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Mano Erina to Graduate From Hello! Project July 22, 2012

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Blog Stuff, Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina.
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As I’m sure you all know by now, Mano Erina is going to graduate from Hello! Project on February 23rd. You can read translations of the official announcements here.

I must say I’m surprised to see that H!P is letting go of their only soloist. Her career seemed pretty solid as her sales were always decent and she still has her youth. Judging by the official comments it seems she just wants out of the idols business and to take a different turn in her career.

Mano has always been a bit of a sore topic for me as I’ve always felt that I’ve wanted more from her. While I won’t deny that she has grown into an impressive performer over the years, she has yet to really bring the whole package together. Her singing never matured to a point that I’d like to see, and I’ve never felt that she has ever really had a “great” song. Sure, she has had some “good” songs, heck, even a few great PV’s but no singular release that I can point to and go, “Yup, that’s why Manoeri is such a great idol.”

The frustrating thing is that I have no doubt she is capable of it. She already has most of the pieces, I just hope by the time of her graduation she can complete the puzzle. It would be a crying shame otherwise.

In more upbeat news: NEW HEADERS! After more than two years of using the same header, Isilie was kind enough to make some new ones for me. I’ll be rotating them every couple of days so keep a look out for them!


Mobekimasu – Busu ni Narinai Tetsugaku October 20, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Berryz Kobo, C-ute, Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina, Morning Musume.

Mobekimasu, made up of Morning Musume, Berryz Kobo, C-ute, Mano Erina and S/mileage (aka: pretty much all of Hello! Project), the spiritual successor of the Wonderful Hearts, and a staple of an annual Summer and Winter concert series have finally released their own single entitled Busu ni Narinai Tetsugaku:

The obvious comparison is to H.P. All Stars and 2004’s All for One & One for All!. Now, I’m not one of those guys that believes that everything was better back in the “Golden Age” of Morning Musume and Hello! Project, but in this case I do think I would have to agree.

The song and PV unfortunately fall flat in a few areas. The first, and most glaring of which, is the general tone of the song. What should be an energetic, uplifting celebration of the splendor of Hello! Project is instead a broody and angst ridden hymn about how I apparently know something, except not. I admit that when I first heard the preview of the song I rather disliked it, though I have warmed up to “meh” after listening to it quite a few more times. In style it reminds a bit of Naichau Kamo, and I think it would have worked reasonably well as a Morning Musume song. Having all of Hello! Project come together to sing this just feels like a wasted opportunity.

Sayu Says: No up-skirt for you!

The second issue I have with this release is the lack of scale. There’s no getting around the fact that Hello! Project is simply smaller than what it was back in 2004, but the song seems far too focused on pairs of singers rather than larger groups. The effect of this is that the cast just feels small. What’s the point of having around 30 girls perform at once if it doesn’t convey through?

Still on the issue of scale, I can’t help but find the black background in the PV to be incredibly boring. It’s black. And then there’s some lights. And that’s it. It so plain that it’s boring. I can’t even say anything else to describe my displeasure with it because there literally isn’t anything else about it to complain about.

All is not woe though, as I can still see a few positives in this release. I was really surprised at how much I liked the pairing of Niigaki and Maeda here. Maeda’s higher-pitched voice works really quite well with Niigaki’s lower-pitch. I can’t imagine we’ll see the two of them sing anything together any time again soon (if ever, for that matter), but it was neat to see if even for this once.

I’ve also finally accepted the fact that Sayashi is one of the “promoted” members. Watching her perform with all those other groups you could never tell that she’s one of the newest additions. The girl has the talent to stand in the front, it’s as simple as that.

On a bit of a tangent, did anyone else notice a surprising lack of Mano Erina here? Sure you see her in a few shots but she never gets any solo or paired singing time in the song itself. A little surprising considering she makes up the MA in MobekiMAsu.

So, which do you prefer?

