The next era of Hello!Project: the 12th and 3rd gen

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As every H!P fan, and most likely any idol fan in general, knows by now on September 30th after a little over a month of waiting Morning Musume’s 12th generation was finally announced. And I mean finally. Despite only waiting for a month it sure felt like forever. Mostly because the Golden Audition was announced back in March and the Mirai Shoujo audition was announced back in March of 2013. So, that was about a year and a half to wait for the 12th generation. With all this waiting, failed auditions, and years between auditions Morning Musume should honestly be on the 17th gen by now. But that’s a topic for another day.

I’m also sure all of you know that after making a shocking announcement on last week’s Hello!Station S/mileage’s 3rd gen was announced yesterday. All pretty standard information, but I feel like it’s important to get all this on my blog so it can forever be immortalized here. With that being said, and out of the way, let’s get on to my opinions about these results. It’s the whole reason you’re reading this after all.

Let’s start of with Morning Musume. If you’re anything like myself waiting for the results for the 12th gen were almost unbearable. Even when we were told specifically that we’d be getting the results on the 30th I was too impatient and excited to wait any longer. But somehow myself and every other Momusu fan managed to muster through this hardship and have arrived on the other side feeling satisfied. Or at least somewhat satisfied.

Even though this is my 5th audition process since becoming an H!P fan this was the first time I was awake to find out the results in real time as they were happening. And let me tell you the sense of excitement and panic was palpable. Whenever I find out the results for something like this I usually get so nervous about it because I almost put myself in the situation. Even though I’m waiting to see them call my favorite person’s name it almost feels like I’m there myself and I’m waiting for my own name to be called. I usually do this with reality competition shows. I’m in such a fervor over something that simple that when they lose it truly is a crushing defeat. (Is it obvious that I’m just a little dramatic yet?)

The 12th gen auditions weren’t any different and I found myself sitting there with such butterflies in my stomach and practically biting my nails in anticipation. The fact that the results weren’t announced for around 30-45 minutes past the time everyone initially thought they were going to be announced at didn’t help either. But since this was yet another audition without training camp footage I felt like I couldn’t miss the only exciting part of the audition. I guess that’s why in the past I never went out of my way to be awake for the results as soon as they happened. Since I already picked my favorites from the training camp I had an idea of who was going to be picked. But this audition we were going in completely blind, no one even had a clue. The most we could do was hope our favorite Kenshuusei made it. But because no one even knew if their favorite Kenshuusei even made it to the final round of the audition everyone was in the dark.

I have to say it was a really fun moment to see the girls’ names being called one by one. Not knowing who the next person was going to be, or not knowing if there even was going to be a next person. At about the halfway mark everyone was pretty much saying that the 12th gen was going to be a 2 person generation. And that honestly made me sad because I didn’t want only 2 members. To be perfectly honest I went every generation to have 4 members. The more idols the merrier. And thankfully my silent wishes were answered because 2 more girls were announced. The 12th gen then, of course, consisted of: Ogata Haruna, Nonaka Miki, Haga Akane, and Makino Maria.

Let’s talk about these girls a little bit.

Ogata Haruna

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15 years old from Osaka. She also does figure skating which ever wota in the audience went ballistic over for some reason.

Haruna, Haruna, Haruna! No matter how you slice it seems destined that this girl is going to be my favorite 12th generation member. When I first saw a picture of her I was interested in her the most because she was really cute. But once people starting uncovering her twitter accounts, and pictures from her past were released, that was it I was 100% sold on her. She seems like such an absolutely weird girl who’s really living up to being from Osaka. She reminds me so much of Zukki and Kananan who just happen to be 2 of my top current H!P members. And with that my love for her is truly fated and I’m powerless to resist it. But like I said, at most Haruna will become my favorite 12th generation member, much like how Maa-chan is my favorite 10th generation member. My top spot is, and always will be, reserved for Zukki. And unless she decided to randomly graduate tomorrow I don’t see that ever changing.

OgataHaruna

Nonaka Miki

14 years old from Shizuoka. Her special skill is English. And boy is she great at it.

