Chokkan 2 Close-Up: Magnificent Mikitty

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

When it comes to Fujimoto Miki, I’ve got two obvious biases: first, she’s my favorite current Musume; second, I believe she deserves to go solo again. So what does she contribute to Momusu that makes her so valuable, and why have her move on if that’s the case?

I love her voice, I love her look, I think she’s an all-around solid idol being held back now instead of receiving some needed nurturance in a group setting. Her singing has improved some since her solo days – and even then it was distinctive and powerful – and she finally got rid of that bowl haircut, which we can all be grateful for. She’s the only current Momusu whose post-Momusu life as an idol is, if not assured, then the most stable and promising. It’s time for her to get back what she earned years ago.

One thing I noticed immediately in the Chokkan 2 PV is that she gets to hold the gong. If Yossi’s become Papa Musume of the current bunch, Mikitty is the Mama Musume – there’s a look of authority and confidence in how she stands, she seems as much in control as Yossi.

There are intirguing paradoxes in Mikitty. She is the oldest Musume – beating Yossi by a month and a half – and it comes across in her suffer-no-fools attitude. That said, she’s open to being silly and looking foolish, as her recent escapades in the Hello! Morning skits show.

She’s also a self-admitted homebody – one of her New Year’s resolutions is to get out more often – but she has a competitive streak that has her playing golf and futsal and Lord knows what other sports.

If anything, she reminds me of Nakazawa Yuko. She can believably act as if she’s above all the silliness of being an idol – and specifically being an idol in Hello! Project – but she’s also a consummate team player when she wants to be.

I still wonder: why exactly was she recruited to become part of sixth gen? Was it for her own good, as I originally suspected? Or was it for the good of the group, a move to boost the waning popularity of Momusu?

Of course, to suspect it was for her own good is to assume there was something wrong with her. And based on how she seemed to behave when she joined Momusu, it looked like she had an attitude problem. Was she too much of a diva? Did she need to be taken down a peg or two? Was she too much of a threat to Ayaya?

Looking back, none of this strikes me as particularly likely. Possible, not likely. Which goes to show how far a changed perspective can take you: where I initially thought her sourness at joining Momusu was a pre-existing condition, I’m now much more willing to consider that the sourness came after she was told what’d happen to her.

So there’s the other possibility: Momusu needed a boost and adding a solo artist was seen as a solution above and beyond the usual excitement of new members from auditions. I’ve read somewhere – and this is probably apocryphal – that Ayaya was also being considered as the soloist to join the Momusu fold, except somebody (Rika, supposedly) shot that down.

Obligatory dental reference: a little crooked, but who cares? This is Mikitty. Mikitty!

So where was I? Well, if they wanted the advantage of having a soloist in the fold, that seemed an odd juncture to do so. After all, there were at least two solid leads in the group – Nacchi and Kago – as well as emerging talent in Takitty and the prospect of a highly talented newbie in Reina. If anything, Mikitty got lost in the 15-nin mix, which seems inevitable since it’s the largest line-up of the group to record singles.

Further, if they wanted to emphasize her talent as an asset to Momusu, why didn’t she also continue to release solo singles? Nacchi was doing solo work while in Momusu, Yuko and Gocchin had done the same during their tenures. So why not allow her that much, at least? If anything, her stint with Country Musume helped keep her in fans’ minds, but that just meant she was part of yet another group – though a more prominent member in that case.

It’s one of those aspects of Hello! Project that have me reaching for the handy-dandy Kremlinology analogy. There seems to be a logic and reason buried somewhere in there – but just what it is, Kremlin watchers like myself can only speculate.

That said, one can trace an increasing comfort and happiness in Mikitty as the group whittled itself down. I could be wrong here, but she seemed more at ease after Nacchi, Kago, and Tsuji left. Setting aside that rumor of Mikitty berating Kago and whatever personality friction there might have been, her joining Momusu made more sense with those big guns gone.

And with the three departures in 2005, she seemed even more happy and comfortable in the ever-dwindling numbers. Not only was the spotlight finally focusing upon her considerable talents, she became the oldest member of the group – a position of respect, whereas when she joined she was more of the neglected middle child.

That said, consider who had to leave to make her the oldest: Nacchi, Kaori, Mari, and Rika. Now consider who had to leave to make her one of the standout talents and regular leads: Nacchi, Kago, Rika. Basically, the stalwarts of Morning Musume had to make way for a new Musume order where Mikitty’s ascendancy would be over a group of girls who joined after the Golden Age.

But then, could have it been possible any other way? After all, the only one left from that era is the leader, Yossi – who’s a tad younger and whose talents as a singer aren’t as obvious as Mikitty’s. In effect, even as sub-leader Mikitty wields an authority and credibility in the group that is above Yossi’s in those ways.

