Lately, have read other blogger's post about how they got into Jpop or Hello! Project. These are two of them:
Paul Thomas (HelloBlog.co.uk)
Then I realised I haven't exlained mine. I think I have told some of it in forums and such, but never on my blogs. I'll start now, as a pre-cursor to next year's 10th year aniversary of Hello! Project, and to close the circle of starting a webblog.
I got into Jpop first before I got into Hello! Project. But I'll just talk about the Hello! Project part here (since this is a H!P blog), the Jpop part will be in my personal blog.
I was into J-Drama during the late 90's (Damn, I feel so old!). And J-Drama was in massive boom in Asia at that time, it was so big that people even searched for older J-Dramas ever produced. I'm into music, and always looked forward to listening to all the J-Drama soundtracks. So I went to the store and found some compilations discs that compiled recent and new soundtracks together, and also picked up a J-Pop compilation double disc set consisting of singles that topped the Oricon charts during that time. Everyone was there - Glay, SMAP, L'Arc En Ciel, Kinki Kids, Okamoto Mayo, B'z... etc. And there it was - the first Hello! Project produced song I have ever heard --> "Love Machine" by Morning Musume.
My first impression was, "Oh they're okay.. The song is catchy and nice." I have heard of Morning Musume before, but never gave them any real attention thinking that "Ah, just another girl-group". Plus I was into MAX at that time, so I made comparisons between them. Some of the voices in Momusu (I didn't find out their names that time) were too young, raw, and unpolished, and I'm real particular about those things.
But there was something there that made me play song no.4 of Disc 1, over and over again for the entire day. I was just starting out on my first job, and I played it on the PC the whole day and really annoyed my colleagues. The intro, Kaori's "DEAAARRR~~!", the orchestra-attack effect, the solid running bass, the chorus, the "Fuu Fuu~~" and "Wow wow wow wow~~"... everything just blended so nicely. It's a perfect pop song, the type that appeals audiences from age 8 to 80.
This is proof that Morning Musume is not a marketing tool, I was intrigued by the carefully written and arranged composition, with the right hooks and samplings. I haven't even see them perform yet.
My internet access at that time was limited. Real limited. The cyber cafe's were always full of gamers, and my primitive office was running on Windows 3.1 and only had a manual dialer modem (mainly for email). I depended on local entertainment magazines to know about Morning Musume. They certainly don't have the greatest look, and looked like regular girls-next-door compared to MAX. Nakazawa Yuko, being the eldest in the group really made me wonder "What the heck is she still doing there?" (But now, I hoped that she's still there...)
Later, nearing the end of the year, I flicked around the TV channels and saw the Kouhaku TV programme, Japan's New Year celebration TV show special. There they were again, Morning Musume in cute dresses and funny antics. Well, actually it was only Yaguchi Mari being the funny and restless one, while the others are well composed. They were playing some Japanese tongue-twister game of some sort. That was the first time I saw Morning Musume on TV.
I didn't look further about Morning Musume, but I didn't know that it was the mark of the beginning of Morning Musume's "Golden Age". It was so crazy, every issue of all magazines had at least one article about them. Even the Comic Weekly magazine that I subscribe to (Our equivalent of Japan's Shonen Jump! magazine), have them on the first few full-coloured feature column every week. It was there I got to read about their bio in full.
The ones that caught my eye visually were 3 girls -> Mari Yaguchi, Kago Ai and Tsuji Nozomi. Yep, all members of the Mini Moni in Momusu. Small-size girls always appeal to me. There were others that interested me, like the boyish Yoshizawa Hitomi (believe or not, I knew she was the perfect boyish character when I first saw her pics during her debut year ^_^) But of course, it is only until years later that I found out that the columnist didn't do his homework well, and had mistakes on his articles, such as pointing out Matsuura Aya being one of the Momusu members. Ishiguro Aya and Ichii Sayaka had left the group already, but I didn't really notice nor miss them at that time. It is only until last year that I get to see them in action on Youtube, that I wished that they stuck around. Fukuda Asuka? Nah... She should leave, really. She lacks the professionalism of an pop idol, but that's another story.
Minus singles like "Manatsu no Kousen", "Memory Seishun no Hikari", "Summer Night Town" and "Ai no Tane". I managed to get listened to all singles up till "The Peace". I found out about the subgroups "Pucchi Moni", "Tanpopo" and "Mini Moni", and really loved the songs, especially "Chokotto Love". It was a great experience. All feel-good songs that I can play all day.
Then I took a break from them. For whatever reason, I don't remember. Maybe it's because all I get to do is listen to their songs and looking at their still photos in posters and CD covers. Not being able to see them on TV or video has decreased my interest in them. I didn't use Kazaa or any p2p softwares, because the tragedy stories that I hear from my friends after using it freaked me out. But then again, that was the beginning of my era of J-Idols and Gravure Idols craze. Read more here.
During the break, I would regularly hear and read news about them - the graduation of Yuko Nakazawa, Yasuda Kei and Goto Maki, the incoming 5th and 6th gen members, the songs reviews...etc but never catching up. (Which reminds me, I should go back to my hometown and see if I still keep those mags)
Then I came back from the break, because finally, I got my own broadband net access, and now able to download and view Morning Musume in action. And the first song I heard was "Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari", which was perfect for me to get introduced to the members that joined the group "during my absence".^_^ I remember myself squealing in delight when I saw a google video of Kago Ai responding so cutely when sneaked up from behind by Ayaka in her English show (link here). I was going "Aww, that's just so CUTE~~! Is that really her voice or what?" :D
Sadly, after searching around, I realised that I have missed A LOT over the years. SO,.... armed with my super 1Mbps broadband connection and with all my technical skills and internet contacts that I have attained to date, I sworn in to the MM otaku military and embarked on a frenzy mission, commencing a wide-scale "search, scavenge, buy and download" of all Morning Musume related information and items.
Morning Musume only? Not really. I'm a big fan of Melon Kinenbi too, don't have much of their material, they don't release a lot of merchandise anyway. I like Saito "Boss" Hitomi for her sexiness and daringness (Is this a legit word? The spell checker seems to be ok with it...). I listen to them when I need some mature stuff. "Akai Freesia" was my fav.
Beginning of this year, I got into the Kids section, mainly because of I started to notice them when they were doing backup for W(DoubleU). Berryz Koubou was my focus. Not really into C-ute. They still need lots of polishing, more practice and lessons, Though Mai Hagiwara, Suzuki Airi, and Murakami Megumi stood out character-wise. I don't know about the H!P Eggs, UFA doesn't seem to find anything for them to work on.
I really couldn't pick a favourite among the Berryz, I like them all, but Tsugunaga Momoko, Shimizu Saki, and Chinami Tokunaga always had my attention. Momoko reminds me a lot of Ishikawa Rika, while Saki and Chinami are plainly my type - small, cute and have short hair (I love girls with short hair). Lots of people do not understand my liking of the U-15 category, and have outright branded me a pedophile and a hentai. These pilgrims still have a lot to learn. ^_^
As for the solo acts... I'll start another topic on this one.
So here I am today, with a simple blog about Hello! Project, my hard disk occupied with lots of MM stuff... etc. They say "absence makes the heart grow fonder", I find that this saying is true. How about you?
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