Saturday, January 4, 2014

Graduation Time

Graduations are something that many Japanese idol fans aren’t very fond of, especially if the idol who is graduating happens to be their favorite member.  This is something that I can personally relate to, and I’m sure everyone else reading this can too.  Some graduations are planned and a few are a surprise, and there are many reasons why an idol graduates.  There’s been a lot of graduations or graduation announcements involving my favorite groups in recent months and several months prior to that, that I have only recently become aware of.  I haven’t written about any of them until now because I probably wouldn’t have enough material for a blog article about each individual idol.  So I’m going to group every idol who has graduated in the past year or so that I love and support and say a few words about them.

I’m listening to Sakura Gakuin’s “My Graduation Toss” as I type this, so I’ll start with this group.   Last March two girls graduated from Sakura Gakuin.  Nakamoto Suzuka’s  graduation was planned, as all members of this group leave upon completing the ninth grade.  Suzuka is continuing her career as an idol in the subunit BABYMETAL, however, so she is still in the spotlight.  On the other hand, it was a complete surprise to me to hear that Sugimoto Mariri was also leaving.  Mariri had joined Sakura Gakuin in May 2012, and was leaving after only a year with the group.  (Well, a Japanese school year, anyway.)  Mariri was the tallest member during the 2012 school year, and the member who was best known for her husky voice.  Mariri may not have had many fans, but I count myself among them.  I guess I have a thing for tall, beautiful girls with long hair and a unique voice.  My biggest disappointment is with the fact that Mariri didn’t get a chance to really “shine” in Sakura Gakuin, and was not part of a subunit.  Thankfully Mariri is continuing her modeling career, and who better to be a model than one of the prettiest girls who was ever a member of Sakura Gakuin!  Mariri has a blog here.

                               Sugimoto Mariri (left) and Nakamoto Suzuka (right).

This March, as usual, there will be more graduations in Sakura Gakuin.  This year it will be Iida Raura, Horiuchi Marina, Sugisaki Nene and Sato Hinata who will be collecting a diploma.  When I first took an interest in Sakura Gakuin in the late part of 2010, Hinata was my second favorite member, right after Miyoshi Ayaka.  Hinata is, in my opinion, one of the cutest girls in Sakura Gakuin, and possessing a unique, lower pitched voice than many idols.  Hinata, along with Marina and another favorite of mine, Isono Rinon, are in the subunit Kagaku Kyuumei Kikou LOGICA?  I have loved the science-oriented, sometimes space rock and sometimes funk rock sounds offered by this trio.  This is a credit to their songwriter’s genius, of course, but the vocals by all three contribute heavily to my immense enjoyment.  I really wish LOGICA? would take off in popularity much in the same way that BABYMETAL did, as this idol trio is offering some of the most unique songs I’ve ever heard.  “Delta”, from the “Sakura Gakuin 2012 ~My Generation~” album is, hands down, the best idol song of 2013!  Raura, Marina and Hinata, of course, are the original members of the subunit Minipati and the members of sleepiece.  These three girls sing well together and are a lot of fun to listen to.  In fact, I have the controversial opinion of thinking that the original Minipati is vastly superior to the new Minipati with Mizuno Yui, Kikuchi Moa and Taguchi Hana.  The original lineup’s “Happy Birthday” song is a personal favorite, and the new Minipati haven’t recorded a song that’s a favorite of mine yet.  Marina’s soft voice and “genki” personality is a part of Sakura Gakuin that we won’t get back when she leaves.  Nene’s amazing bending into a backward arch while writing on a tablet of paper trick is already imbedded in my memory as the most amazing (and potentially dangerous) trick I’ve seen an idol do.  Raura, however, didn’t leave a major impression on me during the past three years like the others did.  I enjoy her singing, but I wasn’t surprised in the slightest when I heard she was passed over for being the next Student Council President in Sakura Gakuin.  Still, all four of the 2013 graduates from Sakura Gakuin will be sorely missed.  

From left to right: Hinata, Marina, Raura and Nene.

