Gripping Onto Glory in a Pinch

September 9, 2019

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.)

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My Darling, I LOVE YOU – FOREVER C-ute

December 6, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration, I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history.

As previously reported, the winner of the Q4 vote with one singular vote is once again C-ute! This time, the release in question is the next single after Edo no Temari Uta IIFOREVER LOVE. Released on November 26, 2008, it is the last single to feature Arihara Kanna before the Bunion Saga began in February 2009 (which was a sign of things to come before the tumultuous year for them that was 2011).

  1. C-ute – FOREVER LOVE (1 – 100%)
  2. Buono! – Rottara Rottara (0 – 0%) (This actually received a vote after it was too late to count so I’m rewarding it with Second Place. Maybe I’ll find a way to squeeze it into 2019’s calendar.)
  3. Mano Erina – Lucky Aura (0 – 0%)
  4. Milkyway – Tan Tan Taan! (0 – 0%)
  5. Berryz Koubou – MADAYADE (0 – 0%)
  6. Abe Natsumi – Screen (0 – 0%)
  7. Shugo Chara Egg! – Minna no Tamago (0 – 0%)
  8. Mano Erina – Lalala-Sososo (0 – 0%)

It is a bit interesting going back to a time when the C-uties (and their Berry counterparts) were beginning their rise as full Hello! Project idols, a far cry… actually, somewhat close to the legends they’re known for today. After all, according to the C-ute Memorial Survey, a majority of “Team C-ute” came around this time (Junjou).

Speaking of their Memorial Survey! Let’s check out FOREVER LOVE‘s placings:

  • 13th Best Overall Single (right behind Edo no Temari Uta II)
  • 2nd Best A-Side of the Early Major Years Era (right behind Tokaikko Junjou)

So let’s dig into C-ute #7 and taste a bit of the calm before the storm.

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C-uties Playing Handball in O-Edo

September 13, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration, I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history.

This week, we’ll be tackling C-ute‘s Edo no Temari Uta II, which took the gold for the Q3 Anniversary Review Vote Win:

  1. C-ute – Edo no Temari Uta II (1 – 100%)
  2. Kusumi Koharu – Papancake (0 – 0%)
  3. THE Possible – Ijiwaru Crazy love (0 – 0%)
  4. Buono! – Gachinko de Ikou! (0 – 0%)
  5. Ongaku Gatas – Come Together (0 – 0%)

Ah, C-ute. This is a group that has come to mean a lot to people even after they lowered the curtain. All of them are thriving on Instagram (even Maimai), Airi’s having a bustling solo career, and former C-uties Umeda Erika and Arihara Kanna are happily living their lives.

It’s strange going back to a time when their power was growing, especially one with a fun beginning: See, it was originally going to be a track by enka singer and agency-mate Itsuki Hiroshi (who’d later release his own version months later). That is when our friendly neighborhood Tsunku-man came to him and asked if our C-uties could sing the track — which he did.

The result is a fun release that brings the new and old together in a very idiosyncratic way.

Oh, and a discussion on a disbanded H!P Kids (and 1st Gen Egg) group is not complete without talking about their respective Memorial Survey! Let’s check out Edo no Temari Uta II‘s placings:

  • 12th Best Overall Single
  • 8th Best A-Side
  • The 2012 Shinsei Naru Ver. was voted 4th Best 2 °C-ute Shin Seinaru Best Album Song
  • One respondent named Edo no Temari Uta as a highlight song, citing a liking of “songs that harp back to tradition.”

So without further ado, let’s get into it as we dig into C-ute #6!

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Sgt. Pepper’s Wonderful Hearts Club Band

September 10, 2018

Good morning, good morning, good morning!

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration (and M3’s 10th anniversary), I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history.

This review is actually the final M3 10th Anniversary review (re-reviews of stuff covered on the old Vox blog), along with being a remake what may have been the final post on it ever: Morning Musume‘s Pepper Keibu. (Ah, it’s nice to have a little help from our friends, eh?)

As you may have gathered from the title, when I first reviewed this, I had gotten very into the Beatles the year before (I still like the band now) and the whole Wonderful Hearts/Elder Club thing was in full swing (and Momusu, being made up of mostly under-20s at this point, qualified for the former) so coming up with a title was fairly easy….

Of course, “Inspector Pepper’s Wonderful Hearts Club Band” doesn’t have the same ring to it, even if it’s far more accurate. Good luck fixing that hole!

With that in mind, let’s dig into Morning Musume #37. (Oh yeah, don’t forget about the Momusu M3 Grand Prix.)

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Thanks for Tonight!

August 30, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration (and M3’s 10th anniversary… that tagline will be over with soon), I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history. This week, we’re traveling to 2006 as we take a look at Thanks!, the debut release by Great Aya and Miki (better—and properly—known as GAM).

J-movie fans may remember this as the ending theme to the movie Ayaya starred in, Sukeban Deka: Codename = Asamiya Saki (or Yo-Yo Girl Cop, as it’s titled for US and UK release).

