Restarting the Old Rusty Engine
(For the 2nd Time too)

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Duo Unit Project

In the past, Hello!Project are notorious for their ever changing Morning Musume lineup, with their frequent graduations and newly added members combined. There was also the shuffle groups and subgroups, most shocking of all is the splitting of the Momusu lineup to Sakura and Otome gumi. What are they doing? Probably experimenting with group handling and finding out how/which kind of variation can help with sales and self-appeal. I can name two that have been immensely successful: Minimoni and Tanpopo. Currently UFA is moving on to the formula of duos.

W(DoubleU) was the first - a combination of the troublemaker and moodmaker duo of Tsuji Nozomi and Kago Ai. The concept of W was a twin duo group but not biologically twins. Stemming from their Minimoni image of cute and playful girls, W was formed almost immediately after the hiatus of Minimoni. Later, UFA felt it was safe to move them a level to the mature audience and gave them a kawaii and sexy image outlook, starting with their hit single "Miss Love Tantei". I am most sure that UFA have plans to go all the way with these two, seeing that their singles have been at most 4 months apart and have two albums to their credit within a year.

Until that fateful day, when Aibon was caught smoking by Friday. W is put on hiatus and Aibon was suspended indefinitely.

So UFA is shelving the duo concept away? Hell no! It's a marketable concept and W's track record have proven it. So in comes GAM.

GAM (Great Aya and Miki) combination of two long time best friends Matsuura Aya and Fujimoto Miki and that became their concept. Maybe my interest in W was too strong, but I can't help but see traces of similarities between GAM and W.

1) Same costume - It's common in Japan for duos to wear similar costume/uniform, but they don't have to do the same for GAM, they are different enough and can each carry their own weight. Still the bonding and association between the two have to start somewhere, hence the costume.
2) Shoujou-Ai - Long time fans of Nono and Aibon knows that both of them have less interest in boys, and both of them have been intimate enough to kiss. They have developed a chemistry that even by looking at each other's eyes, they know what the other is thinking. Ayaya and Mikitty can do the same.
3) Self-appeal - W's appeal strategy is to let them talk their hearts out on-air. Their closeness, talkativeness, bickerings, how well they know each other, how well they get along etc... are enough to promote themselves to the market. GAM is about the same. Although, yes, Hello!Project is known to use "let the product market themselves" strategy most times. But after GAM's appearance on Hello!Morning and Music Fighter, I feel they are stressing this point too much and too obviously.
4) Music style - I cannot help but think that their style is a continuation of what W's path could have been. The bits and pieces of unreleased W songs sung by Nono reflect on GAM's singles. (Just a little bit, in my personal opinion).

So what's next? Create another duo of course! This concept works, so why not spawn another one. Maybe not immediately, but I think another one is on the way. So who is the next two best friends within the Hello!Project or Morning Musume?

I can think of two:
A) Michishige Sayumi + Kamei Eri
B) Takahashi Ai + Niigaki Risa

The two sets above are well-known to all fans as best friends off-stage. But I don't think they will work. Combination (A) have two slow-pokes together, and they are easily rivals as they are best of friends - that's bad energy. Combination (B) cannot work either, since obviously Takahashi Ai is booked for a solo career in the future, adding the less popular Niigaki in will only lower Ai-chan's popularity. So, I'm guessing it's neither of the two combination, but one half of each: Eririn (Kamei Eri) + Gaki-san (Niigaki Risa).

Why? After watching Morning Musume related programmes and performances lately, I noticed that Eririn and Gaki-san have been paired up quite frequently.

Hello Pro Hour

Hakkan Commercial

Zekkyu Commercial

The latest Morning Musume Single "Aruiteru" Jacket shoot

And during previous performances, notably "Wonder Hearts Land Concert 2006" (past concerts too) and also the "Music Fair 21", they are paired up together again.

Unlike GAM and W, the Niigaki-Kamei combo is quite different, they may have not have the rapport and chemistry, but they are a perfect boke-tsukomi pair, for sure.

Right now, I'm just speculating, it may or may not come true. In any case, they are probably reserves for now, like a backup duo-group, in case GAM have any problems. (I see that UFA have learned from its past mistakes). Right now, I feel that Gaki-san and Eririn still lacks the chemistry but it's up to UFA to work on it.

There must be a reason why they don't pair the real-life best friends together. Maybe to UFA, their company goals and missions trumps all personal interests and situations. Kinda sad, but that's showbiz for you.

