Hello! Project, a J-pop project behind famous outfits such as Morning Musume, recently announced a significant reshuffling of members within its universe, along with the arrival of new performers and an entire new group. The announcement has become a hot-button topic among idol fans in Japan (and abroad), even if this long-running organisation is known for such shake-ups.
First, the nitty-gritty. One of Hello! Project’s groups, Country Girls, is seeing one of its members graduate from the group, and two others stepping away to, “focus on their studies.” This means the three remaining performers in its fold - Morito Chisaki, Yanagawa Nanami and Funaki Musubu - needed to be transferred to new outfits under the Hello! umbrella. That’s the catalyst for changes, and it sees Chisaki jumping over to Morning Musume, Nanami going to Juice=Juice, and Musubu moving to ANGERME (see a member of that group lose it when they get TWICE swag).
You’d think this signals the end of Country Girls, as they have no members actively working within its confines, but you’d be mistaken. The group will get together for special performances when the two members who chose education over entertainment have holidays from school.
All of this allows Hello! Project to announce several junior members who would step up to the proverbial idol-pop big leagues, and also announce that a new unit would be announced sometime this summer. Watch the announcement (in Japanese) below.
None of these moves seem all that drastic, especially in the wake of what's happening over in the AKB48 universe, but Hello! Project has a history of making fans anxious with shuffles like this. The most notable happened on July 31, 2002, when Hello! Project - at the peak of its mainstream power - announced all sorts of massive changes, including forced graduations, members being sent to new groups and the formation of new units. It was pretty sweeping, similar to when a comic book blows up its universe and sends characters to a new timeline. A few similar moments have happened since, albeit not on the woe-is-us level that 2002 shift brought to fans. The latest news, then, has made many idol fans a bit jittery.
But - and, for those relatively new to the world of Japanese idols, this is an important lesson - moves like this are common, and for all of the paranoia they inspire in fans, are mostly quick fixes to get attention that don’t have deeper impacts. Hello! Project’s Morning Musume really revolutionised it, while AKB48 picked it up and took it further. You can even see it in the recent moves with E-girls, who moved group members around and “graduated” certain performers into solo roles. So while things have changed, you can still count on familiar sounds.
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