Formed in 2006 with soloist Matsuura Aya and Morning Musume member (as she technically was by then) Fujimoto Miki. The group became known for their leg-tastic outfits (“gam” is also slang for attractive legs), which actually goes with their description as a “Sexy Cool Unit.”

GAM_Thanks

In any case, let’s dig into GAM #1 and see how it all began.

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They Lift: The Strongest Idols (That Aren’t Ice Fairies)

August 28, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe, and welcome to the final installment of Magic Metal Meteora.

M3MagMetal

“A celebration of J-idols on the rock,” this series is meant to highlight the alternative idol scene, a particular kind of idol that has struck a chord in a lot of people.

We end this month with an act related to the previously discussed LADYBABY. Remember Ladybeard? Remember when he left LADYBABY in 2016? Well, when he did so, he wouldn’t be out of the idol ring long.

You see, in early 2017, the kawaiicore wrestler would team up with another strong idol: bodybuilder/wrestler Saiki Reika. Ever since then, the duo’s been dominating the scene and getting lots of pop from the crowd.

I’d say more, but Yes Tiger!’s Brita and her guest Adam give far more details about them than I ever could… (Seriously, check out their chat.)

How appropriate I say this with WVGCW on the way. On that note, given my very obvious love of wrestling, I’m probably not too surprised by the group’s gimmick.

With all of that in mind… let’s dig into some DEADLIFT LOLITA and see if they are indeed the Strongest Idols. (Insert Cirno joke here. Also, thanks to me having to push back this post’s publishing, it missed being posted on a day in which you can add the numbers to form 9! What a ⑨!)

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Spacey La Ta Ta

August 23, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration (and M3’s 10th anniversary… that tagline will be over with soon), I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history. This week, we’re gonna party like it’s 1999 with Taiyo to Ciscomoon aka T&C Bomber aka that H!P group Inaba Atsuko was in before she was doing backup vocals for virtually everyone. (Seriously.)

Like many early H!P groups, Taiyo to Ciscomoon was formed on the show ASAYAN. In the lead up to the their debut in 1999, each of the members (gymnast ace and current concert acrobatics coach Shinoda Miho, longtime post-breakup H!P backup singer Inaba Atsuko, Chinese-born Honda Ruru, and later folk singer Kominato Miwa) were sent to different cities in the US to train: Inaba went to Atlanta, Kominato to Detroit, Shinoda to Memphis, and Ruru to Chicago.

After releasing 8 singles (and changing their name to T&C Bomber a year later), the quartet disbanded as a group in October 2000.

While the group has had some reunions (in an independent 2009 concert and in a 2013 H!P New Year’s concert), Taiyo to Ciscomoon have pretty much parted ways. Granted, there’s still some connection to them (be it though Shinoda’s current role in orchestrating H!P’s concert acrobatics or Inaba’s longtime role as a backup chorus singer), but their old group seem to be a hidden gem. Well, “hidden” may not be that accurate, given the numerous nods to their material that were given throughout the years since their breakup.

UchuudeLaTaTa-r

In any case, let’s dig into Taiyo to Ciscomoon #3 and get some light-year grooving going on.

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The Idols Possibly Known As LADYBABY

August 21, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe, and welcome back to Magic Metal Meteora!

M3MagMetal

“A celebration of J-idols on the rock,” this series is meant to highlight the alternative idol scene, a particular kind of idol that has struck a chord in a lot of people.

Given the impact BABYMETAL (especially them) and BiS had, it was inevitable that there’d be those inspired by them. (In a case with a certain group, one can argue that they’re a copycat that initially had a gimmick, a “johnny-come-lately on an overdone genre.”) This week will be dedicated to a group formed in the aftermath of the rise of this scene.

Even if it’s a “copycat” group, there’s a certain… sincerity to the group. While it took years for me to actually check out the group’s music, LADYBABY was always a group I had immense interest in (thanks to Kame and his consistent coverage of them!). Maybe it’s the unique of their initial concept (which freaked out many Westerners… yet I wasn’t that flipped out about it. Maybe it’s because I’m used to crossdressers, wrestlers, and overall quirkiness. I am a Hello! Project fan after all) or what have you….

Regardless (especially after the numerous lineup changes that have both warmed and cooled people to the group), LADYBABY is certainly one group on my watch list and I’ve been waiting to talk about them for months.
First, some basic history:

LADYBABY was formed in 2015 as a PR unit for costume and party goods company Clearstone, sporting an equally memorable original lineup: LADYBEARD (an Australian-born crossdressing pro-wrestler who’s made his mark in Hong Kong and was trying (and succeeding) to do so in Japan), Kaneko Rie (not that one, though it would’ve been awesome to see a former H!P Kenshuusei join an idol group as unique as this one; this one is a Miss iD2015 Grand Prix winner), and Kuromiya Rei (a Miss iD2015 winner who also has a sweet gig as part of the band BRATS).

The MV for their first release, Nippon Manju, became a viral sensation that garnered discussion, admiration, and unavoidable criticism for anything from the group’s name to the concept of a crossdressing man dancing with two teenage girls. (I mean, I get it. It can be an acquired taste.) Two singles followed (which came after a long year of touring for the fledgling group) before the inevitable lineup change occurred.

