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Morning Musume’s “One Two Three / The Matenrou Show” Breaks 100,000 Copies Sold! July 10, 2012

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Morning Musume.
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To help but that in perspective, Momusu hasn’t broken 100k total sales for a single since 2004, and One Two Three has only been on sale for a single week!

Holy cow!

To say that this is an impressive feat is almost an understatement. I mean, this thing is even out-selling Golden Age Morning Musume releases! It’s almost sacrilegious. 😀

It’s a great release, as isilwentari does a fantastic job of showing, so I certainly think it’s deserved. One certainly can’t argue that all the new blood that Morning Musume has recently taken on has significantly freshened the group’s image up a bit.

I’d love to see this awesome momentum keep going, but I can’t help but be a little pessimistic. Nanchatte Renai, (Momusu’s 40th Anniversary single, and talk about a change in style!) also had exaggerated sales compared to those that came before and after it. On the bright side though, despite the drop it did signal a slight uptick in single sales afterwards!

Also, not to mention that Morning Musume’s 50th single also marks 50 consecutive top 10 singles, a record in the Japanese music industry!

A Personal Memory about Niigaki Risa and Mitsui Aika May 18, 2012

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Morning Musume, Niigaki Risa.
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So that time is finally upon us, that time I’ve been dreading for months now. Risa is really going to graduate in a few hours. I can’t even really believe that it’s going to happen. ><

Well, in the same fashion as I have with all of the other recent graduations I'd like to share a personal memory I have about Risa and Aika from the time when I was able to interact with them at Anime Expo 2009.

At Anime Expo there were two autograph sessions, both of which I was fortunate enough to attend. The first session happened immediately after their very first event, a Q&A session with the fans. I of course attended that Q&A but had less than stellar seats, so this autograph session was really the first time I was able to really see the girls.

So, not only was I up-close to them, but I was actually interacting with them.

It freaked me out pretty bad. A mix of disbelief, shock, awe, happiness and probably a few other superlative emotions all combined to turn me into a grinning fool who could barely squeak out a "Hello," and "Thank you," to these girls.

Risa would have none of that however. As soon as she finished signing my poster she stuck her hand out for a handshake. I could barely believe it. So despite my state of now compound shock, I of course I shook her hand.

That autograph session was pretty relaxed in terms of atmosphere, and all of the girls were shaking hands with the fans, but only when the fans initiated it. Risa was the only one of them to put her hand out and shake with every single fan. Her desire to connect with her fans was something that really impressed me then, and still impresses me now. It's no small secret how much she loves Morning Musume, but after seeing that I really think she cares about the fans just as much.

As for poor Aika, unfortunately I can't say I have a particular story about her. She was upbeat and enthusiastic every time she was with the fans, which was something I certainly appreciated. I also found her to be a bit cuter in person than in photographs or video. She never really mastered being as photogenic as the other members.

It was hard for me to accept Ai leaving the group, but Risa's graduation is on a whole another level. She could sing and dance with the best of them in Morning Musume, but the thing I really loved about her performances was the raw energy she brought to everything. She made it clear as day that she absolutely loved what she was doing, and that kind of transparent happiness is always a joy to behold.

So thank you Risa for helping make these last three years I've been following Morning Musume so enjoyable. I anxiously await your next endeavor 😀

Mitsui Aika to Graduate From Morning Musume May 14, 2012

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Morning Musume.
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As I’m sure you are all aware of now, Mitsui Aika is going to graduate alongside Niigaki Risa on May 18 at the Morning Musume Concert Tour 2012 Spring ~Ultra Smart~ Niigaki Risa Graduation Special. Apparently Aika’s ankle injury didn’t heal properly and it would pose too great a risk for her to continue performing with the group.

I hate to say it, but I don’t feel Morning Musume is really losing anything of great value here with Aika. For me the girl just never “clicked” into any role in the group. Her singing and dancing were never particularly great (or for that matter bad enough to admonish). Her personality seemed a bit dull, and she didn’t even seem to fit in all that well with the other members in the group. She was always this odd little background member.

One thing that is unique about her graduation is simply the timing of the announcement only two weeks before the event. As far as I’m aware, that’s the shortest span for any member that has left the group in a legitimate (read: non-scandal) manner. To me it almost seems a bit suspicious. While I have little doubt that her ankle injury was legitimate, I feel that there is something that is being left out of the story, because frankly, the reason they are giving about the injury healing improperly hardly seems to justify the rush graduation. Possibly the injury is much worse than they’ve been letting on, or there was some contractual dispute rising from her resent absences?

