Ping Pong Pinpoint July 2018 Edition: Rising and Falling

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

Welcome to Q3~!

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

Bienvenue, ANGERME ! The Crying Angels Headed To France

ANGERME-France-Jan2018promo

During January 28 concert of the 2018 Winter Tour, it was announced that ANGERME would hold a concert in Paris, France on June 3rd. Taking place at La Cigale (a venue familiar to C-ute and Juice=Juice fans), it was ANGERME’s first overseas concert (which would be followed by an Asia tour in South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan beginning later that month, following an announcement in April).

Also, not bringing up the controversial Morning Musume ’18 US concert survey.

Goto Sayaka Leaves After Two Months — With Even More Kenshuusei Following (Almost) Two Months Later

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We barely go a quarter into the year and we’re already receiving word of Eggs leaving the nest dropping Kenshuusei finishing their training. In the lead up to the March recital, it was announced that Goto Sayaka had finished her training. What made her departure extra surprising was the fact she became a Kenshuusei just two months before, following the Hello! Project Shin Member Audition. It was speculated by some fans that distance may have played a part as she has a long (FOURRRRRRRRR HOURRRRRRRRRRRRRRS) commute for lessons.

As a result, Goto has the second-shortest tenure of any Kenshuusei at 61 days and one concert, with only Sezaki Azusa having a even even shorter tenure with 31 days an equally one concert.

It was saddening, especially so soon after joining H!P… but given the commute (nevermind the fee)… yeah. It highlights one pitfall the program (and UFA’s penchant for turning audition losers into Kenshuusei fodder instead of making them full-time members from the get-go): the potential for some to fall through the cracks for one reason or another.

However, she would not be the last one to leave the program this year (or at least during the period this post covers).

In the lead-up to the Spring Test Recital, it was announced that Kitagawa Ryo and Hashimoto Momoko bowed out of the program. Kitagawa was a member of the Hokkaido branch, having the distinction of being the only one to not hail from Sapporo. Hashimoto, like the aforementioned Goto Sayaka, was one of the finalists in the H!P Shin Member Audition.

It’s always sad to see Kenshuusei leave, but I wish the gals the best in their future endeavors. You’ll never know if that ex-member may perform an ED from your favorite anime or something like that.

Haachin Skates Off the Hello! Pro Rink

OgataHaruna-AreyouHappy

In the midst of the blooming cherry blossoms and the announcements (and commencements) of graduations came one from the Hello! Project family. On March 27, 2018, Morning Musume ’18 member Ogata Haruna announced that she would hang up her idol skates at the end of the spring tour.

The reason: concentrating on studies (and not in that BS-ey “scandal cover-up” way either). You see, Haachin was preparing for entrance exams in the midst of her idoling and was accepted into a junior college she’ll attend starting the following month. This led to work-school balancing issues, due to her schedule being packed with classes during the daytime. Combining with Ogata’s desire to attend a four-year school afterwards (something she had wanted, but wasn’t able to pass the entrance exam for at the time), she had to make the hard decision to end her days as a Musume.

Now, when the news first hit (of which the main extent was “focusing on studies”), I was upset, shocked, but… accepting (I’ve reached the point where idol graduations aren’t shocking to me, ye globs). There was some strong feelings, especially since (to some) Ogata wasn’t a “frontgirl” like Kuduu or Rihoriho. You can get a gist of that in my initial post about it.

If the embed doesn’t work, use the link in the paragraph.

Looking at it now and seeing the full-breadth behind Haachin’s graduation, I’m very… satisfied with her decision. Is it because her path reminded me of my own (don’t ask me about it)? Is it the fact she’s thinking ahead and prioritizing goals? Is it the fact it’s a reminder of how cherry blossom-like the idol life is, transient yet elegant? (Sure, a good chunk of idols make the jump to full tarentos—my research for Wish Upon a Meteor illuminated me to that fact using 80s idols—, but even so, being an idol wasn’t the lifelong career choice it is today.)

As long as Ogata Haruna is happy and making a life for herself on her terms, who am I to judge? At least those who saw her one last time as an idol (or contributed to the experience via badges) have things to cherish forever.

Belated congratulations on your graduation, Ogata Haruna.

Ichioka Factory (and Walnutpeach Factory) Finally Get Updates — and FINALLY Gain New Members… sorta

After almost a year of no news (and the three ladies appearing alongside Kenshuusei, despite being clearly marked as full H!P members), we finally get some updates on Ichioka Factory (along with Takase Kurumi and Kiyono Momohime’s “new theatre-focused section,” which will henceforth be known as Walnutpeach Factory—until their name gets revealed).

