Gripping Onto Glory in a Pinch

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

This post is going to be a tad special as the circumstances leading to it is entirely by the power of the fans.

In January 2018, I announced the Momusu M3 Grand Prix, a dual tournament of members and singles dedicated to Morning Musume’s (and Hello! Project’s) 20th anniversary. (Given the festivities have been extended into 2019, it turns out my belated festivities are right on the dot.)

After months and months polls on Google Forms, Polldaddy/Crowdsignal, and (for the most part) Twitter, both tournaments had champions crowned by the year’s end.

For the Members Tournament, which concluded in late November, the champion was then-soon-to-be Hello! Project leader Fukumura Mizuki.

Actually, let’s be appropriate for the theme here…

That’s better!

For the Singles Tournament, which concluded a few weeks later in December, the winning single was 2012’s Help me!!.

Now, while it wasn’t the plan initially (the initial prize was on-blog “bragging rights”), I had planned on doing a special Morning Twilight on it (and pardon the small tangent)….

My output in 2018 was a tad weird, resulting in the worst analytics stats for the blog with some months potentially being the new lowest traffic month. (December ultimately finished with 53 views, behind October’s 55, September’s 56, and July’s 65.) Yeah, forgot to mention that in the year-end stat review (though let’s face it, it was probably for the best).

Personally, I partially attribute it to (aside from the aforementioned weird output on my end) external changes on the various platforms:

A screenshot of Fukumura Mizuki in the PV. Text: Guess Morning Musume (particularly Mizupon) was too much for Tumblr... Oh, just too much...
  • The announced shutdown of Google+, rendering (super-belated and already Sisyphean) efforts to build there useless. (At least the blog can begin to recover starting in March.)

…However, in addition to the aforementioned monkey wrenches, a more serious one appeared almost immediately after the Grand Prix concluded: Friesgate. As much as I had wanted to, I couldn’t review Help me!! and any other Hello! Project content until the business with Morning Musume Germany was settled.

As we all know, it has… and we have ourselves to thank. The efforts of the overseas fandom to bring the issue to the attention of UFP, TuneCore, and other authorities, spurred on by our Japanese counterparts who further helped these efforts…. Sure, the guy threatened to sue, but it’s the same with all fraudsters and thieves.

“I was doing you a favor! Why are you picking on me!?”

Sorry if I sound very cynical, but it’s the same song and dance I hear from art thieves whenever they’re on the loose via the grapevine. (I did mention that this really got to me not only as a devoted fan of J-idols, but as a content creator whose contacts on social media tend to be other artists and creatives, right?)

Anyway, to commemorate both the crowning of champions in the Momusu M3 Grand Prix, but also this victorious moment, I’ll be reviewing this. To quote the Singles Champion:

I’ll grip onto glory
When I’m in a pinch

Source: Project Hello

Without further ado, let’s dig into Morning Musume #52.

Oh yeah, circumstances (a long drought in posts in 2019, along with the fact the Tumblr post announcing the end of the aforementioned tournament repeatedly getting flagged (never mind another post involving the 9th Gen getting flagged, thanks to a certain blog reblogging it) also made this the “spotlight” post for the 2019 Ice Fairy Festival. (I had completely forgotten about that.)

The Rewind

Let’s start things off with a brief look back at 2014 and the Ping Pong Pinpoint Precision Past Perspective series (Part V) where I gave the single a bite-sized review:

HELP! I need somebody
HELP! Not just anybody
HELP! I need the Powerpuff Girls Morning Musume
HELP ME~!
Remember the best part, guys: We’ve got Divas!
The Morning Girls start off things with the inaugural single for the Makeup-less Diva, Help me!!. The song itself is somewhat hard for me to remember without the PV (as good as it is). Am I a bad fan?!
Anywho, the PV itself shows a lot of effort put into it…s effects. It’s lot less of a hot mess than One Two Three and Take a Chance, but it’s still worthy of an epilepsy warning. You have to admit that in spite of the fact it’s obviously not filmed outside (a major point of contention for fans — I’m not so picky as they complain about the green screen and not filming outside with every PV, no matter what), they put in a lot of effort to make it at least somewhat realistic. =/

Since this fell during the Michishige Era of Momusu’s history (and just Sayu’s tenure in general), let’s take a look at how Help Me!! fared in the Michishige Sayumemorial Survey:

  • 5th Best Single of the Era
  • 7th Best A-Side of the Era
  • Best B-Side of the Era (Happy Daigakusen)
  • 5th Best B-Side of the Era (Aishuu Romantic)
  • 9th Best B-Side of the Era (Daisuki Dakara Zettai ni Yurusanai)
  • 10th Best B-Side of the Era (Watashi no Dekkai Hana)
  • 11th Best B-Side of the Era (Nani wa Tomo Are!)
  • 8th Place “Favorite Single Throughout Sayu’s Tenure” Tie Bracket (alongside Resonant Blue, Naichau Kamo, Shouganai Yume Oibito, Kono Chikyuu no Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterun da yo!, and Wakuteka Take a chance)

The Song

It being 2013, we’re knee-deep in the “Electro Musume” Era (something that as much as more genres have been explored in recent singles, you can say we’re still in).

