“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
— Revelation 16:15-16 (KJV)
Greetings, Citizens of the Universe.
Next week marks 15 years to the day when a lot changed for H!P (or began to). The Project as we know it (or rather, knew it) can be traced to the seismic changes that happened beginning with this day. Ladies, gentlemen, and anyone in-between and outside, I welcome you to…
Haromageddon. The 7/31 Incident (7・31事件). No need to contact your local shrine maiden to get a handle on this particular situation. Tis a name given to an event that happened, given a name that is the portmanteau of Hello! Project and “Armageddon” (ハルマゲドン Harumagedon).
Genesis (or What in the Name of All Things Holy is “Haromageddon”?)
Now, what is Haromageddon, you ask? Allow me to show you, though I will admit that just about all of this comes from the Japanese Wikipedia and was run through Google Translate via Chrome as English info is somewhat hard to come by these days and whatever I could find mainly just regurgitated stuff found on the Wikia and Wikipedia. Therefore, take some of this with a grain of salt. (Knowing the Internet, there’ll be a lot of checking afterwards.)
- Goto Maki and Yasuda Kei would graduate from Morning Musume, the former on her 17th birthday and the latter in 2003.
- Tanpopo, Petit Moni, and Mini Moni’s lineups would be shaken up a bit.
- After details revealed in August, Iida Kaori, Yaguchi Mari, and Kago Ai were taken out of Tanpopo and Shibata Ayumi (of Melon Kinenbi), Konno Asami, and Niigaki Risa would join Ishikawa Rika in September.
- As a result of Yasuda Kei and Goto Maki’s graduations, Ogawa Makoto and Ayaka (of Coconuts Musume) were to join Yoshizawa Hitomi in Petit Moni.
- Yaguchi Mari would graduate from Mini Moni and Takahashi Ai would join the group. (Personally, I think Mini Moni’s “shift” was taken better because there’s an entire movie that “explains” the lineup change.)
- Speaking of Yaguchi, it was announced that she would form a unit with some of the Hello! Project Kids (which was later revealed to be ZYX).
- Going back to Tanpopo and Petit Moni, it was announced that they’d release a best-of album.
- The graduation of Heike Michiyo, one of H!P’s earliest members and first soloists, was announced.
- Country Musume ni Ishikawa Rika would cease activities at the end of 2002.
- While they “aren’t” part of the “event” per se, some count the graduations of Rinne (of Country Musume) and Ishii Rika as well.
One significant consequence of this cosmic shift in the order was immense blowback; To say the fanbase at large didn’t take it well may be a bit of an understatement. There were immense boycotts and cancelled fanclub memberships resulting from this (similar to what happened after the Elder Club announced their graduation, an event that is said to be the “second coming of Haromageddon”).
- Some were upset that non-Morning Musume members were being placed into the classically MM-related Tanpopo and Petit Moni.
- Some found Yasuda’s decision to graduate to become an actress suspicious, owing to her strong vocals and having dropped out of high school to pursue singing. Also: “It seems that Yasuda’s graduation was to deal with tonsillitis who had been suffering from before , but it was not disclosed at the time.”
- The schedule of the changes were initially unknown, becoming known with the passage of time. This also added to the sense of uncertainty.
- “From the remarks of some members of the Hello! Project of the time, the members themselves were presumed not to be fully understood or convinced.” When asked on Young Town Doyoubi by Akashiya Sanma, Nakazawa Yuko said:
“I don’t know. Please ask the president of the office”
A statement on Yaguchi Mari no allnightnippon SUPER! was the following:
“Tsunku ♂ is not bad”
(You know it’s bad when you have to defend Tsunku from the mob.)
- While Tanpopo released a proper CD single, Petit Moni’s sole new song was only released on Petit Best 4. The groups were never heard from again until the Chanpuru compilation was announced.
- Sales dipped after the announcement, though one can argue that had more to do with general industry trends as a whole.
- Ever since the event, it became more normal to announce graduations half a year in advance (something that wasn’t common at the time).
In the aftermath of the apocalyptic “big bang,” some more familiar changes occurred:
- The Hello! Project Kids became full-fledged members as Berryz Kobo and C-ute with the Hello! Pro Eggs (later Kenshuusei) taking their place as the “trainees” of the Project.
