The Strange Case of Maa-Duu

Maa-Duu began during the auditions for Morning Musume. Masaki-kins went around the room and asked the other applicants their names and where they were from. She encountered Kudo Haruka for the first time and asked her, “What’s your name?”

“KUDO HARUKA,” came the blunt reply.

Taken aback, Masaki continued, “Oh. Where are you from?”

“HELLO PRO EGGS,” Kudo said.
Then silence.
Zero explanation.

Masaki, thinking maybe Kudo hadn’t exactly understood the question asked, with a bit more timidity, “Where is that?”


From that, Masaki-kins concluded that Kudo was probably a bit of a weirdo (reference).

Later on, she was happy to discover that this weirdo had also made it into the group. During their subsequent encounters, Kudo was bossy and blunt, but she was someone that Masaki really liked.

And thus a friendship, odd and cantankerous, was born.

After years of antics, possessiveness, and tsundere-pimpin’, Kudo graduated and Masaki-kins wrote a troubling blog post about it. And the speculation began. In my case, the first time I read a translation of Masaki’s blog post, I remember thinking, “Oh man, I hope she doesn’t quit.”

(all gifs from random google searches; not mine)

Granted that is a wild speculation, but I don’t think I’m the only one who felt like that. We saw the beloved Jyukkies get split up and among them, Masaki was subdued. The sadness was, to put it in an idol-world way, “too real”. Iikubo and Ayumin were sad and crying, but there was an acceptance underneath it. Masaki’s feelings seemed harder to pin down.

Masaki hasn’t struck me as a girl who needs emotional support in the same way that most new members need it; she seems like such a force-of-nature that people doting on her would be annoying. She would be fine by herself as much as she would be with the others.

Sure, she can be clingy and sulky (see Winky, Shige, and Kudo for the prime examples), but that always seemed like something she’d grow out of once she found her idol-feet.

And I really think that she has found them. She’s absolutely wonderful to cap in Momusu pvs and her stage presence is unique and dynamic. A lot of people don’t care for her voice, but it would be hard to deny its power. That’s why she keeps getting solo lines. There is a huge gap between how she presents herself and how she performs. Many have commented on her musical talent and her skill is hard to miss, even if you don’t care for the raw, desperate way it’s delivered.

Besides, every bad critique of her voice comes with annoyance at her personality, as though one affects the other. Mainly people don’t appreciate her expressions. She tends to have, if you’ll pardon the term, “resting bitch face”. See, Masaki can’t seem to hide her emotions. If she’s tired, or bored, or unhappy for some reason, it’s pretty obvious. It’s easy to interpret this as arrogance. While some think it’s hilarious, there are a lot of fans who come to idols for nothing but sunshine and frank honesty (often at the expense of the atmosphere) can grate their nerves.

I can sympathize. For example, I didn’t appreciate Risako’s miserable-fish-granny persona for the last three years of her Berryz tenure. I liked her singing voice (think I’m one of the few that did), but I hated the way she looked like singing made her miserable.

You just never know what a girl is really dealing with. Sometimes your diamonds are just not polished enough, ne?

I’ve seen a few comments about how “crazy” Masaki’s blog post was and how people don’t expect she’ll last much longer in the group. I definitely thought the same and I hope I’m wrong.

What was with that strange, cryptic blog post anyway?

My theory is pretty simple: Masaki just isn’t very mature.

Obviously I’m not talking about her job. If she could never reign herself in and be professional, she would have been kicked out long ago. I’m not trying to be harsh with her either; it’s very hard to lose someone you love, especially if you think you’re very close and it turns out you’re just one of her many friends.

Some of Masaki’s statements during Kudo’s goodbye-season have been pretty odd: Paraphrased – “I only think about myself”, “The other members talked about me because [Kudo] mentioned me”, “I repressed things”.

Certainly, one could say she’s been possessive of Kudo, but that’s been her pattern. She attached herself to Winky shortly after they joined, and then to Shige like a life-line. When both those senpai were gone, she seemed to try and drift back, but by then Kudo was getting ever more popular within the group and with her kouhai. To the self-centered Masaki, it seemed like Duu had abandoned her.

Let’s not forget that she lost quite a lot of time to her back injury.

Masaki is often loud and disruptive. She doesn’t seem to understand (and I don’t mean won’t, I mean CAN’T understand) that sometimes people don’t want to play with her, or join in her nonsense. Instead of learning boundaries and accepting them, it seems like she’s let the very reasonable requests of, “be quiet” or “please, enough already!” hurt her feelings. She takes it as rejection and that’s a dangerous road for one’s mental health. She’s stated numerous times that she doesn’t understand why she gets scolded so much by managers or senpai.

