Hello! Morning 259/260 – Team Hokkaido

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

Part Two. If there’s any reason to love the May 15 & 22 episodes of Hello! Morning, it’s definitely Team Hokkaido. My favorite current Musume, Reina, along with my favorite H!P girls, W’s Tsuji and Kago, as well as lots of food, goofy behavior, and abuse of senpai privilege.

The tour guides, Tsuji and Kago, begin the visit of Hokkaido with a surprise, handing empty bowls to the four Musume girls, Reina, Eri, Mikitty, and Risa. Their objective is to run around a food market and get as much food as they can for their bowls. So it’s a food challenge that involves bothering innocent market folk.

While the Musume girls walk around and admire the wide range of seafood delicacies available to them, W take a decidedly different tack. They run around screaming and, in Tsuji’s case, playing with whatever disgusting remnants of sea life she can get her hands on. Here she’s grabbed a giant crab and is running up and down the aisles, scaring Kago. Later on, you actually hear the screaming off-camera during one of the more sedate moments with the Musume girls.

These are young women, Tsuji and Kago, and they’re behaving like children a third of their age. In most situations, I’d find it sad. Here, though, it’s just W being W – they’re charming because of their lack of restraint, they have a great chemistry that allows for such hijinks. If they ever decide to give up music altogether, they can always do comedy and will likely succeed.

Meanwhile, Reina is delighted because she managed to cadge not one, but three servings of an expensive fish from a market person. Reina’s the best Musume in Team Hokkaido, mostly because she’s almost as energetic and frenetic as W.

Tsuji. on the other hand, has found a new seafood toy and is busy playing around with octopi. Here she’s being handed a tentacle to add to her food bowl, the suckers clearly still functional, as Tsuji also demonstrates. More running around and screaming ensues.

With their time limit elapsed, the girls can now have their meals. There’s a display of each bowl with the name of the girl underneath it: Fujimoto-don, Tanaka-don, and so on. Tsuji-don’s octopi tentacle is deemed deserving of a close-up. At a small restaurant, a couple of the girls do this move where they make an extended yummy sound while they move their heads in a ricle together. We’ll see this several times over the course of the two episodes, making me wonder if it’s some kind of pop cult reference, an H!P inside joke, or just something people do when they like their food.

Momusu walk out of the restaurant, feeling well-fed and content. Here we see Eri and Mikitty actually rubbing their stomachs, something I thought only cartoon characters did after a big meal.

Eri seems particularly charming at this, as her personality seems to have shined more in the wake of her hair being cut so short. In the past, she seemed so tentative and bland. Especially bland. Now, she has a chance to be funny every week on the H!P shill sequences and doesn’t mind letting her rough edges show. She seems more able to laugh at herself and thus able to be more herself, if that makes any sense.

At any rate, the Musume girls have a new surprise waiting for them, again courtesy of W: rickshaw rides. The four will be broken down to two pairs, and in each pair one gets to pull the other on a rickshaw. Here we get a pretty good idea of who gets to ride and who gets to pull.

Reina pulls Risa, while Mikitty pulls Eri. Reina screams for help repeatedly, afraid of the rickshaw veering out of her control – and a couple of times, it seems to do just that. The other team is amusing in a whole other way, as Eri starts chanting encouragement to Mikitty and then decides to just snap pictures of her.

No longer in Momusu, Tsuji and Kago apparently don’t have to put up with this bullshit and both ride their rickshaw as a professional pulls them. They overtake the other two rickshaws, who unsuccessfully try to block them and keep them behind.

It was only a year ago that Tsuji and Kago first became W and were preparing to leave Musume. Now their generation is the standard by which all the subsequent generations are being compared and found wanting. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but I stand behind the idea that gen four had a spark, had pop idol personalities, that haven’t been seen as clearly in the girls that followed. Everyone wants to be a pop idol but how many can keep your attention the way a pop idol should?

The Musume girls switch positions on their rickshaws. Reina is now screaming, not because she’s losing control of the rickshaw, but because she’s afraid Risa will lose control. Mikitty takes pictures of Eri, including one when a production assistant puts a traditional hat on Eri to heighten the whole rickshaw-pulling experience.

All the girls arrive at the next stop on Team Hokkaido’s tour, a glass factory and shop. This is a good point to consider how the girls are all dressed: the white looks great on Reina, but did Tsuji need to wear camo pants? Eri has a very casual look, almost thrift shop in quality, but she still wears it well. She also seems to be the tallest in the group.

And what’s with all these boots?

The four Musume girls are told to design what kind of glassware they’d like to make. We see hearts and speckles and… nothing. Mikitty makes a very straightforward design for her glass. A bit too simple, but she insists that this is what she wants.

In the past, I’d attribute this to Mikitty bitchiness. Here, I think she just wants to make something reasonably within her abilities. She isn’t being mean about it, but is definitely holding her ground. As the oldest person in Team Hokkaido by at least a couple years, Mikitty handles herself well – having fun but also holding herself off a little when she needs to. Not quite Yuko, but certainly along that line.

The girls get to blow their own glass, assisted by professionals. Lots of innocent shots of the girls that could be the basis of too many nasty Photoshop efforts, but we won’t get into that. When they’re done, the four Musume girls wonder where Tsuji and Kago have gone.

So where have the tour guides been while the Musume girls were hard at work?

Eating, of course.

As the Musumes wonder where W have gone off to, the camera cuts to Tsuji and Kago in a restaurant, enjoying yet another fine meal. Tsuji isn’t playing with her food this time, there isn’t any screaming. However, the two do that whole yummy, synchronized head swirl thing to indicate the food is good.

The Musume girls catch up with W and seem a bit pissed at missing out on a meal. After some talk, Tsuji and Kago put on aprons and serve the Musume girls dinner. This is both a very touching gesture and a desperate attempt to avoid mutiny, led by a clearly peeved Mikitty. (For once, I can’t blame her if she’s going to lapse into bitchiness.) At any rate, we get to see W acting goofy and loud again as they pretend to be the wait staff.

The Musume girls don’t care, as they enjoy their food after a hard day of rickshaw-pulling and glass-blowing.

Finally, the last stop for Team Hokkaido. They’re outdoors somewhere and a gentlemen comes by with a bucket full of tiny baby fish. Apparently, the girls are going to take some of the fish in the bucket and repopulate the river. Tsuji takes charge, speaking to the gentlemen and handling the first cup of fish.

As the other girls prepare to throw their cups o’ fishies into the water, Tsuji pretends to slowly put her cup to her lips to drink her fish down. I find it entirely possible that she’ll miscalculate and actually swallow a fish, but she doesn’t.

One can only imagine all the screaming and running around that would have caused.

The girls wave goodbye to the fish, and Team Hokkaido’s portion of the two-part episode ends. The main surprise for me wasn’t that W were the best part of the adventure, but that Tsuji was even more fun than Kago. Kago was actually a pretty calm presence throughout the adventure, funny and cute but not as wacky as Tsuji at her best.

That said, most all the girls are given opportunities to shine, let their personalities play on the camera, and charm viewers the way they should every episode. The one exception seems to be Risa, but that may be because she has a more sedate personality than the others. She helps out with the morning patrol segment, though, and has a good time doing that.

It doesn’t make her any more distinctive a personality, but she has a good time doing it.

Next: Part 3 – Team Okinawa’s Adventure