Beginning with a spoken word intro delivered by Fukumura Mizuki, Ishida Ayumi, Iikubo Haruna, and then-leader Michishige Sayumi, we head into the song proper before heading into the first verse.

It’s quiet on the Western Front as the verses are musically still but tense. You can feel the chill of the night air as our idols quietly voice their anxiety in almost breathy voices. The sensual “Ah”‘s really adds to the passion and frustration the lyrics convey, speaking of a lonely impatience. (“Big City Is A Lonely Place” indeed.)

The bridge to the chorus has the spotlight on newcomer Oda Sakura, fresh from winning the 12th Gen audition, doing her own Wakuteka Take a chance dance, and showing off her pipes in assorted Hello! Station segments (though that last one may have come later). After all of that breathiness, Odasaku breaks the quiet with her fortissimo voice, marking the point the Girl’s feelings break out of its shell for the sake of her revolution!

…Anyway! After that moment in the limelight, one of the “aces” puts on her virtuoso performance (Sayashi for the first time, soon-to-be graduate Tanaka Reina for the second). They too continue the song at a more “normal” tone of voice, compared to the near whispers of the verse.

After a few more lines from the other Musume, we come to the explosive chorus. This proclaims forth the desire of the girl (from her shouting heart) to seize her destiny and warns her flighty beau:

A sparkling girl
I’ll flap my wings
A hesitant boy
Don’t regret it

Source: Project Hello

Oh, the Girl certainly wants the Boy (who is apparently so strong), but has no idea where he is. However, she doesn’t simply want words: she wants action, not hesitation (even if she’s a “silent nightingale” herself who unable to voice her desires and thus about to break down from her self-proclaimed frailty).

The second verse elaborates on the feelings of the first, the Girl’s desire to be “saved” with her Boy’s strength and love, yet there’s a distinct distance. I mean, you don’t ask “Are you in Japan?” out of nowhere, right?

She will eventually find her answer, “gripping glory in a pinch” while “learning reality from the haters”. Where is the Boy? Is he even in Japan, she wonders?

She’ll have her answer.

However, her conviction is known and a decision is made: she’ll remain where she is and wait.

After a bridge that revises the spoken word intro (albeit in a more robotic manner that is almost like racing thoughts), we get a reprise of the chorus before going to the outro.

Overall, Help me!! is a song that could get lost in the other EDM-influenced A-sides of the era. However…

There’s a reason the MV is one of the few to have over four million views on YouTube (including the numerous ones that came in the process of making this review).

There’s a reason it received an “Updated” version, though one can say that’s mainly because of lineup changes since the single’s release (which I’ll touch a bit on in the next sub-section).

There’s a reason it accrued many a sales-related accomplishment (which will be highlighted in the appropriate section).

And there’s a reason this particular A-side won the Singles Grand Prix, beating out 63 others (with at least one being released over the course of the tournament!). Heh, now I’m reminded of the Morning Musume Death Battle happening on the H!P Fans Discord.

The PV

(Possible epilepsy warning, due to the bright lights and flashing effects.)

It is is very elaborate. Its theme is ‘the feeling of loneliness that we can meet in the city and positive energy’.

Kitajima Takeki, Director (Source: H!P Wikia)

The MV itself is a pretty dark sight, being set in a strangely barren city. I’m inclined to say it’s somewhat futuristic, because of the digital artifacts prominent in the chorus and bridge, though it can be overlooked given how the Musume appeared a la holograms. Heck, the streets might as well be made of glass or something, given how the group, the big city’s bright lights, and even the freakin’ moon (whose size I would comment on if not for not only the fact putting it at normal size would result in negative space, but would also take away from the mood of the MV) are reflected on it!

As an aside, it’s strange seeing this with a little more than half of this lineup (Tanaka, Michishige, Sayashi, Suzuki, Kudo, Iikubo; 6 out of 11 or 54.55%) gone at this point. (Hell, when I first started this review, Harunan was on her way out….)

Haha, Morning Musume and their green screen lul. #obligatorysnark

During the chorus, the scene becomes awash with light. Blurring lines to signify the oddly absent cars, streetlights and neon lights flooding the eyes and senses, all scorching with urban depravity. This is also where I put in the “Obligatory Epilepsy Warning” as I feared the intense flashing may set off photosensitive viewers. (I shouldn’t be too concerned, given that Japan itself had been keenly aware of the possibility, but it never really hurts to be careful.)

