I think saying, “What a year!” is quite the understatement. There have been so many changes, it’s hard to know where to start. Even someone like me, who pretty much only follows Morning Musume, couldn’t help but take notice. I don’t think any group, except Tsubaki Factory is exempt from the relentless changes this year. Although they did unexpectedly get good.
Country Girls got split up and placed into other groups; Momoko finally graduated, but then Shige decided to return; Kobushi Factory got chopped from 8 to 5 without ceremony; Kuudo Harukins left us for acting; Some of the Eggs (they will always be Eggs to me) debuted with a fabulous, fabulous song.
There’s probably more, but let’s try and talk about one thing at a time, shall we? This is gonna be LONG.
(Unless otherwise stated, any gifs aren’t mine; random google searches)
As for me, I spent a lot of this year being overwhelmed when it came to making posts. Every time I gathered my thoughts on one subject, something else happened. Maybe I’m just old, but I don’t remember how I managed to churn out as many posts as I used to, let alone cap as much as I used to.
Let’s talk about some of the changes.
The Deconstruction of Kobushi Factory
I absolutely love Kobushi. I love their fist-pumping, little giants attitudes and I think they came out of the gate much stronger than any other group in the last couple of years. They had a great start to the year, with not only a fun ninja play, but a MOVIE. Then there are all those tours…
But something went wrong.
The first thing was one of my favourite members, Fujii Rio, announced her graduation in the summer, but a short time later, was fired for ‘lack of compliance’ with the agency’s rules. I’m not sure what that means, but it usually means ‘boyfriend’.
I’ll miss her, but at least she was planning to leave anyway. It’s not as much of a downer as it could be, right?
But then, Ogawa Rena went on hiatus, another member of H!P to leave due to mental illness. These anxiety disorders seem to plague a lot of young people, but in the past few years we’re hearing of more and more cases. Shortly after Rena announced a hiatus, she changed her mind and said she’d be leaving flat-out. She didn’t even want a ceremony.
That…sucks. It especially sucked for Taguchi Natsumi who promptly got fired almost three months after Rena’s graduation. Apparently, she was very close with Rena. Apparently, she also got close with a boy.
There are incriminating photos floating around the internet, and if you want gossip you can look them up on your own time and reach your own conclusions. My blog isn’t that kinda blog. I just think this really sucks.
My other favourite in Kobushi is their leader, Hirose Ayaka. She blogged (thanks Blog Project) about her feelings. She feels responsible because she couldn’t hold everyone together (even though that isn’t remotely her fault), they disappointed the fans, and in every case, they didn’t get any formal ‘farewell’ or closure. But in the usual Kobushi spirit, she insists they will keep going.
I hope they do.
It would be such a waste if they dissolved in a pile of scandal after their amazing start.
The Growth of Juice=Juice
I already made a post about the larger implications (if indeed there are such implications) of this, but let’s just focus on the group that had never had any new member auditions before Danbara Ruru and Yanagawa Nanami were thrown at them.
I’m surprised by how much this bothered me, initially. I watched a few more H!P concerts this year and every time JJ showed up, they blew me away. Maybe it’s just that I really liked some of their songs this year (this one is amazing) or just that I really love watching Takagi Sayuki sing, but at one point when they were joyously belting out their songs like they couldn’t get enough, I thought, “Songs like this, sung like this, are why I love H!P.”
So when they added to them I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t make any damn sense to me at all.
Then Ruru sang her first line in Fiesta Fiesta.
And I watched her with the rest of JJ and she was both a talented singer and a confident, dynamic performer.
I was pretty much sold.
I know nothing about the other one, but she didn’t stand out for me. I am one of those people who doesn’t follow the Eggs (they will always be Eggs to me) and so I’d never heard of any of the promoted bunch. Ruru very much reminds me of Mizuhime when she first joined Momusu. She has that same half-lidded gaze when she smiles.
So does that mean I’m on board for more new members? More graduations?
I don’t know. This graduation/audition cycle has slowly trickled down into all of H!P. It depends how far they will go with it. I’m not trying to pick on any of the transfers or new members. I realize they must do as their told.
It’s still something I need to wrap my head around.
