Saturday, 15 November 2014

Sayumin x Momochi: A character-covered declaration of war!? Hello! Pro's strongest narcissist showdown (Top Yell May 2013)

{This was from the May 2013 issue of Top Yell magazine, about a year and a half ago. The world was simpler then, with no inkling of Sayu's graduation or Berryz' hiatus. Even 'One Four' was over half a year away from the public conciousness. At the time of the interview, the Musume were promoting Brainstorming (Reina was still part of Morning Musume. at the time) and Berryz were promoting Asian Celebration.}

Enveloped in their own characters, they declare war!? A showdown between Hello! Pro's strongest narcissists
These 2 continue to be in great demand by variety programmes, and, waiting for an opportunity with their cuteness, they're having a showdown at the summit! Although they're verbally sparring with barbs like 'Lower than the average within Hello! Pro' or '82 points for cuteness', it seems that deep inside, they both respect one another...
(2013 TopYell+ compilation magazine version:
Even within Hello! Project, Michishige Sayumi and Tsugunaga Momoko continue to be in great demand by variety shows. For these 2 who emphasise that 'I'm definitely the cutest idol', this is a showdown at the summit, waiting for an opportunity with their cuteness!)

Let's not mince words, wouldn't it be good to decide who's the cutest!

Cuteness is the royal road! The ultimate idol that's even admired by idols

With a 'Yurushite-nyan', everything's settled! The Heisei-era Matsuda Seiko

Enveloped in their own characters, they declare war!? A showdown between Hello! Pro's strongest narcissists
Let's not mince words, wouldn't it be good to decide who's the cutest!
Sayumin Momochi

'Tsunku♂-san told us to 'Become more mature', but I managed to  overcome that resistance after about 2 years' (Tsugunaga Momoko)

A large portion of the photos in their phones are selfies

The discussion this time around is 'Frankly, who's the cute one?'

Tsugunaga: Is that all right? It'll end in 3 words, just like that.

Previously, Tsugunaga-san gave Michishige-san the following evaluation: '82 points for cuteness'.

Michishige: Come now, aren't those high marks? (laughs) What I think, looking at Momoko-chan... Sayumi's been referring to her as 'Momoko-chan' since ages ago, rather than 'Momochi'... The image I have of Momoko-chan, is that your Momochi character is for external use.

Tsugunaga: Whoa~, you're going to hurt my business! What a sudden jab!

Michishige: Well, you're skilfully using that Momochi character... I feel like in Berryz Kobo, there's a completely separate girl called Tsugunaga Momoko. With her high professional awareness, she came up with Momochi herself!

Tsugunaga: That's freaky~! It's freaky~!

Michishige: Why is that? Isn't it something good?

Tsugunaga-san, you're currently making a breakthrough with the general home audience, but do people often comment that you're taking over Michishige-san's character?

Tsugunaga: When I first started appearing on variety programmes, I was worried about being told that I was acting like Michishige-san, but it didn't happen as often as I expected. The usual comparison would be with Ogura Yuko-san. So I'm often told, 'If you continue to tie yourself up to that character, someday you'll explode like the planet Korin'. It seems like they think I'm making some sort of set-up. But actually, it's different......

Is there a difference?

Tsugunaga: Eh, do I even have to explain that!? Isn't this Top Yell, which is always filled with in-depth articles? That's a surprise!

My apologies (laughs). But since this journalist is unaware of the circumstances...

Tsugunaga: Everyone says that it's a character, but as a matter of fact I've been Momochi since I was born. And just now Michishige-san said that it was 'made up', but the discussion wouldn't have moved along these lines is it wasn't for that misunderstanding by this senpai, my colleague for 10 years! Something that Momochi thinks is amazing about Michishige-san is her selfies. Since I really look forward to seeing the angles she uses to make herself look cute.

Michishige: Since I put up these photos on a blog, shouldn't I be aware of what the best angles are for me? There are tons of failed shots in my phone's photo folder. When it's not coming out well, I might take about 100 photos.

So the photos you personally pick to upload on your blog are ones where you've given everything you've got?

