Part Twelve: “The Pinnacle of Desire: Unashamed Love”
Writers Yuzuki Asako and Asai Ryo
profile the lyrics of Hello! Project songs!
Song #1: Morning Musume ’17 – “Jealousy Jealousy”
Asai: Stuff happened and we took a break from the last issue our column was supposed to be featured on. People taking breaks — it just happens to be all the rage in H!P right now, too!
Yuzuki: And lots of stuff happened within H!P itself during our break.
Asai: I wish I could genuinely congratulate myself for the restart of our column… but truth be told, I’m actually a bit worried as to whether or not we’ll be able to go on…
Yuzuki: Back when Sayashi quit, and then later when Zukki quit, we were similarly saying “we don’t know if we can do this anymore…” But then they’d come out with something like “Watashi no Nanni mo Wakacchanai” or “Utakata Saturday Night!” and that’d get us back on our feet, but…
Asai: There’s lots of things going on within H!P right now, and while we of course hope that it all works out well for them, it kind of feels at times like we’re being seriously tested… tested to see whether we can remain as excited about H!P as before. And ultimately, the biggest change — even though it’s not something that’s only just started recently — is the decrease in the number of Tsunku♂ songs. It’s only obvious that the organization would keep introducing more and more creators, and sure, something like Tsuno’s “Utakata Saturday Night!” was great. But still…
Recently, HKT48’s music video for “Kiss wa Matsu Shika Nai no deshou ka?” was directed by a 19-year-old girl. And previously, SMAP would have new musicians writing their songs and they’d be constantly changing their image. In both those cases, it feels like they’re keeping a good balance between the “tried and true” and the new things they’re only just trying out.
Yuzuki: For his speechwriter, President Obama hired this young writer (John Favreau) who liked writing speeches at random Starbucks cafes. There’s just none of that sort of feeling with H!P. We recently saw the music video to Keyakizaka46’s “Eccentric” and we were just shocked by it. Its message is the exact opposite of that of H!P music. “It’s okay to be strange. It’s okay to be a social shut-in. It’s okay to just stay home. It’s okay to not do your best. It’s okay to not go out there and meet people“…
Asai: Did they really say “it’s okay to just stay home“!?
Yuzuki: More or less, yeah.
Asai: Some more of that extreme Yuzuki speculation right here!
Yuzuki: Me, my husband, and you were watching YouTube by the three of us, and he had a huge reaction to “Eccentric.” But then afterwards when we watched “Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan,” his reaction was a lot more mild. “Hmm… Their word choices aren’t very contemporary.“
Asai: I was surprised by him pointing that out.
Yuzuki: “Young girls these days wouldn’t use words like “kenkyo ni daitan.”” His point being: those Keyakizaka lyrics will resonate with 13-year-olds, but stuff like “Kenkyo ni Daitan” or “Ee ja nai ka Ninja nai ka” will not.
Asai: Well, he’s right. They aren’t the kinds of words that kids around that age would be using. But on the other hand, lyrically songs like “Silent Majority” are super difficult to sing. You can’t just absentmindedly hum along to it. So your husband was saying that, in that sense, the creators of H!P are in comparison just “having fun” when writing their songs.
Yuzuki: Who does my husband think he is? (laughs)
Asai: He had us watch several Keyakizaka videos in a row, and while they were cool and all, we were just chuckling amongst ourselves. “Oh, you just wait. We have Tsubaki Factory’s “Waratte” up our sleeve.” We had him watch the music video to that immediately after Keyakizaka.
Yuzuki: While going all, “don’t cry about it to us when you see how god damn stylish it is.“
Asai: Rather than stylish though, it was just… It came across as so cool and composed after Keyakizaka.
Yuzuki: The first time I saw it on Hello! Station, I thought it was so cool I might die.
Asai: Lately, Keyakizaka feels like they’re continuously showing us their creativeness as a team. They’re sort of like Perfume in that sense. The outfits, the choreographies, the music videos, the packaging of their releases… It’s like they got everyone from the top of their respective fields to work for them to create the perfect team. H!P, too, is trying to make a fresh start by introducing new creators. But ultimately — and it pains me to say this — the “big boss” of Tsunku♂ not being there really is a bitter pill to swallow…
Yuzuki: Honestly, it’s because they’re Tsunku♂ lyrics that I feel like talking about them in the first place. Like… all these new developments within H!P, it just feels like they’re in a state of crisis. I feel like talking about Sharan Q lyrics instead. (laughs)
Asai: Recently it feels like I’m constantly watching nothing but old live clips — including those of Sharan Q.