The details began sprinkling out on March 30, courtesy of an announcement on H!P’s website. Ichioka Factory will be “a ‘performance group’ that aims to elevate singing and dancing through physical expression.” Meanwhile, Walnutpeach Factory will be “a new group with the image of a ‘small theater troupe’ that uses expressive power and theatrical elements in their singing and dancing.” New members for both groups will be added via an audition (which will be discussed in a later section of this post) and their activities are set to begin in the summer or fall.

In the midst of the audition, during the June 2018 recital, new members were announced for the new groups:

Ichioka Factory New Members

Walnutpeach Factory New Members

Not long afterwards, it was announced the group (which would include audition winners) would make their stage debut during the Summer tour start on July 14th.

“Hyped” would be a bit of an understatement at this point. Considering how we all were rooting for Ichioka and were dying for details for months, along with how I once had Shimakura Rika among a bunch of in-danger Kenshuusei in a later section of this post, we were pumped to hear news! It was even becoming a meme (among the non-Japanese fanbase, at least) that Ichioka Factory had no news besides its leader.

The Last Amanojaku Leaves the Upside-Down Castle

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Barely a week after Haachin announced that she was putting up her idol skates, more graduation news came when ANGERME leader Wada Ayaka announced hers. Unlike Haachin’s, Ayacho’s graduation will occur in Spring 2019 (following her group’s spring tour), giving us about a year to prepare for the end.

The possibility started the year before when Wada discussed the matter, solidifying it this year.

As for post-graduation plans, Wada has every intention of continuing idol activities and showcasing herself in ways besides the typical “song and dance.”

This was one of those “we knew this was coming, but it still stings to hear” kind of announcements. It coming just barely a week after Ogata Haruna’s announcement made it feel extra heavy, almost making you anticipate a third announcement to make the cycle complete. (Bad news comes in threes after all.)

Either way, I wish Ayacho the best. She’s had quite the career, from being one of the first official Eggs/Kenshuusei (doing so at an age similar to the H!P Kids) to doing some work as part of the Shugo Chara hype train to becoming a founding member to one of H!P powerhouses.

(Please tell me I’m not one of the few MM fans who doesn’t feel intimidated by ANGERME? I view them as a sister group and have earned all of their accolades. This is their Nakazawa Yuko moment, though some may (understandably) argue that Wada Ayaka’s leadership is more on par with later leaders like Aichan and Sayumi. Eh, whatever. I realize these “comparisons” are flawed and carry the danger of minimizing the impact of these things…)

Ya know, since Fukuda Kanon’s was in the air, I had started preparations for a memorial survey for Wada Ayaka’s. I’m debating whether or not to do that now, especially since 1. I’m not sure if I want to do it now 2. You guys are probably sick of me polling you guys all the time. I’m basically the Hello! Project fandom equivalent to NottyRose… and only a small few would understand that comparison….

Eggs-cellence Continues With A New Batch of Winners

Another Spring Diagnostic Test came and went and we have a new crop of winners!

Another Spring Diagnostic Test came and went and we have a new crop of winners!

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Best Performance: Shimakura Rika (set to debut as part of Ichioka Factory)

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Judge’s Dance Award: Maeda Kokoro (set to debut as part of Walnutpeach Factory)

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Judge’s Character Award: Nishida Shiori (set to debut as part of Ichioka Factory)

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Judge’s Singing Award: Yamazaki Mei (Hokkaido Kenshuusei)

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Guest Judge Award: Ishiguri Kanami (Hokkaido Kenshuusei)

For more details on previous winners, take a look at the post Par Eggs-ellence (which will probably be updated after I finish this post; last update as of this writing was in May of this year and (obviously) things have happened since then…).

Hello! Project Opens Audition Floodgates AGAIN

After months of anticipation and the failure of the previous audition, Hello! Project opened up another one. What makes this one (Hello! Project “ONLY YOU” Audition) different is that it is held with the explicit intention of finding members for Ichioka Factory and Walnutpeach Factory.

To go with the performance/theatrical theme, the focus here is having a unique talent or skill in addition to a love of singing and dancing. To help promote this aspect, various H!P

It is also the first H!P audition to have its own promo Twitter, which tweeted updates regarding the progress of the audition. (We’re in the third round, as of this writing.)

I just hope that this audition actually goes well and doesn’t become that glorified Kenshuusei audition called the Hello! Project Shin Member Audition. (Yes, I’m aware stunts like this were pulled before. I remember the UN-Lucky 7 Audition….)

Thinking about it now, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the ultimate goal of the aforementioned previous audition to begin with….