But as for JJ specifically, they seem to be integrating well and Ruru is so good I can’t really even attempt to protest.
Ya got me, Ruru.
I will talk about the singles later on in this post.
Speaking of Transfers, Let’s Quickly Mention Country Girls (ie Chisaki)
Country Girls are apparently releasing digital singles and touring and such, so it’s not like they’re fading away, which is what I expected. This isn’t 2006 anymore, when CD sales were everything and YouTube and Itunes didn’t exist (or were in infancy; I have no idea and don’t care – point is, H!P wasn’t usin’ em). Now, even if you don’t get to film PVs anymore, you can still churn out songs with basically free promotion. Country Girls can still make money! YAY!
I’m still worried about Chi-chan in Momusu. I don’t follow AngelMay closely enough to know how their new members are getting along (turning slowly bonkers, no doubt, which is a survival technique for every new member of AngelMay), but their music hasn’t suffered at all.
Chi-chan came into Momusu at a really, really bad time, though. They’d JUST gotten the 13th generation: Kaedi, who has so much ikemen/stoic-Ace potential that I simply couldn’t believe she didn’t pass with the 12th gen. Yokoyama, who smiles and sings just like Zukki and yet is very quick to snark, or outright snap at senpai for the sake of comedy (and because she’s a jealous little thing).
[About this pic: This is Chi-chan with Yokoyama and just LOOK at how thrilled Yoko is that she’s posing with the cute transfer. Oh dear.]
Throwing her in not as an addition to the 13th gen but as another lonely, single-person generation all on her own seems a bit rash. What’s wrong with placing her along-side Yoko and Kaedi?? She’d be a funny contrast with her shy, nice, honour-student sort-of character. From what I’ve gathered about her, she’s a bit aloof, but is so cute she’s kind-of everybody’s pet.
Or maybe just Derp-a-thon’s here.
They’d also JUST begun celebrations for Momusu’s 20th year with a live show (I think we all wanted way more of a fuss, but you take what you get) and by rerecording the group’s debut song, Ai no Tane, a song which has zero meaning for Chi-chan. It has only ever been performed by the original members and Momusu ’17, something Fukuhime pointed out during a talk-show and it gave me freakin’ goosebumps when I realized she was right. So she gets to be part of this really cool, historical moment and yet, she kind-of isn’t.
During Harukin’s graduation ceremony, BOSS said to her, in a sympathetic, you’ve-really-done-your-best tone: “You’ve had so many things to remember!” It kinda made Chi-chan cry. The actual practical reality of being part of two very different idol groups at the same time hadn’t hit me till they verbally acknowledged it. In the new PVs, Chi-chan sang and danced amazingly well and seemed happy enough. Very sweet during promotions.
That being said, when she performs with Country Girls, she looks like she’s come to life again. It’s not the same with Momusu and I don’t think it will be for a while. It makes me sad for her, but it’s astounding how composed she is in the face of all this pressure.
I confess I was annoyed at how unenthusiastic she was during the transfer reveal, but in a moment like that, it’s hard to know how to look, especially when your job is to be happy no matter what they tell you to do.
You know, and to the rest too.
BOSS aka Harukins aka Kudo aka Duu Graduated
Guys, if you haven’t watched the livestream of this, or clips of this, you simply must. This concert was absolutely wonderful. I mean, it was painful and horrible, because I wasn’t ready for Harukins to leave, but it was wonderful because every song overflowed with energy and joy. I could barely catch my breath.
I teared up so many times and then the next second was laughing.
I just love this group so much. They worked so hard and made it look like fun. Every moment you could feel the strong bonds Momusu built this year.
During her grad messages, Duu was so humble and sweet to everyone. I’ve only really seen her be brash and ikemen for so long that I forgot she’s probably the most mature member of the group. She was just very kind and it made me think, “UGH! Why are you going when you’re such an awesome girl?”
I was actually very, very happy to hear this song again. I still really like it, even though it’s so ridiculous. It was perfect send-off.
I loved the concert so much that it hasn’t really sunk in that she’s gone.
