I felt like it was about time I posted an update. I know some of you don’t follow the site on Twitter or Facebook but choose instead to check on updates the old-fashioned way (though at this point I can only hope not many of you continue to do so daily). A majority of you must be wondering if I’m just lazing around with Wota in Translation, if I still have plans for it, or if I’ve forgotten about it altogether. The answer to all three questions is “no.“
I used to have a personal blog. Five years ago or so I made a post on it, titled along the lines of “I’m not a fan of idol music — I’m a fan of Tsunku music.” More recently, I translated a thread on this site that posed the question “would you still be an H!P wota if Tsunku quit as their producer?” It’s been a while, so I genuinely did not remember how I’d answered the question myself. But the other day — in light of recent news — I had a look.
This is what I said on the matter back in February of 2014.
Henkka: As for me? While a wota is something I am not, I’m quite confident my interest in Hello! Project without Tsunku would fade very quickly.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now. Tsunku has stepped down as the producer of Hello! Project as of October 2014, but this information was only made public earlier this month. Looking back, my initial reaction to this now seems a bit cold and uninterested, as if I was saying “meh.“
My 2¢ on this news: it's not really news at all. We all noticed the lack of "Produced by Tsunku" on CD covers & concert VTRs this past year.
— Wota in Translation (@wotatranslation) September 9, 2015
But believe me: I don’t feel the least bit indifferent.
From what I could gather when the news was announced — and don’t take this to be an absolute truth because it isn’t — the majority of Western fans seemed surprised not only because of how unbelievable the news was (“Hello! Project without Tsunku?!“), but also because of how seamless in their minds the transition to a non-Tsunku-produced Hello! Project had been for the past year.
The fans, the ex-fans, and the haters alike all seem to be in agreement: “they’re playing it safe and giving all the groups very Tsunku-like material.” As in, nothing changes: the H!P fans are going to keep being fans, the haters are going to hate, and the ex-fans are going to keep not giving a damn either way. Well, for me something did change.
Longtime readers have probably noticed the lack of posts on this site since the beginning of the year. At first, I thought 2ch was to blame. I felt like there simply weren’t that many interesting threads ending up on any of my source sites anymore. (And I still can’t rule out this possibility completely. Every once in a while I try to keep an open mind and have a neutral-as-possible look at the matome sites, but I always seem to come out empty-handed. Meanwhile, Jicchan and other sites all seem to have stopped translating 2ch threads as well, but I have no idea if their motives for doing so are similar to mine.)
But the truth is, it’s most likely not so much 2ch’s fault as it is mine.
It feels strange putting this into words after all these years, but I believe my road as a H!P fan is nearing its end.
Looking back and comparing the timelines, it’s now easy to see that my interest in Hello! Project began dwindling almost exactly around the time Tsunku “graduated.” As if by magic, the number of new posts began to lessen as the months went by. Believe me, I very quickly noted the absence of the man from the CD covers and such, but I didn’t want to be prejudiced. I didn’t want to just assume that if Tsunku wasn’t the composer they would automatically be shitty songs. And, actually, they weren’t. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy any of the songs H!P has put out post-Tsunku.
“They’re playing it safe and giving all the groups very Tsunku-like material.“
To me it feels like the people saying this have not been hearing Tsunku’s music the way I have been hearing it for all these years. By and large, to me, the new songs sound nothing like Tsunku. You can interpret that both ways: it doesn’t sound like him neither in style, nor in quality. Not to me. For the most part, there simply is no comparison.
(If, at this point in the post, you’re wondering to yourself why this guy is talking about (the quality of) music and idols in the same paragraph as if the two subjects were somehow related by more than necessity, then the only thing I can say is that you and I simply do not enjoy idols in the same way.)
But despite not hating everything not composed by Tsunku, I simply can’t seem to bring myself to care about Hello! Project anymore. It’s now been months since I last cared to check out new concerts, radio or TV appearances, photobooks, blog posts, or — to be honest — 2ch. Any of it. I haven’t been captivated by a new idol group in H!P’s place, or a new hobby of any sort for that matter. Nor am I even looking for something new to get hooked on. Hello! Project simply seems to have exited my life.
And it feels god damn lonely to say that.
I’ve been a Hello! Project fan since early 2007. That’s eight years, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 18 when I became a fan. I’m now 26.
Hello! Project is tied into so many memorable life experiences for me. It’s brought me so many amazing memories, so many great friends. H!P gave me a huge push towards Japan and the Japanese language, and now I live here, married to a Japanese person. So much of my life has been affected by H!P, it’s difficult to tell where its influence ends and where the “me” begins.
But I now realize that, at the end of the day, it really isn’t Hello! Project that did those things for me.
So where do we go from here?
