Hello! Morning 252: Food Contests, Yossi Shines, More Kinenbi, Momusu Combos, and the Problem with Berryz

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

I’d seen the episode Monday but wasn’t paying strict attention… So watching it again tonight, I have to say it was a fun episode – I’ve already made clear how much I love food challenges for the girls, and this episode is a shining example of why. The competition was fierce, the food-lust was quite evident. I still suspect that some girls only eat well when there’s a camera on them, but hope I’m wrong.

The episode started with a short news segment about Iida and the charity luncheon where she performed. It’s nice to see her being active in such a way and hopefully she’ll blossom post-graduation.

Then, on to the main segment for the week: the food contest! The food was from northern Japan, apparently, and there were food kiosks with chefs present. Somehow, this tied into the Rakuten Eagles, who are using Morning Musume’s most recent single, “The Manpower”. As co-hosts, Yuko and Megumi from Melon Kinenbi had first taste of the food and, after pronouncing it oshii, demanded beer. Yes! Another great Yuko moment, again proving that she’s the best Hello! Morning host ever.

The girls were broken up into seven teams, randomly chosen, and the first five teams to answer two questions correctly could partake of the food. Almost immediately, the Iida-Kei team won their plates. This was followed by Takitty-Eri-Reina, Mari-Rika, Mikitty-Makoto, and finally Nacche-Konno. The two losing teams were Gocchin-Sayumi and Yossi-Risa. Yossi has to be given extra credit, though, for giving the funniest answers and reactions as she guessed wrongly again and again and again. She was the best thing about this contest, though Yuko’s exuberant hosting was a close second and watching Konno run to a kiosk was third.

The losing teams were given sashes by Megumi that they had to wear while watching the others chow down. However, the losers were given a second chance: each could challenge one of the teams that got to eat, and if they won the sashes (and non-eating status) would switch hands. Yossi-Risa went after Takitty-Eri-Reina (Takitty had to be dragged away from the food), and they won. Sashes were passed over, Yossi’s eyes positively beamed when she got her plate. Gocchin-Sayumi went after Mikitty-Makoto and they also won, meaning everybody at least had a chance to eat something. Judging by the looks on the sash-wearers at the end, though, they were probably looking forward to seconds.

While it was great to see Megumi, she didn’t add much to the mix. And where were the other Kinenbis? The overall favorite Kinenbi is Shibata Ayumi, though I personally like Ohtani Masae most. They should’ve all been there. Personally, I’d love to see Hello! Morning feature the entire H!P crew. But as last year’s shuffle supergroup – Hello! Project All Stars – proved, having the entire H!P line-up on one stage can be overwhelming. (The best response to this was Utaban, who placed the forty-six girls – minus a half-dozen that day – on a large rotating stand.) However, you can have different non-Momusu members appear in Hello! Morning on a regular basis – they have in the past, so why not again? Some of the girls have been around since H!P’s early days – Atsuko Inaba, Melon Kinenbi, Ayaka – and should be seen more often. Others are big acts for H!P – Matsuura Aya and Viyuden – and would probably help bring in a wider audience if they showed up regulary. (Viyuden is a strange case, though – once Rika graduates, will she no longer appear so much on Hello! Morning? Will she be the only Viyuden member to appear regularly? Or will her presence mean that Erika and Yui will appear as regulars, as well?)

One thing I found surprising was the way I reacted on seeing different teams assigned. Nacche and Konno together? That seemed mildly odd. So did Gocchin-Sayumi. Iida and Kei? That seemed natural. And of course, Eri-Reina together. Ultimately, certain combination of Momusu girls make more sense than others. Part of it has to do with what generation they were in, part of it has to do with what other units they were in (Mari and Rika seem a better fit, given that they were both Tanpopo), and part of it had to do with their personalities. The Futarigoto segments from last year reinforced this notion, when they started doing combinations of friends – Risa and Takitty, Nacche and Mari, and so on. When Gocchin and Reina did a segment together, it didn’t make sense – unless one buys that Reina’s got the potential to be a Gocchin-level solo artist. (And I’m not the only person to believe this.) Tsujikago is the definitive combination of Momusu girls – they even did their first photobook together. There’s also Nacche and Mari, Yuko and Nacche, Yuko and Charmy (the definitive H!P news team), Sayumi and Eri… Well, you get the idea. (And if you look to H!P in general, there’s Mikitty and Ayaya, who are so close you’d wish they could work together more often.)

