Chokkan 2 Close-Up: Figuring Out Koharu

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

Ah, “Chokkan 2” Close-Up – you’d think that watching it a dozen or so times a day would render it boring, but far from it. Patterns slowly emerge, must be verified with later viewings, refuted with still more viewings… Given the proper frame of mind, any PV can become Pynchonesque – and in the case of “Chokkan 2”, the equivalent of the Tristero or schwarzengerat are the girls’ faces and gestures.

It seems appropriate to start with miracle girl 2.0, Kusumi Koharu, since my opinion of her has changed most from this PV.

This is the first time I understood why Tsunku chose Miss Kusumi… though yeah, I still wish he picked that other girl. S’s “Mexican restaurant dishwasher” / “Nacchi on crack” comment still has me thinking, I must admit…

And indeed, she’s more than a bundle of energy in the Close-Up video – she seems wound up on some… illicit substance, perhaps? Okay, I don’t really think she worked the pipe before doing her close-up shots – but if she’s high on life, then she’s been taking huge speedballs of it. The idol life has been very good to her.

Koharu’s skills as a performer – that is, a singer and dancer – is still open to debate, I guess. She did a very nice job of “Furusato” in the last part of her audition, I remember, and she’s good enough on this song… But as a member of Morning Musume, it feels like she’s starting to come into her own finally. Though “finally” may be too strong a word, since she’s been at it for less than a year. I mean, how long did it take for Niigaki to go from nobody to hottie? (Yes, back to my Fifth Gen bashing.) Or for Eri to spring out of her shell and become the comedic firebrand that we all love now?

Which doesn’t mean Koharu has completed her idol transformation, just that progress can now be marked. There’s still a lot of wide-eyed girl in her, which is actually pretty neat. Such enthusiasm and excitement is a nice balance to the more controlled performances of the other members.

Still searching for a specific idol persona to assume, Koharu right now has the luxury of being Overexcited Newbie. It isn’t a role she can play for too long – after all, Gen Eight could be no more than a month or two away. (Kidding! Just kidding!) But as the sole member of Gen Seven, she can claim this role with no struggle: we expect her to feel thrilled and privileged for being in Morning Musume, so it’s nice that it comes out in such a… vibrant… manner.

Oddly, the last miracle girl seemed to opt for the opposite: Gocchin seemed more self-assured and had a stronger presence from the very start, and she wasn’t that much older than Koharu. If anything, she seemed much more eyes-on-the-prize and professional from the start, which may just be looking back with 20/20 hindsight.

As far as her appearance, Koharu is also in that in-between stage: she’s past looking a bit too fresh and stumbled-onto-stage, but she hasn’t dyed her hair or started looking skeletal. There comes a point when an idol stops looking girl next door and the manufactured nature of her media persona becomes a bit too obvious – but it’s hard at this point to imagine Koharu getting anywhere near there.

And she does have a nice smile here – a hint of restraint can work wonders, right?

One unfortunate effect of the close-up PV, by the way, is getting a bit of a close look on potential dental problems of the Momusu girls. I really hope this is just the camera angle and her teeth aren’t that crooked.

But it makes me wonder: do any of the Momusu girls get braces? I know Tsuji fix her adorable fangs, but the thought of some H!P girls having to worry about their retainers is actually kind of sexy.

Or maybe it’s just me.

As for her performance on the close-up PV, Koharu is at a distinct disadvantage: she doesn’t have much of a developed persona besides that hyperactive newbie angle.

Out of all the performances, this is the one that seems most disjointed, that seems most lacking in… well, for lack of a better word, narrative. Narrative of the song, but more importantly narrative of the self. I watch the other performances in the PV and think, “Oh, that’s so [fill in person’s name].” I’m not as sure with Koharu. And it isn’t for lack of effort or anything, I think it’s just too early to pin down.

