Dick’d Johnson

Filed in American Wota 1.0

So, Iida Kaori’s pregnant. Ten weeks into it, and going to get married. This is the third H!P-related pregnancy this year, after Heike Michiyo’s and Tsuji Nozomi’s. Despite it being yet another shotgun wedding, this doesn’t feel at all scandalous. Neither did Michiyo’s, actually, though Kago Ai and Fujimoto Miki’s non-pregnancy sex news definitely did feel scandalous to some extent.

Part of it has to do with her age, certainly. And another part of it has to do with the amount of attention each of these events have gotten – Kago and Tsuji were both huge media-wise, Mikitty’s was medium, and Michiyo’s seems barely noticed.

However, I can’t help but think the idol persona each girl has taken factors into the reaction of media and fans. Tsuji and Kago will always appear as the sugar-rushed terrible twins of Morning Musume, while Mikitty had something of the rebel to her for a long while. The way they were treated reflected these angles. So what was Kaori’s persona about? Well, she had seniority and seriousness and clumsiness – she was the leader of Morning Musume for the longest time, and overshadowed by the younger, cuter girls. She was the artistic one who could play the guitar and was in love with Mediterranean culture. And she even sang about getting married in “Joshi Kashimashi” in an endearingly hopeful way.

Tsuji getting pregnant seemed a bit rushed and made one question her intelligence yet again. The fact that her baby’s father was Ultraman just added another layer of juvenilia absurdity to the proceedings. Iida getting knocked up feels more like a couple of free spirits being perhaps a bit too free. In that way, I guess it’s closer in spirit to Ishiguro Aya’s shotgun wedding with Luna Sea’s Shinya – they’re both musicians, at least one person in each couple has a strong artistic streak (Shinya, in Ayappe’s case), and they were old enough that the notion of getting pregnant was just a case of adults doing what adults tend to do.

I’d been complaining that every time I felt ready to start on my look at the complete span of Morning Musume’s PVs, a scandal would make me stop and re-assess what I was writing. Now I can’t even watch “Morning Coffee” without thinking of the decade-long irony-in-the-making there. But maybe this is for the best, maybe these events indicate a new phase in what seemed to be a narrative grinding to a slow, painful halt.

The narrative that is Morning Musume’s decade of existence seemed pretty stable in recent years, defined by a calcification (what others would call a decline from the Golden Age), as there was a settling-in of the “super-idol” group as an institution of idols. Pop idols at their best are cultural events in the making; as time passed, Morning Musume was no longer an event but a sort of landmark. In a very strange way, I think the spate of scandals – starting with Mari’s, actually – and pregnancies is heralding a new way to look at Morning Musume and Hello! Project, a new post-idol phase where more and more of H!P’s mainstays seem to be re-evaluating their role as idols, even as newer girls come in to take their place. Tsuji came in as a child and is now facing these different rites of womanhood, but Iida started at only the tender age of fifteen, as well. Ten years in the spotlight as part of the hottest group in fin-de-millennium Japan is something of an achievement.

And let me say this: when she didn’t have that weird deer-in-the-headlights thing going on, Iida was one of the most beautiful of the Musumes. The best evidence of this is second gen Tanpopo, though her turn in “Joshi Kashimashi” (I’m thinking the part where she points at the camera) or even her smile during the start of the “Love Machine” PV is all evidence of this. There was something gentle about her, a lack of self-consciousness in her best moments, which gave her a distinct charm. She was never much for being glamorous, however, and (as crs pointed out a long while ago) began sticking out in a bad way as Morning Musume became more aggressively youthful in their choice of members. But on her own terms, she could be quite stunning.

When she didn’t have that weird deer-in-the-headlights thing going on, that is. Which, unfortunately, was there from the start and never truly went away. I’d like to say that clumsiness was part of her charm, but for her clumsiness was just clumsiness. But the moments of grace and sophistication she showed? Ahh, those were moments to conjure.

I do find it interesting that Tsunku seems really proud of Iida’s pregnancy, as opposed to his reaction to Tsuji which seemed more guarded – or at least, not as enthusiastic. Part of me suspects it’s because he knows both father and mother well, but also I think he’s made his peace with the notion that his Musume are becoming women with their own lives to lead. And speaking of the father, he looks kind freaky in the pictures I’d seen. Not bad freaky, but a little freaky. As others have pointed out, Tsuji landed the best (Ultra-)man looks-wise, which is in itself sort of amazing.

There are some lingering questions to consider. First, is Iida going to get a replacement for 10th anniversary Morning Musume? I don’t think so. If anything, I’d like to see a completely different line-up formed, preferably with Yuko in charge, for any future singles for the tenth anniversary. Second, will she return to H!P after this? I doubt it. She hadn’t been doing much lately, anyway, and hopefully won’t need the income. I think she’d be happier doing her paintings and taking care of little Johnson, a proper mix of domesticity and aesthetic refinement. (I’m also going to bet that the child will have a European name, or at least a European middle name.) Third, wouldn’t it be great if the two pregnant Musumes showed up on Utaban, along with Ayappe and Sayaka? I’m just fantasizing, but I think that’d be freakin’ wonderful.

So I wish Iida the best, of course, and should probably start a betting pool on who’ll get a scandal next.

(The title for this blog entry, by the way, is taken from a Pussy Galore song (download here) from Dial M for Motherfucker, one of the greatest albums of all time. Highly recommended listening.)

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3 Responses to “Dick’d Johnson”
  1. Chuck says:

    The phrase “Hello! Project” is taking on a whole new meaning in my mind these days.

    Actually, though, I didn’t read as much positivity into Tsunku’s statement as I guess a lot of people did. It sounded to me like, “Wha? But they just met , like, last mo— er, I mean, I’m totally happy for them! Go Kaorin and Boy Band Guy!” Then again, I’m sure he is actually happy to see Morning Grandmusumes, both because he’s known these girls for so long and for the business prospect of a genetically engineered superidol group. He was probably just a bit more taken aback by Tsuji since he’d just started her in a new project, whereas Kaori basically retired at age 23 and was off doing her own thing.

  2. Rikki says:

    I like that “deer in the headlights” look. I don’t know why, but somehow it was endearing; and she always looked beautiful when she had that look.

  3. wu-san says:

    what happens happens right? might as well go with the flow. As it were. LOL

    I hope whoever reads or has read this blog post is reminded of how wonderfully wonderful she is.

    Her man – as you say – looks a little scary which made me sit back at first. But I’d imagine Johnson has pretty good judgement.