Some Thoughts on Fourth Gen

Filed in American Wota 1.0

Things have been quite busy for Morning Musume’s favorite and best generation, hasn’t it? In the past week or so: Yossie graduated from Morning Musume, marking the end of an era (finally); Tsuji announced her new unit, Gyaruru; Tsuji was injured and could not work in a theater production with Charmy, then was replaced by Yossie; Charmy’s unit Viyuden released the PV to their next single; and Aibon has signed up with new management (which is what’s prompting me to write this post in the first place, I must admit). So just to hit on some obvious observations…

Morning Musume’s original glory days are now officially past. Casual fans – the hundreds of thousands who bought “Love Machine” and “The Peace” because it was trendy, and thus made Morning Musume superstars – now have no point of reference. What the fuck, even half of fifth gen has been gone for a while, too. I think it’s a good thing, if only because the past now feels distinctly past, somehow. The current line-up don’t have to worry so much about what Morning Musume used to be – not that I think they worried all that much, actually. But for some reason, and maybe it’s because I am so historically- and symbolically-minded, the new Morning Musume can better assert themselves with the Golden Age now a dead age.

Unless, of course, all the extant Golden Age members re-unite the way I keep hoping they would…

It’s time to make new glory days overseas. With JunJun and LinLin debuting at Yossie’s graduation concert, I’m thinking Morning Musume will be setting their sights on carving out a piece of the pan-Asian market. I’m not sure how this is going to work out – more fan club tours overseas? Will the new intrawebs angle of Haromoni@ may also play a crucial role in this future expansion? The global information village is ripening, so now may be the best time to strike.

Yossie better have something waiting in the wings for her. And not just the understudy thing for Tsuji, either. She’s seen how other second stringers from Morning Musume have been treated once they graduate, so I hope she’s able to carve out some kind of musical career post-Momusu that would be substantial. That said, training her new Gatas roster of H!P Kids may be more than enough to take up her time. It’d be amusing if Yossie ended up being only involved in sports with occasional forays into music, which is how I think it will turn out.

Tsuji’s makeover is a much-needed break from her own past. While the new para para unit Gyaruru holds little appeal for me musically, I do like the fact that Nono has completely redone herself and even taken on a new nickname, Tsujiji. It reminds me of how people go through a bad breakup and then shave their heads to feel better and make a new start. (I’ve done it, I’m sure some of you have as well.) She’s done a good job of carving her own identity outside of Tsujikago in the past year, but this radical change makes even clearer that she’s her own woman now.

What’s with the TNX / H!P crossover? Gyaruru is the first major unit involving both of Tsunku’s collectives. It makes me wonder if Tsunku is positioning himself for some major move. The most dramatic would be a break from UFA, but I don’t think it’d go that far. But perhaps he wants more freedom to handle H!P as he sees fit, as he does with TNX, and this is his leverage? I look forward to any further moves along this line.

I really wanna do nasty things to Tokito Ami in her Gyaruru outfit. She’s definitely the hottest of the trio, and those sunglasses and the hairdo make her look sexy for a change. Wow. I mean, I didn’t like what I’d seen of her before, but as Amimi she can be a total AV goddess as far as I’m concerned. Like, Moodyz style AV, not S1 style. But we were talking about fourth gen, weren’t we?

Charmy’s the steadiest and most successful of her gen! Who’d’ve thunk that Rika would be the most stable of fourth gen? Who’d’ve thunk that Viyuden would outlast W? But it makes sense actually – she’s always been quite careerist and has planned for herself accordingly. Viyuden seems to be doing well enough, their appearances in the Sukeban Deka movie have increased their public visibility, and Rika’s grown into her role as one of the leading lights of H!P. There was always fun poked at her for being such a kawaii-centric airhead – she even played into it quite often, and in doing so made herself a role model to the likes of Sayumi and a couple of H!P Kids – but that act hid just how smart she is. So kudos to her.

Aibon’s got to completely re-invent herself, too. The rumor that it was her mother running around trying to secure new management for her makes me suspicious. Does Aibon really want to come back, is she being pressued to continue to be the breadwinner, is she having second thoughts? I have no idea. Anyway, the scandals are going to continue to loom over Aibon, meaning she can’t go back to her old idol persona: the hardcore fans will be mostly unforgiving, the kiddie market won’t touch her, and her sell-by date to a mainstream audience is long past anyways (see above). She can be a geinou bottom-feeder, appearing on various TV shows with a bunch of other geinou, and that’d at least keep her in the public eye and bring in some money. Apparently, it’s not that hard to take that route.

If Aibon wants a real career, though, I’m thinking a complete and brazen re-invention will work in her favor, something that shows she’s all grown up. Maybe a photobook with nudity would do her good, as it did Kahala Tomomi. Okay, I really just want to see Aibon naked, but as long as she pretends to keep it tasteful and artistic, the idea of a Naked Morning Musume – a “real” Morning Musume, back when they ruled the Japanese pop world (as the mainstream would see it) – will certainly capture the public’s attention, especially since she was the baby of the group back in those days. A tell-all book on H!P would also be interesting, though I don’t know how likely it would be.

