While most of us are still trying to digest the news of the upcoming joint Juice=Juice/Tsubaki Factory audition, there’s also another thing to look forward to: The Hello Pro Kenshuusei.
Currently consisting of 18 young girls with big dreams to debut in the idol world, the Kenshuusei (shortened to KSS) are the trainees of Hello! Project. Additionally to the Tokyo-branch there’s also a Hokkaido-branch, simply called Hello Pro Kenshuusei Hokkaido, with 3 members – two of them being inactive, though.
Historically the Kenshuusei are based on the Hello Pro Kids, whose members became Berryz Koubou and °C-ute later on. A second „kids“-like audition brought the first generation of the Hello Pro Eggs, who changed their name to the more professional sounding „Kenshuusei“ in January 2012. Many of those who joined the Eggs/Kenshuusei debuted in successful H!P groups, starting with Okada Yui (who joined v-u-den) and Arihara Kanna (who was a late addition to °C-ute) up to whole groups consisting of Eggs/Kenshuusei – the original S/mileage, Kobushi Factory, Tsubaki Factory and the still rather new CHICA#TETSU and Ame no Mori Kawa Umi. Even Juice=Juice can be mentioned here, since only Miyazaki Yuka wasn’t a member of the Kenshuusei when the group was formed, but an Up Front employee at least.
The programme came full circle when 1st generation Egg Wada Ayaka became leader of Hello! Project in 2016. Her successor, Fukumura Mizuki, is a 4th generation Egg herself. The current sub-leader, Takeuchi Akari, is her former generation mate. The Hello Pro Eggs, or Kenshuusei, are a story of success.
However, not all of the over 150 members, current and former, could actually debut in Hello! Project. Many fans however become attached to their protegés and crave for their debut. To be honest, the modern Hello! Project is the best place for a trainee to debut, having had a run of the aforementioned groups that all came to life since 2009 (or at least late 2013 in the case of Juice=Juice and following).
The current trainees have their own TV show called Hello! Dream (HaroDori for short, see what I did in the title?). In the latest episode as of #41 on January 18, 2021, there has been a hint of big news coming to the girls. In episode #42 Fukumura Mizuki will announce „a new development“. Of course, fans of the Kenshuusei are listening attentively. Could it be time for a new Hello! Project group?
The current Hello! Project consists of 5 major groups. This is the lowest amount of groups since the rather dull years of Platinum Era and the slow start in the first few years until 1999 (with a short relapse in 2003 with the dissolvement of Sheki-Dol). In fact, with the lack of soloists H!P is currently at its smallest number of acts since 1998. With the departure of Kobushi as well as the hiatus of Country Girls the company has been through a time of bloodletting after all. Judging by the bare number it is definitely time to announce a new group.
We are still in the corona crisis. As mentioned in the previous blog post there are rumours of Up Front losing a lot of money lately, so creating a new group would be a high risk. Beyooooonds has only now announced their second single despite being active since 2019. A new group needs lots of promotion, a management team and new debutees often recieve more vocal and dance lessions than established members.
At the same time, we have just been told that two established groups hold a joint audition. Adding a few new members to said groups is less of a risk and definitely less of an investment.
What does this mean for the Hello! Dream announcement? Are we getting a new group?
In my personal opinion, the new group is still possible. Up Front management is very inscrutable when it comes to future plans – as a reminder, Beyooooonds was more or less founded out of a gut feeling, with announcing Ichioka Reina, Takase Kurumi and Kiyono Momohime as members that are certain to debut in Hello! Project. On the other hand, it also took the company one and a half year to collect the members for the group, debuting it more than two years after the first announcement. This means Fukumura could announce a new unit next week – but said unit might not debut until summer 2023.
The first pick would of course be the members of the Hello Pro Kenshuusei Unit (HPK Unit), which currently consists of the four members Yonemura Kirara, Ishiguri Kanami (from the Hokkaido branch), Kubota Nanami and Saito Madoka. Debuting Ishiguri could also save Up Front some money in fact – she is the only active member of the Hokkaido branch. With her gone the company could simply dissolve the Hokkaido branch, which would be a shame, but also maybe saving them money.
However, going back to the fact that the entertainment industry as a whole has to watch their funds and the audition for Juice=Juice and Tsubaki Factory just starting, there’s also another possibility: Either, Fukumura announces just the audition to the Kenshuusei members. Or, and that would be a wham: She announces the members of the Kenshuusei that will debut alongside the audition winners.
Either way: Something will happen with the Hello Pro Kenshuusei. May it simply be more additions (there is also a Kenshuusei audition going on at the moment), departures of older members or some debuts.
/EDIT: As of the newest episode of Hello Dream only the audition for Juice=Juice and Tsubaki Factory has been announced to the Hello Pro Kenshuusei. The other big announcement was the test event for 2021 – nothing groundbreaking.
/2nd EDIT: As of March 6 a new unit has been announced! The announcement happened at the most recent H!P KSS concert – so they do keep those for bigger events.
Girls certain to debut are indeed the members of the Hello! Pro Kenshuusei Unit.