Ah, the Transition Phase: Momusu 15’s Triple A-side is all Business


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I have a theory about the singles that come directly after a massive group change, like say, the exit of a long-time veteran (CHAYUUUUUU!!) and the entrance of newbies finding their feet. Remember singles like Only you? Onna ni Medatte Naze Ikanai? Chokkan 2? Onna ni Sachi Are?

Of course you don’t. Why? Because, despite some of them being favourites of mine (I liked Platinum Gen, ok?), they weren’t really that memorable. Not bad singles, necessarily, but not stand-out, this-is-the-beginning-of-something singles like One Two Three, or Resonant Blue.

Whenever this group changes in a major sense, we get at least one or two singles in which Tsunku/the company tries to figure out how to incorporate the squeaky new kids into an existing formula, or maybe throws something new into the mix. Obviously your mileage may vary on how memorable these singles are but for me these are the kinds of singles I forget exist. It’s not like it’s unpleasant to rediscover them, but I wouldn’t necessarily think of them when I’m thinking about Morning Musume singles of note.

In 58 singles there are going to be a few duds. I don’t hate any of Momusu’s singles, but even I can admit that a few seem lacking in some way. It’s like they’re teetering on the edge of being good, but something is off, whether it’s the jarring absence of a member you loved, or the awkwardness of new members figuring out how to lip-synch. And this is how I feel about this triple-A side.

Let’s cover the commercial tie-in for this year: Ima Koko Kara.

They’ve finally figured out that endorsing something is a sure-fire way to promote your group. You know, promoting something that people will actually watch. This is Pretty Cure, a franchise I know nothing about but that is quite popular.

Sorry, but the giant anime-heads on tiny bodies freak me the frack out. I’m glad for the promotion and all, but ugh.

I realize this is a show for children, but the song is so bloody generic that I kept thinking, “Replace the words with ‘lalala’ and you’re not missing anything.” It’s not bad. In fact, it’s not offensive in any way. It’s shimmery and plods along until it ends, kinda abruptly.

I just feel like it’s Momusu with no teeth. Shige’s Momusu had teeth; this is too much sugar for me.

I did take away one thing though: Oda Sakura….your Ai-chan is showing.

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I don’t know what it is, but the only thing I took away from this pv was that Oda was so strong. She looks and sounds gorgeous, but the funny thing is that I felt like I was watching Takahashi Ai-chan again for a moment.

If you recall, Ai-chan was always talented, but she didn’t really get a chance to dominate until absolutely all her senpai were gone. I got the sense from her that the only thing holding her back, aside from insecurity, was that immense respect for them. You could argue that once the senpai were gone, she had to step up, but I don’t think that’s all there is to it.

In the (largely unsubbed) dvd magazines I’ve watched, Oda acts almost like a go-fer for her senpai, getting lunches and holding coats and things like that and it doesn’t seem like she minds at all. She’s all shy and sweet and I never get the impression that she resents anyone. It was the same with Ai-chan (although in regards to the other Gokkies, they were always competitive between each other). Then when either of these girls is onstage, it’s like all that shyness goes away and it’s an emote-a-thon, with a lovely voice to match.

There can be a lot of social pressure to keep oneself from overshadowing anyone, like if someone you work with is rabidly ambitious (I’m looking at you Ace and don’t think I’m not watching you too, Ikuta!), or if you yourself would be uncomfortable.  I think the position of being not-the-Ace-but-the-backbone might be perfect for Oda. I honestly think she’s going to realize that balance one day and stop being afraid of anyone, especially when more juniors come along.

Next is Yuugure wa Ameagari, the pretty ballad everyone relentlessly compares to last years favourite TokiSora (dance-shot version because I love it).

Actually, the only moment that reminded me of TokiSora, aside from the similar formations, was Masaki-kins air-piano. The rest made me recall As For One Day, from way back in 2003. That single was one of the first I fell in love with. I remember my brother offhandedly saying that he thought I’d like that one and damn was he right. Ame isn’t as good as that one, nor as good as TokiSora, because the music just doesn’t have a unique touch to make it memorable. Even the air-piano was already done just last year.

On its own it’s pretty enough and probably the only one of these songs I’d listen to a lot. The more I hear it, the more I like it. Fuku-hime, Masaki-kins and Oda were born to sing songs like this and hence get most of the solo lines.

Ace is the only one that I had trouble with here (we’ll get to the complete absence of Zukki in a vlcsnap-2015-04-23-04h57m05s55moment, don’t you worry). I like Ace and her voice, but in this ballad it sounded a little jarring compared with the airy-sweetness of the others. Ace is a belt-er. Her tenure so far has forced her to become one. They gave her all these high notes or dramatic lines and in order to hit them, they’ve taught her to yell. Perhaps she just reverts to this in a panic some times, which would be understandable. There was at least a year there where her live-voice sounded really damn tired.