Also graduating in March 2014 will be Candy Kiss member Yamashita Honoka, who is leaving to concentrate on her school work.  Yes, you guessed it, she’s my favorite.  Honoka, for those who do not know this group, is the girl in the pink dress who sings lead vocals on many Candy Kiss songs.  How Candy Kiss will carry on without her is going to be a major surprise to me.  Replacing a lead vocalist is not an easy job.  Honoka will also be sorely missed.

Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku is having a triple graduation in April.  Leaving the group to concentrate on school is Mizuki and Anno Natsu.  Natsu, I hear, is learning English.  Perhaps she will reappear in the future with the new ability to talk to her English speaking fans!  Suzuki Hirono is leaving the group to focus on acting.  She was on TV in her younger days on the We Can Girls children’s show and has already appeared on a couple of TV dramas.  Hirono is not only one of my favorite members of EbiChu (as this group is known as for short), but also the favorite member of my Japanese friend Yacchan, who sometimes helps me with my blog by translating and providing me with other information.  All three girls contributed something to EbiChu that made this group special, and EbiChu won’t be exactly the same.

From left to right: Hirono, Natsu and Mizuki.

Party Rockets has had many graduations during their eighteen months as a group.  As I previously wrote in “The Story Of Aither”, Tsujimura Airi was meant to be in the group before having to bow out due to illness.  Airi is one of the best vocalists who was a member of B Flat, and continues to impress me in Aither.  In late October 2012 Party Rockets member Sato Hiyori announced that she was leaving to concentrate on school.  Hiyori is one the reasons why I loved B Flat and Party Rockets, being a very good dancer and singer.  Hiyori mostly sang backup vocals and the choruses, but she was more active as a singer while in B Flat than some members who mostly danced.  Konno Yuuka announced later in December 2012 that she was leaving due to a back injury.  Thankfully she and Airi both resurfaced in Aither in June 2013.  Hiyori and Yuuka were my second and third favorite members of Party Rockets, with leader Watanabe Koume being my favorite.  Koume is the “face” of Party Rockets, and like Honoka, she will not be easily replaced.   Koume chose to leave on December 15, 2013 for other opportunities.  What those opportunities are is unknown for the present.

Party Rockets (June 2012)
Left to right: Airi, Fumika, Yuuka, Haruka, Koume, Hiyori and Akari.

Jewel Kiss have had too many graduations, much like Party Rockets, and they are now going to be a trio, also like Party Rockets.  Ono Momoka, the girl in the pink dress in Jewel Kiss, left in the summer of 2011 to have dental surgery.  She was expected to return but instead chose to leave, partially due to her father’s job transfer which required her family to move.  The official announcement was posted on the Jewel Kiss website on November 1, 2011.  Momoka was my favorite member of Jewel Kiss, being the cutest in my opinion.  Perhaps she wasn’t the group’s best singer, but she has a nice voice, and I always enjoyed that she was the first girl to sing on the song “Spring With”, which is Jewel Kiss’s best ballad.  In August 2013 Matsubara Moka left the group.  I wasn’t as big of a fan with Moka like I am with Momoka, but Moka did thank me for a happy birthday wish I sent to her on Twitter.  Just recently it was announced that, like Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku, there will be a triple graduation.  Leader Kodama Selica (or Serika) will be leaving along with Fujiwara Kanon and Ohashi Karen on February 16.  This is a major change to Jewel Kiss, not just to have the leader of the group leave, but also three of their strongest vocalists as well.  The reason for their departure is to focus on school, something that many of the idols who graduate seem to want to do.  Jewel Kiss plans to carry on as a trio, but much like Party Rockets, I really don’t see much of a point.  Neither of these idol groups will ever be the same with just the three members left.

Top row, left to right: Kanon, Ono Momoka, Serika and Karen.
Bottom row, left to right: Mai, Moka, Oita Momoka (Mocchan) and Lilha. 

This concludes the graduation report…for the time being.  Surely there will be other girls graduating from idol groups I support, and I’ll probably write another article stating my feelings about it.  I’m not looking forward to writing that one, however.