Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kako to Mirai: 2009 retrospective and 2010

Oh hello, world. Well, this has been one hell of a year. I for one have been a total stress mess! I had a very rough summer, lost about 40 lbs. (~20 kg), struggled through a difficult and economically lean semester, and graduated university. Through it all I kept up with Hello! Project, but not this blog, clearly.

I thought an end-of-year post with rankings, reviews and resolutions would be a nice way to get back into things. First up, my perennial favorite.

Morning Musume

A year ago Berryz Koubou had temporarily become my main squeeze, but Morning Musume is back on top as my favorite group. This is mostly like due to my new-found love for Linlin! Her "HI, I'M LINLIN!" at the Anime Expa Q&A this summer absolutely melted my heart.

As for releases this year, Naichou Kamo was not a strong kick-off. The A-side is pretty forgettable, the PV is the worst yet, and the B-side has waaa~y to much Sayumi.

On the other hand, I couldn't have asked for much more with Platinum 9 DISC. Morning Musume's best album in years! Their next single was also a stand-out, though "3,2,1 BREAKIN' OUT" outshines "Shouganai Yume Oibito." It was great to see a Morning Musume single reach number 1 again, too.

The Platinum 9 DISCO concert DVD had performance that just blows all the others away: Linlin's solo in "Aozora ga Itsumademo Tsuzuku You na Mirai de Are!" That little girl's got a huge voice. Love her!

With all the promotion for Nanchatte Renai it was bound to do well, and it really really did. It was the best-selling single for the group in four years, and the second-best-selling one in the last five years. The A-side and PV really are standouts, maybe even the best of the 9-nin line-up. Biggest disappointment was too little Linlin in the PV!

The B-side collection wasn't something I was too interested in. The girls looked great in the booklet though! And it was nice to Kago on a cover of a Hello! Project release again :D.

I loved Kimagure Princess, but it didn't fair well being their second-worst selling single ever! The song is super cute, but the promotion was nonexistent and the PV was absolutely nothing special. I would have liked to see more Koharu in this, as it was her last single!

Speaking of Koharu, I'm really sad to see her go. I was on the anti-Koha boat in the beginning, but she really grew on me. What presence! What charisma! What energy! She was a like a Mari 2.0 for me, and she would do well to follow in Yaguchi's footsteps I think.

My first hope for the coming year is to see/hear more Linlin in singles! My second hope is for an audition! With Koharu gone it's time to find ninth gen! I'd like to see a really smart girl already graduated from high school. Tsunku can even put her in glasses since he seems to have a bit of a fetish for megadols.

Berryz Koubou

At the beginning of the year I was obsessed with Berryz, but their recent singles have left them with less luster in my eyes.

They kicked off the year pretty well. Their best-of album sold pretty well and "Otoko no Ko" was a bitchin' track. I couldn't have loved Dakishimete Dakishimete more, and I went on at length about it on this blog.

The double A-side singles are fine, I suppose. They tracks are really nice and the PVs are more okay, but there's something about the girls' image now that seems a little dull and empty. They always look too made-up or something. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but hopefully once they finish acting like an anime unit they'll bounce back.

My hope for next year: an album! 5 (FIVE) was really outstanding, and I want something just as good for this next year.


°C-ute has never been my favorite group, and they haven't grown on me any more this year. ④ Akogare My STAR was pretty good, BYE BYE BYE was terrible, Shochuu Omimai Moushiagemasu was cute and had a great PV, EVERYDAY Zekkouchou!! was fairly forgettable, and the best-of album was a huge disappointment with no new tracks! I suppose my favorite release of the year was Shochuu Omimai Moushiagemasu. It parallels my favorite °C-ute release of 2008, Edo no Temari Uta II in that it was a summertime cover song. I'm not sure what Tsunku's doing with SHOCK!'s Airi saturation. Maybe he's hoping for another FurusatoLOVE Machine situation.

Mano Erina

Manoeri's debut single held so much promise! I had a lot of hope for her career after hearing "Otome no Inori" and seeing its PV. Sadly everything sort of went downhill from there for me. The only other single she has released that I even remotely like is Kono Mune no Tokimeki wo, and if that I don't love. Her album was a bit of a snooze too. Really an all around disappointing year from her!


I'm excited about their immanent debut! The girls have such a fresh, sweet image and strong vocals. I think "aMa no jaku" is a super boring track, but "Suki-chan" is super cute with a great PV and "Asu wa Date na no ni, Ima Sugu Koe ga Kikitai" is one of my favorite releases of the year.

