Links: The audition announcement (in Japanese)
             The same announcement, but in English and on a different website

Morning Musume ’16 will soon be holding auditions for the 13th generation of members, and this is exciting! I love hearing about new Momusu auditions and I always look forward to seeing the new arrivals and judging them on a first look alone. Usually, an announcement of this kind is met with much the same kind of reaction from the wotadom at large, but not this time, it would appear. Why?

Well, because the fans feel that the management are looking to REPLACE Queen Riho Stormborn, First of Her Name, with a younger girl, or maybe MANY younger girls! And they may be – gasp – PRETTIER than our beloved RihoRiho! And – whisper it – they may have a better singing voice than her. They may even be a better ACE than Riho.

Oh, the HUMANITY! How utterly BARBARIC! The very IDEA that Up-Front would even THINK of replacing a former member of Morning Musume with a complete unknown, some simple little girl with dreams of becoming an idol or starting a career in the entertainment industry!

Gotomaki13saipng

Oh, hang on a minute, that’s happened before! Fukuda Asuka, 1st gen member of Morning Musume waaaaaay back in the day, graduated suddenly from the group halfway through 1999, and was REPLACED months later with this upstart, Goto Maki. Huh; that sounds familiar…

And what’s this…?

695f1bd2f61f908c2610d4b46735f851

Why, that’s former ace and notorious chipmunk Kusumi Koharu! She was chosen in 2005 to replace Iida Kaori, who had graduated from the group at the start of that year, but also to replace Yaguchi Mari, who had resigned following a scandal. You’ll note the choice of verb I used twice in that last sentence: REPLACE. Because, when we get right down to it, that’s the whole point of these auditions: replacing former members with new ones in order to keep the group going.

I don’t want to push the point further, but I will, just in case there are wota reading this who are slow of brain. Here are two more pictures:

Sakura11thgen

This girl REPLACED both a God-tier member of the group, and an underrated and underused one, AND SHE’S SINCE SURPASSED THEM BOTH!! Where was the outrage for them both?! #justiceforGaki #justiceforAika

And finally:

12thgengroup

Management needed not one, not two, but FOUR GIRLS to replace Michishige Sayumi. And listen to how much better at singing they are than she ever was! I’d comment on how prettier than her they are but come on, that’s not true. (Sorry, 12th gen.)

Honestly, I could post a picture of every single girl who won their respective auditions and joined Morning Musume and make a point of saying how they replaced a graduating member, but what would be the point? Until today, I thought that we all knew that Morning Musume’s ‘gimmick’ is adding new generations of members in order to keep the group alive and relevant.

I just don’t see what the huge backlash is about. Yes, I’m sure it’s very sad that Riho has graduated. If you remember older posts on this blog, you’ll know that I have never been Sayashi’s biggest fan. I was well on the way to be her biggest anti, if I’m being brutally honest. I was so happy when she said she would be leaving. My only complaint is why management waited so long to announce the audition.

Riho wota: I get that you’re upset, I do. We all know what it’s like when your oshi announces graduation and all you wanted was for them to remain in the group forever and ever (cough Tamura Meimi cough). Looking at it from your perspective, I guess I can see why it would seem insensitive for UFP to announce the prospect of new members when Riho has only just gone. But for God’s sake, guys, don’t you think you’re being a wee bit over-dramatic here?

Of bloody course they’re replacing Riho! THAT’S ALWAYS BEEN THE CASE WITH MORNING MUSUME GOD ALMIGHTY. But it’s not the end of the world! Management can’t very well NOT add new members. There was a period, several years ago, when there were no graduations in the group for two years. That also coincided with a sharp decline in Morning Musume’s popularity, which has only just started to recover in the last two or three years. If you’re so offended by this decision to keep Morning Musume relevant, then they’re probably not the idol group for you, and you’ll probably be far more interested in a group whose line-up has never ever changed ever.

On a related note, I saw a comment somewhere on the Internet about UFP wanting to add ‘too many girls’ and turning MM into AKB48. I’m not sorry to say that I laughed at this. Really? REALLY?!

  1. Up-Front have only announced an audition for the 13th gen. That’s all.
  2. They have NOT announced the mass addition of 20+ girls all at the same time, which is what AKB48 do a couple of times a year.
  3. Every time UFP have added a new generation to Morning Musume, they have only added between 1-4 girls at a time. Oh no, that will surely turn Momusu into AKB this time!! The lineup will go from 12 to 16 MAXIMUM!
  4. There are around 130 girls in AKB48 alone, and about 500 spread throughout all of the sister groups, both national and international, as well as the rival ’46 groups.
  5. I repeat: a maximum of 16 girls in Morning Musume with the addition of up to 4 girls who’ll make up 13ki. A maximum of 130 girls in just ONE ’48 group.

This statement is so ridiculous that I’m not going to argue it further. For Christ’s sake.

What a weird reaction to a piece of non-news. Good luck to the girls who are auditioning, at any rate! I can’t wait to see the new arrivals!

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The post on J-Pop Idols is here! 🙂

This morning, I was scrolling through my Facebook when I saw a notification by J-Pop Idols about a brand new idol group, called 5572320.

“Silly admin,” I thought. “Putting his phone number on Facebook. Anyone could ring him.”

“But wait!” I peered closer at my phone (I don’t wear glasses in bed. What d’you take me for: some kind of nerd?! Pssssssshhh). “That really is the name of the idol group! And they have a long and complicated single name to boot! SKIP.”

I didn’t skip it, though. I wanted to know more.

“Mysterious idol group,” the post began.

