Morning Musume ’15 is set to release their triple A-side “Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only” on December 29- practically the eve of the graduation for one of their most talented centers. Sayashi Riho graduates on December 31 during the “Hello！Project COUNTDOWN PARTY 2015 ～ GOOD BYE & HELLO ! ～” concert. Much could probably be said about Riho’s graduation, and I hope over the next three articles I cover most of what needs to be said about the girl. As fitting with a graduation, a touch of sadness hangs at the fringe of every emotion. And, even as this song represents the optimism of such a drastic life change, the uncertainty looms just beyond the horizon.
“Endless Sky” as a lyric is filled with hope. Remember the illuminated doorway from “Ima Sugu Tobikomu Yuuki” everyone was stretching toward? Well, it makes an appearance in the lyrics. Beyond that door? You guessed it: an Endless Sky. One imagines the big, blue skies that stretch to the horizon and flying under power of one’s own wings. The soft protective down is cast away in favor of feathers of flight. It’s a powerful metaphor for reaching adulthood. Although all daughters will always maintain their identity as a daughter, eventually they must become something more. This is graduation. This is the time to fly.
In the most memorable set piece, the girls of Morning Musume ’15 lie together happily in the shape of a ring. Now, I know a ring is a natural form for such a setting and one of the few choices a director has for the shot. That ring, or shall we say that circle, also contains symbolic meaning. Firstly, the girls lying together and giggling is beautiful. It’s a vision at what a sleepover at, say, Fukumura Mizuki’s house would look like. Of course, they probably would be wearing pajamas and not stage outfits … you can imagine that on your own time. To my point, what happens when one, two or four girls are added to the circle? Well, it’s still a circle. How about when one girl leaves the circle? Yes, it’s still a circle. Should they relive this scene in a month when Riho is studying dance somewhere abroad … it’s still a circle. I’m not going to hit over the head too much with this one. (focus: PonPon in pajamas …)
I’ll have two enduring memories from “Endless Sky”. Firstly, there’s Kudo Haruka. It’s Kudo Haruka crying. She is meant to represent Morning Musume ’15 as a whole. To a girl, they know what they are losing with Sayashi Riho. And, it’s not about losing a key performer. Competitive as these girls are, I’m sure they know a wealth of lines are about to open up to them. Importantly, they are losing a sister. If losing Takahashi Ai, Niigaki Risa, Mitsui Aika, Tanaka Reina, and Michishige Sayumi was like losing their doting mother hens, then losing Sayashi Riho is like watching the first baby chick fly away from the nest. The event is hopeful, yet heartbreaking and full of premonition of the emptying of the nest sure to follow.
As a final feather, Riho begins the final chorus of the song with the solo “I’m not going to cry, I shouldn’t be crying. I chose this future”. It’s a statement of sheer will. For the first part, Riho steels her nerves for the onslaught of tears that await at her graduation. Her emotional state puts her inner thoughts out in the open for the other girls to hear.She says she shouldn’t be crying because she is crying.
“I chose this future”. Ten-ish years agos in Higashi Hiroshima, Sayashi Riho decided to become a member of Morning Musume. She worked herself to exhaustion. Riho put herself in every available opportunity to perfect her idol skill-set with this one dream in mind. Sayashi Riho once chose her future in Hello! Project, and it became her present, her now. At this new crossroad, Riho has chosen a new path somewhere where only the skies can take her.
For my part, the drops of sadness that dot “Endless Sky” make the song and the release a much more complicated, a much richer affair than one expects from the idol world. There is joy in this graduation: a celebration of the accomplishments and the artistry that rippled through Sayashi Riho’s tenure with Morning Musume. To contrast this with the last graduation, Sayashi Riho is not going to boopity-boop off into the sunset like Michishige Sayumi. Riho as a person is much more complicated than that. For her, you get the feeling that as much as her stint was filled with joy, a certain amount of sadness also colored her experiences with Morning Musume. Maybe it’s the loneliness of the long distance runner or the loneliness of Laika. I hope that I have truly appreciated Sayashi Riho’s contributions to Morning Musume as much as I should have appreciated them. Certainly, Riho leaves Morning Musume in a much better place than she found it. Thank you for that, Riho.
You can buy Morning Musume ’15 “Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only” at CD Japan
Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only [w/ DVD, Limited Edition/Type A]
Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only [w/ DVD, Limited Edition/Type B]
Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only [w/ DVD, Limited Edition/Type C]
Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only [Regular Edition / Type A]
Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only [Regular Edition / Type B]
Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only [Regular Edition / Type C]