The first thing I noticed about Miki was how adorable her speaking voice is. And then once I heard her speaking in English I was blown away. The girl lived in America for 8 years and speaks fluent English. And her English is flawless you can’t even tell that it wasn’t her first language. But that’s to be expected since if she lived in the US for 8 years that means she first started to learn English at just 6 years old. Miki also said that she wanted to be the link between Morning Musume and the foreign fans. I completely approve of that. Go on and do your thing Miki! The only thing that annoys me about Miki is that her official nickname is apparently Mikitty. Not that that has nothing to do with Miki herself, but just the same I hope they either end up changing it or the nickname just never sticks.

Haga Akane:

HagaAkane

12 years old from Nagano. Member of the Kenshuusei who auditioned for both the 11th and 12th gen.

Akane was part of the big group of finalists who failed the Mirai Shoujo audition and were immediately all added to the Kenshuusei in one fell swoop. Now I can honestly say that I don’t know much about Akane. When it comes to the failed Mirai Shoujo audition girls I personally just focused on my favorites Yamaki Risa and Danbara Ruru. Akane has been saying her favorite Morning Musume song is Be Alive and it think it’s pretty obvious that she started to like that song because it was the song used during Morning Musume’s 11th gen auditions. And I think it’s also pretty obvious why Sakura won back then. I honestly don’t think Akane is a very good singer. Her voice is pretty weak and needs a lot of work. Maybe years of work honestly. And with the performance level so high in Morning Musume currently that the 12th gen have to practice for a few months before they can join, I’m a little confused as to why Akane was chosen. If we’re just going based off of singing that is. I think there are a lot more talented Kenshuusei who make more sense than Akane does. And I have to wonder if she was chosen because fans are comparing her to Sayumi? I honestly don’t even see a resemblance between them. I mean a most she looks a splash like Sayu. But she’s certainly as weak at singing as Sayu was when she first joined. Are they that focused on replacing Sayu?

Makino Maria:

MakinoMaria

13 years old from Aichi. Member of the Kenshuusei who auditioned for the 11th gen.

Maria is another Kenshuusei that I don’t know much about. But I have to say initially makes more sense as a 12th gen member than Akane does. Maria has a great singing voice. She’s definitely one of the better singer in the Kenshuusei. I wouldn’t say she’s at the top singing wise but she’s somewhere in the middle and she’s someone who I can see blossoming over the years. Maria seems to have a lot of hobbies and reminds me of Maa-chan because they both play the piano and reminds me of Ai-chan because they both did ballet. Beyond that I don’t have much of an impression of her so far. So I guess I’ll have to wait until I see more of her.

Moving on to the S/mileage 3rd gen. Now when this was announced it seemed like most of the fans were apprehensive to the whole situation. And with good reason. This does bring up some real fears of the remaining 1st gen members possibly graduating in the near future or seeing them shoved to the back to make room for the 3rd gen. But I tried not to focus on that to be honest, because I was too excited for the news to let anything spoil it. Ever since the 2nd gen was announced I’ve always expected/have been waiting for the 3rd gen. I mean it made sense that it was going to happen eventually. And when they said that S/mileage was going to make a special announcement on Hello!Station I had an inkling that’s what it was going to be.

The wait for the 3rd gen went a lot quicker not only because we only had to wait about a week but because I also forget that they were going to be announced until about an hour before hand. And I only checked the news about an hour after it happened. So, there was a different feeling completely.

On to the 3rd gen girls.

Sasaki Rikako:

SasakiRikako

13 years old from Miyagi.

I was absolutely thrilled about Rikako joining the group, she was one of my favorite Kenshuusei. And while I did think she made a better fit for Morning Musume I am happy that she gets to debut at all. I think Rikako definitely has that idol feel about her. Her seems to be very sweet, soft-spoken, and charming. She’s also one of the best singers among the Kenshuusei. Her voice is a nice mixture of cuteness and power. Kind of like how Kanon’s voice is and like so many past members of H!P. But since Rikako is both talented and popular she was in that awkward Karin situation where she had legions of fans crying about her not debuting already. Which has in turn made a lot of people dislike her. And I honestly think that’s absurd. Overzealous fans exist everywhere, and if you focus on them, or let them bother you, then you’re going to end up not liking anything.

