|Funaki Musubu-chan, entrusted with the 'Momochi-isms'|
We finally arrived at the last, seventh person for the 2017 'ShuuPure News interview series with this year's "High potential Idols we're keeping an eye on"'!
'Momochi' Tsugunaga Momoko-san announced that she would be graduating in June 2017. Appearing in this final instalment is an assassin from 'Country Girls', the group Momochi is attached to! It's Funaki Musubu-chan!
Her cute looks are likely to catch the eye, but Musubu-chan has also been entrusted with the 'Momochi-isms'--- Not your run-of-the-mill beauty, is she??
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Well then, for 'ShuuPure News's selection of 7 idols that we're keeping an eye out for in 2017', we have the last person, number seven, Funaki Musubu-san! In these interviews, we dig deeper into the personality of the girl we've got our eye on, but in your case...
I put on a mask! (said clearly)
... You just go out and say it clearly! (laughs) Are you still acting innocent, even now?
Yes! I'm really putting on a mask! It's pulled down over my eyes. Even when I joined Country Girls, I was always on my guard. It was at the start of our tour when I shed it off. Before I knew it, I now speak in Kansai-ben in the middle of MCs, like I'm angry at something.
You are from Osaka, aren't you? So did you put on a mask when you were a kid?
If pushed to say, I was really forward when I was small, I could even talk to strangers.
Like Chie-chan, the protagonist in that old manga 'Jarinko Chie'. Something like that.
I've heard of it! I was often told that! People would say, 'Musubu-chan, you're like Chie-chan', and I'd be like 'Who?' (laughs) I'd just go and talk with all sorts of people. Even with old men whom I didn't know, I'd be like 'Listen~ I'm Musubu-chan. Did you know that~?' Also, there was a park near my home which had a stage. So I would go up on-stage while everyone was watching, and suddenly start singing and dancing Matsuura Aya-san's 'Yeah! Meccha Holiday'. So it's not like I was shy or putting on a false face.
Then it happened at some point in time... But wait a minute, you just pulled out Matsuura Aya-san's name, so have you always liked Hello! Project (the idol project that Morning Musume。 and Country Girls belong to) since you were small?
Originally, the anime 'Kirarin ☆ Revolution' aired when I was five or six. The heroine Tsukishima Kirari-chan was voiced by Kusumi Koharu-san, who was in Morning Musume。-san at the time. My mother told me that Morning Musume。's Kusumi Koharu-chan did the voice of Kirari-chan. And my mother likes Morning Musume。-san and H!P. When I was in my later years of kindergarten, she really let me watch their videos.
H!P fans from your parent's generation What elites! That's gifted education.
Heehee. (laughs) When I was small, I would make my own songs and lyrics in front of the mirror. I held singing programmes by myself in front of the mirror. I'm an only child, so the mirror was my friend. I'd sing in my own way, putting in what simple words I knew like 'Love' or 'Happy'. And I played all the roles, like the singers appearing on the show and the chairperson.
You did a H!P concert by yourself!
That was how it was! (laughs) A solo Hello! Con! It was like a song show. I was even the chairperson, like Makoto-san (Sharam Q's drummer Makoto. Acts as the chairperson for the Hello! Project concerts that are held several times in a year). I've admired idols ever since I was small.
That's magnificent! (laughs)
I was always thinking that it was something I'd like to do. But being from Osaka, I'd have to go to Tokyo. So I had no idea what to do. When I was eleven, I took Morning Musume。-san's 'Mirai Shoujo Audition', an audition to be a 12ki member. I went through that. I was still in my fifth grade of primary school, so I was surrounded by girls older than me. All of them had make-up on, and were all dressed up. At the time, I knew nothing of fashion, I just went wearing beach sandals.
Beach sandals! That's quite the way to tackle things!
My father advised me to do it. My father's a bit strange. 'Beach sandals! Your clashing styles will catch the eye!' That's what he said to me. In line with going for clashing styles, I dressed casually, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans and beach sandals. There were two judging rounds on that day, and I got through them. My parents were surprised as well.
Your clashing styles led to results.
I went to the boarding house in Tokyo for the 3rd dance judgement stage after that. In the end, the result was that there were 'No qualified persons'. But a week after that, I received an invitation to join the H!P Kenshuusei. I immediately made my decision. I had virtually no experience in dancing nor singing, so it was a learning experience.
And how was it in the H!P Kenshuusei?
