- You're breaking up.... Did you ever consider not actually going through with the breakup?
Hagiwara: Rather than wanting to halt the breakup, for us, it's more like...
Suzuki & Hagiwara (in harmony): Are we really breaking up....?
Hagiwara: It hasn't really hit us yet. Our conversations are often like 'Huh? The way things are going...... are we really breaking up?'
Okai: I think that we might only feel it like a few days before Saitama Super Arena. But things might get crazy when there's like three days left.
- It'll hit you all out of the blue?
Okai: Yeah. We won't know how it'll feel like until it happens. It was the same with our debut. It feels like how things felt at the very start [when we made the graduation announcement].
- Have you been told that it feels like such a waste for you to break up?
Suzuki: We've been told that. The fans have protested against it, saying that they're opposed to our breakup~!!
Yajima: However, it instead makes me happy to be told that it's such a waste for ℃-ute to break up. It pushes me to show them something that's even more thought out.
- You're really approaching your breakup in a great mood, aren't you? When did you feel that the bonds between the five of you had strengthened?
Yajima: For me, it was our first Nippon Budokan......
Hagiwara: Me too.
Nakajima: Me too.
Yajima: The path to the Nippon Budokan united our feelings. Every time we were out of town, we would gather up at someone's room and stay up talking about how to make the Nippon Budokan a success. That felt like the prime of our lives, like '℃-ute's the best!!' (laughs)
Hagiwara: It wasn't the first time, but the Nippon Budokan had been established as a united goal, and we were dealing with it seriously. And the Nippon Budokan also made me realise that people can concentrate so passionately on a single thing.
- That said, to break up in such a good condition, it's such a waste...
Yajima: We've always said that we'd hate to just fizzle out after getting to a place where we were satisfied. Since we've said that, I'm grateful that we'll be seeing the end at the Saitama Super Arena, a place that the five of us have dreamed of.
- You released your '℃omplete single collection' on the 3rd of May, a best-of album which contains all your singles. But it's also a reminder that the clock is ticking. As members of the group, how do you feel, releasing a complete single collection?
Nakajima: While I think that it's really great that we get to release an album like that, it also does serve as a reminder that the curtain is finally closing on ℃-ute.
Okai: When Berryz Kobo released their complete album, I looked at it objectively, like 'Ah, it's the last...' I knew that the day would come for us someday. And now, we're in that position. It was a bit scary to think that once this album got released, there'd be no more albums, no more new songs.
- Though you did want to leave behind this sort of complete album package.
Yajima: That's right. Doing it this way reminds us of what a long history ℃-ute has, of how many songs we've released! It's not a complete record of everything, but I'm really glad that we got to leave behind something in this form.
Hagiwara: There's also three new songs in it, so I'm glad that we can show you a new ℃-ute again at the very end.
Suzuki: What's more, I think that it's nice how there are all the coupling songs on [the regular edition], as well as rare tracks. I really remember 'Yuki ga Chirari', and I remember even the dance lessons for 'Come Together (℃-ute ver.)' and 'Juliet Juliet'. ℃-ute fans won't be able to attain full completion unless they get their hands on this album! So I hope that you check it out.
- We would like you to pick a song that you like from your complete single collection, or a song that you'd like to talk about.
Yajima: Well, for me, it's the last song (from the rare track collection), 'Zenbu Owatta Kaerimichi'. It's a new song written by Tsunku♂-san. [The lyrics] talk about what comes after everything has ended. Tsunku♂-san wrote various songs for us as we headed towards the end. But this song is for the ℃-ute of the present. This song feels like it's wishing us luck as we face the next day. But the lyrics to this song talk about what comes after the end. There are lots of lyrics that make me wonder how my life would have been had I not entered this line of work. Like 'We can talk at leisure tomorrow as well, so let's talk whenever'. (laughs) That sort of... How do I put it. Tsunku♂-san said something like 'It's because these girls went through 12 years of their youth as ℃-ute...' And this song also touches on how we'll be as regular women after this, the things we're looking forward to, the feelings we'd like to savour. ℃-ute is still around now, so we get to wear outfits, and we're mindful about how much we eat before concerts. But this song makes me think about how things'll be like when that's no longer the case...... That's the love I felt when we received this song.
