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Moritaka Chisato’s 25th Anniversary! May 25, 2012

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Jpop, Other Idols.
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Twenty five years ago today Moritaka Chisato debuted with the single New Season:

Ahh, look at that hair! So very, very big!

To be perfectly honest with you 25 years seems like a lifetime to me, which is fitting seeing how her debut was a little more than a year before my birth… 😉

While she has been fairly quiet since the late nineties, it seems that she and her staff are pulling no stops in celebrating this milestone, including a full-force assault on nearly every social media outlet. You can now “Like” her on Facebook (or Google+ if you’re into that kind of thing), follow her staffs’ tweets, or subscribe to her on Youtube! Heck even her personal website has been given a fresh coat of paint (which is saying a lot because I always thought it was already especially spiffy for a Japanese entertainer)!

What has me most excited though, is her new Youtube Channel! Standing in front of the now infamous bridge over the Watarase River, Moritaka introduces her new “200 Songs Self Cover Project:”

This project will consist of video clips, live performances and commentaries on nearly every song she released from 1987 to 1999!

I mean, wow! How frigg’n amazing is that? I can barely even comprehend the scale of such an undertaking.

Oh, and if all that weren’t enough for you, she’s also releasing The Singles, which is, fittingly enough, a complete collection of all of her singles. And in the fall a commentary collection taken from interviews all throughout her career. And by the end of the year an album box set containing remastered versions of her previous albums. And by this time next year a Blu-Ray box set.

I don’t know about you, but that is how you celebrate a 25th anniversary properly!

I think it’s fair to say that Moritaka Chisato is back. Sure, she might just be riding the nostalgia train, but I’m more than okay with that. Heck, I’ve already got my first class ticket in hand! 😀

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! 😀

The Korean Wave Hits American Shores February 2, 2012

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Other Idols, Uncategorized.
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So apparently Girls’ Generation performed on David Letterman last night, and Live! with Kelly this morning.

Wait, WHAT?

For those who aren’t familiar with American television those are two very mainstream talk shows (one airs in the morning, the other late at night). Maybe it’s because I’ve been living under a rock or something, but wow, I did not see this coming. It’s not just Girls’ Generation either, as apparently the Wonder Girls are getting their own fictional movie about their quest for fame in New York on Nickelodeon (a cable network that airs content made specifically for children to teens). Oh, and it airs tomorrow evening. It certainly looks to one heck of a swell to me.

Now I don’t really have much interest in Kpop, as one could probably surmise seeing as this is the first time I’ve ever even mentioned it here, but it would certainly be a neat thing to see the Kpop girl groups catch on here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., if for nothing more than to bring Asian pop music more into the general consciousnesses. Even if just to the point where the possibility of stateside concerts not tied to some type of cultural event is actually a feasible option.

Realistically speaking, though, the Kpop and Jpop girl groups are miles apart in terms of sound and image. In their performance on David Letterman Girls’ Generation comes off as mature, stylish and sexy. This is what flies in America. Morning Musume, for example goes for cute (not saying that they can’t do sexy too, but more generally speaking). Here in the states it’s hard to market anything aggressively cute to anybody other than young girls. More damning though, is the fact that Girls’ Generation can manage to sing in fluent English with an American accent. Morning Musume? Notsomuch. The fact of the matter is that Americans simply won’t bother with music they don’t understand, and for better or for worse, Girls’ Generation’s “The Boys” sounds just like any other hip-hop song, save for the fact it’s sung by nine girls who do a darn good job of hiding their South Korean origin.

Then there is just the ugly truth about it all. With the Wonder Girls’ movie airing on Nickelodeon it’s fair to say they might be aimed heavily at the pre-teen crowd. Err… I guess whatever gets their foot in the door, right?

Do I think the Kpop groups will be successful here in the states? I really can’t say. They are well prepared though, more so than I think any attempt before them. Where acts like Pink Lady have failed, Girls’ Generation and the Wonder Girls bring an American friendly image and excellent English skills. No matter how it plays out, it’ll be an interesting set of events to watch for sure.

As for Regis Philbin?

He’s already been swept away by the current 😀

PASSPO☆ – Kiss = Suki January 28, 2012

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Jpop, Other Idols.
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Today I wanted to talk about a Passpo, a group I’ve never covered here before on Nights4Blogging!

I’ve listened to a few of their songs previously, but I never was all that impressed. Then about mid-December (yeah, I’ve been meaning to make this post for quite a while now… ^^;) I saw the PV for their newest songs “Kiss = Suki,” and I must say I was reasonably impressed.

