Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!
Sorry for releasing this so close to the deadline I set for myself!
See, I won Seasons in a giveaway held by Hello! Pro inspiration (@helloprolyrics) way back in March. Ever since, I’ve been trying to pay it forward and share my riches with you all in the form of a proper CD review (my first one since… oof, those two Shonen Knife ones (for Let’s Knife and Strawberry Sound) five years ago! Actually no, since the one for Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi that came out a week after the Strawberry Sound one!).
Yeah, I think you can get why I wanted this to be truly special (external factors notwithstanding), especially since this is one that is a lot closer to the blog’s current beat.
You can catch some of the process in this Instagram Stories Highlight.
That said, let’s dig into Country Girls’ Seasons and profusely apologize for this rebooted group’s untimely end.
1. Yowaki Joshi Taibu Todoke (A Timid Girl Notifying Her Club Resignation)
What better way to start a collection of this era of CG than a graduation song? That seems to be the defining tune of the group as of late. (Apparently so!)
The intro is so sweet, as expected from CG. The song itself is midtempo, having lightly pulsing drums that bounce with pep. The synths add a bit of sparkle that solidify the general theme of the song (and soften the blow this will have upon the heartstrings).
(Trivia: While I had every intention of reviewing this, I really started serious work on it the day Rinapuu announced her graduation. …Since Rinapuu has since graduated, now it’s Kananan whose graduation is fresh on my mind. Then came the hiatus announcement….)
I don’t know why, but I can hear Nanami’s sweetness.. and I miss her even more. (I was still recovering from Yukayacho when dug into this.) Indeed, this song is bittersweet, cute and adorable as it is solemn and resigned in its significance.
The bridge has a sweet spoken word segment that leads to a sentimental solo part by the then-graduating Nanami. If you’re not careful, you’ll be overtaken with emotion. (Seriously, the above video will make it set in more.)
What really hits home at the end is Yanamin’s “Sayonara, gomenne!” (Goodbye, I’m sorry!) at the end. 💔 This sets the tone for the rest of the EP (and makes for a bookend I’ll get into later).
It’s okay to cry if you’re overcome. It’s the CG thing to do.
2. Konamaiki Girl (Cheeky Girl)
After making us want to bawl our eyes out, we turn to another track marking a new beginning. Namely, the first “release” after Momoko’s graduation and the “restructuring” of the group (having their releases be digital only and (true to their roots in an inverse manner) loaning out its members to the rest of H!P… and College Cosmos).
A bopping bop that has that retro sweetness, spiced with the appropriate cheekiness. The vocals are solid, the instrumental bouncy, befitting Country Girls’ image. I think they picked up some of ANGERME’s mischievousness, courtesy of Maro’s pen. Then again, Funakki is now among the Angel Choir so….
In the bridge, the strings come out to play before the guitar does a dance with the CG’s vocals. This is simply an addition to an already playful track.
In contrast to the more solemn beginning, this song lightens the mood with a girlishness that the CGs are known for bringing. It has a chic 60s feel, a bouncy chord that keeps the beat going on. The song is punctuated at the end with an organ-backed harpsichord sting, bringing this girlish cheekiness to a close (as they promised).
3. Keshite no “I Love You” (“I love you” that I write and erase over again)
The H!S theme! …Hey, I… I didn’t get the single and didn’t get too attached to the song so I didn’t recognize the cruelty inherent in its use.
It’s such a gorgeous song that has that 50s-60s feel that CG is known for. The beat is reminiscent of “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes (which was covered by Phil Collins). Possessing a brisk rhythm coupled with a quick beat, almost symbolizing the racing thoughts of our subject.
Each chorus pulse with love before ending with a confident “Suki desu!” It’s a near constant crescendo as our girls struggle with how to express their affection you their heart’s desire. The spoken word bridge illustrate this, each girl thinking out loud as they try to compose a letter to their crush.
After one last iteration of the chorus (complete with the “Suki desu!”), the guitar abridges its melody from the bridge before
H!S ends for the week the ending sting.
4. Matenai After Five (I Can’t Wait After Five)
Feel that jazzy beat, cats!
We enter “Side 2” of the mini album, where we see more “experimentation” with the Girls. (It’s what keeps things interesting.)
The piano and bass carry us through the bop, the brass punctuating at perfect times. The guitar subtly holding the tune before taking to the stage of the fine chorus. In the bridge, the instruments dance as they jam. As for our idols, the carry this tune.
My parents love this song and frankly, so do I.
5. Kasa wo Sasu Senpai (My Senior Holding Up the Umbrella)
☂️ Ah, a sweet umbrella song that actually gave me v-u-den feels. It’s full of 80s synth sheen, albeit in a more subtle form than Koi wa Magnet. It’s full of romance, rainy romance. ❤ You can just see the couple walking in the rain, especially as we enter the typhoon season in Japan (at least, at the time I started serious writing — at this point, we’re
knee-deep in it well past it).
(In case anyone needs a reminder, umbrellas are a longtime symbol of love in Japan. Writing your and your crush’s names under an umbrella is equivalent to how writing names in a heart is in a lot of Western countries. See this page on TV Tropes.)
This is actually what makes this bittersweet as while it’s sweet and romantic, our lovestruck lady… is heartbroken, or at least lovesick.
“Who is that girl next to Senior’s back?” she wonders. She’s in danger of losing her beloved senior (or might as well has) and the rain falls in the girl’s heart. No, the rain won’t wash away her lonely tears.
The synth and instruments drip like raindrops, each chord being short and with purpose. At certain parts, you can hear a deep “boom” in the bass, as if thunder has struck in the heartbroken maiden.
Ah, love is a storm, isn’t it?
6. Itooshikutte Gomen ne (I’m sorry for being so adorable) (’19 five girls version)
BEST SONG! The end.
Sorry, but that is my favorite of the six, likely for nostalgic and sentimental reasons. Then again, this song represents how far Country Girls has come from their debut. Since the original, Country Girls has lost three members (Uta, Manaka, Momoko) and gained two at the time of recording (Musubu and Nanami). Hearing them do this as a fivesome (even for a brief while) held so much meaning. (Even hearing the original now feels weird.)
I wanted to say this was the best some overall (which it just might be, despite how good the others are…). Eh, I’ll say it. It’s also a good song to bookend the mini album (since the opening and closing are literally requests for forgiveness for some failing, the point of both having some form of “gomen” as a closing line) and end it overall.
It’s an especially apt song to encapsulate… the end of an era.
(I would like to remind people that sometime in Fall 2016, Oricon changed the rules of its reporting so if sales figures look a tad wonky, this is why. This is also why Oricon Rankings are placed in their own subsection as shown below.
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…)
Oricon Chart Positions
The minialbum ultimately achieved a Total Reported Sales figure of 1,428. 81.37% (1,162) of that came in the first week, where its Weekly Rank for it was #63 and its first day Daily Rank was 50.
On the Billboard Japan Top Album Sales, the mini achieved a Week Rank of 49 with a Total Reported Sales figure of 1,205. Its highest position on the Billboard Japan Top Download Albums was 81.
This year has been a wild one, but with a new ending comes a new beginning. CG reminds us that while the old may end, it won’t go away, and that there’s always something new and exciting on the horizon.
Until the next one.