Speaking of Tsujikago, W was nowhere to be seen during the contest segments. I assume they were preparing for their new musical. But dammit, W were made for H!P food challenges! If anyone can give the most heart-rending or hilarious look of desire for forbidden food, it’s those two girls. Someday a compilation of Tsujikago-related food incidents should be compiled, from Tsuji crying at lost eating opportunities to Kago admitting to flubbing a dessert commercial so she could keep eating the product.

Anyway, a lack of W is always a bad thing, but they were especially missed this week for this segment.

Among the other segments this week was another Bus Stop / Haromoni episode. Yossi and Makoto did their matriarch roles again, this time with pet dogs – Sayumi and Mari in big furry costumes with dog noses on their faces. W made their appearance here as kids who play with the dogs; however, Sayumi and Mari turned to complete bitches (pun intended) when their owners walked away for a few minutes, which only hurt the girls’ feelings. Those jokes needed no translation, which was fine by me. And it seemed fitting that Tsuji would be dim enough to follow a dog’s commands instead of the other way around – though admittedly, the dog was Mari.

There was a short news piece about Viyuden’s Erika and Yui’s photobook.

Then the H!P shill corner. Yuko was visited by Eri’s French maid Elise again, this time with Mikitty and Sayumi. Elise made Sayumi dance with her in a pseudo-ballet style. This wasn’t as strong a segment as in the past, but I think it’s cause I miss Eric Kamezou and his wild maraca dancing.

There was a short piece about W’s musical, which looks cute and whose eventual DVD (I hope) will be a mandatory purchase.

And then there was a live performance by Beryz Koubo of their new single, “Special Generation”. I’ve never given Berryz Koubo much of a chance, mostly because they struck me as too young. Which is funny, since the members of SweetS can’t be more than a couple years older than most of the Berryz, or some Momusu when they first joined (including Kago, Tsuji, and Reina). The H!P group Aa! had two of the H!P Kids and Reina – and I like their single, “First Kiss”, a great deal. Berryz, though, always flew below my radar. (Wait, not always – I’ve watched the W / Berryz summer concert, and while I fast-forwarded through the strictly Berryz sequences, the ones with W and Berryz singing together were pretty good. And truthfully, the W / Berryz combo do a better version of “Love Machine” than the current Momusu line-up.)

So thinking about it some more, there are other reasons I wasn’t immediately attracted to Berryz. First, they not only were young, but they were presented in a young, distinctly pre-teen fashion. I remember razor scooters in their first PV. In contrast, the Momusu girls were surrounded by older members, SweetS started out with an edgy – some say insanely provocative – attitude. For that matter, Aa!’s single had a distinctly mature sound. Second, it’s hard to keep track of all eight members – the investment in learning who’s who and how they sound just hasn’t seemed worth it up to now. The same thing can be said of several other Jpop bands that intrigue me but have been put off for the most part – the new Dream (eight, now seven, members versus old Dream’s distinctive three), Bishojo Club (first 21 members, now 31)… Keeping track and learning the history is one of the deepest satisfactions of learning about Morning Musume, but there was more difficulty than pleasure in these other cases. (For now, at least.)

All that said, I watched their performance on this episode and I’m still on the fence about them. The song is undeniably good, but whether the girls added something to it, I’m not sure. It would’ve been nice to have heard Momusu do it, they need a decent single. A few of the Berryz girls stood out as they performed, but they all still blur together too much. When I tried to figure who was who (using my H!P All Stars yearbook), it just didn’t pan out. (Though of course, all it really takes is time and commitment.) I’ll likely place the PV to this song on my iPaq, at least give it a chance.

Next week is the fifth anniversary episode of Hello! Morning. Apparently, this involves scaring Nacche on a roller coaster and making Mikitty wear a sheep costume while driving a go-cart. I’m guessing it doesn’t include inviting back Sayaka or Heike Michiyo.