Last evening, I stumbled upon some pretty disheartening news. Yutoku Ayumi, one of the members of the Hello! Project Eggs, and the newest member of the Eggs subunit Tomoiki, has decided to graduate from Hello! Project on November 30.

I’m having a hard time trying to get my feelings out about this well. Other Eggs have graduated in the past, but most of those graduations have occurred when I wasn’t quite attached to the Eggs yet– before I’d really seen them perform, before I’d really gotten to know them. Hashida Mirei had graduated before I was able to see the DVD of the Eggs’ first concert, so seeing her in that video felt kind of funny. Mirei had AMAZING stage presence; she was one of the best-trained Eggs up there. Her vocal quality was amazing, she was a great dancer– but I refrained from letting myself get caught up in watching her too much. Nothing would come of it– she’d graduated, after all. Plus, I kind of figured it was bound to happen with Mirei. Mirei was the infamous Egg who called Mai “kimoi” in one of her earlier blogs. I also believe she insulted some of the wota, after explaining how she’d mistaken (what sounded like) creepy stalker wota for staff members on her way out of a practice one day. Her feelings are totally understandable, but risky in an idol business– especially when she was just that new to the idol world, and entirely dependent on the support of the wota, since they were just starting out and were total unknowns. So, watching Mirei on screen was more of a, “Well, it was nice while it lasted. You would’ve been awesome.”

But it’s different with Ayumi now– now that I’ve observed her in action under the assumption that she would be around for a long time with Hello! Project. See, the thing with the Eggs is I come in with the mindset that these are trainees that Tsunku must definitely have plans for– other than simple Egg groups like Tomoiki. He revealed parts of his plan already, with the formation of Ongaku Gatas, where he combined some unknown Eggs with real H!P superstars. It was a brilliant combination. I love hearing all the praise for Manoeri (and especially the occasional Nocchi praise; praise for the other Eggs in the group is certainly appreciated, too, but a little rarer), because she is an Egg. Those Eggs in Ongaku Gatas are sort of the representatives for the Eggs now– at least that’s how I see it. They’re getting promotion alongside these big names, and people are really taking notice of them. Hopefully this is leading some people to consider the potential of the other Eggs– even if they may not even know any of their names– just to know that there are other talented girls out there that Tsunku has sort of got on reserve now. They’re like the ninjas of H!P right now. Normally covert, but when they’re given a chance, they totally burst out onto the scene with power, awesomeness, and charm. But all of my hopes for the Eggs is dependent upon the future– and them staying in Hello! Project. My hopes are entirely selfish, I realize. These girls are young, and so many of them are so talented, and they’ve got a lot of potential, so I can understand why they may want to leave. Outside of Ongaku Gatas, they aren’t getting a lot of mainstream promotion. I don’t know everything about the business of the idol world, but I’m betting it just wouldn’t be profitable to try to make the Eggs big names all of a sudden. I think Tsunku is going about it the right way now– placing them alongside big stars so they start getting some recognition. But I’m sure this is frustrating to those girls who aren’t in Ongaku Gatas. They get their own concerts, which is a huge improvement from the past– since now they at least have some guaranteed, constant activity. But still, that ambiguous future lies ahead. Maybe some of them have gotten offers outside of Hello! Project, or maybe some of them really just do want to go back to the “normal” life and focus on their studies and leave the idol world entirely. Whatever it is, this state of semi-active limbo must be pretty frustrating for the girls.

So, now we come back to the case of Ayumi. Compared to some of the other girls, Ayumi got a bit more of a chance to shine– she was placed in the Egg subunit, Tomoiki. Unfortunately, Tomoiki has not released any songs since ‘Minna no Ki.’ (As a side note, you can view Ayumi performing ‘Minna no Ki’ with the group here.) While they haven’t done any other songs, at least the members (and former members) of Tomoiki have seen their own successes. Kanna was plucked right out of Tomoiki and put into C-ute. Oose Kaede was also a member of Tomoiki before being selected to join THE Possible. Noto Arisa was selected to join the Ongaku Gatas (but she still remains in Tomoiki).

I have a feeling that if Ayumi stayed around, she would’ve been the “next up to bat” to go somewhere bigger in Hello! Project. Maybe it’s just an uninformed suspicion or hunch, but I really feel that this girl had the kind of potential that would’ve taken her far in Hello! Project. She’s a good singer, a good dancer, absolutely adorable, and has been reported to be a fan-favorite over in Japan. She holds up really well on stage– it was really impressive seeing her in the Newcomers concert DVD giving it her all and still retaining a good vocal presence on stage. I mentioned in a previous post about that concert that one of her lines in ‘Chokotto LOVE’ was delivered so well that it seriously got stuck in my head for quite a while. And I simply can’t separate how she looked on stage when she sang that line, too– just the entire performance of that song was fantastic. She proved to me that she was one of the Eggs who was ready to move up in the ranks– to take on more than small, Eggs groups. To get filtered in with some big names herself and to start charming more people along the way. I really do think if this girl was given the chance, she would’ve shined even more and grabbed a lot of attention in her own right. She clearly has the talent for it.

But now we’ll never know. Unless she invades the idol world in another manner– another agency, or goes beyond primarily singing– though I’m not really holding my breath on that one. In fact, if anyone would like to do me a huge favor and translate her graduation announcement on her blog, I’d be incredibly grateful. Even just little parts of it would be fine– so I (and others) could get the gist of what she’s saying, and if she hints at anything about her future.

So, Ayumi’s graduation is affecting me more than I thought it would. Like I mentioned before, other Eggs that I’ve liked have graduated, but their announcements came before I was able to really get to know them. As for Ayumi, I went through the whole process of resisting her at first (again explained in my previous post about the Newcomers concert– there was just something about her that I didn’t like at first), but after seeing her singing and dancing and giving it her all, and then at the very end of the concert, being very sincere and crying as they were all waving goodbye to the audience– I’ve really come to like her a lot. I’m biased when I say this, since she has become one of my favorites, but I really think she was one of the best Eggs in the whole group.

So, for now, sayonara, Ayumi. The Eggs are losing a really important member– hell, H!P is losing a future star that never really got a good chance to shine in H!P. I hope she does break out into the idol world in the future. I know I’ll still be a fan if she ever does.