Yuzuki: Me too. We’ve become the kind of people who view the past through a pair of nostalgia goggles!
Asai: A song like “NIGHT OF TOKYO CITY“… it just cuts straight to the bone. The entire lyric is about how lonely the protagonist is.
Yuzuki: “Hitori ga kowai wa / lonely night” (“it’s scary to be alone / lonely night“). There’s something about it that reminds me of Sonim’s whole “unrequited love of a girl who’s just moved to Tokyo” series of songs. In comparison, look at a song like Keyakizaka’s “Fukyouwaon.” That lyric is all, “I don’t care if I’m alone. I don’t care if I’m different. I’m just doing me. I don’t need any of this.” There’s no doubt that a lyric like that will be encouraging to the junior high school listener. But looking at it from a different perspective, real-life teens will just obsess over never being alone; over never having to spend a weekend alone by themselves.
Asai: Being alone even for just the couple of minutes when changing classrooms felt difficult back then!
Yuzuki: Akimoto Yasushi’s lyrics are actually written from an adult’s point-of-view. But Tsunku♂ will forever remain a junior high school girl, so the girls in H!P lyrics could never even imagine not being busy doing something, or not having a boyfriend, or not having any plans for the weekend. Having no problem with successfully having some perfectly fine alone time without a boyfriend — that’s something you’re able to do only past the age of 30.
Asai: Maybe it’s like… What H!P does is they depict the feelings of junior high and high school students using adult vocabulary, while groups like AKB and Keyakizaka depict the feelings of adults using vocabulary that’s accessible to junior high and high school students. There’s something titillating about H!P’s insistency on always trying to rid oneself of solitude.
Yuzuki: She has zero composure.
Asai: The protagonists in Tsunku♂’s older songs especially were always at their wits’ end.
Yuzuki: The girl in Morning Musume’s “Daite HOLD ON ME!” was driving herself up the wall so bad.
Asai: That bit in the chorus: “anna ni suki tte itteta ja nai” (“but you told me you loved me!“)… That’s so terrifying to hear as an adult. It’s scary imagining someone saying that to my face.
Yuzuki: That’s a pretty amazing thing to say to someone, right?
Asai: It’s frightening.
Yuzuki: I guess he must’ve been telling her he loves her quite a lot. (laughs)
Asai: Yeah, just so he could do her. Or like, when he was feeling a bit lightheaded after they’d just had sex.
Yuzuki: But he then became fed up with her, right?
Asai: Right. Because the guy probably did the typical, dishonest guy thing and said, “oh and by the way, it didn’t count when I said those three words to you back then!” That’s the image that pops up in my head when Nacchi sings that line, sounding almost like she’s crying for help. That’s a line that would kill like the typical 23-year-old guy if he was told that.
Yuzuki: I’m by no means saying this to criticize current H!P, but my desire to hear just Tsunku♂ songs — only Tsunku♂ songs — grows stronger by the day.
Asai: And “Jealousy Jealousy” is just what the doctor ordered for people who feel that way. But speaking of this song, one has to mention that 2 AM Ongaku no Hi 2017 broadcast…
Yuzuki: The “incident“…
Asai: Every H!P wota had gathered in front of their TV screens in order to watch over Morito Chisaki’s first performance with Morning Musume, doing their best even to watch through Sashihara Rino’s yosakoi dance thing, and just as they thought their favorite group was going to come on, the show suddenly jumped to a commercial…
Yuzuki: I was like, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!“
Asai: I seriously thought it was just my TV acting out.
Yuzuki: This kind of stuff always happens with H!P.
Asai: But I’m glad they did “Jealousy Jealousy.” And we actually ended up getting lucky since they performed it all over again from the start.
Yuzuki: I think that would’ve shocked people who were just watching it out of boredom.
Asai: It’s not often you get songs where the entire chorus is basically just them ordering you to praise them.