Year's Best/Worst

Best albums
Platinum 9 DISC, Champloo 1 ~Happy Marriage Song Cover Shuu~

Worst albums

Best singles
Berryz Koubou: Dakishimete Dakishimete
Buono!: MY BOY
°C-ute: Shochuu Omimai Moushiagemasu
Guardians 4: Omakase♪Guardian
Mano Erina: Otome no Inori
Morning Musume: Nanchatte Renai
S/mileage: Asu wa Date na no ni, Ima Sugu Koe ga Kikitai

Worst singles
Berryz Koubou: Seishun Bus Guide/Rival
Buono!: Take It Easy!
°C-ute: Bye! Bye! Bye!
Guardians 4: PARTY TIME
Mano Erina: Love&Peace=Paradise
Morning Musume: Naichau Kamo
S/mileage: aMa no Jaku

Best shuffle units
High-King, Shin Minimoni

Worst shuffle units
Petitmoni V

The year ahead

Well, I'm looking forward to this next year. I hope all the groups do well and have great releases. As for myself, Here are a couple of things I have in the works for the blog this year:

  • A collection of Morning Musume essays: Theseus' SHIP! TO THE FUTURE, Swan Songs, and Asahi Musume
  • Berries for Berryz
  • An exploration of shuffle units and subgroups

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kago Ai's 1st single "no hesitAtIon"

The PV for Kago Ai's debut solo single "no hesitAtIon" has been released. The single will be released on June 24. BUY IT!

Lord have mercy, this girl is too fabulous to exist. I just need to keep listening to and watching this a couple of times.

10 minutes later

Okay, seriously, this is good. When I first heard about this, my thought was that I would buy it no matter how bad it was, because I love Kago. When I heard the preview I thought, this might not be too bad.

But this PV has turned that all around.

I want to just sit and a room and watch and listen to this for a day. No eating, drinking, sleeping, blinking. Just Kago.

The song
I didn't know what to expect from the song itself. I've been of the opinion that while Tsuji's voice never really grew beyond her little girl "Nono" sound, Kago was really becoming quite the singer before she was fired.

This song just shows how well she can sing. The backup vocals are doing just that: backing her up. They add a little audio interest to the song without overpowering her beautiful voice during every chorus. The instrumentals are actually really nice, too. Very flowing, and with proper use of dynamics.

I won't begin to act like I can translate the lyrics, which she wrote herself, beyond the obvious "no hesitation" and some references to the sky and other simple nouns like that. It will be so nice to see what the lyrics mean.

Hearing this song makes me excited to hear the b-side!

The video
Okay, my main beef with it is "did we really need to see your panties, Kago?" But let's put that aside for now.

Is it just me or does she look somehow timeless in everything she's wearing? I feel like this video could have been release any time within the last 40 years or so and look fresh. I'm really impressed at how they managed to make her look her age. She really looks like a 21 year old woman, not a teenager trying to dress like an adult. And her hair looks terrific! If there's one thing Hello! Project stylists consistently got wrong it's Kago's hair outside of pig tails.

The camera work is so clean and bright, too. There's not a ton of bloom or lens flair, which are both very popular right now. They might have overused the unfocused lens thing a bit much, but other than that it's just perfect.

The lip syncing is a bit off and she occasionally looked at a loss for what to do with her hands. But other than that she just showed such beautiful spirit throughout the whole thing. She looks really genuinely happy in the whole thing, and when Kago's happy, I'm happy.

Also, way to be sustainable with your glass water bottle!

I might have to do a second review of this once I've heard the b-side. Also, because I love Kago two much.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mano Erina's 3rd major single "Sekai wa Summer Party"

The PV for "Sekai wa Summer Party" has been released on Dohhh UP! This single will be released on July 29 and the single V will be released on August 5.

Link to video on Dohhh UP!

Overall, this track is like a glass of iced tea that's been sitting out a little too long: sweet and refreshing, but a little too watery.

The song

I love that there are real instruments and not just synth-crap for the backing. However, this is a little boring. I had the same problem with "Hajimete no Keiken." It's a cute song, but I probably won't be listening to it much. It doesn't sound terribly summery either :( Perhaps like "Nakimushi. Yowamushi" on her last single I'll end up finding the b-side "Jasmine Tea" to be an infinitely better track.

The set

This reminds me of old school Matsuura Aya. It's just her being generally adorable with sundry little props. Overall very sweet and fun to watch. The giant globe isn't my favorite, but at least it seems to be a physical object and not a green screen composition.

The dance

Oh, like everything else it's nothing terribly special. I like seeing S/mileage again as backup dancers.

The outfits

I don't care for the outfits. The plaid one isn't particularly summery, modern, or attractive and the yellow one is sort of age inappropriate. Neither of them look much like party clothes or vacation clothes. The little school girl outfits S/mileage has going on are just kind of boring.

Overall, this release seems a bit disappointing. I hope people who do like it don't a) get sick of it or b) get tired of it by the time it's released. Why did the PV come out so dang early?

°C-ute's 9th major single "Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu"

The PV for "Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu" has been released on Dohhh UP! This single will be released on July 1 and the single V will be released on July 8.

Link to video on Dohhh UP!

Like "Edo no Temari Uta II," last year's °C-ute summer cover track, "Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu" is near perfection!

The song

As you may know, this tune is a cover of the popular Showa-period female trio Candies' 14th single. (Bonus fun fact: the first three guardians in Shugo Chara! are named after the members of Candies). The arrangement of the °C-ute version is very similar. The modern vocals are clearer, but not as rich, because that's the modern style. I can't wait to hear this live to see if the girls are doing that pretty harmonization during the chorus themselves or not. If so, kudos! The instrumentation in this new version is synth-y but dynamic. I like it a lot!