Speaking of Kenshuusei…

The Hello Pro Kenshuusei Leader Becomes a Leaver

On May 29, in the obligatory “announcement” for the upcoming June 2018 recital, a rather interesting note was made:

※ハロプロ研修生・井上ひかるは、研修活動を終了しましたので、本公演には出演致しません。

“Hello Pro Kenshuusei Inoue Hikaru has completed her training so she will not appear in this performance.”

Source: http://www.helloproject.com/helloprokenshusei/event/detail/034bbbf3145028a3874c047235fd090db5efd40f/

We wish her the best in her future endeavors. (If you follow M3 on Tumblr, Facebook, and Google+, all of that should sound very familiar….)

In the KSS spreadsheet I made (yes, seriously), Inoue’s precarious situation was already known.

She entered the Early Window in 2014, the (Debuting) Window itself in 2015, and entered the Danger Zone in 2018 (which makes it fitting she left then).
I think I have to explain something first (which I had temporarily forgotten the mechanism of, preventing me from publicly sharing the spreadsheet until now).

The Window is marked as 24 months (or 2 years) after joining, owing to the general 2-year period Kenshuusei tend to spend before they’re called up. The “Danger Zone” is the 60 month (5 year) mark, where Kenshuusei tend to “complete training” or reach the age doing so. (As we all know, Inoue Hikaru was well into that point. In fact, as of this writing, the average “joining” age is about 12, “debuting” about 15, and departure around 16.)

Erm, back to Hikarun! The real tragedy of Hikarun is that she’s been in the program for a while now (May 2013, placing her well within that “Danger Zone”). On top of that, out of 5 other generationmates, 2 (Inaba Manaka and Fujii Rio) have debuted by now. (Ironically, they’re also ex-members of their “debut” groups by now, Fujii being an ex-H!Per entirely.)

The others?

  • Tanaka Karen
  • Mikame Kana
  • Mashiro Kana

All I can say is that H!P has missed out on something special with Hikarun. Now… I must look towards the future… and pray for Horie Kizuki and Noguchi Kurumi. Granted, Noguchi Kurumi has only been in the program for almost two and a half years, but we’ve seen KSS leave before their first recital (see Goto Sayaka).

Noguchi will turn 17 in August (8 days after my birthday, no less) so she may have a year or two — or less — left in the program. On top of that, Horie’s freaking 20! Sure, she was already an older member (being 16 when she joined in November 2014), but we’ve seen a lot of members age out of the program.

This “ONLY YOU” Audition had better be worth this pain, Up-Front. You’d better not say “LOL FAIL WANNA JOIN THE KSS?” afterwards…. (Seriously, that “20th anniversary” audition was a farce….)

Manakan Becomes a Juicy=Fruit

Our most recent bit of news comes to us from our fruitful batch of Juicies. On the 274th installment of Hello! Station, it was announced that Inaba Manaka is a new member of Juice=Juice.

For those who don’t know, Inaba Manaka was a member of Country Girls (and Hello! Pro Kenshuusei before then) before going on hiatus in April 2016and later graduating—due to problems with asthma. (Won’t the Asthma Monster be happy… or not, since her asthma’s under control now.) Returning to full-time H!P activities in September 2017, Inaba primarily carried out her idoling around her native Hokkaido, being a soloist and the leader of the Hokkaido Kenshuusei.

In addition to her Hokkaido-based activities, Inaba’s days as a hot pink Juicy=Fruit began as of the 2018 Summer tour.

With the aforementioned tour going on, the news of Inaba’s addition is beginning to fully sink in… or not. The move was controversial to many (see Confession A, B, and C; see also the Inaba Manaka tag… which will probably be outdated in about six months lol), due to Juice=Juice’s already swelling numbers and the sheer surprise of it all. (Adding to this is the fact that unlike her bandmate Yanagawa Nanami, Inaba’s not involved in her old group Country Girls. Seems fair, given that she graduated from it and all. She only graduated from Country Girls, doing so with the possibility of restarting activities within Up-Front. I know the management are a bunch of tricksters, but still.)

As for me… I was surprised, even a little against it at first, but I quickly accepted it. I’m excited to see where this goes and I’m happy for her. Call it me being accepting, but curveballs are to be expected in H!P (and even in the entertainment industry).

Closing Thoughts

Phew… quite a lot has happened since that last post and I’m… quite optimistic for the future. Despite what goes on in the world, we can look for idols to provide some relief, even if the act of keeping up with them is a rollercoaster ride in of itself.

Regardless of what happens in the future, remember: Even if a star falls, it still shines.

Now to pray for my sanity throughout the summer… At least it’ll rock!

Stay stellar!
—Magi-Kat

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