On August 20, 2016 the longtime Hello! Project idol group ℃-ute announced their intention to dissolve in ten months’ time. Although an exact date has not been set, the group of 5 idols will hang up their microphones after a planned performance at Saitama Super Arena. Further, the group also announced they would not participate in the 2017 Hello! Project Winter Tour as customary for groups of the idol collective.
℃-ute began as seven girls in the Hello! Project training program “Hello! Project Kids” in 2002. The girls, Umeda Erika, Yajima Maimi, Nakajima Saki, Murakami Megumi, Suzuki Airi, Okai Chisato, and Hagiwara Mai were officially assigned to the group in 2005. These seven were shortly joined by Arihara Kanna from the “Hello! Project Eggs” training unit. After six independent singles, ℃-ute made their major label debut in 2007 with “Sakura Chirari“. The group earned praise and won the “Best New Artist” award in the 2007 Japan Record Awards. ℃-ute ‘s lineup gradually pared down with Megumi leaving the group in 2006, Kanna leaving the group in 2009 (medical reasons), and Erika leaving the group in also in 2009 (pursuit of modeling career). ℃-ute is currently the senior group in Hello! Project and is admired by idols in both H!P and the wider idol scene.
According to press releases, the five girls met in February 2016 to discuss their options as young women in the younger idol scene. Along with dissolution, the girls were presented with an option to graduate from Hello! Project and remain together as a group operating outside the idol scene. The five girls wanted ℃-ute to remain a group synonymous with Hello! Project. With this choice the girls decided to end the group to keep the legacy of the group within the Hello! Project they loved.
Speculation about ℃-ute’s future began to foment when pictures of Hagiwara Mai with an unknown man were published in Shukan Bunshun in April. As part of resolution, Mai mentioned a meeting with management and the other girls of ℃-ute. Even though Mai offered her resignation from the group, the group decided to remain with the five girls and work to regain trust with their wota fan base. Around this same time, the five girls held the meeting with management mentioned in the preceding paragraph. With the timing of these two events, I do not find it hard to believe Mai’s scandal and the decision to end ℃-ute are linked. The decision to end the group also coincides neatly with Mai’s 20th birthday in February, which marked all members of ℃-ute passing into adulthood as per Japanese tradition. While Mai’s scandal may not directly factor into the dissolution of ℃-ute, I do not find it difficult to believe that the scandal hastened the decision to dissolve the group.
For whatever reason, scandalous or just practical, there is no denying that the idol universe are losing one of its brightest and most influential stars. As suggested in the many blogs and announcements linked below, please support ℃-ute to the fullest until their June 2017 dissolution.
Announcement concerning ℃-ute: Up-Front Link Facebook
℃-ute comments about their breakup: Up-Front Link Facebook
Yajima Maimi: ameblo | Nakajima Saki: ameblo | translation
Suzuki Airi: ameblo | translation | Okai Chisato: ameblo
Hagiwara Mai: ameblo
Shimizu Saki: ameblo | translation | Tsugunaga Momoko: ameblo | translation
Sudou Maasa: ameblo | translation | Kumai Yurina: ameblo | translation
Sugaya Risako: ameblo | translation
Morning Musume ’16
Fukumura Mizuki: ameblo | Ikuta Erina: ameblo
Iikubo Haruna: ameblo | Ishida Ayumi: ameblo
Sato Masaki: ameblo | translated | Haruka Kudo: ameblo
Ogata Haruna: ameblo | Nonaka Miki: ameblo | Makino Maria: ameblo