In Which Isilie Reviews 2015: Triple-A-Sides all around!


tumblr_nv56opi5r31u3sw5uo1_1280I know I didn’t post much this year…again. And I apologize for that. Real life took up a lot of time and a game series called Dynasty Warriors (full disclosure). Plus the excessive amount of triple-a-sides for every group, every release, overwhelmed me a little. There’s still a forth-coming post about Imasugu Tobikumo Yuuki…

Anyway, usually at the end of the year I post about everything that I liked , or interesting things I saw during the year around H!P. It’s an Itsumo Genki tradition and even if no one reads this anymore, I still feel I have to write one or the year can’t really end.

I’ve gotten more and more sick of my own format though. Especially since I don’t post as often anymore, it doesn’t make sense to really call it a review of the year. I can’t think of much of anything that I covered, except, of course, for Momusu. So, let’s keep the title, for old times sake.

Here is what I loved and didn’t love in 2015.

(Just a heads up: I have nothing to say about C-ute or Country Girls, for various reasons, none of which mean that I hate them. I didn’t invest much time in C-ute and Country Musume has yet to bleep my radar. Plus, Momo still frightens me.)

Let’s get the rant-y dislikes out of the way. I don’t think I’ve ever really done a list of things that sucked during the year, but there is at least one thing that made me really furious all year, plus we’ve had some game-changing, or awful changes happen that I can’t honestly express pleasure about.

First of all:

The Constant Middle-finger to Suzuki Kannon All Year
(gifs from random tumblrs; not mine)

Look, I know I said I wouldn’t talk about this anymore, but Zukki’s complete absence in SrFQ9Momusu’s first single of the year and the obsession with her weight fluctuations have been a constant source of irritation for me. I was happy she was finally getting lots of screen time and talking more. I loved Oh My Wish. Her spontaneous, post-breakfast planking during Momusu’s camping DVD magazine was epic (planking meaning THIS, not the nonsense where you lie face-down for no reason). Despite these good things, it just feels like 2015 has been constantly flipping her off.

Seishun Kozou ga Naiteru.
I get that she troubled lots of people with her injury and this was a punishment consequence, that Miyamoto was just helping out, that it was the agency’s decision, blahblahblah…

I’m not going to go through it all again. Understanding doesn’t help.
It still pisses me off that she isn’t in the main pv for the first song of the year.

Anyway, things seemed to be looking up. She had decided to diet again and achieved great success. In fact she lost quite a lot of weight and the papers were suddenly going on about tumblr_nrw8byKW801t1hiwyo2_400how pretty she is. Tsunku decided to give her and BOSS a chance to be centers in Oh my Wish and she pwned her arse off during the pv shoot.

She kept her promise to Shige!! (thanks HelloPro Radio!)

Then the eye infection happened and during the promotion of her first center EVER she suddenly couldn’t dance again. The eye-patch screwed with her depth-perception, so she had to sit off the to side. This broke my heart.

Also, because she couldn’t work out properly, she began to gain back the weight she lost.
*sigh* And here we go again.

I know now that Zukki herself kept talking about her pocchari character and so I guess I can’t complain that it’s all people talk about, since Zukki herself presents it as part of her image. She’s become much more recognizable now. I realize my discomfort and rage about it is my own problem.

What I can be pissed about is how Zukki and the people around her (and the ass-hats who comment that she just has no willpower) don’t seem to understand that diets don’t ever work long-term. She’s already admitted that when she auditioned, she dieted first, hence her sudden weight-gain later on. This is bad news. This is a never ending cycle: pressure to lose weight, diet because that will get fast results, but oops, something goes wrong somewhere or the diet “ends” and ah, there’s square one again.

I have no idea if Zukki was starving herself, or stress eating or just unlucky. And I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m accusing her or something; I’m not. I also get that some Japanese fans or non-fans alike don’t care about the health aspects of diets as long as a girl is skinny. Fair enough.

I just hate the fact that right after all her hard work, the eye infection happened and she couldn’t fully bask in her hard-earned spotlight. And I hate that she was “dieting” at all.

This is entirely self-indulgent. Zukki doesn’t need my sympathy nor does she need pity. She’s doing fine. Oh my Wish was fantastic and she faced all her difficulties like a professional. She’s not a shrinking violet who wasted her spotlight, even with the eye-patch; her variety power has only grown.