Yuzuki: I really do think it’s a good song, but I was watching the music video with my husband and I just found myself thinking how there were so many more ways they could’ve made the song and the members shine more. I mean, that whole thing of them throwing stuff at that thing with “jealousy” written on it in katakana…? (laughs)
Asai: Jealousy is treated as a nuisance in the music video whereas the message of the song itself is that you should take everything about yourself — including jealousy — and use it as the driving force to help you grow. In the music video, it’s given the complete opposite meaning. What I would like to suggest to replace it is a scene where the members eat some “jealousy cakes” together, and then they’re like “phew, I’m full — now I’ll be able to do my best tomorrow!“
Yuzuki: Just to reiterate: I’m only talking about the music video here — I’m not complaining about the members at all, only the way they decided to present the song in the video. And how it gets interrupted with commercials…
Asai: The song itself is great, beginning immediately with the very first line.
Yuzuki: The song starts with the line ““sugoi ne” nante sonna sugu ni mitomete yannai” (“I’m not going to acknowledge how great you are that easily“) and you’re thinking to yourself how mean this girl is, but then the very next line is “ijiwaru toka yatteiru tsumori mo nai” (“but I’m not trying to be mean or anything“).
Asai: It’s like she anticipates you calling her mean so she has her excuse ready before you even get to say it.
Yuzuki: The line “wakai dake de urayamashii no ni” (“even your youth alone makes me jealous“)… Once I turned 35 or so I stopped thinking those kinds of things even when I’d see someone younger than me. But back as a 18-year-old, the difference between me and some 16-year-old girl felt enormous.
Asai: That’s the age when an age difference like that feels huge. 21 or 22-year-old college girls will look at girls in their teens, sighing about how young they are. They want to say that.
Yuzuki: That means the protagonist is probably really young. Tsunku♂ wrote about this in his liner notes, but I think the setting for the song is probably her part-time job. She took up the part-time job at 18, and then some 16-year-old started working there as well. That’s the extent of her jealousy. At 35, it no longer bothers you even if you see a 21-year-old who’s an absolute genius. But when you’re 18 and suddenly some super cute 16-year-old girl appears and she packs herself a full shift schedule and stuff, it throws you for a loop.
Asai: But the rap part doesn’t feel like it’s being spoken by an 18-year-old, right? ““Kikaikintou” no gensoku nante iu kedo Kami-sama wa fukouhei” (“they say everyone has equal opportunity, but God isn’t fair“). It reminds me of certain women in their 50’s who work in the publishing industry when they’re talking about the Gender Equality in Employment Act.
Yuzuki: This is the first time I’ve ever even uttered the words “equal opportunity.”
Asai: “Que sera sera Set up!!“
Yuzuki: No way do young kids today even know about “Que Sera Sera“! And it doesn’t even rhyme all that much.
Asai: Yeah it does. As do the lines “ano ko mitai ni kerakera” and “jouzu ni dekinai kedo meramera.”
Yuzuki: It’s so lame how that’s followed by “nante kakkotsuke itta kedo” (“despite me trying to sound all cool“)!
Asai: The word play of “watashi ni wa iyashi ga kyuumu” and the “please rescue me!” — I suspect he had the “rescue me” first and only came up with the “kyuumu” later to make it rhyme.
Yuzuki: I think it’s a great song, but my husband says it might not be surprising enough for the modern young person. I think it’s really good though.
Asai: I really felt something like that first-hand when I wrote the lyrics for NHK’s N Kon choir competition. miwa wrote the lyrics for the junior high division and I wrote the lyrics for high school division, and mine got a terrible reception while miwa’s lyrics were well-received. She told me that she looked through her graduation album and just tried her best to feel like a teenager again when she wrote those lyrics.
Yuzuki: That’s exactly what I mean!
Asai: As a result, she wrote lyrics that are super easy to identify with. For me, it was like “hooray, I got an offer to write lyrics for a state-owned TV channel!” I got so into it and I tried writing lyrics that would read like something written by Shinkawa Kazue, so I ended up using lots of words that teenagers wouldn’t really use. As a result, they were all going like, “we don’t get what any of these lyrics are supposed to mean…“
I feel like if you want teenagers to identify with your writing, you need to write directly about one’s feelings. Like sadness or loneliness and stuff. As writers, we can’t help but try and see just how well we can express feelings like that without actually saying the words. But maybe it’s better to just say it plainly: “I’m lonely.” Groups like Nogizaka46 do that stuff all the time. As a novelist, I try to resist the temptation of writing things so matter-of-factly. Stuff like, “I don’t want to.” But Nogizaka, for example, has loads of teenage fans. Adults will ridicule those lyrics for being “immature,” but for teenagers they feel spot-on.