So she’s apparently instructed to be as active as possible. She punches the air, winds up her arms John Travolta-style, does the surprise peek-a-boo time and again…

I can’t help but picture the director making a stack of cue cards with unrelated instructions (“wind up arms”, “look surprised”, “puff up cheeks”), shuffled them, then held the cards up for Koharu one at a time, laughing his ass off as she performed each one.

The saving grace, of course, is that youthful energy can be its own virtue in the idol world. And there’s no harm in being eager to please…

It still strikes me as slightly odd that Koharu is younger than half of Berryz Koubo – including my favorites, Chinami and Momoko. These girls have trained for years to be idols, and – theoretically, though I’m not sure how practical it would have been – could have been an easier fit into the Morning Musume line-up.

Part of it comes from a suspicion – now pretty much dashed to the rocks – that Berryz would feed into the Musume line-up over time. Of course, that was an extrapolation built from trying to make too much sense of the Hello! Project hierarchy: Morning Musume is the varsity team, so Berryz would be JV. Now, it seems more likely that Berryz will remain a discrete unit and grow up – and in a few years, if both units survive, we’ll have two a rivalry between two relatively equal idol group.

Maybe when Sayumi is finally named leader of Momusu.

On a practical level, the Berryz have such intensely kiddie personae that fitting into Momusu right now would be something of a struggle. (And from a whole other angle, Berryz as a unit is much more cohesive than Momusu, if only because their line-up doesn’t change very much.) Koharu already seems older than Berryz because of the unit she’s in, there was no preconceived notion of her… But certainly, that’s not the only reason she was chosen.

Which makes me ask yet again: what are the qualities that Koharu has that convinced Tsunku she’s the one? What sets her apart so much that she was the only girl chosen out of two separate auditions? Part of it is perhaps her malleability, her ability to adapt and be whatever is asked of her (which was nicely conveyed in her “Furusato”, I think) – but this isn’t unusual for idols, and even less unusual in a collective such as H!P.

That mystery of “why Koharu” still lingers for me, though it’s certainly not keeping me up at nights the way it used to. (Yes, still bitter that the other girl wasn’t chosen.) I can see why Gocchin was chosen, and if you drink enough of the H!P Kool Aid, most all the other choices for Morning Musume over the years also make some kind of sense. There have been some choices where one can only trust that Tsunku knows what he’s talking about and hope for the best. It paid off big time with Tsuji and if you count bikini photos, it also paid off with Konno.

I’m beginning to get a hint of Koharu’s potential, thanks to this PV… but only a hint. Certainly, it’s the enthusiasm – which I don’t think will fade much even as she becomes more experienced. There’s that ineffable X factor that Tsunku spoke of a few times while searching for his miracle girl and while it didn’t make as much sense when he finally made his choice… For me, at least, it’s making more sense now.

Another example of Koharu’s potential charm has recently appeared – that is, seeing her in a cute bunny outfit and rapping with a cat-costumed Reina and a giant cartoon chicken. (More on that later.) Not quite Gomaki Penguin – still the standard for animal-costume greatness in the H!P World – but still highly compelling.

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3 Responses to “Chokkan 2 Close-Up: Figuring Out Koharu”
  1. niji says:

    Leave it to Tsunku and his pals to pound the fans with a whole bunch of Musume close-up shots when most of them had make-up on like a modern wench.

    The teeth thing with Koharu is quite… disturbing, to say the least.

  2. Beth says:

    I’ve just found your blog (quite recently, actually, within the last few weeks) and I think that it is absolutely wonderful.

    I really like Koharu now, she’s starting to grow on me. I was kinda mad when that one girl didn’t win (possibly the same girl you’re talking about?) but Iroppoi was good. And now Chokkan2 is an obsession. I think that she’s starting to fit in with the rest of the group, and I can’t wait to see when becomes of her in the future. :3

  3. Sabaku Ika says:

    I like Koharu, but mostly for her name. “Koharu” just sounds good.