I’ve opted to first cover Morning Musume.'15 Concert Tour 2015 Aki ~PRISM~ since it is, to all intents and purposes, Riho Sayashi’s de facto graduation concert. Yes, the official ceremony was held at the H!P Countdown Party on December 31, 2015, but that was squeezed into a larger event with a time deadline, while the Prism concert was just MM and was held at Nippon Budokan, giving Riho a chance to say farewell to a much larger audience of her fans. And even though it’s not as fancy as the one at the Countdown Party, the send-off the girls give her at this concert is just as heartfelt. And this was Riho’s last appearance at a Morning Musume-only concert.
Like so many MM concerts of the last few years, the song selection is generally superb, with the emphasis on more recent songs and a light sprinkling of older numbers from the MM songbook, as well as a few I was unfamiliar with. There were a few I would have changed but, for the most part, I genuinely enjoyed most of the songs presented here, including four that might seem over-used to other fans, “Password Is Zero,” “Tiki Bun,” “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke” and “One Two Three.” I have to confess that I enjoyed seeing many of these for the first time without Sayumi. There’s a precision to the way the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Gen girls work together. They’re all on the same wavelength, something I couldn’t say in the days when older Gens were still represented in MM. And, in her last years with the group, 6th Gen Sayumi was three Gens ahead of the next Gen after her, 9th.
There are a lot of strong performers in the lineup here (two of whom have since left the group). Riho, of course, is the ace and my favorite member while she was in the group, pretty much since she started. Ayumi comes very close and is my favorite member now. Erina, Haruka, Mizuki, Sakura, and Masaki all give 110 percent and contribute a great deal. Haruna and Kanon are both very good here, with Haruna providing a continually delightful presence. Of the newer girls, Maria Makino stands out the most. The camera doesn’t give enough attention to Haruna Ogata, who should have been highlighted more, while the jury’s still out on Akane and Miki, although neither one embarrasses themselves.
In the opening number, “Oh My Wish,” Riho, Ayumi, Erina and Mizuki do a separate dance routine while the other girls do all the singing. It’s a great number, but we only see it uninterrupted during the song’s opening instrumentals. Once the singing starts, the camera cuts to the singers and we miss some the quartet’s best dance moves. No reason why they couldn’t have made a long shot letting us see the four perform the default camera position with only short, quick cuts to the individual singers.
Haruka, Sakura, Haruna and Haruna certainly rock those hats.
Theres a very creative VTR intro sequence with taped, posed shots of the girls one-by-one, each handling a prism. Some of them are so beautiful in their shots. Check out: Akane, Maria, Haruna I, Erina and Masaki’s smile!
First costume change:
Four songs in these costumes:
“Sukatto My Heart”
“The Matenrou Show”
“Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi”
“Ai no Gundan”
Great dancing in these numbers. Riho does the dance solo in “Tsumetai...” which would be taken over by Ayumi in subsequent performances of this song.
Then another costume change:
And four songs in these costumes:
“What’s Up? Ai wa Dou na no yo~”
“Motto Aishite Hoshii no”
"Ambitious," first performed by MM in 2006, is a good one for this lineup and they spread out around Budokan’s sprawling stage runways to perform it.
There’s a cute MC segment with Haruna Iikubo, Maria, and Haruka. The two of them appear to lavish praise on Maria and 10th Gen with Haruna describing Maria as “Angelface” and multiple declarations of “kawaii,” with Maria properly awed, grateful and delighted.
Mizuki does a solo of “As for One Day,” an MM song originally done in 2003. It’s a little somber for her and she’s decked out in a most unflattering gown. I wish they’d given her a more playful, upbeat number (and a more flattering outfit).
Then Riho comes out in a red gown which is kind of clunky and interferes with her dancing as she does a solo of “Osaka Koi no Uta,” an MM song from 2005. At least it doesn’t interfere with her singing.
Then all four members of 9th Gen come out and do “Aisaretai no Ni,” all in similar dresses. I’m not familiar with this song and I didn’t much care for it. Erina’s the only one here who looks good in this kind of dress and they gave her a color that works for her and the right accessories, too, a scarf, gloves, and a hat, which makes her stand out.
The dance moves on the floor don’t work in these dresses:
9th Gen goes off to change, while the rest of the group comes out in new costumes to sing “Tomo”:
Then, at the 65-minute mark, there’s a Medley. The first song is “Wolf Boy,” another song that’s new to me, and it’s bolstered by some nice related visuals in the stage design. The instrumental opening gives the girls a chance for some new choreography.
This is followed by “Tiki Bun,” another song well-suited to this lineup.
Then there’s the “Acrobatic and Dance Performance” a choreographed set that also involves acrobatic flips by Erina and Ayumi.
Erina does four back flips in a row!
Following the medley, in the middle of “Songs,” they do another costume change:
Four energetic performances of MM staples:
“Password is Zero”
"Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai No Joke"
“Maji desu ka Ska”
“One Two Three”
Now for the encore as the crowd chants: “Sa-ya-shi! Sa-ya-shi!”
Only three more songs, but also a long MC segment to fill out the next 38 minutes.
“One and Only,” their only song entirely in English:
They’re in new red plaid costumes, the ones they wore in Houston 2 months later.
And now the MC segment in which each girl gives a farewell message to Riho:
Haruna Ogata cries.
Of course, Masaki makes it funny, gets laughs and even yells at Riho. She cites “Morning Musume one-six, one-seven and one-eight,” although I didn’t get the context. [A helpful comment below gives the explanation.] And it ends with Masaki declaring “hontou ni tottemo daisuki desu!”
Haruna I’s voice starts to crack.
Then, after everyone has spoken, Riho responds.
There are a number of references in the remarks to “live viewing” because the concert was live streamed to theaters in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan and they even say “Ni hao” into the camera at one point.
The next-to-last song is “Endless Sky” and Riho cries during it.
The final song is “Koko ni Iruzee”:
As the girls say goodbye to the massive crowd, rounding the huge venue, the end credits roll.
After the end credits, the crowd chants for Riho.
Riho comes back out alone and gives five more minutes to the crowd, her last chance to address her audience alone. A beautiful thing to witness, but sad. More than anyone else, Riho helped galvanize Morning Musume after a six-year slump that began when the first members of 4th Gen began to leave the group. MM really came back to life with 9th Gen and Riho was the prime mover.
As she thanks the audience, she begins to run around the stage, waving to all sides.
She milks it to the last minute, God bless her.