Musically, she could probably continue to do pop music as long as it doesn’t sound too much like the H!P formula. I can’t see her taking any real musical risks or going into other genres, but that may be a lack of imagination on my own part. (Or the idea of para para Tsuji is still frying my synapses a little. So what else is possible? Klezmer-pop from Aibon? A return to hip hop Yossie for her solo work?) Out of all of fourth gen, Aibon has the clearest talent as a singer and can be ridiculously charming whenever she wants to be, so I’d give her a better-than-average chance to create interesting music if she so desires. Whether or not she wants to work that hard and whether or not she can sell herself all over again to a new market – well, that’s open to debate. The good news is, by not being signed with UFA, she won’t be held back the way so many other Momusu graduates have been.

I wish I could get excited about this, but I can’t. Not yet, at least. Being an idol takes a good deal of discipline, and that’s something Aibon has lacked in recent years. The socio-commercial contract between idol and wota is simple: wota worships idol and spends money to show this devotion; in return, idol provides eyecandy and earcandy to encourage the idol fantasy and create a mediated sense of intimacy. I’m certain that most fans don’t want to think in such mercenary terms, but it’s how management looks at it and plans their marketing and product line.

My loyalty to Aibon has been badly abused in this light, but her brand is still quite enticing if packaged and marketed properly. If they can make it New and Improved (and Nude!), so much the better. But there are other, more reliable brands out there – including Rika and the H!P Kids – and only so many hours in the day for feeling frustrated and annoyed about such trivial matters. (Yeah, that’s daddyhood talking there.) So I’m not holding my breath, but at least I’ll cross my fingers.

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7 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Fourth Gen”
  1. Julia says:

    I’m not really absorbing the fact that Yossie has graduated, yet. I’ll need to see some clips and pictures of the grad concert before it sinks in. But I didn’t know that JunJun and LinLin debuted at the grad concert, so that’s exciting! I’d been hoping they’d debut soon. Ahh, Aibon…and I’m really liking that new Biyuuden single! It’s so cute.

  2. Another provocative essay. The only reservation I have is declaring the “golden age” of Morning Musume at an end. Now I don’t have the live history behind me, but through the miracle of DVDs I have carefully looked at past concerts and have done some detailed comparisons. Conclusion? Tsunku has remained true to the Morning Musume credo throughout. This was most exemplified during this last big H!P concert in January, the 10th anniversary, where I note that many of these ex-Momusu girls have been marvelously repackaged and remain with the company. That the concert ended with a beautiful version of “Lova Machine” (I also thought “Egao Yes Nude” was polished and wonderful despite a languid crowd response) was tribute to the abject fact that Morning Musume has permanently etched an enduring tradition in international popular music and dance. The only trouble Tsunku has, if this can be considered trouble, is the surge of the “JV” and “freshman” teams, Berryz and C-ute, respectively. These are brilliant young kids, kicking tails everywhere, and I wish them the best. Even “The Possible” has a certain sassiness that I like. As for Aibon naked, well, bring it on!

  3. kde says:

    4th gen was great. Probably my favorite gen ever. It proved that MM wasn’t just Maki Goto and some other girls and had a varied bunch – a “pretty girl” (Rika), a “tomboy” (Yossie), and two kids that opened up a whole new segment of H!P. Without Kago and Tsuji, there would be no Minimoni, H!P kids,BK, C-ute, etc. Regardless of how things turned out, it’s stil my favorite.

  4. Rikki says:

    “It’d be amusing if Yossie ended up being only involved in sports with occasional forays into music … ”

    Amusing? It’d be a bleeping tragedy. She has as much charisma and comedic talent as anyone in H!P.

  5. jinryuichi says:

    Funny that you mentioned Yossie may only be involved in the sports and stuff…. cos’ it may be true. I personally don’t see how she can be more active than other graduates, say Nacchi and Gocchin…….

  6. lancedragons says:

    I still dream of a Satoda Mai, Kimura Ayaka, Yoshizawa Hitomi, but assuming my dreams will be crushed (I think it’s the UFW motto), Yossie will be having a dinner show, I think, probably manage a radio show if they give one to her, and still appear on every which variety show (which is a way of life, mayhap not as glamorous as a singer, but lots of people amek their break this way.

    I’d expect at least one single out of her which ends up having mediocre sales, and then she takes the no singing soloist route that still appears in musicals and various tv shows (probably Haromoni@, taking Tsuji’s role)

  7. Japonaliya says:

    I first heard MM when the sang Koi no Dance Site!
    I flew to Japan twice to see them in concert. My favorite was the 4th gen. and the 5th (if only Maki stayed..) Aibon & Tsuji were my “petite amores”…
    Yet…the cover photo of MM on the 4 M-Clips DVD is SO HOT, that I just bought the DVD (just for the cover) even though I had already DL the ISO!!

    Goodbye Aibon & Tsuji…

    Konichiwa AIKA MITSU!!

    Now I KNOW I’m a pedo!!