End note: Actually, it's hard to compare GAM with W. GAM is already unique on its own already, and I like them that way. But somehow, I cannot help but see W in them. I see GAM as how W could have been if they were not suspended.
Additionally, I hear GAM's next single is already in the making and will be released before the end of this year, and I'm looking forward to it.

Peace ^_^
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Hello!Project Unplugged on Guitar

Nope. I'm not alone on this project. You should check this guy, watercolour and his works on youtube. It's amazing! Plus, some one actually put up some of his stuff on Hello!Online tracker. My works are purely for hobby and fun. I wish I could turn back time and find that same kind of enthusiasm in me.

So if anyone else out there that feels you can do something like that, do not be afraid to show it. Join the club, upload em' and share with us!

A few of notable ones by watercolour.

Do it! Now by Morning Musume, モーニング娘 , on guitar

Video Link

SEXY BOY~そよ風に寄り添って~(Soyo kaze ni yorisotte) by Morning Musume, モーニング娘。on guitar

Video Link
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Mushoku Tomei na Mama de on Classical Guitar

Another transposed song here ->

Mushoku Tomei na Mama de - Morning Musume

Video Link

I love this song. It's sad lyrics and ballady melody can have me play it all day in an infinite loop. It could have been a good A-side single, in my opinion. I prefer and hope Tsunku produces more songs like this in the future.
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Saturday, October 28, 2006

The GAM Kiss

Yes, boys and girls. After much speculation and rumours, it is official now. In GAM's single PV "Melodies" Fujimoto Miki and Matsuura Aya kissed at the closing seconds of the video. And the fans ran amok, excited over this footage.

Actually, it's not the first time we see members of the Hello!Project family kissing.

We had Nono and Aibon kissing.

We even had the four-way kiss, between Nacchi, Yaguchi, Nono and Aibon.

Young (Japanese) girls do that and it's nothing really. In a previous Music Fighter show, Ayaya and Mikitty even revealed that the two of them are so close together as friends that they shower together. Now if only I can plant my webcam in their shower box while they're at it... :)

One of the reasons why this news is so hot, is that fans already have a long time fantasy about lesbianism among Morning Musume or Hello!Project members, all the more since Ayaya and Mikitty are known to be best friends and all. It's not a-first, Yoshizawa Hitomi have been paired with Mikitty and also Ishikawa Rika too.

Another other reason is the concept of this video, which is shojou-ai - love and affection between two girls. It's a brave move, considereing that they want to break into the mainstream audience. (Or is it BECAUSE they want to break into the mainstream, therefore they chose to do it.) Now in Japan, such attraction between girls, are considered to be common (if not natural), especially amongst the senpai and kohais (in school or at work). Things like holding hands, kissing, gift-giving and touching are part of it, though I think the some of the touching part may be viewed as sexually explicit in the eyes of the West. Such love can be beautiful, and may range from secret admiration to absolute infatuation. So let's not be confused and stereotype it to just the sexual reasons. (It's OK to fantasize about it though)

My observation and findings:
- Ayaya is a watcher, she didn't even close her eyes during the kiss.
- If the two of them are lesbians, Ayaya will be the butch, since she is the one drawing the kiss.
- This may or may not be GAM's idea to do this. Either way, Mikitty seemed a bit more nervous than Ayaya. Unlike Ayaya, Mikitty didn't part her lips during the kiss. Shows the difference in terms of professionalisn between the two.
- Read somewhere else that the director for this video has another project that projects similar concept and script. He may be hired for this purpose.

All in all, it's still a hot thing to see. So get your hands on the video if you can. I got mine! ^_^
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rika? Is that you?

Who is this in this picture below? Ishikawa Rika? Yup, that's her.

How about this one here? Ishikawa Rika too? ........NOPE!

The latter is a G-cup gravure idol known simply as "Ai", 18 years old this year, probably best known for her Ishikawa Rika lookalike face. Other than the smile and chin, like Rika-chan, she also did gymnastics in school. So her body is also very flexible. I think she looks like Rika-chan only on front shots, and when she smiles.

I cannot imagine Rika-chan having such voluptuous boobs, she's fine as she is. Which makes me wonder - how does Ai do the gymnastics when her boobs would obviously cause problems for her on balancing?

Nevertheless, look great for an 18 year old.