The kind of funny thing is that around December, one of my friends and I were talking and I was telling him all about how I thought that Aika would be the next to graduate. Even at that time I was starting to feel that her ankle injury was taking a bit too long to heal and she would be forced to leave the group because of that. Well, being half right isn’t too shabby!

All that being said, I do feel a bit bad for the girl regarding the circumstances of her graduation. Seeing how the announcement was only two weeks before the event, I imagine that many of her fans that would have liked to have attended simply won’t have the chance. Then there’s the whole bit about that particular concert already having been named the Niigaki Risa Graduation Special (albeit, as a Risa fan, I can’t say I’ll be losing sleep on that one ;D)

Oh, and yeah, the blog isn’t entirely dead …yet! 😀

Niigaki Risa to Graduate From Morning Musume January 14, 2012

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Morning Musume, Niigaki Risa.
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Well, I’ve certainly put off writing this post for long enough.

I admit that when I first heard the news of her graduation I wasn’t livid like I had been at the last two graduation announcements. No, frankly, I was broken. Risa is the last member of Morning Musume I really like. When I listen to a Morning Musume song it’s her voice I listen for. When I watch on of their performances, it’s her dancing that I keep an eye on. Sure, I enjoy the work of the other girls, but they aren’t the main attraction for me.

Like Ai’s graduation this certainly wasn’t that big of a surprise. She’s been a member of the group for well over ten years, and frankly after the addition of the last two generations it’s fairly obvious that there is a conscious effort to lower the age of the group.

I am rather relieved that Risa was at least allowed to graduate on her own after Ai (you can read about that, and translated versions of the official statements here). A double graduation of both Ai and Risa would have been really quite traumatic. Risa is the last link the current Morning Musume has to their “Golden Age” so to speak. If the graduation of Ai signified the end of an era, so will Risa’s graduation, albeit a bit more subtly.

I’m also rather glad she was at least allowed to be leader, even if just for these few short months. She always seemed like she would make a perfect leader when she was second-in-command, and combined with the fact that she was charged with breaking-in the brand new tenth gen I am happy that she was given some important tasks to accomplish during her last few months.

I’m not quite so thrilled that she’s graduating on April 1st, though. Since I’ve finally been able to put some money aside I made up my mind that I’d finally make the pilgrimage, so to speak, to Japan this fall. If she was graduating in the Fall I would have gone to that concert. Absolutely no question. But May? There’s no way I can take off that much time so soon.

Also, it’s not like I just wouldn’t mind seeing her stick around a little bit longer, especially considering that PyocoPyoco Ultra (Risa’s probable graduation single) is the first Momusu single in quite a while that I rather dislike. Tsunku has tweeted a few snippets that there might be a new single with a “cool” image, so I certainly hope that that does come to be. Well, comes to be before May that is.

Something else that bothers me a bit is how the leadership of Hello! Project as a whole will shift from Morning Musume to Berryz Kobo, Shimizu Saki to be specific. I have nothing against Shimizu, but it still seems like an odd turn of events. Is MM losing their flagship status in Hello! Project? Or is there so little faith in Sayumi as a leader that they won’t give her that responsibility? That last question would somewhat address the reason as to why the position of sub-leader seemed to be abolished once tradition would have dictated that Sayu would have been given the position.

So after Risa leaves I’m certainly not going to lose interest in Morning Musume. The sixth gen are still enjoyable to watch. The ninth gen is solid, and I’m still looking forward to what the tenth gen can bring to the table. My main draw, Risa’s fierce delivery of nearly everything she did, will be gone though, and I’m not going to lie when I say that I can’t help but imagine that it will diminish my enthusiasm a bit.

Oh Sayu… October 27, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Morning Musume.
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That’s an awful, awful cover.

I think they were going for a “bunny” look there with that costume and her hair like that, but to me the whole thing just comes across as goofy. While her hair looks silly like that, I can’t complain too much about the costume as it shows plenty of skin and a bit of cleavage, and well, that’s certainly no different than the bikinis you normally see (albeit fuzzier). What I find truly appalling is that title font and the choice of background. I get that they were going for a kind of “playful sexy,” but how they present it here just doesn’t work for me.