Which may explain why Mikitty said a while back that she considered herself part of fourth gen and not sixth – which is technically true, since she was in the same audition that brought us Kago, Tsuji, Charmy, Yossi. But really, even I have to take issue with Mikitty’s claim: the timeline may support her, but the actual results of fourth gen are quite different from what Mikitty embodies. She may be a great soloist and current Musume, but fourth gen was the best generation of Momusu.

And of course, this ascendancy would’ve hit a bump or two if Yaguchi had stuck around and not been Friday’d. So if anyone wants to yell plot or conspiracy, you’re welcome to do so. I don’t buy it, but it is kind of funny how much Mikitty benefited from that shake-up in particular.

And going even further on a tangent, it’s funny how my attitude towards Momusu has evolved to the point where I think Otome Gumi positively overshadows Sakura Gumi in starpower. All Sakura Gumi really had was Nacchi and Kago, while Otome had Tsuji, Mikitty, Reina, Sayumi, and Rika. It also had Iida at her most comfortable and sexy since her days in Tanpopo, so throw her into the count as well.

Anyway, Mikitty’s performance in the Chokkan 2 Close-Up was true to her role as one of the Golden Sexy group. Mikitty is far and away the sexiest member of Morning Musume right now, in part because she has a mature ice queen demeanor that she can pull out at will. And unlike Takitty and Eri, the sexiness comes out more naturally and more obviously – she owns her sexiness, and you’re lucky to bathe in its glow.

She doesn’t vamp so much as look into the camera and pose her unspoken challenge. She also has moments of gentle humor, pretending to shed tears and assuming an attitude of arch nonchalance during the “souda souda souda”.

It’s clear she’s having fun, is comfortable, and believes herself in control. That’s a great formula for sexy, as far as I’m concerned. I think back to the girl who sat alone on a chair during the pajama party sequence of “Ai Araba It’s Alright” and it’s even more remarkable to behold.

So does Morning Musume still need her? Should they keep her on instead of letting her return to what she deserves? I say no on both counts, but this is out of a selfish interest.

First, we need to consider that Morning Musume’s supposed to be a launching pad for idols to develop and then pursue other work – preferably solo or in another H!P unit. In that light, Mikitty’s growth can be marked clearly and she’s certainly ready to move on.

Second, as I noted before, the group dynamic Mikitty has inherited is different from the original 10-nin dynamic. There isn’t as much individual starpower right now, but the group dynamic is more dependent and more powerful for that dependence. That said, the dependence can become a crutch if it becomes the status quo – something the original 10-nin never allowed, what with all the line-up changes and subgroup activity.
But if Mikitty seems the only fair choice for graduation in 2006 – except perhaps Takahashi – then it’s time to force the other members to step up to the plate and assert themselves. If anything, Reina and Takitty need to better hone their personae, while Risa and Makoto need to feel more of the spotlight on themselves. Mikitty stepping aside and graduating will make this process that much easier for the others.

Will Morning Musume suffer from the loss of Mikitty? I don’t think any more than they have with other major losses, such as Gocchin and Nacchi’s respective departures. The group is large enough – and designed – to accommodate the changes.

I know “Let Mikitty free” is one of the top five recitatives of this blog, along with “I Miss Zone” and “Bounceback SweetS is Best” and “Momoko Is My Master”. But let’s face it, this one should be a cause to rally around – it’s about justice being done, after all.

Which isn’t to say that Mikitty will graduate this year. Maybe she’s become comfortable in the group setting and feels she’s more valuable in her current role. Maybe Tsunku doesn’t want her to leave just yet, for whatever reasons he has. Maybe Mikitty really does have a nefarious plan to completely remold Morning Musume in her image (she’s well along her way now, after all) – and from there, the rest of Hello! Project with Ayaya as her consort. It’s all possible, I guess.
I’m willing to be surprised.

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4 Responses to “Chokkan 2 Close-Up: Magnificent Mikitty”
  1. Chuck says:

    Is it me or does Mikitty’s mouth kind of slant to the left strangely? I noticed it in both “Chokkan 2” and “Iroppoi Jirettai.”

  2. kk says:

    When did miki say she considered herself a fourth gen?

  3. Chuck:

    Now that you mention it, I’m not sure if I’m actually seeing it or just imagining it under your influence… but yeah, there are some shots where the right side of her mouth looks more open than the left. Maybe it’s just a camera angle thing?

    kk:

    It was in some magazine article translated at the mm-bbs, sometime around the release of “Iroppoi” I think. Does anyone else remember this?

  4. Chuck says:

    That’s what I thought at first when I noticed it in the “Iroppoi Jirettai” video. But looking at the pictures here, it made me wonder. Now that I look, I can see it in “Osaka Koi no Uta” too, but not in “The Manpower.” Strange. I wonder if she got her wisdom teeth pulled last year.

    Anyway, it just struck me and I wondered if I was nuts. Odd things catch my interest.