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Morning Musume not ready to graduate yet

At Morning Musume's inception, the group's fan base was diverse, attracting young girls, boys and parents. But another probable reason for their recent decline can be attributed to the resurgent otaku (obsessive fans). At a recent Hello! Project show in front of around 14,000 in Yokohama Arena, barely a single woman could be spotted among the dedicated and exuberant middle-age male crowd.


single woman=一般的には独身女性

In April 2004, audio footage recorded backstage reportedly captured then-member Rika Ishikawa exclaiming: "Look at them. Grownups screaming like that! I can't believe it. So stupid!" Although such a scandal is rare in the micromanaged Musume life, standing in front of such frenzied supporters clearly affects the girls.

2004年4月には、当時のメンバー石川梨華の舞台裏の音声の盗聴した:「あの人たちを見て。大の大人がそんなに叫ぶなんて! 信じらんない。馬鹿みたい!」このようなスキャンダルモーニング娘。の歴史の詳細においても珍しいことですが、このような熱狂的なサポーターの前に立つことにより、明らかに少女たちに影響を与えます。


"I've been doing this for eight years but I still get as nervous as I did the first time," says Takahashi.



"I get a little nervous," states Niigaki, "but I love live shows so much, and being able to see the joyful faces of the fans."


Lin Lin, meanwhile, finds it "too enjoyable to stay nervous!"


"The fans know about us in great detail," continues Niigaki, "and they can perform all our dance moves perfectly at the live shows!" Nevertheless, all the girls surprisingly admit that they walk comfortably on the streets without a disguise.



Conversely, "there are a lot of female fans in China and Korea," says Takahashi. "So we get to hear fans shouting in high-pitched voices, not the usual low (otaku) voices!"


"Chinese people applaud a lot and we all love (them waving) glittering light sticks," says Lin Lin. "You can't see the applause, but you can see the lights!"


we all=みんな
light sticks」はペンライトやケミカルライト(サイリウム)のことを指すと思われます。欧米の野外ロックフェスの映像を見る限りでは、こういったものを振る習慣はなく、バラードなどでライターの灯をともす光景をよく見かけました。

Morning Musume's move into China has been seen as the next logical step for the group. However, all has not gone according to plan.

モーニング娘。の中国への進出はグループのための次の一手とみなされました。しかし、 すべてが予定通りに進んだわけではありません。

next logical step=次の一手...かな

"The attempt to launch Morning Musume into China hasn't gone very well," admits Nishikata. "CDs don't sell well, because they are soon pirated. Two years ago, when Lin Lin and Jun Jun (22) joined, we tried to push them hard to China, but it didn't go so well. We are still trying to find a way."


trying to find=探す

The future of succeeding generations of Morning Musume is clearly something Nishikata is working hard to secure. And a move to the West is a definite possibility.


the West=欧米
working hard=頑張っている、努力している

"In Europe and the U.S., there are many fans of Morning Musume and Japanese idoru (manufactured entertainers), thanks to the Internet," says Nishikata. "(We) were invited to an event in L.A. called A.X. (Anime Expo) as a music guest this July. There are already a lot of fans of Japanese animation (in the U.S.), so it might be easy to get in through that."

ヨーロッパアメリカでは、インターネットのおかげで、多くのモーニング娘。と日本のアイドル(作られたエンタティナー)のファンがいます。」と西方氏は言います。「(私たちは)今年の6月にゲストとしてA.X. (アニメエキスポ)と呼ばれるロサンゼルスのイベントに招待されました。」 既に(米国では)日本のアニメに多くのファンがいるので、あのように親しまれるのは容易かもしれない。

get in=親しくなる
through that=あんな思い

No matter where they go next, the curiosity is that Morning Musume, the concept, will no doubt continue to outlast any of its members.


Morning Musume's ninth album, "Purachina 9 Disc," ("Platinum 9 Disc") is out March 18.

モーニング娘。の9枚目のアルバムプラチナ 9 DISC("Platinum 9 Disc")」は3月18日にリリースされます。



Morning Musume not ready to graduate yet

Morning Musume have recently been on a slow decline in terms of sales, and the group's revolving-door regeneration has had the negative effect that few consumers today recognize individual members. However, the girls' different personalities are highly apparent, and it's clear the management is keen to cultivate their individual abilities to reverse the slide.


"Each one should be recognized as being in Morning Musume in her prime," says Nishikata. "It used be like that. Morning Musume were well known, but also (original member) Natsumi Abe was well known (in her own right). But nobody knows who is in Morning Musume anymore."


「It used be like that.」はGoogleのマシン翻訳では「そのようにされています」なので「もうそうなっちゃってる」という意味に近いかも。転じて「ご存知の通り」か?...うーん...どちらにしてもこの部分の訳が一番厄介でした。

Each member's forced "graduation" as they are deemed too old or mature, or the group need a fresh face, is the point by which they must have established themselves enough to go it alone. The inevitability of their young retirement from the group, though, is something the current crop barely consider as a limitation.


go it alone=一人でやる≒ソロ活動

"I can't think of my graduation at all," says an animated Niigaki, before conceding, "I think of it a little now that I'm one of the longest-serving of the group, but when I first joined, never! I only thought about how to catch up with the other girls."