This is just something I didn’t like this year.

Berryz Graduated Went on Hiatus And it’s Still Totally Weird

bk7

I’ve said it already, but it’s sad and it’s huge. This is one of those things that you understand but still feel down about, ne?

Momo is still around, being scary-as-hell and the others are still performing or behind the scenes. It’s an odd feeling that most of the former H!P kidz group is now fostering new talent, or hosting shows. Did anything happen with Oatbag’s Miyabi’s group auditions?

Let’s talk about this new talent…that I didn’t like:

Tsubaki Factory

I’m sorry, but they’re just terrible. They might have a good song for their debut, but I couldn’ttsubakif get through it because there was no presence and terrible (even for newbies) vocals. I could get past the bad vocals, but I think their lack of direction is the biggest problem for me.

What is their concept? Kobushi and J=J (arguably the two ‘newest’ H!P groups) have their own identities. J=J has been around for a while but even when they debuted, they had an idea of where they were headed. Kobushi seems to know exactly who they are and are powering ahead, inheriting the old Berryz songs along with a spectacular debut and a newcomers award.

Am I missing something? I mean, I haven’t been following them, but they haven’t given me much incentive to do any research.

Tsubaki! I’m sure there is potential in you. And you’re all cute-as-buttons. What are you guys doing?? And is something-factory going to be the name pattern with every new trainee group??

Riho Graduated

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This sucks. While I kinda get why she’s gone, I’m really going to miss her. I think she’s the only ace of Momusu, who has been relentlessly pushed since her debut that has actually grown on me each year, instead of getting more and more insufferable (lookin’ at you, Nutjob).

I’ll miss the way she’d photobomb everybody else’s camera time.

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Example one: Shige doesn’t know this is happening.

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Example two: Shige is just letting it happen.

Or moments like these (yes, these are all from one spectacular dvd magazine):

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Yummy face!

vlcsnap-4811-03-17-04h30m33s981

Trollin’. With apple.

vlcsnap-4068-08-22-08h40m46s111

Helping with Zukki’s sleeves (if you know what I mean).

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Helping warm Iikubo’s cold hands (wink, wink).

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Happy sukebe face!

Rock on Ace!

On a more serious note, Riho seems to have entered that inevitable phase of every graduate (except maybe Mitsui Aika) where everybody puts on their rose-coloured glasses and can only talk about how amazing and perfect she was and how Momusu is going to have to step it up. Riho was good, but never perfect, although I suppose an argument could be made that the agency horribly misused her, or overused her. Her voice was pretty raw by the end. I was touched to see all the other talents that loved Riho and talked about how much they’ll miss her and I absolutely respect and appreciate her work in the group.

However, the reason it sucks that she left is not because Momusu won’t survive. If the flag-ship was going to sink it would have happened during Platinum Gen. It would have happened when Abe Natsumi, the first ‘Ace’ member graduated. It would have happened when Yossy, the wonderful, funny, amazing Yossy, graduated. It didn’t happen.

I’ll miss Ace because she’s part of a completely new kind of Momusu. We’ve never seen a relatively new generation as the main senpai of the group, but the Kyukkies ruled in 2015. We haven’t had a truly stoic member in a long time, who managed to toe the line between super-cool and goofy-weirdo. She got more and more comfortable being a clingy-photo-bombing sukebe instead of always quiet and off on her own. I will miss her unique presence, but I’m resisting the urge to keep placing all hope on one member.

The agency will do that for me.

In a short interview on J-melo, Riho said she wanted to produce concerts in the future, which I thought was so like her: ambitious and totally in line with her stoic, hard-working personality. I hope she achieves this and I hope we’ll see her again, if only from behind her beautiful concert designs.

No More Dance-shot Pvs/Making-Ofs

They might throw us a bone on Hello Station, but not usually. Is…that really a thing? Or no longer a thing?
Because that is insane.
Why THE HELL NOT???
GIMME BACK MY DANCE-SHOTS AND MAKINGU-STARTOs!!!

Tsunku Lost His Voice and Stopped Producing

tsunkusmallpicI miss his bizarre production choices already. Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful to get rid of the side-fro-tutus and I like the wider variety of song choices in concerts, but I can already feel things aren’t the same. There is something about his weirdness that I miss. Tsunku has always been able to surprise me and his songs find a way into my heart, no matter how insane.

