HANGRY & ANGRY and H!P’s Continuing Evolution

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I haven’t been shy about expressing my distaste for Hello! Project in recent months. I can’t think of many singles this year that appealed to me at all, and the one that topped the list has been remixed into ruin for me. As a result, my interest in the idols themselves had been waning. Morning Musume is practically dead to me: I still hold some mild fondness for Sayu, Aika, and Koha, but not enough to follow their latest activities. As for the H!P Kids… well, I generally like them more than the current Morning Musume. But again, it’s not enough to keep me very involved or to care all that much. Momoko remains the exception that proves the rule, and her next photobook is a must-buy, but that’s the extent of it.

Further, I still don’t know if I’ve given Buono! a fair shot yet, and this is over a year later. By that, I mean I’ve heard their singles and seen their videos, but none of it has grabbed me yet. I kept thinking if I made myself listen to it more and watch it more, I’ll become a fan of the unit – after all, it has three of my favorite idols in there, right? Except I never got around to making that extra effort, and the fact that I never did seems damning in its own right. (Actually, I’m still holding out that I’ll become a Buono! convert eventually. Momoko just stacks the deck too much in its favor.)

All that said, I now have hope for H!P. Or rather, the announcement of HANGRY & ANGRY – featuring Yoshizawa Hitomi and Ishikawa Rika – is the surprising culmination of a renewed interest in Hello! Project – but one that pretty much ignores the flagship groups that used to mean a great deal to me. Here’s the units I’m now rooting for…

HANGRY & ANGRY. With this duo, I’m reminded of what it’s like to eagerly anticipate something from H!P. There are so many ways that this new unit is great.

First, it’s pure unadulterated Ishiyoshi. With Tsujikago now a faint memory, this combo is easily the one with the best chemistry in all of H!P. (And did the pink and blue of H&A’s outfits make anyone else think of the Robokiss outfits, or was it just me? But I’m also reminded of the visor Rika wore to great effect in “Renai Revolution 21″…) With Goto Maki now at Avex, Rika may well be the most careerist of the current H!P idols – and I believe such careerism should be rewarded. Meanwhile, Yossie had long ago proven herself the consummate team player, and that should be rewarded as well. I dunno, I just think they belong together – and not in a fanfic smutty way, I just mean they work well together, they’re apparently good friends, and they can become H!P’s Next Big Thing as H&A if they play their cards right.

Second, the style and sound is a radical departure from current H!P fare. I’m not sure how Gothic Lolita the look is, but it’s got a nice edge to it. If anything, it reminds me a good deal of Ian Gibson’s artwork for the British comic book The Ballad of Halo Jones. So extra points for stimulating my fanboy nerve-endings. Equally important, it allows Yossie and Charmy to assume roles in an overt fashion, to vamp things up in a manner they’re rarely allowed. 

One thing I do find intriguing is that the relatively docile and apparently suicidal Hangry is played by Yossie, while the more clearly homicidal Angry is played by Rika. Their long-standing butch-femme dynamic has been overturned, much like in Rika’s graduation special on that especially wonderful episode of Hello Morning. Whether or not this was intentional or just luck of the draw, we’ll see in the future.

Third, this unit is tied directly into selling a line of clothing. I’m always a fan of productive merchandising, and this is certainly such a case. At this point, H!P is the benefactor of this synergy – they get more credibility and will gain attention outside of their usual circle of fans.

Fourth, and I almost forgot this point, the song itself is great! I find myself actually listening to it and enjoying it a great deal. And I seriously didn’t think I’d be saying that again ever, but this is a fun song that should stick in my head for a while – and given the look of this unit and its inspiration, I have high hopes for the PV as well. If sheep appear in this video, I can at least cross my fingers and hope they’re brutally mutilated.

Milky Way. I actually like their two singles so far. Not a whole lot, but more than Buono! at least. They’re quirky and catchy, but don’t make me assume rampant drug abuse is going on. And while Koha is the ostensible leader of the group, Kitahara Sayaka and Kikkawa Yuu are two of the most exciting Eggs and it’s great to have a unit with both of them.