I think one of the most important lessons of growing up, in showbiz or otherwise, is that it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. Yes, people admire and follow you and such, but that gives you a responsibility, doesn’t it? Idol-ing is harsh in that if you stop giving people their dreams, most fans will abandon you. In terms of member relationships, sometimes people are just busy or distracted; it doesn’t mean they hate you. Sometimes people don’t feel as strongly as you; it doesn’t mean your friendship is a lie. And if she has lots of other friends, it doesn’t mean she’s left you behind.

I’m not saying she resents Kudo’s friendships with the other girls, exactly. I just think Masaki may have felt threatened by them because she can’t connect easily with others in the effortless way that Kudo seems to. Masaki knows that Momusu is an ever-changing line-up, but it’s like she isn’t emotionally prepared for it.

Masaki, sweetie, it’s been FIVE YEARS! You should get it by now! It would be funny or cute if Masaki could hide anything, but her perpetually unhappy face is very hard to watch.

During a special right before Kudo left, Masaki just kept staring off into space and inevitably her expression goes from a guarded smile to a sad blank. It wasn’t a funny, oh-Masaki-is-bored, face. She looked subdued, like she couldn’t even be bothered to pretend. It was tough.

That being said, I get it. I really do.

Some people, I’m guessing the kinds of people for whom that blog post is ‘crazy’, have no trouble making friends. Perhaps they don’t think too deeply about things like ‘friendships’ because they just always have people around. Life is an endless supply of allies, acquaintances, buddies, contacts, etc. and ‘not working together anymore’ only means you don’t see each other quite as often. You don’t consider that friendship over. Kudo strikes me as a person like this. Let’s not forget how confident she’s always been. It makes sense that the moment she decided to pursue acting she was able to move forward without consulting anyone else.

Then there are people like Masaki, who maybe don’t make friends very easily. So, when she finally finds somebody she likes and connects with, she can’t help but feel threatened with the inevitable parade of “new friends” around that person. Sometimes the only way to deal is to convince herself that her friend trusts her more than the others, and feels safe with her and so on. So when the friend can just up and leave, she ends up feeling abandoned.

If life has been a parade of people walking past her, or blinking in silent confusion at everything she says because they “don’t get her”, then losing someone she thought was just as invested in the friendship as her was probably devastating.

Now, I’m not saying this is definitely the case. Obviously, I don’t know. Nor am I saying that this kind of attachment is good or even healthy. Just, as someone who also has a lot of trouble making and keeping friends with whom I truly connect, it’s completely understandable.

I know Masaki will be fine, whether she decides to graduate or not. I’ve read reports since the blog post was uploaded that she and Duu have kept in touch. Maybe, after she read it, Duu called Masaki up to scold her about being so dramatic and worrying their fans. After all, Masaki was probably only thinking about getting her feelings out and not about how anyone else would react to or interpret it. It’s not that she’s a bad person for this, it’s just that’s not how her mind works. In her own words, “Maa-chan only thinks about herself.”

So, was Maa-Duu “fake”? That seems to be a concern for some. First of all, ALL pairings are “fake” in the sense of being played up for cameras. Idols are supposed to give the fans their dreams, right? And whether they both felt like sisters, or rivals, or whichever dynamic you prefer, we can’t possibly know. I am pretty confident that it wasn’t completely one-sided.

But Duu seemed to be friends with everybody. She seems like that kind of confident extrovert who can attract a lot of friends, but also at times be a quiet, healing presence. She’s been very confident from the beginning and coupled with her ikemen stuff, she made quite the irresistible senpai.

By contrast, Masaki seems to suck up a lot of energy. Most people don’t get her. Her moods can be strange, as her humour can be incomprehensible. People smile nervously when she’s around or just scold her by default. If she is self-centered, rather than just odd, then that sort of behaviour doesn’t consider other people’s boundaries. If a self-centered person is told to please BE considerate, they sulk. It’s not you making a reasonable request; you’re just being mean. That gets tiresome to deal with.

If Duu was someone who scolded her constructively, but also just joked around with her, treating her like everybody else, losing her must have felt like losing a best friend.

During dvd magazines, Masaki tends to appear on camera by herself. I don’t remember her interacting with other members a lot, except to photo-bomb their camera time. You have to wonder what gets cut out. I think her jokes are just on a different level. And she tends to burst into wonderfully obnoxious laughter at random times. Honestly, you always know when Masaki is laughing and it is always hilarious (and you’re almost never sure why she’s laughing).