Yuzuki: We’ve lost.
Asai: Using words that actual teenagers use and writing about feelings — two things that surprised me when they were pointed out to me. Definitely wasn’t a “pump up!” moment for me. More like a “jera jera” moment.
Yuzuki: “Pump up! Don’t stop! Akiramenna!” (“don’t give up!“)
Asai: “Kuyashisa ga asu wo tsukuru” (“bitterness makes the future“).
Yuzuki: ““Rich,” “Young,” “Girly,” “Hosoi”” (“thin“)!
Asai: “You’re sooo thin!”
Yuzuki: ““Rich,” “Young”“… It’s genius how that’s followed by “hosoi“! I wonder why Tsunku♂ felt like using a Japanese word there?
Asai: It makes you read too much into it. One interpretation I heard was that he used a Japanese word there because “thin = pretty” is like a part of the Japanese aesthetic. That’s one of the great things about Tsunku♂ — how he can write things that make people read too much into them like that. But then he’ll also write extreme things that leave no room for reading into them, like “ningen nou nante kitto tabun hotondo made with jealousy” (“probably most of the human brain is made with jealousy“).
Yuzuki: That might be a bit of an exaggeration.
Asai: Yeah. It’s like, “come on now, let’s just calm down.” But I want more people to realize the greatness of this song.
Yuzuki: You feel surprisingly little jealousy at this age. That’s what it feels like anyway. And it’s not just me pretending I don’t feel jealous — I genuinely just don’t.
Asai: I may have talked about this before, but for the current generation who can see how others live on social media from the moment they understand what’s going on around them… People like that are very much unaffected by seeing people who are happier than themselves.
Yuzuki: Yeah. I’m really not just saying this out of a sense of pride. Maybe I just really don’t understand the protagonist feeling the way she does.
Asai: It’d be scary if you did. But Tsunku♂’s been in this “mode” for the last 20 years, and from the very first line of the song he’s chosen words from which you can immediately tell where the protagonist is coming from. He really is amazing.
Yuzuki: I can’t help but picture this scene from a McDonald’s back room. A 18-year-old girl, looking displeased as she sees this 16-year-old girl who can work super hard… (laughs)
Asai: I can also picture it being this night life scene. Like two hostesses or something.
Yuzuki: No way, they’re not that old. It’s definitely a McDonald’s.
Asai: But it goes, “muzukashii koto sakusaku dekichau” (“she can do difficult things like it’s nothing“).
Yuzuki: That means she can fry the potatoes while also doing inventory of the limited edition, summer products.
Asai: Okay, I guess that’s kind of amazing. (laughs)
Yuzuki: If it was the night life instead, what would those “difficult things” be?
Asai: Like… This new girl being able to easily deal with a difficult customer that the protagonist herself couldn’t deal with. The protagonist had become a hostess, always living life using her technique, when suddenly this new girl who had moved to Tokyo from somewhere like Aomori comes in and has zero technique. She’s just pure.
Yuzuki: It sounds like she’s the protagonist.
Asai: “Did you get a tan? It’s dark in our bar so you have to maintain a white skin, you fool.” “Ah! Sorry! That customer over there told me his hobby was fishing, so we went fishing together. I might’ve gotten a tan doing that!” “(Huh…?! But I didn’t even know that customer liked fishing…)“
Yuzuki: That’s so funny! I can picture that scene so well. (laughs)
Asai: Almost like something out of “Atsuhime Number 1.”
Yuzuki: That’s way more interesting than “Atsuhime Number 1!”
Yuzuki: “Atsuhime” felt like it never even properly started. But that scene you just described sounds fun. That’s what “Atsuhime” lacked! I wonder if we couldn’t find a way of getting that into the script…?
Asai: Even if we managed to somehow slip that into the script, it’s not like the movie itself would change! Anyway, the protagonist of “Jealousy Jealousy” definitely comes across as someone who will never become number one. I picture her overcoming her jealousy, and then she gives her everything in the final battle which she nobly loses.
Yuzuki: Why? That’s painful…
Asai: But she gave it her all, so she has no regrets. There’s something about “Jealousy Jealousy” where from the very first line you just think, “this girl is going to lose.” And yet, she still feels like a proper protagonist. It’s amazing how it has both those elements.
