ARTICLES The real reason Fukumura Mizuki became part of Morning Musume.

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The real reason Fukumura Mizuki became part of Morning Musume.​

2020/11/19 02:00

This is Tsunku♂, just finished having a discussion with the leader of Morning Musume. '20, Fukumura Mizuki. As a special postscript to that discussion, I'm bringing you a column with my thoughts for Fukumura and reality of the 9th generation auditions.
(Written by Tsunku♂ / Edited by Ozawa Aya / Translated by Lurkette

From the moment she joined Hello!Pro Egg (now Hello!Pro Kenshuusei, onward "Egg"), Fukumura was a girl that had a kind of impact. Her appearance was soft and her dancing, gentle, and while she did stand out on stage in a bad way sometimes, to that extent, she stood out to me.

The Eggs were mainly supporting Takahashi Ai and the other members working hard in Morning Musume, and I felt that the girls would keep at it and develop their skills, but if I didn't make a place where they could someday work as idols, the girls who by nature wanted to join Hello!Project would disappear, so I was coaching the Egg members.

My motivation for being involved in that coaching was because I didn't think it would be a good thing for the atmosphere of the Eggs to be, "I can't join Morning Musume unless I've already gone to a dance school and can dance super sharply and can sing really well and am used to being on stage."

After debuting on ASAYAN, when Morning Musume was the trend of the times, even if we didn't promote much, we still got lots of applicants for auditions so we were able to have our choice of the best.

However, as the peak of their popularity passed, what if people began to feel that only the girls who went above that established standard would be given a place to debut...? There was some apprehension that the number of applicants would decrease.

"Morning Musume." should be a place where normal girls can rise up if they put in the effort.

After Mitsui, JunJun, and LinLin joined, we didn't have new member auditions for 3 or 4 years. For Egg, we recruited as needed, so we got a few new members coming in each season, but there were also girls who would end up quitting. We could only train the Egg members who were already there, since the numbers never increased that suddenly.

Rehearsals were the basic point where they'd get some guidance. Even if their performances were mostly finished up in rehearsals, because they'd go along to the summer and winter Hello!Project concerts (Hello!Con), they'd be pulled up by their seniors to raise their performance abilities a little bit more. Better in winter than they were in summer, better the next summer than they were in winter, that's how it went.

The period of the greatest growth for mind and body is between the 5th year of elementary school and the 2nd year of middle school. If they get just a little push at that age, they'll grow by leaps and bounds. And then if someone were the type to learn by watching their seniors and taking those techniques for herself, she'd think more and understand my instructions in rehearsals, so those kinds of girls also grew quickly.

What's funny is how they tend to grow all at once, like they're a completely different person after a moment. Then, they stagnate for a while before growing like crazy again. This is period of stagnation leads to the biggest change, if you learn something from that time. ←This is key.

Girls like Fukumura who love Hello!Pro are also very conscious of this, always trying to grab onto new things. Their hearts are full of admiration, wanting to be in the Morning Musume or Hello!Pro they fell in love with or wanting to be even more popular. Naturally, Fukumura was also someone who didn't want to lose to anyone else in Egg.

During that time, the Morning Musume 9th generation auditions had begun, an open call for anyone in the country. I suspect the Egg members were shaken. "Huh? I can't join Morning Musume after all from being in Egg. Does that mean girls applying from outside the company have a better chance?" That sort of feeling was hanging in the air.

Well, there was no precedent of girls working hard in Egg for years and then joining Morning Musume that way, so that's surely what they were all thinking. "I thought they haven't had any auditions in 3 or 4 years so that they could choose someone who has been training in Egg for that long, but no!?"

Berryz Koubou and ℃-ute were formed from Hello!Project Kids members, but in the end, the story is still that they couldn't join Morning Musume. I had a different idea at the time, proposing that some of the girls might join Morning Musume after spending some time in Berryz Koubou or ℃-ute.

With this set-up, the Morning Musume brand would remain the peak of Hello!Pro, and the girls in other units could still have the goal of joining the group if they could break out in terms of things like popularity and ability.

For Egg and the trainees, even if they started out in a small side unit, they could break through and get a chance to join Morning Musume. I thought that that would be a good flow to have.

However, this proposal wasn't approved. There were some other things to think about, like that someday there could be a unit of people who stayed in Hello!Pro longer than Morning Musume members did, or that things might get unbalanced if girls moved from unit to unit like that.

Nevertheless, the 9th generation member audition was moving forward.

As Fukumura said in our discussion, she was considering quitting Egg when she entered her third year of middle school because she'd need to prepare for her high school entrance exams, which I absolutely understand.

However, my position is as a producer who thinks about the future of Morning Musume as a whole, which is separate from my feelings about the future of the Egg members.

