And here you thought this would be some scandalous bit of news regarding Morning Musume‘s Takahashi Ai. Silly you. But since I’ve managed to capture your attention, why don’t you stick around and hear what I have to say?
Side note: Pardon the lack of action here, by the way. Life makes no room for me to blog about “big” things these days.
As many of you fans (hell, and non-fans even) have surely heard by now, the current leader of Morning Musume and the Hello Project idol community, Takahashi Ai, has announced her intentions of graduating and is thus resigning from her position as the leader of both aforementioned groups. Tears were shed, gasps faded into the sound of silence, and hearts were broken world-wide at this sudden announcement.
Just last week, H!P and Momusu fans were rejoicing over Tsunku‘s excellent choices for the 9th generation candidates. All four members were well-liked by the community, in and out of Japan, and comments of the rise from the “dead” of Morning Musume were abundantly spread throughout various online communities. Fans were even comparing the age gap of the current line up to that of the turn-of-the-century heyday of Morning Musume, when the eldest member, Nakazawa Yuko, had quite the age gap between her and I believe it was Kago Ai. With the announcement of the new generation came an overzealous statement of a full-offensive attack from Morning Musume for 2011. Really, with such statements coming from the likes of the current Hello Project, fans were left to writhe in their own anticipation for what was to come. Things were looking great, even after the depressing triple threat graduation of 6th generation member Kamei Eri and the two 8th generation Chinese members Lin Lin and Jun Jun.
And what a turn around today was. For those that are in the dark, this sudden announcement seemed to have been instigated the moment producer Tsunku had called upon Ai last year, when it was decided that Eri, Jun Jun, and Lin Lin would graduate from the group. He had told her to consider when it would be appropriate for her own departure from the group. And immediately, fans were armed and ready with torches and pitchforks.
It’s simple to sympathize with fans. Truly. When you have someone as talented and beautiful as Takahashi Ai, it’s hard to argue. She’s created quite the resume whilst in Morning Musume: a member of ten very long and precious years and a leader for three years. That’s a greater track record than many in the entertainment biz can even boast about. It is without a doubt that Morning Musume will not be the same without this true miracle member in the line-up. Her vocals were always of an impressive range, her dancing was always on point and fierce, and don’t even get me started with her stage presence and charisma. Hell, I haven’t even talked about that ass!
And yet as a fan, I can honestly say I’m happy that she’s finally leaving. After ten long years, you can’t honestly tell me you didn’t see this coming. I always find it surprising that fans have the most genuine shock at the coming of these sort of announcements. But I digress.
Takahashi Ai first joined Momusu with the rest of 5th generation at the time Mr. Moonlight was released. Since that time, fans watched as the quiet and seemingly timid 15 year old grew into the confident and vibrant personality that she is today. And this is where it gets tricky. While butt-hurt fans are armed and ready with a blaming finger pointed directly towards Tsunku for “poisoning” her mind with such horrible ideas of graduating, I’m sitting here in my seat, shaking my head in disgust.
Aren’t they just being a little too selfish? Isn’t a decade’s worth of idol-life enough to please fans? With these guys, the answer is clearly “no,” and I
whip my hair shake my head once more.
Here’s my personal statement, defending Takahashi Ai’s decision for finally graduating. Many fans are acting as if this graduation announcement was the end of the world as we know it. Kind of like back when Goto Maki’s graduation announcement came. Deja vu, anyone? We were all waiting for it. We were all expecting it. And yet when the time comes, it’s Armageddon. Fans, call me what you will, but I’m VERY happy that Ai can finally spread her wings and be free from the chains that bound her.
Yes, I went there. From the very beginning, even the most untrained eye could see that Ai would grow into something amazing. During her 10 year stint with H!P, she had truly developed into, dare I say it, the epitome of an idol. Talented in the fields of dance, acting, singing, and entertainment, what’s not to love? It helped she grew into a major babe, as well. But honestly speaking, Morning Musume and the entire Hello Project were both a gift and a curse for Ai, and several of the former and current members. Regarding Ai specifically, that girl has too much star power to have stayed in the company for so damn long.
Which leads me to my what-I-thought-was-amusing-but-most-likely-no-one-else-will-agree conspiracy theory. Accuse me of being intoxicated/high/retarded, but hey, it’s my blog; I do what I want. Ai had taken the reigns of leadership of Morning Musume when 6th generation member Fujimoto Miki decided to nab herself a boyfriend and scandal out. At any point within her 3 years of leadership of the group, the girl could have honestly left any time she would have liked. But even if she did want to leave, I’m sure voices from a higher power prevented her from doing so.
