In honor of Sayumi Michishige’s impending graduation (and retirement), a watershed moment as I say goodbye to the last Musume who greeted me, I will look back at eleven years… of my fandom. (Bad karma, I know. Lord knows I’ve posted enough about me already this year.)
I missed the tenth anniversary mark of my idol fandom, a tale with a weird and wacky history. I’ve already covered my blogging hiatus in my past series, but I’ve never really covered my fandom period. (Maybe I’ve touched a bit in the intro post to my old blog, but that is all the more reason for this post to exist.)
I seem to hold a strange place among most fans now. Many of the fans I see in comments or blogs got into MM14 during the “Platinum Era” (aka the stable Takahashi era* with all of the songs that might as well be perfect for a MM/LP-inspired blog like this). For many, Sayumi is their last Musume too, but they are from a different era than I am.
I got into Morning Musume in late 2003 (for a rather silly reason too). As you can see by the date, this was when there are lot of “old-school” names in the group. In fact, I think I can name that very lineup:
Let me ask you something if you became a fan around 2006 or later: Do you recognize anyone here? (On that note, notice anyone missing?)
As you can see, most of these folks aren’t in the group anymore with at least five being “Morning Waifu” or “Mama Musume.” In fact, one managed to get herself into the exact kind of scandal that got her booted out of the group in the first place! (It gets better.)
Either way, the results are still the same: there is only one name left who is still here… until now.
*If I’m wrong, let me know please.
Now, I know you’re here to read a retrospective about my status as a Morning Musume fan and how it relates to these eleven years, a memorialization of an era that is soon to be gone. Well, rambling time is over. Let’s get dangerous.
It all began in 2003. If you want to get technical, it began years before then. I’d see this mass of girls taking up stands on Hey! Hey! Hey! Music Champ when it’d air on WMBC (it’d have blocks of global programming and every weeknight at 10pm, it showed programming from FujiTV. Monday nights had HHHMC). (Judging by their outfits and the fact they had yellow kisses drawn on their cheeks, they were promoting “Do It! Now.” I’d remember seeing them perform this song that had “Mr. Moonlight” in its choruses (which I’d later find to be “Mr. Moonlight ~ Ai no Big Band”) and later song whose title began with “Shabon” (my ability to read kanji wasn’t that great at the time and visiting YesAsia told me the song was “Shabondama.” That was also the song that piqued my interest for a small bit. (It’d also help that everytime I’d visit the Japanese music section, they were listed among the popular acts, which I used as a springboard for my music-listening experience. It helped that I was familiar with some (i.e. hitomi, Ayumi Hamasaki, Namie Amuro) due to also having access to an Internet radio station run by Avex.
In spite of that, the true beginning of my fascination with MM came with “Go Girl ~ Koi no Victory.” It was a stupid reason (relating to a somewhat infamous episode of the Powerpuff Girls), but it doesn’t matter anymore: Morning Musume became part of my musical consciousness. MM was the mind and H!P was the… er… “behind.” To paraphrase Funkadelic,
Surfing around YesAsia, I’ve found myself entangled in H!P’s clutches with the first that stick being Mini Moni… but that might be a different post in of itself. This is about the mothership connection that is Morning Musume and this post intends to tear the roof off and turn this mother out.
Since I truly got into the group in the fall of 2003, we all know what happened down the line: the graduation of Natsumi Abe. I was still green and knew next to nothing about them save for the music. I didn’t even begin watching PVs until 2007, though frequent visits to the official site allowed me to recognize their faces (helped immensely by the fact Go Girl’s covers had them holding signs of their names—now to do that in the event I explore the 48G Universe further). I didn’t understand at the time the significance of the event and how she’s “the Face of Morning Musume.” Heck, sometimes, I found her voice rather plain (and I listened to MM music throughout all of the ages in-between single releases).
Oh, I forgot: the splinter groups. At the time, due to my youth, I preferred Otome Gumi’s songs over Sakura Gumi’s offerings. (I didn’t exactly have the patience to tolerate their slower songs, though I did like “Sakura Mankai” a lot.)
Going back to the mainland, I suppose it goes into deeper grads: Nono and Aibon. Through Mini Moni, I grew to love them immensely and given their work in W, I was both saddened but not shocked. For a while, I listened to W as much as MM (so you can imagine my feelings as to the fate of that group and its members. It took me years to forgive Kago Ai for what she did).
Anyone find some of the verses prophetic?
Since I mentioned the graduation of “Two Top,” this also meant the release of “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari” aka “The Noob’s Guide to Morning Musume.” Some say this should be shown to intermediate fans and wota. While I had learned a lot from reading wiki pages about the members, that song taught me immensely about the members and their quirks. Some may say that song did more to helping me becoming familiar with the group than anything else I’ve done, especially as more renditions followed that had the members singing their own verses. (Of course, this song series (yes, let’s call it a series) has the inevitable consequence of dating it fairly quickly.)
2004 ended with the first true album released with the lineup I somewhat knew. (Their first album release was a best-of.) The one song I remember was “Sukiyaki,” followed closely by
the Milk Tea song “Lemon Iro to Milk Tea.”
(I know “Roman” was released this year, but it took me a while to warm up to it. As mentioned here, I listened to its B-side more than the A-side on account of it being overpowering to me at the time. There’s also the now-infamous Lucky 7 Auditions and the H!P All-Stars single.)
