If you love your child, send her out into the world

Coming back from an unexpected hiatus to comment on another unexpected hiatus, yes?

2015 has been a pretty eventful year for Hello! Project, and I would love to comment on all the big things that have happened, such as Tsunku stepping down as producer due to cancer complications, or the Great YouTube Reddening, or saying one last goodbye to Berryz, or DID YOU SEE ZUKKI IN “OH MY WISH” HOLY FUCK SHE LOOKS SO GOOD…or finally get around to a series of posts I had planned relating to Sayu and last year’s New York concert. Instead, I’m here to talk about an upcoming graduation (!) that is bound to leave many folks heartbroken and questioning the direction and future of the group that she’s leaving.

It definitely ANGERS ME how much MILEAGE I'm getting out of this photo

It definitely ANGERS ME how much MILEAGE I’m getting out of this photo

Sadly, this won’t be about Kanon Fukuda, who had announced her graduation earlier this year and will be leaving S/mileage Angerme in a few weeks. “But who’s better than Kanyon?” you might ask, whether or not you intended to invoke memories of the late WWE/WCW superstar Chris Klucsarits. This, to the surprise of everyone, is actually about a 9th generation Morning Musume member. AND NO IT’S NOT ZUKKI YOU HEARTLESS PRICK

On October 30th, 2015, Riho Sayashi shook the idol world by announcing her intention to graduate from Morning Musume at the end of this year.

...and now this smug little thing is on her way out too

…and now this smug little thing is on her way out too

I’m just as shocked as you are, especially with how soon her last day with the group is relative to the announcement. I mean, why so soon? Aren’t we supposed to be given a longer heads up nowadays so Up Front can milk our wallets dry with merchandise we could have more time to come to terms and emotionally prepare? And why is the group’s ace leaving while the group’s current momentum is still hot, and just as she herself is about to become legal hit her idol prime? This suspiciously fast-tracked process raises a lot of questions and is bound to confuse and frustrate many a fan. And yet, as the news brewed in my mind for the rest of that day, I thought about the official statements given, the observations made by other fans, and some of the things Hello! Project has done during her tenure, and I had come to the conclusion that this could actually be the start of something really big and interesting.

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On to the next one…

By the middle of next year I will be able to say that I’ve come to known three distinct versions of Hello! Project.

It was around this time five years ago, in the final weeks of the summer of 2009, that I had unexpectedly become a fan of this particular company of Japanese idols. Fueled by a vague sense of familiarity with some of its faces, I found myself hungry and eager to indulge in the many years’ worth of silly TV appearances, huge discography of strangely-crafted pop music, and overwhelming roster history, essentially playing catch-up to all the things I missed out on, driven by a weird bout of fake nostalgia for something I never actually experienced. This is the first version of H!P that I knew, the version that Japan once loved but was long gone by the time I had (re)discovered and accepted it, the version that drew me in to become a fan in the first place.

JUNJUN YOU DA REAL MVP ;_;

JUNLIN YOU DA REAL MVPS ;_;

My official entry into the fandom was marked by the shock surrounding Koharu Kusumi’s graduation announcement, which eventually led to learning to love what was left of H!P at the time: an older and more refined Morning Musume roster that struggled to escape the shadows of both their predecessors and another idol company that was finally hitting its stride… the dichotomy of the H!P Kids groups, one establishing itself as a long-term stable act with anime tie-ins and overseas appearances just as the other was recovering from the loss of two members… and the rise of five promoted Trainees Eggs, one a soloist (and so far the last H!P has seen) and budding actress, the other four coming together as a strange new group claiming to have “the freshest legs”. This is the second version of H!P that I knew, the version I bonded over with other remaining fans through a rough patch and subsequent renaissance, the version that further defined and shaped my fandom identity and experience.

It’s now the latter half of 2014, and the transition out of that second version–and into a new era–has already begun.