Help! Morning Musume’s trapped in the Animal Realm!
Reimu, Marisa, Youmu, where the hell are you lot!?

Either way, the lights—normally an ally—becomes an enemy, a suffocating illustration of the loneliness and emptiness present in the song. It’s why our Musume are in such bare scenes. During the verses, they are noticeably the only figures seen. This is especially so in solo shots were most consist of one girl. Sure, there’s two, sometimes three Musume featured in a shot, but it’s usually the Solitary Maid. (Solitary Mus?)

I will say though. As much as the MV has been derided for how “artificial” and “cheap” it looks, a lot of attention has been paid to the little details. Obligatory minor wind blows aside (as that’s more on the practical effects side), some shot are “illuminated” differently depending on the kind of light. Scenes featuring more bluish light has the Musume in a more bluish (or “cool” if you want to be technical) tone than some with more “warm” (yellow/orange) tones. On top of that, if you look carefully at the lights in certain shots (ex. Riho’s “Roppongi” line or the bridge to the chorus), you can see them change in intensity.

Sure, that’s likely some After Effects sorcery, but I felt it was worth mentioning.

All in all, I’d say this MV illustrates the frustration and loneliness inherent in the city, what with the alternating barrenness and busyness in the visuals. However, it also voices the desire to strike out and make your own way. There’s a reason the Phoenix Formation is heavily used here! (I think it also debuted with this single too….)

In Conclusion

Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaales

(As this single was released in 2013, it is not subject to the changes in sales reporting as implemented by Oricon in Fall 2016.

All figures reported in this section are from the Hello! Project Wikia with the percentage and average mathematics done by moi.

Of course, if a piece of idol music really touches you, does it matter that much how well it sells? It does to some people, which is one reason I do this…)

The single ultimately achieved a Total Reported Sales figure of 103,936. 89.75% (93,286) of that came in the first week, where its Weekly Rank for it was #1. 58.97% (61,291) of that came in the first day, where its Daily Rank for it was also #1. 96.40% (100,198) of that came in the month of January, where its Monthly Rank was 5.

With those figures, the single was seeded in the Lower Middle Bracket of the Momusu Singles Tournament — which it (of course) won, beating out Chokkan 2 ~Nogashita Sakana wa Ookiizo!~, Kanashimi Twilight, Iroppoi Jirettai, Shouganai Yume Oibito, and a few others to do so.

It should be noted that…

It is the first Morning Musume single to debut at #1 for a generation debut since the 5th generation, as well as the group’s first number one weekly single in 3 years and 8 months. On February 8th, the single was certified gold by the RIAJ.

Source: Hello! Project Wikia

This single has the best first day sales since 2003.

Source: Hello! Project Wikia

It is the first time since 2010 with Seishun Collection that a single has reached #1 on the Oricon Charts on the day of its release

Source: Hello! Project Wikia

For comparison sake:

  • The previous single (Wakuteka Take a chance) had a Total Reported Sales figure of 88,977 with 60.74% (54,047) from the first day and 91.80% (81,682) from the first week.
  • The next single (Brainstorming / Kimi Sae Ireba Nani mo Iranai) had a Total Reported Sales figure of 106,680 with 61.79% (65,915) from the first day and 88.15% (94,037) from the first week.
  • This means that Help me!!‘s sales have a difference of 16.81% compared to its predecessor and a 2.64% one compared to its successor.

Closing Thoughts

Ah, it was nice to revisit this.

At first, I found myself having trouble with this, what with it being a single in the midst of the Colorful Era and the electro pangs it brought with it. There’s also the common complaints and refrains that came about at the time running through my head as when you’ve been a fan for as long as I have, you become accustomed to constant snark.

However, like I said, there’s a reason this won the Singles Tournament. There’s a reason Help me!! is still performed to this day, though its Updated version is more likely to appear in recent concerts. There’s a reason it set those coveted sales records (though promo likely played some part, let’s not kid ourselves).

It struck a chord with people and its impact remains to this day, even among the hundreds of songs in Morning Musume’s (and even Hello! Project’s) catalog.

Congratulations on becoming the 2018 Momusu M3 Grand Prix Singles Champion, Help me!!. (Oh, and congratulations to Fukumura Mizuki for winning the Members Tournament.)

And before anyone asks, there’s not going to be a 2019 Grand Prix. It’s too late in the year to make it feasible, especially since it took an entire year for the 2018 one to come about.

Either way, may you learn about reality from your haters and grasp onto glory in a pinch… and since it’s September 9th at the time this goes up, Happy Ice Fairy Appreciation Day!

Until the Next One!
— Magi-Kat


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