Ogata Haruna announces graduation – the most wasted Morning Musume tenure ever?

What a topic to open up the blog with.

On March 27 Ogata Haruna announced her graduation through a post on the official H!P website. This came as a surprise to some of us, considering that the group was already well into their ongoing tour and just had to say goodbye to Kudo Haruka in December 2017. Many fans also expected some of the older (tenure-wise) members to graduate before any 12th generation member.

On the other hand, however, Haruna was already some of the older members when she joined – being older than 10th generation members Sato Masaki and Kudo Haruka as well as 11th generation member Oda Sakura and just half a year younger than 9th generation members Sayashi Riho and Suzuki Kanon – making her the 7th oldest member in a 12 member group despite joining two to three years after her seniors.

Another point that made people believe Haruna wouldn’t have much of a chance in Morning Musume was the fact that she was a really bad singer and dancer (despite her ice skating career) when she joined. Unfortunately, she has not improved much. Her outstanding charms, however, where her light complexion and delicate body. Her former twitter account also showed that she could be outgoing and fun, something the group was desperately in need of. In the end they only made little use of both. While Haruna was in the front row for several promotion pictures she never got a photobook and only few photoshooting jobs. At some point her weight also became a problem which was probably the reason why management started to shove her to the back. When it comes to her entertainment qualities she never was allowed to do more than a few jokes during concert MCs. In fact, according to some handshake event reports she was told to tone down her crazy antics.

The blog title was intentionally chosen as something bold and maybe rude. In the end what is left of Ogata Haruna’s tenure in Morning Musume?

At the time Haruna graduates she will have passed Nakazawa Yuuko’s tenure, but not yet JunJun and LinLin’s. Granted, that’s not exactly a good way to measure her. Yuuko was MM’s leader through most of the Golden Era, an adult when she joined and could build up her own legacy on TV shows like ASAYAN and Hello! Morning. Haruna will have nothing like that. When it comes to a comparison to JunLin’s tenure we have to keep in mind that the both of them probably did not decide on their graduation themselves. I don’t like the theory that some people are forced out of the group, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted to go on for some more time. Judging from the news on H!P’s official site it looks like the graduation was all Haruna’s decision.

In the end Haruna never got much spotlight in the group. She had her sports show – which she probably cancels once she’s graduated – but aside from that she never shined. Of course that was not entirely her fault, an idol can only do so much if management doesn’t give her chances to be pushed. However, as an idol in a group as big as Morning Musume you sometimes need to be the rude one that dashes in. Point given to Haruka, who scolded her seniors, Masaki, who clinged to her seniors, or most recently Yokoyama Reina, who interrupted Iikubo Haruna on a TV show – and later Kaga Kaede in another show – to steal the spotlight for herself. It might be rude, but that’s what you have to do in a big group with stiff senpai-kouhai-relationships.

It’s wrong to think that at some point, once the older members have graduated, the spotlight will fall on you. This might have been the case for girls like Michishige Sayumi or might happen to Ikuta Erina – but these girls, too, worked a bit more for it than what it looks like at first. Sayumi was a regular on several TV shows when Takahashi Ai, Tanaka Reina or Kamei Eri were generally more popular than her. Erina never gave up and also landed herself some (granted, much smaller) TV deals.
Another example might be Suzuki Kanon: When she was shoved in the back for gaining weight she reacted with frowning and looking sad in everything she did. That’s when she fell hard in popularity. Later on, she accepted her chubby body and made it her thing – and she became somewhat popular, arguably more than any other member (aside from Sayumi) with the general public at that time.

Regarding this, yes, it was a wasted tenure in Morning Musume.

It did feel like Morning Musume has been a side activity for Haruna. Some after-school club with a few concerts on the weekends. While her generation mate Makino Maria became the next photobook and magazine shooting girl and Nonaka Miki just started her job as NBA ambassador after being the link to the international fandom for some time, what Haruna managed to do falls flat. Unfortunately she is not in the situation of Haga Akane, who can still grow and decide what she wants to do after school, either.

Once again, I don’t want to leave out management on this. When Morning Musume was at its biggest before, around the time the 6th generation had joined, there were several other members who were far in the background during promotions and concerts. But for them – members like Ogawa Makoto, Yoshizawa Hitomi, even the newbies Kamei Eri and Michishige Sayumi – was room in their TV show and TV specials. Hitomi’s and Makoto’s roles on Hello! Morning Theater are legendary. Who could forget the #1 Kawaii, Sayumi, constantly doing her Usachan Peace under her tutor Ishikawa Rika? And even Eri, who did not have a persona at first, quickly charmed the audience by her adorable awkwardness.

A platform like this doesn’t exist for the current members.

We could argue that Makoto didn’t come far after graduating either, but her skits won’t be forgotten. What will we remember of Ogata Haruna once she graduated? To be honest, I don’t know.

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