Michishige: They're the ones that I've given everything I've got, but on the contrary, there are times where I don't upload the ones that I think are just so cute that they'd knock everyone out. And so, I choose the next cutest shot to upload.

Tsugunaga: By the way, what sort of angle would you use for that?

Michishige: For Sayumi, I do it like this from the left side (*Michishige acts it out. With a self-absorbed expression). I think that I often tilt my head, but that isn't the case, the main point is that my mobile phone is titled at an angle. How about Momoko-chan?

Tsugunaga: For me, it's diagonally 45 degrees above, from the right. That's the golden angle. But in Momochi's case, there wasn't really any need to research it. Because, honestly, however I'm photographed, it'll be fine. And so, I don't have a single failed photo.

Tsugunaga-san, who would you say would be your ideal idol?

Tsugunaga: Matsuda Seiko-san. I'm aiming to be the Matsuda Seiko-san of the Heisei era after all. Hasn't Matsuda Seiko-san always been an idol, from the Showa era until now? Momochi would like to be like that as well. It's just that, I'd like it to eventually end up with Matsuda Seiko-san being referred to as 'The Momochi of the Showa Era'.

Michishige: My, such confidence (laughs).

Tsugunaga: Aren't there many idols who say things like, 'Someday I'd like to become an actress'? Momochi's always wanted to be an idol.

Aren't you worried about being asked things like 'How long will you keep up this Momochi act?'

Tsugunaga: On my 20th birthday, my father mentioned that '20 is past the 'best before' date for an idol'. As he said that, the thing that immediately popped into my head was Matsuda Seiko-san. I went, 'Wait a second, take a look at Matsuda Seiko-san! As the eternal idol, isn't she active as an idol even now!?' If there's someone in this world who can do it, why shouldn't I be able to? Since it'll only be over once I give up. Even after this, I'll continue to be Momochi just like I am now. Since we can be idols thanks to the presence of the love of the fans. I don't want to betray the dreams of the fans.

Their greatest fear is a loss of people's interest
Even bashing would be preferable!

Michishige: Sayumi's ideal idol would be Ogura Yuko-san. Of course I like her face, but I also like her way of life. I don't think I could ever copy how fast her head spins. When she made her début as a gravure idol, she had a fushigi-chan character. What with her, 'I came from Korin planet'. And when she graduated from the Korin planet, she said that 'The Korin planet blew up'... She didn't fade it out or ignore it, I thought it was wonderful how she could even use that as joke material. She was always making something newsworthy, it was something that was expected from her. Now that she's married, she's aiming to make it big as a Mama-talent, so even now she's already studying up on it. One of the things about the way she writes on her blog is that anyone who reads it can understand what she's writing about. It really draws your interest.

Do you use it as a reference?

Michishige: Eh, I have used it as a reference. It's just that, for Sayumi's personality, there are parts that are difficult. Sayumi's the type that wants to write and talk about anything and everything. All about myself. By all means, I'd like to put in a part of my feelings.

Since Ogura-san has a bird's-eye perspective about herself, right? Her awareness was not just limited to the fans, but included the world in general.

Michishige: That's right. It's things like that that make me think that she's got a good head on her shoulders. But it definitely isn't reserved, there's friendliness in there as well. I think that she must put in a lot of thought each time she updates her blog with news.

Tsugunaga: Indeed. Momochi finds it difficult too. Since Berryz Kobo is what I can do convincingly.

Michishige: Berryz, you're ripe with individualistic characters, aren't you?

Tsugunaga: Of course, being in Hello! Pro, Tsunku♂-san's words are absolute. But for Berryz, we're a group that even Tsunku♂-san would coolly say 'Eh~ Wait up a bit~'. I think that's something special. In Momochi's case, Tsunku♂-san has told me, 'Stop it with that character'. But I continued to insist that 'This isn't a character! It's something I've had since birth!'...... After about 2 years passed, I brought it up with Tsunku♂-san, and in the end the topic was brushed off.

You outlasted Tsunku♂-san? (laughs) As you'd expect, Berryz Kobo can even go against their producer.