As for Masaki-kins reaction to Duu’s grad, that pretty much deserves its own post. I linked to a translation of her post-graduation blog post and it’s hard to tell if it’s childish and selfish or complex and heartbreaking. You can judge for yourself. I think I get where she’s coming from, possessive and strange as it may read.
Anyway, it was a wonderful concert, despite the pain.
Good luck Duu!
Tsubaki Factory Got Good
Listen, you people all kept saying how amazing Tsubaki was and how much potential and blah, blah, blah, and I didn’t believe you. Based on what I’d seen already, they had these almost ok songs, but they just didn’t have any skill at all to back them up.
So what do I mean by ‘got good’? Well, their vocals no longer sucked, their dancing was full of life and no longer looked stilted and strange and their songs just – wow.
Hatsukoi Sunrise happened. And then a bunch of other good ones. And the performances in H!P concerts were actually pretty enjoyable.
So, I may not know any member by name yet (and frankly two of them scare me: one looks too much like a scared bunny rabbit and one looks like her entire head is a smile that wants to eat you), but I’m watching them. Don’t you worry about that.
Even though I think some of them still look very unfortunate.
*dodges flying objects*
The Return of Queen Shige
Unexpectedly, Shige decided this was the year she’d return. First, she trolled everybody on her blog by posting a simple, ‘hi’ with no other explanation. Then another post simply telling people it was her. Then a bunch of pics of her with vague hints about a come-back.
Then finally we got a dinner show. But this wasn’t a dinner show, you understand, because Shige can’t sing or dance well enough for a long acoustic set. Nope, she had a drama/magic-show/mini-concert/play. Well, as far as I can glean from this wiki write-up and brief clips.
The soundtrack of this counts as her first solo album.
*shakes head* I don’t know how she does it.
But it’s Queen Shige. She just does.
And yes, Bro was elated.
There has been some speculation about which group will take the reigns from C-ute as the fierce, athletic diva group. I suppose it must be JJ, since AngelMay is relentlessly compared to Momusu. A case may be made for Kobushi.
Don’t tell me Tsubaki though.
I got a ticket, but I’m not on board quite yet.
C-ute was a class of their own. And all the H!P acts seem like unique entities right now. Can’t we just let them be what they are and keep getting better?
Maybe we just can’t let go and so the hole left by C-ute’s departure must be filled by one of the groups we have left.
Well, there’s still another new group coming, right? Wasn’t one of the promoted Eggs (they will always be Eggs to me) promised a group?
I’ve already posted about C-ute. All I can say here is their last single was amazing. I miss the group but I’ll really, really miss Airiri’s voice and Chisato judging me more than anything.
Good luck ladies!
Um….lots of small unit digital releases…
Momoko left too…Poor Aikawa finally graduated (which they announced Dec. 31st of all days).
Look, I’m sure there are tons more changes I didn’t mention. I’ve either forgotten in my haste to get this posted, or I didn’t pay attention to that side of H!P. Whatever I’ve forgotten, let’s just agree it was a big year and not all bad, even though things will definitely never be the same.
Let’s move on to the singles I loved, because this could go on forever.
Yeah, I know there’s a third one, but I haven’t gotten into it yet. Frankly, there’s almost always an AngelMay song that I can’t figure out and the creepy-dollhouse song this time around doesn’t appeal to me the way creepy-dollhouse-Otome no Gyakushuu does.
Mannermode hooked me right away. I don’t think the vocals are particularly strong here, but it’s a good, solid song and the chorus is something special. I can’t say anything particularly insightful here. I just like the song a lot.
Then there is Kimi Dake Janaisa. The verses are boring for me but the chorus almost makes me cry. I just wasn’t expecting something this sweet from them. Sure, it’s sappy in its way, but some times you need that reminder: everybody is suffering and you aren’t alone.
And as always, the pure, sweet, simple vocalizations at the end from Murota and Moe make the song for me. Sue me, I love vocalizations (within reason, obviously). I don’t understand why people don’t.
AngelMay probably did a lot of things this year, but I’m sorry, this was really the only thing on my radar.
And I am sorry that Aikawa is never coming back (another idol who suffers from a mental illness – she’s doing better in life but idol-ing is impossible). I wish her all the very best.