There was a picture of the girls. This picture, in fact:

https://i1.wp.com/www.5572320.jp/img/03member/member.jpg

My, what… unique facial features they possess. (It’s rude to stare, it’s rude to stare, it’s rude to stare…)

Well, now, I just had to watch this music video.

The post on these girls said that they had ‘high performance skills’ for junior high students (I’m not sure what the age range would be. Between 10 and 15? Junior high school isn’t really a thing in the UK anymore), and that they played ‘massive heavy music.’ Oh, and their identities are being kept a secret because they want to keep their idol careers and education separate.

In short: the first episode of Hannah Montana crossed with (I was assuming) Babymetal’s sound? Clearly, a match made in heaven. Those Japanese and their innovative ideas! You wouldn’t see Disney Channel doing anything this risky, would you? No. No you wouldn’t.

So: the MV! Their debut single is called Hanseiki Yuutousei and it means ‘Half Century Honours Student’. The video on YouTube is the short version, which a) obviously means the single is a longer than three minutes and b) we might see a full length version? Pretty please? 🙂

A-HA! She doesn't have her sticker face! I'M ONTO YOU, NAMELESS IDOL WHOM I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT!!!!!1

A-HA! She doesn’t have her sticker face! I’M ONTO YOU, NAMELESS IDOL WHOM I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT!!!!!1

Here is… let’s call her Julie. Julie is sad because it must be quite stressful, being a smart student on the Honour Roll (yeah, I know you’d spell it without the U. I’m British; it’s staying where it is). She stands there, slowly opening her locker, contemplating about maybe not going to her lessons. But she’ll attend. She is powerless not to.

Ho-HO! I SEE YOUR NOSE! I CAN DEFINITELY IDENTIFY SOMEONE JUST BY LOOKING AT THEIR NOSE! YOUR SECRETS ARE MINE, MYSTERIOUS IDOL GROUP!!!

Ho-HO! I SEE YOUR NOSE! I CAN DEFINITELY IDENTIFY SOMEONE JUST BY LOOKING AT THEIR NOSE! YOUR SECRETS ARE MINE, MYSTERIOUS IDOL GROUP!!!

On the other side of the wall – or locker partition, whatever – is another Honours Student, Jemima. She does not know the concept of sleep. She stays awake twenty four hours a day, year round, to do all of her homework, and then her neighbours’. She shuffles in, eyes downcast, and almost walks into countless students.

“Watch where you’re going, nerd!” they yell. She doesn’t hear them. Only schoolwork can penetrate her consciousness now.

5572320 invisible girl“Oh no. I dropped my…” She kneels on the floor and curls up in the foetal position. It is all too much for her. Everyone steps over her; this is just how all Honour Students act. They thank God that their minds are stupid. To be so clever, so intelligent… it would be too much for their little brains to cope with.

*David Attenborough voice* And here, we see the Emo in a strange, foreign environment: SCHOOL.

*David Attenborough voice* And here, we see the Emo in a strange, foreign environment: SCHOOL.

“Hey, you know Doris? I heard she’s too poor to get her fringe cut! Hahaha! What a loser!” The boy doesn’t trouble to keep his voice down. His companion giggles. Doris is sat behind them, but her expression remains blank. She cares not for the inane witterings of her ‘peers’. They don’t talk about the important stuff anyway: like Pythagoras, and Chaucer, and whatever the hell you learn in an advanced Science class. How to make illegal drugs, or something? Yeah, that sounds about right.*

*Disclaimer: I never listened in Science. I have no idea what I’m actually saying.

5572320 reading

Those two are clearly flirting. Look at them, the young lovers. :3

Doris is reading Beowulf in the original West Saxon. She is so adept at reading, that she doesn’t need the actual book on her person. She focuses, just a little, and the words appear on her hands.

I could have made a reference to bulimia here. I don't make it a point to joke about eating disorders (at least, I don't think I've done anything like that on this blog).

I could have made a reference to bulimia here. I don’t make it a point to joke about eating disorders (at least, I don’t think I’ve done anything like that on this blog).

Here is Beryl, auditioning for the role of Ana Steele in the school’s adaptation of 50 Shades of Gray.

5572320 depressed girkLike Julie before her, Clarissa must heed the call of the Honour Roll. To do so would bring shame to her entire lineage. She wishes she could be as sweetly stupid as the classmates around her.

Who knows where the fuck she's sitting. I like to think on a window ledge, with her shoes off. Just in case, you know?

Who knows where the fuck she’s sitting. I like to think on a window ledge, with her shoes off. Just in case, you know?

It’s break time, and Georgette retreats from the hubbub of those lesser beings around her. She sits and contemplates many things; things that would be too overwhelming for simple, human minds. One could guess for hours as to the workings of her intelligence – indeed, at the intelligence of all eight of the Honours Students here. Who are they, really? Why do they refuse to interact with anyone else? Why do they act all superior? ‘Cause that’s an irritating attitude to have, you know? Do they all think themselves better than everyone at school?

5572320 does anyone actually read these captions, i wonderFinally, this is Kaylee. She just needs a piss REALLY bad.

if you can read these, i want you to put the word 'sultana' in your comment, pleaseThe bell rings; the end of a recess and the resuming of learning. “Thank fuck for that,” our eight Honour Students think, as one.

i'll be pleasantly surprised if anyone actually does this haha

Ah, wasn’t that a lovely introduction? Wasn’t the soothing piano just wonderful? Well, it’s gone now. Say hello to terrifying, discordant music that will TEAR YOUR SOUL APART. Or maybe just annoy your housemates (hey, that gives me an idea…).

