review


When most people think of AKB48, I’m sure it’s the front girls that come to mind. If you’re unfamiliar with the group and have only hear one or two of their songs, seen a few promotional things of them out there (a PV, a commercial, whatever it may be), there are probably a few girls that you might be able to picture. The first one that comes to mind is probably Maeda Atsuko, AKB48’s prized daughter. You’d probably also know Takahashi Minami, another front girl in the group. All the rest is up for grabs. A particular girl might’ve caught your eye in a PV and you may have looked up her name– say, Kojima Haruna, Oshima Yuko, Oshima Mai, or Shinoda Mariko. All get pretty consistent screen time in the PVs. All depends on your preferences, anyway. Maybe you’ve checked out Aitakatta! An AKB48 Blog to learn more about some of the girls. You could’ve gone a few paths from there– became an AKB48 of varying degrees, or, you know, were just content with the knowledge you’d gained about the group as it was and became a casual listener, or even forgot about AKB48 for the most part.

I could spend about a week straight just blogging about all the girls and I’d still probably have more to say, so I’m going to really focus in on one aspect of AKB48 that most people overlook right now. Even among fans– lots of people know Teams A and K, but Team B remains a bit of a mystery. You see their pictures, you hear the occasional fan talk about their favorite Team B members, you may have spotted a Team B member in a PV! But for the most part, Team B remains very misunderstood. A good portion of AKB48 fans know and have come to love Team B, but it’s just not enough in my eyes. So I’m going to try my hand at correcting that. Why? Because they deserve it, simply enough! Too many assumptions are made about this Team because people are too focused on the other two teams. Now, I’m not saying that you all should just give up your favorites and love Team B forever and ever, but just give them a chance! I definitely have favorites on Teams A and K myself and think they’re both wonderful parts of AKB48– the group, quite literally, wouldn’t be the same without them. Each team has their merits, each team has their own style. Even Team B. It’s called AKB48, not AKandthoseotherpeople48.

Disclaimer: I just want to note that this entry is lengthy. This was on purpose. Don’t feel bad about skimming the entry or just reading one or two profiles. If you want to read the whole thing, you’ve definitely got my admiration! But my whole purpose here was just getting out as much information as possible about these underloved girls in hopes of them getting a bit more attention in the fan world. But seriously, even if you just learn about one or two members, I’d be thrilled! 

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I was half-tempted to title this one ‘Junjun in Space’ (I’ll explain why later in the entry), and was really debating between that and the one I ended up using; ultimately I chose “Mikan’s Impact,” because, well, I got thinking about space, you know, asteroids… impact, haha– well, it was funny at the time I realized the unintentional pun. … but anyway.

 Yesterday, the new PV for Mikan surfaced, and I can certainly say it’s nothing like I expected. The adorable cover previews gave me hope for a colorful set and some kind of party-themed PV, with the girls dressed in normal clothes, and– well, basically, another Tokaikko Junjou, except less dancey and ranking higher on the exuberant happiness scale. I certainly got the exuberant happiness I was looking for, but certainly not the party– but nevertheless, I kept seeing something of a repeating pattern here.

I can’t help but thinking this single was released a few months too early. From the party covers, to the sparkly special effects, to the chrome-colored stylish space suits in the PV, to the overall meaning of the song– this entire single just screams “New Year” to me. But alas, we’re in the beginning of November! But no one can really ever tell what’s going on up in Tsunku’s mind, can they? His obsession with his new favorite English word, “chance,” is another pretty intriguing pattern, but I have no idea where may be going with that one, if at all. (9th Chance Auditions, anyone?)

But anyway, time for some more specific reactions to this new PV.

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So it’s been a little while since my last post; I’ve since been stuck with a lot of work, followed by a nice little break, which I spent back at home being absolutely lazy and enjoying every minute of that. Last night, we had a big dinner for a good bunch of my relatives, so there I was, sitting in the parlor with my laptop, and I found myself watching the H!P Eggs Concert while my family argued back and forth about the Red Sox/Indians baseball game. Just to create a little amusing scene for you all– imagine “Strawberry Pie-yi-yi-yi-yi-ya-yi, strawberry pie, oh strawberry pie!” harmonizing with fevered shouts of “GAGNE?! THEY’RE SENDING IN GAGNE?! Game’s over, we’re doomed.”