Some previews of the actual contents of the book have surfaced, and luckily they’re quite a bit better than the cover. A lot better actually.

Well, I’ve complained enough about what I think is a bad photobook cover, so how about one that I think is great? I present Fujimoto Miki’s cheri:

Now, those of you familiar with cheri may not recognize that cover, and that’s because I’m actually cheating a little bit. The image most people are familiar with as the cover exists only on the dust jacket, and the image I have above is what’s actually printed on the hardcover of the book.

While being the near polar opposite of Sayuminglandoll in terms of design and presentation, cheri‘s cover is still incredibly sexy while keeping a demure air about it. There’s obviously a lot of exposed skin, but nothing one couldn’t show everyday on the street, it’s just that it is presented in such bold and prominent way with the black and white photography that it carries a significant impact, but what really hammers it home for me though, are Miki’s slightly parted lips. When taken altogether the emphasis is simply on Miki’s beauty, and it’s absolutely stunning.

So how about you guys, what’s your favorite photobook cover?

Mobekimasu – Busu ni Narinai Tetsugaku October 20, 2011

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

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

Eripon Hates Microphones October 10, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Morning Musume.
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5 comments

Eripon: 1 Microphone: 0

A Personal Memory about Takahashi Ai September 30, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Morning Musume, Takahashi Ai.
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Alternate title: "O Captain, my Captain"

This post should go live at the very beginning of Takahashi Ai’s graduation concert, which means by the time you’re reading this Morning Musume is going to be down it’s longest lasting leader and has swelled in size to twelve including the four brand-new tenth gen members.

I’m actually a little hesitant about titling this post as “Remembering…” as in Takahashi will no longer be with us. Luckily it looks like that won’t be the case as Ai-chan already has a musical in the works as part of her post-graduation plans and it was even mentioned that Jishin Motte Yume wo Motte Tobitatsu Kara would only be the first of her solo songs. I’m really only using this title to tie back in to the good-bye I gave to Eri, Junjun and Linlin back in 2010 as I had good reason to believe that we really wouldn’t be hearing all that much from them afterwards (reasonably correctly too, I might add). [Edit: I’ve succumbed to pressure and changed the title anyway… ^^;]

So in keeping with the theme of “Remembering…” I’d like to talk about a personal memory I have of Ai-chan from July of 2009 when I was fortunate enough to see Morning Musume when they attended Anime Expo in Los Angeles, California. At the time I wasn’t a huge Morning Musume fan, but I was pretty familiar with them through their association with Hello! Project and thus, Matsuura Aya.

The first event that Morning Musume participated in was a Q&A event closely followed by a signing/handshake session. At that session they had all of the girls lined up by seniority, so Ai-chan was first, Risa second, etc.

Now if any of you are unaware, Reina has a very complex signature. Complex to the point that it took her so long to sign things that she was significantly holding the line up, and because of that people got to spend quite a bit more time interacting with Ai, Risa and Sayu than the rest of the girls.

So when I finally get to go up to the front of the line you have to realize I’m nervous as all heck. It was really a surreal moment to see these girls in the flesh, to actually realize that they’re real people. It sounds so incredibly silly when I think back on it, but that really is the general feeling that I had at the time.

So I go up to Ai-chan and we exchange a “Hi,” I hand her my poster, she signs it in few seconds, hands it back, and I say thank you.

…and then I just stand there.

I’m standing in front of Ai-chan. Both of us are just starring at each other. Oh gosh, what the heck do I do? Should I say something? I should say something! What should I say? I shouldn’t say it in English, she probably wouldn’t understand. So I open my mouth, still forming the words in my head…

“Me gusta…”

CRAP! That’s Spanish, that’s even worse than English! So I close my mouth quickly without saying anything. Again, again! I need to try again! So I try to take a second shot…

“Creo que…”

OH GOSH! OH GOSH!

It was at that point there that I broke and realized the absolute absurdity of my situation. I was standing in front of Takahashi Ai, the leader of the Japanese pop group Morning Musume, in the middle of downtown Los Angeles and I’m desperately trying to speak Spanish to her. If you would have told me that such and event would transpire just six months before hand I wouldn’t have believed you, heck I still sometimes have a hard time believing it actually happened!

So after coming to such a realization I just giggled. It was the only thing I think I was actually capable of doing at that point; the whole thing was just so silly.

Takahashi, God bless her, was just beaming at me the whole time I was standing there in front of her. And you know what her response was to my giggle?

