The H!P Kidz are Movin’ On


C ute, cuteHagiwara Mai, Nakajima Saki, Okai Chisato, Suzuki Airi, Yajima Maimi-648353As you’ve no doubt read/heard/are aware, C-ute, the last of the original H!P kids have come to that ever looming question: What do we do when we’re all 20 years old? Well, apparently the agency gave them two options: leave H!P but continue to make music, or disband altogether. Out of loyalty to H!P, or perhaps just a natural desire to try new things now, the girls decided to disband in June 2017, after their giant Super Arena show.

And once again, I called it. I remember writing at some point, I think last year, that C-ute would only last until Brat turned 20, then they’d probably go the way of Berryz. I don’t feel triumphant about knowing this though. Being right in this situation just plain sucks.

(Just a note: I won’t be commenting on what they plan to do after they disband or about their graduated members. I simply don’t know enough to comment. )

When you turn 20 in Japan you are legally declared an adult. For male idols, this doesn’t mean quite the same thing. For female idols, it’s a crossroad. For females, being an idol is about “youth” and “dreams”. Once she’s an adult, it’s harder for fans to see her as the same vibrant youth who was so full of promise.

Is this fair? Well, of course not. Is this a cultural thing? Well, yes, but I think even in Western culture youth-worship exists and permeates everything. Instead of focusing on how “sexist” it sounds or on the unfairness of males idols being able to perform even into their 40s, perhaps us foreign fans can try to understand it as a “first step” of a female idol’s career. 20140601_1635_042

Without growing up in the industry, developing her personality, her work-ethic, her contacts, she’d never have the same opportunities. She can turn 20 with a lot of amazing experiences behind her that have prepared her to try other things. She’s now mature enough to handle these new jobs and has the connections and confidence to pursue them.

I still have trouble with the concept of barely pubescent children being asked to be professionals in probably the most vicious of all industries, however, as it is very much a cultural thing and my disapproval won’t change anything, I’d like to offer another perspective: it’s one hell of a trial-by-fire. If she can withstand the constant criticism, scrutiny, grueling work schedule and God only knows what else, and come out stronger, confident and connected in the industry, who knows where (and what) that will lead her to?

Look at Shige: completely untalented in dancing and singing (her michshigefromhoshidoru48words, not mine) and yet she used absolutely every scrap of her personality to hang on and she only got stronger and stronger until, at the end of her tenure, she was arguably the strongest idol-personality, the most untouchable, that Momusu has ever known (minus Yossy, of course). What is Shige doing now? Whatever the hell she wants. And she’s earned it!

Maybe the graduating idol is burnt out, or feels fulfilled professionally and wishes to start a family, like so many O.Gs have done. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think that having a steady idol career for MORE than a decade is an amazing achievement. I don’t think it’s particularly common either. So C-ute has done pretty damn well for themselves.

I think most people are lamenting because they are so powerful at the moment. I don’t just mean that they are the senpai group (as in their members are all dai-senpai to everybody else in H!P), but they’ve been powering up for years now and even if a song of theirs hasn’t been that interesting to me, I still enjoy them. I love their vocals (minus Brat and Chompy, who can sound like they’ve been sucking on helium balloons….and those balloons gave them head-colds *dodges flying objects*) and I love how much power they put into every dance.

Or maybe it’s just Yajima.

byWladimironhelloonline

Dem abs though…*dies*
Notice Makoto in the background, blessedly immune.
(gif by Wladimir on HelloOnline)

I really thought I would feature C-ute a lot more on this blog, but just like Berryz, they drifted in and out of my radar and I never had enough to say. I can’t say I followed them that closely, aside from watching any new pv releases and that ONE concert I watched (which was amazing, but it was still only one).

Maimi is the leader of everything except vocals (sorry guys – if we’re comparing her to the rest of H!P, she has a voice I really love, but it’s not as strong as someone like Airiri, or even Momoko): amazing dancer, amazing abs (dear GOD!!), wonderful photos and the leader of her group and all the other groups (H!P leadaaaa).

