Archive for December, 2007

Kouhaku Utagassen (updated as the show airs here)

December 31, 2007

Oh yeah!

Awesomely, my local Japanese channel, which usually airs crap, is airing Kouhaku Utagassen! I get to watch it! On my OWN TV! How awesome is that!

First a couple of observations. (It’s airing as I type this)

There is a WHOLE LOT of enka in this show. Like A LOT. Of which, I now realize, I am not that big of a fan. I like the pop-esque enka… I don’t know I guess I shouldn’t base my entire opinion of a genre based on a handful of songs.

Secondly, the H!P opening act…. someone came in late on their cue during Love Machine, but we can forgive that because all the girls looked fantastic! Which brings up the question, why the hell are Morning Musume still performing Love Machine?! Berryz and C-ute got to perform their latest singles, very abbreviated versions of their latest singles…. but the latest none the less. I understand Love Machine was Momusu’s biggest single to date (and let’s be honest, probably ever) but NONE of the girls currently in the line up were in Momusu when Love Machine was released! They ALWAYS play Love Machine for these kind of events, I’m sure people are kind of tired of hearing it! Let’s have a fresh image for Momusu and stop living in the past! (Yeah I realize it’s the 10th Anniversary, but Mikan is a perfectly awesome song to perform!)

Thirdly… how badly choreographed was that bit where the girls came back out and did fake back-up singing for Kouzai Kaori? It looked like it was slapped together at the last minute! People were out of synch with their movements, lip-synching to the main vocals and not the back up vocals… their outfits made them look like a junior high choir. (Black skirts & pumps, white button up shirts). I don’t mean to be so negative about it, but it really was kinda poorly done.

AKB48 I almost missed as the dog came trundling in and stepped on the remote which turned the TV off. They looked really good! (Except for the running into each other part). I know it’s a gimmick but I’m kind of sad there are 48 members… how the hell do I get to know them all? They had the honor of coming out and also performing a back up dance for another enka singer. They looked a lot more polished and a little more classy dressed in kimono.

In other H!P kind of related acts, Amin performed Matsuwa! Which you may remember was covered by W! Man, that made me miss them! Of Amin, at the beginning of the song Takako looked like she was about to burst into tears, but she held together well and they performed quite nicely.

More to come?

What was the biggest H!P event of 2007?

December 13, 2007

Buckle up, this is a long one.

While perusing the Hello!Online picture board, my eye was caught by the poll in the lower right hand corner. I prepared myself for a quick click of the mouse, a cursory viewing of the results, and moving on with my picture browsing. The only problem…. the poll and it’s possible choices were hard to pick between. As I sat weighing the possible choice to best fit, I though, Hey! Why not write a post about it?

The question is, What was the biggest H!P event of 2007? And boy howdy weren’t there A LOT this year? Like, whoa. It gave me a ton to think about, so I decided to go ahead and analyze each option.

Yoshizawa’s brother killed.
I wholeheartedly love Yossi, so for the New Year to start out this way was terrible. I felt truly horrified when I read the news and deeply saddened on Yossi’s behalf. Understanding her need to grieve, there was a wave of support for her from the H!P blogging community should she decide to take a leave of absence. Color us all shocked and amazed when she shouldered her burden and kept performing. For myself (and many others I am sure) it only further cemented our love and respect for this amazingly strong and talented young woman.

Since Hitomi decided to continue on with her career, this family tragedy did not have the effect it could have had she decided not to return. So this event, while horrible, was not the biggest thing to happen to H!P this year.

Momusu gets 2 Chinese girls.
This was big, this was HUGE and a complete and total shock to fans. Not only were there two new surprise members of the Eighth Gen of Momusu, but they hailed from the land beyond Japan! Sure there were foreign members in other H!P acts before, but NOT in their flagship group. Fan reaction went wild. A lot of people had faith in Tsunku’s decision, he had proven his intuition right before, and we were willing to keep our faith in his ability again. However some us, I am ashamed to say, attacked the two new girls, Junjun and Linlin, some people even went so far as to post horrendous racial and derogatory comments on their personal blogs! Those kind of actions are beyond belief. To think that foreign fans would be so embracing of one type of nationality and not another is mind boggling. As fans we should open our arms to any and all under the H!P banner.

I didn’t mean for that to turn in to a lecture. Getting back on track I would have to say that this was definitely a top contender for the biggest event in H!P for the year.

The end of Hello!Morning.
Honestly, I was really sad to see Hello!Morning go, but willing to embrace Harmoni@ (of which I’ve seen all of 2 or 3 episodes). We really should have seen the departure of H!M coming down the pipeline somewhere in the near future. So while this might have been a personal blow to some people who enjoyed H!M, Momusu is still on the air, so really, not that big of a deal. Plus I am sure H!P were trying to mix up the format of the show a bit to get the girls out and interacting with the public and maybe something new would draw in new viewers.

Kago Ai returns, Friday’d, Fired.
I actually did the write ups for every other topic before going in and writing this one. My God, this one still has me by the heart. At the time this scandal broke I was just getting into other H!P acts that weren’t Morning Musume, and W was the forerunner of my fandom. Ai and Tsuji were just so damn CUTE together! At first I was really disappointed in Aibon. Not so much that she got caught smoking underage, but that she was smoking at all. It’s so damn bad for you! Especially if you are a singer by profession. I felt terrible for Tsuji as this put her singing career at a standstill, and removed (it seems permanently) any chance of the fans hearing W’s last album Faithful.

