Starting from 2014, Morning Musume officially changed their name to Morning Musume '14, and beginning with their appearance on Music Station this year, they have started to appear on more music and variety programs, even securing CM deals, the number of their media appearances increasing at an almost shocking rate. There has also been an increase of women in their concert audiences, and also an influx of new fans. It's almost appropriate to call this a dramatic turn in events.
In the first place, if they hadn't persisted for 17 years such an event would never have occurred. Even during the period where they were all but invisible in media, the members then defended their group's legacy and polished up their concert performances to high levels, which led to what we have now. That's why, with things as they are now, we can breathe a sigh of relief and say "thank goodness". At this point in time, opinions may be divided over whether to call this phenomenon "a re-breakthrough", but I feel that to the members, there is no way they are calmly accepting this. Perhaps it is through the influence of their leader Michishige Sayumi, who has been through all the bitter and sweet times that came before, but there is no way we could see the members being flippant about this.
Their current tour, "Morning Musume '14 Concert Tour Spring ~Evolution~", which started from March 15th 2014, is the best place to see their ambition for continued self-improvement (the tour is still ongoing at the moment). This tour applies the format set up by the previous autumn tour "Chance!", with the setlist containing many songs from the album "Morning Musume '14 Coupling Collection 2", as well as songs for each member to show off their individuality, displaying more variety than the "Chance!" tour had.
The concerts I watched were at Morioka, Sendai, and Nakano respectively, so I can only write about my experiences from those days, but I was most struck by the improvement Ishida Ayumi and Sato Masaki had made. Especially in the 3 songs where Ishida led the stage, more than seeing an evolution of her previous self, it felt more like "who was that?", the difference was that marked. As she has some skill in acting, it may have been her getting into character for those songs which resulted in such a performance.
As for Sato Masaki, her singing prowess has obviously increased, and during her line in Naichau Kamo, she was able to convey the gloominess of the line and make you pause at it. For this girl, you can never tell if she's planning something or doing it spontaneously, but it seems that this time round, she has been putting a lot of thought and work into her own singing style.
And as for Sayashi Riho who is often entrusted with the center position, even though she is still only in the first year of high school, she fulfilled the twin roles of both singing and dancing perfectly. That dancer in her showed no flaws in her performance as always, and served as a powerful unifying force for the group. Even within the restrictions of the choreography, she is able to emphasize even the smallest movements, a sign of her great talent. In their current style of formation dance, her role in the group's image cohesion can only be considered a plus in how it is being used.
However, as she is the type who gets inspired by the challenges the people around her give her when they outstrip her in any one aspect and evolves to match them, she is by no means complete as she is now. Even when the 12th generation auditions were first announced in 2013, she herself said that she wanted "someone who could inspire her to flip the switch within her to hit even greater heights", and I look forward to how she will continue to evolve with the addition of new members in the future.
The Tohoku performances of the "Evolution" tour were plenty fun in of themselves, but I can't say immediately that this is the extent of the group's evolution. I keep thinking this with every new tour, and end up revising my opinion each time. This time too was the same.
In the latter half of this tour, the Nakano Sun Plaza concert on 5/6, the performance pumped up by the passionate cheering from the crowd continues. Even so, they were not straining hard at all and were brimming with confidence, and you could sense that they could still go even further. With the members coming together as one, the songs were developed and expressed in full flower through this tour. Even so they were never on autopilot, and in their persistently aggressive stance, there was a sense of reliability in there. Especially for "Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke", compared to all the times I've listened to it on the CD, this had the best effect, and after it was over I reflexively let out the breath I had been holding. Not only for the songs but also for the members, they were all truly experiencing "evolution".
In the 3 concerts I went to, the way Michishige Sayumi danced also left a deep impression on me in how she expressed her movements in the choreography. She always knows how to show off the best side of herself, and for the new song "Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe", she spared no effort in showcasing the best points. She never slipped up for the rest of the songs either, and as the concert ended, her exhaustion was no different from the fans'. She may have been spurred on by a strong sense of having to cherish each and every song, especially after having announced her graduation during the 4/29 concert.
It may be saddening to think of Michishige Sayumi graduating, but this was a result of her deliberations. As she announced her graduation in her hometown of Yamaguchi, she expressed nothing of her personal ambitions after graduating from Morning Musume, and in a way you could sense her personality through her speech. Living true to herself, she breaks none of the expectations others have come to expect from her, even as she gave her graduation announcement.
The Michishige up to now has staked her own personal image on the line in the media in preparation for the battles to come, and now the harvest from the seeds she had sown there are coming in as a result of her hard work. If I were to summarize her efforts, it would be to say that she is dependable. She builds up that sense of "trust towards an idol" that could be so easily destroyed in a moment alongside the fans, creating an unwavering sense of security as she went. Having been in the group for 11 years, she has improved compared to the previous tour, and in that continuous improvement you could see her "never say die" spirit, but if you stop to think about it, it must have been tough for her. Of course, her looks have no equal in their allure. As she heads towards graduation like this, she will be the very model of idol-dom in her role as leader, unmatched by anyone else.
