The Hello! Project 2016 Summer concert is on its way to my mailbox, so I wanted to make sure I covered the Winter 2016 concert first. As usual, these past few years, the H!P ensemble concerts just keep getting better and better. Seven solid acts keep the show moving at a fast pace, supplemented by the idols-in-training of the H!P Kenshuusei. The Nakano Sunplaza is not the best venue for this large an ensemble, what with the small stage and dark lighting, but the songs and performers are so good that it compensates.
Even though my favorites, Riho Sayashi and Kanon Fukuda, had left H!P before this concert, at least Meimi Tamura was still there as well as a host of other strong veteran performers, led by Ayumi Ishida, Erina Ikuta, Haruka Kudo, Mizuki Fukumura, and Sakura Oda from Morning Musume; Ayaka Wada and Kana Nakanishi from Angerme; all five members of C-ute; Karin Miyamoto, Sayuki Takagi and Tomoko Kanazawa from Juice=Juice; and Momoko Tsugunaga from Country Girls, not to mention all my new favorites, including all the new members of Angerme, my MM 12th Gen favorite, Maria Makino, and various members of Country Girls, Kobushi Factory and Tsubaki Factory.
It’s a two-and-a-half-hour concert on two discs and here are some of the highlights.
The opening ensemble number is “Makeru na Wasshoi!” originally a Bekimasu number from 2011 (a special unit combining Berryz Kobo, C-ute, S/mileage and Erina Mano).
Rocking the red hats: Haruka Kudo, Karin Miyamoto, Rikako Sasaki, Rena Ogawa:
Rocking the white hats: Erina Ikuta, Mai Ozeki:
There’s a brief dance bit by selected members in the middle of the song.
Erina and Ayumi make a great couple:
Erina does her trademark flips.
The Kenshuusei come out and do the old Zyx! number, “Shiroi Tokyo,” a song I’ve always enjoyed, and it’s an absolute delight.
Tsubaki Factory does “Kedakaku Sakihokore!” They’re all really good here and I really like this song. There’s such a strong dynamic with these six members, that I don’t understand why they recently added new members.
Next comes Kobushi Factory and one of my favorite H!P songs in years, “Dosukoi Kenkyo ni Daitan.” Their performance of it is perfect, maybe the best I’ve seen of it yet. And they dance strenuously while they sing it.
Minami Nomura is on fire! In such a strong lineup, she’s gradually working her way up to the top rank in my estimation.
Country Girls does “Boogie Woogie Love.” The group has seven members. Manaka Inaba hasn’t left the group yet and the new members are there in yellow: Musubu Funaki and Nanami Yanagawa. It’s a good, lively number with lots of dancing and an old rock ‘n’ roll flavor.
Morning Musume does “Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi,” probably my favorite MM song since “Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe.” I like the way the number is shot and staged. The white costumes really work well here.
This is the one with the dance solo that Riho used to do, only Ayumi does it now--to great effect.
C-ute does “Arigatou Mugen no Yale,” a good song that plays to their vocal strengths.
C-ute does “Lalala Shiawase no Uta,” but is joined by the ensemble, with Juice=Juice in new costumes. They go out into the audience for this one.
Then we come to the mix-and-match portion of the concert, where individual members from the different groups combine to recreate special units from H!P’s past.
Angerme’s Meimi Tamura and Juice=Juice’s Karin Miiyamoto come out and do a W song, “Dekobokosebuntin.” The two are great and easily the next best thing to Aibon and Nono returning.
C-ute’s Airi Suzuki leads a special unit to do the old Romans song “Sexy Night ~Wasurerarenai Kare~” and is joined by MM’s Ayumi Ishida, Angerme’s Akari Takeuchi, Kobushi Factory’s Ayaka Hirose, and Tsubaki Factory’s Risa Ogata. They’re all good, with Ayaka and Risa surprising me by how well they hold their own with the veterans alongside them. Ayumi does the background vocals and exclamations that I believe Tsunku did on the original.
