Hello! Project 2005 Shuffle

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

Bought the H!P Shuffle 2005 CD – first edition with the freakin’ photo album, baby! – at Hakubundo this morning.

Let me confess something horrible: all I really wanted was the photo album. When it comes to Jpop, I decided not to buy any CD album or single unless something else was included. Which doesn’t mean the music is unimportant but that I best enjoy Jpop when the music is part of a larger context – a promotional video or pictures of the latest costumes or whatever. Jpop is very visual for me, I guess.

So a bonus DVD would be the best thing, but a 52-page photo album is pretty damn irresistable, too. The photobook for last year’s H!P All-Stars was so freakin’ cool and I was hoping that this one would be as good…

Sadly, it wasn’t. What made the H!P photo album so cool was that it was a miniature hardcover yearbook – there was a strong sense of history and it was thrilling to have the names in English as well as Japanese. It’s proved a helpful guide book, too, as my interests shifted from just Morning Musume to the other groups, like Melon Kinenbi and Berryz Koubo.

This year’s shuffle doesn’t have all forty-plus girls of H!P – only eleven members. Together, Sexy Otonajan and Elegies have three girls from Morning Musume (Miki, Reina, and Takitty – the best singers) and one apiece from Berryz (Miyabi), C-Ute (Megumi), Country Musume (Satoda Mai), and Melon Kinenbi (Shibata Ayumi). Puri Puri Pink is something of an obasan group – four of the oldest members of H!P, soloists Nakazawa Yuko and Iida Kaori, as well as concert MCs Inaba Atsuko and Yasuda Kei. Of course, Yuko, Iida, and Kei are all former Morning Musume, as well.

This year’s photobook doesn’t have a hardcover – the covers aren’t even a different, heavier paperstock. That said, we’ve got nice shots of these eleven girls, dressed up in their color-themed shuffle costumes and holding long-stem glasses and clustering together with their respecive shuffle-mates. But it would’ve been cooler if more of the H!P girls were in the photobook.

And in the shuffle groups as well. (As it is, I could suggest some replacements in this year’s line-up anyway: Risako for Miyabi, Airin for Megumi, and especially Masae for Shibata. But that’s playing favorites.)

The songs themselves are fine, but nothing particularly memorable. Viyuden’s latest single has crawled into my head and refuses to leave. The closest that comes to that is Elegies, but it doesn’t really compare. That said, Shibata has apparently opted for some rather hilarious dance moves for Elegies – her writhing in Melon Kinenbi’s “Eros” has apparently had a bad influence on her.

So I basically paid $25 for an okay photobook and some okay songs. Which isn’t that bad since I really really wanted it at first and the pictures are really really nice in and of themselves.

It does dampen my expectations for next year’s shuffle, if they decide to have it. For me, the shuffles was like having a big summer reunion where all the girls from H!P (well, most all) were brought together and mixed up in new, exciting ways. If only one-fourth of the girls arrive for the party, it’s only one-fourth as fun as it could be. I don’t think it’s a coincidence the shuffle groups look so distracted on the photos for the CD sleeve, as if they were attending the world’s most boring dinner party.

However, I am excited about seeing more of Megumi in C-Ute! She’s a real cutie, isn’t she?