「私は全く自分の卒業について考えることが出来ません。」と新垣里沙は認める前に動作を交えて言います。「私はグループ在籍期間の一番長い一人だということを、少しつづですが考えるようになりました。しかし、私が加入した時はそうじゃなかった! 私は他のメンバーに追いつくことばかり考えていました。」

"I'd really like to make sure each one of them continues to work after their graduation," explains Nishikata. "We have promoted them as a group so far, but from now on, we'd like to promote them one by one, so I hope they can do more personal work after this summer."



Takahashi's willingness to answer quickly and authoritatively, supported by the considered approach of Niigaki, reflects in their older-sisterly roles as leader and subleader. In reality, they admit that the titles translate to little extra work.



"We sometimes form a circle before a live show or something. And we shout for self-encouragement, like, 'Ganbatte-ikemasu!' ('Let's go do our best!') " says Takahashi.

「私たちはコンサートなどの前に円陣をつくります。そして、自分達を励ますために『頑張っていきまっしょい!』('Let's go do our best!')と叫びます 」と高橋愛は言います。


Niigaki continues, "There is nothing I have to do as a subleader, but I want to support Ai when she's got a problem. So I have no pressure!"

新垣里沙は続けます, "私がサブリーダーとしてすることは何もありませんが、愛ちゃんに何か起きたときにサポートしたいです。だから私にはプレッシャーはありません!」

Meanwhile, the other members of the group seem to be as diverse as Takahashi, Niigaki and Lin Lin.


"The naughty one is Mitsy (Aika Mitsui, age 16). She won't let us sleep on a plane!" reveals Niigaki. "The funniest is Koharu Kusumi" (16) - the only girl selected in the audition for the seventh generation. "So her nickname was 'Miracle Koharu.' Eri Kamei, 20, is the messy one. She can't put things in order!"


She can't put things in order!」ってのは「整理整頓出来ない(後片付け出来ない)」のか「決まり事を後回しする」のか、ちょっとハッキリしないところです。

Despite spending so much time together, the girls admit that even in their free time, they are rarely separated. They are rather coy, though, on the topic of seemingly inevitable group in-fighting.


admit=許可する、free timeをadmitするってのは、休憩時間も一緒にいる(時間を共にする)ってことです。

"We always discuss a problem all together," says Niigaki.


"Sometimes one of our staff advises us to discuss a problem," adds Takahashi. "We are doing fine!"




Morning Musume not ready to graduate yet

Morning Musume not ready to graduate yet

Three members of the Japanese pop phenomenon (and their manager) insist their mornings are far from numbered

Most artists dream of longevity, but few are afforded significant time in the limelight. The paradox of all-girl group Morning Musume, 12 years since they began, is the enforced time-limit its members face in order for the group to remain forever young.

Generation eight of the group, with nine members, is the longest-running incarnation so far, celebrating its two-year anniversary this month. Yet under the tutelage of producer Tsunku, "graduation" is likely never far away.


Generation eight=8期

The institution that is Morning Musume (Morning Girls) began under inauspicious circumstances in 1997. TV Tokyo's celebrated morning show "Asayan" ran a segment in which a contest was held to find a solo female singer for Tsunku, then of pop-rock outfit Sharan Q.

そのお馴染みの「モーニング娘。(Morning Girls)」は1997年に不幸な事情のもとに始まりました。テレビ東京の有名な朝の番組「ASAYAN」のワンコーナーとしてのコンテストは、つんく♂(当時のポップロック集団「シャ乱Q」)のためにソロの女性歌手を見つけ確保するものでした。

「morning show "Asayan"」は誤解。正しくは「浅草橋」の「浅」。
「under inauspicious circumstances」も根拠が不明。

The winner, Michiyo Heike, fared badly, so Tsunku challenged the five runners-up to sell 50,000 copies of their debut indie single, "Ai no Tane" ("Seeds of Love"), within five days. The girls captivated the nation as they sought to achieve the feat by asking strangers on the street, family and friends to help them out.

その勝者「平家みちよ」は上手く運ばなかったので、つんく♂は5名の次点者に彼女達のインディーズ盤デビューシングル愛の種("Seeds of Love")」を5日間以内で50,000枚売ることに挑戦させました。少女達は偉業を達成するために、家族や友人の助けを借りて街頭の見知らぬ人を誘う姿に、国民は心を奪われました。

「The winner, Michiyo Heike, fared badly」も根拠が不明。このあたりは今回の話の主旨ではないので、それほど丁寧に取材されてはいないようだ。

Success on the fourth day won them a deal with Tsunku as producer of their debut proper, and the single "Morning Coffee" hit No. 6. However, it was Tsunku's decision to boost the group with three more girls for the second single that began the tradition of "generations" and a phenomenon known as Hello! Project, an enterprise made up of innumerable, member-changing girl groups.