As always seems to be the case with Kobushi, I saw this in concert first before I even knew it was a single. Don’t get me wrong, they do a couple of different styles, but I think rock-out, fist-pumping anthems are where they shine the most. There’s a fierceness (always), but something very down-to-earth about it too.
I pretty much love all their music this year, but this one is the only one I’ve listened to more than a couple of times.
It’s also the last one we’ll get with all our original members.
I saw a performance of this when they’d only lost two of the eight members and Hirose was just singing it SO hard. I think that was what really sold me.
Please, get it together Kobushi. Please keep it together.
If not for the fans, then for your riida’s sake.
Juice = Juice
Well…no, really, everything they released this year, digitally or otherwise, I LOVED!
I know I used the cover for Jidanda Dance here, but I couldn’t pick a favourite.
This insane festival song got stuck in my head on an endless loop and I barely even minded.
Then the group expanded and no one knew what to expect and then FIESTA FIESTA and Ruru’s amazing vocals blew us all away.
And before that, Goal ~Ashita wa Acchi da yo made me fall in love with this group a little bit. Watching Takagi sing this was good for my soul.
Kanatomo is class and I think she might be one of the only truly distinct voices in H!P right now. A lot of the girls sound alike nowadays (not a criticism, just an observation), but you can always, always tell when it’s Kanatomo, the same way you could always tell when it was Fujimoto Miki.
They got two new members and went on a world tour with them. And I loved it. They are fantastic and I can’t wait to hear/see more next year.
I didn’t expect this to happen…
Ok, well if not everything, I loved at least two songs on each of their singles this year. I didn’t want to give them a chance. I’d been burned pretty bad with the indie singles. But then Hatsukoi Sunrise happened. And the strange, bass-y computer noise of Just Try.
Then Shuukatsu Sensation and it’s addictive, repetitive insanity about office job interviews, of all things. Years ago, Momoiro Clover Z released a song about working hard when you aren’t a member of the upper crust (Roudou Sanka), and the constant bowing and passing of business cards in the pv for Shuukatsu reminded me of a sort-of polite version of their desperate fist-pumping.
(gif from Chiima and her awesome review <3)
Tsubaki has just plain gotten better. See, it wouldn’t matter that the songs were better if the girls weren’t better. When I saw them perform these, they sounded and looked a million times more confident, like they’d created an identity somewhere along the way, beyond just being the bad-flower-factory-group. Some how those unfortunate looking girls (*dodges flying objects*) just pulled it together.
I didn’t expect that to happen…
The Promoted Eggs (they will always be – you know what, just accept that I call the Kenshuusei the Eggs, alright!? It takes too damn long to write that word every time)
Gobaku ~ We Can’t go Back
Just…this was awesome!! I don’t think this unit has a formal name…if it does let me know. I saw this in concert of course, since it’s a digital release. I was expecting cutesy, mid-tempo nonsense and instead I got funky, bass-driven awesome.
I dearly wish I could embed the full concert performance for you, but I’ve been unable to find a full version so just listen to this and be excited for the future and more awesome digital singles.
Morning Musume ’17 (finally)
I loved every single and the album. I’m almost relieved that I did. I was afraid I was losing my love for Tsunku songs since I was totally on board with the songs he didn’t write. But it seems he can still get me every time.
He knows his group, even as they change and get ever more dance-oriented or whatever term you want to use for how they’ve evolved the past two years. The new members add colour and life and in some cases, serious competition for solo lines next year (always a fun thing to anticipate).
I suppose if I must choose one, I’ll take the single with Wakkaindashi, because I can’t watch that pv or any performance of it without tearing up. The song I Wish (original version) always does that to me too, but that pv was cheesy and very much related to the play they were performing at the time. This pv was entirely about Kudo moving on and the girls sending her off with love and smiles.
Then there was the busy, trippy, awesome acrobatics-fest that is Dokyuu no Go Sign (or Light of the DREADNOUGHTS GO SIGN). When I first watched the pv, I loved the song instantly, but there is too much going on/ The colour choices are just weird: white on white so all the cool dancing is IN-FREAKIN-VISIBLE?! What are you doing!?