I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish Niigaki Risa, the new leader of not only Morning Musume, but Hello! Project as a whole, a happy 23rd birthday!

Such mature poise from the leader! =D

Mano Erina -『My Days for You』 August 14, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina.
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Now, when a person normally goes to talk about a new release they generally do it around the time of initial availability of that said release. Personally, I think that’s become rather passé. I mean wouldn’t you really rather read about it two weeks later? Well then it’s your lucky day!

Now, I’ll say first off I’m not quite overly smitten with the song itself. It’s sweet and pleasant, but nothing spectacular. It does fit her voice quite well, though. Mano has this kind of inherent sweetness to her voice and I do think it complements the lyrics and arrangement for this particular song. One one hand I’m a bit impressed by how well they have tailored this release to suit her (though I guess this should be expected as she is a soloist), but on the other I can’t help but be a little disappointed that she isn’t being pushed a bit more by a more challenging song.

What I am rather smitten with is the PV. To put it frankly, it really is quite fantastic. Take a look for yourself:

I’m almost astonished at not only how well directed it is, but also the raw quality of the cinematography. Personally I think it’s probably the best H!P PV I’ve seen this entire year. There aren’t any crazy flashing lights, extras or back-up dancers to distract you. It’s just Mano, her camera and some beautiful scenery.

I'm a complete sucker for bright blue skies.

Throughout the PV there is rather extensive use of tilt-shift style photography to simulate a shallow depth of field. Here it is put to good use to make it seem like Mano is in some sort of small model or diorama. I also rather enjoy the framing of this shot with her sitting on the monkey bars.

I love how the angle here make it look like the apartment building extends on forever.

A soft focus and a slightly exaggerated level of brightness give this shot a very pleasant feeling I would say is reminiscent of Summer's morning

There are quite a few shots of Mano riding on a bus and these too are quite well done. The environment outside of the bus's windows is nearly blindingly bright and gives the interior of the bus a cheerful feeling.

The ending few scenes of the PV contrast with the rest by being shot at sunset. Not too much to say here except that they're quite beautiful.

I know I’ve complimented Mano in the past for having some pretty good PVs but this one truly raises the bar. The thoughtfulness of nearly every shot is rather refreshing when compared to the usual studio dance numbers that are the norm. I can’t help but hope that this sort of style will catch on a bit for the rest of H!P in the near future.

sup guys… August 3, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Mano Erina.
1 comment so far

Sorry for the lack of posts recently! I promise a new one in the next couple of days, but in the mean time I hope the above picture of Manoeri in a mascot costume can tide you over! ^^;

Some Miscellaneous Ramblings February 12, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina, Niigaki Risa, Takahashi Ai.
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Wah! This week is almost over and I haven’t made a post yet!

I’ve been pretty pressed on time lately from midterms and my senior design project so I never got around to writing one up this week. Sorry about that! So, to make due I’ll just ramble on about a few incoherent and unimportant issues.

Ai-chan has Cut Her Hair

…to look exactly like Eri’s!

While I really loved her long hair, I actually don’t mind this at all. I think the look suits her pretty well, which is completely unlike the catastrophe that was when Risa cut her’s short.

Seriously though, that’s quite the coincidence that she gets it cut in the same style and color that Eri had been wearing for so long…

I’ve Recently Really Been Getting into Moritaka Chisato

It’s true. She has some really good music.

While I’ve only gotten through about half of them, I’ve been pretty impressed with what I’ve heard. My favorite track so far has been “Guitar” from Rock Alive, which unsurprisingly has some fantastic guitar work in it. Actually, that’s one of the things that really stands out in nearly all of her music: the quality of the instrumentals. Top notch stuff.

I Missed Junjun’s Birthday

Her 23rd birthday was yesterday, Friday the 11th. Happy birthday Junjun!

A Picture of Manoeri

So soft...
While not a terribly recent pic, I’ve always really liked it and have been looking for an excuse to share it. The best word I can use to describe it is just soft. So very, very soft.