I’ve only seen the PV once or twice and I’ve listened to the song more than that…
Doesn’t change the fact this takes me back.
I think we have a contender for the theme song of M3’s seventh anniversary.
2005… what happened here? There’s the graduation of Kaorin, a member that I barely knew yet knew at the same time. Graduations still saddened me, but I’ve seen the lineup changes and had gotten used to it. (Plus… oddly enough, due to the fact I’ve been going to the official MM site, her graduation was the first I’ve experienced from announcement to happening. I mean, it’s not like I’ve seen it coming. Longevity aside, I’ve seen her budding solo career and I actually liked her work actually. It’s a shame it stopped, but that can’t be helped.) There was also… the unlucky fate of Lucky 7 Auditions. Imagine my sadness at the first audition I’d see being a dud. (Needless to say, my feelings towards the 12th Gen auditions and the results of the second batch are justified.)
Then came the graduation of Ishikawa Rika, the surprise ship-jumping of Yaguchi Mari, and the successful selection of the 7th Generation: Kusumi Koharu.
She was a favorite member of mine for many years. (Folks familiar with the Vox blog would know that, which may perplex some as to my rather (regrettably) caustic treatment of her on this blog. Well, wonder no more! What soured me to her was… this. Unsurprisingly, this was also the point where my warming up to Sayumi increased. Maybe I’ll warm up to her again. Someday. For Chiima’s sake.)
2005… was a weird time.
2006 was a weird time as well. I was too focused on Koharu’s solo career, mostly because… well… MM’s music wasn’t interesting enough to me. I still devoutly loved the group to bits (and still to this day, obviously), but Koha’s material seemed more interesting to me. Then there was the weird graduations of Konno Asami and Ogawa Makoto. (I call them weird because they were announced together but technically didn’t happen at the same time: Makoto’s ceremony was held in the middle of a musical performance. Then there’s the fact their entire graduation situation was weird as well: Asami left the project completely while Mako just left MM… to study abroad. Her return was promised (which happened, fortunately), but it was strange that she didn’t outright leave like Asami did and I wouldn’t be surprised if fans found it suspicious. This is especially since Asami would end up returning.) Closing out the year was the introduction of the strangest generation of all: the 8th Gen, initially incarnated as the sole Mitsui Aika
(aka possibly the most hated MM member in history, so hated that a blogger had trouble thinking of words for her graduation in a drunken, grapey haze).
2007… a year I’ll never forget. Aika’s first single hit the waves and Yoshizawa Hitomi, the sole remaining 4th Gen member, graduated. This was also the year when the rest of the “happy” 8th Generation arrived in the form of two “students” from China, Junjun and Linlin (nicknamed “The Pandas”). Their first single was Onna ni Sachi Are, which suffered from an awkward history. Anyone who’s listened to the song would know that it’s a pretty Takahashi-heavy A-side, which may be one reason she caught a lot of flak during the remainder of her tenure. However, this was somewhat out of necessity as Fujimoto Miki, Hitomi’s successor, became the second member to quit the group due to scandal (the first being, of course, Yaguchi Mari). They also share records for shortest tenure as leaders and their departure impacted their singles. (Well, Miki’s is more dramatic since Mari left so soon to the debut date that her vocals are still heard on “Osaka Koi no Uta.” As for “Onna ni Sachi Are,” it’s obviously a different story.)
Regarding 2007’s releases… they’re a black hole in my mind for they are virtually a microcosm for my life through the year, particularly in the romance department. Ah, young love. Egao YES Nude was the crushing stage, Kanashimi Twilight and Onna ni Sachi Are were the post-rejection grieving period, and Mikan was the post-grieving period. (I was over it by OnSA, by the way. Didn’t change the fact I was relieved that Mikan wasn’t another angsty song.)
On the bright side, 2007 was the year I became acquainted with the online idol fandom stratosphere and the blogosphere to the point where I began blogging. In fact, I think Mikan might’ve been the first MM PV I reviewed on the old Vox blog.
2008 continued with small fanfare. As much as I liked Resonant Blue, my focus was on everything else (partially due to blogging**). I was also focused on graduation and college. (Trivia: I graduated from high school the week v-u-den disbanded.) Life changes and my worst fear as a blogger came true: burnout. Fittingly enough, one o the last posts on the Vox blog was a review of Pepper Keibu.
2009 ventured further into dark territory for Morning Musume. I was still as loyal as ever to MM, to H!P and yet… it took me doing the Precision Past Perspective series for me to realize how… repetitive the singles became for a while. (I shouldn’t say anything though. I have no voice in this matter.) Naichau Kamo, Shouganai Yume Oibito, Nanchatte Renai, and (technically) Kimagure Princess were all moody A-sides, which had gotten this period the rather disparaging nickname “Emo Musume.”
In all, it was a year I’d never forget for besides the Champuru/Champloo Units’ debut (which made me happy as a nostalgic H!P fan), but it was also the graduation of Kusumi Koharu. She was the first member who joined since I became a fan and she’s now the first member in that category to graduate. You may know there’s more to come. This is why Kimagure Princess has the significance it has: that and it was the first song of that era I liked in a while.
To be continued in Part 2!~
**I’ll get to the new releases in a bit. On another note, what idols do you sound like? Whose voices interest you?
Bunny peace and love