Ping Pong Pinpoint, January 2018 Edition: Beginnings and Endings Galore

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

How’s your year so far?

Well, as promised in the 2017 Year-End post, here’s a rundown of minor news from late 2017 to earlier this month.

We’ve got news to cover, involving new beginnings for Inaba Manaka, Sugaya RisakoTsubaki FactorySuzuki Airi, Yasuda Kei, and Ishikawa Rika, along with endings for Taguchi Natsumi and Aikawa Maho.

(Don’t worry, Kuduu fans. You’ll get your day.)

Anyway, let’s get right down to it!

Inaba’s Lovely Fragrance Returns


On September 8, 2017, the Hello! Project website announced that Inaba Manaka would resume H!P activites. After her asthma symptoms (which led to her hiatus and later graduation from Country Girls) stabilized the past spring, Inaba was in talks with the management about resuming her idoling career. As a result, she is the current leader of Hello Pro Kenshuusei Hokkaido and would be doing her own work around the Sapporo area with her “new start” marked at a Hello Pro Kenshuusei Hokkaido event ten days later.

In addition, she is currently classified as a soloist (her being added to the artist roster as such) and has started blogging on her official blog!!!!!! (Blog translations provided by the hard-working folks at blog!project.)

Hello! Project Kids Are Now Having Kids


On October 18, 2017, it was announced by the management that former Berryz Kobo member Sugaya Risako is getting married and to go on maternity leave, Sugaya herself further revealing in an interview that she is (at the time of the announcement) five months pregnant. She first met her hubby, a twentysomething ordinary man who works in Tokyo, at a dinner party she went to with a friend and began dating earlier that year.

She is the first H!P Kids member to marry and have kids.

Was it a shock/surprise? Heckell yeah, it was. However, it’s no secret that those adorable little chibis have grown up into beautiful women. I only wish the best for Risako, her mister, and her chibi.

Taguchi Natsumi, Killed by Bees


Just three months after Rena chopped herself in half while chopping sticks and five months after Rio decided to stay in Devon, Taguchi Natsumi got stung by a bumblebee after playing with a hive and now Kobushi’s down to five.

To put it into less metaphorical terms, Taguchi Natsumi’s contract was terminated due to a “lack of self-consciousness and responsibility” on her part.

This comes a month after alleged boyfriend photos were circulated around the Internet. I’ll leave it at that. The rather unorthodox ways (and the rapidness) of the departures also spurred discussion about whatever is going on to cause these… events.

Now let’s hope that the none of remaining five don’t get in the Court of Chancery…. (Hey, fans are touting them as the real successor to C-ute rather than the Camellias, due to how streamlined the lineup is now.)

Speaking of the Camellias…

Tsubaki Factory Joins Best Newcomer Award Club


On December 30, 2017, Tsubaki Factory won the Best Newcomer Award at the 59th Japan Record Awards, beating out fellow nominees/Newcomer Award winners Nakazawa Takuya, NOBU, and UNIONE.

The Camellias are the fifth Hello! Project group to win the award, following Morning Musume in 1998, C-ute in 2007, S/mileage (present-day ANGERME) in 2010, and Kobushi Factory in 2015. Given how well these Hello! Newbies turned out, we can only hope for great things in regards to the Camellias.

On a somewhat related note, they received a similar award the previous month at the 50th Japan Cable Awards.

(There was also some minor controversy regarding one of the awards since Up-Front was apparently one of the sponsors, leading the some talk among fans about the awards being rigged…. Then again, whether you believe the Camellias were given the award or not, you can’t deny that they put out some good material this year. The summer single alone is proof of the Camellias’ power to shine, not to mention that they’re the only H!P group to not have a major shift in line-up in 2017.)

What a way to end a year! If only the high spirits could last until the new one. Alas…

A Truly Tear-Colored Decision


Just when you thought it was safe to dive into the holidays and New Year’s season, the waterworks began anew for Maho fans and ANGERME/H!P faithful.

Why? The news we have dreaded all year arrived: Aikawa Maho has graduated from ANGERME and Hello! Project. After being on hiatus for panic disorder (an explanation of which by clinical psychologist Dr. Heather Stone has been wonderfully provided by Zush) since January (to the constant worry and concern of fans worldwide, sparking many a fan project to show support), the hammer came down on New Year’s Eve with the announcement made on H!P’s website.

