Hello! Station 26- A Viewer’s Guide

I don’t remember the last time anticipation for a Hello! Station was this intense. As the release date for Morning Musume’s 54th single nears, this anticipation only heightened. Last week, Hello! Station played the dance shot for “Ai no Gundan”. A concert rip of “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke” appeared following the summer Hello! Project concerts over the weekend. Earlier, Tsunku coyly hinted that the PV for “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke” would air on H!S 26, then a preview of the PV aired on Japanese television. This morning “staff” tweeted that problems delayed the release of this episode by a few hours. Can you feel the anticipation building? You wanted it; you got it.

I plan on spilling my guts on this PV later this week, so I’ll be somewhat brief. “Wagamama…” is the most satisfying Hello! Project PV in terms of production this year. The PV opens with some tantalizing close ups of Michishige Sayumi’s lips mouthing the refrain of the song. Using the empty theater provides some drama to the camera shots as well as magnificent lighting production. The “jailbird” outfits and the black pants outfits give the girls femininity for one, and a toughness for the other. Morning Musume brings their usual sharp choreography which is intensified with some jump cuts; yet, the editing also paradoxically lessens choreography’s impact. Where “Ai no Gundan” unfolded like a kaleidoscope, “Wagamama…” feels like a punch or a slap. Of course, more to come on this PV.

After that PV, I thought to myself, “what the hell else can Kanon possibly show?” I also found myself fixated on Kanon’s “LAUGH” top. At what am I laughing , Kanon?
Kanon tosses us to live footage of the summer Hello! Project concert. The girls opened the concert with this version of ““Busu ni Naranai Tetsugaku” All of Hello! Project dressed up like they are heading to the beach with skirts, sunglasses, and big hats. I see that, predictably, Riho and Sakura sang many of the solo/duet lines from graduated members. And since this footage was shot from a single camera from the rear of the hall, it fails to satisfy completely.

More surprises! Remember Juice=Juice? They have a soon to be released single, as well? The whirlwind of Morning Musume activity unfortunately reduced Juice=Juice’s “Romance no Touchuu” to collateral damage. Luck for us, we get a live performance of the song. On the outset, the song is funkier and more playful that the recent Juice=Juice singles. At one point in the verse the song breaks into “Love Machine” rhythmic accents just in case you forgot where you were. Even though Aina’s departure saddened me greatly (she was the last remaining 9th gen auditionee), the new 5 member group’s choreography became more focused and centered. The houndstooth patterned outfits are still practical looking- there are no frills or sequins anywhere with this group. When the slap bass bridge starts, I thought to myself, “How many covers of this will I see on YouTube?”

And the Hello! Concert footage continues with S/mileage performing their last single “Atarashii Watashi ni Nare“. Like the previous footage, the long shot fails to bring any immediacy to the performance. Frankly, the choreography is not impressive enough on most of these songs to warrant a long shot. However the vocal performances from this concert are stellar. And Kanon likes the “Cat” move from the song. Who’s complaining?

C-ute bring us a performance “Kaneshiki Amefuri” in the next segment. Really, I’m talked out on this song. I still think it is the superior A-Side from the last C-ute double-A offering. And, like I thought, the long shot services this performance since the choreography is compelling. Wow, Suzuki Airi’s vocals are SO STRONG. I’m always impressed with her! As a group C-ute just perform their asses off! Why can’t they come to Southern California?

This wouldn’t be complete if Berryz Kobo didn’t perform, would it? They give us “Golden Chinatown“. When Berryz are given something other than a trivial “point at the sky” choreography, they look great and synced. But I’m sorry Berryz fans- Yurina sings way too much in this song for me. Man, I really want another breakout single from Berryz Kobo- they are still my favorite H!P Kids group (there are only two) but they are languishing!

As if you didn’t get enough of “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke”. I’ll just take this moment to tell you how pleased I am at Masaki’s solo “Aisaretai” at the end of the song.

To close out this performance heavy episode, Kanon shows us the full PV to Morning Musume’s “Ai no Gundan”. In my early reckoning, I think “Ai no Gundan” is the stronger of the two songs for the 54th release. Surprises! Firstly this PV is shot as a day/night PV. The girls don lovely white dresses and lounge luxuriously amid rose petals in the day scenes. The night scene is the same as the dance shot. Also, there are bubbles. I suppose they wanted something to take the place of the lens flares?

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