Here we go again.
I feel like I might have jinxed this group when I used the headline “Angerme v2.0 (stable)” for the review of their triple-PV drop last month. It really did feel like Angerme had finally stabilized after losing six members in two years, with mid-tier members seizing new opportunities to shine, an exciting new generation bubbling with potential, and a solid base of vets to lead the way. Kassa, along with Ise Layla and Ayano Kawamura, was in that mid-tier of girls poised to break out and exert greater influence over the sound and personality of the group for the next several years.
Instead, Momona has decided to (stop me if you’ve heard this before) “move abroad to study” — specifically singing and dance. The official announcement states (stop me if you’ve heard this before) that Kassa had “discussed graduation toward the end of last year.” If these parentheticals lead you to believe I’m somewhat skeptical of the quotes that follows them, that’s only because I am. A little bit. I’m confident that this is how these things generally play out, and it’s probably how it did with Kassa, but six grads in under three years is, to put it mildly, rather uncommon.
It’s suspicious for so many members to decide to GTFO the same group in such a small window of time, even if most of them are in their early-20s. Funaki and Kassa were both 17 at the time their intentions to graduate were publicized, which isn’t unheard of — it seems like if you make it past 17, you’ll make it to 20 — but it’s a notable coincidence being that they’re the most recent.
The other thing that strikes me as strange is the timing of the announcement. Why go public with Kassa’s impending graduation just two days before Angerme’s new single hits the streets? If the idea is to goose sales by making it known that this will likely be Momona’s last with the group, I’m not sure she has that much cachet outside of the hard-core fans who’ll be buying it no matter what. The possible downside seems just as plausible to me: some fans sour on the group after learning that yet another young, break-out member is graduating, and and learning it before they have an opportunity to buy the single. This couldn’t have waited for, say, mid-July? The rush to get this out is almost as odd as Murota pushing Funa’s grad back several months so she could go sooner.
Rank speculation and conjecture aside, this is a real bummer. I had just about made it to the point where seeing Funaki didn’t cause me to shake my head at the loss of what might’ve been. In that respect, Kassa choosing to leave right when she had reached a level of competence and confidence that made her potential seem limitless, this announcement is Funaki v2.0 for me. Both reached that level at an age where multiple future breakthroughs were not only possible, but likely. Look no further than group-mate Moe Kamikokuryo who, at age 21, finally unlocked the true power in her voice that was always lurking, but rarely present. The worst part is that, like Funa before her, I was looking forward to Kassa being a central and defining members of Angerme for the foreseeable future. Having gone through this with Funa last year, part of me would be fine if she just left immediately. Yes, I know, it’s petty as fuck. Just six months ago I raked Momona 2nd of my Top 5 H!P Idols Under 18. My final line from her entry sums up my frustration: “I could see her someday leading Angerme.” Oops! Anyway, I wish Kassa the best in her new life, and I hope her graduation concert is everything she wants it to be. She’s earned it.
As always, there is upside to every graduation, even those as hard to understand as this one, and the race is now on for the junior members to see who can fill the void left by Kassa’s departure. I don’t think it’ll be much of a race, though, because Shion Tamenaga is pretty obviously the most ready to take the baton and run with it. Tame-chan has come a long way from her KSS days, particularly as a singer, which was probably her weakest skill when she joined Angerme. She’s not as advanced as Kassa, and she’s a different type of idol — less intense, more genki — but just as powerful in her own way, and apparently just as confident. Most importantly, she’s polished and seems on the cusp of her own break-out. As talented and beyond-her-years as Wakana is, she’s still raw and very young, and while I think she’ll be pushed a little harder than she would’ve been had Kassa stayed, I expect she’ll be more seasoning than steak for at least the next year or so.
That leaves the Rins. Hashisako strikes me as a late bloomer, and it looks like management is going to let her move at (mostly) her own pace. She’s still only 15, so she has plenty of time to improve her skills and build needed confidence. I think her role will remain the same until she proves she’s ready for more. Which brings us to Kawana, who I see as the wild card of the group. She’s a striking visual idol, but with no prior training, she’s playing catch-up to Tamanaga, and as shes three months older than Shion, it’s hard to imagine she’ll ever surpass her in terms of performance. Which is not to say she can’t be a useful or even important member — that’s all up to Kawa-Rin herself — and I expect she’ll be afforded more opportunity to show what she’s got than she would have in an Angerme that included Kasahara.
And if anyone from Up-Front is reading this, let’s make sure you’re keeping Ise Layla nice and happy, okay?