W on Samma no Mamma

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

I downloaded and burned to VCD the February 25 appearance of W – that’s Tsuji Nozomi and Kago Ai – on the talk show Samma no Mamma. It wasn’t subbed but I sat through the whole show completely fascinated. Some of the things that kept me glued…

The host. I know Samma-chan from his Christmas specials, including the one in 2003 where Morning Musume did their incredible sixties girl-group medley. It was fun watching him – he’s not as deep-dish strange as Matthew or as savagely funny as the Utaban duo of Ishabashi and Nakai, but there’s a clear charm to him. And unlike those other hosts, W seems rather safe as Samma-chan’s guest.

A continuing appreciation of Tsuji and Kago’s healthy appetites. Like several others in Hello! Project, there girls have no problem with eating and helping themselves to food. They brought food to the show, which I think is part of the deal. At one point they even raided Samma’s refrigerator for ice cream while he sat there and complained. Of course there’s a downside to eating and, at least within the overseas community, Kago gets criticism for putting on weight. I don’t think it’s at all fair – she’s still healthy, very attractive, and most likely being compared to the more stick-like girls in H!P.

Kago impersonates Ayaya. Kago is known for her impressions – especially of Gackt – and on the show she did an impression of Matsuura Aya which was dead-on hilarious. There were two things she did: Ayaya’s soft-toned greeting with that unique lilt to her voice, and a kind of swooping bust-showing move when Ayaya sings.

Something I really wish I understood. For maybe five minutes, a discussion occurred with W which shocked Samma-chan and the audience, but she was completely calm and matter-of-fact about it. I’ll have my wife translate later.

Kago fascinates me. I love her to death, to be honest. Some Musume fans would kill themselves if Goto Maki called and told them to do so; I’d at least consider doing the same if Kago ever gave the order.

She clearly falls more to the cute section on the kawaii-kakoi axis, and that’s her enduring appeal up to now. That said, watching her grow over the years has been fascinating and it’s clear she’s developing into a beautiful young woman. Her most recent solo photobook is more mature in that sense, though working with Minimoni and now W tends to push the more childish aspects.

What I love most about Kago, though, is the native cruelty that seems to limn her personality. She’s got an edge, an ability to mock and inflict pain, that being cute seems to excuse with most people. Her impressions are a clear expression of this, but particular examples also come to mind. There’s one Utaban clip where she punches Yaguchi Mari right in the crotch and everyone – including Mari – laughs. On her “date” with Gackt on Pop Jam, she tries to make Gackt embarass himself – he doesn’t take the bait and even comments afterwards, “Youth is scary.”

In Jpop, Kago Ai is la belle dame sans merci. And if that’s the case, it’ll be wonderful to see her grow into that role in the coming years.