Looking at it makes me really want to give her a hug. Which totally isn’t weird. Not. At. All. ><

Next week while be quite a bit lighter for me so I’ll try to make up for it with two posts. You could possibly expect to see a new “The Other Side of Aya,” and a new “Idol Retrospective.” Who knows? 😀

Mano Erina – Seishun no Serenade January 20, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina.
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On the 26th of this month Manoeri will be releasing her 9th single! Luckily for us the official PV err, MV is already available on Youtube! Check it out!

Save for one part, I really like this song and PV. Mano seems to be on a roll with getting a bit nicer PV’s compared to the rest of the H!P groups. While this one might not be as creative as “Genkimono de Ikō!” it is still quite pleasant (although, I must say I found the lack of spandex-clad middle-aged men being struck with whips to be a glaring omission). The school backdrop is interesting enough to look at and fits well into the “seishun” part of the title. Also, see if you guys can spot the vintage Momusu posters scattered throughout the set!

I really like her costume as well, as it is an interesting mishmash of styles. On one hand you have a copious amount of zippers and steel-lined belt holes which combined with the cut of the jacket conspire to give it a very strong or tough appearance. In contrast to this you have the very bright candy-apple red fabric, along with the soft hood and puff balls hanging from her belt moving it back towards “cute.” Combined, I think those elements work well together but I think it might have been a little better suited for a slightly more aggressive song.

I have to say though, I did find the costume to be slightly reminiscent of another famous one…

Mano Jackson

I know they aren’t that close, but I couldn’t shake that comparison from my head after watching the PV! I’m pretty sure it’s just from the diagonal black stripes and zippers, but still! Mano Jackson? ><

So, what was that one part I’m not so keen about? Well, it starts at the 3:09 mark, but trust me, I doubt you missed it. I don’t even know what to call it. Besides weird, that is. Personally, I think it almost ruins the song. You have a very pleasant, happy little diddy, and then that thing thrown in the middle. I could see something like that working significantly better in a song like her previous single Genkimono de Ikou!, but not here. It just doesn’t fit.


Hey, on the bright side of things it did make for a fantastic gif! 😀

Real Pictures from a Real Magazine August 25, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Mano Erina.
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You read that right. These pictures are actually from the October issue of the magazine Eiga Hiho promoting the Japanese release of Manoeri’s horror movie.

I’m actually having a hard time discerning whether these are possibly some of the greatest promotional pictures ever shot with their avant-garde take on traditional horror themes or if they are just incredibly goofy.

I really like this last one. It’s a fair more normal composition than the others, and that just makes it all the more bizarre, really.

Also, the idea of Manoeri doing a movie (or at least a short) with a cheerful demonic girl following her around actually seems like a pretty nifty idea right about now.

A Pleasant Distraction August 12, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in ayaya, Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina, Matsuura Aya.
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So, there’s no getting around the fact I’m still upset about the graduation, but I’d rather talk about something a little upbeat for a change.

And what’s a better way to cheer up than some good old Ayaya?

A little while ago one of my good friends got back from about a month or so of taking a couple of classes in Japan. He knew that I was a big Aya fan so he managed to pick me up a couple of posters.

One of them was the promotional poster for her Best 1 album:

I always thought she looked absolutely gorgeous in the cover art for that release, and in this case, bigger is certainly better!

The other two were a set of ad’s from her campaign for Gogo no Kocha:

There’s no getting around the fact that they are an absolutely gorgeous set of posters. I know he occasionally reads this blog, so I’d just like to thank him again. They’re awesome =D

On a marginally related note, I’ve also put my autographed Manoeri visual book into a frame. I was rather pleased that I could find a frame to fit it so closely. Of course, I can’t actually open the visual book anymore, but oh well, you win some, you lose some. =]

Days 2 and 3 of AX: AKB48 Panel and Reflections July 7, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Anime Expo, Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina.
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The only idol related thing of note to happen on Day 2 of Anime Expo was the AKB48 panel. Since this thing started at around 11AM me and the friend that I was going with were actually able to get some sleep that morning which was quite welcome.