Didn’t stop it from being an absolute masterpiece of a song. It’s bright and catchy and just swells without relenting in its pace.
It made me discover that I actually LOVE Nonaka’s singing voice. I already knew I loved Oda’s, but Miki came as a bit of a surprise.
*dies from cute plus awkward-derpy Ogata in the back*
Jama Shinaide is the one I like the least, but it’s still pretty amazing. Some have complained about how much Masaki-kins sings in these songs (except for Kudo’s song, of course), but I don’t see the problem with that. Her vocals are spot-on and she blends well with Chi-chan. Iikubo and Ogata are great during the speaking parts and the choreography is gorgeous. It’s almost as fast paced as Go Sign, but with a tightly controlled energy.
And also, Oda is bloody fabulous.
When did Nonaka get this gorgeous!? Where’d derp-chan go??
Watch the dance-shot and you’ll hopefully see what I mean.
Oda Sakura – Because she’s perfect. Okay, well maybe not. You could say she’s possibly a bit boring. Very mellow. Kinda gets picked on and you feel a bit sorry for her. Then you notice how gorgeous she is and how effortlessly she sings and emotes and how she’s decided she’s going to be sexy but absolutely PWNS it even though that claim sounded so ridiculous and-
Yes. She’s won me over, LARGE.
Takagi Sayuki – Because she seems to love singing. That is honestly the only thing I know about her. I love her powerhouse voice and I love watching her enjoy singing. Bro and I joke that she has two smiles: the smile when she’s belting it out and the smile that says, “I get to sing again soon!”
Kasahara Momona – Seeing her briefly in a dvd magazine, I just really took a liking to her. She was earnest to the point that it seemed she was taking things a bit too seriously. That may not be the case, but it endeared me. She wanted to do her best so badly! I remember thinking, “Oh man, those AngelMay beasts will eat her alive!”
But then I watched her perform with AngelMay, dancing frantically with Rikako, but looking like she was having the time of her life. She seemed to integrate just fine.
I don’t know, I just feel like I want to root for her, you know?
Danbara Ruru – Amazingly talented. I doubted her very much and feel quite chastised by how good she is. ‘Nuff said.
Nonaka Miki – I just love how versatile she is. I love that she’s such a silly person and she never seems to be phased by anything. Her antics made me fall off the couch laughing on some of those dvd mags this year. The derpy face she makes is probably my favourite, but she can look mature and beautiful too. She’s got a strong voice and there’s something about the tone that I really like.
I just think she’s really cool. What’s cooler is, if I ever shake hands with them again, I could actually tell her that.
Kaga Kaedi – Because of stuff like this:
(ie. she’s an amazing performer)
(Rockin’ out with senpai, baby!)
I don’t think she’s ikemen in the same way Kudo was, but she can certainly pull off boy better than any of them. Yet, she still has that adorable cry-baby side. More from Kaedi please!
I could basically put all the members of Momusu here, but for the sake of time, I won’t. Or I’ll give them their own post.
Well, I couldn’t finish this on Dec 31st because I wasn’t willing to post it unedited, but at least this review isn’t as late as it could be. I think in the new year I’m going to have to pick one of the inevitable three a-sides every group releases, especially if the quality stays so good.
I watched a lot of dvd magazines and plays (which will get reviews of their own) and I marveled at how I could still love H!P even though Tsunku didn’t write that many of the songs anymore and certainly didn’t produce. I can still tell when it’s a Tsunku song, because he really doesn’t write like anyone else. He still gets me; Wakaindashi is one of his best. Jealousy Jealousy didn’t get its own post, but I wanted to write one, believe me.
Ditto with their soup-themed remake of Morning Coffee. That pv was so very much fun…
I felt spoiled all year by how much I loved the music.
I know I barely posted, but I hope what I did post was enjoyable. I work hard on these and I refuse to post if I can’t think of something to say. I feel like I’ve gotten rusty, but I have no desire to close this blog. Not yet.
So Happy New Year, everybody!
Happy 20th Anniversary to Momusu!
To those of you who still read (and even comment) I’m very grateful. Thank you for sticking with me. ❤