In my one and only hand-shake experience, Ace struck me as the kind of girl who takes her responsibility so seriously that it can get absurd. Take the accusations of her “fake-crying” during graduations.

I don’t think she is faking and here is why: when it looks fake, I feel like it’s real in the sense of her desperately trying to make it real. She must be thinking, ‘Oh man, if I don’t cry, the fans will think I don’t care that my senpai is leaving. Or maybe senpai will think I’m disrespectful because I’m not being emotional. I’m the ace! I can’t look bad, or make her look bad and OH-!” *panic spiral* = tears. Inside she might be very calm, understanding that this is the way things go and maybe even a little bit happy because hey, one less rival, ne? But this is her important senpai and the correct thing to do is be upset.

But it’s pretty cynical to assume that she doesn’t care when senpai leave because she doesn’t immediately start crying or because her tears just aren’t real enough.

vlcsnap-2015-04-23-04h58m44s28Similarly, Ace sings as though she’s terrified we won’t feel something when we hear it. She’s already losing lines to her new leader, to Masaki-kins (whose ambition seems non-existent and yet she’s still propelling forward) and Ace-in-waiting Oda, so she has to do something!!

I’m not trying to make fun of her and I’m warming up to her vocals here. It’s not bad, but my first listen I found her delivery a little jarring. She’s a Fujimoto surrounded by Kameis if you will. I’m sure ambition is a factor, but the burden of social hierarchy seems to be keeping it in check. That and her bewildering personality keeps her from being unlikeable.

Let me just mention yet another thing I noticed. Forgive me for comparing here but…

Masaki-kins…your Aibon is showing.

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Remember As For One Day, when Aibon put away her weirdo-child personality for a moment and showed us her own version of ‘the Nacchi face’? She could pull off any song, despite her overwhelming persona and that is what I’m seeing with Masaki-kins.

In the unsubbed dvd magazines and birthday lives I’ve seen (seriously – if you’re looking for a project, these are worth a look, if only for her and BOSS interacting with an absolutely terrified Ishikawa Rika), she reminds me so much of Aibon. She has her Tsuji moments too, but Aibon usually wins out, especially in songs like this. Her persona doesn’t suit the song, but her voice does. They have that same wounded look, the same odd smugness that they can’t quite hide.

I love it. I feel like she’s just weird and crazy enough to be next generation Tsuji-Kago all by herself. It’s not that we need it, it’s just that it’s so damn funny. It’s wonderful to see what she can do if she pays attention for more than three seconds.

And while we’re comparing…

Fuku-hime, it’s barely been a year and already, your Iida Kaori is showing.

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I mean, the post I-am-Johnson-nee-waratte phase Iida. Beautiful long hair, sensual and gentle personality, both have pretty voices (although Iida’s is much more throaty)…but also, they both seem the same type of leader.

When Iida had to fill the shoes of Nakazawa, Momusu’s first and most formidable leader, she didn’t want to and the pressure was intense. Shige’s departure was big in a similar way, because it meant that no one from the mythical Golden Era would be left; we’ve only got 9th gen to carry all these kids along. Iida didn’t see herself as a leader and neither does Fuku-hime.

In interviews since her leadership began, she described coming to work and having the girls call out, “yo, riida!”

She hated it. It took her a moment to realize they were talking to her. And her sub-leaders are:

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Miss Wince (Eri-pon). Don’t cry, Eri-pon! It’s a joke, ne?

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And Miss Derp (Iikubo). I don’t suspect she cares if I joke with her. I think she’d compliment me on noticing her derp faces. I do adore them…

It’s early yet, but I got the sense of a quiet strength in the background, similar to Iida’s last few years in the group. She might not always be in the front, but she was back there pushing her kouhai forward. I feel like Fuku-hime is heading in that direction.

Although I hope she’ll continue to get solo lines because damn her voice is gorgeous in Ame. It’s very similar to Kamei’s, but I would love to hear her tackle something like Tanpopo’s Motto (bring this song back; it’s a million times sexier than ‘Some Boys Touch’; yes, Tanpopo used to be sexy). How hawt would that be, folks?

Tell me she wouldn’t murder it.
I won’t believe you.

And now, we come to Seishun Kouzou ga Naiteiru, the ‘cool-formation-dance’ song on this triple-a.

*sigh*

I don’t mind this. I really don’t. Not usually. I don’t mind dance-shots because Momusu is all about dancing nowadays and I love choreography as it is. I don’t mind close-ups as long as they’re interesting and these have the fans and pretty umbrellas and the girls look lovely.

But there is something missing.

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This is apparently Zukki now. Because she doesn’t get to be in this pv at all. Even in closeup. Ditto Ameagari. This, in reality, is the lovely and talented but begging to be bullied Miyamoto Karin, of Juice=Juice.