We actually got into the convention center at around 10:45 or so and she went off to the Nabeshin panel while I headed off for AKB48.

Figuring that it would be ran like last year I took a seat near the back of the panel that was currently running waiting to move forward when it finished. Not so. It turned out that they now empty the rooms between panels and there was a already a line outside for the AKB48 panel. A long line. A line that went all the way outside nearly to the end of the building, I would say roughly 250 people in front of me, and by the time we started to move in, about 80 people behind me. While waiting in line I met a guy in front of me that got into idols through Kayo Aiko and became a big fan of Koharu, really nice guy.

Once we actually got into the hall I was really surprised by the fact that I was able to get a decent seat. The Q&A was set up in Petree Hall, the same place as Morning Musume’s panel last year, but reversed, as in the guests now sat at the opposite end of the hall. I ended up about 6 or 7 rows back on the right side of the table for the guests. All in all I would say about 20 to 25 feet away from the members.

As for the overall turnout off attendees and audience energy I found them both to be much lower than for Morning Musume’s panel for last year. I came nearly an hour before their panel and got a horrible seat where I could hardly see any of the girls, this time though, I came only 15 or so minutes before hand and I got a pretty decent seat. As for the audience energy I would classify it as “appropriate” rather than insane as for last year. A nice benefit of that was that I could clearly hear both the girl’s answer’s and their translations. =D

Once the panel started they played a VTR explaining what AKB48 was and gave a short history of the group and then pretty much went straight into questions. Most of the questions were pretty generic so I’m not going to try and summarize them all but I would like to touch a bit on the first and last people to ask questions. The first guy was a slightly older (maybe early 50’s or late 40’s) Western wota who gave the AKB48 girls a warm welcome, which really was quite nice. Then he spent the better part of a minute brown-nosing about all the times that he has seen them live at their theatre and about how they’re the greatest performers on the face of the planet all before he even got to his question. I know all fans want to express their gratitude to their favorite idols, but in a situation like this you really need to try and be short and succinct in your praise. I would put the limit at a sentence or so, even if you have to make it a long sentence, but anything much more than that just seems slightly inappropriate for the setting. The other person whose question I would like to bring up was the last person, who asked the girl’s if they liked any k-pop girl’s group. Now, I dunno about the girls of AKB48 (their manager answered the question, and I have no idea what he was answering, certainly not the question asked), but I’m pretty sure he did. The question just annoyed me because he seemed to be looking for answer he already wanted rather than simply trying to find out more about the girls themselves. Meh.

On day 3 of AX there were no idol related events scheduled but I actually managed to meet up with Charles, the fearless leader of Group 1 from AX ’09 (I’m going to have to flesh this out in the future =D), and his two friends named Aaron, both of which I actually recognized from the Mano event earlier. We hung out a bit around the HelloStoreUSA booth, and it’s always good time to talk idols with people. Fun stuff =D

So, what were my overall thoughts on Manoeri? I must say, I was really impressed. Her acting in Kai-Ki: Tales of Terror from Tokyo was not only far better than I had expected, but she also seems to just exude this great charisma in person. I’ve never really paid too much attention to her in the past, but I’m definitely going to keep my eye on her now.

This picture was actually taken by my friend right next to me at her movie screening. You can really get an idea of how close we all were to the stage, plus she looks pretty cute =P

As for AKB48? While I must say I really enjoyed their concert, something had been bothering me slightly about it, and it wasn’t until after their Q&A panel that it hit me. It all seemed slightly sterile. While their choreography and MC were all quite excellent, the actual performances seemed to lack personality, like I could have watched them perform the same setlist in Japan and it would have been the exact same show. I believe that the fact that they don’t actually use live vocals contributes greatly to this, but the performance itself didn’t seem to have any interactions or spontaneity between the girls. Now, I know why the producers would want to stamp such things out in a group as large as AKB48, but I couldn’t help but find it slightly disappointing.