- The melody has quite an unexpected pop feel to it.
Yajima: It's not solemn, it's cheerful. But singing ♪Breakup~ so cheerfully feels sad in a different way. Also, ever since 'Dance de Bakoon!', ℃-ute have been associated with udon. At the end of this song, it goes ♪Udon demo tabete kaisan~ (Eat udon and break up), and I was like 'Whoa!!'
Nakajima: For me, it would be 'Sekai Ichi Happy na Onna no Ko'. The dance starts with us getting into a circle. Every time we get into that circle, all sorts of scenes spring to my mind, from the Nippon Budokan to the live houses. It makes me feel like 'The five of us are going to do our best!' That's why I like this song.
Suzuki: For me, there are several songs that gave me the opportunity to broaden my range. The first one to broaden my range isn't in this album, but it's 'As One' (from their 1st album 'Cutie Queen Vol. 1'). The key at chorus for that song was my limit at the time. Next was 'Bishoujo Shinri', then came 'Kanashiki Heaven', and Buono!'s 'So La Ti Do ~Nee Nee~' was my peak. And when we ranked songs by fan votes, 'Bishoujo Shinri' placed pretty high. Though it was a song that we used to only sing on the 10th of September (℃-ute no Hi) in the past. Tsunku♂-san explained the song to me, so at this point in time, I understand how to sing it, how the protagonist of the song feels. But back then, it was pretty difficult. The high key was a challenge. It's a song I really like, but I get tense whenever this song comes up. It's a memorable song to me.
Okai: 'Kiss Me Aishiteru'. Ever since we made our debut, I'd always hated that I wouldn't get singing parts. While my singing parts steadily increased from 'Campus Life ~Umarete Kite Yokatta~', 'Kiss Me Aishiteru' was when I got enough singing parts that even I could acknowledge it. Since then, the joy of singing started to well up in me, and I gained confidence. At the time, I had also slimmed down quite a lot. (laughs) I have no regrets about that song whatsoever.
Hagiwara: 'Gamusha Life' for me. I thought it was a good song when we first got it, We also sang the song upon the occasion of ℃-ute's 10th anniversary, and the music video incorporates the names of the original members, so I cry every time we sing this song. This song was made by Shock Eye-san (from Shonan no Kaze), who told us that it would feel different when we performed it at YokoAri. And it really was completely different when we sang it at our Yokohama Arena show. That was when songs first started to amaze me.
- Apparently they sang 'Gamusha Life' at your final overseas show the other day (16th April).
Hagiwara: That's right. The fans in France sang 'Gamusha Life' in Japanese. When I heard it, it made me really happy. Since it showed how they really treasured 'Gamusha Life' as well. It's memorable that we sang it on our 10th anniversary, but when we sing this song, it's Team ℃-ute's song. We only got this far because of the team. This wonderful song let me learn the importance of songs before our breakup.
- One more question. Please tell us about 'a song that you think was a turning point for yourself or for ℃-ute'.
Yajima: 'Massara Blue Jeans'. It's a song that we always sing at concerts though. When we first got this song, I wanted to show the desperation in my singing. I got quite a high note, with the key (of the muted chorus) at my borderline. I really couldn't sing it back then.
- You used to sing with you heart in your throat in the past?
Yajima: That's right. I always feared the muted chorus, it was almost traumatic.
Okai: In the past, I would always cheer her on whenever we sang 'Massara Blue Jeans'. 'Maimi-chan, good luck!' (laughs)
Yajima: Back then, every time we got to the muted chorus, my heart rate would go up. I always wonder if I'll be able to let my voice out with this song... With the passage of time and as I received more vocal coaching, I can sing it properly now. But sometimes I'm conscious about how bad I was at singing that part that I'll occasionally go 'Huh!' (laughs) But I've been told that I'm fine, so I think that it's a song that let me grow.