In a dvd called ‘Imagine Classic’, she played dozens of versions of herself and danced to three different songs, showing off her amazing dancing skills and her acting ability (at least a little). It was odd to watch, but almost hypnotic. I also recall back in the glorious days of H!P sports-fests, she kicked arse at basically everything, especially running. When I was trying to come up with a nickname for her, I could only come up with ‘flaily’ because her long limbs, combined with her frantic style of dancing, looked like the rest of C-ute on crack.

I have always loved watching Maimi; I don’t know what we’ll do without her.

Then there is Airiri, who I have never really known apart from her vocals. Yes, she’s cute and she’s grown into quite a beauty, but I really can only comment on her voice.

She’s been a powerhouse since she was little and her ten year career has given that voice control and skill. It was probably in Buono when I first noticed she’d hit the ‘Wait- I’m amazing!’ stage that a lot of H!P idols go through. I looked at her strutting around singing effortlessly in ‘Bravo Bravo’ and thought, “She’s a little diva!”

And she is!! When I heard her 2012 version of Edo no Tamari Uta, I think I just sat there with my mouth hanging open. Her only rival is Chisato – and what a glorious fight it’s been!!

Chisato is a force to be reckoned with and you’d better put up or get out of her way. I think she’s always felt either in love with Airiri or like she wanted to crush her. After the travesty single ‘SHOCK’ (the irony of that title!), I believe she’d had enough and started doing a little self-promotion. The first of these was Chisato youtubing herself dancing. After that her popularity started shooting up and we finally got to hear her almost equally diva-esque vocals in singles. That’s what got us the ultimate duet, Kanashiki Heaven (with the best costumes ever), that Tsunku loved so much he released it twice (once as a B-side and then as a single).

So much hawtness and good vocals…

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This gif isn’t mine, but sums up my feelings.

I’ve always loved Chisato because she always looked so irreverent. Every photo felt like she was judging you just a little, but you didn’t really mind. Because it’s HER! Watching her push her way forward was wonderful and I’m so glad we got to hear her.

I can’t say much about Brat. She’s always been my least favourite. People appreciate her somehow. I don’t know.  She started when she was SIX. Completely insane!!

I have nothing against Chompy Nakajima Saki, minus her vocals. The nasal high-pitched stuff just isn’t for me. I do think she seems perpetually open-mouthed, like she’s about to devour her mic. And some times her smiles scare me, but she’s quite the dancer and when she’s not confused or hungry, she’s capable of looking down-right breath-taking.

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From the infamous stripper-pole concert.
*whistles*

nakajima-saki-456155

Daym gurl!!!

This disbandment seems even more affecting than Berryz because with our first H!P kidz group, we could all tell that they were more than ready to leave. Even in PVs they looked tired, almost resentful (minus one or two of them). I’d argue it was easier to let them go on their “hiatus” because forcing them to continue something they didn’t even like anymore would have been cruel.

C-ute doesn’t look tired of things at all. C-ute looks bright and powerful as ever, an amazing mix of idol-pop and other styles, driven by vocals (like I miss You, or Jinsei wa Step) and dynamic choreography. While I miss Risako’s constant grimace, it’s nice to watch the older girls perform without any traces of miserable-old-granny-fish flouncing about. C-ute just keeps working and I’ve never seen a pv or a live performance with even a little of the kind of resignation Berryz had in their last year.

I may sound like I’m being harsh to Berryz and I don’t mean to be. I think they did the right thing stepping down and trying to cushion the blow with the word ‘hiatus’. But you can’t deny that the groups’ attitudes towards graduating are completely different.

C-ute started out much like Momusu, the ‘losers’ of H!P kidz who didn’t get to debut as cute2016summerwindBerryz Koubou. Who could have predicted they’d be so successful or that they would outlast the girls they’d lost to? Here they are 12 years later, the senpai of H!P.

This is probably the oldest I’ve ever felt in terms of my H!P fandom. The entire generation I “grew up with” (the Momusu OGs and the H!P kidz) have all left or are about to leave. If you had told me even in 2009 that C-ute would be the only ones left out of all the H!P girls I’d grown to love, I would have called you a crazy person.