Now, don’t let this discourage any of you from ever going to see them live as they do put an a fantastic show, just know that it is a different type of performance from what you would expect from a Hello!Project group.

So, that wraps up my coverage of Anime Expo 2010 and Mano Erina’s movie premier at Club Nokia. Really, a fantastic idol-filled couple of days. I really do feel lucky that in the span of a year I was able to see three of Japan’s major idol acts all within 30 miles of my humble abode. Los Angeles truly is a lucky city!

Note: So, I just realized that all the events that I’ve talked about so far actually took place on day 1, and not day 2 lol. I’ve updated the titles but I left the permalinks alone.

Day 1 of AX and Club Nokia: Mano Erina (Part 1) July 3, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Anime Expo, Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina.
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So, yesterday was THE big day with both Mano Erina’s movie premiere and the AKB48 concert, so without further ado, I’ll get right to the events of the day!

I had originally planned to get to get in line at Mano’s event at 8:00, so I thought that leaving at 7:00 would be a safe bet for a 25 mile or so journey.  Ehh, I was off by about 20 minutes or so, which really wasn’t too bad.

At least it kept moving, even if slowly

When I got there a short line had already formed down below Club Nokia of about 30 dedicated Mano fans.

A que of people to see Mano-chan!

Here’s a picture of Club Nokia from the line:

Sure, you may not really be able to see anything (its actually on the third floor), but I'm an idol fan, not a photographer...

A really cool thing that happened while we were in line was that Mano-chan walked in front of us to get into Club Nokia! I had made friends with the people standing in front of me in line and I was talking to one of them when we noticed that the people in the front of the line were getting really excited for some reason. We look over and lo and behold there’s Mano-chan smiling and waving at us walking over to the escalators to get up to Club Nokia with a small group of people who I assumed to be her managers. Very, very neat, it’s just a shame we didn’t even notice her until she was right on top of us ><

So, after a little while they move us up top and we wait there some more.

Now were queueing in front of Club Nokia!

That “Red Carpet Event?” Yeah, that never happened, at least for us general attendees. They might have done it for press, but none of us fans were there, that’s for sure.

So, we were started to be allowed in a little bit before 12:00 and all of us pretty much mobbed the HelloStoreUSA booth to throw money at buy some goods. I picked up a pretty nice visual book of her. I was originally going to pick up a 2L photo set, but I didn’t particularly like the only one they had left when I got up there. Oh, and they gave us a free keychain, that was pretty neat.

So after that I made my way into the actual theatre/club area of Club Nokia. They had set up a fair number of folding chairs theatre style in front of their stage for us. The chairs were really quite close to the stage, so even though I was a couple rows back it really didn’t make too much of a difference. Also, my friend suggested we sit on the right side of the aisle, which was a very fortunate decision as I’ll explain later.

Not long after we were seated some musician came out with some people dressed as ghosts and introduced the winner of a short horror film contest and showed the video clip of the winner’s film. It was about some teacher who hung one of their students who couldn’t count, and when the person in the video corrected the miscounting ghost they got strangled. Honestly, it really wasn’t too bad for a one minute film made by an amateur.

Finally, they actually started Kai-Ki: Tales of Terror from Tokyo. I’m not going to summarize the plots of either of the short stories the movie consisted of (there were two), but they weren’t particularly great, nor for that matter bad. The first short story contained nearly every horror movie cliche that you could think of, and the second’s plot was resolved in a rather unsatisfying way. I have to say though, both of them were very, very unnerving. The way many of the shots were drawn out really gave me a huge sense of dread. So, despite the cliches and plot holes they were still pretty scary, so I have to say in that regard the movie was a definite success.