Christ, even the school and its surroundings look depressing.

Christ, even the school and its surroundings look depressing.

They appear to be setting up band practice near a deflated bouncy castle.

i don't think i've seen so many amps since back to the futureThat bunny was so impressed with the drummer’s abilities that it died on the spot. Rip in peace.

WUUHHHTTT TWO DRUMMERS BUT THAT'S INSANE!!! and also maybe illegal idkWait, no, I’ve got it: It was so excited about the fierce competition over who the better drummer is, that it died. Goodnight, sweet prince.

is the brown thing in the background an inflatable loaf of breadRidiculously photogenic kneecaps.

these are middle schoolers. MIDDLE SCHOOLERSaNOTHER FOUR GUITARISTS?!!!! What iS THIS stranGE GrouP that I have STUMbled UpON

THREE DRUMMERS WHAT IS THIS LUNACYWait… THREE DRUMMERS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? You can’t have that many drummers in a band, surely. It’s illegal or something, isn’t it? This is the first band I have listened to that incorporates more than it’s fair share of instruments. Like, you’ll have noticed (it’s OK if you haven’t, though) that there is not a bassist in sight. But there’s a bass track. So either one of these girls (or more than one) can also play the bass, and I wouldn’t put it past them since they seem incredibly talented, or they got a session musician in. Both seem likely.

yay numbers practise! i like how numbers look in kanji heaarrrttMost of the song is comprised of the girls chanting the name of the group. Obviously, those up there are the numbers, written in Chinese characters. Just in case you haven’t seen the video yet, you pronounce the name as ‘Go Go Nana Ni San Ni Rei’.

reminder that if you can read this, put the word sultana into your comment smiley facethat applies to you as well, ray, the word sultana in your comment pleasesultana sultana sultanaI do like this idea of masking their identities. It’s a talking point. I mean, I’m assuming that regular promotion of this single will be out of the question, if the girls are keen on not being known, so they’re reliant on word of mouth and social media. The former has definitely worked with me, as evidenced by this entry and the need to tell my friends. 🙂

AN EYE! I SEE AN EYE!!!!!

AN EYE! I SEE AN EYE!!!!!

I CAN SEE YOUR FACE!!! TELL ME YOUR SECRETS! IT’S ALL OVER NOW!!! I IDENTIFY YOU AS….. No one I know. Damnit.

fiveWallpaper alert! One for each girl! (Hey, you may have favourites already.)

twoThis one’s my favourite. Good old… er…. whatever I called you. Oooh, maybe they’ll come up with their own fake names, like ClariS?

leave the word sultana in the comments. i dare youAh, so that’s where Georgette was sitting this whole time! One mystery solved, gang!

this song is growing on me slowly but surelyAwwww! I know she’s going for aggressive and angry, but she looks so cute! I just wanna give her a hug and trim that fringe into shape.

nice shot is niceAnd the song ends rather abruptly.

one last reminder to put the word sultana in your comment if you can read this!I really like this MV. It’s intriguing and has definitely got people talking. And as I said earlier, word of mouth is most likely imperative for this group and their management, if they’re looking to become well known.

It’s weird, too, blogging about a group I know nothing about. I’m used to seeing basic information on quite a superficial level: names, ages, favourite colour, etc. That said, I really respect these girls’ desires to keep their idol careers away from their studies. I do love a bit of mystery as well!

Their website is here: http://www.5572320.jp/en/ and as you can see from that link, you can access it in English! Yay! Thank you, management!

I’m not sure what else to say. They’re debuting through Sony Music, and Hanseiki Yuutousei will be released on March 25th in 40 countries. So the chances are pretty good that you’ll be able to download this song in over a week’s time!

I must say, actually: I wasn’t keen on this song when I listened to it for the first time this morning. It’s weird. I don’t like ‘unnatural sounding’ music. Nine Inch Nails was as far as I got listening to this kind of music (it sounds quite similar, I think). It is growing on me, however. I think I definitely will be downloading this, as I love the girls and the concept and I want to see more.

I find their prowess at their instruments amazing. There’s a tiny, cynical part of me that thought, ‘Oh, they’re miming’, but I don’t think so. It’s not a stretch to trust that, in a country with a population of roughly 125 million, a talent agency could find eight girls in the same prefecture – maybe even in the same city – that had been learning the guitar or drums from an early age.

It’s different. I like it. 🙂

Even if you didn’t like this song, I want to encourage you to tell people you think might like it. I really want these girls to succeed. The more we talk about them, the better the chart debut. I can’t wait to hear their next single already!

Credit to blog-project.net for being super cool! Here’s the blog post in full.

Bye bye, Berryz.

I can’t say I’ll miss seeing their miserable faces worsening a PV, but I can say that I have a lot of respect for them lasting as long as they did. And so does Tsunku! (I’m just jumping right into this tonight!)

11 years of activities, is that long or short・・・
That thought occurred to me while watching the performance today.

I bet he likens himself to a modern day Aristotle. Or was it Sophocles? Did Aristotle write plays? Let me start that analogy again

I bet he likens himself to that Thinking Man sculpture I saw in the Louvre the one and only time I went there. (Don’t go, it’s not really that good. Also the Mona Lisa is literally the size of a postage stamp.)

I think that there are a lot of things that these girls still ought to have done。

Too late now!

But、 there are still songs I want them to sing

Like the now aborted, future anniversary single: “We’ve been Idols for FIFTEEN YEARS and We Want to Kill Each Other!” Released as a quintuple A side with a bunch of songs that really should have been B Sides for [insert the most popular H!P act for 2020 here].