Yuzuki: Oh, I know! She ends up quitting the night life and she goes back to working a day job. (laughs)
Song #2: Morning Musume ’17 – “Seishun Say A-HA”
Asai: This song hasn’t been released yet, but I loved it from the first time I heard it.
Yuzuki: I really like it, too. I immediately thought about how it was surely a Tsunku♂ song, and then when I looked at the credits and read “music & lyrics: Tsunku♂,” I just got this weird tingling sensation. (laughs)
Asai: I wonder what kind of a girl this protagonist is?
Yuzuki: She has a “decent enough facial features” (“shoushou matomatta kaodachi“) and she “also uses her fair complexion to her advantage” (“irojiro na tokoro mo buki ni shite“).
Asai: Her personality does have something to chew on.
Yuzuki: It’s not good. She’s somewhat popular with the guys and she has been confessed to and stuff, but she doesn’t have anyone she likes and she gets no fulfillment out of her love life. Is it the same protagonist in both verses?
Asai: Actually, I think she might be singing not about herself but about another popular girl who she likes to nag about. “Danshiteki ni wa anshin surun da to sa” (“guys apparently feel safe around her“) — it’s like she’s whispering that into a friend’s ear.
Yuzuki: Wait, so she’s not singing about herself?
Asai: No, I think she might be singing about her rival. “Ubusou ni mien dakedo” (“she doesn’t look innocent to me“) — you wouldn’t sing that about yourself.
Yuzuki: Oh. You’re right. I thought she was talking about herself.
Asai: I’d always had this theory that she was saying this stuff about someone else. Like, “I’m not as good as that girl.” “Maa sou iu onna de gomennasai” (“well I’m sorry, but that’s just the kind of woman I am“). It’s not absolutely certain which it is, but when I thought of it as a song where the protagonist is singing about someone else, I just got so excited going, “YES! Another song where the protagonist doesn’t feel fulfilled in life!“
Yuzuki: But then you have the lyric, “se ga hikui no wa ya dakedo” (“I don’t like how short I am/she is“). You wouldn’t sing that about another person.
Asai: Hmm. I wonder?
Yuzuki: Tsunku♂ wrote in his liner notes for S/mileage’s “Atarashii Watashi ni Nare!” that it’s a different protagonist in the first and second verses of that song. Maybe this is another case of that?
Asai: The chorus is just so good. You have the peculiar phrases of “kosokoso love” (“secretive love“) and “doudou love” (“unashamed love“), singing about a very familiar subject. But then with the next lines, the scope broadens to life as a whole. That versatility in technique is so good. It makes you think, “wow, they’re singing about me.” Also, we’ve never had a song before with lines like “”doudou love” tte tanin ni totte meiwaku nanka mo ne” (“unashamed love is a nuisance to others“)… I mean, lyrics with this level of objectivity.
Yuzuki: This girl probably isn’t the most popular girl in class. She’s one of those “sort of popular,” plain-ish girls with no boyfriend.
Asai: There’s definitely this feeling of her being this young woman who thinks she knows a lot about sex. She probably likes books. She seems like someone who likes argument for argument’s sake.
Yuzuki: Yeah. And she knows how to present herself well and that’s why she’s popular. I get it.
Asai: She has a big vocabulary and she’s bright. When she sees some popular guy in class kissing another girl in front of the school gates, she criticizes them under her breath… But a part of her feels a little bit jealous.
Yuzuki: Compared to girls who appear in other Tsunku♂ lyrics, is this protagonist not quite the intellectual?
Asai: Well, all of the other protagonists so far have been a bit, you know…
Yuzuki: “Harajuku de koi uranai” (“getting my love fortune told at Harajuku“) (“Otome Pasta ni Kandou“), or like, “dairenai ga hajimaru you na inspiration” (“an inspiration that feels like the beginning of a great love“), “dairenai no 1 bell ga nari attraction” (“attraction — the opening bell ring of a great love“) (“Inspiration!“)… (laughs) Compared to those protagonists, this is definitely a bright girl. When you look at the average of the girls portrayed by Tsunku♂, she’s probably in the top class in terms of intelligence.
