But more to a point, a year on, we can reflect what the graduation was for the elders club. Beforehand, I’d say there were 3 main theories to why Hello! Project graduated all it’s older members:
- Credit crunch time – get rid of the old idols who aren’t doing much and promote the hell out of the younger money makers.
- Elders’ had had enough – a la Maki Goto, the Hello! Project wasn’t very accommodating to new styles they wanted to try
- Nothing changes – graduating the elders was a mutual decision to generate a lot of cash for H!P and UFA and let the girls develope their careers further.
From the looks of things a year on, the theory that proved correct seems to be 3 – although the decision also seems to be more in UFA’s favour, as they have retained the majority of the graduated elders as well as being able to milk the Wonderful Hearts for what it’s worth. But who have the real winners and losers been? Well at least in my eyes…
Congratulation, you are a winner!
1. Mari Yaguchi
Mari Yaguchi is the overall winner in all of this. Since graduating (well a few days before) she released a solo track, has released 2 joint singles (one of which she was lead singer). She seems to have the highest profile of all the Elders Club. Congratulations Mari, less control by UFA on your career and more popularity and success. You even got to sing the theme tune to your favourite anime series – for an otaku, it can’t get much better than that!
2. Yossie & Charmy (AKA HANGRY & ANGRY)
The anti-twin 4th generation double act. A trip to the US last year, an album and an impending tour, and that’s even before we mention stage plays, Ongaku Gatas and solo events. Yossie and Charmy should actually be #1, but there still seems to be a lot of control over these 2 unlike Mari – and if HANGRY & ANGRY wasn’t such a marketing gimmick they would have made it.
3. Melon Kinenbi
Despite the fact that they’re breaking up, Melon Kinenbi had the best year last year for an act outside of Hello! Project, from my perspective. They got to release awesome singles and an awesome album, it’s just too bad they wanted to go into an ultra competitive field of girl-rock from pop. They seemed to make the most use of the freedom which not being a Hello! Project member gave them.
4. Mai Satoda
Mai is probably the most famous non-Morning Musume in Japan at the moment. She’s kept a high public profile by appearing on Hexagon and by releasing a number of singles through them, which have all charted much higher than Country Musume ever did. Saying this – this was all going on before she graduated. Has the graduation made much difference to Mai – probably not! But she’s still a winner.
When Tsuji announced she was married and pregnant, a lot of people thew in the towel. However, she has fought through it all by her uber-popular blog, and her baby clothing range (which looks adorable). Tsuji, we salute you!
And the 3 losers are…
In no order…
Despite having a tour last year, and although she’s taking a break right now, Ayaya seems to have completely fallen off of my radar. Her small “outburst” of jealousy at Gomaki’s album was also duly noted. I really hope she does bring out more material, but maturing into elegant songstress from a strange face pulling idol is not the easiest transition. Also, next time, don’t let the hairdresser put a bowl on your head and cut around it…
V-U-DEN (minus Rika)
What are they doing now? I’ve seen the one with big boobs on a variety show, and I follow her on twitter, but the other 1 is… er…. Well to be fair, V-U-DEN had disbanded before the graduation… somewhat. Oh well, at least they will be forever remembered through Zoku V-U-DEN.
Nice come back girls – Inaba was back MCing concerts every now and then before she ended her contract with UFA. I reckon UFA was able to sell about 4 more albums from your reunion. At least I don’t have to watch them dance anymore at concerts, it was painful.
And the three to look out for…
1. Koharu Kusumi
Because of the way graduations now work, she has left Morning Musume but is still a OG and managed by UFA. Koharu’s still appearing in Oha Star and has got that modelling career to think about, and is the OG we’ve definitely we’re watching out for the most at the moment.
2. Asami Konno
Smartest OG (the only one to have attended university?), and broke history when she rejoined the Hello! Project. Is currently rumored to be becoming a TV reporter. Watch out Japan!
3. Miki Fujimoto
Now happily married to the guy she got kicked out of Morning Musume for dating (and he also ironicly had a better selling single than her last), Mikitty has been quiet for too long. Surely she wont fade into non-existence as a talento? You’re going to do something more Mikitty… aren’t you? AREN’T YOU?
And so this concludes the ramblings. Hopefully next year, we can recap again – maybe by then Yaguchi will be running for priminister of Japan? Mikitty will be having a solo career to rival… hmmm… Maki Goto? And er… Ayaya will have pulled herself together and got a better hair cut. Let’s wait and see!
I’ve been holding off for a while now, and did have good intentions of putting in a very large CD order with one of my favourite online stores after Christmas, but e-bay has got the better of me.
You see, being a Geography graduate, I’m very into recycling – okay, that’s a lie – I love buying second-hand Japanese CDs as they’re dirt cheap compared to the originals! What more, lovely e-bay sellers seem to take much better care of their CDs than I do, and I’ve received many still with their OBI, no cracks in the case, and even had a few sealed limited edition.
So, for less than half the price (and with much faster, cheaper shipping in some cases – although I did receive one CD in a white paper bag), I have filled out a large amount of my Hello! Project back catalogue:
- Aya Matsuura – First Kiss
- Aya Matsuura – T.W.O.