Ai self introduction

However, make no mistake about it. Our Rika-chan can also be as sexy as you want her to be. See here -->

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Tanaka Reina Friday'd, But That's Not All...

Ikimashoi reports that Tanaka Reina is caught by Friday tabloid (them again??) going on a Disney Sea trip with an unknown man. Yikes! Is her career over? Ahh, but different sources say that he was actually her manager. So things went quiet again.

But there's more, she was also spotted going to the convenience store yet again with another man. Not sure if it is the same manager. Fans are arguing over this information now, though most are quite sure that it's her manager, if not the manager's lackey to be assigned as her escort/bodyguard when she goes out.

So Tanaka Reina is free from all suspiscion now, right?
Well, I found from a Japanese site that it was not the case. Apparently, Reina did have a boyfriend, a high schooler, and was in that Disney Sea incident. So the manager thing is a cover-up? That same source claims that her agency was upset but have taken measures to cover it up, and persuaded Reina to break-up with that guy. There are some other things mentioned, but I'm skeptical because it's a hear-say story. Though I think Reina is capable of such things (she's a 17 year old girl after all).
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Ayaya is Back!

It's been a week of rumours and developments for Hello!Project. Yeah, I didn't blog them real time, but I just want to be sure before I do. Information overload, lots of speculations, rumours... all of which have been too heavy for my head to take. Overall, it has been good news so far.

Return of Matsuura Aya.
Yes, she's back. Apparently, she still have to "continue with medical treatment". But nevertheless, she is trying to come back to her schedule. That's how much she cares for her fans. Now you see why I say she is hardworking? Don't know if working ethics should surpass personal well-being, but that's Asian women for you. Is she on painkillers? Most definitely. Nobody can bounce back from such condition in two weeks. Let's hope the side effects doesn't cause any complications.
Source here.
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Monday, October 23, 2006

Shiroi Iro Wa Koibito no Iro by W (DoubleU) on Classical Guitar

I definitely have too much time on my hands these days, due to public holidays. However, instead of blogging I have been gaming. I should be finishing that draft post and post it up, but I find that everytime I have something new to add. Oh well... might as well post it up soon lest the news gets old.

Anyways, I also recorded another transposition.

Shiroi Iro Wa Koibito no Iro - W (DoubleU)

Video Link

Trying to keep the feel as close as the original as possible. Have underestimated the difficulty of this song, that's why you see me fumble a bit on the second half of the song, when it goes up a key.

Other songs in queue:
- Mushoku Tomei na Mama de (from Momusu Ai no 6dan album)
- Summer Night Town (another song where the key goes up, may abort this one)
- Last Kiss (Tanpopo)
- Sukiyaki (from Momusu Ai no 6dan album. Experimental stage, may be too hard to maintain the original feel, but it sounded great on Momusu's last concert)
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Friday, October 20, 2006

Cult of Pop is not dead... And so shouldn't I.

Been reading Cult of Pop for a long time. Especially love the author Ray Mescallado's style of blogging, character, and the topics he chooses to write on.

Then came one fine day, he posted his final entry with "The year of kaisans has taken its toll on me. This is the last post I’ll be making on Cult of Pop." . Really sad, as I had only discovered the site 'bout half a year earlier (Being me, I usually lurk around for about a year before I finally join in the ring).

Today I went back again, since the site is not down, thought I'd read the previous entries for nostalgia's sake. And on the top banner was some links that I didn't notice before.

...actually v3.0. But no matter, nice to see Ray still in good spirit.
Kinda stupid of me of not noticing that, maybe I was too busy diving to the contents without looking up...

Other than that... My blog was mentioned in his entries! ^_^ Here's one. It's only a single sentence but I'm still happy and flattered that he did, even though this blog only started a little more than a month ago.

And another motivation for me to patrol the net for more Hello! Project stuff and post more stuff... Cheers and Peace! ^_^
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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Morning Musume on Classical Guitar

Transposed some Morning Musume songs on guitar. Uploaded to

Basically, I was inspired to do this after watching the Hello Pro Hour show. It's an online video broadcast TV programme, where artists from the Hello! Project family come out and sing songs of their choice, solo or duet. And it's unplugged. Absolutely nice. If I had the time, I'd transpose the entire arrangement... but I don't. ^_^

So here they are:

Koe - Morning Musume

Video Link

Ship! To the Future - Morning Musume

Video Link
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Aibon is Finally Out of the Picture?