That's when I started putting on a mask. I'm actually quite the talker with my Kansai-ben, but in front of the senpai, I acted like a girl who hardly spoke. I studied under the H!P Kenshuusei for two years, but while I was the youngest at first, two years later I was the fifth from the top. I was being called 'Funaki-san' at that point, so I let the cat out of the bag. But when I joined Country Girls, I was the most junior, so I acted to not ruffle any feathers... so once again, I put on a mask.
Before you joined the group, what impression did you have about Country Girls?
Country Girls were... cute, and they were 'The idols'. A group of girls that seemed to come from a school out of an anime, a school focused on educating girls to be young ladies. So I thought they were all the type of of girls who would have tea while daintily holding teacups.
Like Sugishita Ukyo-san (Mizutani Yutaka) from the drama 'Aibo'.
That was how I imagined they were like. They'd be surrounded by sparkles when lined up, teacups in hand as they smiled. That's how they appeared to me. Then, when I was in the Kenshuusei, one of my parents' friends commented that I might be a good fit with Country Girls. But since my personality was nothing like that of a 'young lady'...
You were 'Jarinko Chie', after all. (laughs)
Yeah. Since I was the kid downtown who would just keep on talking. While I thought that it was a complete mismatch, it was then decided that I would join their ranks. Like how was I supposed to hold those teacups?... I was worried that my hands would tremble.
Well, something like a teacup should be doable... Though that said, that's how it was in your mind, right? Since in reality, that's not what they do.
That's right. Once I'd joined, I found out that they didn't hold teacups! I mean that in the best of ways.
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by 'in the best of ways'. (sarcastic laugh)
In the best of ways, as in they were all noisy... or rather, while they were cute, they weren't any quieter than what I had imagined... It felt like they just enjoyed themselves normally.
You mean that they weren't any more 'young ladies' beyond what you had thought.
That's right. They didn't actually hold teacups in their hands.
They are what they are.
And yet, since I was nervous to begin with, I put on a mask. I would just laugh while listening to the stories of the senpai. Ah, when I say I put on a mask, it's not an actual mask, it's more like a hood. Like what you'd find on a parka.
Is that so. (laughs)
But I've now taken off the hood. Within Country Girls. Well, I put it on when I get interviewed like this though.
I see. (laughs) By the way, Country Girls have your Playing Manager Tsugunaga Momoko-san, don't you?
Yes. I respect her! (said clearly)
Even amongst idol fans, there's been talk about how Country Girls are currently the most capable at variety responses amongst the H!P groups. That is surely due to Tsugunaga-san's guidance, is it not?
It's thanks to Momochi-senpai's training! The 'Momochi classes'. Certainly.
What are you taught in these 'Momochi classes'? How to talk?
Let's see. Being from Osaka, I originally thought that I'd be a talker. During my Kenshuusei days, the people who let me take charge of MCs told me that I was good at talking. However, when I joined Country Girls, the biggest wall I hit was talking. It's not like I wasn't aware of the talking aspect when I was doing MCs, but I'd always strongly associated idols with singing and dancing. That changed completely in a stroke once I joined Country Girls.
Yanagawa Nanami-chan, who joined at the same time with me, has a really strong personality. She pushes herself forward... And, I was putting on a façade, and I also wouldn't say a single word in the middle of talks. Since I thought that talks were something where I'd respond only when the topic swung to me. ...And you know, I was put in a spot when it comes to the talkative Nanami-chan. What's more, when our first tour started, I had to talk on my own at the time. In front of the audience, I'd have think up a topic and talk about it for three to five minutes, all by myself.
That's quite the challenge!
It was tough. I had nothing to talk about. For someone who's lived a normal life, I've never had to talk for five minutes. And what's more, at MCs, Momochi-senpai would call out member names at the real thing, so I was really nervous. But then, I realised through this tour that regular everyday occurrences could be made into interesting stories. And from then, I started to feel that it would be okay to mess around, to let myself relax, to pull out my Kansai-ben. I've gradually improved since then.
That's quite some high-level training! What else have you learnt?
When I first joined Country Girls, Momochi-senpai said 'Let's do sexy poses~'. I was dumbstruck. And then, going with the flow, they did sexy poses, like it was some sort of game. At first, I was wondering what was up with these people. And they took pictures doing those poses. I was embarrassed, but did it as well. Then, looking at the pictures, I was the only one smiling shyly, incomparable to the other members. That sense of embarrassment was embarrassing.
Something like, it was embarrassing because it felt out of place?
That's right. By nature, I think that I would have been able to go with the flow and do something silly like that. But as I was maintaining a façade, I couldn't pull it off. But I cast of my shell little by little, and I've become able to pull off sexy poses. Also, we have 'Momochi Goten' backstage.
