Kago Ai Merchandise Removed From H!P Stores

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

The folks at UFA felt obliged to make an official announcement out of it so I’m treating it as news: Kago Ai merchandise will not be available at the Hello! Project stores. I’m assuming this includes W goods with Tsuji on it as well – the wife is asleep right now so I can’t have her translate the news release to confirm this. But what the heck, most all non-photo goods featuring Kago feature Tsuji as well – they’re a package deal, after all. So again, I’m assuming Tsuji gets shafted because of what Kago did.

This merchandising blackout should be familiar to H!P watchers. Back when Hawaii had its own Alo-Hello store, I saw this happen to Natsumi Abe goods. I’m also bitchy enough to note that it took them several days after the suspension ended to get new Nacchi goods in stock again. (They should have had new photo sets and bumper stickers ready on February 1st for loyal fans like me, dammit!)

This is one aspect of Hello! Project that always bothered me: not to make too big a deal of it, but there’s a kind of Stalinist historical revisionism where people can simply cease to exist in H!P’s history. If you looked around the Alo-Hello store in January 2005 – and okay, not read the letter in Japanese – you’d have never known Natsumi Abe was a part of Hello! Project… Or, for that matter, Fukuda Asuka, Ishiguro Aya, or Ichii Sayaka were ever a part of H!P.

On the latter point, I’m sure the main concern is financial and perhaps even legal. UFA no longer make money off Asuka and Ayappe and Sayaka, so why use their likeness? And does H!P even have the rights to their likenesses once they leave? Still, there have been times when I’ve watched old footage of Morning Musume played in recent years and you wouldn’t even know Asuka and Ayappe were a part of the group, never mind being founding members. It was all Nacchi and Yuko and Johnson, Nacchi and Yuko and Johnson. I can’t help but wonder if Maiha will also drop out of old Berryz footage when they replay it in the future…

And then there’s the website. Mari was removed from the Hello! Project official site when her own Friday situation hit critical mass last April. A group photo of Morning Musume minus Mari was up almost immediately. Luckily, that hasn’t happened to Kago yet – her picture is still up in the Artists section. That said, it looks like W is no longer a possible image for the front page. Again, I think of Tsuji getting shafted.

Part of the reason all this sticks in my craw so much is that I love Hello! Project for its rich, complex, deeply convoluted history. The generations, the graduations, the subgroups and shuffles… It’s a great deal of information to master, and I still don’t have it all down cold. Given such a rich pageantry of idols for almost a decade, these omissions of convenience – due to suspension or because someone has simply left H!P – strike me as an unintended stab at historical dishonesty. Ayappe isn’t important because she’s no longer on the team; Nacchi didn’t exist for two months until her punishment was over. She wasn’t even allowed to be at Iida’s graduation – the graduation of the last first gen of Momusu, and the most popular first gen was barred from attending. These omissions seem to be injustices not only to the idols but to the fans as well.

It doesn’t help that the decision-making for H!P is often baffling and opaque in reasoning, perhaps purposefully so – leading to my comparison to Kremlinology and feeding into that whole Stalinist revisionism image it conjures in me.

The saddest part, perhaps, is that it now feels like a set procedure: suspend, remove all merchandise, wait an allotted amount of time, reinstate idol and merchandise, pretend it never happened. I remember how frayed my nerves were last April with all the tumult in H!P at the time… I’m not feeling as frazzled or put-upon now (in part because I’ve got some other concerns to place all this otaku-ness in proper perspective), but I do wonder what’ll happen if another scandal takes place. It’s only a matter of time, after all…

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9 Responses to “Kago Ai Merchandise Removed From H!P Stores”
  1. Menno says:

    H!P like 1984, I wonder if Tsunku was Big Brother all this time anyway.
    Up Front will certainly tighten things up for all the members, no bad habits aloud anymore. They can’t afford to lose any more money on stupid things like this.

  2. Steve Harrison says:

    When the Yakuza photgraphed some of H!P members in bathroom stalls because Up-Front wouln’t be extorted by them, H!P management made light of the situation by having the MM girls shown in a men’s restroom for the Za Peace PV.

    Why can’t H!P just have Kago apologize anf let it go? (the same could be said for Mari, as she was just caught with a boy in a public place, not humping in the street!)
    Why such a big deal, drawing much more attention than is should, when a first offense, “slap on the wrist” would do?
    I could understand it if H!P’s main fan base were teen girls which it may have been in the past, but not now. H!P’s main fan base is otaku fan-boys who I am sure don’t give a damn if Kago experimented with cigs.. (I host young, U-16 Japanese girls/students in my home every summer when I am not in Japan, and only ONE girl that I ever hosdted, liked, or admitted to like Momusu!

    She was the one who wanted to go with me when I got tickets to my first Momusu concert a couple of years ago in Tokyo..which was nice as I am sure I was the ONLY Westerner who attended..
    Yes, I know H!P want to retain a virginal image and reacts to anything that disturbs that (unrealistic) ideal, but the formal “punishments” the girls get if they “step out of line”, seems to harken back to the bushido code…a little harsh for small discretion. (Maybe I should be thankful Tsunku doesn’t offer Kago a short sword!!)
    I know a lot of readers here will rant about the “badness” of smoking, or the idol “image”..and I am not disputing that. I think only that H!P goes too far, drawing even more negative publicity by validating the “seriousnes” of the “crime”…. and please…again, I know underage smoking is against the law in Japan, but as in my previous posts…I believe the “punishment” does not fit the crime, and that H!P, by taking this tact, is shooting itself in the foot…or..committing modern day Seppuku!