Found out some info about Kago Ai. Not directly about her, but something related, which leads me to think Aibon's entertainment career may be over. I'm shuddering while typing the previous sentence...

I had the strangest dream a few days back. In that dream, I saw Kago Ai back in action, and appeared in a television show. There's some food involved, and she looks much more mature. Kinda like how she looks like at the IQ Supli show. Either my desire to witness her return is too strong, or it could be because I fell asleep while watching a Hello! Morning show and still having my headphones on and that it manifested in my dream.

However,.... I'm thinking it could be an omen, and it could mean something quite the opposite, like a goodbye dream. And guess what? My fears have came true...

There is company named Up-Front Group Co. Ltd. where under its wing are a group of companies, each to its specific purposes. E.g. Up-Front Agency (no official site) handles talent management and training, and Up-Front Works deals with music, merchandise and web-projects. The Hello!Project is the flagship project of both UFA and UFW. There's also Up-Front Hawaii deals with Hawaiians related projects. Other companies even include foods, textile and farms but they are all non-entertainment related.

But my focus is Up-Front Planning. This company deals with concerts, shows and dinner shows, event productions, public events and business management. Apparently it has recently launched its official site on 16th September 2006.

Whether this is a new company or not, it's not my main concern.
The problem is: Kago Ai is not in the talent list. See here .

One of my saving grace and hope that even if Aibon do not get to sing if she is reactivated, at least she can be booked at variety shows or the sorts, at least until she is allowed to sing again. But now, it seems that she won't even be able to see the light of day. I am not sure how recent is that talent roster, but it could be new, since only Tsuji Nozomi is in there, and it is not listed as W.

W is still listed in the other companies such as Up-Front Works, and also Hello!Project. Chances are that W contract there are not yet over. Therefore contract with Up Front Planning should be new, and only Nono is signed up. The only assumption I can make: they are probably waiting for W's contract to end, and they can finally remove her, and only keep Nono.

So,... i guess we should prepare for the worst now. I hope by now, some of you have gained some strength to withstand the probable (maybe inevitable) sad news, if it is going to be announced in the future. If not, just keep hoping, as it is all we have left...
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Matsuura Aya - Down with Pain

"Matsuura Ay--yeOWW!!!"

That's probably what you will hear from Ayaya if she tries to introduce herself now. Injuries, cancellations, scandals,... all coming out one after another for Hello!Project now. Feels like the NBA.

Jokes aside, this is worrying. Reportedly, two of Matsuura Aya concerts have to be cancelled two days ago as she is diagnosed with "temporomandibular athrosis". Some say it can be also described as "temporomandibular joint disorder". It is a condition where there is an disorder or dysfunction of the joint at the part where the skull is connected with the jaw bone with ligament and muscle (the curve of your jaw right under your ears),

The doctors have advised for her to rest now, however it was also reported that this was not the first time this condition has caused problems in her work. I pray that she recovers soon. Sad to see her career taking off to a great turn and getting this problem in the middle of it.

There are many possiblities as to what caused this. But basically it is when you apply too much stress on the muscle at the joint by grinding or gritting your teeth too much, too long and too often. Being a musical artiste, part of your work is talking and singing, so your jaw may be exercising its use too much. When a muscle is put to too much stress, it causes spasms, and as a result causing acute pain. Think of it as a toothache right at the back of your mouth that won't go away. And given its close position to the ears it is also affected, which is like having a needle poking at your eardrums.

Work stress can also be a factor, since the muscle tenses under work pressure. Some people subconciously grind their teeth while working, especially under pressure. No doubt that she is a hard-working worker, but this really shows the competitiveness and harshness of the music biz in japan

In my personal observation of Ayaya singing habit, normally she will jut out her chin/jaw when she is hitting the high notes. (Actually most people do that). It's not proper, but quite common in Japan. She is in the music biz for 5 years now, this improper practice may have started since her debut and have culminated to this.

I know all about injuries and pain, and all other things that come with it. Had a share of a minor case like hers, so I know exactly how she feels. You will have problem eating, sleeping and even simple daily chores. The aftermath of this ain't pretty either, and in her case, I think that not only medical treatment is needed but psychological therapy too, because pain anywhere near the brain can wear your mental energy down. Sure, there's always painkillers, but too much drugs can kill your voice.