With updates coming in March (that her hiatus will continue) and July (that she hoped to continue her idol activities, but had to rest until the end of the fall tour), fans were kept in the know about Maho. According to the July update, her symptoms kept Maho from leaving her house during the first three quarters of the year, but began to get better and venture out. All of this eventually led to her successfully entering university (for photography!), whose pleasant environment helped her symptoms.

During all of this, Aikawa kept in contact with her fellow Crying Angels, even meeting up with Kamiko. However, despite her daily life being virtually free of danger, her doctor ordered that she take care to not put herself under too much pressure. Thus, her hiatus (and the wait) continued longer…

…Until December 31 when the– you know the rest.

Maho had hoped that she’d challenge the stigma regarding panic disorder and other mental health issues in Japan and it was a sad end. Members and fans rallied to her with Namida Iro no Ketsui being viewed as a message to her. However, I (and so many others) am just glad Maho is happy and healthy. Given that mental health issues plague celebrity and normie alike (RIP Kim Jong-hyun and Chester Bennington), it is something that anyone can relate to.

In another news, another idol recently announced that she will graduate due to panic disorder. Make of that what you will.

Airimania’s Running Wild~


During the Hello! Project New Year countdown concert, Suzuki Airi‘s solo activites were announced to begin in 2018 under UP-FRONT CREATE (joining LoVendoЯ, the previously mentioned Up Up Girls (Kakko Kari), PINK CRES., and many Hello! Project OGs). The former C-utie is currently working on her first album, along with having solo lives at COTTON CLUB and Zepp Tokyo planned in March and April respectively. In addition, an official website and Twitter account were also opened.

And lest we forget her new song, “Mikansei Girl,” which was performed during the concert.

I said it once and I’ll say it again: Airimania’s running wild and what you are gonna do with Airimania’s coming for you? (Forgive me, but the joke writes itself….)

Speaking of beginnings…

Mama Musume Welcomes New Generation


Yasuda Kei announced on her blog that she gave birth to a healthy baby boy on the January 7th. Her pregnancy was announced in late July 2017.

In other Mama Musume-related news, Ishikawa Rika is also expecting, having announced on November 17th via her blog that she is expecting.

Either way, congratulations to these OGs becoming mommies! May their families be well.

Final Thoughts

2017… was a thing. We ended with a lot of big news and even began 2018 with some more. What awaits us down the line? (coughLupinrangercough) Who knows?

Be sure to take part in the special M3 polls that are running! Details can be found in this post — or you can just vote directly via the sidebar.

See you next time!

Sources/Further Reading

9 Responses to Ping Pong Pinpoint, January 2018 Edition: Beginnings and Endings Galore

  1. […] Anyway… here’s hoping that a proverbial bumblebee doesn’t sting one so we won’t say “…and then there were five.” (Hold my beer.) […]


  2. kame says:

    We’re already off to an eventful start to the year in Hello! Project!


  3. morningtime says:

    I’ve always thought Kobushi are more like C-ute than Berryz. The members have a good vibe together, they are lively and their songs are good. Tsubaki remind me a bit of Berryz. A different kind of aura.


    • Indeed.

      I’m not too focused on which groups is like whom personally, preferring to take each group as they are (even KNOWING where the “Factory” bit comes from). I’ve found them far more magical that way. That’s just me though.


  4. […] If you think about it, this goes rather well with the original being about the leader’s vigorous prowess on the battlefield and in bed. (Of course, this is a bit hilarious since one Berry–the “main” in this song no less–is now carrying a Berry of her own.) […]


  5. […] been a LONG time since the last Ping Pong Pinpoint digest and a lot has happened so let’s not waste any […]


  6. […] members of Kobushi Factory and ANGERME, which were talked about on the main blog in many recent posts. I didn’t even mention the discussions regarding the newest crop of […]


  7. […] end of the surprises throughout the winter (tour). If you remember the way I titled certain posts (or sections of a post) (or just took a look at the Hello! Project website‘s news section–or the H!P online […]


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