Just for H!P fans…
Someone had a top-ten poll online for Hello!Project members. Since all the cool kids are doing it, I quickly clicked my way through and picked a set. The auto-generated pictures are ordered 1-10, but I didn’t obsess over the order, I just tried to pick a group. Most of the ones who fell just outside the top ten were in the “too darn young no matter how pretty they are” category.
It’s no coincidence that 9 of my 10 were “graduated” during the recent agency house-cleaning; star-pimp Tsunku is focusing his efforts on catching them (very) young and refreshing the brand. I, on the other hand, find women more interesting than girls, and appreciate fully-developed personalities and talents as well as bodies. His most spectacular meltdown to date (still quite mellow by US child-star standards) was a girl who started at 12; the new kids are a lot younger.
So, the list:
- Mari Yaguchi
- Her brand-new first single demonstrates why she never went on to a solo career after being kicked out of Morning Musume. Fortunately, she has multiple tv and radio shows, regular magazine columns, frequent appearances as a “talent”, and some dramas to fall back on. She’s a versatile, talented young woman, whose success hasn’t been tied to H!P for several years now. She still plays the “goofy tiny person” character that was her trademark in H!P, but when she drops that image, she’s quite stunning, and has a body that would be fantastic at any height.
- Aya Matsuura
- Incredible stage presence, terrific singer, drop-dead gorgeous, and stuck trying to break out of the image H!P established for her. With luck, she can finally leave the goofy idol costumes behind and get the success she deserves. Goodbye, Queen of the Rainbow Tribbles; hello, Aya.
- Hitomi Saitou
- Underrated talent in an underrated band, mostly known for her extremely successful performance as the “busty fuck bunny” character of H!P. Her solo on the Melon Juice EP would be a fantastic showcase for her voice, if some idiot hadn’t added some thoroughly inappropriate rapping to the song.
- Risa Niigaki
- The only active H!P member on the list, Risa is #2 in Morning Musume. She was a gawky teen who blossomed into a remarkably lovely young woman.
- Asami Konno
- Baby-face Kon-kon saw the writing on the wall early, and dropped out of the group to go to college. She rejoined in a minor capacity that she could balance with her studies, but then got caught up in The Purge. She could never carry a solo career as a singer, and her most memorable acting job is as Cyborg Konno, so a college degree gives her career possibilities most of her peers will never have. I’d like to see her shed the Kon-kon character and get back in front of the camera, though, because her grown-up face is very pretty, and her last photobook showed off a smoking-hot grown-up body.
- Kei Yasuda
- Kei’s career has been a crime against talent and beauty. Simply put, she was never kawaiiiiiii!, so the H!P stylists just didn’t know what to do with her. As a result, you’ll find her described as plain, ugly, goofy-looking, etc, and you usually have to watch closely to catch her brief appearances in videos and concerts. She rarely got to show off her vocal and musical talents, and you pretty much have to go looking for Uta Doki episodes to find out how well she sings, and how good she can look.
Want an example of how poorly she was utilized? Here she is singing Ihoujin in a mall event in 2006; I don’t even want to think about how most of the H!P girls would sound alone on stage with their voices amplified by a crummy PA system, recorded on a fan’s camcorder, and then uploaded to Youtube. Especially someone like Satan, who keeps getting solo releases despite a complete lack of vocal talent. Oh, here’s her Uta Doki performance of the same song, which can also be found on the out-of-print Folk Songs 4 album.
- Kaori Iida
- Another remarkable singer and beauty, Kaori at least got some solo albums after she left Morning Musume. Notable is Osavrio, which she sings in phonetically-learned French, Italian, and Greek. Her towering height often made her look gangly next to the others (especially Mari, who’s nearly a foot shorter), but on her own, she just looks elegant and lovely.
- Yuuko Nakazawa
- After some early success as a soloist, the old lady of the group (the only one honestly old enough to be “not too young for me”) has mostly moved on to a steady-but-uneventful acting career. Still single, still busy, still quite attractive, especially now that she’s freed forever from the H!P wardrobe dungeon.
- Makoto Ogawa
- Her character in Morning Musume was “the genki girl”. When she left the group, she moved to New Zealand for two years to go to school and learn English, rejoining the agency just in time to be purged. I don’t think I’ve ever really heard her sing, so I suspect her near future holds a lot of MC and tv-talent work. Her distinctive looks, outgoing personality, stage presence, lingering fame, and English should keep her working for a while.
- Mai Satoda
- After the other two members of Country Musume dropped out, the striking, leggy Mai was one of the H!P orphan talents, showing up at concerts (often with the even-more-neglected Ayaka) and getting some minor attention. Much like Mari, by the time they gave her a solo single (the terrific Oyaji no kokoro ni tomotta chiisa-na hi), she’d diversified her career to the point that H!P didn’t matter to her success.