Murota Mizuki

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16 years old from Chiba.

Mizuki is another favorite Kenshuusei of mine. And I’ve been waiting patiently for her to debut because this girl can seriously sing! She’s easily part of the top tier of Kenshuusei singing wise. Over the past year she’s been overshadowed by more popular Kenshuusei so for a while there I was afraid that she was going to keep getting overlooked and wouldn’t debut at all. But I am extremely happy that her talent was recognized. Since this makes her the second debuted Mizuki in H!P I guess I’m gonna have to start calling her by her nickname Murotan to not mix them up.

Aikawa Maho

AikawaMaho

15 years old from Kanagawa.

I cannot even begin to tell you about Maho because I simply don’t know anything about her at all. At least with Haga Akane I had heard her name before but I haven’t even heard of Maho before. She’s only been a Kenshuusei for 5 months and it doesn’t look like she’s even participated in a concert before. How that makes her a qualified pick, I have no idea. I really don’t understand how H!P picks the Kenshuusei to debut sometimes. You have girls who have been members for years, girls who just left because they have been waiting for what feel like forever to debut, and then you debut girls like Maho and KanaTomo who have only been members for a few short months. It makes no sense to me. The only other thing I can really tell you about Maho is that her nickname seems to be AiAi, but I’m not sure that I like that so I’m going to keep calling her Maho until I get used to that. If I ever get used to it.

Now with 7 new girls coming in we are experiencing a completely new era in H!P in more ways than one. Back when they announced the Country Musume revival audition and the 12th gen audition at around the same time I was really excited for the outcome because this meant that we were not only going to get a completely new group, but we were going to get both generations at once and it was going to be like a repeat of 2011. But as we all know for some incomprehensible reason no winners were chosen and the audition was considered a failure. But now that we have a Momusu 12th gen and a S/mileage 3rd gen it’s literally a complete repeat of 2011. And truly a new era for Hello!Project.

Let’s look at where H!P stands right now. Sayumi is graduating next month, Berryz is going on hiatus in the spring, and C-ute probably doesn’t have more than 2 years left. In the not so far off future we could be looking at an H!P where the most senior member of Hello!Project only debuted in 2010. (2009 if you want to count S/mileage’s indie era.) Do you realize that in a few years when C-ute disbands, oh I’m sorry goes on “indefinite hiatus,” Ayaka will be the new leader of H!P? Ayaka. Just let that sink in for a minute. Now if that doesn’t show how much drastic changes have been going on in H!P over the past 5 years I don’t know what will. I mean when I, and most of us, became fans of Hello!Project Nakazawa Yuko was the leader and now we’re looking at a future where Wada Ayaka will be the leader. Assuming she doesn’t graduate before then. And that’s seriously mind blowing to me.

On the subject of Ayaka, let’s talk about the possibility about her and Kanon’s future for a minute. The announcement of the 3rd generation sparked a huge fear within the fandom about the aspect of one or both of the 1st generation members graduating. And quite honestly that fear is justified. If you recall Ogawa Saki graduated just days after the 2nd gen were announced and Maeda Yuuka’s graduation single was the 2nd gen’s first official single after being promoted from sub-member to official members. A lot of fans have always resented the 2nd gen in a way because they always thought their presence caused Saki and Yuuka to graduate. But I personally never thought that’s why they graduated at all. I think Saki and Yuuka already planned to graduate and the 2nd gen was announced as a way to save S/mileage. As it was impossible to continue on as a duo or trio.

To me that always explained why Saki left S/mileage in such a rushed manner. I think she was begged to stay a member until at least the 2nd gen were announced. But after that she couldn’t take it and left before she got a proper sendoff. I think they were able to get Yuuka to stay a little bit longer, but not long enough to have a proper graduation concert. But that’s just my opinion on the situation. At least it makes more sense than the fan’s that said Yuuka graduated because she felt 2nd best to Airi who’s puns were far greater than her own. Get real people, girls can be petty sometimes but not that petty.