Everything about the song is just fun. The melody is fun (not to mention how catchy the chorus is), the choreography is fun, and I love the visual presentation!

Passpo’s gimmick, so to speak, is the airline theme. This is pretty obvious in the PV with the cute stewardess uniforms and the airport background. This theme goes far beyond that, though. For example, instead of having a leader and sub-leader they have a “Captain” and “Cheif Purser” (aka: head stewardess), events are referred to as “Flights,” and the multiple versions of their singles are split into Business, First and Economy classes.

It’s a neat idea, and I certainly appreciate the cute uniforms that it entails itself to. I have to say I imagine that it could potentially get a little stale after a while. Still, from what I have seen of them,I can’t complain.

Iwamura Natsumi obviously graduated from the "Michishige School of Trying Way Too Hard to be Cute and Succeeding"

Generally speaking, I couldn’t call these girls quite as talented as maybe some of the other larger idol groups. Their dancing isn’t as tight, and I can’t say I noticed any really strong vocalists in the group. Though, to discount them because of that would be completely unfair. The fact of the matter is that for what they are trying to accomplish, here cute idol pop, they are all competent, and work together perfectly well. The final product here is more than solid in fact. Also, who is to say that they won’t grow in talent in the future? This will definitely be a group I’ll keep an eye on.

Out of the whole group one girl did catch my eye. Negishi Ai (on the far right above) is the Captain of the group, and really quite beautiful.

She also provided the perfect way to end this post 😀

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.

Molson Musume? December 29, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project.
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While reading Isilwentari’s wonderful post about Dream Morning Musume’s new single Shining Butterfly I couldn’t help but think that the costumes that the girls were wearing looked awfully familiar.

Sure, they weren’t anything too crazy, just white with red and blue accents. Then today while idly day dreaming it finally hit me. They resemble giant dancing bottles (or the labels, more specifically) of Molson Canadian Beer:

😐

Yeah, I don’t really know what to think of that…

And on that bombshell, I hope you all have a good new year!

Merry Christmas! December 25, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Kikkawa You.
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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope everybody has a very pleasant Holiday season filled with their friends and loved ones (and possibly a few idols too…) 😀

Matsuura Aya – Subject: Sayonara “10TH ANNIVERSARY BEST” SPECIAL LIVE December 20, 2011

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Not too long ago Aya celebrated the tenth anniversary of her debut with a special performance at the Cotton Club in Tokyo. There we got the first unveiling of Subject: Sayonara, the sole new song to appear on her 10th Anniversary Best album due out tomorrow.

Previously, we only had a rough fanrecording of the song to go by, but this morning UpFrontTunes released the entire performance on Youtube:

Written by Takeuchi Mariya (someone who Matsuura fans should recognize, as her 2008 musical Mariya – Honki de Only You was based entirely on Takeuchi’s music) Subject: Sayonara is certainly a haunting and beautiful ballad, helped in no little part by Aya’s fantastic voice. The amount of emotion she is able convey through merely the inflections in her voice is absolutely wondrous.

Also, I know I’ve said it before, but she really does work fantastically with a live band. It just adds that inexplicable organic element, and just helps everything feel just that much more alive.

Edit: Through the magic of time, what was once tomorrow is now today and Aya’s 10th Anniversary Best is now available for purchase! I’ve updated the appropriate links over in the side-pane. This album really is perfect for all Ayaya fans. Don’t care much for her newer, non idol-styled work? No problem as it’s filled mostly with her classics. Or do you simply yearn for more new work from her? Well this is all your gonna get for the time being so you better just smile and take what you can get! 😀

Takahashi Ai Featured in The Wall Street Journal December 9, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Takahashi Ai.
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Yup, you can even read the article for yourself, entitled “A J-Pop Star Goes From Music to Musicals,” here.

Sure, that may not be The Wall Street Journal proper, and the chances of this article ever actually appearing in print are nill to none; it still is a pretty surprising piece in an unheard of location.

What really impresses me most about the article is its rather serious nature and intended audience. Japanese pop idols aren’t treated as a strange curiosity, but in a matter of fact manner as a legitimate staple of the Japanese entertainment industry. On top of that, the article is specifically about Ai’s new play and her transition away from Morning Musume, something I can’t help but think would go over the heads of most casual readers. Sure, people like us eat this kind of stuff up, but those poor regular folk who don’t know who Takahashi Ai is would probably find it a little too specific for their tastes.

So what it all boils down to is that we have an article from The Wall Street Journal about Takahashi Ai written to appeal to Jpop fans. I approve. 😀