Amongst the groups I’ve produced
These girls gave me the most varied challenges。

Like trying to get them to be nice to each other, I don’t doubt.

That thought comes from their staggering variety of songs。

Apart from the few towards the end that all sounded similar, yeah?

Based on the number of their singles, they’ve definitely got a lot more compared to Sharan Q。

Sharan Q only had like 10 singles though, didn’t they? At this point, I think even J=J have more than Sharan Q.

Growing together with the songs from when they were children until they’ve grown to this extent
They have an unprecedented amount of experience、 that’s the type of group they are。

I can’t fault this. Seriously, mad respect, yo.

At any rate、 although there was a member who retired
As idols、 I don’t think that there are any who have stayed as one group for so long。

coughcough MELON KINENBI coughcough

… Well, yeah, they may not have been around for as long, but the lineup stayed the same throughout their career. Soooooo….

I really think that Berryz Kobo didn’t attain 100 points until the end。

Pffffffft. Good old Tsunku, with his backhanded compliments.”Yeah, you were never perfect until your final concert, eleven years after you were formed.”

Making fools of themselves。

:O That is NO way to talk about your girls! SO rude.

So now, onto his words of wisdom about the members. What flashes of inspiration will he impart on us mere mortals? Maybe we can glean a tiny kernel of truth from somewhere….

I guess Sugaya’s the one who grew to become the sexiest among the members。

……

………..

……..

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA WHAT???

Like seriously.

THIS GIRL

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/helloproject/images/b/bf/MottoSugaya.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130911165837

THIS GIRL RIGHT UP THERE

THE ONLY GIRL I KNOW TO LOOK ABOUT SEVENTY YEARS OLDER THAN HER ACTUAL AGE

IS SEXIER

THAN THIS GIRL

IdolsakiIdolsaki

You are having an actual giggle, aren’t you? You feckin’ troll, you.

Good Lord.

but her singing really packed a punch。

I’d actually as far as to say that Risako’s singing winded me. It really did.

I feel that Kumai carries herself。

As opposed to letting Momoko carry herself, I expect.

She grew steadily in stature

pfffffffttttt

but it was like she had a core that remained unchanged regardless of what the producer said。 In that way, there were times that it could move the producer to tears

YURINA IS MY FAVOURITE I LOVE YOU ❤

Natsuyaki: She had her own aesthetic since she was small、 and in that way I think that she was a girl who had the power to produce herself。

I’m not quite sure what this means? Does he mean that she’s independent or something along those lines?

Her singing got steadily better throughout。 Her singing got better、

You’ve literally just said that.

And now we come to Maasa….

You might say she plays the role of a natural airhead

No, I wouldn’t.

but that isn’t artfulness

Are you saying that you think Maasa is stupid? Because I think she looks perfectly intelligent to me.

I think she possesses a simple and honest heart

Sudou Maasa = Forrest Gump, then?

I thought about giving her a lecture and telling her 「Slim down and become pretty!」

Wait, what was that, Tsunky boy?

I thought about giving her a lecture and telling her 「Slim down and become pretty!」

「Slim down and become pretty!」

「Slim down and become pretty!」

Right.

That’s what I hoped you HADN’T said.

I know Japan has this intolerance of the weight of some people but Christ, Maasa isn’t fat AT ALL.

Disregard the horrific outfit for a moment and tell me if she looks fat in this picture from October 2013:

MottoSudouMottoSudou

Because I don’t think she does.

Here’s a more recent one from November 2014:

BLkTKaJ9issSqkGcRYVYKvycFVvcHj6uQadBv4PiBLkTKaJ9issSqkGcRYVYKvycFVvcHj6uQadBv4Pi

I think that this costume actually gives the illusion of fatness, but she still looks about the same weight. Which is, NOT FAT IN THE SLIGHTEST.

God, Tsunku definitely needs his eyes testing. Or does he wear glasses that have carnival mirrors for lenses? Maybe that’s why he thinks Risako is the sexiest member, and that Maasa is fat.

Anyway.

I thought about giving her a lecture and telling her 「Slim down and become pretty!」 as we headed towards today’s performance、 but since Sudou was around、 it was cool。

Yeah, better not tell her that, mate! She might sit on you and suffocate you to death with all THOSE ROLLS OF FAT SHE’S GOT HOLY HELL SHE’S SO OBESE SHE’S LIKE VIOLET BEAUREGARDE

Tokunaga: There are great efforts behind that smile。 That’s what I think。

The effort of being ignored in favour of the more ‘sexier’ members of the group, whose singing ‘really packs a punch’.

in response to the question 「What did you dislike the most!?」, I think it’s amazing how 「Since I didn’t get the centre position」 suddenly came out。

Amazing as in, “Oh shit! I should have given her centre in one of the singles! God, what a waste! That’s my biggest regret since getting these house of mirrors glasses!” Or amazing as in, “Wow! I can’t believe she said that in front of me! How dare she disrespect me, a senior figure! How rude! I’m glad they’re splitting up going on indefinite hiatus now, the little cow!”

I hope it’s the first option.

Tsugunaga: Just before today’s performance、 even though almost all the members were teary-eyed、This girl was steadily improving herself。

Was she? Was she REALLY? Because it sounds to me as though she has no soul, no concept of emotion and, rather like a robot/Dalek/Kyuubey, she was merely observing those around her and wondering why they were leaking. Did you hear me, Tsunku? MOMOKO IS NOT HUMAN AND YOU ARE LETTING HER CARRY ON IN A GROUP FULL OF POOR, DEFENCELESS, INNOCENT LITTLE FLOWERS THAT HAVE NO IDEA OF WHAT SHE’S REALLY LIKE. God forbid Momoko and Maachan are ever in the same room at the same time.