Asai: But she also shows a glimpse of how she really feels. “Sondemo sondemo sondemo ne nanka mabushii” (“Even so, even so, even so… it’s somehow so dazzling“). That’s lovely. It’s like that one line from “Do it! Now.” “BUT “KISS ga shitai” ga ningen no honnou” (“But wanting to kiss is part of the human instinct“).
Yuzuki: I’m sure the couples that this protagonist sees as being so “dazzling” are exactly the types of silly people who think, “this is an inspiration that feels like the beginning of a great love!” (laughs)
Asai: It’s like… When everyone in class gives a couple their blessings, that’s what you call “unashamed love.” I was thinking about how if “secretive love” meant like adultery or something. But then I realized: she’s probably thinking more of like internet relationships. Didn’t it feel like so many people had internet sweethearts like 10 years ago or so?
Yuzuki: In my generation, I knew people who would call up old guys in telephone clubs and then laugh at them from a safe distance.
Asai: Man, let’s not talk about stuff that’s that painful. But anyway, like… People who are dating online, never having even met each other, yet sending one another like purikura pictures and stuff. I think that’s what the “secretive love” here means. People who find a lot of comfort in communication with a person on the internet who they’ve never even met.
Yuzuki: There were people like that?
Asai: I’m sure there’s people like that even now. Like, people who first meet on Twitter through their shared love of a band or whatever.
Yuzuki: “Konna no konna no konna no wa seishun nanka ja nai” (“This, this, this… is no youth at all“). Youth, huh…?
Asai: Since she reads a lot of books, she has a clear idea of what the ideal youth looks like. She knows a lot about youth in fiction.
Yuzuki: There really are kids like that out there.
Asai: Her own, actual youth is somehow different than the youth she’s read about in fiction. That worries her. She’s a bright girl, so when she sees people kissing out in public or whatever, she looks down on them. But for her, her only dating experience so far has been via email. And if anything, the people she reads about in all those fictional stories are the types who would kiss in public.
Yuzuki: That Taiyou to Ciscomoon song that goes “machi no gyarutachi ni wa makenai” (“I won’t lose to the gyaru around town“)… what was that?
Asai: That’s “Magic of Love.”
Yuzuki: Right. That right there is “unashamed love.”
Asai: Or like the “kounin de kuchizukete” (“kiss me officially“) from “Gatamekira.” The protagonists in Taiyou to Ciscomoon songs would be the types who would be rolling up their sleeves at the school sports festival, while this protagonist would be wearing her long-sleeve shirt and thinking, “people who let themselves get tanned are idiots.“
Yuzuki: To guys, she’s not intimidating or anything on first glance. But she’s really the cold, silent observer type.
Asai: She’s also probably someone who follows Kojima Keiko on Twitter and is a critic of everyone who says anything that’s even resembling of being discriminatory against women. She’s the type who’d be angry seeing the Shibushi “Unagi no Unako” commercial.
Yuzuki: Has there ever been another Tsunku♂ song where the protagonist comes across as someone who follows Kojima Keiko on Twitter?
Asai: She probably follows Takinami Yukari as well. And she knows how that’s probably the sort of thing that makes her a girl who’s not intimidating to guys.
Yuzuki: She is popular, but she isn’t full of herself.
Asai: Yes. And she also kind of realizes that she’s not as popular as she could be.
Yuzuki: Man! This is the first time we’ve gotten a protagonist like that!
Asai: I think the girls Tsunku♂ writes about are evolving. The protagonist in °C-ute’s “Summer Wind” was like pretending to be the “ideal girl” as far as guys are concerned, and she was doing that based on her own set of beliefs she’d developed through experience. Meanwhile, this girl is talking about her “pretty okay reflexes” (“undoushinkei wa hodohodo demo“) and stuff — she’s probably in like the third grade of junior high or first grade of high school, and it’s like she has her own set of beliefs that she’s developed without actually experiencing anything.
Again: it’s just like the young woman who thinks she knows a lot about sex. And really, that line “”doudou love” tte tanin ni totte meiwaku nanka mo ne” (“unashamed love is a nuisance to others“)… That’s so good. Like, “Sure, I don’t have a problem with it. But for everyone else in society? They might not like what you guys are doing.” She highlights how much it apparently doesn’t bother her.
Yuzuki: This girl is fun.
Asai: She’s gotten cuter in my eyes.
Yuzuki: I’m starting to like her.
Asai: And she’s really not actually popular. She’s just good at taking selfies because she has an internet boyfriend. She’s clever in all sorts of ways. I’m convinced she’s a good girl at heart.