Then we get a revival of the old Tanpopo 3rd gen song, “Be Happy Koi no Yajirobee,” with C-ute’s Mai Hagiwara leading Angerme’s Rikako Sasaki, Morning Musume’s Miki Nonaka, and Tsubaki Factory’s Ami Tanimoto.
Then we get the two senior group leaders, C-ute’s Maimi Yajima and Angerme’s Ayaka Wada, doing the old GAM song, “Thanks!”
Okay, so it’s not quite Great Aya and Miki (GAM), but it’s wonderful to see these two in a duet five years after they did “Shooting Star” at the joint C-ute & S/mileage concert “C-ute & S/mileage Premium Live 2011 Haru ~C&S Collaboration Daisakusen~” when Ayaka was just a kid, looking up to her experienced “senpai.” Now she’s on the same level (status-wise, maybe not talent-wise, but who in H!P can match Maimi’s performance skill?).
Kobushi Factory and Tsubaki Factory team up to do the rousing Berryz song “Cha Cha Sing”:
Minami rocks that red hat:
Country Girls and Juice=Juice team up to do the C-ute song, “Kanashiki Amefuri.”
I loved “Mystery Night” when S/mileage did it, I love it when Angerme does it, and now I love it when Morning Musume does it:
Disc 2 opens with a special dance performance:
The performers and the choreography are fantastic…
…but, as usual, the camera and directing crew nearly ruin it. There are too many close shots and out-of-focus shots, too much quick cutting, and the lighting’s too dark. Would it hurt them to let us actually SEE the dancers?!
I couldn’t even i.d. all the performers without help and a frame-by-frame search.
But here they are:
From C-ute: Maimi, Saki
From MM: Ayumi, Haruka, Maria
From Angerme: Meimi, Rikako, Akari
From CG: Manaka Inaba, Chisaki Morito
From Kobushi Factory: Ayano Hamaura, Rio Fujii
From Tsubaki Factory: Riko Yamagishi
And Ayumi does one of her trademark solo dances, which I always enjoy:
None of the Juice=Juice members participate in the dance because they’re set to come out right afterwards to perform a song;
Angerme does “Dondengaeshi,” a good fast-paced number. The then-new member, Moe Kamikokuryo, is a full participant in every number they do here.
Morning Musume does “One and Only,” their one song that’s entirely in English, wearing the costumes they would wear in Houston a month later.
Is this lip-sync’d? It sure sounds it.
C-ute, Country Girls and Tsubaki Factory come out in succession, each doing good numbers in new costume changes.
Kobushi Factory does another great number, “Sakura Night Fever”:
Juice=Juice does their best song in the concert, “Magic of Love,” and all five of them sound great. And they’re the first to come out in the costumes that all the groups will wear in the remaining numbers and the big finale (same costumes that were in the opening number).
Another great high-energy Angerme number, “Tomo Yo.” (“Yes, yes, we are friends/Yes, yes, we are friends forever!”)
Morning Musume does “Endless Sky”:
C-ute gets some help from the Kenshuusei girls for “Iron Heart,” another high energy number and the last song before the finale.
A lot of these songs are very similar, but I like this type of song so I enjoy a concert filled with them.
The big ensemble finale is the celebrated H!P All Stars song of 12 years earlier, “All for One & One for All.” Unfortunately, it’s a shortened version of the song, which leaves out a lot of the solo lines that made the original so memorable.
The only performers on stage who were in the original performance of this song are the five members of C-ute and Country Girls’ leader, Momoko Tsugunaga.
In roughly six months, they'll all be gone.
How many girls are on stage?
Morning Musume = 12
C-ute = 5
Angerme = 9
Juice=Juice = 5
Country Girls = 7
Kobushi Factory = 8
Tsubaki Factory = 6
H!P Kenshuusei = 12 (not very visible in the final number, but they’re there)
I count 64. 18 more than performed on the original. Is this a record or what? A pretty impressive achievement for such a small stage.