Ayaka and Kanon did say that the 3rd gen was their idea and that they wanted the 2nd gen to be able to continue with S/mileage even after they graduate. Sounds like it’s a hint to someone’s graduation. Maybe it’s because they both realized there are both in the exact situation that Saki and Yuuka were in a few years back. H!P even added Sasaki who is popular enough to take over the center position if Ayaka and Kanon were to graduate.

If Ayaka and Kanon were to graduate that would even further make this a new era to Hello!Project. And that would mean in a few years the current members of H!P would have all made their debut from 2011 onward and the most senior members would be Morning Musume’s 9th gen. Another shocking realization, but an accurate peek into the future nonetheless.

And I think H!P is making some real strides to prepare for this new era. Why else would they be not only debuting so many new girls in the past 3 years, but also building up the Kenshuusei as much as they are? The Kenshuusei are doing way more than any past H!P trainees have ever done. They’re releasing singles, had their own show, are more prominent at concerts, and are even releasing an album. Back when I became a fan of H!P Egg members were lucky if they ever got the chance to be part of a one-shot group.

But H!P has been planning this for a while as well. It all started with the giant reformation they went through. From the mass graduations of the older members and changing the name from Eggs to Kenshuusei. It did take them a while to get their footing and we lost some great Kenshuusei in the process. But I think H!P has shown that they are finally ready to fully utilize the Kenshuusei.
And I think the best way to do that would be to make another Kenshuusei group. And I really don’t think we’re too far off from that. There’s a lot of raw talent in the Kenshuusei and H!P would be foolish to let even more of them slip away. But more importantly with Berryz going on hiatus that leaves a big opening in H!P that they’re no doubt going to want to fill. And I don’t think it’s too far fetched for it to be another group either partially or fully made up of Kenshuusei. After all, most H!P groups are set up like that anyway. (Also, I’m counting H!P kids are trainees, but let’s be real they basically were until they properly debuted.)

And when you think about things this way it’s incredibly exciting to think about what the future will bring. Personally I want all of this Cool Hello nonsense to end. Let’s bring back individual concepts to groups again shall we? I want to see S/mileage go back to their original cutesy image. I want to Juice=Juice to stick to their jazzy and mature concept they originally had. C-ute is the only group I wouldn’t change at all because they are the only H!P group that hasn’t had their concept messed with. After Erika left C-ute changed to a dance group with fun and refreshing songs. While C-ute’s songs have been on the more mature side, they still have released enough fun songs that it doesn’t seem like they’ve changed much. It seems more like a natural evolution.

I want to see Momusu completely change their concept. Since the Platinum Era Momusu has been doing this thing were they stick to one concept and keep doing it the entire era. The Platinum Era was sad songs and the Colorful Era was EDM. Can they just stop that already? I want Momusu to do what they did in the past where they mixed genres and every single had a different sound. You’d have a sexy song one single and a cute song the next single. You’d have Indian influences here and salsa influences there. You’d have a fierce empowering song in one breath and a sorrowful broken hearted song in the next. I loved that element of playing with different sounds to such an extent that you never knew what kind of song you were going to get next. Let’s bring that feeling back.

I would also obviously love to see a new group be formed and fill the space that Berryz will leave behind. Musically anyway, we all know that Berryz can never be replaced. We need a group to take over Berryz funky and creative sound. You know the sound we haven’t seen in a while? I honestly think that’s the worst thing that happened to Berryz during their last few active years. They pushed them into this mature image that was never what Berryz was about.

Berryz was crazy and over the top. Making songs no one else in H!P was making. Remember when Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance came out and everyone was so annoyed that even though they were older than C-ute they were singing about dancing monkeys while C-ute was singing about heartbreak and relationships? That was Berryz to me. And I’ve always missed that. I just foolishly thought we’d have Berryz around long enough to see them releasing those types of songs again. Which is why I really want to see a new group bring that back.