Yuzuki: Well, it even says: “demo ne, junsui ni yasashii ko da yo / sou shika dekinain da yo” (“but she is a pure, kindhearted girl / that’s the only way she can be“). She is a good girl. But how can she escape from this pain? When we talked about “Kimagure Princess“ and thought about how that protagonist could ever be happy, we came to the conclusion that the answer for her could be found in “Busu ni Naranai Tetsugaku.”
Asai: Well, for this protagonist, wouldn’t the answer be found in “Zenbu Owatta Kaerimichi“?
Yuzuki: Wow. Good job, DJ!
Asai: What this girl needs is not knowledge parsed together from the outside world — she needs real, honest discussion with her friends.
Yuzuki: I think you might be onto something! I like it.
Asai: It’s like I figured this out using deductive reasoning or something. I feel like a master professor!
Song #3: °C-ute – “Zenbu Owatta Kaerimichi”
Asai: I like the “zenbu owatta” (“after it’s all over“). It’s such a direct way of putting it.
Yuzuki: To me, it makes me think of like a small theatrical troupe who’ve just had their first performance. It’s either that, or like a college drinking party.
Asai: I’m thinking it’s like… They’ve just thrown a thank-you party for their professor after their graduation ceremony, and afterwards a couple of the organizers are having a drinking party at one of their houses.
Yuzuki: °C-ute themselves wouldn’t do something like that. (laughs)
Asai: Their °COMPLETE SINGLE COLLECTION featured “Yume” (by Tsuno Maisa) and “Rin” (by Rihi of Akasick and Okuwaki Tatsuya) — both of them being very much like proper “graduation songs.” And yet, this is the song that follows those two tracks on the album. I like that.
Yuzuki: Well, of course. They’re on their way back after it’s “all over” after all! But it’s like, “whaaat?” Because I take pride in being so well-versed when it comes to food in H!P lyrics that I have the confidence to say I’d be able to write a proper essay on the subject, and I do think they’re eating more here than in any other H!P song. “Konbini de tairyou no okashi” (“buying lots of snacks at the convenience store“) — Airi would never do that. This must be like a parallel universe °C-ute.
Asai: So it’s like these five girls… only if they hadn’t been chosen to be members of °C-ute. It’s kind of sad when you think of it like that.
Yuzuki: I’m pretty sure those five wouldn’t have ever met if they hadn’t made it into °C-ute. (laughs) So could it be like a girls’ college drinking party?
Asai: It’s a Tsunku♂ fan club drinking party. And these five are the only members.
Yuzuki: I think they’re students at a newly-established women’s college somewhere in the sticks. They like to wear mules, but then when they get off at the station, they all change into sneakers because the hill right outside the station is so steep. The only establishments outside the station are a convenience store, a karaoke place, and a ramen shop.
Asai: That level of inconvenience is fun.
Yuzuki: The “buying lots of snacks at the convenience store” isn’t so much a choice — it’s the only thing that’s available. And how great is the “maa ii ya ne” (“oh well“)?
Asai: I’m curious about the “gachi bucchake” (“totally honest“). They’re drinking among friends at one of their houses and one of them suddenly says “let’s be totally honest tonight!“… You might be thinking, “no way, I don’t want to spill all my secrets to this person…“
Yuzuki: “Maa ii ya ne, honto ni tanoshisugiru ne, seishun” (“oh well, it really is just so much fun — youth“). Yeah, this is the kind of youth that the protagonist in the last song was talking about! Who cares whether you have a boyfriend or not!
Asai: Comparing yourself to others and spending too much time thinking about the “correct” way of being that you find in fiction, you start to feel pressured in your actual, real life. It’s better to just have a more carefree attitude like these girls.
Yuzuki: Exactly. Just eating snacks and udon and stuff. I bet Airi would never do that herself though.
Asai: Airi would try to make it look like she was doing the same as everyone else, when really she’d be eating like the dried squid and plum kelp that she’d secretly bought for herself. She’d be going all, “phew, I’m so full!“
Yuzuki: You definitely do see girls like that.
Asai: And she drinks loads of water. (laughs)
Yuzuki: “Gohanmono kawanai kara zenzen monotannai” (“no one bought any actual food so everyone’s still starving“). Madness!
