Note: This is the first on a series of posts where I catch up with Hello! Project music released during my hiatus.
When we last left Kobushi Factory, they were in the midst of the single greatest act of self-destruction of any group in Hello! Project history. Over a seven month period covering May to December of 2017, the group lost three members — not one of them to normal graduation — under circumstances that the girls and the company have kept mostly hush-hush. (Based on what we do know, K-F was saddled with three young girls who liked the trappings of being idols far more than the work of being idols. You picked the wrong company for that shit, ladies.) Kobushi Factory would serve as the face of the most lackluster year for H!P as a whole in recent memory, save for the emergence of Tsubaki Factory as a serious player in the idol game, the re-invigoration of Juice=Juice via a shot of 150-proof Ruru, and the return of Asuka Fukuda and the original Morning Musume to kick off H!P’s 20-year anniversary. Other than that it was a smattering of mediocre singles and the implosion of what was H!P’s freshest, most exciting new group since S/mileage.
Kobushi Factory returns leaner, and with a mean-streak they haven’t displayed since their major debut single, “Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan”. Up-Front is still keeping the leash short for now, so K-F gets an old school two-track A/B-side single for their return as a 5-nin unit. What the suits didn’t do is go cheap on the music, giving the girls two upbeat tracks in the classic power-idol mold. The A-side”Kore Kara da!” feels like a K-F track, which is comforting for those of us who didn’t want the sudden lineup changes to lead to changes in the sound we loved. The lyrics about overcoming obstacles and fighting on are well-worn grist in the great idol mill, but for this single by this group, they feel a bit more meaningful: this is nut-up-or-shut-up time for the remaining members of Kobushi Factory, and they deliver with the ferocity you’d expect from a group of girls singing for their careers. As Farrah from mm-bbs.org noted, the song feels like it was meant for a larger group, but the 5-nin group pulls it off well.
“Ashita Tenki ni Naare” offers more pump-you-up self-affirmation lyrical content over a decidedly more conventional idol-rock sound. It’s as catchy as measles in a Malibu daycare center and the girls deliver another merciless performance. The more conventional rock arrangement fits the smaller group better than ”Kore Kara da!”, even though its sound is more conventional . Honestly, this would’ve made a great Buono! single. It’s a great track, and the decision to go with a talk-show theme for the video as a way to re-introduce themselves to the world was a good one (the sooooooper cheese-ball execution of the video notwithstanding.)
So Kobushi Factory is back from their self-inflicted near-death experience, and I think they’re going to be fine. This single instantly jumps up near the top of a catalog that had been losing steam and was only held afloat by an out-of-nowhere killer album at the end of 2016. One thing that’s apparent is that, despite the purge, the strongest singers all remain. Other than Natsumi’s personality, I don’t think I’ll miss anything the Lost-3 brought to the group. Long-term, this might prove to be a blessing, as Kobushi Factory now has a head-start on becoming the “new C-ute” everyone assumed they would eventually become.