Graduations in Morning Musume make way for new members!

It's been widely reported everywhere today. The Hello!Online thread gained upwards of 30 pages in posts in less than 24 hours. The usual IRC channels haunted by Hello!Project fans have been talking about it all day, and of course, the blogosphere and microblogging networks like twitter alike have exploded with the news.

This morning, the news broke that Morning Musume would see the graduation of not one, not two, but three members simultaneously. Kamei Eri, leaving due to long-term health problems, and our two Foreign Exchange Students, JunJun and LinLin, who will return to China, are to graduate at the end of the coming concert tour.

The decision has proven to be controversial, with Tsunku's twitter account being bombarded by questions about his intentions as well as simple threats and insults from disillusioned fans. Of course, these fans seem to forget that the revolving door lineup has existed since 1998, and getting angry about it all now, 12 years on, is a little late. It was expected. We all knew that each of these girls would graduate at some point or another.

As it stands, JunJun is my current favourite member of Morning Musume, and so, I'm of course sad to see her leave. But it would appear that JunJun and LinLin both must return to China, where they are set to become artists in their own right if all goes well, due to the fact that their Visas won't last forever. They've lived in Japan for 3 years now, and from the start they were added as "exchange students", meaning that their placement in the group was never permenant, and that eventually they would return back home. What it is they'll do with the training they recieved over the course of the last 3 years remains to be seen.

Thinking about it, however. I noticed that since I became a fan, around January 2007, each and every graduation has involved my favourite member of the time. Back in 2007, I started off as a Yossy fan. And 5 or 6 months after I became a fan, her graduation rolled by. For a long time following, my fandom existed in limbo. Remaining a Yossy fan, though her inactivity caused that to wane. I then became a fan of Berryz, and have been ever since. But even beyond this point, there was something of a ranking battle going on in my head between the various Morning Musume members to determine who it was that was my favourite. Eventually Koharu won out, and all to quickly after reaching a solid decision, Koharu was also set to graduate. Following that, I had a fair idea almost immediately about who my new favourite would be. JunJun, only cemented by my excursion to Paris last month. And here we are again, stood in front of Tsunku anouncing that she too will graduate.

Am I cursed? Probably. Three graduations in a row, the only three graduations since I became a fan, have all resulted in me losing my favourite member of the group.

But, those who read my blog will recall that last time, when Koharu graduated, I said that I was happy. Koharu was "taking one for the team" as it were. I stand by that same mentality this time. I love graduations. They keep Morning Musume, a group that was built upon the foundations of that Graduation/Audition system, interesting. I've been asking for graduations since 2008. It came with Koharu. Now it's come again with Eri, JunJun and LinLin. I can't get angry at Tsunku like everyone else seems to have when I wanted graduations, just because he didn't graduate a member I didn't like.  That'd simply be hypocrisy. 

Of course, one thing that many people are forgetting is the new auditions. Announced the same day, Tsunku is looking for at least one girl, aged between 10 and 17 to join the group.

As per usual, this causes much debate over the issue of age. Is 10 years old too young to be an Idol? I don't think so. Airi was 9 when she got her semi-debut as a member of Aa! Is it too young for a Morning Musume member? Given the current age range of the group, I'd say so. Unless Tsunku plans to add 2 or 3 girls around 12 years old to bring that average back down again, I think a slightly older girl of 15 or 16 might be best. Though I, famously, prefer Idols to start out younger. It's often the soundest business strategy.  But it is quite a context sensetive thing. I'm not entirely sure that a lone 10 year old will sufficiently be able to come out of her shell and show off her character with Idols 8 years her elder around her - some of whom having been in the industry since she was born.

In order for it to work well, I think Tsunku will either draft in a single girl in her mid teens, or multiple girls in their early/mid teens.


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