She was a professional until the very final end、

The absolutely terminal finishing point!

and I think the proof of that is that she was 「Momochi」。

Of course you’d like Momochi. Of course.

Talking like a pro, she got laughs right on the mark。

I’m imagining her doing a really cheesy stand up routine that you’d only ever hear on a package holiday in Crete. (This might be an unfamiliar concept to international readers? It’s basically where you book a holiday with a flight company at a nice, family hotel on the coast, and there’s loads of activities and tours to capital cities, and themed evenings where you can sing karaoke, or play bingo etc. It’s more for families than anyone else.)

Shimizu: She’s the oldest、 but what I thought seeing her today、 she’s the purest、

Yeah. Aside from Yurina, she’s the one who remembered to at least pretend to give a crap during the last few PVs.

I think she’s the member who most retained the image of Berryz Kobo’s early days。

See above. Also, really? REALLY?

[ufahpwh060711sakic01gq4.jpg]

B56867d56ead2bcd78e03eef9b410c17d250ae45

That’s a pretty big change, appearance wise.

Throughout、 there were times when the position of Captain must have weighed on her、 but I think that’s how we’ve got the Shimizu of today。

Yeah, I’d say so. She comes off as really poised and confident, and I’m confident too that she’ll be a great mentor to future H!P idols. I LOVE YOU SAKI YOU’RE MY FAVOURITE EVER PS don’t tell Yurina I said that xxxxxxx

PS、 that said、 you truly did a good job。

Yes, yes, after all the shit I’ve just said about some of the members, you were all great two thumbs up!!!!

Sugaya’s rhythm veered from the piano accompaniment、

But I thought you implied she was the most perfect singer since Koharu?????? How could our Goddess Queen EVER fuck up her wondrous singing that’s akin to the feeling you get when you leave your hand on the hot radiator for a second to long????? DOES NOT COMPUTE TSUNKU TRY AGAIN

It was like an influential singer of new music was singing。

I just Googled ‘influential singer’ to try and find someone (preferably bad) to compare Risako to, mainly to carry on the gag, and the first result, in the little box at the top of the results, was Bobby Womack. So… make your own judgments there, I guess? Also, the first image result is a picture of Eminem, so….

Here’s a picture of the girls, and Miyabi isn’t even bothering to disguise the relief on her face:

t02200165_0800060013234431834[1]

Chinami, BLESS YOUR HEART ❤ Or is she smiling because she knows that in a few hours it’ll all be over and she’ll finally be free of the other members? And check out MISS FATTY HERSELF, TAKING UP PRACTICALLY THE ENTIRE SHOT WITH HER CHUBBINESS OHMYGOD THAT IS SO GROSS LOSE WEIGHT AND BECOME PRETTY YOU ELEPHANT

Your second lives begin tomorrow。

What’s that film where he says, “This is the first day of the rest of my life?” Is it Clerks? Whatever it is, I’m getting a real vibe from that.

From now on, it’ll be your own life,

Uh… yeah? Oh wait, you mean that they’ll be free to do what they want, without the Mouse UFP breathing down their necks? So Momoko is free to become an AV actress?

I’ll watch over you with anticipation!

I have this image of Tsunku in a black cape, looking out of his tall, black tower reaching high into black clouds, looking down on the girls, skipping through emerald green fields, and wearing dazzling white dresses, beaming and flipping each other off. And all the while, Tsunku is grinning, and cackling evilly.

Well, there we go. Berryz Koubou are no more. I’m looking forward to seeing what Hello! Project continue to do! (I’m saying this because I’ve been really lax in following them, and idols in general.) I really hope they get rid of that cool image and go back to the days where all the groups sounded marginally different.

Well, hello there. I bet you’re wondering why the red suit whoops, wrong fandom. Anyway, it’s been a while! Possibly since September? Or maybe earlier than that. You wouldn’t think it from the name of my degree, but you actually get a shit ton of work and assignments for Creative Writing; well, at least you do at my uni. I finish term on the 11th and then I have three weeks off, which is plenty of time to completely overhaul the blog and everything for the new year!

If you listen to my podcast (I won’t blame you if you don’t tbh) then you’ll know that I’m planning on reformatting my Old School Review series from last year into podcasts. About half an hour ago, I was on the HPOldSchool website – the best website EVER if you love early Hello! Project – looking for some T&C lyrics and I noticed a link to my review of 2nd Stage! I was really taken aback and I’m still smiling about it. (If you’re reading this, owner of this fine website, thank you! You’ve made me really happy. Also do you have a Twitter account so I can follow you and we can chat or something? haha) I also decided this: why should my reviews be rebooted and podcast-only? Why not reboot the ENTIRE series? Make it better overall? (Formatting wise, it was a bit all over the place, let’s be honest.)