The outfits

The red and white outfits are very cute! I'm sure it's hard to find a single style that looks good on six different girls, but they did a great job. It would have been nice to have a little more variation in the outfits so that the girls are more easily distinguishable, but over all a very sweet little throwback to the original song.

The outfits from the cover are even better! The girls all look beautiful and sophisticated yet youthful and summery. They look like they are ready for a fun night out on the town. Chisato's hair looks a little funny here though. Those stylists need to find a style that actually works for her with longer hair!

The beach outfits are... not as good. I realize they were going for a everygirl look, but they all look kind of sloppy. Chisato looks straight up dumb, in fact. The only ones that I would actually say look good with this styling are Maimi and Mai, but honestly it's hard to make either of those girls look bad. Still, they looked good for running around on a beach in.

The dance

Not a lot to say about it, I don't think they changed the choreography at all. I'm still having a hard time getting used to 6nin °C-ute. I hope Kanna gets better soon :(

The set

What a cute beach house! It looks like a really nice place to go on vacation, and I think it was the perfect setting for this PV. It's just so refreshing to see a Hello! Project PV without a completely computer-generated or made-of-cardboard set. Could we maybe see some more of that in the next Berryz Koubou PV, please?

Over all I think this is shaping up to be a great release! I can't wait to hear the b-side "Zansho Omimai Moshiagemasu," as it is an interesting concept. Hopefully Tsunku wrote a really good song if he's going to give it a title that similar to a super hit like the original a-side.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Return of the beast

Hello all,

I realize I took a surprise unexplained hiatus, but since I don't want to come off as emo and whiny I'll not explain and just say, "sorry!"

I've missed several releases in the last couple of months, so here are some mini reviewlettes for you all to enjoy. Later today or tomorrow there will be full reviews for Mano Erina and °C-ute's new singles, which have summer themes: my favorite!

MY BOY - Buono!
Wow, Buono!, What a great track! The guitars are really hot, and their voices sound so rich and mature. I love Momo's "it's so nice" line. What an understatement, darling! That girl sounds better and better with every release she's on. I love the cake thief thing in the PV, too. It's such a huge step up from "Lotta Love Lotta Love." I can't say that I love the "Warp!" but none of Buono's b-sides have been anything special, except possibly "Lady Panther." Gao, indeed.

Sadistic Dance - HANGRY&ANGRY
It's good to hear from the duo again! This is in the exact same style as their mini-album, which is fine. I like the goth-pop. You don't get a lot of that in Hello! Project. Rika and Yossie sound really nice. The cover is really ugly though. What is up with Rika's hat?

Shouganai Yume Oibito - Morning Musume
The newest Morning Musume single is great! What a pretty melody and such nice backing vocals. Everyone sounds nice on the track except Ai and 8th gen, who sound ridiculously good, and Sayumi, who sounds like herself. I can't say I love the dance in the PV, but everyone sure looks gorgeous.

The real star on this release though is the b-side. Oh my god, Ai-chan, could you for one minute stop being pure anthropomorphized HOTNESS? I've been listening to it every time I go for a run, and I just grin like an idiot through all 4.5 minutes of it.

Omakase♪Guardian - Guardians 4
Only three words can adequately describe this song: "holy shit Aika!" I think it's a little weird that she's in another four-member special anime unit with Nakajima Saki, but I'm fine with whatever gives me more Aika, especially with her adorably shouting "bui~!" The song itself is totally precious, even more than the Shugo Chara Egg! version of it! It takes a lot of skill to be cuter than something with Fukuda Kanon. On the other hand, the PV and the b-side are completely "meh."

Mecha Mote I LOVE YOU - MM Gakuen
Without at doubt the best thing to come out of TNX ever. I've been listening to both the a-side and the b-side almost non-stop for about a week now. The songs are great for everything: washing dishes, riding bikes, lifting weights, playing video games, dancing, riding the bus, grooming/primping, and everything else I've been doing this summer. Not the best for listening to while writing a review because I can't concentrate on writing due to how stupidly good the tracks are.

Seishun Bus Guide/Rival
- Berryz Koubou
In case you haven't noticed, I love Berryz Koubou. They are hands down the best overall in vocals in all of Hello! Project (unless you consider High-King to be an active group), and arguably the best overall in asthetic appeal.

On that note, I don't love this single. It's through no fault of the girls (excluding Risako maybe, because she sounds a little strained on both tracks), it's just bad song-writing/arranging. "Rival" is moderately adorable and definitely ends up as my number one song on the release, but "Seishun Bus Guide" is almost entirely forgettable. The PVs follow similarly.

Still, it's not a bad release, just not the best Berryz release. And obviously people like it because it's number 3 for Berryz as far as first week sales! Berryz, please come to the U.S., preferably my part of the country!

aMa no Jaku - S/mileage
This song is boring as hell. I'm glad the girls have something over than just b-sides on another group's release to keep them occupied though. 'A' for effort, maybe?

So yeah, I'm sorry I hibernated through the spring. Lots of exciting stuff coming up this summer though, so hopefully you'll be hearing a lot from me!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

°C-ute's 8th major single "Bye Bye Bye!"

The PV for "Bye Bye Bye!" has been released on Dohhh UP! This single will be released on April 15 and the single V will be released on April 22.

