Chokkan 2 Close-Up: Heroically Yossi

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

Yoshizawa Hitomi is the Musume most likely to wind up an Elvis impersonator or professional wrestler… Which doesn’t mean she will, but if she did, many of us would probably just shake our heads and go, “That’s just like her.”

As the leader of the current line-up she’s also the last member from the Golden Age – and a constant reminder of that past greatness. And of course, she was a natural choice for the Heroic group in this PV. Most likely the idea for that group in Chokkan 2 started with her: she’s sexy, but only sorta, and definitely not cute. One thing she is, though, is commanding and cool and enviably confident – in short, she knows how to cut a heroic figure like none of the others. To me, the fact that it comes out as distinctly masculine says more about the culture than about Yossi.

Yossi has a one-note performance in the Chokkan 2 Close-Up – she basically threatens to beat up the viewer in a semi-maniacal display of menacing glee. She frequently makes a fist as if wanting to punch the viewer. She points her finger as if wanting to stick it right in your face. At one point I thought she drew a line across her neck in the universal symbol for “I’m going to slit your throat” – but it was just her fist moving across, so I think I was just imagining it. Maybe.

The funny thing is, she brings nuance to this performance. Sometimes she’ll have the eye-popping look of a crazy person (“I’ve got to kill you to silence the voices in my head”), sometimes she’ll have the droopy-lidded Robert Mitchum Night of the Hunter look (“I’ll kill you then raid your fridge to make a sandwich”), and sometimes she has a threatening pro wrestler pointing-at-the-camera vibe (“I’ll make you wish you had died before you stepped into the ring, El Borbah”).

And she also has a couple of mockingly cute moments, perhaps most surprising of all. And that’s Yossi – she is in many ways predictable, but has a knack for catching fans off-guard regardless.

What I actually like best about Yossi is how calm and cool-headed she often seems. There are numerous times where all the other Musume would be running around screaming and shouting while she’s sitting there calm, seemingly unaware of what all the fuss is. The now-notorious porkchop-hat clip is a great example of this, as is the episode of Fun where they played The Ring practical joke.

She’s also a bit of a prankster – as seen in the same episode of Fun – and of course has very own sense of style. Thankfully, she seems to have outgrown the tracksiots and baseball caps for the most part – opting for a more glamorous, if still functional, look. But she’s very much her own person and seems aggressive about remaining that way.

Of course, it was as Morning Musume’s tomboy – or as the Mechaike Bakajo Test stated, “The only boy to ever join Morning Musume” – that Yossi established her idol persona. But she also always had a feminine persona which she wore just as comfortably. It never seemed contradictory, nor did either aspect seem out of whack with the other.

In a way, this combination is at the heart of Morning Musume during its Golden Age: the aggressive football hooligan chants of their best-known singles were complemented by the elaborate feminine costumes, the pumping of fists was always in the service of kawaii culture. Yossi was simply the best individual example of this duality.

Thus, Yossi has a very clear idol persona and has been able to do different things with it. Like the other fourth gen, her persona is vivid enough and outsize enough that she’s not only memorable for it but also able to poke fun of that persona when she wants to. Think of Rika’s graduation episode of Hello! Morning, where she and Yossi switched roles in the skit to excellent effect. Or the original “Joshi” where she mocks the idea of changing her persona – and in doing so, lovingly mocks the notion of idol personae in general.

For me, Yossi – along with Tsuji – is the most adept of the stealth idols. She hasn’t stood out the way others in the group have, but has carved her own niche and has a solid fan base that lesser Musumes would envy.

The highlight for Yossi as a Musume is indisputably “Mr. Moonlight ~Ai No Big Band”. On the one hand, it’s a shame because it was so long ago – the first single from fifth gen. On the other hand, it’s the best single performance by a Morning Musume PV, helped in no small part by the young Mako-chan as her love interest.

I have to admit, I still swoon at seeing her perform in the PV – or hold her own with the older drag kings in the Takarazuka performance of that song. Nacchi and Gocchin were just girls in suits – Yossi was the swaggering, cocky, yet lovesick personification of a distinctly female male ideal. She carried it off because, in a sense, it seemed so natural to her – not the masculinity, but the preening confidence she exuded. In the spirit of all great drag, it works because it’s a masquerade that exposes an essential truth about the performer.

Obligatory dental observation: pretty good, overall.

She hasn’t had the spotlight as much since “Mr. Moonlight”, though her distinctive vocal delivery has been put to good use time and again. She’s a strong utility player with the ability to do leads – a flexibility that the lesser Musume are only working up to right now.

She doesn’t seem too hungry for the spotlight as much as to be allowed what she wants. For example, there was the touching way Tsunku finally gave her a Best Shot solo song at the end of that Best Of collection – except she’s singing karaoke style on a set that can barely hold her and Tsunku at the same time. Was she mad? No, she was delighted by the novelty of the setting and belted her heart out. That spoke volumes for her.

As for being leader of Morning Musume – jeez, who’d have thunk it? She didn’t seem as suited to the role as Mari but got it from sheer seniority – along with the role of Last Remaining Golden Age Musume and thus bearer of a lost standard. The role of Musume leader seems honorary more than practical, though she’s certainly proved her leadership skills as captain of the futsal Gatas team. There’s a seriousness and empathy we see in her as leader that shows yet another facet of Yossi to excellent effect.

Does Yossi have a future after Morning Musume? It’s difficult to imagine her in a solo career or particularly giving a damn about being in her own unit like Viyuden and W. On the other hand, it’s easy to see her spending more time with the ever-expanding sports program at Hello! Project – running Gatas as captain, playing a key role in the sports festivals.

It’d be a shame, though. She’s a good singer in her own right, she has a comfort on stage and on screen that makes her interesting to watch, and she’s got a true gift for comedy. If she and Rika were to have their own TV show, it’d probably be a lot of fun to watch. (And not grow tiresome, the way a W TV show would inevitably become.)

Still, she’s the current leader of Morning Musume and will likely stick with that position for at least a couple more years. I’m sure she’ll just keep doing what she wants as an idol and making it seem effortless in the process.

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2 Responses to “Chokkan 2 Close-Up: Heroically Yossi”
  1. Wapiko says:

    Did you have to post so many screencaps? I died over and over again from the hotness. X_X

    No matter what, Yossi has been and will always remain my #1 H!P girl.

  2. acetonic says:

    Yossui has been my fave momusu since 4th gen debuted and she remains that way. I think she combines “cool”, “sexy” and “cute” in a way no other can. You are right on the mark about her comedic talents and I would not be suprised to see her star on a comedy show after her idol career is over. Imagine her and Ishikawa as a female version of “Downtown” with their own show!