Morning Musume had just suffered the loss of their leader Yoshizawa Hitomi and a scandal with Miki. Whoosh, there goes the last bits of personality and vocal prowess of the golden age. This is not to discredit any of the members of Momusu, but honestly, none of the members of the current line up share the same impressive vocal range and stage presence as Ai. Had she chosen to leave sooner, I’m almost certain the group would have single-handedly plummeted into the depths of idols long forgotten. Seriously.
Perhaps I’m giving Ai way more credit than she deserves, but tell that to the producer that gives her the majority of the lines in the majority of the songs. Vocally speaking, Ai had what it took to carry the group on for another 3 years. While it truly annoys me to NO FREAKIN’ END that Ai and Tanaka Reina are given the majority of the vocal lines in songs, I can’t blame the producers for doing so. Because honestly, do you really want to hear an entire 6 lines of Michishige Sayumi singing? Didn’t think so.
Yet I’m all for giving the other girls their time to shine. Which leads me to another point as to why I’m happy Ai is graduating. With the center of all center’s finally making her departure, this will allow other members (hopefully) some time to shine, whether it’s deserved or not, but more on that another time. I’ll honestly be damned if Reina gets more centers and solos, no matter how much I like her, but I’m sure that will be inevitable. I’d like to remain hopeful and be pleasantly surprised.
I’m jumping once again, so forgive me. I’m the kind of person that enjoys giving credit where it’s due. When Ai was given the leadership position of the entire Hello Project franchise, I have to say that was quite a momentous occasion. Two reasons: 1) Bye bye to the H!P that many had grown up with and grown to love. Bye bye to the familiar. Bye bye to personality, hilarity, and talent all in one go. 2) This was truly a test of sheer will power and strife for Ai.
For quite some time, Nakazawa Yuko was the head mistress of Hello Project. I’ll go out on a limb and say she had it easy. When Yuko was “in charge,” it was the time of utter prosperity. Even if familiar faces came and went for Momusu, they still stayed under the Hello Project tag and fans were constantly reminded of their playful antics and talented displays of voice and dance on various H!P related programs. Even IF they had left Momusu, they were still very much a part of it, and fans and former fans were still able to come together and see all their favorites on one stage.
But with the graduation of the Elder Club came the most stunning blow (in my opinion) to the franchise. As I’ve already mentioned, there goes the personality, hilarity, talent, and endearing familiarity that WAS the Elder Club. The torch was passed on to Ai, who was left with a less than stellar line up of acts and the dwindling remains of Hello Project.
Ouch. Left all alone to pick up the pieces after former members’ scandalous aftermaths and the glory that left with them. After having bequeathed such responsibilities, would you be able to say “no”? It’s almost like UFA sucker-punched the poor girl into a situation she couldn’t get out of. I can almost imagine it:
Ai: I was thinking…
UFA Officials/Tsunku: About…?
Ai: …possibly graduating from Morning Musume. Maybe even Hello Project.
Tsunku: I fully support your decision to do so. It must be hard dealing with tabloids ripping Morning Musume apart after all the former members’ scandals tarnished the group’s reputation. And having the entire weight of crumbling Hello Project on your shoulders can’t be easy as well. Morning Musume’s sales aren’t doing as well as six years ago, and it’s hard to have expectations on the other groups when their fanbases fail in comparison…
Tsunku: Nevertheless, when were you thinking about leaving?
Yeah, something like that. I amuse myself. Using guilt as the scape goat. Because once again, I give Ai too much credit. But without her, I’m sure the roleplay above would have been more truth than pure amusement. Whether or not that sort of deal actually occurred is beyond the point. As I’ve mentioned before, Yuko had it easy and Ai was left to pick up the pieces and re-establish that glory that USED to be Hello Project. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.
And did she do a decent job? Well, at this point, whether you want to admit it or not, Morning Musume is quickly fading into the background of the jpop idol scene. None of their currently singles could compare to the star-power prowess of what used to be. Were the current members to blame? Was it the poorly executed promotional attempts? Perhaps the producers? I’d like to blame them all, because they all are parts of the Morning Musume
love machine, but they just happened to suck these days. Sad times.
So another reason that I’m all smiles for Ai: Hello Project and Momusu were restraining her. With the less than stellar singles, unimpressive dance routines, and cliche idol vocals, the group is fading into the back-burner and one can hardly even call the group relevant anymore. Seriously, these days, it’s almost ALWAYS a given to mention the glory days of Momusu, if Momusu is ever even mentioned at all. As a member of the current line up, it must be increasingly frustrating each time. To put all this work and effort into a new single and whatnot, only to be quickly dismissed because the chorus fails to imprint itself in one’s memory as well as Love Machine. That would drive me mad with hatred and total bitterness to be honest. If any of the members feel that way, props to them for being great sports about it, or at least putting up an impressive facade all these years.