Link to video on Dohhh UP!

After "LA LA LA Shiawase no Uta" I didn't think °C-ute's releases could get any worse. Good gracious was I wrong. "Bye Bye Bye!" looks and sounds like it is missing some essence. Let's break it down, shall we?

The clothes
Those shiny tracksuits that they are also wearing on the cover remind of "DANCE suru no da!" in a really awful way. The color and the shininess and the style are a little too turn of the century for me. It's also upsetting that they couldn't do a little more differentiation between the outfits. Everyone looks so similar in the PV. And why the hell does Maimi have a popped collar?

As much as I dislike the main costumes, the casual wear is even worse. First off, you can't actually tell what the girls are wearing because they only show them from the shoulders up. I'd like to imagine that they couldn't afford pants for them so the girls are all just wearing the sweats they showed to the set in. The parts we can see are all mismatched: Maimi is wearing a t-shirt, Airi and Chisato are wearing peasant tops, Saki and Mai look like middle-aged women at the office, and Erika is wearing a scarf and presumably a shirt.

The set
Set? What set? Oh, you mean that bizarre industrial room with a light display in the background that might have been cool before LCD screen came about. Or do you mean that worst-Hello!-Project-CG-background-yet "set" during the closeups?

But really, the screen that says the name of the song and flashes pretty animated colors is no substitute for a real set. And some stupid pastel interpretation of abstract art is even worse.

The dance
I think the dance itself is alright, but it seems to have been shot very poorly. During the dance break everyone looks like they are in the wrong place even when they are not moving across the floor. Perhaps it was originally choreographed for seven and the translation to six didn't work well.

The girls also look really bored and unenergetic, which is a cardinal sin in the world of idols. Even Risako manages to pull out some semblance of energy for PVs (I wish she would for concerts as well), but the °C-ute members (even the normally dance-tastic Maimi!) look like they aren't aware that they are performing.

The song
First off, it sounds like it should have been released about twenty years ago. Those backing vocals are ridiculous! They just don't fit with these girls' thin teenage voices. I do kind of like the "take control" bit though. It's very empowering.

The thing that really bothers me, and I mean really bothers me especially after they did it on the opening track of Platinum 9 DISC as well, is the vocal distortion. I wish I could say that I'm fine with them doing the distortion on Saki as I can't stand her voice, but the distortion sounds so harsh and jagged. Distortion like that is what they used on pop singers who couldn't sing before Auto Tune was invented. I also really hate those hiccups at 3:40. They sound like they aren't supposed to be there!

Now, I don't absolutely hate this song. I really appreciate that Mai started it out. With the hiatus of Kanna Mai has moved up my third-place °C-ute member. It was nice to see her featured so much in the song!

Maimi's belting at 3:50 was a seriously delicious climax. In fact, I really loved the last 20 seconds of the track. It seems like the girls gained some energy in the dance and the backing vocals changed to something more appropriate.

Overall, this is my least favorite °C-ute single so far. I was really hoping they'd get another great release like "Edo no Temari Uta II" or "Tokaikko Junjou," but this falls back into the ranks of the other major singles. I'm really hoping we get Kanna back before their next release!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Morning Musume's 9th album "Platinum 9 DISC"

Morning Musume's ninth studio album Platinum 9 DISC isn't released until tomorrow, but it's leaked early as usual. It was hard, but I waited until I'd listened to the whole thing through twice before I started this review.

My overall first impression of the album was that the tracks seemed out of order. What business did "Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Aisenai Darou" have being the third track instead of the last? Why didn't anyone think to put one of those nice solo tracks in between "Take off is now!" and "Naichou Kamo?" Why did "Kanashimi Twilight" end this album, or for that matter why was it even on here?

Taking each track individually it was a fairly solid bunch. I'll just have to get over the funky ordering.

1. SONGS (****-)
This track has a great intro! Nothing like a little piano transitioning into a hardcore beat. I was really feeling this track until they pulled the distortion on Ai-chan. Excu~se me? Ai-chan doesn't need that kind of treatment on her vocals! It loses a star for being insulting to Morning Musume's best vocalist. Otherwise, a solid opening track! It really sets the stage for the album to come.

2. Resonant Blue (****-)
This track is pure blue heat. I can ignore the ridiculous line distribution for a song this cool and sexy. It definitely loses a star for the lack of real instruments during the dance break. That would have made it perfect.

3. Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Aisenai Darou (****-)
This would no doubt have been a five-star song if they had used the original arrangement that leaked during the New Star Auditions. This new version is still good, but it doesn't quite hit the spot. First of all, this way it makes the Junjun/Linlin solos more of a novelty as they're the only solos we get, but they muddled them up with unnecessary backing vocals. Secondly, I really enjoyed the duet lines in the bridge of the original mix. Thirdly, while I love the really powerful instrumentation in the last part of this arrangement, I don't like what they did with the tempo around the 2:15 mark.

4. Take off is now! / Takahashi Ai, Niigaki Risa, and Tanaka Reina (*****)
Oh. yes. I don't know if I can use words to review this song because I kept help getting up off my chair and DANCING. Why can't I be Rosie Perez? Just watch the girls performing it live if you haven't already, and then maybe you can understand. And that outro... just too perfect.