So yeah. There’s the announcement. Starting SOONISH (maybe before the New Year because I can’t wait any longer) I will be restarting the OSR series! Now with 100% more B-sides, and 100% MOAR MVs with 5,000,000,000 times the shitty quality!!!!!! I will still be doing the special OSR podcast episodes, where I will talk all about the single and it’s B-side, and perhaps the cover and stuff like that. On the blog side of things, I’ll make a companion post where I review the MV, and put up pictures of the covers and stuff (properly credited, of course). So there you go. If you have never EVER listened to early H!P before IN YOUR LIFE, then this is the series for you. If you know someone in that position, let them know that a British girl is doing this podcast/blog series and really sell them on how good it will be (it might not be, but don’t tell them that part). If you just want a nostalgia trip and/or another review of old songs that you can find all over the internet already, you are also welcome here. Everyone is welcome! 🙂

Because I’m rebooting a series of posts, I thought I may as well revamp the blog layout as well. I think we’re all agreed that this current design is complete RUBBISH. It looks like it was designed by someone with no access to Photoshop, and with no Photoshop skills (ahem). The new design will look SO much better. When can you expect this….. well, whenever I finish it. I’ll let you know on Twitter, or I just won’t tell you and you’ll get a surprise.

OK cool. I need to go now because I have 300 or so words left on this 2,500 word essay. See you later 😀

You should have seen it, guys. I was loading up the H!P Wikia home page, knowing that there was some S/mileage news (thanks for informing me, Joshua (:) that could be of interest. I was taking a drink of water, and my eyes wandered over said S/mileage news without really looking at it. Then it clicked in my brain and I spat out water all over my keyboard. Classic. (Don’t worry, I think my laptop’s fine. At least, it has to be because I can’t afford a new one.)

So yeah. Not only are S/mileage getting a 3rd generation (which I think is what people were thinking anyway? It was my first thought, at least) but they’re also getting a name change! My first thought was, ‘Great, my username on the Wikia is already outdated.’

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if all of this is necessary. I like S/mileage. I don’t really like them, though, so therein lies my problem. I think it’s fair to say that they’re the least popular of all the Hello! Project groups. The second generation haven’t been as well received as the first; do you think that’s also fair to say? I, personally, love the second gen because they were already established when I got into S/mileage. I don’t really know Yuuka and… oh God I’ve forgotten her name, the other one Saki, because they’d already gone. I know that pretty much everyone loved Yuuka and seemed to revere her as some kind of Goddess. On the other hand, I love Warugaki 1 so much more than 2 Smile Sensation, because I think that’s the sound the group should have stayed with. It kind of felt like, ‘hey, look at us! Look at us being obnoxious and not like regular idols! Look how short our skirts are! Don’t tell us what to do, because we’ll stick our fingers in our ears and hum really loudly if you do!’ But then, somewhere down the line, they changed into ‘regular idols but with really short skirts! Look at us, we’re super cute!’ (I suck at describing things. And I’ve just enrolled on my Creative Writing degree. Yeah)

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I don’t think a 3rd generation will work. Their sales figures are kinda low (I don’t look at those at all, but I felt like I had to for this post) and simply adding in a few more girls might not be the solution. On the other hand…. it worked for Morning Musume. In fact, I feel like doing a list, and it’s occured to me that S/mileage share some similarities with Momusu. So I’m making a list:

Why a Complete S/mileage Overhaul Could Work (Drawing on Morning Musume’s History)

Let’s break it down:
A Third Generation
Adding some new faces could really revitalise the group and boost future single sales. Case in point: In 1999, Morning Musume’s singles were dwindling, and one member had already left. While we can probably cite Asuka’s departure for kicking off Momusu’s generation whatsit (hey, I’ve been having late nights recently. I think Fresher’s week is frying my brain cells), it was probably also a catalyst for a new image and sound. Goto Maki was the perfect addition to the group with the more poppy look and really helped the group become a household name.

Take this bit of the news, for example (I’m talking about S/mileage again, btw):

Apparently the 3rd generation was recommended by the remaining 1st generation members, to relieve worries that the group as a whole might disband whenever the remaining original members graduate.

I hadn’t considered this at all until Chiima of Okay! Musume Time! brought up the possibility of a 1st gen graduation. Now that I think about it, both Kanyon and Dawa are a bit old for S/mileage. I’ve always pictured the group as Hello! Project’s own Sakura Gakuin (an idol group comprised of members in middle school, who graduate the group when they graduate middle school), only without the ever changing line up. The future 3rd generation could comprise of girls (or even the one girl, though I think 2+ at the least would be ideal) under… say, 15, with the squeaky chipmunk voices suited to S/mileage’s sound. This new, young S/mileage could potentially evolve into a younger version of Morning Musume, with generations and an evolving lineup as old members leave (the cutoff, I think, should be 18-19, 20 at the most) and new ones take their place. After all, UFP don’t have (to my knowledge) a rule saying that only one idol group at a time can have a revolving line up.

I really like this idea a lot. The only drawback is this whole name change. The current name would definitely work with the idea above, which brings me to my next point:

A New Name
Given the direction S/mileage’s songs are taking, it’s not surprising that they’d want a more mature sounding name. Here’s where my aforementioned plan doesn’t sound quite as good, because I think the most likely course of events for S/mileage is continuing with their mature sound, with a ‘cute’ song as a B-side on singles. Again, the name change happened with Morning Musume, though I can’t say it’s affected their popularity much. It was already growing before Tsunku had that particular brain fart. However, that’s not to say it could make S/mileage popular, as I’ve already said.

