn’t think we’d get the tickets. We did.
Then I didn’t think we’d get the time off. Then I didn’t think we’d make the money for the trip.

I doubted and worried about everything up until the very moment we stepped into the theatre and saw the insane swarm at the merchandise table.

It was a crazy plan: take the midnight bus across Canada and into the States on little (or in my case almost no) sleep and get to N.Y in time to get in line for the show. Then watch the show, hopefully get in on the handshake and get right back on the bus again. When would we eat? Or sleep? What if we missed our bus? What if we didn’t get the handshake? What if we were too far away to really see? What if we got trampled or separated? And so on and so on… mony004_s

Without letting all those worries stop me, I went anyway. Bro was very clear about one thing: It’s fine to worry and be careful, but it’s not fine to give up without trying. My big brother is very smart and infuriatingly right about these things. Besides, this incarnation of Momusu will never exist again. This would be our last and only chance.

When we made it through all the uncomfortable bus travel and the frigid, exhausting waiting, I finally found a spot to stand and looked up to the stage. And they were there in the room with us, dancing and smiling and real. And it hit me like an electric shock how I was so very happy.

When you’re watching concert dvds and they show the audience, some people just look so silly, screaming and spazzing and smiling like their faces will break. I understand that much better now. I don’t think I stopped smiling at all. I was unabashedly, unselfconsciously cheering my face off. I loved every exhausting minute of it.

I hadn’t been that happy for a long time. There are lots of reasons I won’t go into, but I recognized my happiness as something pure and overwhelming that had been missing for months. Life had beaten me down a lot and this adventure made me feel that I could do things again. It reminded me that I am brave and not afraid to take a risk and I can accomplish a hell of a lot just by taking one step forward at a time.

I AM itsumo genki, after all. She was back.

I know how dramatic that sounds, but I promise you it’s true. I felt like I could do anything.

And God, I love the music so much. It’s so much fun. And they work very hard and make it look effortless, like they can’t get enough of it. They’re all so tiny and young and yet so strong. It’s wonderful when the live show not only meets but surpasses the quality of the sounds in your headphones. Being there and creating the show with the group makes you remember just how much you love them.

All people kept saying to me when I got back was, “Oh why didn’t you spend some time looking around New York? You really missed out!” and I just couldn’t find the words to explain to them that N.Y was just a place to get to – the concert was the only thing that mattered.

We got to see Momusu in person and meet them even for those precious few seconds. I’m not an adventurous ambitious sort of person who does things like leave the country for a day for one concert. If Bro hadn’t kept his head, just kept asking, “Why not try?”, I probably wouldn’t have even thought about going. It might not seem like much to you, but it was everything for me.

Momusu has made me happy for so many years now (and yes, I feel old saying that), but in every sense of the word they are distant – they work in Japan, speak Japanese, operate within a culture that I can only mildly understand, and they are idols, meant to look and act perfect, to be untouchable.

To be able to see them as real people was something too impossible for me to fathom, not because I think they’re actually perfect, but because of that distance. They are real, but not real. They exist, but they only on a computer or tv screen.

Then they were there. In my reality, Just to clarify, I didn’t meet them and think they were perfect, just that they were perfectly themselves.

And when have any of my favourite idols even looked at Canada? I don’t think they even know it exists. It’s a miracle they were close enough to Canada that we could take a bus. I got to speak to Zukki and high-five Masaki-kins. BOSS thoroughly intimidated me and Shige was gracious and too cute to be real.HarunaandGroup4Sept14_zps2afdad68

If Yossy had been there, I would have been such a mess. I don’t know how Bro dealt with it, looking Shige in the eyes and shaking her hand after being her fan for so long.

Needless to say, Momusu was the highlight of my year in just about every way.

If you have a chance to see some group or singer you like, just go for it. Find a way, even if it means being on your feet for nine hours straight (I’m not exaggerating; we really didn’t get to sit for that long and I regret nothing) or on uncomfortable buses for twenty-two. Don’t convince yourself if won’t work out. And if you get yourself there and things don’t go according to plan, please forget it for a moment and look up and see the show. Experience what you worked so hard to get to. Don’t just put up your phone to save it for later; try and resist the urge at least for a song or two.

Your memories, you aching legs, and your joy will last way longer than that.

Sorry for that little bit of sentimentality. I’m getting older, you know? tumblr_nep7s8Mqtq1sjbi63o3_400

Cheers to 2015!


1 thought on “In Which Isilie Reviews 2014 ~”

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