I’m starting to worry that, even though he’s still writing the songs for Momusu, I’m going to start being underwhelmed with each release. The newest triple a, minus One and Only is pretty meh for me right now (Riho dance solo and various solo lines notwithstanding) and that worries me. How strange that after being baffled by so many of his production choices, I’m missing them.

Regardless, I respect his courage and determination in continuing to compose without his voice. I can’t imagine it and it’s humbling that after all this he’d still go to work for the fans.

Hopefully it’s for himself too.
Thank you Tsunku.

Now that the unpleasant stuff is gone (thanks for indulging me, especially with the Zukki/Diets-suck rant):

Stuff I Loved!

KOBUSHIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!

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Ahem. Kobushi Factory. Who debuted this year, with much screaming and tears. And for the first time since those few months that J=J was interesting to me I LOOOOOOOOVED the newbie group. I’ve had their debut single on repeat pretty much since I first heard it.

Oddly enough, I saw their performance pv first, then saw the actual pvs. Their performance of Nen ni wa Nen (which is one of the best songs of 2015) was just about perfect: strong vocals, attitude mixed with smiles, a catchy-ass song, and a dance just odd enough to look like lots of fun, but also kinda cool. It reminded me so much of C-ute and the explosion of unexpected pwn that was Tokkaiko Junjou. I had no idea who these kids were and they looked tiny and desperate, but you could see the potential.

Yeah. I really like Kobushi.

I had no idea Kobushi meant ‘Magnolia’. I thought it meant ‘fist’ (I mean, doesn’t it?), which made the factory part really awkward.I took it as “yeah! put up your FISTS! WOO!” but that still didn’t make sense. The English translation isn’t “HELLS YEAH! Factory”.

What exactly is a magnolia factory supposed to symbolize? Or is it just a pretty image to put next to factory (which relates to Berry Kobou in some way)? Well, they are very pretty…

I guess anything is better than ‘Angel Tears’ spelled ‘ANGERME’ in giant capitals, am I right?

Like I said, I loved their major debut triple-a. I know nothing about the ‘Survivor’ play and I neniriverdon’t remember that song, but Nen ni wa Nen was instantly addictive.I love the choreography, even with the air guitar and the odd behind-the-back fist waving. I can’t stop listening to this song, even now.

I can’t watch the pv for Ramen Daisuki Koizumi because it makes me want ramen (real ramen made in Japan, because the stuff they sell over here isn’t even close to the same). If I could have a cut of just the girls doing that bizarre dance and frolicking around like little bosses, I would watch that all the time. It’s hilarious, but somehow perfect, like all good, silly H!P dances tend to be. The song is a remake, but it works because Kobushi has the right fierceness to pull it off.

Speaking of fierceness, can we talk about the song that really won them that newcomer award? Dosukoi reminded me of Momoiro Clover Z, as in the concept of “little giants” and that aggressiveness mixed with cuteness. It’s like H!P-ized Momokulo. Which is not to say that they copy the formula, or have a similar song structure, but the spunky, adorable members bellowing their lines and fake-sumo-ing through the choreography had that feel for me. It’s something I love to see/listen to and H!P hasn’t done it  in a long time. I hope Kobushi keeps it up because this song is wonderful.

As is the pv in which the girls are on a location. This never happens anymore and it’s a welcome change for a pv.

I still need to learn names and watch some dvd magazines, but Kobushi has won me over.

Singles or Songs

Juice = Juice: Ca Va, Ca Va & Choice and Chance

I first encountered Ca Va, Ca Va during an H!P concert, rather than seeing the pv. I was addicted from that first guitar hook. I loved it because it reminded me that J=J could still be cute and tongue-in-cheek again. The mangled French aside, it uses their voices perfectly. It feels like a J=J song should: catchy and ero-kawaii.

I know Choice and Chance is an album track with a pv, but I included it because it was the only stand-out on a completely disappointing album. I listened to their first album attempt and it all sounded like bland mush compared to this song. This song got into my head and I couldn’t get it out. I listened to it almost as much as Sukatto from Momusu. I was a bit obsessed with it, to be honest.

The PV is creative, the song is catchy pop weirdness, and the vocals are just about perfect. I think this was the first time I’d ever heard Akari sing a solo line and I was pleasantly surprised at how strong it was.

J=J, please stay this catchy in 2016! Don’t forget your ero-kawaii roots!!