- Tanpopo and Petit Moni would receive a Mega Best compilation in 2008.
- As previously mentioned, Tanpopo, Petit Moni, Mini Moni, ZYX, Aa!, and even v-u-den (a group formed in the “post-Haromageddon” era) were revived as “Chanpuru Units.”
Granted, I touched a bit on this in the previous section, but the Hello! Procalypse did lead to some positive changes.
- If not the passing of the torch that occurred, we wouldn’t have the set up to the formations of Berryz Kobo and C-ute. Thanks to the prototypical efforts of the H!P Kids and Fujimoto Miki, the Hello!Project Eggs program would not be a mainstay, spawning some of the current stars of H!P, including current leader Wada Ayaka.
- While the 5th Gen didn’t benefit that much from their time in the subgroups (Mako didn’t even get a proper single release and Gaki got one in Tanpopo, compared to Konkon had gotten three during her time with Country Musume and Ai-chan had four (five counting the Minihams single) with Mini Moni), they eventually became just as legendary as their seniors. I know a good portion of you came into H!P during Takahashi Ai’s reign.
- Goto Maki would later graduate from H!P and go to Avex’s rhythm zone label. Ironically, this is the same label that Koda Kumi (who participated in the same audition Gomaki won) belongs to. She is now more or less retired from the entertainment industry, being a married mother of three.
- Sales may have dipped down since the Haroprocalypse (an issue that somewhat continues to this day and brought up every time H!P releases something), but these desperate times led to some moments of creativity. The Shuffle Units may be no more, but they carry on in special concert groupings and the like.At first, this theoretically would spell doom and gloom (which happens every time someone graduates). However, something Ray said when he brought up the Price of the Sotsugyou series (which I couldn’t even show you now because unlike M3 1.0, Idolminded’s not in the Wayback Machine and the Google Cache page was of its current state as a Go Daddy holdover page) has stuck with me whenever sales are brought up (which spurred the series): he mentioned that the sales figures “stabilized” after a “spike.” Instead of saying that H!P suffered a catastrophic “decline” in sales, they “stabilized.” That is key here.Anytime sales and their relation to H!P’s status in particular is brought up, it’s often in the sense that the collective is “over the hill” or “in need of a comeback,” like an angel who has fallen from grace. However, that language is important: “stabilized,” which implies that an intense flood happened and the current state is the river receding to normal levels.”But Kath, UFA markets badly, you know that. They’re so cheap and they’ll never regain Japan’s consciousness if they do Internet shows and the like. They’re treated like an indie group — and they’re marketed better. Even Ichii Sayaka would rather her daughter not be affliated with UFA! #KusoJimusho”I see your point and agree to disagree. I know and accept that H!P isn’t going to have the same level of international (never mind domestic) renown as the 48s or Momoclo or [insert Johnny’s/Kpop act here]. I’m not getting into those debates because those battles are best fought on forums or Twaceblr. Does H!P need it? What does “success” mean?
I know I may have rambled a bit in this post, but the main purpose was to show what I could of the past and tie it to today. Recent events may have some fans pressing the panic button and denoting the Death of Hello! Project.
However, despite the apparent death of H!P, it has risen again. After much of the old guard departed, the new guard (Berryz Koubou in 2004, C-ute in 2005, Buono! in 2007, S/mileage in 2009, Juice=Juice in 2013, Country Girls in 2015*) took to the podium.
*I know I left out some, but I’m primarily focused on mainstay groups who weren’t formed for special occasions (so KiraRevo units are out, but I kept Buono! because it long outlasted its original purpose) or groups that had a deep, lasting impact that lasts to today. (As much as I’d love to include W and v-u-den, they’re kinda on shaky ground here as their formations–and disbandments–predated the “rebirth” H!P experienced in 2009.)
So I leave you with some tweaked passages in the hope this brings some solace (at the possible cost of alienating some folks):
“Hello! Project died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that it was buried, and that it rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
“And if Hello! Project has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
“And if Hello! Project has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Hello! Project have perished. If in Hello! Project we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Tune in next time as we fast forward 15 years later…
Peace be with you.