5. Naichou Kamo (*****)
I realize I was really skeptical of this song at first, but P-chu Piano Labs convinced me to give this track another chance. Girl, am I glad I did! It's all but impossible to not sing this one out loud as I cross campus.

6. Watashi no Miryoku ni Kizukanai Donkan na Hito / Mitsui Aika(***--)
I think I might have actually preferred this one live. Aika really sounds lovely, but the instrumentation is so damn generic. Also, I was really expecting something to happen during those four beats leading up to the chorus. Something sort of did before the last chorus, but it wasn't exciting.

7. Guru Guru JUMP / Kusumi Koharu, Junjun, and Linlin (****-)
I'm sure this one will eventually grate on my nerves a bit, but right now, at this moment, I LOVE IT. It's sort of a mix of Super Mario Brothers, "Lemon Iro to Milk Tea," and Koha's Kirarin☆Revolution work (at which she really excels). Junjun and Linlin sound really adorable, and their accents aren't too overpowering in this track either. A few favorite parts: Linlin's "Nee nee"s; the "say!"s during the verse; all the "Jan jan ja ja jan ja ja ja JUMP"s before the chorus.

8. Mikan (****-)
While I don't care for "Mikan" as a single, I think it makes a nice album track, and it's even better live. Such an energetic and hopeful song of youth!

9. Jounetsu no Kiss o Hitotsu / Takahashi Ai, Niigaki Risa, and Tanaka Reina (****-)
Wait, didn't this subset just get a go five tracks ago? I have to admit that I was skeptical about this song after the pure sexiness of "Take off is now!" but it has merit. The ladies all sound nice, Ai-chan is especially highlighted and sounds outstanding. The instrumentals aren't the best, but it fits well with the rest of the album.

10. It's You / Michishige Sayumi (**---)
Did this seriously make it on the album? I don't care that the style sounds ridiculously dated (I was really waiting for a "Stop! Give me a beat!" in the intro, only to be served some irritating giggles), in fact I kind of like that. Here's the problem: Sayumi can't sing. Not even this kind of thing. She sounds awful. I can't believe I managed to sit through this trash twice.

11. Onna ni Sachi Are (*****)
I love this song. It's so angry and passionate and mature. "All the best to women" indeed!

12. Kataomoi no Owari ni / Kamei Eri (***--)
I really wish Eri's track was better. She's has such a sweet voice and look, but this song is completely forgettable. I really hope she gets a music side project soon. I'm not satisfied with mediocre album tracks! Her new anime makes me hopeful though.

13. Kanashimi Twilight (*****)
I don't think this track belongs on this album. It's the only one that isn't from Morning Musume's current lineup, and it was released almost two years ago! On the other hand, I love this song for both its musical quality and the nostalgia in induces. When Yossie and Miki left I felt like the group lost a lot of personality. There's no one sassy left in Morning Musume anymore! When ninth generation finally rolls around I hope we get someone who's a bit older and has a well-defined personality.

Friday, March 13, 2009

New collaboration PV for Matsuura Aya

Graduated Hello! Project member Matsuura Aya has collaborated with Inagaki Junichi on a track from his new album Ballade Best, which was released on Wednesday. A PV for their collaboration track "Anata ni Aitakute ~Missing You~" has been released on YouTube.

Link to video on YouTube

Aya sounds beautiful is this release, and she actually gets to do the harmony part to Inagaki during the latter half of the song.

It's got some really interesting visuals, especially considering that it was released through some sort of "Age Free Music" label. The first part of the song features Aya, a young woman, in a bright and sunny room looking at a vibrant red fish. The latter half of the song features Inagaki, an older man, in the same room, but at night and with a black fish.

These visuals don't follow the male:light/female:dark archetype, so I would conclude that they are emphasizing the age difference. Aya is in the sunny day time of youth whereas Inagaki is in the evening of adulthood. I'm sure some Aya fans are going to love the idea of her being interested in older men.

Aya is a fabulous vocalist and a beautiful young woman. I'm sure that at the very least she will continue to get projects like this now that she has graduated.

One a related note, does anyone else think of Whistler's mother when they see the profile shots of Aya in the chair?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Check out my new blog: Suki yo, Captain!

I've started a secondary blog, Suki yo, Captain! It's just a little space for me to worship our fly girl captain of Berryz Koubou, Shimizu Saki.

The title is from a 1975 single by the Lilies, which was subsequently covered by the Hello! Project duo W on their first album Duo U&U.

I will be posting photo sets, videos, and Saki-related news regularly, all meant to make you say, "Suki yo, captain!"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Captain in Korea, Maimi in Morning Calm Land*

This morning I managed to sleep through both of my morning classes, so I wasn't too happy when I rolled out of bed to read the news. Once I got around to the Hello! Online picboard my feelings soared, though.

Imagine my wonder when I discovered 150 photos of Shimizu Saki and Yajima Maimi looking gorgeous as sin!

The Maimi, leader of °C-ute, and Saki, the captain of Berryz Koubou, went to Korea along with Tsunku to promote the Hello! Project Korea Auditions, which will theoretically be the Korean analog to the Taiwanese Hello! Project New Star Auditions that brought us Ice Creamusume.

