I’m gonna try out a new format where I comment on tweets I see from H!P Twitter that interest me beyond a single tweet response. Long Twitter threads tend to be a drag, as pithiness is the coin of Twitter’s realm, so I’ll do my long-form babbling here.
I’m of two minds on this: there are times when I’m shocked to realize how long MM’s 12th gen has been around, and I think it’s partly due to how long it took them to settle into their roles. Also, having so many seniors stick around for so long has meant that the roles they’ve settled into have sort of been suspended in amber. On the other hand, since the 12kis debuted, I’ve liquidated a business, sold a house, moved three times across three different states, and divorced a wife. When I think back to where I was when they joined, it feels more like 15 years.
The other thing that happened over that time was the 12kis’ slow and steady growth into reliable idols of distinct types: Miki is the well-rounded idol-of-all-trades, above average in everything, if not spectacular in anything. (Although, she’s become a very good singer, to the point where I think she doesn’t get enough credit for how good she’s become from a lot of the H!P fandom. Miki’s growth has been Niigaki-like — almost imperceptible until one day you hear her sing and think “where did that come from? When did she become this good?”) Maria is all visual, all the time, and that’s okay, because she’s that pretty. The baseball obsession has me rolling my eyes at times, but it seems organic, so I’m probably just being petty. Akane is the poster-girl for Do Your Best!, and as much as Miki’s singing growth has surprised me, Akane’s overall growth never fails to stun me these days. I wrote in detail about this at the end of my review for 16th ~That’s J-POP~, so I won’t belabor it here, but suffice it to say that I never expected her to last this long, or become this reliable. Her calm disposition also stands out among her peers. The only real disappointment was Haruna Ogata,
Right. What’s also interesting is that it’s been
three years (as of tomorrow!) two-and-a-half years since MM has graduated anyone (Ogata Iikubo), which (still) seems excessively long to me. There was a two year gap from Miki Fujimoto’s graduation in 2007 to Kusumi Koharu’s in 2009, and from that point through 2018, MM graduated at least one member each year. We think of the Ai Takahashi Era as one of extreme stability with regards to MM’s lineup — and it was — but this three-year run under Fukumura has surpassed even that in its dearth of departures. I think it’s time to end the drought.
I understand becoming attached to particular idols, but the price of getting exciting new blood every couple of years is sending Oba-chan off to the old folks home of M-Line occasionally. My view of Fukumura has actually softened recently, but I’m still ready for her and Eri to move on, and they can take Ishida with them. I don’t dislike any of them, but they’re currently in the way of other members reaching their full potential. I’m thinking mostly of the 12th and 13th gen girls, but the 15kis look like the types for whom a greater load of responsibility would actually be beneficial.
This was one of those “why didn’t I think of that” things that I come across way too often. It appears that three is indeed the magic number, because there are no duds in any H!P 3-nin generation. My first instinct is to go with MM’s 2nd gen, but that might just be bias, since they were members of the era of MM that made me a fan. Then I think maybe Anju’s 3rd gen, but that might also be bias, because I wasn’t a huge fan of S/mileage in the moment, but Anju grabbed me immediately, and in no small part to Rikako and Mizuki. MM 15kis and Anju 9kis are too recent to really judge, though, so I can’t in good conscience pick either of them as “the best.” It’s interesting how the generations are similar in that each one includes two really strong members and one wild card:
MM 2nd – Strong: Yaguchi, Yasuda; WC: Iichi
Anju 3rd – Strong: Sasaki, Murota; WC: Aikawa
MM 15th – Strong: Yamazaki, Kitagawa; WC: Okamura
Anju 9th – Strong: Tamenaga, Matsumoto; WC: Kawana
Comparing MM2 to Anju3, I see the strong members as pretty much equal, so the tie-breaker comes down to the wild cards, which isn’t much of a contest: Sayaka Iichi was more talented than Maho, and an integral cog of MM during their ascension to becoming the top idol group in Japan. Morning Musume 2nd Generation for the win, then. (I do wish Maho could’ve had more time to grow beyond the mostly visual member she was before her tenure was cut short by panic disorder.)
Somewhat related to that poll is this gif of Wakana during an online signing session with Akari Takeuchi that streamed on YouTube a few days ago. I woke up early — around 4:30 in the morning — and this was live, so I watched a bit of it before falling back asleep, and this gif pretty much sums up Wakana’s performance. I don’t mean just on that stream, either, but her performance overall since joining Angerme off the street last November. Set aside Waa-chan’s advanced-for-her-age voice for the moment: how the hell is this 13 year old child with no prior training so natural and so at ease in seemingly every situation? I don’t think I’ve ever seen Wakana overwhelmed or unsure even once (granted, I don’t get to see a lot of clips), and everything she does seems genuine and uncalculated. It’s remarkable how a girl who looks even younger than 13 (the “Take Your Daughter To Work Day” jokes were on-point) is evidently unfazed by everything that H!P has thrown at her in 7+ months.
I don’t understand Japanese, so I can’t judge her wit or ability to entertain in that way, but I do understand body language, and I can tell the difference between an idol who sometimes forces things or appears to consciously refer back to training (see Yamazaki, Mei) and one who is just being their honest self, and Waa-chan is definitely the latter. For the moment, Up-Front is pushing Wakana slowly, but they are pushing her, and it seems like she’s responding well to it. I often talk of an idols ceiling — how high their talent could allow them to rise in a perfect world — and while it’s tempting to say she doesn’t have a ceiling, it also feels like a cop-out. It also implies that Waa-chan’s ceiling could be Aya Matsuura, which seems kind of aggressive, but also kind of… possible. I’ll just say that Wakana is a natural-born idol that I’m excited to watch grow over the next several years.
I mixed up the graduation dates of Haruna Ogata and Haruna Iikubo in the original draft. Thanks to @lnabaccho for bringing it to my attention!