Thankful for Jpop 1: Knowing All of Hello! Project

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

This may not seem like a big deal to many of you – especially for longtime fans of Hello! Project – but I’m very grateful that this past year has opened my eyes enough that I can now name all the members of the Tsunku family with little difficulty. I still flounder a little with the C-Ute girls, but even adorable little Mai and Chisato are now recognizable by face and name now, which is something of an accomplishment…

It was about a year ago that the 2004 Shuffle Unit of H.P. All-Stars came out – and while I know it wasn’t the most popular of shuffle groups, for me it was a slice of heaven. First, it made me cry whenever I watched it – and I still tear up a little even now – because it’s a rich pageantry of Hello! Project history. From the original Asayan losers (well, sixty percent of them) all the way to Okada Yui, then the newest addition to the fold – we got a clear sense of how the collective has grown over the years. And for those with a sense of history, it’s equally satisfying to consider how the girls themselves have grown over the years, as well. Tsuji went from being an ugly little kid notorious for her stupidity to a graceful young idol who’s moved out of her idol twin’s shadow and become her own woman. Momoko went from something a little past a fetus to the tastiest slice of U15 heaven known to the civilized world.

However, when the All-Stars first came out, I really couldn’t have named many of the girls outside of Morning Musume, Matsuura Aya, and those who performed with MM in subgroups or favorite shuffles (Shibata Ayumi, Ayaka, Maeda Yuki). Thankfully, the clear distinctions drawn by the school uniforms helped – the tough-looking quartet in the jackets were Melon Kinenbi, the girls in lederhosen were Berryz Koubo, the Brownies looking batch were H!P Kids, and so on – but I didn’t care about much outside of Morning Musume and its offshoots at the time.

Still, I was lucky enough to snag the first edition of the single and the hardcover "yearbook" keepsake it included. I love that book – it’s like the books used by bird watchers to identify different winged thingies, except this was useful. And for some reason, the folks who made it were even thoughtful enough to include the names in English, making it that much easier to figure out who’s who in the H!P firmament…

Except I still really didn’t care much for the non-MM groups. Spring 2005 changed that, however – being mildly interested in Melon Kinenbi (mostly for the odd stability of the quartet), I was suddenly rocked by the single "Nikutai wa Shoujiki na Eros" and immersed myself in MK goodness, easily figuring out who were the other girls with Shibata. And after months of openly disparaging the group as puerile kiddie fare, "Special Generation" opened my eyes to the absolute wonderfulness of Berryz Koubo, even though it still took a while to figure out who was who… and it took even longer to admit that the center of all that absolute wonderfulness is a certain Miss Tsugunaga.

More recently, I became more aware of Country Musume (more of which in a few hours) and sorted out Miuna from Asami (not a big task, but it’s like telling apart Haruka and Yukari if you’re not a Halcali fan – it’s kinda beside the point unless you care). The only major obstacle was the remaining H!P Kids, though I very much knew who Murakami Megumi was (from Gocchin’s "Yokohama Shinkirou" PV, then Aa! v2, and finally this year’s Mikitty School of Dominatrix Pleasures shuffle group) as well as Suzuki Airi (from both versions of Aa! and her pure vocal skills), which gave me a head start. And thanks to my H!P guidebook, I finally figured those girls out as well…

So it isn’t just about naming the girls, which would be satisfying on an otaku-wonk level but ultimately good only for trivia. I’m thankful for a year when knowing all the H!P girls was a worthwhile pursuit… And it’s also changed how I watch the H.P. All-Stars PV – now I can’t wait for the Berryz part, as well as to watch Ohtani Masae and Megumi… Morning Musume aren’t the only stars of H!P to me now, and this broader appreciation is something I am very, very thankful for right now.

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One Response to “Thankful for Jpop 1: Knowing All of Hello! Project”
  1. Japonaliya says:

    Gee, I have been a Momusume fan since 2000, saw them TWICE live, in 2003…yet I still can’t keep track of all the names !!!

    BTW: Momoko went from something a little past a fetus to the tastiest slice of U15 heaven known to the civilized world. (quote)

    The best line written sice I last read Shakespeare !!!!!!!