There was some sort of autograph even that Saki and Maimi wore street clothes to. Good gracious do they look adorable!

For the press conference the girls wore outfits from recent concerts. Maimi looked a little silly (I never cared for those enormous bows on her), but Saki looked like a million bucks in that purple structured bodice and crazy sea foam skirt. She also appears to have flown rather than walked down those stairs...

I'm excited about the Korean auditions. They are supposed to air next month, so it's time to start getting excited!

If you want to see all of the photos from the event, I've removed all duplicate photos and put them into a Picassa album. Enjoy!

*The Land of the Morning Calm and Korea are the same place. I just like alliteration.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kago's "love basket" overfloweth into scandal

The news just broke over at Hello! Online that Kago Ai, former member of Morning Musume, Minimoni, Tanpopo, and W, has allegedly caused the divorce between 33-year-old Mizumoto Hidejiro, fellow actor in Benten-dori no Hitobito and son of Kago's psychic of choice Shimo Yoshiko, and his 23-year-old wife, who is also the mother of the couple's three children.

Mizumoto's wife Asato is seeking monetary reparations to the tune of 10 million yen (approximately 100,000 USD) from Kago and 50 million (approximately 500,000 USD) yen from her ex-husband for the alleged affair. She claims that the affair began, and that Kago had moved into her husband's apartment, before the couple's divorce on January 8.

My thoughts

I love Kago. She is my favorite young woman to have ever been in Hello! Project. We are very close in age (she's a few weeks older than me). Before she was fired her voice had really begun to mature into something beautiful. She was the most beautiful young woman in Hello! Project before she went under house arrest and lost all of that weight. I love that in her blog and her recent interviews she's so open and (as far as I know) truthful. It's sometimes painful to hear what she has to say because it destroys my mental image of her as the ever-happy youthful spirit that she presented as while active in Hello! Project, but the intimacy of it makes me feel like I actually know her.

I'm really interested to hear what she's going to have to say about this current scandal. I think it's very possible that the affair didn't start until the couple had already gone their separate ways. This ex-wife is asking for quite a bit of money (that Kago probably doesn't have), and is presenting a self-proclaimed sarcastic note and some overnight clothing as proof. I'm sure I've left clothing and make-up at my close friends' apartments, but it doesn't mean I'm living with them.

I think an important thing to keep in mind is that divorces don't happen spontaneously the moment that a couple decides they want to call it quits. If the affair did begin before January 8, did it start before or after the couple had split? I'm going to err on the side of caution before accusing Kago of being a home wrecker.

A very good friend of mine got married when he was quite young, and after a few years of abuse he got out of it. Before they were legally divorced he got involved with another woman (who he is now very happily married to). How ever, there were no children in the first marriage. Having kids absolutely changes everything. You're no longer just affecting yourself and another adult.

This man has three children with his ex-wife. Because of this I sincerely hope that Kago didn't begin the relationship until the couple had decided they were going to divorce, and that she didn't pressure Mizumoto to get divorced.

She's still very young and has had a bizarre life, but I don't think even that could justify inciting divorce when children are involved, especially considering her hangups about her own parents' divorce. I want Kago to be happy and successful because she has brought me so much happiness, but I don't want her happiness to infringe on others'.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Girl, you KNOW it!

Some high-res images of Berryz Koubou promoting their upcoming (and bad ass) single "Dakishimete Dakishimete" made their way to the Hello! Online picboard today. Of course Saki's head shot caught my eye because she's one fly bitch. Observe:

Now I haven't ever been a fan of that leopard-print fedora, but I noticed for the first time today that she's got a brooch pinned to it. Shall we have a close up?

Saki darling, you are a sex pot, and I'm glad you're not afraid to tell the world.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Happy Anniversary, Berryz Koubou!

Can you believe how much these girls have grown in five years?

Just think back to year zero: on March 3, 2004 Berryz Koubou debuted with the single "Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai." There were eight girls then, ages 9 to 12, and the single was a cool, mature hip-hop-style track with a light-hearted and driving B-side. They went on to produce four more singles and an album that year.

On March 30, 2005, just a few weeks after their first anniversary, the girls released a quintessential single. "Special Generation" was a huge success and remained their highest-selling single by far for over two years. That year was the last for one member, Ishimura Maiha. She graduated on October 2, two months after "21ji Made no Cinderella" was released, and the group's line-up came to be what it is still today. In 2005 the girls released their second album, their first mini album, and four singles.

March 2006 saw the release of "Jiriri Kiteru," a mature summer-time track sang over Chopin's Revolutionary Etude, and each of the three singles released in this year sold more than the one before. The summer-themed mini album ③ Natsu Natsu Mini Berryz was also released this year, and it gave us our first ever tracks of Berryz subsets.

Four days after their third anniversary Berryz Koubou released their first ballad single, "VERY BEAUTY." It didn't sell as well as their previous single "Munasawagi Scarlet," but the next release would make up for it. "Kokuhaku no Funsui Hiroba," another ballad, outsold all of their previous singles. They finished up the year with their third full-length album, 4th Ai no Nanchara Shisuu and another single, "Tsukiatteru no ni Kataomoi," which in turn outsold its predecessors.