- Maki Goto – Making Gold
- Maki Goto – Paint it Gold
- Morning Musume – No.5
- Morning Musume – Ai no Dai 6 Kan
- And more on the way…
Then, the DVD buying started… well it beats watching it in poor youtube quality or going back to watch your favourite clip to find it’s been pulled:
- Hello! Project Winter 2002
- Hello! Project Winter 2003
- Hello! Project Winter 2004
- Hello! Project Winter 2005
- Morning Musume – Rainbow 7 Tour
You can probably see a pattern emerging, but I’ve been more or less buying up what I can – my rule is, if it’s under £10 then it’s a bargain! I’ve even been able to get hold of a couple of nifty photo cards and limited edition CDs.
(Please excuse the terrible quality of the pictures, I still haven’t quite worked out how to use my camera)
Anywho, maybe I’ll one day work out how to make stills from DVDs without a big fuss, but it is among my plans to post about the concerts.
It’s also nice, as my Morning Musume CD collection is now only missing 3 of the 9 original albums (and I even have the 7.5 mini in the post already). I’m also quite pleased I’ve got my hands on some Ayaya and Gomaki albums – as they’re 2 of my favourite former H!P vocalists.
And as I’m, well, I wouldn’t go as far as a nice person, but more an encouraging fan, here’s the wonderful shop that’s supplied me with a lot of this H!P stuff. How long before I have to delete my e-bay account to stop myself from buying stuff?
Melon Kinenbi have announced on their blog that they will have 5 rock collaboration singles, released consecutively from the 24th of June. Their first single will feature the BEAT CRUSADERS. However, I understand that release will be limited to certain outlets (Tower Records if I’m not mistaken).
I never really discussed much about how I felt about the Elder Club Graduating back in April from the Hello! Project – at the time when it was originally announced, I was deeply upset, but, I also understood that although a lot of my favourite acts would no longer share the same stage, it would give many of the girls a chance to break away from the constrictive Hello! Project image.
We all knew that Morning Musume OG weren’t going to suffer to badly from the EC graduation, but two acts I really hoped wouldn’t disappear into oblivion and would hopefully become more successful were Aya Matsuura, who’s popularity is waining despite having what was the best vocals in the Hello! Project and Melon Kinenbi, another set of excellent vocalists, but like so many other talents in the Hello! Project, became more notable for becoming back up dancers.
Despite this, I think Melons are some of the best performers Hello! Project had, in context of energy, getting the crowd going. In fact it was really the live DVDs released this winter of the Elder Club and Graduation concerts which made me realise what big talents Ayaya and Melons are, and how sorely they’ll be missed by their Hello! Project fans.
And to justify my choice of Ayaya as best Hello! Project vocalist, listen to this mic recording of “Chocolate Damashi” – when you think of the mic hacks people get of Koharu, Saiyumi and even sometimes Reina and Ai, it puts the current Morning Musume line up to shame – albeit she was only singing three consecutive songs and Chocolate Damashi didn’t really have an energetic routine.
I just happened to browse the iTunes UK store and notice that a lot of stuff has been removed – namely all releases prior to February 2009, which is more or less everything not in HQ and without DRM.
Not to worry though, as one exception to this is Aya Matsuura’s discography, which seems to slowly be being put back onto iTunes in HQ and without DRM (unlike before). Hopefully the rest of the tracks are going through the same process and put back in the store. Hopefully we’ll be able to see what’s exactly happening next week when C-ute’s new single is released (which will hopefully go straight into iTunes like Mari’s did).
At the moment however, Berryz Kobo, Mano Erina and Mari Yaguchi have one single available each and Morning Musume’s “Platinum 9 Disc” and Kirarin Revolution best compilation is all that’s available.
As Hello! Project seem to be sinking into a deep abyss, how does this years “Petit Best” selection sum up their year musically. From Morning Musume to Melon Kinenbi to MilkyWay the best of H!P is pushed onto this CD.
1. Resonant Blue (Morning Musume)
2. Genghis Khan (Berryz Koubou)
3. Edo No Temari II (℃-ute)
4. 16 Sai no Koi Nante (Natsumi Abe and Mami Yajima（℃-ute）)
5. Kizuna (Aya Matsuura)
6. Nannimo Iwazuni I LOVE YOU (V-U-DEN)
7. Charisma Kiirei (Melon Kinenbi)
8. Papancake (Tsukishima Karin starring Koharu Kusumi (Morning Musume))
9. Anataboshi (MilkyWay)
10. Seihun! Love Lunch (Atena & Robikerotsu)
11. Come Together (Ongaku Gatas)
12. C\C (Cinderela Complex) (High King)
13. Renai Rider (Buono!)
14. Koerou! Rakuten Eagles ( ℃-ute)
15. ＬＡＬＡＬＡ Shiawase no Uta (Wonderful Hearts)
16. Oki Tegami (Miki Fujimoto)
17. Hana Ichimonme (Aya Matsuura)