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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in madara_blog's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, March 28th, 2017
9:24 am
Buono! Festa 2016 – Three Stars at their Peak

Buono!, the three-member Hello! Project unit consisting of Country Girls’ leader and former Berryz member Momoko Tsugunaga, former Berryz member Miyabi Natsuyaki, and C-ute member Airi Suzuki, reunited for a concert at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on August 25, 2016. The concert was released on Blu-ray on November 23, 2016 and came with two CD albums containing all the Buono! Song performances in the concert.
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Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
12:02 pm
Concert: Country Girls Live Tour 2016 Haru Natsu

I finally watched a Country Girls concert DVD and it was just great! This concert was the final day of their 2016 Live Tour, June 30, 2016 at Zepp DiverCity. I was disappointed that Manaka Inaba wasn’t in it, due to illness, but this disappointment quickly subsided as the two new members, Musubu Funaki and Nanami Yanagawa, proved what accomplished performers and surprisingly strong singers they are, despite this being their first full CG concert. (They’d already appeared with CG at the Hello! Project 2016 Winter Concert and the HinaFes concert in March, where I saw them live.) They’re already as integral to the group as the 3rd Gen members were to Angerme after they joined in 2014, hitting the ground running and never slowing down since.

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Saturday, February 11th, 2017
7:54 pm
Juice=Juice First Live Tour 2015 ~Special Juice~

I finally watched a Juice=Juice concert DVD. This was taped on May 3, 2015 at Nakano Sunplaza. I will certainly be watching more. As usual, Karin Miyamoto, Sayuki Takagi and Tomoko Kanazawa really stand out, while Akari Uemura and Yuka Miyazaki provide solid support. The girls are all in fine voice and several songs bring out the best of their vocalizing, especially “Senobi,” “Tsuzuiteiku Story,” “Wonderful World,” and the two covers they do, “Kousui,” a Melon Kinenbi song, and “Magic of Love,” an old Taiyo to Ciscomoon song. “Ijiwaru Shinaide Dakishimete yo” finds Karin, Sayuki and Tomoko alternating all the solo lines, while Akari and Yuka join them in the group lines. I wish they did all their songs like that. Tomoko has a solo bit at the end of “Kousui” that’s just beautiful.
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Thursday, January 5th, 2017
4:22 pm
2016: The Year in Hello! Project Fandom
What a year it’s been for this H!P fan.

Three graduations: Meimi Tamura from Angerme; Kanon Suzuki from Morning Musume; Manaka Inaba from Country Girls.

Meimi and Kanon had graduation concerts.

Manaka Inaba didn't.

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Monday, December 12th, 2016
8:02 pm
Kobushi Factory Special Live 2016 Summer in Otodama Sea Studio

This concert came on a separate disc with the newly-issued Kobushi Factory debut album, “Kobushi Sono Ichi.” It was recorded on July 19, 2016 at the Otodama Sea Studio, a ramshackle structure on the beach with a small makeshift stage and a crowd capacity of only a couple hundred.

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Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
6:08 am
Hello! Project 2016 Winter - DANCING! SINGING! EXCITING!
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.

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Monday, November 14th, 2016
8:25 pm
So Many Concerts, So Little Time…Hello! Project’s New Golden Age?
I tend to limit my purchase of Hello! Project releases to albums, concert DVDs and the annual Petit Best PV collections, with the occasional single thrown in. Since there’ve been so few albums lately, I’ve been concentrating on H!P concerts over the last three years with some more on the way, including the H!P Summer 2016 concert, and a few waiting to be viewed for the first time (e.g. Angerme's Meimi Tamura graduation concert and a recent Country Girls concert), plus many waiting to be viewed multiple times more. Whether it’s the four discs in the H!P Countdown Party of 2015 or the four discs of this year’s Hina Fest concerts (two of which I actually attended when I was in Japan), or the various Morning Musume, Hello! Project and Angerme concerts of the last few years, I can’t get enough of them. There’ve been so many that I haven’t had time to review many of them here.
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Monday, October 10th, 2016
12:13 pm
Morning Musume.'15 Concert Tour 2015 Aki PRISM
I’ve got quite a backlog of concerts to review and they just keep piling up. And some of them, like the Hina Fes concerts of this year and the Hello! Project Countdown Party from last year are 4 discs each! And I like to watch them more than once before taking screen grabs and writing them up, so the tasks I’ve set for myself seem quite daunting. And each of these concerts is great. The output from H!P in the last three years, since the start of 2014, is arguably the best work they’ve ever done. And I’ve still got a few more to catch up on.
Prism 1