On July 31, 2016, LADYBEARD left LADYBABY. A day later, the group’s major debut was announced, along with a name change to “The Idol Formerly Known As LADYBABY.” This lineup would release three major singles before Kuromiya Rei would depart from the group in November 2017, leaving Kaneko Rie (not that one) as its sole remaining OG member. (All of these “eras” also have a particular album attached to them.)

The group has recently not only reverted to their old name, but even recruited some new members! This lineup even released a single of their own (which we’ll get to).

In any case, let’s dig into some LADYBABY and explore this.

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Brand-new idols Are WACK

August 20, 2018

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe, and welcome back to Magic Metal Meteora.

M3MagMetal

“A celebration of J-idols on the rock,” this series is meant to highlight the alternative idol scene, a particular kind of idol that has struck a chord in a lot of people.

The scene is considered to have two major progenitors, one of which will be spotlighted in the first two installments here: the always-subversive Brand-new Idol Society or BiS.

If BABYMETAL was the Beatles of alt idols, then BiS would probably be the Rolling Stones (or the Sex Pistols, given their antics).

Like BABYMETAL, BiS has ties to an idol collective (or at least played a role in the creation of one). In this instance, it is the somewhat(?!) infamous WACK (which is apparently an acronym for Watanabe Artistic Creative Kabushiki gaisha, an apt description as it is just as much a company involved in the production and management of WACK talent as it is the “collective” itself… one that really likes to take pot shots at itself, as one… interestingly named shuffle group displays).

In any case, one group that is undeniably at the center of the swirling toilet bowl is BiS and so…

Formed in 2010 by soloist Pour Lui, the group consisted of her (the only member to be in both incarnations of BiS), Yokoyama Rina (of later Akishibu Project and BPM15Q/CY8ER fame, the latter under Ichigo Rinahamu), Nakayama Yukiko (who would leave after the release of their third single primal.), and Hirano Nozomi.

Over the course of the group’s existence, they became known (some would even say infamous) for the rather… unorthodox ways they’d present themselves. One really well-known instance of this was the MV for My Ixxx, which had the members parade around a forest apparently in the nude. (Unsurprisingly, the MV for (and its somewhat tamer successor) is age-restricted on YouTube, but if you are able to view it, you can find it on their channel.)

This rock-and-roll rebelliousness and unorthodox approach to idoldom that garnered their fame would also be the thing leading to their downfall, what with members leaving and the original incarnation disbanding in 2014. There’s a long and complicated history surrounding this group (groups even), which is one reason this post got delayed. (The other was the amount of stress I was under while making it. Aside from wanting to somewhat stay on schedule for something, one reason I tackled the Berryz post (which was meant to be posted after this) was to help normalize myself.) Said history will be touched upon in the post itself.

If WACK is considered the alternative idol equivalent of Hello! Project (or 48G), then BiS (both incarnations and arguably their “successors” BiSH) would be their Morning Musume/AKB48 (especially in light of their recent Senbatsu-like splitting into BiS1st and BiS2nd earlier this year).

As such, let’s dig into BiS and BiSH and see how wacky things can get… or try to since I had to delay and almost chop this post apart so I can get it out.

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We Can’t Live Without You (But We Must)

August 16, 2018

In the beginning, there was darkness. Chaos swirled as graduations and fresh-faced adolescent idols ran amok. Then, little seeds were planted and after a few years, they began to form fruit.

Greetings, Citizens of the Universe!

As part of Hello! Project’s 20th anniversary celebration (and M3’s 10th anniversary… that tagline will be over with soon), I will take a look at various releases from the collective’s history. This week, we’re traveling to 2004 as we take a look at Berryz Koubou’s Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai. That’s right, we’re going back to the beginning.

Once upon a time in 2002, an idol collective held auditions for junior members to join their ranks. After making many cameos and special appearances, 8 special children were chosen to be part of a new group in early 2004. That group was Berryz Koubou and thus, the dawn of a new age had truly begun…

The single is so significant that it is the first song featured in the Chuu!Sugoi!Idol tribute video. Then again, that probably has more to do with the fact that it is their debut single rather than anything else. At the same time, in this business, even if it’s a limited edition group, it would not be a bad idea to have their debut song be good.

As an aside, since we’re talking Berryz, might as well (again) bring up how this single fared in the Berryz Memorial Survey!

  • The single was voted 2nd Best Single overall. As mentioned last week, Otakebi Boy WAO! / Tomodachi wa Tomodachi Nanda! took the gold.
  • Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai was voted voted 5th best A-side of the 8nin Era, surpassed by Nanchuu Koi wo Yatteruu YOU KNOW?, Koi no Jubaku, Piriri to Yukou!, and (to what may be no one’s surprise at all) Special Genera~tion.
    • Its B-side, BERRY FIELDS (which I had preferred over the A-side when it came out) was voted Best B-side for this period.

220px-AnataNashiPromo

In any case, let’s dig into Berryz Koubou #1 and see how it all began.

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