Sayaka’s easily the second-hottest Egg around and I’m hoping she gets a photobook sometime in the near future. Or even better, something with Yuu like that duo photobook that Okada Yui and Miyoshi Erika did, but with fewer horses and more toy merchandise tie-ins. (Now that I think of it, if Erika and Yui were to form their own unit, I’d be very interested in that, as well! Hm…) As for the hottest Egg of all time, well she’s in…

Shugo Chara Egg!. I’m only rooting for them because they’re such sweet, sweet eyecandy. Maeda Yuuka may well end up supplanting Momoko as my favorite H!P idol – she’s got more pedolicious going on than a thousand winking kindergarteners. Give her a swimsuit photobook and I’ll swear a new allegiance faster than you can say “Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance”…

SI☆NA. I’m not sure what to make of this group, but I find them highly compelling… I think part of it is the H!P-JE link that Nana represents, and part of it is that they offer more potential at this point than actual results. I like the way they interact in their radio show, and the mix of personalities strike me as very appealing. If anything, the cohesion of different idol personae makes me think of Melon Kinenbi, though whether they have the musical chops of that group is not very clear at all. Still, I anticipate whatever they do next. If anything.

So in effect, I do feel quite hopeful about Hello! Project again… but it seems to be around the edges, tucked away from the flagship groups. And in a way, that makes sense – in the same way that the investment in the H!P Kids had finally paid off in a huge way with Berryz and C-ute, the investment in the Eggs and Hello! Pro Kansai is reaping its own benefits now. This may be mildly disconcerting to some: after all, who’d’ve thought that the H!P Kids would gain wota parity with Morning Musume? And now, the Eggs and other also-rans are in contention as well? It’s the cycle of life – or at least, the cycle of renewing one’s brand.

And yet, two Golden Age members are the tip of the spear, so to speak. I don’t think it’s a case that the new completely supplants the old – rather, the arrival of new blood forces a separating of wheat and chaff for the old guard. HANGRY & ANGRY make plain yet again why fourth gen were the best gen of Morning Musume – they may not have the best abilities as soloists, but they’re now the best idols from the old guard, and that ultimately means a lot more than anything else.

It’ll be interesting to see if HANGRY & ANGRY are the start of a whole new trend with H!P – I wouldn’t mind seeing Yuko going back to her punk roots, for instance. I actually doubt this is the start of a new shift, but if somebody told me Koharu’s foray into anime would lead to a wealth of new units… well, I would’ve doubted that, too, at first. 

So are we talking about a renaissance for H!P, a return to the greatness at the fin-de-millennium? Is this as good as the “old days”? Well, I’ve only been a fan of Hello! Project for five years, so I don’t remember what the old days felt like, just the slow descent into crapitude and eventual redemption from a bunch of new (and retooled) idols. But in that sense – yeah, it feels like those days again, at least.

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3 Responses to “HANGRY & ANGRY and H!P’s Continuing Evolution”
  1. Arbitrary Greay says:

    “The more clearly homicidal Angry is played by Rika.”

    But of course! Yossie’s violence(or rather, statement of ‘I am more masculine than Morning Musume’, which isn’t saying much) was always a very public and obvious one. Rika’s evil, though, is more subtle and thus more appropriate for Angry’s kind of ‘stabbing you in bed so the last thing you see is her smile’ homicide, rather than ‘beat you to a pulp’ murders. This affirms more than inverts the butch-femme identities, since the general conception is that the manly men duke it out in honorable duels while the wily women do the poison dirty deeds. Their chosen poses in the pictures reflect that. Yossie’s more passive(suave in other contexts) demeanor is also more suitable to a suicidal attitude than Rika’s competitive and active track record.
    Rika’s persona at this point almost seems to be about a stealthy inversion of idol stereotypes. She plays up the cute angle to catch your attention, then flashes a bit of TEH EVIL to reel us in. For example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz4A5OITbmk
    Momoko and Sayumi have also adopted this approach, as well as Kojima Haruna and Oshima Yuko of AKB48.
    And who can forget how well she used the Charmy persona for Badass Awesomeness in Sukeban Deka? Hm, Angry with a bladed yoyo. DO WANT.

    VIVA LE KILLER BITCH UNIT
    But hANGRY and ANGRY will have to do, I suppose.

  2. Martin says:

    “Rika’s persona at this point almost seems to be about a stealthy inversion of idol stereotypes.”

    Bleh, Jun Togawa did it first.

  3. zeeohsix says:

    after seeing yossie i scrolled down the blog and milky way’s picture made me laugh hard.
    the contrast between the two was huge.