C-ute has always been H!P kidz to me, but even watching clips of them from their debut days, I could see them fighting so hard for their spot. Despite unexpected graduations and slumps in sales here and there, these girls blazed on and created some wonderful music. They were never the flagship of H!P and they had to bow to Berryz, the wacky group who’d beat them to debut, but they endured.

Today I watched the new HelloStation that features their last H!P performance. They sang Ganbacchae, the first song H!P kidz were ever involved with. I haven’t heard that song in ages and it instantly brought tears to my eyes. Quite unexpectedly, I cried the whole way through.

I don’t think it was entirely about C-ute though. That song brings together the two main things that brought me into this fandom, and kept me in it: the original Morning Musume and the up-and-coming generations of H!P girls. Momusu brought me in and the H!P kidz groups grew dear to me and they connect beautifully in this song. This is the old fashioned H!P of happy, cute, idol pop that just flows nicely, feels like home and makes you nostalgic. I’ve always loved that song, even when I thought the H!P kidz were an insane idea. Seeing the girls crying their way through the performance and seeing the pv in the background with the little kids in front of long graduated Momusu senpai just killed me. It was wonderful and painful all at once.

It feels like the end of an era and that song really brought it home to me. I’m an old, old, fan. Once C-ute is gone, will I still be as drawn to H!P as I was?

c-ute-hagiwara-mai-nakajima-saki-okai-chisato-suzuki-airi-yajima-maimi-652287

All I know for sure is, I will miss them.

Watch Ganbacchae here (starts at 6:24).
Watch the original pv here. Man, they are so small…

~Isilie

5 thoughts on “The H!P Kidz are Movin’ On

  1. That part with them singing Ganbacchae was just right in the feelz T_T

    Mai was tiny in the original PV, dear god.

    To think I sort of followed them starting from Ookina Ai de Mottenaishite to now… It’s been long years in this H!P fandom! (Even though I’ve only started merging from the lurking recently, ahahahaha).

    1. Ahhh! And to think I was there to see Chisato get her push after uploading her dance covers (before management jumped in and slotted those videos into C-ute’s channel… LOL)

      I was so happy to see her get her push. I loved her voice (as few as I heard it). Her few seconds in Namida no Iro was like precious to me then. If someone told me she would SLAY Kanashiki Heaven or Midnight Temptation I would’ve been in disbelief!

      I think Airi and Chisato pushed each other in a good way, and it made C-ute the way they are 🙂

      1. Oh definitely! They are a great example of a rivalry that made the group stronger and brought out the best in both girls, rather than causing friction. Welcome back from lurking and thank you for your comments! Chisato really worked hard. I’m so glad that you got to experience her moving up. 🙂 Don’t you feel so old now though?!! lol

  2. It’s hard to believe and you brought up a good point — where everyone was all “Berryzloss is sad, but they look tired,” everyone’s like “C-ute’s having the time of their lives!” They’re ending on a high note with spirits to match.

    I also know the feels from Ganbacchae. I had a hard time watching because it just broke me and it truly hit me (and I’ve known something like this would happen). This is definitely the end of an era.

    A beautiful post as always, Isilie. Kudos!

  3. You forgot about one of the Kidz who’s still going strong Isilie. There’s still Momochi going strong with Country Girls and it’s honestly leading to my next question… when Maimi leaves, who is going to be the next leader of H!P? If they go off seniority, it’s probably gonna be Momochi but… who knows?

    But maybe this is just me still being very salty after all the bs with Zukki but H!P seems to be turning into a bunch of roboidols lately. MoMusu has reverted back to RoboMusume and the other groups besides Kobushi are pretty boring for the most part. Zukki and Meimi (two of the bigger personalities in H!P) have both bowed out of the collective and everybody else is just standing there, looking pretty. I was never a big Ayaya fan but that’s what it feels like H!P is turning into lately. We already have Miyamoto Karin to fill the Ayaya shoes, we don’t need an entire collection of roboidols.

    But that’s just my two cents really. :C I’ve always enjoyed C-ute and I’m sad to them go but if it’s what they want to do, then who am I to stop them?

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