Rika Graduates, Koharu Debuts, Konkon Turns Legal

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

Well, Rika’s graduation concert is now nothing but a memory and a chance to sell another DVD to Morning Musume fans. There are reports of the concert on the MM-BBS as well as on Idolizing St. Anna.

Viyuden was said to have performed their new single, which has a more techno dance feel to it. Rika’s solo graduation song was Country Musume ni Ishikawa’s “Hajimete no Happy Birthday”. There were tears when Rika read a letter to fans and when the other girls said their congratulation, though, oddly, Yossi didn’t cry according to ISA. That said, Yossi and Rika held hands at the end of the concert to show resolve as leaders for their respective units, Morning Musume and Viyuden.

Perhaps most intriguing of all, according to Idolizing St. Anna, Yaguchi Mari and her boyfriend Oguri Sun were backstage of the concert, as were several other past graduates from Momusu – Goto Maki, Abe Natsumi, Yasuda Kei, Iida Kaori.

There were no announcements of future graduations. So hopefully, the current ten will remain that way for at least a year or so. My guess is that Mikitty or Takitty will be the next to go in 2006 (you can’t have a year without somebody leaving the group), with Reina – or perhaps Koharu, since she’s the Miracle Ace? – being primed to be a replacement for lead vocals.

Speaking of which, Koharu made her debut onstage the day before and was onstage briefly at both May 7 concerts as well – not singing, but appearing on stage and wearing a costume taken from “Ai Arraba It’s Alright”. According to ISA, that’s Tanaka Reina’s outfit, which makes sense since they’re both so tiny.

It was also Konno’s 18th birthday on the 7th, though one doubts that Rika’s solo song choice was influenced by this. That said, fans sang Happy Birthday to Konno during the concert.

So there it is. Let’s all take a deep breath and try to take in everything that’s happened in a span of three weeks… If this is the end of the seemingly-unstoppable tumult of the past month, it’s a pretty happy ending.

I find myself comparing last year’s line-up changes to this year’s line-up changes. Last year we saw Nacche, Kago, and Tsuji leave – three of the most favorite members, two of the best singers. This year we’ve seen the departures of Iida, Yaguchi under very strange circumstances, and Rika, as well as the addition of Koharu. None were especially important singers to the group and none matched the popularity of the three who left in 2004. (Some would disagree on this last point, particularly with Rika’s fan base, but I’m going with my own observations and the general consensus.)

Morning Musume needs to re-establish itself now, as a new group distinct from what went on before. Actually, they’ve been doing it already, with “Namida” and “The Manpower!” but with Mari and Rika’s departure – as well as Koharu’s entrance – the group seems like a much more radical break from the past than it would be otherwise.

None of the current girls were around at the beginning, none were there when “Love Machine” became a hit, and only their current leader was present when Morning Musume was at the peak of its career. The group cannot deny its past – after all, fans are going to want at least some of the best-known songs performed in concert – but they’ll need to make a better showing of the present than they had in recent months. “Osaka Koi no Uta” is a definite step in that direction, it’s a very solid single and PV and should be a cornerstone for the new Momusu. (I wouldn’t mind seeing the two singles before that set aside, but chances are they won’t.)

In the meanwhile, what have we got to look forward to? A new dynamic to Hello! Morning once everything goes back to normal. News on whether or not Mari is still with Hello! Project – which doesn’t seem as urgent to know as it was a couple weeks back. Lots and lots of footage of Koharu as she trains for her true concert debut – where she actually performs with her group – in September. And hopefully, more attention paid to some of the overlooked members of Morning Musume, particularly Reina and Risa and maybe Konno.