Tsugunaga: It's not like we're going against him! Tsunku♂-san said, 'It's no good if you're just going on cuteness. Be more mature, head towards the sexy route'. Berryz Kobo have become a senior group. We were instructed to 'Bring out your mature aspects'... But, 'Even if I want to bring it out, I can't' (laughs)

By the way, how was the 'Yurushite-nyan ♥ Taisou' received by children?

Tsugunaga: It was received well by children! I went to the zoo the other day, and an assembly of kindergarten kids encircled me, going 'Wow, it's Momochi~ So cute~'. I was more popular than the giraffes. Elephants > Momochi > Giraffes, that was the order of popularity. Even though I lost to the elephants, I was still happy.

Recently it's become a common sight to see Tsugunaga-san appearing on variety programmes. Have you already grown used to it?

Tsugunaga: Honestly, it was really nerve-wracking at the outset. Up to then, I was always together as part of a 7 person group, so suddenly going at it alone had me nervous and excited.

Michishige: But, I think that Momoko-chan really looks good when she's participating in television programmes. Since it pumps up Hello! Project as a whole, I always feel thankful when I watch you. Hello! Pro also has our own Cinderella girl (Fukuda Kanon) as well, don't we? Doesn't it seem like the Hello! Pro girls that turn up on variety shows all seem to be of the same style? The so-called burikko types. Although in actuality we don't have many of those sort of girls, it makes us seem like a troop of burikkos. I've once been tsukkomi-ed by an MC asking 'Doesn't Hello! Pro have any other sorts of girls?'

As variety idols, do you have any rivals?

Tsugunaga: From around me, Amimi (Idoling!!!'s Kikuchi Ami) is often mentioned. Like, 'You don't want to lose to Amimi, right?' But in truth, being with her relaxes me. She's become someone I can really depend on. The number 1 person to become an 'Otomomochi' outside of Hello! Pro was Amimi. She's really precious to me. Since we're currently in the Idol Warring States Period, I'm often asked 'Who is your rival?', but for Momochi, the way I think is that 'Let's pump up this idol boom, for idols as a whole!'

Michishige: In the first place, are we similar idols? You're a bit of a fushigi-chan, a girl that feels difficult to deal with and hard to relate to. It's like you've got (Akashiya) Sanma-san well wrapped around you... They don't really have that sort in AKB-san, do they? Yu~p, it's probably because it's difficult to sell that kind of style (laughs).

The 2 of you have unique characters, and I'm sure you get bashed by the world at large, but do you worry about that?

Michishige: Not at all. You might actually say that it makes me happy. I enjoy reading the criticisms. I'm thankful to be given such attention, that my name gets to appear.

Tsugunaga: They wouldn't complain if they didn't know of us, right? The scariest thing would be a lack of interest. And Momochi doesn't have a good reputation with the girls either. But, I guess it's just jealousy. But I think that the view that I'm 'that kind of girl' is changing. Recently, when people are asked about their favourite idol, the number of people who answer 'Momochi' is slowly growing. Since being half-baked is the worst thing you can do.

Like, as you continue to go along with your characters, the assessment from those around you changes.

Michishige: That does happen. Something that's bothering me recently is that when I mention that 'I'm cute', you can't help but laugh. I've been continuing to say that 'I'm cute' since I joined Morning Musume., about 10 years ago.

Tsugunaga: It's already become like part of your daily conservation, like 'good morning'.

Michishige: It slowly got accepted. At the start, it was like even the senpai were worried about me, asking 'What are you going on about, Michishige-chan? Is something the matter?', but as I continued along, it seemed to get acknowledged. So even when they made the decision to have a 12th generation, Tsunku♂-san said 'Please let one of the entrants be a cute girl who can pull off something like Sayumi's gag of calling herself cute'.

'When I say "I'm cute", everyone agrees, so now it's no longer even a joke' (Michishige Sayumi)

Michishige-san being cute is something that's expected to come up in the conversation, so there isn't a need for such a gag, right?

