Talk about a surprise attack! Just when all I thought the Country Musume auditions were over with no winners, Hello! Project surprise me with the news of a new unit. The revival of Country Musume will be called Country Girls (a name fully in English). Country Girls make their formal debut on January 2 with Country Musume Satoda Mai playing General Manager and Berryz Kobo’s Tsugunaga Momoko as “Playing Manager” until her activities with the Berryz concludes. When the appointed day for BK arrives, Momoko will bring Momochi to the Country Girls full time. Footage of the new girls as Mai ambushes them with news of their acceptance aired on the November 5 episode of “Hello! Station”.
Well, we know Tsugunaga Momoko and Satoda Mai. Who are these new girls?
First, we have Ozeki Mai. Full disclosure: as soon as I saw Mai, I thought she was the cutest little thing right out of the pumpkin patch. She’s adorable! Some trivia about her- her dad, Ozeki Tatsuya, is a former professional baseball player and is currently a coach for the Yomiuri Giants! Mai participated in the Morning Musume 12th generation “Golden Audition”. Being the youngest of the Country Girls, I found her reaction pure, unrehearsed, and completely winning. She looked like she had just won the lottery. As yet, I haven’t seen a lick her performance skills. But, I don’t think it matters much. This girl is pure gold.
The next person ambushed was Shimamura Uta. I’m sorry, Uta, but you’re not currently on my radar. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with her. Uta’s look is a bit severe, but I’m sure some will find her attractive. She seems like the ice queen of the group. While that assessment seems cruel, a cool, detached character brings balance to a group with Momoko’s big personality and Mai’s unreserved emotions.
Let the shock begin
Morito Chisaki became the third member subjected to Mai’s attacks. As another new girl, we shouldn’t know much about Chisaki … except we know a lot about her. Chisaki was a member of a local idol group called CoCoRo Gakuen until VERY recently- her graduation live took place on November 1 (4 days before the HaroSute airing). I speculate that Chii pushed for graduation from CoCoRo Gakuen as soon as she received word on Country Girls. Whatever the actual series events were, Country Girls have themselves a member who is ready to take her idol game to the next level. As an added bonus, CoCoRo Gakuen and Chisaki seem to be fans of Hello! Project. Maybe this means the learning curve for Chisaki won’t be as steep as it will be for the other girls.
Chisaki in CoCoRo Gakuen
The first Kenshuusei approached by Mai was Yamaki Risa. Yamaki Risa auditioned for Morning Musume’s 12th generation in the “Mirai Shoulo” auditions (you know, the audition that led to no new members). As the oldest new girl at 17 and an H!P Kenshuusei, Yomakki will most likely take a leadership position (at least subleader). From what I know about her, Risa really, really wanted to join Morning Musume. She considered MoMusu artists more than idols, and doesn’t particularly like most idols. When Mai broke the news to her, Risa began crying uncontrollably. I can imagine that being 17, Risa’s hopes of becoming an idol were fading fast. Idol tears are the currency of the idol world, and Yomaki Risa’s emotional outbreak definitely paid dividends- I’ll be watching her closely.
Since Yomakki was a Kenshuusei, a fair amount is known about her. Here’s Tsunku’s evaluation:
“Yamaki Risa/”Onna to otoko no lullaby game” (Morning Musume’s song): It’s been no time since she started training, but in these past couple of months I think she’s really settled in. She has composure. She doesn’t have an idol face, but it is on the contrary a very Hello!Pro type of face.
The melody of this song goes up and down but even so she managed to sing it without missing the pitch changes.
Judging from this song alone she didn’t know the dance, but her intuition isn’t bad.
If it were a Japanese pop song from a long time ago then she’d be able to sing it like a natural but I want her to feel the rhythm more and more, double,
of current songs so that she can sing the emotions found in current JPOP.
Her image is just bright and excellent, she doesn’t give a simple idol～ vibe,
so I want her to create a new “somethingness” as her personality that hasn’t been in Hello!Pro before. She’s no Fukumura but if she can bring the “Yamaki” character into existence then she’ll be victorious.”
(translated by Lurkette)
Here’s that performance that Tsunkuboy referenced:
Rounding out the list of girls is Inaba Manaka. Manakan also trained as an H!P Kenshuusei and is the only new member from Hokkaido. Don’t let her 16 years fool you: Inaba Manaka began her journey to idol-dom long ago. Manaka trained and the EXILE PROFESSIONAL GYM in Sapporo, and in 2010 Manaka performed as a background dancer in EXILE’s Kouhaku performance. This girl also performed as part of the idol group PEACEFUL from 2011 to 2012. PEACEFUL attained a modest level of success, and is said to have inspired Morning Musume’s Sato Masaki (also a Hokkaido girl) to participate in the “Morning Musume Genki Jirushi Audition”. Manaka’s presence in the group indicates the seriousness of this endeavor. A girl this cute with this much experience shouldn’t be squandered in a group with no future.
Manaki sings S/mileage’s “Suki chan”
Manaka with PEACEFUL
Manaka with PEACEFUL dance performance
I didn’t think I would be, but I am real excited about the debut of Country Girls! They have a good mix of girls who seem to complement each other nicely. Naturally, as with any Hello! Project group, there is a fear that Country Musume will be mismanaged and underutilized. I hope not.
So, what do you think of the Country Girls? Do you have a favorite member yet? Did I leave anything out about the girls? There’s a comment box below. Use your God given right!