I also have to applaud Mano-chan’s acting. While her performance didn’t blow me away, it was several orders of magnitude better than her performance in Hanbun Esper. I always thought she seemed slightly awkward in that series, but it added to the quirky behavior of that show, and as weird as it sounds actually fit in pretty well (compared to everything else that is, it’s certainly an odd series). So, I’ll admit I was actually kind of scared to see what she would be like in a horror movie, but she pleasantly surprised me. She was completely competent in her role, for the characters she was playing were about what you would expect to find in a standard horror movie, and she put up a standard performance. After seeing the amount of improvement she’s made in her acting skill between this movie and that series I’m actually quite interested in seeing her do another drama, even a more serious one. If she can keep up the same level of improvement that could be a very impressive performance. =D

So, after the movie ended the credits naturally started to roll and the ending theme, Returning Home, started to play, lo and behold Mano-chan comes on stage to sing it! It took pretty much everyone off guard, and for myself at least, it was a total surprise. It was actually a very sweet ballad-style song, and something that I think wouldn’t have been too bad if it had been released as a single. Hopefully it might be included in her next album or something.

After she finished her song, the musician/translator came out, several of the events sponsors, the writer, and some fashion designers(!?). Apparently the fashion designers made a couple dresses for Mano-chan, but I found it still slightly odd that they brought them out and especially odd that one of the questions from the Q&A was directed at them specifically. They were asked how Mano’s charm points had inspired the fashion, and they managed to answer it with varying degrees of success, but it was pretty apparent that they didn’t expect to be asked anything either.

It was actually rather funny, that despite the fact that they told us no photography was allowed nearly EVERYONE pulled out their cameras and taking pictures of Mano. Someone even managed to get a bit of her at the end on video:

As you can tell we were all really close to the stage, and by extension pretty close to Mano. I have to give her props, she really is cute in person. I dunno how seeing her in person would suddenly make her ugly or anything, but I was still quite impressed nonetheless.

After her Q&A she sang Sekai wa Summer Party and that was it. That was our mini concert. What the heck? A mini concert is like 5 songs. Two songs is an appearance, not a concert. Gah.

So, at the end the musician guy told us that there would be 25 autograph signings and to line up over on the right side of Club Nokia. This is where the luck of sitting on the right side of the seating came into play, as no one was in my way to get over there. It was actually pretty funny that it was my friend still that was pushing me over in that direction as I was still standing still and waving to her and saying goodbye… lol

So, when I actually get over there there really weren’t that many people in front of me (there were 10 in fact, as I found out when they counted us off). It was at this point I realized that, “Hey, I’m getting an autograph. HECK YEAH!” I should point out that the writer, Hirokatsu Kihara, was actually signing autographs as well, and that’s his signature on the postcard down below. I have to say, I felt kinda sorry for the guy, because honestly, no one was there to get his signature. I still tried to be as courteous and gracious as I could to him, but he seemed like he was still a good sport about the whole thing.

When I actually got to Mano, I handed her my visual book and she signed the cover, handed it back and offered a hand shake. It may sound stupid, but man, she had really, really soft hands. While we shook hands I told her she had a cute smile in English, which she looked at me for a second blankly as she tried to figure out what I said, then smiled again and said thank you. I imagine “cute” was probably the only thing she understood in what I said, but that’s good enough really. The person standing behind me in line waiting to get into the club and myself actually talked about what we would say to her when we got up there, and I am sorry for stealing your line. I actually checked if you had made it before the cutoff first, but once you suggested that I really couldn’t think of anything more fitting. She really does have a cute smile.

So that wraps up Mano’s event at Club Nokia. While her mini concert might have placed a little too much emphasis on the mini rather than the concert, the fact that I got to get her autograph and shake her hand more than made up for it for myself.

Since it’s 3AM in the morning, I’m going to call it quits for tonight and write about AKB48’s concert tomorrow.

Later Days!