I don’t like a mature S/mileage. Regular and long time readers (I think I only have like 3 of those hahaha) will know how uncomfortable I was with THAT video (new readers, click that link and see for yourselves). Like most H!P fans, I’m getting a little tired of this mature look and sound that pervails in all of the groups. I’d love a return to the old S/mileage, that didn’t seem to care, that looked like they had fun all the time and didn’t concern themselves with trivial matters like popularity. Is it too much to ask for an enthusiastically cute group, UFP? (Yes. Yes it is. I’m looking at you, person who DENIED US COUNTRY MUSUME ’14 HOW CAN YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT WITH THAT ON YOUR CONSCIENCE)

I’m going to move on to something a bit more lighter. Again, similar to Morning Musume before them, fans can have a chance to CHOOSE a new name for S/mileage! It’s like when you could fill out that questionnaire for the song that would become ‘What Is Love?’! I can’t find anything that says you can submit a potential name, which is all for the good, because that really would encourage trolls to submit things like Bukkake or whatever (UGH WHY THE HELL WAS THAT THE FIRST THING THAT CAME INTO MY HEAD – OH CHRIST PUN NOT INTENDED THERE ARGH THIS MAKES ME FEEL SICK SHUT UP) and if enough trolls and people who enjoy a joke like this vote for it, that could be S/mileage’s new name and that’s just wrong, guys. Let the management choose the name. (Though I bet in keeping with this ridiculous mature sound they love so much, they’ll probably decide on something like ‘Frownage’. But in that instance, Rinapuu could be the brand new centre so it all works out! I love a happy resolution.)

Anyway, this could go either way in sealing S/mileage’s fate. We see this all the time with entertainers (not naming any names, but you’ll probably know who I have in mind for this next bit, no doubt, because I’m obsessed with her). There’s nothing wrong with an image change if they feel that their current one is stale, or if they’ve outgrown it or whatever. However, they’re always going to alienate existing fans, and it’s a 50/50 split between drawing in new fans, or failing to. S/mileage could easily see a huge boost in popularity thanks to a name change and some fresh faces, but it could also signal the beginning of the end. Or it won’t affect them at all and they’ll carry on exactly the way they are, with OK songs and low sales, but with a new name and girl(s). So, yeah. We shall all see how it works out for them.

God. What is wrong with the music industry today?

In the last month, I’ve read about the deaths of three singers, all with promising careers ahead of them. Two were members of Ladies Code: RiSe and EunB. The whole group was caught up in a horrific car crash that really knocked me for six. At the time, I didn’t comment, upset as I was, because Ladies Code are a Korean group and I don’t listen to K-Pop. The other death was not idol-related, but still devastating all the same: Simone Battle, a member of the up and coming GRL, found hanged days after the release of their debut single. Their respective ages were 21; 23 and 25.

And now, a fourth death: that of Steamgirls’ member Tsukimiya Karen, aged only 17.

I just… don’t know how to react. To reiterate: that’s four deaths. Announced within the space of a couple of weeks. All involving girls 25 and under.

It’s just horrible.

Karen’s death was relayed to her agency by her father yesterday (8th Sep), who revealed that she had actually passed away in early July. This alone raises a lot of questions. Prior to her death, she had been taking a hiatus from Steamgirls to treat depression and anxiety. Here’s a forum post on Nihongogo discussing this.

Although I mentioned RiSe and EunB, the focus of this post will be on Tsukimiya Karen and Simone Battle, as it’s the topic of the music industry and it’s effect on young girls that I want to question.

I’ve often heard it said that the music industry is toxic, especially to young girls. Perhaps you have, too. In today’s world, this is especially true, I think. There is so much pressure on young girls to display an overtly-sexual image, because sex sells a product. Look at Miley Cyrus as probably the most well known example in modern times. Her recent album, Bangerz, has outsold her previous ones, when she was still signed to the Disney label, Hollywood Records. Her marketing is controversial; many former fans were and are aghast at the image of Miley twerking an almost bare bum in front of thousands of very young fans, who have been following her for nearly ten years, when she starred in Hannah Montana. Controversy means that people talk about it, which means more units sold.

The above paragraph is, by no means, the only damaging facet of an industry. In comparison to some of Miley’s, the video for GRL’s debut single, Ugly Heart, is incredibly tame in comparison.

In regards to Simone and Karen-chan, there could be a far simpler reason. You may have already recognised Simone as a finalist on the US X Factor. I abhor this show, in whatever incarnation. I take a horrible pleasure in watching deluded ‘singers’ get brutally rejected by Simon Cowell and the other judges, because I feel that it’s a wake up call. Not everyone is cut out to be a singer. If you can’t hold a tune, forget about it. And if you do become famous, I hope you can deal with the pressures of fame: the circling paparazzi, the never-slipping, perfect mask of the role model you must wear for your fans, everyone watching your every move…. it’s no wonder so many singers (Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Kurt Cobain) turn to drugs as a means of coping. It’s no wonder so many (Demi Lovato, Sinead O’Connor, the aforementioned Kurt Cobain) have all been treated with mental illnesses.

Information about Simone’s mental state is scant, so I can only speculate. I can assume that she may have been suffering from depression, or perhaps another mental illness, that caused her to commit suicide. Again, this is just speculation, but it’s the most likely cause. As for Karen-chan, I mentioned her problems with depression and anxiety.

You may well be thinking, ‘well, why did Karen audition for an idol group if she had social anxiety?’ It’s a question raised in that message board on Nihongogo. Social anxiety is different for everyone, but here’s an example, speaking from experience:

I want to be accepted. I want to fit in. I want to be popular and have loads of friends who hang off my every word and laugh at my rubbish jokes. I often daydream about witty introductions, things I could say or do that’ll net me loads of friends. I don’t put any of those into practice, because conversely, I don’t want to be popular. I just want to blend in and be anonymous. I want to do what everyone else is doing, but I don’t at the same time. I hate anything to do with talking over the phone. Pair this with my tendencies towards reclusiveness and you might understand why I barely leave the house.