But as time went on and we started to learn the extent of Ai’s burden, I began to feel for the poor girl more. Being the sole bread winner for her family, her Dad a split ex-con, her Mother a single Mom, and Aibon with much younger siblings to care for. I’m sure her workload was incredible, and she was trying to balance work with her relationship with (the now infamous) Ishimoto Yasuyuki. The poor girl was just trying to live a normal life outside of her “idol” duties.

This whole thing really brought to light the immense responsibility it is to be an idol. You have to be “in character” ALL THE TIME. There is no turn off switch, no down time. If you’re out in public, even just running to the store for toilet paper, or going out to eat, you still have to be in persona. She’d been living this life since she was 12 years old, and I’m sure she was tired of trying to wear that image 24/7. It’s really very, very sad. These girls sacrifice so much for the sake out our entertainment. Granted we reward them back with love and money, but is the trade off really equal?

This was a huge blow to H!P and I think one of their first MAJOR scandals. Even still, Aibon, I love you and hope you someday step up to the microphone again. (If not could we please at least run in to each other somewhere in NYC? I was crowd watching for you last weekend. LOL!) These events definitely rank up there as the biggest things to happen to H!P in 2007.

Yoshizawa graduates from MM.
Yossi! I was terribly sad to see Yossi leaving MM. However, she really was getting beyond the age demographic of the group. Other members graduated from MM and pursued solo careers (some with a hell of a lot more success than others) so it really shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. Plus it was known before her graduation even took place that she’d be participating in a new group and/or solo activities, so we knew she wasn’t totally going to disappear off the radar.

Tsuji/Iida pregnancies.
Kaorin I can say I really wasn’t too shocked to hear about. Tsuji on the other hand I was a little shocked about. We had heard a really awesome live recording of a new unit she was participating in, Gyaruru, under Tsunku’s TNX label, and seemed to be moving on from the scandals that broke up W. I was ultimately really excited for them both. Except for bowing out of the spotlight, this didn’t really affect H!P much as the two weren’t at the forefront at that moment in time. A great personal development for them both, but not the biggest event.

Fujimoto Friday’d/leaves MM.
Honestly… God I hope people don’t kill me for this, but honestly I didn’t really care all that much. I’m not that big of a Miki fan. I thought she was great in GAM, but like Yossi, she was getting a little too old for Momusu and it really was time to move on. If H!P couldn’t see it, then Miki was going to show them herself. I have utter respect for her there, standing up like she did, in the end though it was A-OK by me that she left Morning Musume.

Goto Maki leaves H!P.
This totally and utterly caught me by complete surprise. I really don’t feel like going into too much detail here as it’s all been discussed before…. but reading Maki’s reasons; exhaustion and artistic differences over her musical direction, I totally understand why she left. Was I sad to see her go? Absolutely, especially after she released such a kick ass album! But she wanted to move on with her life and I totally respect that. Losing their most successful solo artist had to be a blow to H!P, but if she was asking for it a long time coming, then it wouldn’t have been a shock to them. A shock to the fan community, but not to H!P.

There were a few other things that happened this year that I thought were pretty big that weren’t on the poll. The biggest…. the return of Konkon! That was HUGE! I was so excited when I heard she was coming back. What a windfall for the fans to have one of our departed beloveds come back to us! How awesome is that?!

In other news I finally received my package today containing the 10th Anniversary Morning Musume essay & photobook, as well as the photobook for Hitomi’s graduation concert this past spring. I’ve done a cursory glance through both and will be adding reviews and scans later, time permitting before Christmas. I will say though that the concert photobook has some amazing shots I’d love as posters.

On one last note, does anyone else find it amusing that the Up Front! International website is only in Japanese?

Yattarouze!

December 1, 2007

Is it safe to say I think Ongaku Gatas are the greatest thing to happen to H!P in a while? That would be affirmative, so it goes without saying I fucking LOVE Yattarouze.

Okay, so the opening of the PV is a little weird, but once the titles come up it just kicks off from there. This song is so high energy it’s infectious. You can’t tell me you listen to this song and don’t want to get up and do the windmill thing during “Yatta-rouze!” Can I have a dance shot version please? Lots of bouncy hip swaying, fist pumping and attitude. This song was designed to get you on your feet and moving.

I also must point out how much I love Yossie in this video. Oh my God, she’s freaking bursting with energy. She shines! You know at the announcement of her graduation I was really scared she would go the way of Kei and disappear from H!P album/single releases all together. (Does Kei-chan even perform at concerts?) Anyway I am thrilled beyond words that she hasn’t, and is still going strong. Yossie I freaking love you.

I love the costumes too. Short skirts or hot pants with knee high boots? Uniform stylings? Count me in. I love that look. I would like Yossie’s over shirt too please (because I love the striped cuffs on her sleeves). I’ll take Konkon’s too!

Is this better than Kirakira? Oh how I am leaning towards that point of view at the moment, however they really are two different styles of songs. Thinking about it, I love them both, hardcore. So much so that I will at this moment claim the two singles by Ongaku Gatas my favorite releases by H!P for the year of 2007. (with Mikan in a very close 2nd place).

PLEASE GOD LET THERE BE AN ONGAKU GATAS ALBUM OR THREE!