She giggled right back.

Takahashi Ai and myself giggled at each other.

I didn’t have much of chance to take in what had happened as maybe two or three seconds later the line moved and I went to see Risa.

Our whole meeting lasted maybe 25 seconds over two years ago and I can still remember every detail perfectly. Seeing her face light up like that when she giggled is something that I’ll never forget.

So, thank you Ai-chan.

Thank you for helping make that day something special. Thank you for leading Morning Musume for the entire period of time in which I’ve actually been a fan. And, finally, thank you for simply providing me with so much enjoyment over these last two years through your work.

10th Gen! September 29, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Morning Musume.
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7 comments

Morning Musume’s tenth generation were just announced today. The four new members include, from left to right, Kudou Haruka(11), Satou Masaki(12), Ishida Ayumi(14) and Iikubo Haruna(16).

Save for Ashida, I must say I’m quite surprised with the picks!

Starting with Kudou, wow is she young! Last audition I was complaining about how young all of the new members were, but even they were older than Kudou. In fact, at eleven years old I think Kuduo might be the youngest Morning Musume member ever. To be perfectly fair though, she really was one of the most talented members during the audition. I have a feeling she’ll be a very impressive member someday.

During the first HelloPro! TIME where the 10th gen auditions were being covered Satou was an early favorite of mine, that is, until she tried singing or dancing. While she might be darn cute, she really was near the very bottom technically. If she can manage to improve in those two exceptionally important areas she should be able to do well for her self.

Ishida was really the only one out of the group that I expected to make the cut. Like Sayashi in the last audition, Ishida was head and shoulders above everyone else technically. ALso like Sayashi, Ishida seems to be an especially proficient dancer. Other than that though, I don’t feel particularly strongly about her.

On a bit of a side note, I’m rather fascinated by Morning Musume’s recent tendency to go for such highly skilled new members, like Sayashi and Ishida, while still also picking complete amateurs like Ikuta and Satou. It seems like they’re building up a lopsided pool of talent. In such a group atmosphere wouldn’t the more talented members be held back by the others? Sure, in concerts and the like you can let individual members have their moment to shine, but that really doesn’t do much to show the population at large how talented some of these girls really are.

Getting back on track, Iikubo was probably my biggest surprise. While she is rather pretty, I was sure her age would have prevented her from joining. While members have joined in the past who were quite a bit older than her, she is still quite a bit older than everyone else who got to the final rounds of the 9th and 10th gen auditions. Add that to the fact that she wasn’t particularly talented at singing or dancing compared to the others, and you can see where my surprise comes from. Still, I’m certainly not upset by this as it’s rather nice to have someone new to the group who has actually finished middle school.

Going forward with a twelve member group after tomorrow, of which eight are pretty darn fresh, Risa and Sayu are going to have their work cut out for them!

Takahashi Ai is Adorable September 17, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Morning Musume, Takahashi Ai.
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Not exactly shocking news, is it? Next thing you know I’ll be telling you about how fire is hot and how the sky is blue, but also sometimes black! 😀

Recently Ai-chan performed Kare to Issho ni Omise ga Shitai! from her graduation commemorative edition of Morning Musume’s 47th single Kono Chikyū no Heiwa o Honki de Negatterun da yo!/Kare to Issho ni Omise ga Shitai! *gasp* on Coming Soon!! If you haven’t already seen it, you can watch her performance here:.

In another piece of incredibly surprising news, she of course blows it out of the water. What really caught my eye though happened at the very end, after her performance itself had concluded. She, a professional idol who has been performing in-front of people for over a decade, giggled at her own performance:

I’ve already watched that clip at least a few dozen times by now, but I still can’t help but smile a little bit every time I see it. She puts on this cool and confident persona while she’s on stage, but as soon as it’s over she immediately reverts back. It’s just so incredibly endearing that after so much experience, and obvious skill at her trade, she is still so humble. Some of this might come from the fact that she is simply more comfortable performing in a group along with the other Morning Musume girls rather than solo like she is here.

Speaking of performing with the other Morning Musume girls, as of the time of writing, Ai-chan has less than two weeks left with the group. I’m really having a hard time wrapping my head around that. I can’t even begin to imagine what Morning Musume would even sound like without Ai-chan since her vocals have been so prominent for the last six years.

While I do look forward to seeing Risa finally become leader, it’s going to be bittersweet at best.