Angel-May Finds their Sound: Taiiki Bansei

I loved both tracks on the debut single of the group that rose from the ashes of Smiletime, but I have to say that this particular song trumps. To hyperbol-ize using a paraphrased C.S Lewis quote, “It came as lightning from a clear sky”.

*dodges flying objects*

When they changed their name from S/mileage to something so silly and immediately welcomed three new members, I had no idea what to expect. This, unless something else comes along, feels like their quintessential song. Every new member brings something to the group and the song, whether it’s Rikako’s frantic energy, Aikawa’s sleepy sweet smiles, or Murota’s freakin’ incredible solo line. It is catchy, cute, and aggressively positive.

They seem stuck in a pattern of one song similar to this one, or at least a bit more poppy, and then a more sombre, moody piece. Spin the wheel as to what the third a-side will be. I don’t mind that really, as long as I keep getting strong, awesome songs like this one.

On a side note, Tamura Meimi is graduating in 2016 and that does suck, but when I read that she was going to pursue a career in musicals I actually shrieked aloud, “that’s perfect!” So I can’t write that it sucks, exactly. I will miss her presence, but I think the move is genuinely what she wants and I fully support it. She was amazing in Lilium, to the point that my brother, who is indifferent at best towards Angel-May, commented that she was very talented.

I can’t comment much on Kanon, who graduated in 2015. Sorry. She will be missed, but I was never that into her.

Taiiki Bansei ftw!

Morning Musume: Sukaato My Heart & Oh My Wish

Here’s a term I haven’t used in a while: Resonant-Blue-Insta-Love. Tsunku was using instruments again, and while I love Robo-musume, it’s wonderful to hear some retro brass in there. He used to use that a lot and it contributed to some of his catchiest music (catchy was a theme for Isilie in 2015). While I love the pv, costumes and dance, I don’t need it to love the song. It’s got our usual leads, but it doesn’t matter.

I’m still not sick of it.
And you have no idea how much I’ve watched the pv and listened to the song.

Oh my Wish got way more promotion, because it featured BOSS and Zukki in their first real push and amid all the fuss around Zukki’s weight-loss. People seem to have appreciated seeing how amazing those two are when allowed some play.

It was a breath of fresh air to see new lead vocalists and to have the usual ones (and Ikuta, bless her heart) silent, but still a strong presence. The dance-group thing had never been done before in a single and it created an odd and interesting dynamic in the pv and performances.

Didn’t this make you feel reassured about the future? Like, even when the mighty Ace is gone, there is plenty of talent in the back row, capable of carrying on the ship? You can say ‘no’, of course, but I won’t believe you.

More catchy interesting stuff in 2016, please!!

Also This

I was able to like this song a hell of a lot more, not only because everyone was there, but because interesting things were happening. Creative things. Cool things. Weird things.

Hire this guy!

DVD Magazines = Love

vlcsnap-0479-03-02-18h15m25s966We have the shows GreenRoom and Hello Station, which give us some background footage (since apparently, making-ofs are no longer being filmed), but they are really thinly veiled promotional shows. At least Hello Morning attempted some sort of variety inbetween their promotions. Hell, they set aside a corner for it so that the rest of the show could be about the girls getting their variety on.

Not anymore. It’s all about promotion now. Since we have those extremely awkward English lyrics on every pv now, people don’t even create kareoke pvs anymore, let alone sub an entire dvd magazine. I think this is largely the reason people don’t even seek these out; so many of us aren’t able to follow without subs. Fortunately for me, I have a brother who is able to translate most of what I can’t follow. Hence, we watched a lot of dvd magazines, M-lines, and Birthday lives.

And they are gold.vlcsnap-7494-06-22-17h51m15s862

For example, where else are you going to see moments like Masaki-kins irritating the hell out of Senpai Ishikawa (by just refusing to be intimidated and being the loud weirdo she always is)? See Fuku-hime awkwardly perform Some Boys Touch? Watch Ikuta bully Makino and refuse to let her eat cake because “she just isn’t asking cutely enough” (to the point that they all get fed up and Ikuta ends up the only one not eating cake)?

I’ve used a lot of caps in this post from a Momusu dvd magazine in which they take a day-trip. They play, they kabe-don and they cook curry together. It’s a very simple concept that is a joy to watch. There are so many funny or sweet little moments that give you that insight into their characters that the shows used to give.