Sitting squeezed together on a cafe sofa in central Tokyo, wide-eyed and eager, are "band leader" Ai Takahashi, age 22, "subleader" Risa Niigaki, 20, and one of the group's two Chinese members, Lin Lin, 17. One might think the members of this chart-happy Japanese institution would be run off their feet, but they show no signs of it.


run off one's feet=とても忙しい

"We get winter, summer and New Year holidays for five days each, though it depends on the situation," explains Niigaki.


Exuding self-confidence, Takahashi bursts out, "I went to New York! I saw Blue Man Group and Broadway musicals like 'Phantom of the Opera,' 'The Producers' and 'Chicago!' "

自信を滲ませているように高橋愛が突然話しかけます。「私はニューヨークに行きました! 『BLUE MAN GROUP』と『オペラ座の怪人』『プロデューサーズ』『CHICAGO』みたいなブロードウェイミュージカルを見ました。」

Morning Musume's music has rarely changed, perhaps not surprising given that one man has produced every song. The hollow keyboard-driven productions may epitomize everything non-Japanese tend to hate about J-pop, but the catchiness of No. 1 hits such as "Happy Summer Wedding" (2000) and "As For One Day" (2003) endear the group to even hardened critics.Takahashi and Niigaki are now the longest- serving members in the group's history, both having joined in 2001 as part of the fifth generation.

モーニング娘。音楽はめったに変わりませんし、一人で全ての曲の制作していることは知られていて、おそらく驚きもしません。中身のないキーボードによる作品群は、すべての外国人(日本人以外)においてはJ-POPを嫌う傾向の典型かもしれませんが、「ハッピーサマーウェディング」(2000)や「AS FOR ONE DAY」(2003)といったNo.1ヒットは、グループは冷酷な評論家にさえ愛されるほど人の気を引きます。高橋愛新垣里沙は現在のグループの歴史上在籍期間の一番長いメンバーですが、両者とも2001年に加入した5期の一部です。

"In my case," says Takahashi, "since I was little I've loved singing in front of people. So, when I saw Morning Musume, I wanted to join them. But more than that, I just wanted to be a singer.


"There was an audition at a training camp for three days and two nights. We got a new song, new dance steps and a new script and had to remember them all," explains Takahashi. "There were nine girls for the final screening, out of 25,000 applicants. So I was really surprised when I passed the audition!"


Lin Lin (real name Qian Lin), from Hangzhou, China, had an entirely different entrance experience, as the group's management sought to expand across borders.


"At first, I liked Japanese animation and fell in love with Japanese music," she says. "So I was very lucky to get an invitation from Japan to join Morning Musume."


Established as a TV host and drama actress in China, she was recommended to Tsunku by a friend of his. "And so I came to Japan to join the Hello! Project Egg!" she says.


"The Hello! Project Egg is a kind of training center for pop stars-to-be, where they practice singing and dancing," explains Takahashi. "Lin Lin became one of us from there, and some join the other groups."


The "other groups," such as Tanpopo, Mini Moni and Happy 7, are usually side projects featuring a combination of new and old Morning Musume members and other Hello! Project girls. Most only last for a single or two, but all are produced by one man: the all-controlling Tsunku.


"He decides everything," explains the group's manager since September 2008, Kouichi Nishikata. "Usually an artist is controlled by their management, but this group is formed by the producer. It is a rare case."



Nishikata admits, "I think that the group could never survive without him. Tsunku really produces the songs, concepts, costumes, makeup, live shows, CD-sleeve designs - you name it! I had thought there was a stand-in or something to do all that."

西方氏は認めます。「私が思うにこのグループはあの人無しでは決して生き残れませんでした。つんく♂さんは楽曲、コンセプト、コスチューム、メイクアップ、コンサート、CDジャケットのデザイン、...その他何でも、実際に生み出しました! 私は代役や、これだけの事をする何かがあると思ってました。」

you name it=その他何でも

"Recently, the songs Mr. Tsunku gives us are kind of mature and lonesome," says Niigaki.


Asked how they may differ if they were in control, Niigaki replies: "If I could write a song, I'd like to write a little funny and jolly tune!"

もし彼女達の支配下にあったらどうしたいかを聞いてみました。 新垣里沙が答えます。「私が曲を書けたら、ちょっと面白くて楽しい曲を書きたいです!」

"(I'd do) something cool. A danceable tune!" says Takahashi. "Like Destiny's Child."

「かっこよくって、ダンサブルな曲!」と高橋愛は言います。「『Destiny's Child』のような。」

Revealing their very different personalities, the perky Lin Lin suggests "rock music! A very crazy song! And the lyrics would be written in Chinese, Japanese and English!"

彼女達の非常に異なる個性明らかになるにつれ、 元気のいいリンリンは提案します。「ロック! とってもクレージーな曲! それで、歌詞は中国語と日本語と英語!」




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