In the regional preliminary rounds of the audition, there was a young girl who could really dance. Seeing the data we got on the girls, including video, I was honestly grinning, since it had been so long without an audition and Morning Musume was sort of at a standstill. But the the other staff members didn't understand that feeling and closed up that file.

Of course, I did have that feeling again afterwards, but there were naturally also applicants in the 3rd or 4th round where something wasn't right, like their singing wouldn't cut it.

Still, it was about the balance of the group as a whole. I got into an almost conspiratorial mood where all I could think about was how adding new members could create synergy in the Morning Musume that had grown stale. It was like baseball, where I needed just one person, top-tier ace, to be brought in.

For both the public and the hardcore fans, even for Hello!Pro itself, freshness was needed, so I wanted to bring in as many new members as there were existing members, if not more.

If we didn't and just one or two new girls joined, I felt that they'd get absorbed into the existing environment their seniors had developed and the group wouldn't change, in the end. If the new members outnumbered the existing, the new members would make the standards. They could make new rules to suit the new members, and the team would change. I thought it would undoubtedly be better.

Then there was a question of how many could join in terms of the budget for training the new recruits. It was that sort of fight. Still, no matter how few additions we'd have, I wanted to use the framework of the Eggs no matter what it took, so at the same time, I was thinking about how I should bring Fukumura into the group.

What was important was the necessity of setting things up for TV production.

Establishing a stubborn policy that no one in Morning Musume would come from Egg meant that it would all be for nothing, so we set up a system where the Egg members would be able to apply for the audition starting from the second round with interviews. Naturally, the TV crew would follow that. Doing this, the Egg members had an advantage and could audition, which the members consented to and made the fans more relieved. There was a lot of positive chatter on the internet, and the company gained newsworthiness from it, so we moved on with it with this understanding of how things were to go.

In the end, as everyone knows, Sayashi, Ikuta, and Suzuki were announced as the 3 winners on stage, and then I finally called out for "Fukumura" to "come on down" from the Eggs sitting in the bleachers on stage, and she was also presented as part of Morning Musume's 9th generation. As a result, 4 new members joined. It was less than I had imagined, but it was enough people to cause the Morning Musume of that time to change.

Fukumura, with her amount of experience from Hello!Pro Egg, started from a position as a sort of older sister to the rest of the 9th generation and she would later become leader, but back then, with 4 new members joining the group, she truly became someone I was glad to have there. More than anything, she was the trailblazer for members moving from Egg to Morning Musume.

Because Morning Musume has a long history, girls who join later have it really hard. Just the songs alone number in the hundreds. Even if they're only instructed to learn the singles, that's not so simple. It's different from when girls joined in the early days of the group, where girls who were cute in their hometown could audition after school. Now, there's a foundation needed in singing and dancing, and if you don't know the songs, you can't perform right away.

That's why it became typical for members to go from the trainees to Morning Musume and other units. It's not limited to Hello!Pro, you can find the same sort of trainee system in K-Pop. You could say the era when you could get into a group just by being cute has passed.

I did scold Fukumura in our conversation, but, well, I guess it's the ramblings of an old man. I feel strongly that my words are just coming from a current fan, however.

Thinking back, in her era of Egg, we wanted to put a little more focus on the live MCs, so together with writers, we'd have each member come in turn and go over what they should say. Among the members, Fukumura and Wada (Wada Ayaka, later the first leader of ANGERME) were the worst at telling stories, nothing came out of those conversations. We made smalltalk, asked about usual routines at school, different things, until finally something useful came out. We latched onto that and worked to expand those stories for the MC.

For Fukumura what came out of it was that her grandpa owned two train cars, and for Wada, it was that when we asked her what breed of dog she had, she said, "stray."

I don't know if it made it onto a DVD at the time, but we worked these discussions into a script, got them to memorize their cues from Makocchan (Makoto, member of SharanQ with Tsunku and host of many Hello!Pro trainee events), and then ad lib their facial expressions on stage, but, well, it was a huge hit. That explosive power is a skill only unknowns possess, and because they themselves were so serious, that made it even funnier.

So now, Fukumura and the other senior members know that if they don't pull out the good points (or even the bad points) of the new members and amplify that by 100, it won't add to the charm of the group. Girls who half-ass their manners are funny (manners are of course very important, though), and energy the change the team rules that the senior members made is essential. Enjoying that can only be done if they have a great love of Morning Musume.

I want her to leave the scolding to the managers and have the members push their way to a new group.

This conversation has inspired me to reexamine my work and see Fukumura's ever-present Hello!Pro and Morning Musume love in a new light. It also made me realize I have to meet with all the other members, too. I feel like I can see the future of the group a little more clearly, and she gave me a lot of courage. I'm grateful to Fukumura. Thanks.

So then, now I want to spend my days focused on creating as many songs as I can.

See you next time!

<The photo is from summer 2018 in Hawaii>
 
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