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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!

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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!

Hello!Blog Hello!Project 2010 Poll Results May 17, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina, Morning Musume.
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The results from Hello!Blog’s annual poll are in, and the results are:

For those that don’t know, Tom over at Hello!Blog runs an annual poll ranking everyone’s favorite Hello! Project members. With 2700 people participating it serves as a fairly accurate representation of the tastes of Western H!P fans.

So, let’s take a look at the results!

Ai-chan at number one spot? That’s not too surprising. Almost everybody loves Ai-chan. I frankly would have been surprised if she WASN’T in first place. Moving on.
Spots two through five are pretty agreeable with me. I gotta say though, I’m happily surprised that Risa scored as well as she did at number four. I always got the impression that she seems to be sort of overlooked in comparison to some of the other members. This is something that I’m deeply guilty of as well. She’s actually my favorite Morning Musume member. I don’t any of you would have been able to guess that, eh? =\

Momo, Airi and Miyabi all make very strong appearances, no doubt due to the awesome that is Buono! Momo, the most popular of the Hello! Project Kids, actually just barely edged Junjun out from making the top six a straight coup for Morning Musume.

What I do find slightly disturbing is poor Linlin’s spot way down at number 11. I don’t know if that’s just because she doesn’t get enough exposure (heck, even Sayu gets to yell during songs ;D), or if people just don’t seem to like her very much, which would be a shame. For an example of just how charming and offbeat she can be check out Morning Musume DVD Magazine Vol 25 where she stars as the MC of a quiz show where Ai, Eri, Reina and Sayu are the contestants. Sadly, it’s probably the only thing I’ve ever seen her actually star in; but at least it’s quite good.

There was one other result that really struck me as odd, which was Manoeri actually scoring lower than half of S/mileage, her own backing dancers. I know I’ve said (repeatedly) how I’m not a huge fan of hers, but what I think really gets me about her is that as a soloist she has huge shoes to fill, and in my opinion she has yet to even come close. She can’t hold a candle to voice and stage presence of Matsuura Aya, or even Gocchin. Heck, even Fujimoto Miki’s short stint as a soloist before she joined Morning Musume showed far more promise than what Manoeri has now. Even with all that said I don’t think I could have ranked her behind some of the members of S/mileage, but that’s just because I just can’t get into idols who are that young.

And before anyone asks, yes I did participate, and no, I don’t think I’ll be sharing my results in here. This is primarily because I don’t follow Berryz or C-ute that closely and I don’t feel that I can fairly rank their members. In other words, I don’t want people yelling at me for ranking their favorite member so low when I don’t have a good reason to back it up =P