 I’ve actually watched the H!P Eggs Shinjin Kouen Concert quite a bit before then. It’s not rare, though, that when I settle down to do some work, I’ll throw on a concert to listen to instead of the original music. It sure as hell is more DISTRACTING than listening to music alone, but it’s a lot more entertaining! So it’s not a new thing, but what I’ve found with the Eggs Concert is that it REALLY commands a lot of attention from me when I happen to play it, and small parts of the concert will get stuck in my head. Not just an entire song– just little lines said by certain Eggs. It’s a little annoying, actually, to have ONE LINE running through your head an entire day, but I’ve just had to accept the fact that these Eggs just have some mysterious power over me right now.

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The first Ongaku Gatas PV was released a few days ago, and it’s something I’ve been anticipating ever since I heard about the formation of the group. When I heard that Yoshizawa Hitomi and Noto Arisa were going to be in a PV, I was ELATED. And even better, they’d be TOGETHER, in the SAME PV. It goes without saying that Yossie’s well-known and been in tons of PVs, but I was genuinely crushed when it was announced that she was going to graduate from Morning Musume back in January. I was worried that once she graduated, she’d drift away, be occasionally spotted on some TV shows, perhaps do a few MC spots, and not release a thing. And then the Ongaku Gatas came along. At first, I thought it was a little strange to base the group off of, well, futsal, but hey, it gave me more Yossie, a first for Nocchi [Noto Arisa], along with a few other Eggs. And hell, Konno was coming back! That alone would be cause for celebration.

Soon enough, the preview of the song, Nari Hajimeta Koi no Bell, came along, and it was pretty awesome. I wasn’t quite hooked on it at that point, but I was fine waiting around until better quality rips of the song were released, or until the PV came along. It sounds ridiculously shallow, but the PVs usually make me like a song more. I can’t really pinpoint just why either. It could be the eyecandy alone, but I like to believe that it’s seeing the dance, and sort of seeing the song, well, in action. Once I finished downloading the thing, I loaded it, pressed play in Winamp, and found myself a tiny bit horrified.

There was Rika, right in front. I immediately assumed this PV was going to be almost all Rika. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t HATE Rika or anything. She’s just not one of my favorite H!P members, and I think she gets enough attention as it is. I was looking forward to seeing more of the “unknowns,” and at the very LEAST lots more Yossie and Konno.

Quickly enough, that feeling of horror was gone as Rika danced to the side, and Yossie found her way in the middle to rock out. Followed by a Konkon close-up. And then I spotted Nocchi. Cue fangirlish cheering of immense relief.

The song seemed pretty well split– the only exceptions to Korenaga Miki and Mutou Mika, with the most injustice to the former. I think I spotted Korenaga a grand total of once or twice throughout the entire PV. If you blink, you’ll probably miss her. Mika gets more screentime than her, but they both have no solo lines.  Other than that, I was VERY satisfied at how the lyrics were split up throughout the group. (Shh! Don’t tell, but as long as Nocchi got lines, I was happy. As I mentioned, I really like her, Yossie, and Konkon, but Nocchi’s the one who needs my love a bit more.)

So, plainly put, the PV rocked, and it was received really well by the fans. I was really happy to see some more attention put on the Eggs, especially. I first tried my hand at learning more about them late last year. Checked out all the Wiki articles out there about them, browsed through forums, and found the lone H!P Eggs fansite, Shirenu’s ‘eggcellent.’

Surprisingly, it was a bit difficult to single them down to pick an early favorite (as I usually do when I’m just learning  about a group), since there just wasn’t much to LEARN at that point. But one DID stick out in my mind.

Noto Arisa.

When I saw her picture, I immediately thought, “Wow! What a gorgeous kid! She’s going to look so pretty when she’s older!” So, just for kicks, I went back to her profile to see her birthdate. You can probably imagine my shock when I saw that she was the same age as me. I had to wonder if my eyes were playing tricks on me, but it was pretty apparent that that ‘1988’ birthdate was correct when I checked my other sources.