Then there is the one where they go on a camping trip and while the older members are preparing for breakfast the next morning, Oda is tasked with putting the younger members to bed.

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“Haga-chan, come on. It’s time for bed.”

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Haga is not havin’ it.
Epic pout!

I think even if you aren’t sure what’s going on, you can laugh and have fun with them. The concert ones are a lot of fun too, like during a Gradation-tour magazine, in which Ikuta, Zukki, and Ishida decide to bully the 12th gen by pretending to be angry at them. They ask them who is the best at something (eg. for Nonaka, it’s about who pronounces ‘Gradation’ the best) and then whomever didn’t “win” walks off in a huff, forcing the poor 12th gen member to run after them apologizing.

There are moments on the shows HelloSta and Green Room, despite my complaints, like one Momusu’s first Shige-less tour. A lot of the members are in tears before the show, and Fuku-hime is in full leader-mode, hugging everyone and trying to get them smiling again. She goes to every single member, ticking them off on her hand to make sure she didn’t miss anyone and they all get a hug or some comforting words. Sub-leader Ikuta, on the other hand, is laughing and telling them it’s “too early to be crying”, “You guys are too weak!”.

vlcsnap-2016-01-11-13h32m08s54It’s pretty awesome.

There are simply too many little things to give you a comprehensive list. I do think these dvds are the future. They seem largely unscripted, compared to basically every other appearance the girls have, and these are the goofing-off-in-the-camera moments you don’t want to miss. I love that there is a still a way to see things like the leaders in action, the younger members growing and getting scolded, and the weird tension between long-time OGs and people like Masaki-kins (it’s seriously amazing).

I have only mentioned Momusu, but all the groups have them.
Even Kobushiiiiiiii!

Dancing, Dancing, Exciting! (aka Hello Project Station Dance Group)

Isilie loves choreography.
Love this. Want more.

So, how to sum up?

I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where 2015 went. It still feels like we’re in the middle of it. Some of the most mind-blowing changes either came to light (Tsunku’s voice/no longer producing) or came to fruition (Riho/Berryz/etc. graduating, new groups etc). Things absolutely will continue to change; I simply want H!P to remain H!P. I love the emphasis on dance, but I don’t want H!P to be entirely cool and forget its happy-sunny-sugar-spun roots. I wish more things would be subbed, but I understand why they aren’t.

It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with things now, mostly because when I do these posts I try to make an effort. I don’t feel comfortable just writing a short post that says, “gee, I really liked this/didn’t like this” without offering any other insight. With triple-a-sides, it takes me forever to figure out what I really want to say about them.d40cc7a4

I’m not complaining, exactly. While I miss b-sides, I suppose the only way to compete with the 300 editions some groups release for every single is to give fans three pvs, three costumes and three (hopefully) totally different, but interesting, songs every time.More music! More Momusu is never a bad thing.

I’ll have to figure out how to stay in the game this year, even just a little.

I hope those of you who still read this, or have ever read and enjoyed it won’t give up on Itsumo Genki.

Still here and much more genki than 2014.

Happy New Year,
Isilie

3 thoughts on “In Which Isilie Reviews 2015: Triple-A-Sides all around!

  1. I always love your posts!
    I find myself looking up less and less Morning Musume stuff because things like the DVD magazines (Which I really want to watch) aren’t subtitled.
    But also I felt the songs this year were missing something .. Although OH MY WISH! Was Fantastic. I loved it.
    I do agree they should hire that other director. That new MV made me love the song so much more. It is very enjoyable watching an MV like that where you notice something different every time.

    1. Awww thank you!! I totally understand. I only started watching them because Bro was willing to keep stopping it and translate. I dearly wish I knew how to sub things. I would totally hook you up. 😉 And yes, I’m worried that the songs will keep lacking that “something”, but I’m going to try to be optimistic. If platinum gen didn’t make me rage-quit, I doubt anything else will. ❤

      1. Yeah. I always hold out hope! They are my favourite group still regardless. I wish I could translate too! I’m trying to start learning Japanese again this year as I am going to Japan next year, so hopefully I achieve some progress in what I can understand. I started full time work last year and I just have no time for anything anymore which is partly why I don’t watch as much stuff anymore anyway.
        I hope they release some singles before they add 13th gen because I totally want to see the current line up with these girls at the front.

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