One of the great things about re-watching older Hello! Project concerts is the chance to see graduated favorites when they were in their prime. It’s as if they never left! And since I haven’t re-watched these shows in years, it’s like seeing them for the first time. So I put in my Blu-ray of Hello! Project 2014 Summer Part One: Korezo! and there were Sayumi Michishige, Riho Sayashi and Kanon Suzuki back in Morning Musume; Kanon Fukuda and Meimi Tamura back in S/mileage (pre-Angerme); and there was all of Berryz Kobo. Twelve missing performers suddenly restored to their former glory! In addition to C-ute and Juice=Juice. My only lament was…no Country Girls, no Kobushi Factory and no Tsubaki Factory. But then the first number with the Eggs, aka Hello Pro Kenshuusei, began and who should I see? Future members of Country Girls, Kobushi Factory and Tsubaki Factory, as well as future members of Morning Musume and Angerme. Everybody was represented! What a thrill. And there was even a moment where Rikako Sasaki danced backup for S/mileage, her future teammates in Angerme.
Eager to see the new girls in performance for the first time, I ordered the Hello! Project Winter 2017 concert and watched the first disc in the set, the “Crystal Clear” concert, recorded on January 8, 2017 at Nakano Sunplaza. Morning Musume had the two members of 13th Gen performing with them for the first time: Kaede Kaga and Reina Yokoyama. Tsubaki Factory had their three new members performing with them, the first time I’ve seen them with the group: Mao Akiyama, Saori Onoda, Mizuho Ono. (All three had performed with TF at the H!P Countdown Party on New Year’s Eve, just a week earlier. I’ll be getting to that concert soon.) Angerme had Momona Kasahara, although I believe I’ve seen her perform before. She just hasn’t registered strongly with me yet. Of these six, only Kaga and Akiyama are immediately recognizable to me. Both were very impressive in this concert. These are the most auspicious H!P debuts I’ve seen since Riho Sayashi in MM and Rikako Sasaki and Mizuki Murota in Angerme. As Maria Makino jockeys for the “ace” position in MM, I believe she’ll get serious competition from Kaga, who’s given one of the lead dance positions in “Oh My Wish!,” the first MM song in the concert. And Akiyama takes the lead in this concert’s performance of TF’s then-newest single, “Just Try,” already outshining her seven teammates, at least in my eyes.