Hello! Morning 259/260 – Koharu’s Debut

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

Part Five. With the trips to Okinawa and Hokkaido now covered, wake-up calls and all, that’s got to be it for these two episodes, right? Not even close. After all, there were segments in both episodes devoted to the newest Musume, Koharu. The miracle girl, the Ace…

Of course, being called the saviour of Morning Musume and actually being the saviour are two different things. This has only happened once before, with Goto Maki at the sole choice for Momusu’s third generation. The burden on Koharu is huge – she isn’t the natural talent that Goto Maki was (and is), and it’s highly doubtful her appearance will mark a resurgence on the level of “Love Machine”. But given all the hope that Tsunku has placed on a single person, how should we consider her? What should we expect?

We see Koharu reacting to the first flush of fame, with photo ops and newspapers. She’s flushed with excitement and apparently taking this attention well. Looking through the papers at pictures of herself, she says, “My father will be clipping these.” Which for some reason struck me as adorable – both on her part and on her rather handsome father.

Koharu goes through her training, and initially we really don’t get much of this footage – not enough to judge how well she’s faring.

She’s also given her costume for her debut concert, which is apparently Reina’s from “Ai Arraba It’s All Right”. The fact that she’s as skinny as Reina is frightening, considering what a stick my favorite Musume is.

Koharu arrives early to the stadium and greats each Musume individually as they walk in, then formally introduces herself to the entire group when they’re together. This feels more like tradition than the visit Momusu paid to Koharu’s school. The girls don’t seem especially welcoming to Koharu as they trudge in, and now feel more like intimidating senpai than a cheerful, toga-clad welcoming committee.

Koharu watches wide-eyed as the Musumes rehearse on stage. This is pretty cool, because she seems both starstruck and aware of what lies ahead of her. If I was her, I’d be scared to death – but this all seems like an adventure, so she’s looking forward to the challenge.

Right before the concert, the girls gather in their circle to give a team cheer. Mikitty grabs Koharu’s hand to include her in the circle, a wonderful gesture and real proof that she will soon be one of them. The fact that it’s Mikitty seems odd, though, doesn’t it? She’s not the one fans automatically associate with team spirit or welcome.

During the concert, Ishikawa is the one who introduces Koharu onstage. Koharu fumbles a little with her introduction, and if I heard it right she pronounces her group as “Morning Gusume” initially… and then finds it difficult to say much beyond introducing herself to the audience. When she doesn’t seem able to proceed, Yossi manages to save the day. My respect for Yossi as a leader increases.

Koharu returns backstage and watches the rest of the show on a small screen. Her big debut is over and she’s positively beaming.

We go back to the training. It’d be nice if we saw what a daily schedule is like for Koharu – how does she handle schooling now, far from home? Again, we’re given only a small glimpse of the training – but apparently, effeminitely bitchy male divas cross all cultural boundaries.

It’s strange, watching Koharu prepare for Momusu in these episodes, while the girls are travelling the country and having fun. It reinforces a sense of reward for all the time put into becoming an idol. It also shows another dimension to the job which Koharu may not have considered. Concerts and music is only a part of being Morning Musume, there’s also all the goodwill they encourage within and for Japan.

Not unlike Irie Saaya warming over Chinese-Japanese relations…

Okay, not quite like that. But Morning Musume have become very visible spokespeople for various aspects of Japanese life – these two episodes are travel ads for Okinawa and Hokkaido as much as anything else. Is Koharu prepared for that? Do they train Musumes for this aspect? (Most likely not.) It’s exciting to see Koharu train, but the full scope of a Musume’s work seems untouched – perhaps because everyone takes it for granted, to some degree. And where’s the comedy training? Will she learn timing, to do a decent job in skits? Or for doing photobooks?

Next: Part 6 – W!