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.
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Thursday, September 15th, 2016
12:19 pm
Morning Musume.’16 in Houston, Part 2: The Documentary

Disc 1 of Morning Musume.'16 Live Concert in Houston offered the concert, which I covered in Part 1, and disc 2 offers a 103-minute documentary covering Morning Musume’s overall trip to Houston to appear at Anime Matsuri. It is divided into the four days they were there. It’s not subtitled and I really think it should have been because of the high degree of interest this release will have among American fans. Hopefully, Anime Matsuri will deliver a subtitled version. The documentary is about 15 minutes longer than the concert and includes sightseeing trips in Houston on Days 1 & 4, fan events at the convention, including signing sessions and a Q&A, and press interviews.
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Monday, September 12th, 2016
12:37 pm
Morning Musume.’16 in Houston, Part 1: The Concert

Because I was in the final throes of planning my own trip to Japan a week later, I was unable to make it to Houston, Texas for the Morning Musume appearance at Anime Matsuri there in February 2016. I have plenty of friends who went and I got really jealous when I went on Facebook and looked at their photos, watched their videos and read their enthusiastic accounts of the great time they had. Well, now that I have the DVD set featuring the entire concert and a feature-length documentary (with a longer running time than the concert), I can revel in the concert and the girls’ activities in Houston myself. This entry covers the concert while Part 2 will cover the documentary.

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Monday, June 20th, 2016
4:38 pm
Tokyo: A Treasure Trove of Hello! Project Goods
Ai chan
One of the great things about visiting Tokyo is the chance to get Hello! Project releases without paying the exorbitant CDJapan shipping costs and the chance to get all sorts of other H!P and J-pop goods by simply walking into a store.


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Thursday, May 12th, 2016
4:43 pm
Sakura Matsuri 2016: Kyoto and Brooklyn
Japan 2883

On Saturday, April 2, 2016, I was in Kyoto, Japan and wound up, quite by chance, at Umekoji Park where a Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) was in progress and it included a full afternoon program of dances by various student groups and other amateur groups from the region. I was so enthralled by these performances that I stayed the whole afternoon and dropped my plans to visit temples in the city.
Japan 2784

Four weeks later, on Saturday, April 30, having been back home in New York since April 5th, I went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual Sakura Matsuri and enjoyed some of the best weather of the year so far, enhanced by the full blossoms of the Garden’s cherry blossom trees:

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Friday, April 22nd, 2016
9:01 am
Japan Journal, Part 2: Satoyama/Satoumi Events, continued

Since today is Earth Day and the Satoyama/Satoumi Movement is so intricately intertwined with the goals and principles of Earth Day, I thought I’d use the occasion to share the rest of the pictures I took of the Hello! Project performers on Saturday, March 19, 2016 at the Satoyama/Satoumi event at Pacifico Yokohama. This was after the second HinaFes concert I attended earlier in the day (Angerme/Kobushi Factory Premium), about which I’ll write in the next entry.
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Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
9:32 am
Japan Journal, Part 1: Satoyama Opening Ceremony, March 19, 2016

I just got back from four weeks in Japan and there's so much to process and so many pictures to sift through that I thought I'd just start with the one Hello! Project event where I was allowed to take pictures, the Satoyama/Satoumi events of Saturday, March 19 and Sunday March 20, 2016, held at the Pacifico Yokohama, including the opening ceremonies, where I would see pretty much all the current H!P acts, plus several of the OGs (Original Girls). These events coincided with HinaFes, also being held there, where I would see two of the concerts, Morning Musume Premium and Kobushi Factory/Angerme Premium. I will cover the concerts in a later entry.
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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016
2:01 pm
Location Hunting in Japan
I'm planning my first trip to Japan and, in addition to seeing some H!P concerts and all sorts of landmark sightseeing stops, I want to look for various locations used in sentai shows, those action series about five super-powered young people in color-coded costumes that provide the footage for the Power Rangers franchise. I found a website that actually identifies some of these locations: http://neokerberos.free.fr/index.htm