Let’s be clear: I adore Masaki-kins. She’s very talented, adorable and quirky, and the most cap-able (as in her pv caps are always fantastic) Musume ever. Her antics, when actually on film, are hilarious.

Example (for which I’m unable to find a clip): There was a dvd magazine incident with Riho, the stoic senpai who used to scold her a lot. Masaki was trying to monopolize Shige and Riho wouldn’t go away, so Masaki pushed her off Shige and whined, “DAI-kirai!”. Riho, smug as ever, said, “Daisuki dai yo!” and glomped onto the shrieking Masaki. Then they tickle-tortured each other until Riho ended up prostrated on the ground in submission.

Many describe Masaki as a “genius” and don’t geniuses often end up being a bit eccentric? Masaki seems to think in a completely different way than the rest of them. When she tells a story, she comes at it from strange angles and the only way for people to deal with it is to laugh because “why wouldn’t she just say it this way”? It looks like she really struggles with making herself understood. Maybe Kudo was one of the few who would say to the others, “No, she’s making sense; she just doesn’t know how to phrase it.”

I know she’ll be fine and I hope this experience will help her learn to be a bit less possessive and to talk to the other members more. I can’t say I have any idea who she’s close with, but she could have tons of other friendships within the group that I just haven’t heard about. Duu’s leaving may have just been extra hard because Duu was her FIRST FRIEND within the group.

It’s not like Masaki is doing badly within Momusu: she gets lots of lines, has lots of fans, improves with every single tour, and provides amazing caps and photos. However, being in an ever-rotating line-up means recognizing that work-friends who only know you in that one context (ie. As a member) aren’t the same as friends who chose to be with you. It doesn’t mean that they are “fake” or “false”. In fact, I think it’s one of the most unique relationships in the world.

No one else, with the obvious exception of the other Jyuukies, will ever understand what Masaki has been through better than Duu. There are things they have in common that the older Jyuukies just wouldn’t get. Their experiences and opportunities in the group have been different, but they started out the same and know each other in a way none of their kouhai or senpai can ever know them. What’s false in that?

Now, Maa-Duu have the opportunity to develop a friendship in the “real” world. That being said though, I wonder if it will be what Masaki wants now that they no longer have the, “we’re both in the current incarnation of Momusu” connection. This is what I meant about maturity. Accepting and adapting to change is crucial. I hope Masaki stays in Momusu and becomes legendary.

I think she’s well on her way.

As for Maa-Duu, if Double-U can still hang out and be friends after all their emotional turmoil, those two can go on for sure.

Beside, shippers will always have the ‘Haru-Senpai’ dvd.


7 thoughts on “The Strange Case of Maa-Duu

  1. (Nods) Definitely a lot to think about. Change is hard for everyone, but especially if you aren’t a social butterfly. Kudo had some time in the Eggs before joining Momusu, so that may have added to how comfortable she was with everything. Masaki… doesn’t have that sort of background so she has to “live and learn,” as it were.

    Masaki’s getting over it, moving on, finding a way to advance those Social Links outside of idoling. However, that doesn’t mean she’ll magically be over it the next day like a trend. It will take time and effort on Masaki’s part, along with using this opportunity to turn the Maa-Duu pairing into something that isn’t for the cameras.

    We’ll just see…
    (Great post by the way, Isilie.)

  2. I enjoyed reading your writing a lot (this being the first article read).
    Somehow it feels, comforting??, to hear someone’s resonance of thought kind of vibrating pretty coherently with yours.

    About MaaDuu.., surviving in Japan is tough, let alone the idol world show-business. Hopefully they both don’t lose their true self, the value they hold on to, beyond the many other separate paths that await.

    PS: your blog is found through the AO.

    PS 2: who is Winky you mentioned above?

    1. Aw thank you! Im so glad you enjoyed it. I hope MaaDuu will maintain a good friendship. And Winky was/is my nickname for Tanaka Reina. She used to wink so much that it became ridiculous. She really isnt my favourite. Heh i should have clarified that.

  3. They are definitely still working through something. I find it sad that whenever Kudo goes to a concert she never gets a backstage photo with Masaki (or masaki never makes herself available). Time heals all so hopefully we’ll see some MaaDuu moments again in the future. I mean we just got word that W(Double u) will finally be on the same stage again this month! So anything is possible. 🙂

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