Yep. They stuck in JJ’s ace and didn’t include Zukki at all, despite there being close-up shots of her somewhere on this earth that I can only assume will appear on some ‘event v’ or whatever.

2015 is barely started and already Zukki is getting controversy. This time it’s not just about her being ‘fat’ (although it kind-of is, let’s be honest here), but because she injured herself early on and couldn’t dance during the pv shoot. So they brought in Miyamoto in all her impish glory to fill the spot.

Then the ‘Western’ and Japanese fan communities exploded at each other about it, because us ‘Western’ folk love Zukki and how dare they VS ‘You foreigners don’t spend absurd amounts of money like we do, so stfu!’. Then level-headed bloggers cleared the air by pointing out several things, mainly that ‘not all Japanese fans feel that way’ and ‘we should all just chill’.

Ok.

I understand a lot of things about this. I get that Zukki didn’t get solo lines anyway. I get that they’ve switched members before. I get that idol-ing is a business. I get that cross-promotion is just too good to pass up.

You know what else I get?
Visceral reactions.
Loving idols is full of them.

I might be fully aware of the business side of things, but I don’t want to think about how clever the promotional department thinks they are when I watch a Momusu pv. I don’t want to clearly see that they’re running a business.

I was looking for a fun idol tune to escape into and I got a promotion for a girl I will never see in this group again and the absence of a member that I’ve followed now for a few years. Aren’t they supposed to seduce me into spending money I don’t have, to ship these 300 editions of this single to Canada? They’re not.

You can ramble about money and business all you like. You can tell me how unpopular Zukki is VS how beloved Miyamoto is. The problem is not that I don’t get that, the problem is the reaction is the same.

It pissed me off.

I have four reasons that have probably already been hashed out elsewhere, so bear with me:

1) Yes, Ishida Ayumi filled in for Miyamoto once in a JJ single, but Miyamoto still got close-up shots and lots of em. She had more solo-lines than Zukki, but –vlcsnap-2015-04-14-08h31m12s213

2) When Ishida was injured for the Wakuteka Take a Chance pv shoot, they shot the dance without her, with a giant gap in the formation, then re-shot it with her. She got close-up shots in both versions.

3) Karin getting that many closeup shots was a little odd, when there are four new members. Just saying. Miyamoto Karin is talented, but she doesn’t sing in this song. Her getting closeup shots with Zukki’s meager two lines is just cold.

4) Yes, I’m saying these things as a Zukki fan and am therefore “biased”, but I don’t think that’s a bad reason for disliking this pv (we’ll get to the actual song in a bit). It has nothing to do with Miyamoto. She does what she is told and she’s a sweet girl. Problem is the assumption that no one would mind if Zukki was absent or that no one would notice and would rather see Miss JJ promote a single she has nothing to do with. Is Zukki’s weight really so big of an issue? Is she that unpopular? Even Mitsui got closeups when she got injured and while I love her, she’s nowhere near as interesting as Zukki. It seems too calculated and too “real life” for a fun idol song and it put me off.

Please don’t explain to me why she wasn’t there or try to soothe me by telling me there are other versions. I get it and I still don’t like it. What should they have done instead?

I don’t know. Something that’s not quite such a middle-finger to the Zukki fans? Given her at least one close-up in the promotional versions?

Regardless of whether or not I have the right to feel this way, I hate that Zukki is not in this pv, or the other one.
Thank God there is ‘Another Version’  of Seishun which will get its own post as soon as I can write it.

It. Is. Epic.
And not just because Zukki is actually there (she exists! Hooray!).

So you might have noticed I’ve not said a word about our four new members. Well, let’s give it a try…

Ok. Um…

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Ogata Haruna, the eldest and the one who seems to talk the most during appearances. I’m glad she’s trying. Apparently she did figure-skating-? I haven’t got anything else I can really say yet.

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Nonaka Miki. I will never call you Mikitty. Ever, no matter how good your English is. Yes, she lived in the States and therefore can speak English so well in one interview someone asked, “Are you really Japanese?” She has an adorable dimple on her right cheek. That’s all I know.

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Haga Akane. The youngest. She’s wanted to be in the group since kindergarden. While I love that, I have nothing else I can say.

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Makinoooooooooooooo!! Maria. The one I keep mistaking for Nonaka Miki. She gets teary quite easily, but when performing (at least so far) has some great expressions and is very pretty.

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She gets a second cap for this, but again, I can’t really say anything.

They don’t get solo lines, just solo shots with lines they sing with others. *sigh* I guess I will have to wait and see what they can do vocally. I know nothing about the Eggs or whatever they call the ‘juniors who aren’t in a group yet’ group, so I can’t comment.