For example, I learned that this location from "Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger," ep. 2 is Funado Park on the Sumida River in northern Tokyo:

...and is seen again in Gokaiger #7:

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Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
12:08 pm
Petit Best 16
Petit Best 16

This year’s compilation of Hello! Project videos (PVs) of the past year is one of the best collections I’ve seen in years. Most of the PVs were new to me, since I prefer seeing them on Blu-ray rather than Youtube, so there was an element of discovery about them, especially since there were so many new girls who weren’t in last year’s Petit Best 15 collection. Morning Musume and Angerme (formerly S/mileage) both had new members, while two new groups made their first appearances in a Petit Best collection, Country Girls and Kobushi Factory. I count 20 new girls total, which must be something of a record. And this is the first Petit Best collection to have two new groups in it (as opposed to special units) in eleven years, since Petit Best 5 in 2004, which gave us three groups--W, Berryz Kobo and Viyuden--in one fell swoop (and still one of my favorite Petit Bests).
Petit Best 5

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Thursday, December 24th, 2015
3:08 pm
Christmas Videos - These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

First, the Hello! Morning Christmas Special from 2005:
This episode of “Hello! Morning” aired in Japan on Christmas, December 25, 2005. This is Part 1 of 2. It begins at the bus station, site of numerous skits in the show, where Kaori plays a teacher trying to lead her charges, six adorable schoolchildren (all played by then-current members of Morning Musume), in different Christmas songs, including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” but they keep getting interrupted by various eccentric characters, including a rapping granny played by Kei Yasuda. Meanwhile, in a studio portion, all current members of MM and all then-still-active past members of MM gather under the guidance of Yuko and interact with a comedian named Shingo Yanagisawa in short improvised skits.

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Monday, November 30th, 2015
2:48 am
Hello! Project 2015 Winter Concert Disc 1: Dance Mode

Disc 1: Dance Mode, from the Hello! Project 2015 Winter Concert Blu-ray set, is one of the best winter concerts H!P has done in years. There’s a whole level of new energy and excitement as a total of ten new girls join in on the action. (And there were four missing due to illness, along with one regular member, Haruka from Morning Musume.) I counted a total of 55 performers onstage in the ensemble numbers, surely a record for a winter concert, and five were absent! And, for the first time ever in a winter H!P concert, there were no pre-9th Gen members of Morning Musume included in the ensemble. (A 6th Gen’er would appear in a separate act later on.)

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Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
1:07 pm
Sayumi’s Graduation
I’ve had the Blu-ray of Morning Musume.'14 Concert Tour 2014 Aki Give Me More Love - Michishige Sayumi Sotsugyo Kinen Special since February, but I didn’t watch it until this past weekend. Frankly, I’d dreaded watching Sayumi Michishige’s graduation because I knew how sad it would be for me. Sayumi’s the last connection to the Morning Musume I knew when I became a fan ten years ago. She was still a relatively new member in that first concert I saw (Hello! Project Winter 2004). And pretty much everything I’ve watched with MM this past year has still had Sayumi in it. My God, she was there on stage a year ago when I saw them live at the Best Buy Theater in New York on October 5, 2014, remember?

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Saturday, September 5th, 2015
8:58 pm
Ten Years of Fandom – A Personal Album
Berryz Kobo Rika 1 Berikyu 2

Last Saturday, August 29, 2015, marked the tenth anniversary of my becoming a fan of Morning Musume and Hello! Project. I celebrated by doing a four-hour karaoke session with other fans at Duet 35 in Manhattan. I opened the session by breaking out a portable DVD player and running the first few numbers of the concert that marked my first exposure to these groups, the “Hello! Project 2004 Winter~C'MON! Dance World~,” at which Natsumi Abe graduated from Morning Musume. The others present hadn’t seen this concert before. It was an attempt to recreate that thrill of discovery that I first experienced ten years ago. The first three numbers in the concert were “Ai no Sono ~Touch My Heart~” (Morning Musume Otomegumi), “Hare Ame Nochi Suki” (Morning Musume Sakuragume), and “Go Girl (Koi no Victory)” (Morning Musume). We did two of the three (“Ai no Sono” and “Go Girl”) during the session. (For some reason, all my attempts to call up “Hare Ame Nochi Suki” on Duet 35’s machine failed.)
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