Michishige: But, it's something that really happens. Now, when I say 'I'm cute', the venue agrees, like 'That's right'. Even the 9th, 10th, and 11th gen are like 'Obviously', so it's worrying that a girl cuter that Sayumi hasn't joined. Up to now, there were people like (Takahashi) Aichan or (Kamei) Eri around, right? The conversation could turn into 'Eh~! Aichan's cuter~!', but now when I say 'I'm the cutest', it isn't even a joke. It's become too commonplace. It's like, 'Yeah, yeah'.

It's like common knowledge.

Michishige: That's right.

Tsugunaga: That's freaky~ (laughs)

Michishige: (Tanaka) Reina had a different character, right? And so, you couldn't really compare us. If we don't get an outstandingly cute girl in the 12th generation, my character will have nowhere to stand.

That's amazing, your unwavering confidence about your cuteness!

Tsugunaga: I think that's the difference between Michishige-san and Momochi. In Momochi's case, I think that everyone's cute. Of course, Michishige-san is cute too. It's just that, for Momochi, I think that I myself stand heads and leagues above the rest.

Michishige: No, Sayumi's the same. I love other idols too, and I believe that the 9th, 10th, and 11th gen are cute. What I think is the difference between me and Momoko-chan is that Sayumi can end up using verbal barbs, while Momoko-chan doesn't have thorns. That's it. I think that Momoko-chan's personality is gentle.

Momochi is the only partner she currently has in Hello! Pro
Who she's secure in spitting poison at

For the both of you, there are a lot of times where you are picked up to be the spokesperson for talk and variety shows or sport newspapers. Do you feel that this is an addition to your group activities?

Michishige: I wonder. Our manager-san has mentioned it too. 'Since Michishige started appearing in variety, people who aren't idol fans have started coming to the family seats'. That made Sayumi happy too. But, that's further strengthened the feeling that Sayumi has to keep at it. I'd like to appear on variety even more with the other members, and make a comment or mention the title of our new song... Like when I had the tsukune-don campaign with Yoshinoya, I'd mention 'Ishida (Ayumi) put it up on her blog'. Having done that, wouldn't you expect that it'd make people interested in reading Ishida's blog? It would be great if it catches the eye of even if just a single person, I really think so.

You'd expect no less from the leader! You really do think of your juniors.

Tsugunaga: I see. In Michishige-san's situation, everyone knows the name 'Morning Musume.' However, for Berryz Kobo, it isn't a given that everyone knows of us, but it would be great if Momochi's appearances would help make our name get even a little bit more widespread.

Michishige: Recently, many Hello! Pro girls have been making TV appearances. I think that's a step in the right direction. 3-4 years ago, hardly anyone from Hello! Pro made appearances, so the atmosphere was like 'It's unthinkable for Hello! Pro to appear on variety', but now that's completely changed. I think that's thanks to Momoko-chan doing it as well. Momoko-chan's professional awareness is definitely high... I don't want to say it, but don't you make remarks only after making all sorts of considerations?

Tsugunaga: I'll leave that to your imagination.

Everyone's noticing it a little (laughs). Seems like you'll bring it to your grave.

Michishige: But that's important, thinking things through by yourself. I want my kouhais to learn from Momoko-chan's example. The way you speak is really impressive, like a pro who's done it for decades, and you can probably react no matter what the situation, but the current Morning Musume., including myself, still has some way to go. And so, we should think about such things beforehand. It isn't just limited to talks, it includes singing and dancing and double-checking our choreography. Working as a group, the feeling of 'Who should the members be following' rounds its head. But since there isn't one person who can be followed by everyone, it's turned into a situation where 'I have to prepare beforehand'.

So, finally, could the 2 of you please tell us your thoughts about one another.

Tsugunaga: I respect Michishige-san from the bottom of my heart. Since she's the leader of Morning Musume. and the leader of Hello! Before Hello! concerts, everyone gathers in a circle and Michishige-san gives some words that'll inject some spirit into us, but every time, she gets really worried about what she should say...

Michishige: It's all right, you don't have to mention that (laughs).

Tsugunaga: Letting loose such words with everything you've got, that isn't something a normal person can do, you know. Since your words really strike the heart.

Michishige: No way! Try telling us what those words are, right now.