Like I said above, thinking about this for the past two weeks since the “announcement,” I’ve recognized that my time with H!P is coming to an end. (I suppose it’s telling that I have to actually think about what to do with a hobby for two weeks. My only excuse is that I’ve held the silly hobby for nearly a decade now.) Honestly, I do not feel able to quit “cold turkey.”
Thus, I’m working through something I think of as my own “graduation project.” I know it sounds cheesy, and it kind of feels that way, too, but hear me out.
It consists of three H!P-related projects I want to finish before I’m done.
- Tsunku’s “Dakara, Ikiru“
- Niigaki Risa & Kamei Eri’s “FIVE STARS“
- Wota in Translation
As for that first bullet point… Again, in case you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I’ve begun translating Tsunku’s recently released book, “Dakara, Ikiru.”
The book, released on September 10th, deals with the subject of Tsunku’s battle with laryngeal cancer, and the subsequent removal of his vocal cords.
In it, he talks in depth about the journey towards the eventual, total loss of his voice, about his family who supported him through it, the ups and downs of his life as a singer, his thoughts as a producer, and his new life without a voice that he has only just embarked on.
To quote Amazon, he talks about all of the above and more in a completely frank manner with no embellishment. When faced with unforeseen circumstances, what are the things one must give up? What are the choices one has to make? In short, it’s a book about one man’s way of life.
This is easily my biggest undertaking as a translator yet, and it still scares the shit out of me that I’ve promised myself to actually finish the project — and finish it soon. With this work, I hope to express my appreciation towards Tsunku, who is without a doubt one of my absolute musical heroes in the quarter-century of life and music I have experienced so far, along with people like Paul McCartney, John Lennon (the order of names isn’t unintentional), Mikael Åkerfeldt, Nujabes, Kerkko Koskinen, and Uematsu Nobuo, among a couple of others.
My second project is Niigaki Risa and Kamei Eri’s FIVE STARS. These two girls — especially together — are some of my all-time favorite H!P idols, and their radio show FIVE STARS still remains as my favorite ever idol-related radio show. The show was never translated into English in its entirety, and as of writing, 40 episodes remain un-translated. I’m going to do all of them.
My third project is this site, Wota in Translation.
As a translator, I don’t doubt for a second that this was — and will be — the most popular site I’ll ever have. When I first made it with my friend, SagSousuke (he’s the one you need to thank for the name of this site), I already recognized how this kind of stuff might be interesting for fans to read. (The only thing I didn’t realize was the extent.) “Straight from the heart of the Japanese fandom” and all that. I always did my best to give an unbiased representation of what was said in each and every thread, although I’m sure I had my fair share of failures along the way.
In any case. I’ve kept you all waiting for so long, and thus I hope to bring one more spark of life back to this site as I empty out the “to-do” list of threads that have piled up in the last few months. There aren’t many of them to be honest — 20, perhaps closer to 10 threads is a good estimate. Anyhow, I hope to keep an eye on the matome sites for the remainder of the year, and although the (possibly) final three months of the site may not be as memorable as the months that came before, at least it’ll be something. If you’re a newcomer to the site, worry not: I wish to keep this website online forever, whether or not there will be future updates forthcoming beyond 2015. A time capsule of sorts into what both the Japanese and the Western fans were thinking between 2013 and 2015 may, at some point, be of some interest to someone out there.
I don’t want to say that this is “the end” for Wota in Translation.
I shouldn’t say so. I know from experience: I “quit” the site once before, and to be honest, even then there was a nagging thought in the back of my mind telling me I shouldn’t do so. I’m not going to repeat the mistake. I’m not going to make a “final” post. I won’t say “that’s it, that’s the end.” Because who knows? The next month I might be back on here, posting as usual. Or, even if I’m not back in full force, maybe I’ll just translate a thread every once in a while because I feel like it.
Whether this is the end or not, I feel that this is an appropriate moment in time to say: thank you.
Really, thank you all for everything up until now.
I started this site for selfish reasons. I’ve enjoyed the art of translation for a long time now, and today — as was the case before I started this site — most of the time I’m busy translating something that very few people will ever read. But this site always gave me instant feedback. I could put up a new post and it would easily have 30 comments and 3,000 views on its first day. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t (isn’t) a motivation for translating more.
But I always felt a slight pang of guilt when someone said something along the lines of “thanks for doing all this for us — for the community.” Because that’s not accurate. I did it for me, because putting up my translations here gave me motivation to translate more stuff, and that’s what I like to do. With that said, I felt happy when someone said reading something translated by me made them laugh or cry, made them love H!P or one of its idols more deeply, gave them inspiration to do something in life, gave them the courage to try something new, or made them feel open enough to share very personal feelings. I won’t forget the experience of posting on this site and having those exchanges with all of you, and I don’t know if it’s an experience I’ll be able to resist seeking again.
Thus, I’m not going to say goodbye. I’ll just feel like an ass if I end up back here like usual. I just want you to know where I am today with Hello! Project and with this site. Thanks for reading.