Now, it’s not often that I totally get owned by ages like that. I think I’m one of the, what, five people in the world who wasn’t shocked when I found out how old Risako was. Funny little side story here, I apologize in advance for this random tangent– but last semester in school, I was taking a Japanese culture class. We all had to do a semester-long project on something related to Japanese culture, and I picked J-pop and focused a lot on H!P. I had to do a few presentations throughout the class, and for one of mine, I’d made a video of a bunch of clips from H!P PVs and discussed them as they came up. One of the ones I picked was Berryz Koubou’s ‘Very Beauty.’ When that came up, I brought up the age range of the group (which was from 12 to 15 at that time). Risako had a close-up in part of the clip that I chose, so I pointed the screen and said, “And that’s the youngest one, the girl who’s twelve.” I was NOT expecting the class to suddenly have a collective SEIZURE at that comment, but they did. I heard a chorus of, ‘WHAAAT?! YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING, RIGHT? NO WAY.’ from behind me. The funniest comment came from one of the guys in the class– he threatened that he’d jump out the window if I was serious. So, at that point, I learned that I was APPARENTLY in the minority when I thought Risako looked her age.

Anyway, BACK to what I’m talking about here. It’s not often that I am completely shocked with ages. Nocchi is one of the TWO idols who has ever really shocked me in that aspect (with Watanabe Mayu of AKB48 being the other; I always thought she was at least 16 or 17). So, oddly enough, I was impressed! And decided to pick her to single out and learn as much as I could about.

It was a pretty lucky pick, too, because Nocchi was one of the few with a lot of pubilicty (for an Egg, that is). She was in Tomoiki ~Ki wo Uetai~, so I actually managed to find some videos of her on Youtube and Veoh. Most of those videos have been taken down by now, so I can’t share many links except this one.

The few other videos (that have since been taken down) with Nocchi in them out there were all related to Tomoiki. I think the only other ones featured the Tomoiki girls (which included Arihara Kanna, since she hadn’t joined C-ute yet) at some kind of environmentalism-related convention type thing. And however shallow it’s going to sound, I clearly remember falling in love with Nocchi’s voice from those. Her rather ducky-sounding voice was just ADORABLE. So from then on, I decided to support Nocchi as much as I could– the extent of which was pretty much just following her official blog, and wishing, hoping, and praying for more Eggs exposure and a second Tomoiki song.

It took quite a while, but the Eggs eventually got their own concert alongside Aika, Linlin, and Junjun, and then we finally got the Ongaku Gatas unit!

So! Back to present day! I’m really happy about this video featuring the Eggs. It brings a lot of attention to a few of the small army that Tsunku has created, and it seems people are gradually taking more interest in them. And things can only go up from here, I hope!

One Egg that a lot of people have been singling out is Mano Erina. I will admit that I was REALLY impressed with her, too. I’d never taken interest in her before, but they made her VERY cute in this PV, in which she carries this certain… attitude that just comes across so well on screen, and I was most impressed by her voice. Having listened to the song a bunch of times now, I really think she puts the most edge in her voice out of all the Eggs there. It comes across really strongly. You can hear it the most when you compare her version of the line ‘hajimeru yokan’ at 3:53 in the song to Sengoku Minami’s version of the same line at 2:57.

Another really impressive thing about Manoeri that I’d like to point out is, well, just how WELL she comes across in that PV, in comparsion to earlier videos of her. In this video– all of the H!P Eggs do self-introductions.

(At ~03:46 (in the embedded version above)) Manoeri is VERY soft-spoken here, and while she livens up a bit near the end of her introduction, she doesn’t have that same kind of self-assured, confident attitude that she does in the Ongaku Gatas PV. Looking back on that, her transformation from that video to the PV is just… amazing. Well done, Manoeri!

