Hello! Morning 259/260 – Team Okinawa

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

Part Three. So continuing the in-depth (sorta) account of the May 15 & 22 episodes of Hello! Morning, we now head south to Team Okinawa with Morning Musume leader Yossi, subleader Takitty, Mako, Konno, Sayumi, and Viyuden leader / tour guide Rika. The six girls are broken down to three randomly-chosen pairs: Yossi and Takitty, Rika and Makoto, Konno and Sayumi. Their challenge is to race on pontoon bicycle thingies to a flag in the water and back. The race becomes pretty obvious from the start, with Yossi and Takitty dominating, then Rika and Makoto chugging away and having some fun, and finally Konno and Sayumi trailing by a considerable length.

The different groups earned different food prizes. The third place team of Konno and Sayumi are left with a pair of bittermelons. Insert lewd comment here, I guess.

Yossi and Takitty are rewarded with a steak. Yossi proceeds to barbecue her hunk of tasty beef, but apparently is doing something wrong.

Second place team Rika and Makoto enjoy their own food, making that synchronized yummy head-spinning move mentioned last time. Overall, watching the girls race and then barbecue is fun, but there’s something… listless… about the whole thing, especially compared to Team Hokkaido. Rika blends in as just another member of the group, doesn’t do wacky thing the way W does. And the personalities at play aren’t nearly as fun beyond the Ishiyoshi dynamic. Konno and Sayumi were pathetic, but not funny or exciting or even sympathetic in their pathetic-ness. Handed their bittermelons, they seemed to enjoy their resulting meal as much as the others…

I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that three of gen give are on Team Okinawa and that, aside from Makoto, they provide little in the way of excitement or energy. But I’ve had my pet theories about fifth gen for a while anyway, so maybe that’s just bias talking.

Anyway. From their beachside race and barbecue, the girls head northward by bus to a traditional village. The girls are now split into two groups of three: Yossi, Rika, and Takitty in one, with Sayumi, Makoto, and Konno in the other. Each group goes out to explore and do things.

Konno meets up with an ox, but is scared off by it. This group then starts acquiring food from different houses that they visit. First chocolate, then they go to a place where a kind of fried donut is being prepared. The girls get down and dirty, mixing the batter in a bowl and placing it into the deep frier vat of hot oil.

Most of the pastries they cook are about the size of a meatball. Mako experiments and makes a giant roll of fry-able dough that looks like a monster peanut butter turd.

The girls sample the results of their cooking and find it yummy. The monster peanut butter turd turns out half-okay, looking like batter-dipped roadkill…

Meanwhile, Ishiyoshikitty wind up in a place where an old woman is dancing around with a giant wine bottle balanced on her head. The woman is quite remarkable, dancing with grace and a sense of playfulness. In any other situation, I’d’ve guessed she was drunk and performing a parlor trick that other drunk people would find amusing – but that’s clearly not the case here.

Takitty is the first to attempt this dance and manages to cross the room. I’d expect nothing less from her, given her background in dance and ballet.

Yossi makes the attempt, but doesn’t get very far. Rika also tries and damn near breaks the bottle.

Next, there’s a demonstration by a musician who plays what looks like an Okinawan banjo. (I asked my wife and she just said it’s an Okinawan musical instrument. Maybe if I could force her to watch the episode she’d fill me in on this detail and some others, but she’s got her Japanese television shows and I’ve got mine.)

The girls watch intently as they prepare to design their own musical instruments.

Takitty’s instrument is painted up to represent her with 5th gen and some other stuff written on it. Yossi’s instrument, seen here, is pretty funky looking…

… And Rika’s is needlessly cute, complete with eyes and the word Charmy written on the side.

The two groups meet up, with Ishiyoshikitty bringing along their musician friend. Konno’s team have brought along some of their cooking, which the others sample and pronounce yummy. Yossi’s team show off their new musical instruments. It all feels very artsy-craftsy, in a way.

The girls dance around and eat and play music. It all seems quite festive, but there’s something missing here… Giant crabs, perhaps, or a bit of rude behavior caused by seniority – or any kind of attitude, for that matter. Team Hokkaido seemed much more dynamic, much more maniacal – whether it was W’s usual antics or Reina’s screaming or Mikitty’s moody stubbornness or Eri’s lapses into oddity…

It would be wrong to say that Team Hokkaido’s adventure was edgier than Team Okinawa’s, especially as the very term “edgy” is difficult to apply to anyone in Hello! Project outside of Melon Kinenbi. That said, Team Hokkaido seemed to suffer more, to be put through hardships by their tour guides, and it made for more entertaining television. Road trips should have, if not an element of danger, at least an element of release, of being able to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do at home (or in the studio). Team Hokkaido seemed to tap into that much more than Team Okinawa.

Granted, the whole glass-blowing sequence was about as riveting as watching paint dry, and the Okinawan bottle-lady and musician were more entertaining than anyone Team Hokkaido encountered… But Team Hokkaido themselves seemed a great deal more fun, if only because they indulged their bad and weird sides more than any of Team Okinawa (with the exception of Rika, who at her best is weird beyond belief).

It also helped that Team Hokkaido did have some of the oddest members of H!P acting oddly. This didn’t mean necesssarily screaming and shouting and waving around seafood – though damn, Tsuji’s won my heart over with all that silliness. Eri had some very nice moments, such as when she was chanting encouragement to Mikitty at the start of the rickshaw challenge. She could’ve been a bump in the log, a filler member who didn’t catch one’s eye – which was the case for Sayumi, Takitty, and Konno of Team Okinawa (and Risa on Team Hokkaido). Honestly, Konno has enough deep-dish weirdness in her that it should be allowed to bloom when she’s on the road. Lately, however, she just seems quiet, as if afraid she’s finally going to be called to the carpet and kicked out of the group for good.

There’s hope, though. As it turns out, both teams have a surprise that should provide scads of fun: sneaking up on gen six when they’re asleep and forcing them to wake up on camera.

Next: Part 4 – Neoki Dokkiri