The more the merrier? Audition and 2 more groups for H!P

One thing is nice to know: Ichioka Reina will debut for certain, and she will debut within this year. Considering that they made the announcement of her debut nearly a year ago though – it happened at the KSS test on May 5th – makes people wonder: What have they done the whole last year?

Granted, it was more or less official that the decision of Ichioka’s debut was made on the spot. However, alongside Ichioka there were two more planned debuts: Danbara Ruru’s and Kawamura Ayano’s – and they happened much faster. Of course, putting Danbara into Juice=Juice and Kawamura into ANGERME didn’t sit well with all fans but since the Country Girls drama happened just around the same time emotions were in flow and in the end it seemed that Danbara and Ruru have settled better into their new groups than Morito Chisaki, Yanagawa Nanami and Funaki Musubu, who had to resettle due to Country Girls‘ new system. At the same time we got news about Ichioka: She will debut in a completely new group that she will be leader of. I’m not exactly sure how management thought messing up one group and making up a new one in its place would go well with the fans but here we went.

That’s where we were left off. Auditions were held to find new members who could debut anywhere in Hello! Project, and hopes were high that most if not all would become part of Ichioka’s new group. The audition had no winners. Maybe something similar to Morning Musume’s 13th gen auditions would happen, maybe the finalists who went to become KSS would debut at a later point? The winter concerts, half a year after the auditions, brought no information. But suddenly on March 30 a post on the official H!P website made us remember Ichioka’s case.

Ichioka – alongside Takase Kurumi and Kiyono Momohime – would finally debut. Instead of joining the theater group Takase and Kiyono would be part of yet another new group. New auditions are to be held this early summer so the groups could start activities as soon as possible.

I have several problems with this. Of course they’re part of my personal opinion and not everybody will agree, and of course they’re a bit selfish considering that I don’t know how Up-Front as an agency does work in detail. But let’s take a look at several aspects of this:

First of all, once her group finally debuts Ichioka will have had to wait more than a full year to start actual activities. She had a few smaller performances at H!P concerts and events, but not with her own group, own songs or any sort of difference to what the KSS usually do. She was basically an overglorified Kenshuusei. Same case for Takase and Kiyono. Putting Inaba Manaka, who is an actual soloist, into this shuffle-kind of unit just made the whole thing even more confusing. Ichioka had one song with Takase, Kiyono, Danbara and Kawamura – Gobaku ~We Can’t Go Back~ – but it was more of a shuffle song than anything really solid. I do hope that they’ve told Ichioka about their plans a bit earlier than the fans, otherwise having the poor girl wait for a year would be quite cruel. I do understand that a new group requires a lot of planning and budgeting and involves a lot of people, but if you can’t make it work like that then don’t announce it if you’re not ready yet.

Secondly, I’m still caught up in the Country Girls dilemma. I do understand that losing Tsugunaga Momoko as their most popular and experienced member was a heavy blow, but they’ve known from the start that Tsugunaga would only stay for a few years. She taught the girls well and they’re probably the most charismatic bunch out of all of H!P. But what bothers me most is that they do still exist, they still have management and staff and do events and even release music constantly, even if it’s only one song at a time in contrast to double- and trible A-sides from other groups. They’re tearing a group apart just for the sensation of adding two new groups and maybe boosting their sales through the „new shiny thing“ phenomenon.

Thirdly, while Up-Front probably has enough money to debut all these groups the question is whether they actually want to spend the money. On the one hand several hints have been given that H!P is a rather humane agency that pays their idols well or at least decently and lets them rest when they’re sick or injured, which is not always the case with idol agencies. On the other hand they’re nearly infamous for low project budgets. There has been an increase in MV and costume quality over the last few years but when it comes to creativity and willingness to upgrade to another concert venue – instead of doing a dozen small ones – Up-Front has been one of the not impressing agencies. Currently the most obvious hint for their tight budget plan is the release schedule: Most groups only have two physical releases per year, some even only one. Yet another two groups would probably make the schedule as thin as one release per group.

As a fourth point, Up-Front never manages to push two groups at once. Once Ichioka’s group debutes we can probably say goodbye to qualitiy Tsubaki content. This would also mean that Takase and Kiyono’s group will actually debut later than Ichioka’s group – a Kobushi/Tsubaki situation.

Lastly, it’s yet another audition. What will we do if there are, once again, no winners? Pull all new members from the KSS? Probably.

I’m tired of waiting. They always hint at something amazing to happen. I really hope that Ichioka’s group will do well and has a nice concept. Personally I’m too tired of getting my hopes up.

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