Asai: I like how someone then asks what they ought to do about it (“dou sun no?“)
Yuzuki: “Karuku uwagi haotte nanka kai iku ka” (“wanna just throw on a coat and go buy something?“) It feels weird saying this, but this bit actually reminds me of early Musume songs. (laughs) This sort of very light “crassness.” We haven’t gotten this kind of a “delinquency” feel in H!P for a while. Maybe it’s not a college drinking party after all.
Asai: I can just see them in my mind’s eye, walking out in flip-flops and with no eyebrows. But that’s happiness right there. I wish the girl in “Seishun Say A-HA” could find a friend like this. This group of friends have zero jealousy among them.
Yuzuki: Right. Zero. Even when one of them doesn’t eat, it’s like… “well, that’s just the kind of girl she is.” This song is like the antithesis of “Jealousy Jealousy.”
Asai: Having both those things represented is so Tsunku♂. It’s so human.
Yuzuki: And just to state the obvious: the “udon” at the end is a self-parody of “Dance de Bakoon!“
Asai: To think we’d get that at the very end of the song! When the group made their final music show appearance at the 2016 FNS Music Festival, Tsunku♂ had a message for them: “°C-ute toka ite tanoshikatta” (“it was fun how °C-ute was here and stuff“). I wonder how many people watching that actually realized how that was a parody of what Maimai had said 14 years earlier: “Tsunku♂ toka kite tanoshikatta” (“it was fun how Tsunku came here and stuff“). I definitely felt something similar here with the whole, “let’s go have some udon and call it a night!“
Yuzuki: He’s such a good person — even if it’s not immediately obvious to people looking in from the outside.
Asai: For people who were just seeing the group for the first time they must’ve been thinking, “what kind of a halfhearted message is that supposed to be?!” But Tsunku♂ was willing to take that risk of his image suffering — to him, his relationship with the members of °C-ute was more important than that. He really is like the principal of a girls’ school.
And it’s great how this is the final song on the compilation. If they went away wearing dresses and doing a song like “Arigatou ~Mugen no Yell~” or something, it’d feel like they’d disappeared from this world altogether. But when instead it’s this song that feels very much like a scene from everyday life, there’s this feeling that they’re still going to be alive tomorrow, living in the same realm as us. It’s a new kind of graduation song.
Yuzuki: “Maa ii ya ne, kitto nantoka naru yo ne” (“oh well, I’m sure it’ll all work out“). I hope they can all graduate with that sort of a lighthearted mindset.
Interview & text: Takaoka Hiroshi
Photography: Katano Tomohiro
English translation: Henkka
Asai Ryo on the web: Twitter
Yuzuki Asako on the web: blog, Twitter
As of now, I’m putting this project on hold indefinitely as I wish to dedicate more of my time to other projects such as the 20th Anniversary Official Book. I do hope to eventually return to this series. Thanks to everyone who has enjoyed reading my translations of Loitering Between the Lines of Hello! Project!
I agree the 20th anniversary book is more interesting;
not to say that these lyric analyses, as well as all the various chat room articles aren’t incredibly entertaining and highly enjoyable.
This has been posted before, but I want to add my voice to the chorus.
This is my: favorite. site. ever.
Thank you so much, Henkka.
Cheers, it’s very kind of you to say that. Thanks for reading!
Thank you for sharing this with us. It just lets me know how much I still have to go to be a full fledged Tsunku wota. I have to master his nuance in his lyrics. It just seems like he’s the best…
Oh yeah. Especially after taking on this series, I don’t think I can ever again look at another Tsunku lyric and be all, “What even is this?! This doesn’t make any sense! Tsunku’s so crazy!” Because I used to do that. But just deeming his lyrics “crazy” and giving up isn’t fair to him.
It’s too easy.
I really look forward to more 20th, but I also wouldn’t mind some kind of spoiler summary on this column: basically, do they come around on any of the new lyricists, like Kodama Ameko? There were some really interesting lyrics on some of the new Tsubaki and Angerme songs!
What I don’t like here is that they seem to completely discount the fact that UMEDY wrote the rap, not Tsunku. Or were they trying to say that the rap wasn’t as well written as the rest of the lyrics?
That Keykizaka shade was hilarious.
Sorry, I can’t spoil the column for you because I’m no further along in reading it as you are — I like to read it for the first time as I translate it. Keeps it fresh for me.