It’s also pretty amusing to take a look at the rest of the Ongaku Gatas Eggs in that video, too. They all come across like somewhat timid tomboys (except Nocchi, and even Sengoku Minami gets a little cute and girly in hers). For reference, Mutou Mika’s at 05:10, Sawada Yuri follows her at 04:57, Sengoku Minami is at 04:28, Mano Erina is at 03:46, and Noto Arisa is at 03:04. And they all come across as such well-trained, sophisticated ladies in the PV. I think that speaks a lot about the potential of the Eggs in general, so I’m really hoping for even more Egg promotion in the future!

So, while I was impressed with Manoeri, I think she’s getting a lot of attention from the fans in particular, so I’d like to focus on a few others. One of which you can pretty easily guess right off the bat.

Nocchi. ❤ If you’re still trying to match up names with faces, Nocchi is the one with the bun in her hair.

(Screencap courtesy of magurosan at JPH!P forums.) Sure, I’m a little biased since she’s my favorite, but Nocchi does so well in this PV. Whenever I catch her in it, she’s always staring straight into the camera and totally hamming it up. Her dancing is fantastic, and her expressions are just PERFECT– especially on her ‘kagayakeru’ line, complete with an adorable eyebrow raise. She’s really knows how to work it for the camera, and she just has so much presence. That became evident to me even with the Tomoiki videos. She is really the trained-idol type. She knows just what to do and how to present herself to get more attention without coming off as too overbearing. And hey, since they are the ONGAKU Gatas after all, her singing voice is great, too! Nocchi really is a star, so here’s hoping more people start noticing her!

Another one of the Eggs that I’d like to bring attention to is actually Mutou Mika. I remember learning more about this girl back when I first was learning about the Eggs. She was one of the few that had her own blog, so while I was browsing through Nocchi’s, I took a look at Mika’s, too. I thought her boyish character was really cute, and her blog stood out because she was so much less of a camwhore than the other girls. She’d rarely post pictures of herself, which I found rather endearing. She seemed really sweet and humble, and the lack of camwhoring was even a little bit refreshing in the idol world. Unfortunately, Mika wasn’t in any singing group like Tomoiki, so I had to settle for learning very little about her.

When I saw her in this PV, I was blown away. They made her look absolutely GORGEOUS!

  

Despite her lack of screentime and solo lines, she really caught my eye whenever I could spot her. I just wish I could hear her singing voice, but there’s always hoping for a second single!

So basically, the Ongaku Gatas single totally exceeded my expectations. And while I can’t expect the big shots of H!P to be tapping into my brain and using my wishes as future protocol any time soon, I’m still hoping for more Eggs to come. It’d be fantastic if, in addition to these chosen Eggs, a few other of my favorites get some kind of promotion, namely Mori Saki, Wada Ayaka, and Kitahara Sayaka. And for kicks– here’s some pictures of those three (in that order):

Mori Saki was in Tomoiki alongside Nocchi, so that’s how I discovered her; she’s the one with the pigtails/braids up in that Tomoiki performance, and I think she is really one of the cutest eggs. She’s got this kind of really classic cuteness about her that’s completely charming.

I don’t really have such great reasons for making the other two some of my favorites. I like Wada Ayaka because her slow speaking voice is just ADORALBE, and she was born in the same day as me– August 1, except a few years later. XD And as for Sayaka, I happened to notice her because she reminds me a lot of Aya from SweetS (… I MISS SweetS~ ;__;).

So, for whatever reason, support the Eggs! I sure as hell don’t have the best reasons for some of my favorites, but I look forward to seeing more of them in the future!

 

The Limited Edition A (with DVD) version of Onna ni Sachi Are finally arrived in the mail today as a belated birthday present (thanks, Dad!), and while I’ve been listening to the song for a while now, I figured it’s never too late for a review, seeing as this song just rocks beyond belief!

This was a fantastic song overall, and a great one for the two new Chinese members to debut on. I actually wasn’t too much of a fan of the song at first, I have to admit, but when the PV preview was released, I was completely hooked. The reasons may sound stupid, but honestly, those gold outfits, the gold set, that awesome dance finally made me fall in love with the song. The dance, especially, made me appreciate the dance beat so much more– that bass makes the song so damn catchy. In particular, I really think it was Risa’s solo line combined with that beat that got me completely hooked; her voice works with the beat in a way that none of the others do. Not that Takahashi isn’t an amazing singer or that any of the girls don’t blend particularly well with the song– it was just really Risa’s voice that finally pulled me in. That and Junjun.

