Now, Uta-chan didn’t die. If all of this reads like an obituary, that’s not my intention. I’m just trying to clear my head of the mess left behind. Before you read my thoughts, you might want to read the official press release from Hello! Project, or the translated press release from blog! project. You may want to also read playing manager Tsugunaga Momoko’s thoughts on the Shimamura Uta affair (EDIT) or blog translations from Yamaki Risa, Morito Chisato, or Ozeki Mai. Fair warning: Yamaki and Ozeki’s blogs will crush you.
Hello! Station introduced the world to little Utachan on November 12, 2014. At the time time, Country Girls and Uta made a big enough impression on me that I went to great lengths to learn all about these fresh young faces. Shimamura Uta shared a scant 219 days of her life with us idol fans and HaroWota. In this short time, Uta rose to the forefront of Hello! Project as one of the faces of the new generation of idols. For a couple of months, it seemed like EVERYONE was mad about Uta. You name it: wota and idols alike were taken by Uta’s innocence and charm. I personally spent a few nights tweeting nothing but pictures of Shimamura Uta. Even if she wasn’t my clear favorite in the group, I enjoyed her charm and presence. Let me make this clear: I LOVED Shimamura Uta. I know many wota invested heavily into Uta-chan.
I think it is easy to see why so many were taken by this little girl. Uta-chan’s 1/8 Italian roots imparted an exotic, doll-like appearance. As a performer, Shimamura exuded an innocent air with equal parts embarrassment and bewilderment. I do not think Uta was embarrassed about performing; she seemed to be shocked that she made such a deep impression hundreds of people. Her. Just little old her.
Speculation about the reasons for Shimamura’s departure center around her family/parents. Through translation, the press release concerning Utachan indicate a disagreement between H!P and Uta’s parents/representation. This disagreement could very well be about money. One common theory maintains the Shimamura family felt Uta deserved greater monetary compensation considering her position as the focal point of media attention.
I’d like to advance a kinder theory. This is purely speculation.
What if the Shimamura family wanted less attention for little Utachan? No one could have predicted the whirlwind that enveloped Uta the last few months. Even for an idol, the Uta storm exceeded expectation. We already know Uta always looks shy and a bit embarrassed- we can probably assume that Uta felt a little shy and embarrassed. Is it crazy to believe that Shimamura’s parents wanted to protect their little girl from the onslaught of media exposure? Maybe there were already in talks for the first Uta photobook, and these talks made the family of this 14 year-old uncomfortable. Is it hard to believe that Shimamura Uta left the idol world because she wanted less? Is it hard to believe that Shimamura Uta left the idol world because her family is trying to protect her?
I don’t want to believe that we lost Shimamura Uta because of money.
I have nothing but love for Shimamura Uta. Even though her premature departure from the idol world leaves me shocked and disillusioned, I respect the Shimamura family’s decision. I am not privy to the particular points of disagreement, and I cannot say anything with a reliable degree of certainty. When Uta eventually left the idol world, I hoped she would leave as a star personality with years of performances and memories. Sadly, I, we only have these 219 days of Shimamura Uta. At least as far as Hello! Project is concerned, the Shimamura Uta Chronicles have ended.