Momochi Goten? Like the comedy show 'Sanma Goten'?
That's right. If it's something surprising, we should actually be able to talk about it. At first, I'd just listen to what the senpais had to say. And when I was asked to speak at the end, I had nothing at the ready, and couldn't speak. After the Momochi Goten ended, Momochi-senpai told me to think properly about the topic. That was when I noticed that it was training for MCs!
Ah, practice that feels like play.
That's right. But I didn't think of it as playing around at first. It was quite bothersome. However, I gradually started to be able to relax and bring myself forward.
Does Tsugunaga-san tell you off?
Generally, she doesn't get mad even if we fail at talking. She'll say things like 'You were nervous, right?' or 'You got tongue-tied, huh?' But she'll throw us an admonishment if we don't answer because of embarrassment, despite knowing the best way to respond. But she hasn't said anything to any of us Country Girls recently though. And this is what Momochi-senpai says when that happens: 'All of you are able to talk smoothly, and you've gotten used to speaking on your own. So, while thinking about the topics and sorting out the topics discussed so far, next time, be more aware about how long you've been talking.' She gives that sort of advice. It makes me really happy when we're told that we're going to the next stage.
Whoa~~. (in admiration)
Besides that, when I'm mentioning the names of H!P members from other groups when I'm talking on radio or TV, I shouldn't just say 'Kisora-chan', I've got to say 'Tsubaki Factory's Niinuma Kisora-chan'. The general public wouldn't know whom I'd talking about. Basic things like that. Also on TV appearances, even when it's not my time to talk, I should still try hard to react using facial expressions while I'm in the background. I should constantly be laughing and letting my voice be heard. Like for example, if something surprising happens, I should express it with my face as well as with my movements and my voice. Since the viewers wouldn't be able to tell that I was surprised otherwise. She taught me all sorts of lessons like that.
Classes on variety! I'd like to go for these Momochi classes!
What's more, as we always have these talks backstage, it's pretty common for me to notice here and there that discussions will turn to something that we'd talked about before.
Like you'd studied up on the day's topic before classes started.
That's right. Since it was something we'd done in Momochi class! (laughs) And recently I'm feeling less and less pressure to have to say something funny. It's increasingly common for me to be entertaining just by speaking freely. It's fun.
That's great! That sense of versatility. That's what happens.
Ah, however, when I get too used to it, Momochi-senpai will remind me to talk in a way that even first-time viewers will understand. Concerts MCs are generally populated by fans. So when I say anything, they'll respond in perfect form. But she told me not to get too used to that. That I should explain things as if I were meeting someone for the very first time, even if I've met them time and time again. That happens unconsciously when we get too used to things... But in that case, things get draggy if I explain too much. It's a huge problem. You could call it a worry.
You know, if I were to ask a run-of-the-mill idol about what they're worrying about, I'm sure it wouldn't be that. (laughs) Is there anything you're proud of as a private student of the Momochi classes?
There is. Whenever we have work outside of H!P and we're grouped together with other idols, Momochi-senpai always reminds us that we're there as representatives of Hello! Project. So she wants us to be proud of our history, and feel a sense of responsibility. Those words carry weight, they have conviction, because Momochi-senpai has been an idol for 15 years. It's a huge thing for us to be taught by that Momochi-senpai. I'm really glad that a lot of people have told us that Country are good at MCs.
Funaki-san, you'll be inheriting those 'Momochi-isms', the last of her lineage. Do you plan to convey those '-isms' to the kouhai?
Of course! That's my goal for 2017, but until Momochi-senpai's graduation on the 30th of June, I'd like to inherit as much of the 'Momochi-isms' as possible, I'd like to get an even better feel of Momochi-senpai's actions. And in addition to MC-ing, I'd also like to polish my performances.
I see. Well then, we're closing in on the end, but what sort of person is 'Tsugunaga Momoko' to you, Funaki-san?
Amongst the people that I've met so far, she's the most amazing in all humanity. Mankind's greatest.
Mankind's greatest!? Those are words that'd be used for Fyodor or Antonio Inoki-san! (laughs)
Momochi-senpai can visualise everything, like how much time will be needed. Like even if it's words on a piece of paper, she'll get everything down pat, from the left edge of the paper to the right. From even those minor things, she's great at everything!
Your respect for her is really something! (laughs) Well then, please do your best in 2017 as 'The final successor to the Momochi-isms'.
Right! Thank you very much! From now on, I'll introduce myself as 'Funaki Musubu, the final successor to the Momochi-isms!'
Well, no need to go that far. (laughs)