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Surprise at the Summit: the fall and rise of a fan, part 2

THEY AIN'T 'BOUT DIS LIFE

THEY AIN’T ‘BOUT DIS LIFE

It’s kinda funny how life can throw some interesting twists at you.

As some of you may already know, I became a Hello! Project fan at an awkward time, missing out on Morning Musume’s first (and to date only) appearance in the United States by less than two months; salt would be further rubbed into that wound when the first major news to greet me would be the announcement of Koharu Kusumi’s graduation. Since then, it’s been a bit of a slow burn for the lineup known as the Platinum Era, as I gradually watched this particular roster graduate one by one from a distance over the past 3 years, until one remained to lead a new set of generations into the next chapter of Musume history. And while I’m certainly enjoying the current crop of personalities and look forward to their bright future, I still can’t help but lament the what-ifs and what-could’ve-been of not being able to experience what other fellow American fans were able to back in the magical summer of 2009.

Likewise, my plans for a weekly update schedule for this blog had been sadly pushed to the wayside, as real-life concerns over employment and money had all but sapped not only my ability to write and update, forcing me to postpone ideas and commentary on the many happenings that have occurred between April and now, but also my ability to enjoy such happenings, once again putting my fandom in doubt.

Considering her resemblance to a certain coach, I wouldn't be surprised if it actually were basketball reasons

Considering her resemblance to a certain NBA coach, I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually were basketball reasons

Unexpected twists can come with an unfortunate, shocking tone, such as Koharu’s sudden and fast-tracked graduation process, or Aina Otsuka’s second chance at H!P stardom being derailed by “basketball reasons” contract disputes.

On the flipside, unexpected twists can also come in the form of pleasant surprises just as things look bleak. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the curious case of Reina Tanaka.

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Don’t leave while you’re hot, that’s how Mase screwed up

A fitting title after my brief absence from writing. 😉

C-ute event reaction

At this point I’m kinda expecting Vince McMahon to show up instead

I’m sure many of you have seen it by now. It was like something out of the WWE playbook: the show of the night reaching a climax, the audience at a fever pitch as the performers prepare to hit their finishing moves…then suddenly the company boss music interrupts everything to announce an unexpected stipulation and throw a wrench in everyone’s plans. Of course, I’m not talking about Monday Night Raw but rather C-ute’s single release mini-concert event earlier this week at the Sunshine City mall, where initial panic slowly became sighs of relief and celebratory hugs as Tsunku, complete with his own version of “Crazy Kanzen na Otona”, left a recorded message announcing this year’s big plans for C-ute, namely a performance at Budokan in September as well as their first international appearance in France…though not before leading the girls on about what exactly Up Front management has up their sinister sleeves.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? The girls were panicking and preparing for the worst, with one of the first things out of Chisato’s mouth as the music hit being that dreaded S-word known to cut deep like a sword: SOTSUGYŌ (graduation). With even young Mai Hagiwara finally starting to approach adulthood, is the prospect of graduation becoming a more dominant thing amongst not just fans’ minds, but the former H!P Kids as well?

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Onegai dakara ano hi…

I didn’t get much sleep the morning of June 30, 2010. I had decided the night before that I was going through with a crazy decision to drive down to Los Angeles on a whim, but as I went to bed doubtful thoughts invaded and wracked my mind all night. Should I just save my money and chill at home? Should I fulfill my still-fresh desire to see the City of Angels once again? It didn’t help that my previous journey to SoCal turned out to be one borne out of desperation and miscommunication, journeying for a chance to see Ai Kago only for her to no-show and incite wonder if she was ever supposed to be there at all.

A phrase that would become the bane of oversensitive pseudo-nerds and butt-hurt basement dwellers in 2012 served as the nudge that finally pushed me towards making the trip: You Only Live Once. That’s the motto that motivated me to finalize that hotel reservation at the downtown Clarion on Olympic Boulevard. I hastily packed by bags, stocked up on some energy shots and Vitamin Water, filled the gas tank of my still-smelled-like-new-at-the-time Civic Si, and hit the road.

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