On March 12, 2008, Berryz Koubou released "Dschinghis Khan," a cover of the German group of the same name's 1979 debut. "Dschinghis Khan" is currently Berryz Koubou's best-selling, and possibly all around best, single to date. It was so popular that they went on to release a mix of the cover with the original as a special single. Their next single, "Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance," failed to outsell the cover and "MADAYADE" sold even less. Their fourth studio album 5(FIVE) was also released in 2008, and it is their best-selling album to date.

And now it's 2009. The girls have already had one musical release this year, their first best of album Berryz Koubou Special Best Vol.1, and their first single of the year drops next Wednesday! Aside from single-handedly buying 30,000 copies all I can do is hope that "Dakishimete Dakishimete" will be the single that breaks the girls out of their sales slump.

Long live Berryz Koubou, and keep up the good work, ladies!

(Also, loving the maid costumes in your anniversary photos!)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bad news round-up, with a touch of sexy bea~m

First off, I am sick :( I've had a fever all day, and after performing a nasal swab (most unpleasant thing ever), the doctor at the health center determined I have a virus, but not the flu. My roommate and his fiancée have been weening me back to health with orange juice, ice cream, and Rooster Booster Lite.

As for the news that you folks really care about: Kanna is out of °C-ute indefinitely and Kirarin☆Revolution is ending next month!


According to a news piece on Stardust Kanna has severe bunions and won't be participating in °C-ute until she is feeling better, which will be a while. According to the article, "The statement from H!P says that they expect her to be out of the upcoming °C-ute concert tour and promotional activities for °C-ute’s single 'Bye Bye Bye!'"

Kanna is one of my favorite members of °C-ute, in fact I think she's the "cutest" member. I really hope that she feels better soon! Th embedded video below is a slideshow I made as a get well wish.


According to ★Strawberrie★'s blog, the anime Kirarin☆Revolution that gave us Tsukishima Kirari starring Kusumi Koharu (Morning Musume), Kira☆Pika, Milky Way, and SHIPS will be ending March 27 after a 5-year-long run.

Suddenly the best-of album and live show makes a lot more sense. I've never seen an episode of Kirarin☆Revolution but I've loved the music it has spawned. Milky Way got two amazing singles, and I can only hope that Kikkawa Yuu will get another project. Will this be the end of Koha's solo career? I certainly hope not. Her releases were selling like hot cakes, and as she got older and her personality developed I really grew to love her solo work.

And now, a bit of good news

Yaguchi Mari performed her upcoming single "Seishun Boku" on Quiz! Hexagon II! You can watch it in the video embedded below.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Maimi × (PB + UTB) → ♥♡♥

It appears that Yajima Maimi's 3rd photobook will be released sometime in April. This photobook ought to be AWESOME as Maimi seems to grow exponentially more beautiful every day.

Speaking of beautiful Maimi, she appeared in the third installment of her feature in the April UTB.

All photos from the Hello! Online Picboard

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mano Erina's 1st major single "Otome no Inori"

The PV for "Otome no Inori" has been released on Dohhh UP! This single will be released on March 18 and the single V will be released on March 25.

Link to video on Dohhh UP!

A third release in as many days! I'm not yet sure how I feel about this release, but I definitely have a lot to say.

The song

This is a really different sound for Hello! Project, but not for Mano Erina. I quite like "Mano Piano," "Lucky Aura," and "Lalala-Sososo," but I was expecting something a little more for her major debut. It's great that Mano can play the piano and has a light, clean voice, but this sound is probably going to get old fast. You can feature the piano without every song sounding the same. A "Jiriri Kiteru"-type track would suit her well.

I am really impressed that she can actually play the piano though. It's certainly better than the Berryz attempts at playing their own songs!

The outfits

Yesterday I was all excited about getting three outfits from Maeda Yuki in "Kenchana ~Daijoubu~." In this PV we have more ouftis than have been seen since "Koi no Telephone GOAL!" There were SIX of them~!!

Navy blazer and red plaid seifuku from the regular and limited A covers

Cream blazer and blue plaid seifuku

A white sparkly dress with fuzzy accents and a necklace.

A different white sparkly dress. This time no fuzzies, no necklace, and different hair.

A navy and pink casual outfit with cute half-up hair.

A yellow shirt + denim shorts casual outfit with high ponytail.

Over all, pretty cute. I was disappointed to not see any purple as Mano looks gorgeous in purple:

But overall, good looks for her.

The set

It could just be me but the little room she was in reminded me of the "Chokotto LOVE" PV.

The little room was cute and it was nice to see her in a setting that wasn't all CG, but a little variety would have been nice! I guess they spent all of their budget on the six outfits and the piano :(

I did really like the overhead shots though:

It was very different camera work from what we usually see in a Hello! Project PV.


Mano hands leading out of the chorus!

Mano eyes! Clearly these are windows into her otome no tamashii,

Final verdict: Mano has decent looks and vocals, so what really sets her apart his her piano playing. That being said, it's good that she was playing in her major debut, but we need some variety!