I can’t speak for Karen-chan, but if I had been her, I’d know my reasons for wanting to be an idol; I’ve listed them above. Popularity; fame; admiration and adoration… to me, to want these things feels like a craving. Perhaps Karen-chan, for whatever reason, didn’t have a lot of friends: you have around six or seven friends in an idol group, all sharing a common interest and job. When you don’t have any of those concepts, or if, at any time, you say or do something and it falls flat and your friends move on to another topic, you can feel awful, and rejected. ‘Why don’t they like me? What part of what I’ve just said did they not like? I’d better not do anything like that again, just to make sure.’

I don’t know anyone else with social anxiety, as it’s not something I just announce to people. (Actually, I’m torn between deleting all of these paragraphs pertaining to my own experiences, or leaving them and publishing them. I don’t want to feel like I’m being selfish, and using the tragic death of an idol I can really relate to in order to talk about myself.) I would assume that people with social anxiety are introverted and shy, like I am. The more ‘rejected’ I feel by my friends (which is ridiculous to feel like that, I know. They still like me for me, and one failed comment on my behalf isn’t going to change that), the quieter I get; the more I don’t make an effort to take part in conversations because I’m terrified of saying or doing the ‘wrong’ thing, and being rejected again. I couldn’t tell you how many friends I’ve lost because I simply stopped talking to them. I don’t know what they must think about me – probably that I’m a self-obsessed bitch who drops friends as soon as she makes new ones – but that above is the whole truth of it.

I now want to talk about my experiences with depression. Or rather, feelings of depression. That word gets thrown about a lot these days. People diagnose themselves over the smallest thing: ‘Oh, I only got a B on my test, I’m so depressed!’ ‘That guy I fancy didn’t even look at me today, I’m going to top myself.’ Those ignorant kinds of comments completely trivialise the mental illness of depression, and leaves real sufferers unable to be taken seriously.

(Trigger warning here for depression and suicidal thoughts, if you need one of these.)

I have never tried to diagnose myself with depression. I’ve only told a couple of people about how I’ve felt. For three years, on and off, from when I was around fifteen, I kept feeling listless. On the days when I wasn’t in school, I would lie in bed with zero motivation to do anything, because what was the point? I felt like a failure in everything I did. Nothing was giving me pleasure: reading, listening to music, watching TV, talking to friends. Everything, as the AKB girls once sang, had a dull feeling to it. I would often think about killing myself. I tried it once: I swallowed about eight paracetamol tablets and lay on the couch, waiting to die. Of course, I didn’t. That was another failure, I thought at the time. I couldn’t even overdose on paracetamol. Obviously, now I’m almost ecstatic that I’m still alive. To this day, though, not even my family know about my suicide attempt. (Don’t you feel honoured that you know? I wouldn’t, either.) My last bout of depression lasted a few hours, and was this Saturday gone (the 6th Sep).

Despite all that I’ve revealed in that last paragraph, I don’t consider myself to have depression. As pathetic as this will sound, I’m not depressed when I feel that my life’s going well. When I was fifteen-eighteen, I felt like my life was going nowhere, that I was just going through the motions of having friends, and applying for sixth form, and then college later on, because it didn’t matter; I wouldn’t amount to anything in my life. I do consider it to be a dark period in my life but to be honest, there was nothing earth-shatteringly awful that happened in that period of time for me to even be depressed over. I just woke up one morning and I wasn’t myself.

It could be that Karen-chan was feeling that she wouldn’t amount to anything in her life, despite being in a fairly popular idol group; despite having a bright future ahead of her. It’s heartbreaking that she’ll never know what she could have achieved. Suffering from both depression and social anxiety is pretty bad, but I can’t begin to imagine how they can be magnified exponentially with the help of the music industry.

Naturally, Karen-chan would have had her share of wota and antis, but it would have been the actions of the latter she would have focused on. As for Simone Battle, she could have been battling her share of demons, not necessarily those of Karen-chan’s, but perhaps similar. The media can be horrifically brutal when it comes to nitpicking at celebrities’ flaws. Perhaps it was that Simone Battle, for all of her talent, just wasn’t cut out to be a singer.

I am always reminded, with the deaths of people in the spotlight, that they’re every bit as human as you or I. The fact that I always have to be reminded, though, makes me wonder why I keep forgetting.

Tsukimiya Karen: R.I.P.

Here are some links about social anxiety and depression, courtesy of the National Health Service (NHS). It sounds clichéd, but you should never suffer in silence. If you really feel like you can’t talk to your parents/guardian/partner/friends, you can always talk to me. I may not be able to help but I can listen and be there for you, and sometimes, that’s all a person really needs. ❤

Social anxiety
Depression – this is just an overview but there are many tabs on that page to read, if you’re so inclined. Reading it again makes me even more convinced that, although I suffered a couple of symptoms, I didn’t have the full blown illness.

This is really sucky timing.

I didn’t want to do this, but I’m taking a short break* from blogging and podcasting. It is mainly because I’m starting university, but also because my boyfriend of 3+ years and I are going through a really rough patch and it’s looking more depressing by the hour. So consequently, I just don’t think future entries will have quite the same tone to them if I were to write them in the mood I’m in.

I will still be on Twitter though so you may follow me there if you aren’t doing so already: @TheCasualHPFan. When I return to this blog and podcast, Twitter will be the first place I’ll announce it.

Thank you so much in advance for understanding, and apologies for offloading my personal life on you. Have a lovely day 🙂

Ash

*NOT a hiatus, because I’m sure you know how I feel about that term.

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