But with this upcoming graduation, Ai will no longer have to deal with that crap. She can finally be free to do her own freakin’ thing. Join that theatre group or hell, even go solo. Some fans have expressed their thoughts of wanting to see Ai pull a Maki and join Avex if she decides to leave UFA once and for all. That would be a sight to see. And I’m totally down with that. But you know, I’m sure Ai has this inherent need to stay and watch over her peers. Just because. And this wouldn’t surprise me either.
One thing that worries me and several other fans, I’m sure, is that if Ai does choose to stay with UFA, what will become of her? Will she turn into another Abe Natsumi? Maybe a Matsuura Aya? Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Ayaya’s jazzy/bluesy material, but let’s get real: neither of those two soloists are exactly highly acclaimed or relevant anymore. Ai is just as talented as both and it would be such an utter waste to see her fade away like that. So once again, I sympathize with the fans on this one.
And with all the wailing that’s going on about this graduation, I share one major fact that most fans are failing to acknowledge: Ai won’t be graduating until the Autumn tour. It’s currently January. The girl has an entire year or so to bring the group together. Even if this graduation is being considered by many fans 2 steps back, we fail to realize that the girls remaining are just as capable. Maybe they aren’t as great performers, singers, dancers, whatever. But that’s when we’re REALLY giving Ai more credit than she deserves. And that’s when it’s almost like casting the current line up under the shadows of the glory days of Musume. We don’t want that.
But with the departure of this great figure, what will happen to the girls left behind? Fellow 5th gen member Niigaki Risa will be taking on the position of leader for both Morning Musume and Hello Project, with Sayu taking on the reigns of subleader (I think). Hopefully this will force Risa to be entertaining again, because let’s face it, she’s boring. She USED to be funny, then somewhere along the lines, that apparently got old for her. Bring it back, girl! Just look at what happened to Ai after she became the leader! She made more of an effort to be out there and witty (though not as the same comedic level as other former members, but now I’m just picking a fight saying that LOL). And then there’s Sayu, if she does end up subleader. Arguably the biggest personality in the current line-up, and even if many non-fans are turned off by her achingly narcissistic attitude, Sayu apparently acts a lot more maturely and responsibly off-screen. Maybe that will make a transition on-screen as well, but I mean, to hell with that. She’s got her “thing” and it works for her, and let’s face it, she’s got more relevance as a entertainer (even if it isn’t positive most of the time) than the group does these days.
Anyway, it’s time for Ai to depart. And while we’ve got another year with Lovely, fans should cherish every moment. It’s a bittersweet feeling I must say, albeit I’ve only been a fan for barely half a year. I’m sure I’d be on the same boat as many fans if Ai were my favorite member, but as you may or may not know, my favorite graduated long before I even knew about the group as well as I do now. Sad times. Had I been a fan back then, I’m sure I’d be flipping a shit and screaming “CONSPIRACY” wherever I go. For those curious, Ishikawa Rika‘s that gal.
It’s funny though. Eri was my favorite in the current line up, yet I didn’t bother writing a tidbit about her triple graduation with the pandas. In all fairness though, I was busy with finals. Maybe it was because the amount of responsibility on Eri’s shoulders weren’t as much of burden as it is for Ai. Maybe I’m just giving too much credit again. Regardless, after Eri, Ai was my go-to gal. But without their shining star and centerfold of sorts, it will be interesting to see how Morning Musume shapes up. 9th generation has SO much potential, from what I’ve gathered thus far. They’re almost like a mash of up 5th and 6th gen. Just look at them and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Let’s hope that even without their “ace” up their sleeves, Morning Musume can return to what they used to be, grow into something more, and retain relevance in the rapidly evolving jpop scene. Because honestly speaking, even though I’ve only been a fan for a short period of time, I would be somewhat disappointed to see Morning Musume fade away so quickly. It may or may not happen, but for now, only time will tell.
Time for the final words. Hats off to you, Takahashi Ai, for being hot and an amazing leader. You’ve done wonders keeping the group and H!P on the radar for as long as you have. A larger than life idol, it will be hard to fill your position and live up to the standards you’ve set. But now you’re free to live your life as a 20-something. Live it to the fullest! EAT WHAT YOU WANT, DRINK TO GET DRUNK, AND
HAVE SEX GO ON A DATE WITH A HOTTIE OR TWO. Just kidding, but seriously. The girl’s at the prime of life, she deserves this damn graduation after ten freakin’ years. Let her live her life for herself, just this damn once. Congratulations!