The history of idols is like a history of festivals. That said, there are many genres even within idols, but Michishige Sayumi walks the original path of idols in her own way, leaving an indelible mark on it. That is how I see it. Nevertheless, the brilliance of Morning Musume '14 can hardly be reduced to only the achievements of the leader. This viewpoint is simply a reflection of events, lacking in exactness. In a way it's a setup to further emphasize the sense of loss (regarding the graduation). Furthermore, the junior members were also full of ambition, and were growing from strength to strength at just the right pace. I feel that the girls still have a long way to go to fulfill their potential in both talent and personality, and the tour allows me to see that "ah so this girl can be interesting like this too".
Morning Musume continually goes on to win the trust of their fans by always giving their best, leaving a long legacy to follow. This does not change even after their name change to Morning Musume '14. Michishige also commented that she wanted to "make Morning Musume the coolest and biggest thing it can be before graduating, and then pass on the baton to the next generation", and that could be read as her passionate declaration of giving her all to the group. Taking that into consideration, the coordination these 10 members displayed in the previous autumn tour can be said to have been surpassed by the "Evolution" concert at Nakano Sun Plaza. Having been entrusted with this level of enthusiasm, they can only keep getting stronger. After their rebirth into Morning Musume '14, in less than 6 months' time they will be performing in New York in October. During this period, how far can these girls go? That battle is right now.
Lilium ~Shoujo Junketsu Kageki~ Original Soundtrack
¥2,315 (before tax) + tax
歌唱：モーニング娘。'14選抜メンバー × スマイレージ × ハロプロ研修生選抜メンバー
S02： Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?
S09：TRUE OF VAMP
Lyrics: Suemitsu Kenichi
Composer: Wada Junsuke
Artists: Morning Musume '14 select members x S/mileage x Hello! Project Kenshuusei select members
S01：Forget-me-not ～Watashi o Wasurenai de～ (Forget-me-not ～Don't Forget Me～ )
S02： Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani? (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?)
S03：Sylvatica Nante Shiranai！ (I don't know anything about any Sylvatica!)
S04：Mayuki no Teaching (Teaching of the Cocoon Period)
S05：Gensou Genwaku Innocence (Illusionary, Bewitching Innocence)
S07：Aru Niwashi no Monogatari (The Tale of A Certain Gardener)
S08：Hitoribocchi no Snow (Lonely Snow)
S09：TRUE OF VAMP
S10：Kyoudou Gensou Utopia (Shared Illusionary Utopia)
S11：Mou Nakanai to Kimeta (I've Decided Not To Cry Again)
S12：Anata wo Aishita Kioku (The Memory of Having Loved You)
S13：Eien no Ranki no Owari (The End of the Eternal Cocoon Period)
S14：Shoujo Junketsu (Girls Purity)
【 Venue Pre-Sales 】
6/5(Thurs)～15th(Sun) ■Tokyo■ Venue：Sunshine Theatre(Tokyo･Ikebukuro)
6/20(Fri)・21st(Sat) ■Osaka■ Venue：Morinomiya Piloti Hall (Osaka)
Are you excited? I know I am!
How would you divide the members of Morning Musume ’14 into the categories of angel and devil? Who is pure-hearted like an angel, and who is sneaky like a little devil? Please choose, and tell us your reason why.
I think Fukuchan is an angel. She even looks sort of white and gives off a fluffy sort of feeling. Furthermore she’s also really kind, and she has the image of being always pure-hearted and innocent, although she sometimes ends up complaining about things. (lol) She’s that kind of angel.
Surprisingly I think Eripon might be an angel too. She might seem like the type who would kick others aside in her rush to push to the front, but she’s actually just trying her best to make an effort, be it for work or on variety shows. Well that’s how I see it, but even though she’s trying so hard she can’t seem to get it completely right and it seems like a fruitless effort, but I believe her heart probably doesn’t have any darker sides to it.
Sayashi is probably a devil (lol) Sayashi is really good at it, you see. Sometimes I feel like she’s thinking “If I say something like this at this time, Michishige-san would be happy about it maybe?”. Of course she has plenty of moments where she’s naturally cute, but she also has moments where she’s obviously planned it, but when suddenly turns around and goes “Michishige-san~”, her expression is at that moment would be even more amazing if she did it without thinking about it first. I kind of do want her to be wondering “will Michishige-san be happy if I do this?”, and I also want her to do it for my sake. But also, if she does it naturally without thinking of all those things, the quality of her smile would be even better, and I find it really cute too so sometimes I think it’d be great if she did it naturally too. Also, I think Sayashi also plans her comments beforehand, but that’s really good for her to do too. She’s not really the kind who just catches what’s going on on the spot to make a joke out of it, and in a way it’s a little bit devilish of her to have carefully planned everything beforehand, but basically the part where she’s seriously planning ahead makes me think of her as a little devil.
I think Suzuki’s an angel. She laughs when she wants to, and eats when she wants to (lol) It’s not about purity or anything, but I feel like she lives honestly, true to herself.
