Hello! Project’s Fantastic Four

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

Hey! It’s MKR – Melon Kinenbi Rayearth! Melon Kinenbi are apparently doing a costume drama musical and it looks to be a hoot, at least. Truth be known, I’d have preferred a new single or two over this, but I’m hoping this project will spawn exactly that result.

Actually, what wows me about the promotional photos for the musical is the shots of the Melons outside of their costumes, wearing street clothes and pink jackets. (You can click on the photos to see the full pictures with the girls in their musical costumes.)

Here’s Ayumi, looking quite prim and fetching in a cute print skirt outfit, her pose positively demure, even a tad shy… Very girl next door, very Ayumi.

In striking contrast is Boss Saito, with a shorter denim skirt and a pose that’s much more… um… welcoming. Hitomi shines with confidence here, again fulfilling her duty as the captain of sexy, and she’s the perfect choice for the villain of the musical – she’s got that obvious egocentric streak that will play well to the role.

Megumi looks great – but where’s the frikkin’ glasses? I love when she wears the glasses, it makes her look a little dorky but in the sexy way that glasses make cute girls dorky. She goes for a more casual look than the other two, slacks with heels.

Masae looks sexy, even if her hair isn’t its usual burst of rainbow flavors. However, the casual shoes and torn baggy denims are more tomboy, rough-and-tumble.

Anyway, what I like about this is how distinctive the girls are. For lack of a better term, I guess we can call it the Fantastic Four effect: a sense of clear roles, clear identities, but all informing the overall unity of the team, a synergistic line-up of members. The example that comes to mind for me is Public Enemy, who were actually compared to Kirby’s Fantastic Four in an article written during PE’s heyday.

That was something which struck me almost immediately about Speed, how iconic and distinctive the four girls were: there’s no mistaking Hiro for Eriko for Takako for Hitoe. They were each clearly their own woman but also clearly a unified unit as Speed. And that delicate balance between self and group – being able to stand out as your own person as well as a unit in a tight-knit combo – I haven’t really seen elsewhere.

Three to five members seem to be the magic numbers where you come closest to the effect. Two is just a duo and often hinges on similarities more than this kind of dynamic; more than five and the dynamics tend to be too spread out, with stars shining too brightly and non-stars dimming accordingly. Viyuden, Petit Moni, first gen Minimoni, second gen Tanpopo… they all have something of that feel to me, but not in the sharp relief and clarity of Speed. Rip Slyme definitely have that quality, actually, even vocally differentiating with striking clarity while working as a remarkably tight unit… (In American music, Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth and Lou Barlow-era Dinosaur Jr are other fine examples of this.)

And not having this quality doesn’t make a group bad by any means. Zone and Folder5 seemed more of an undifferentiated mass at times, though once you get to know them that changes; Sweets and Hinoi Team tend to be a bit too samey in their personae still, though I think it may just be a matter of time and personae tweaking.

Melon Kinenbi, along with Rip Slyme, has it in spades. Like Speed, they’ve got this magic balance in their image – I think they’ve actually had it for a long time (check out the “This Is Unmei” or “Namida no Taiyo” PVs, for example). It actually comes out much sharper when Megumi’s in the glasses and Masae has her hair dyed, but even without those obvious markers they just need to dress up or freaking stand to convey this.

I know it’s a weird thing to praise in a group, but it speaks towards the chemistry of the members, their ability to work well together without getting lost. It’s a case of being able to appreciate both forests and trees to their fullest extent. And of course, it makes for very good marketing.

And now that I think about it, their costumes for the musical also reflect this but in a cutesy anime way – there they’re color-coded like Rayearth, as well as associated with a particular sharp implement… again like Rayearth. But even taking that into account, they actually look more distinctive – in what they wear, how they look at the camera, how they stand – in their street garb. All of which speaks volumes to me.

A lot of it has to do with the longevity of Melon Kinenbi’s line-up – they haven’t changed once since they formed six years ago, it’s always been the four of them. That alone always fills me with awe and wonder, especially in the context of the ever-changing Hello! Project. I’d also argue that the special attention sometimes given Shibata hasn’t been all that egregious, otherwise she’d have probably gone solo by now.

For whatever reasons, and after six years I’d think it has as much to do with what the Melons want as well as what management has decided, these women enjoying being this four-woman group through good times and bad times. I suspect the bonds between them are in some ways as tight as that between Tsuji and Kago (well, pre-scandal, at any rate) and the chemistry between them unassailable. And it comes out in the quality of their music, which is what makes them the gold standard for many discerning H!P fans. They’ve slipped under the radar of the more casual H!P fan, but their discography is pretty damn amazing.

So I look forward to the musical, even if it’ll make me wince a little (as I’m sure it will). But there better be a whole lot more new singles this year than last year… They’ve earned it and they continue to earn it every time. You can’t say that about every H!P unit. And Melon Kinenbi have been doing so for years.

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One Response to “Hello! Project’s Fantastic Four”
  1. Freya says:

    Funnily enough, just today I was thinking the same thing. That is, how very distinct those four are and how rare that is when it comes to H!P.
    Sure, you can find the individuality in all the girls in all the groups, but MK is definitely one of its own kind.
    These four are just so very different, at first glance it’s sort of hard imagining them in the same group. But then of course it all makes sense, because they are, after all, Melon Kinenbi ^_^

    That being said, I simply need to comment on how good all the girls look!
    I’m not the hugest MK fan, but I’m really looking forward to this musical.
    (And Saito as the villain? Sort of reminds me of Yuko in the Mini Moni movie!)