It took me quite a long time to like Junjun, I have to admit. When Junjun and Linlin had appeared on Hello Morning when it was first announced they’d be entering the group, Junjun didn’t impress me very much. In contrast to Linlin, she seemed so lost and emotionless there, while Linlin was there with this awesome, “… NO WAI.” expression on her face. That and having seen Linlin’s photos from when she was sent in as an undercover Egg made me much, much more impressed with Linlin.

It was really up until the Onna ni Sachi Are PV preview that Junjun was never on my favorites list. When I finally saw her in action, though, everything changed. There was just that something about her that caught my eye. From her first close-up with Junjun, I found myself watching for her specifically throughout the whole PV. After having seen the whole PV, she and Risa impressed me the most; those two were able to pull off the silent ‘baka’s best, and just owned in general. Hands down, Junjun was stunning in that PV. While there’s been a lot of complaints throughout the fandom about their overwhelmingly gold outfits, I loved it, and Junjun’s look was just perfect for it. Not to sound corny or anything, but in that PV, Junjun really inspired me. Her entire attitude was amazing, and really– I felt the need to write about the kind of character she was portraying. I enjoy fiction-writing as a hobby, and I’d had a story in the making in my head for a while now, and after seeing Junjun, I felt inspired to go out and start on that story and, of course, incorporate a noble-yet-badass Junjun character into the story.

After that PV, I just fell completely for Junjun. She’s worked her way up so high on my Morning Musume favorites list now. Before that, she was second from least favorite, and now she and Aika are tied for my number one favorite. I’ve completely realized the errors of my past thoughts and accepted Junjun as one awesome MM member.

And Onna ni Sachi Are, like I mentioned before, worked its way up, too. I’d gone from being pretty disappointed with the single to having it become one of my favorite MM songs ever. I’ve been following all of the performances of the song, and I have to say that the Music Fighter performance is my favorite of them all. That performance alone deserves a few comments. Here’s a Youtube upload of it if you haven’t seen it yet:

As much as I like the girl, I have to admit that Koharu can be a bit rough singing live. Honestly, I’ve always loved the “bad singers” of the group, so I never really have minded her live voice– in fact, I can’t stand it when they have one or two members lip-synch when the others are live. But out of all the performances I’ve seen, her voice sounds best in this one.

I also want to draw some attention to Aika here. She’s improved so much since she first entered the group. I can still remember the girl who had a lot of trouble dancing back during the auditions, and how she didn’t have the best live voice when they first let her sing in Egao YES Nude and everything, but look at her go now! Her voice has improved a LOT. Just listen to her “namida wa misenai…” line there– she sounds fantastic! And her dancing is right up there with all of the other girl’s, too! I’m going to have to be a bit of a cornball here again, but, I’m so proud of her! Since I only got into Momusu recently, Aika has been the only member (not quite counting Junjun and Linlin since they didn’t enter MM the traditional way) I’ve really been able to follow from the start. I was rooting for her during the early phases of the auditions, so I was absolutely ECSTATIC when she got in! And the progress she’s made is just awesome. You go, girl!

A few other comments on that performance– Risa is also just plain awesome. She puts her all into her performances, and it shows. And for a bit of lulz, watch for Reina’s “high kick” during the dance break. Sayumi totally owns that kick, Eri does a great job with it too, but Reina…. I’m a little worried for Koharu. Whose idea was it to let the shortest member of the group do a high kick over one of the taller members’s head?! In comparison to Eri and Sayumi there, Reina doesn’t do a too spectacular job of it. All I’ve gotta say is, take cover, Koharu, just in case that happens again! Taking a hit of that heel to the face would NOT be pretty!

Well anyway, here’s hoping that Morning Musume’s next single is as awesome as Onna ni Sachi Are was, and, well, go 8th gen!