Hey, Senpai!

On Graduations and Auditions

Posted on: August 9, 2010

I will spare you all a repeat posting of the photo that has graced every Hello! Project fan site and major news site in Japan for the past day or so. By now, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that anyone who makes their way to my blog will have heard the news about Kamei, Junjun, and Linlin graduating from Morning Musume in December and seen the picture of 8-nin Musume looking pretty miserable. In the dialogue that has ensued in the fan community, though, a lot of questions and concerns have been raised, and I’d like to reflect on them a bit here.

1. Junjun and Linlin

  • “Tsunku is racist and hates Chinese people.”
  • “The expansion into China wasn’t working so they’re just dropping the girls and who cares what the fans think.”
  • “They didn’t have enough time in the group.”/”They were just starting to shine.”/”They were never in the center for anything.”

One thing that I think a lot of H!P fans miss is that being in Morning Musume is the beginning of a girl’s career. Show business can be a lifelong career if a talent’s development is properly managed. If not, it’s easy for talents to be dismissed as “has-beens” or to disappear from the entertainment scene altogether.

The fact is this: Junjun and Linlin are, as Tsunku said, “young women”. They are also Chinese. It would be very difficult for them to find steady work in Japan upon graduating from MM. With their unique skill sets, though, including theater experience, radio shows, and the Japanese language, it shouldn’t be hard for them to find frequent, good work back home. However, youth means a lot in the entertainment business, and the longer they wait, the harder it would be for them to break back into the industry. Tsunku’s choice to graduate JunLin now is the best choice he could have made for their futures.

Many have said that the girls weren’t in the group long enough for their talents to truly shine. Recently, Musume-Central posted an updated tenure list. Looking at this (it was posted July 10th), we can see that by the time they graduate, JunLin will have been in the group longer than five other girls (that’s 20% of girls who have been in Musume) including none other than Nakazawa Yuko and Goto Maki. No one would argue that those girls were not in the group long enough to make an impact, right? Three years and nine months is also about as long as most Americans spend in high school. I’m sure very few people would argue that their time in high school is or was not long enough. 😉

And what about being in the center? They’ve both got long solos in Ame no Furanai… and Shiroi Chou no Samba. Linlin has a solo song on the Champloo album. Linlin led Shin Minimoni and Junjun was involved with Zoku Viyuuden, one of the smallest of the new shuffle units. They were featured with Koharu and Aika in small group songs on Cover You and the 9th and 10th albums. They had their own unit with Koharu and Miyabi as support. I’d argue that they are the current equivalent of Ogawa Makoto – very talented and appreciated but rarely at the center of things. Let’s see what happens as they move back to China and step into the spotlight on their own.

2. Kamei

  • “It’s a cover up for her having a boyfriend and idol bands are stupid for their no boyfriend rule!”

Fans have found images where Eri’s skin condition is visible. Many are from Japan Expo. Wikipedia states that the condition is aggravated by such things as sweating, stress, and certain fabrics and detergents – all of which are common in concert settings – and the girls themselves have stated that the makeup they use is bad for the skin so they only wear it when they’re on stage or shooting. Eri has also been inexplicably absent from events in the past where she was a pivotal member.

I’m really impressed with Eri that she has worked so hard despite being so uncomfortable much of the time. I am really shocked that some fans are trying to blame her departure on some imagined indiscretion on Eri’s part.

3. Ninth Gen

  • “They should add <insert egg here>. Why bring more girls who aren’t trained into Hello! Project and ignore the Eggs?”
  • “OMG they’re all going to be younger than Aika and that’s too young. It’ll be awkward.”
  • “What are these kids doing in my Morning Musume?”

Ages Upon Joining Morning Musume

12: Kago Ai, Nozomi Tsuji, Niigaki Risa, Koharu Kusumi, and Fukuda Asuka
13: Goto Maki, Tanaka Reina, and Ogawa Makoto
14: Takahashi Ai, Yoshizawa Hitomi, Sayaka Ichii, Mitsui Aika, Kamei Eri, Michishige Sayumi, and Konno Asami
15: Ishikawa Rika and Yaguchi Mari
16: Iida Kaori, Natsumi Abe, and Linlin
17: Fujimoto Miki and Yasuda Kei
19: Junjun and Ishiguro Aya
24: Nakazawa Yuko

The overwhelming majority of Morning Musume members made their debuts between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. Only three girls have ever started older. However, these members were in the group at the same time as much younger members. Nakazawa was twelve years older than Fukuda Asuka when the group was formed. She was still leader when Kago joined despite the fourteen year age difference between the two of them. Kaorin was 23 when Gaki-san joined, an eleven year age difference. Yossi was 20 when Koharu joined, an eight year age difference. Having a wide range of ages has long been one of Morning Musume’s signature features.

My expectation is that we’ll see one or two twelve year olds and one or two 14-15 year olds in this audition to make a total of three or four new members with a diverse age spread. Will I be as interested in the young girls as I am the older members? Probably not. I am, however, eager to see how the older girls do as mentors to the younger girls. Aika in particular is likely to shine, as her caring, doting personality hasn’t had much of an outlet up until now.

I think it unlikely that many (if any) Eggs will be considered for addition to Morning Musume. To begin with, adding a first or second generation Egg presents some seniority issues, not in terms of age, but in terms of tenure under the Hello! Project banner. First gen Eggs have been in training since 2004 and many have been involved with releases of some regard. Adding them to a new generation would likely create a awkward situation similar to that of Fujimoto Miki where a girl with years of training and some releases under her belt was given equal status with total newbies.

The other reason I think it unlikely that we’ll see more Eggs in Musume is that part of the core concept of the group is that we as fans get to watch girls develop pretty much from ground zero. Before our eyes, the girl next door stumbles through dancing and singing lessons, gets scolded by her senpai, says something unintentionally hilarious on primetime TV, cries, laughs, makes friends with girls who were once her heroes, and becomes a star capable of standing in the spotlight on her own. It’s simply not as much fun if she’s a polished performer to begin with.

I will say that I hope that 5-nin Musume releases one single together after the graduations in December, before 9th gen joins. At the very least I want a 5-nin Morning Coffee B-side on the 45th single release. It’s an interesting lineup, one that can’t or shouldn’t last too long, but it should be recognized in some way.

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3 Responses to "On Graduations and Auditions"

wow…what a different post… You really made me look at this mass graduation in a very different way…
Thanks…
Now, my 20th birthday won’t seem that bad…
(it’s december 12th, the graduation night…if i’m not mistaken…)

I’m glad if I’ve helped at all. I know the graduation will still be very sad (the fact that it’s your birthday is really rough!) but we will get to see these three girls step into their futures and hopefully watch a new group of girls start their Musume journey at the same time. It’s a big change and while I have made sense of it in some ways it’s still quite overwhelming. At any rate we as fans have a full four months to shower Junjun, Linlin, and Kamei with lots of love before they graduate!

🙂

Loved this. Gave me a whole new perspective on the graduation (not on the audition, I already was thinking about all that).

I just really wish they weren’t graduating all at the same time :/ Tsunku basically piggybacked Eri’s graduation with Junjun/Linlin’s – in essence, “since Eri’s graduating, I’ll have Junjun Linlin graduate too since they should go off and do other stuff anyway.” I would’ve liked it better if it were just Eri and then Junjun/Linlin graduating in a separate concert tour :c

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