I expect this single to sell well. Mano has been all over the magazines in the last few months, UFA is obviously pushing it (4 different editions, really?), and her latest indie single actually manage to chart. On the other hand, if she doesn't get some diversity in her sound people will get sick of it fast.

Now that all of the soloists (except Koharu) have graduated we need to replenish the supply! Also, we need more Eggs debuting! Sadly, the decisions are up to UFA, who haven't always made the best choices in the past.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Maeda Yuki's 9th single "Kenchana ~Daijoubu~"

The PV for "Kenchana ~Daijoubu~" has been released on Dohhh UP! This single will be released in CD and audio cassette formats on February 25.

Link to video on Dohhh UP!

From reading the forums on Hello! Online I gather that "kenchana" is a word with a similar meaning to "daijoubu" (in English it's something like "I'm all right"). The B-side also apparently has a Korean theme as it's called "Seoul no Ame" (rain in Seoul).

I can't tell if the PV is actually taking place in Korea as I know very little of Korean architecture. It doesn't help that, according to Wikipedia, many traditional Korean buildings were replaced with Japanese-style ones during the first half of the 20th century. The only other clues would be in the signs, which are all in Chinese characters. Like the Japanese, the Koreans adopted the Chinese writing system before developing their own, and during the Japanese occupation hangul (the Korean writing system) became all but outlawed.

But really, I doubt that UFA shelled out the money to cross Nihonkai for the filming of this PV.

The song itself is nice for an enka (or possibly teuroteu?) track. Maeda Yuki has a beautiful voice, but I am really not the target audience for this type of music.

I liked her outfits (she had three, which is more than we've seen in a Hello! Project PV since "Meguru Koi no Kisetsu" if I recall correctly), but none of them were as pretty as her bi-ploar-kimono-inspired one from "Ai Ai Daiko."

If singing is what makes her happy then I hope she continues to release music after she has graduated from Hello! Project. She still young though (turning 30 in August), so if she decides that enka isn't really her life's calling she has plenty of time to find something that is.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shugo Chara Egg!'s 2nd single "Shugo Shugo!"

The PV for "Shugo Shugo!" has been released on Dohhh UP! This single will be released on February 25 and the single V will be released on March 4. "Shugo Shugo!" is the second opening theme for Shugo Chara!! Doki.

Link to video on Dohhh UP!

My overwhelming initial reaction:


I really don't think that girl could get any cuter, and she has such a surprisingly nice voice! She's turning 14 on March 12 (making her almost exactly 7 years younger than me), and I think she has a long and fruitful career ahead of her.

But on to the PV...

When I first heard about this unit last year I wasn't enthusiastic. I didn't know much about the Eggs and Maeda hadn't been a stand out in High-King (how could she be against Maimi and Saki and Ai?). I also assumed that since they were so young that it would be overly cutesy. Their first single was great thought! On sunny days I can't help but wander across campus singing "pyon pyon, fumu fumu, yeah yeah."

This second single is what I had expected the first to be like, sadly. There's nothing about the song that holds my interest. It's got a bland chorus and the intrumentals are too similar to those of "Minna no Tamago" and "Hajimari no Uta."

I was also disappointed to see the girls in the same outfits. I reallize that they are supposed to be the shugo chara, but I wish they had designed some alternate costumes for them. I don't think that these costumes translate very well to real people, and they are kind of boring.

It was nice to see that Wada and Saho have improved vocally. Their voices were a little grating in "Minna no Tamago."

The PV itself is pretty cute. I like the curtains that pull away for the girls' close-ups, the light-up egg chair, and the little eddies of hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds. I would have preferred less of the anime clips though. They seemed sort of tucked in at random.

Overall I'd rate this release poor to mediocre. Let's hope it has a kick ass B-side!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sheer Hat Attack

There's something about Hello! Project Kids and tiny hats! Over the last several years we've seen them in miniature versions of berets, top hats, cowboy hats, garrison caps, tiaras, pillbox hats, and diner hats. I've spent the last week raiding the Hello! Online Picboard for instances of these delightful little pieces of headwear, and I kindly compiled them into a categorized Picassa album. If I've left out any note-worthy tiny hats, please tell me so I can complete my collection.

For your convenience, I've added some side-by-side comparisons of regular-sized and tiny hats!


Top Hat

Cowboy Hat

Garrison Cap


Pillbox Hat

Diner Hat

So what's next on the H!P Kids + Tiny Hats agenda? I have a few suggestions (as always)...


For the upcoming "Berryachi" single featuring Herb Alpert. ¡Olé!

Witch Hat

Tiny version needed now!


For when Nakajima Saki graduates to concentrate on her studies (in my dreams).

Chef Hat

Let's make a Berry tart!


Á la modestly hot Homsar:


For some reason I can really see Buono! in tiny fezzes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

How to use sexy

While looking through the Hello! Online picboard this evening I couldn't keep my jaw together. My best girls are looking b-e-a-u-tiful.

I love this costume. Saki is not a curvy girl , and probably never will be, but she is really looking like a young woman and not a pre-pubescent girl. In general, Saki = ♥.

On the other hand, Maimi, Saki... your bosoms... are looking womanly. O__O