In this pv, they show a lot of promise, despite my not being able to tell two of them apart and despite me never remembering their names.

In time.

As for the song itself, I have a few problems that have nothing to do with line distribution for once.

vlcsnap-2015-04-14-08h30m59s88As usual, the formations are interesting and even the silly parts manage to look great. The random air-boxing is a lot of fun.

I don’t like the costumes, mainly because it makes it even harder to tell the girls apart. Also, we’ve seen these before, when it was the Platium 9 Disco era. Is it really that expensive to use their colours, or maybe give them some casual outfits for a change? If C-ute can do it, why not Momusu?

But again, speaking of the song itself, I have a problem with the line-full-stop, line-full-stop verses. I’m trying to get used to it, but it slows down the already slow pace. It takes me a long time to get sick of patterns, but this one syllable per non-ace-member thing is getting old, even for me.

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Also, not giving the dance-solo to Ayumin is just straight-up stupid. I love Fuku-hime and Riho, but stop pretending that Riho is a better dancer than our little Ishida. Honestly, I’d say they’re about equal. The great thing about Ace and Ayumin as dancers is the strange tension when they dance together, how they are both sharp, but their performance styles are so different. I love when kouhai-senpai are rivals and too shy to say so, but too stubborn to back off. More of that, please! This pv needed that crackling tension.

Nope. We do however get:

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The rare and lovely Fuku-derp face.

wecandancesafetypants

“It’s safe to dance – we got safety pants!”

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And we have a fabulous two-shot here: Boss and Masaki-kins emoting to some off-camera place. May I just state for the record that I’m loving Haruka’s I’m-a-boy-trapped-in-a-girl’s-body persona? Reminds me of Yossy and yet it’s totally different.

Rock on, Boss. You just keep getting more powerful…

vlcsnap-2015-04-15-05h29m23s175I don’t hate the song, but it’s taking a while to grow on me. I liked it a lot better when I saw the other version of the pv, which gives it a lot of life and lets the members do some semi-acting. They never get to do that in pvs anymore.

I did wonder if it was just my distaste for the lifeless-Zukki-less pv that made me feel like I wasn’t really into the song. It’s not.

I’ve listened to it since and I think the biggest issue for me is the verses stopping the way they do. I love the chorus, and the little march moment before it, but the full-stops take me right out of the song.

I wish the new members had solo lines, but I do see them stepping up in their own ways through all three pvs. I admit, I’ve only watched Ima Koko Kara once or twice (if that) though. The other two I like better, but Seishun might just not be my cup of tea.

Not yet, anyway.

Or maybe I just need to watch the other pv again.

Seriously. A post is in order.

This really does feel transitional and that’s not so much criticism as an observation. Tsunku wrote these during an extremely difficult time in his life and the fact that he wrote anything at all, let alone two songs this good (even if one isn’t my personal taste) is incredible to me. I don’t think this is starting the new incarnation off with a bang so much as pushing forward as hard as they can and not looking back. That works too.

Topping a grad like Shige’s just isn’t going to happen. May as well work your way up.  The single has gone from two to one on the weekly Oricon charts a couple times, which is encouraging. The new girls seem solid and our new leader will find her feet.

I highly recommend watching the dvd magazines and the birthday lives, even if you don’t understand much Japanese. Seeing BOSS perform Fujimoto Miki’s Namida Girl was so perfect and adorable that I lost it.

More of that please!

~Isilie

2 thoughts on “Ah, the Transition Phase: Momusu 15’s Triple A-side is all Business

  1. Ahh, I think your post sums up my feelings about my feelings over the Karin-Zukki issue very well. I understand the reasons behind it all, but I still don’t like how management handled it. I mean, did they seriously think fans/non-fans (?) alike wouldn’t notice there’s a girl in there that’s not part of the group? Or as you said, so little faith in Zukki’s popularity? I think that’s just really messed up >__> I can’t imagine what Zukki thinks whenever they go on TV to promote this single and it’s the version with Karin that’s shown…. Awkward….

    I found the pauses in the verses something different and new (has any other producers tried that?), though admittedly it’s not to everyone’s tastes.

    I agree with you that this single seems like a transitional/experimental phase where they’re trying for different sounds and see what fits the girls best (or cough-how well it does-cough).

    Still, not much to go off on as they sang most of their solo parts with other members.

  2. For all the songs I haven’t really been feeling it, but then I saw the alternative version of An Adolescant Boy and I really started to like that song. It is disjointed, but it really needed an MV to carry it on. I only watch this version now, and I wish it would take over the other video on youtube so that Up Front Gets the hint.

    I’m impressed that Tsunku wrote those.
    I didn’t really like Miyamoto Karin that much before this, and I know its not her fault but I actually hate her now.
    Even though we don’t know how she felt, but her presence in the close ups just tainted those MV’s for me.

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