    (1 Q. …How involved is Tsuku in all of this? Is HE the one who dictates the corporate response to H!P members gone astray? or..is he bound by the whims of the “higher-ups” himself??

  3. DomeYogee says:

    Man. Kago merchandise off the shelves!? That’s going tooooo far! All she was doing was having a good time. That’s all. Experimenting is just a part of life. Sometimes you do good and sometimes you do something bad. Its human nature. But, this is too much for me because Kago’s future will decide the fate of “W” and whether or not they will continue as a group. I feel that Tsuji is caught up in the middle of this too because her career is on the line if Kago splits from “W.” I hope H!P can find a median or a settlement to keep Kago in and keep “W” from falling off the market. We have to show our support for Kago and for “W.” Let the people know that Kago is only human underneath that kawaii outfit. What she did is wrong, I’m not going to lie. but, we all make mistakes and I think Kago deserves another chance to regain herself as a valuable H!P member.

  4. Chuck says:

    Does anyone have an e-mail address for the UFA bigwigs? I’d like to get some practice with my Japanese vulgarity.

    Seriously, what nimrods. There are only two groups in the world that really care about this:
    1) Friday Magazine
    2) Up Front Works
    If Up Front had just mailed Friday a photo of Tsunku flipping the bird, nobody would be talking about Kago smoking at all by this point and they wouldn’t be bleeding yen from the W album.

  5. Tsuji_Eriku says:

    Eye Juana dye. Seriously though, this makes me sad. Poor Nono. Like I said before I really hope this is the standard scare tactic, & that it will all blow over in due time.

    Steve:

    (I host young, U-16 Japanese girls/students in my home every summer when I am not in Japan, and only ONE girl that I ever hosdted, liked, or admitted to like Momusu!)

    I’m sure that would all be put to an end if you got caught posting here. J/K LOL

  6. kk says:

    I think part of the reason why this is being made into such a big deal is from the recent events surounding Johnny’s and NEWS. Last year when a member was caught underage drinking with staff from some news brodcast the intial punishments were rather light for all parties. This led to a giant uproar of the general public, and then harsher punishments were then put in place. Papers seeing at how much buzz this scandle brought about also probaly started staking out on more underage idols. And now companies are much more strict on making sure they show a good example when their charges get into trouble.

    On the so called re-writting of history on the H!P front. I can see why they do this. While alot of hardcore fans lament the passing of favorite members, but constantly reminding fans of what was lost it just leds to the it was better back in the day type attitudes. To move foward for the sake of the current line up and furture generations its almost needed to almost “erase” the past and pretend like what is here was always here.

    With the getting rid of all the kago merchandise I think it again is needed since this scandle is getting a shocking amount of play (must be slow news since it seems to be appearing on more news and newpapers than even mari’s scandle o.0) that UFA (and affiliates) need to distance itself from Kago. While fans surely want to support her I’m sure parents say wanting to buy some Rika merchandise for their kid then see a Kago pic right next to it might think twice about purchasing it. And just the overall spill over effect over this scandle.

    Alot of us Americans who are used to the idea of celebrities being unable to do anything wrong are surely shocked by these events. But Asian countries have more of a tradition of looking down on celebrities (while at the same time worshiping them) Not so much in Japan, but in Korea due to its more extreme devotion to Confuciusnism general public seem to have this sense that entertainers are almost second class citizens, or simple not as respectable.

    In the end its true tons of people smoke underage, but parents and the public in general like to pretend this doesn’t happen and when something like this happens and the media really jumps on it, there isnt much that Kago and co can do. Except think F*ck!

  7. crs says:

    “Alot of us Americans who are used to the idea of celebrities being unable to do anything wrong are surely shocked by these events.”

    I actually think it’s the opposite–Americans are _more_ used to celebrities and the crimes they commit, the drug habits they nurse in public, their underage partying, and so on. I think that’s why some Americans may be shocked–not because it’s an extreme reaction, our media and fans do that all the time too, but it’s an extreme reaction to what, in our minds, is a miniscule infraction–if we see it as an infraction at all.

  8. jossie says:

    this is sickness

  9. Steve Harrison says:

    “I’m sure that would all be put to an end if you got caught posting here. J/K LOL ”

    I know this was in jest….but the girls already know my obsession with jpop as my “profile” form that is on file with the Japanese jr. high school that does the placing arrangements says that I speak some Japanese, have been to Japan 4X, buy and sell Japanese antiques and musical instruments, play the koto, love jpop esp H!P, esp MM, Beryz, TF6, Aiko, Ikuta Aiko, Ruppina, Sayaka Kamizono (well pop-enka) SweetS, etc. etc.. So they are NOT naive when it comes to my predilections. Since it is a custom that the girl/girls bring gifts for the home with them, they usually bring my wife some nice houseware items, and for me, always H!P stuff. On MY request form I always ask for a girl who is not shy, loves music/jpop and has nice legs, small…(just kidding on that part…) No, only my wife thinks I am a little “off” and maybe slightly perved, the girls just giggle a lot…………..