Ayaya, you're in my prayers. I pray for you speedy recovery and hope you feel better soon.

Read source here
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New Tsunku company: TNX

Tsunku had setup a new company for himself. It's called TNX. Pronounced "tennecks"
TNX official site

Announcement from Tsunku at

Ikimasshoi have some info here

So Tsunku has gone and start another enterprise of his own, yet again. I wonder what does he have on his mind. All I can say that it's pretty ambitious, and he has a huge appetite. His marketing stragegy is smart too.

As reported, Tsunku absorbs his Good Factory Record and Tsunku Town Theater into TNX.

TNX produces for all kinds of events and products related to the entertainment business. Up till now, he has a few separate companies that caters for each of its own purposes, like recruiting, selling merchandise, music studio, music producing etc. Now he is probably slowly lumping it all together to create a new entertainment giant, and if successful, will become a great presense in the business. His future sights have been set to an international level. As mentioned in his announcement, he plans to "promote japanese entertainment to the world". He also plans to produce Chinese and Korean artists (which he has already started doing so)

I categorise TNX as not only a recording label, but an "event management company cum recording label". Yes it will continue to produce works as any recording label would. But I find that his army of staffs and artists has been very versatile in what they can do. So in a way, it also functions as an event management company.

Check out their current artist list: (Was about to write a comprehensive report on their artist list but I changed my mind. Found out a great deal about them but too much work to elaborate. Check them out yourselves)
They've got a gravure idol cum recording artist, boy rock-idol, theater and drama actor, girl group (H!P Egg), even a variety magician. Also I think Tsunku is planning to record himself under this label.

He is probably planning big things and wants to have a piece of every bit of the entertainment biz. TNX produces recording artists, recruits and trains hopeful entertainers, produce CDs, DVDs, visuals, televison shows, merchandises, commercials, concert visuals, recording studios, theaters etc. Now you know why i said event management? Wait till he starts on producing non-entertainment projects.

His business stragegies (if I speculated correctly) are like this:
1) He WILL continue to work on his Hello!Project and Up Front Works projects. And in turn each of his projects will continue to feed his new company TNX with projects to work on. e.g. DVDs, CDs, albums, recordings etc.
2) Although there was an official reason on why GAM's first single is titled "Thanks!". (The producer calls them 'Great!', in turn they say 'Thanks!'). I find that the word "Thanks!" in his TNX logo suspicious. Business marketeers calls this "embedded marketing". Smart way to promote his new company name.
3) Break into the Asian market for expansion. Using public campaigns such as the environmental campaigns or sports campaign.
4) Have more auditions via H!P or others in order recruit more people under his wing.

Really brilliant, no?

I don't think Tsunku will retire any time soon. But I think he is more business minded than musically inclined now. My only hope is that all this does not dampen his work quality on producing Morning Musume projects.

p.s. I hope if/when Tsunku sees this article, he will thank me for promoting his company. Probably give me a recording contract or something. Heh! ^_^
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Monday, October 02, 2006

New Theory on Aibon's case

Something just came to my mind, while I'm doing my usual patrolling of japanese sites for news about Kago Ai, when I stumbled upon a weblog community of a environmental activitists. It had an entry about Aibon. And being an activist, the author terribly bashed her up for her actions.

My take:
1) Morning Musume and the H!P gang had an ecology campaign coming up, right after Aibon's smoking scandal. I think W was involved too. But even they aren't, you have no credibility as supporters if you have smokers or a group asociated with smoking to promote a campaign. And it was a semi-government campaign, maybe. So therefore the brevity of the situation is much heavier than you think. H!P and UFA were merely trying to save their ass from a certain loss of service credibility and potential future projects. H!P have been involved in these campaigns for many years now, they are not about to leave everything to 'smokes'.

2) Tsunku have a new company set up. I will discuss this on a separate topic, but the point is this -> one of their artist, Zsa Zsa, a Chinese, under his new company is assigned to as the "Environmental Ambassador" and will be assigned in China on a promotion project later on. Now of course, he probably don't want Aibon to be ruining his plans to expand internationally. So I guess Aibon has hurt him more than she thinks.

So it's not only about the CDs, the sales, or the punishment. It's more than that.

Yes the functions are over now, so Aibon is probably "officially" starting to serve her suspension only now. So the waiting game starts ... all over again. Only time will tell if she will be forgiven for her actions.
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