Tsugunaga: Well, it'd be such a waste to mention it here. I'd like to keep it a secret limited only to the Hello! Pro members. Although it's a question of readiness, it's not the sort of thing that you'd officially announce. But even though I'm hiding what it is, the words are so wonderful that they'd make your tears flow. If Michishige-san isn't around, it's like there isn't enough force to get the Hello! Con started. I hope that Michishige-san will continue to lead Hello! Pro.

Michishige: You're definitely not telling the truth~ (laughs).

Tsugunaga: It's true! I may mention cheeky things like '82 points', but for those kind of things, 'Yurushite-nyan♥'.

Michishige: What Sayumi thinks about Momoko-chan, well, she's like a partner who I can quarrel over anything. First of all, Sayumi has this poison tongue, right? It's not a made-up character, it's my real personality. However, having said that, the 9th, 10th, and 11th gen still can't give good responses. So if I'm not careful, they might end up crying on-stage (laughs). At those times, I can grovel and draw laughter, but I get kind of hesitant. Since I'm worried that I might really hurt them. Since they really are a bunch of cuties.

So perhaps your in a situation where you can't joke around?

Michishige: When I talk to fans of the 9th, 10th, and 11th gen, they tell me 'You're so mean, Sayumin'. Like, 'You don't need to speak that way, right?' But for Sayumi's fans, they understand Sayumi's character, so Sayumi should definitely move forward in Sayumi's own way...Well, it can't be helped, this situation. Since the juniors are innocent. But, when it comes to Momoko-chan, without thinking about it at all, I can say anything and get back a response, you see? So I guess we have a relationship of mutual trust... I think we're on a footing where I can hurl poison at her without worry. Currently, there aren't that many people within Hello! Project that I can do that with. When I was a kouhai, there were senpai like Yasuda (Kei)-san or Ishikawa (Rika)-san, and it was amusing to see the looks on the senpai's faces when I made cheeky remarks. Now, if I say the same thing to my kouhai, it'll just become bullying.

Tsugunaga: Michishige-san, you're got it tough...

Michishige: For Sayumi, when it comes to Momoko-chan, I can mention things like 'lower-middle class', or 'You're not cute at all', but I definitely can't say it to the 9th, 10th, and 11th gen (laughs). If they get hurt, they might not come to work. But if it's Momoko-chan, doesn't it feel light-hearted?

Tsugunaga: Well, that's because I don't think it's true, right? It's just 'business' talk, isn't it? It feels like 'Until Michishige-san chips at my heart again, I'll just talk like this'.

Perhaps that boldness is what's lacking in the younger members.

Michishige: They're lacking, they're lacking. It ends up getting depressing, like 'Right, got it. I'm not cute...' (laughs)

Got it. With that, the two of you, as Hello! Pro's amusing idols, please continue doing your best...

Tsugunaga: Eh~! What do you mean by 'amusing idols'? We're the cuties, aren't we?

Michishige: It's the royal road!

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

As told by 2 wise people: 'What is essential to an idol'

Michishige: Cuteness
I think that, to an idol, what's more important than anything else is cuteness. In the extreme case, you don't need anything besides cuteness. After all, aren't there idols who sing a little out of pitch, but get pardoned because of their cuteness? You're an idol, not an artiste nor a singer, so whatever the circumstances, you have to be cute. In that sense, Yuukorin was perfect. Within humankind, she's got the best type of face. After that would be Takahashi Ai-chan. Since her expressiveness, her brilliance on-stage towered over the rest. But in Aichan's case, I think that the foundation is definitely her cute face.

Tsugunaga: Steadfastness
A constantly changing, multi-faceted character is indeed interesting, it makes the fans excited, wondering 'How will she be next?' And yet, hasn't Mickey Mouse remained unchanged? If Mickey suddenly had 3 ears, wouldn't that give you a shock? That sense of security that comes with absolute invariance is something that's really important for an idol. Through it, there were people who went, 'Cut it out, stop it with that character', but Momochi continued down her own path. There are pros and cons to everything, but if you follow everyone's opinion, you'll end up being unable to do anything.

1 comment:

  1. There was an episode of Suugaku♥Joshi Gakuen that was basically a thinly-veiled version of this competition, between their characters Sayuri and Tomoko.