Iikubo has to be a devil. No matter how you look at it (lol) At first, just for a moment, a really short moment (lol) I felt for that little moment that she could be an angel (lol) But after spending some time with her, I really do feel like she’s a good girl, pure and kind with a good heart…however at the same time it also feels like she plotted to make everyone feel that way about her , even though she’s really a good person underneath, but since she goes around praising everyone, I can’t help but feel that “oh so she’s like that too”, and it sometimes makes me a bit sad and lonely because “I’m not the only one she does this to”, and that sense of possessiveness she makes people feel makes her sort of like a devil.
As for Ishida, I wonder~ At first I thought she might be a little devil, but recently I think she might be more of an angel. I always said here that Ishida’s the shy type, and she’s the type who is always thinking “I have to work hard, I have to lead everyone”. She’s also looks like the type to think “I’m good at dance, so I have to look after the rest of 10th gen”, and I end up with the image of her always doing her best at things. But as time goes by, even though that part of her hasn’t changed, in a good way I have started seeing more sides of Ishida, and she’s been getting more interesting as a result (lol) So in that sense she makes it fun for everyone around her, which makes me think she’s an angel.
Kudo is an angel too. If she grew out her hair she’d be even more of an angel (lol). If she were to just grow it out a little more, it’d be just exactly what I want, just that little bit more. And if we put her in frilly clothes, she’ll look like a perfect angel, and Kudo is such that her personality is pretty straightforward, so it feels like she’s concealing nothing of herself, and that makes me think that she’s an angel.
Sato is completely a devil. There’s no way she’d have a personality like that without being a devil (lol) And furthermore she treats everyone around her as if they were devils like her too. Sato tends to say “I hate you” and start having childish squabbles with the other 10th gen members, and most of the time she’s like “I won’t ever talk to you again” or “I’m telling Minishige-san!!” (lol) But more than her being a devil, it’s just that everyone has grown to accept that that’s Sato’s personality. And if Sato didn’t acknowledge this about the people around her, it’d be a problem too, but as a member of Morning Musume, it feels like “Sato’s just like that”, and because we understand this, we are able to have fun with it. Especially within 10th gen itself. That’s why this turned out so well, and it allows Sato to unleash her devil side freely.
I think Oda Sakura-chan is also a devil too. It isn’t like there’s anything about Oda’s personality that marks her as one, or that something happened or that she did anything backstage that would make her one, but she’s definitely no angel (lol). How do I put it, she just has a really unique air to her, not just weird or strange, but truly unique. It’s like she’s in her own universe. When it comes to angels, I feel like they have to be all “If I do this others will be happy”, and they have to be somehow cute too. But for Oda when she says something it’s kind of like “Oh, is that so?”, and she prefers to be cool and all, and in that sense she’s more a mysterious girl than she is a devil.
Source: Konya mo Usachan Peace (5/19)
「Girls' Drama Club」The 3rd installment is a fantasy set in a parallel universe
The Girls' Drama Club is a new project born out of Hello! Project, with an entirely female cast. The third production going live on stage in June is the musical 「Lilium - Shoujo Junketsu Kageki」(Lilium - Girls' Purity Musical). The participating cast are select members from Morning Musume '14, S/mileage, and including some of the H!P Kenshuusei for a total cast strength of 16 members. We have spoken to Sayashi Riho of Morning Musume '14, who along with Wada Ayaka of S/mileage, will be playing the leading role in the musical.
Sayashi: This will be the 3rd time I am participating in a musical. It's difficult of course, not only just having to memorize the lines, but we also utilize the power of melody and song lyrics in order to more easily express the presentation of the world the musical is set in. The story this time is set in a fantasy world where 800-year-old vampire girls are housed in a sanatorium, and I feel like a musical is best suited for a tale like that.
Sayashi will be acting in the role of a vampire girl named Lily, who is approaching her "Cocoon Period" (something akin to human adolescence). In this sanatorium that is segregated from the human world, a strange occurrence has taken place, in the form of a disappearance of one of the girls who are housed in the sanatorium. However, the only ones to notice this are Lily and her best friend Snow (Wada Ayaka). As the two of them investigate the truth of the matter, they come to slowly realize that there is a "huge force" behind the scenes that controls their secluded world...
Sayashi: Even as the "vamp" girls appear to be free to act as they please, in a way, they are still guided by fate toward their intended ending. As there are more singing and dancing scenes than usual, it feels almost like an extension of our usual activities. This time too, as the cast is made up solely of H!P members, there isn't anyone who has extensive stage experience whom we could refer to during rehearsals. We have to figure it out all by ourselves, but it's definitely something worth doing.
Lily's unconscious realization shakes up the carefully built up world someone has put them in. Using the tableau of the girls housed in a sanatorium, this story seeks to express the danger and fragility of the world. A part of the all-female cast has been cast into male roles as well, to depict a "forbidden world" of love and romance with Lily and the other girls.
All 16 members of the cast are idols. Be sure not to miss the beautiful fantasy world they are building on stage through drama, song and dance.