- It's a song that trained you up.
Yajima: Yes. It's also the song that I worried about the most.
Okai: I guess I would say that the song that trained me up was 'Kanashiki Heaven'. It's a song that really made me thinking about singing. What's more, it realised my long-lasting dream of singing next to Airi. So it's a song that also made me feel like 'Yeah!!" We have to harmonise in a way that we hardly ever do, and that was really difficult. It was a hard-won fight. So no matter whoever sings this song, I feel like no one can beat Airi and me. I have confidence that we're the best when it comes to singing 'Kanashiki Heaven'.
Suzuki: It's 'Dance de Bakoon!' for me. I remember well when we first performed this song at a Hello! Project concert. Up until then, whenever I watched Berryz Kobo, our peers from the same generation, perform their new songs (at Hello! Cons), I'd feel like 'They're so cool and mature... And yet we are who we are.' But when we were rehearsing for 'Dance de Bakoon!', I really remember thinking 'This is ℃-ute. Please watch us!' as I sang. I remember the cheers being huge the first time we performed it. I think that this song is when ℃-ute got associated with dancing.
Nakajima: For me, it'd be 'Kimi ha Jitensha Watashi ha Densha de Kitaku'. When we released this song, ℃-ute was participating endlessly in idol festivals, which was a leap into a new world. So it's more about that period of time rather than the song itself. Things started changing since then, and we also made 30 versions of the music video. For that single, we had a packed April, with performances every day. I also got to sing solo versions of 'Kimi ha Jitensha~', and got to experience a lot of things.
- Talking about idol festivals, you appeared at the 'Idol Yokocho Matsuri' that was held at Shibuya-AX (The 2nd Idol Yokocho Matsuri!! Nama Band Special).
Nakajima: That's right. ℃-ute was the last performer of the day. It was a world that we hadn't known about up until then, so I felt guilty about being the last performer. And Supaga (SUPER☆GiRLS) went up before us, and all of them really got things pumped up. We were dumbstruck - the typical pattern would be for us to go out and fail.
Okai: We were all fidgety until we went on-stage.
Suzuki: Like we were worried that no one would know our songs...
- But as a result, you had an impactful performance, and let people know who ℃-ute were.
Nakajima: There are people who became our fans through that festival, and there were people who knew of ℃-ute but had a different perception of how we were as a group. So we got acknowledged by them. I'm glad that we got to participate in idol fests.
Hagiwara: It would be 'Sekai Ichi Happy na Onna no Ko' for me. That was the first time that I'd dyed my hair. I'd always wanted to get it dyed, and when I finally did it, everyone kept on telling me how good it looked. That made me really happy. I started enjoying music video shoots even more since then, and I started to think anew about myself, like how I looked, the colour of my hair, my clothes, and so on.
- Will your hair colour keep on changing in the future?
Hagiwara: At one point in time, I went blonde, but having turned 21, I'm slowly having less courage to do things like that. (laughs) I've started realising that it'll damage my hair if I keep on doing it, so I'll be doing it in moderation.
- From the 13th of June, you'll each be taking a new step towards the path that you've picked. But can you imagine what lies ahead for you?
Yajima: We've talked a lot about that...
Nakajima: Since we've spent more than half our lives in Hello! Project, we're unable to envision ourselves not being part of ℃-ute or Hello! Project.
Yajima: Our private lives probably won't change, we'll keep on meeting each other like usual, we'll have meals together. But when we're at work, we won't be together in the dressing room any longer... How will it be like? I'm shy, so I'll feel somewhat helpless.
Hagiwara: Without all of you around, I think that I'll be at my wits end, but I've recently been [rehearsing for] that a lot. In my free time, when I find myself alone, I'll try going for meals by myself. Taking single steps towards being independent. (laughs)
- Any worries?
Nakajima: I'm looking forward to it though. I wonder how we'll change after this. What'll we be thinking about... I'd like to experience all sorts of things. But having been cultivated by ℃-ute makes me feel reassured about going through those experiences. I've also experienced a slump, so I feel like I'll be able to weather through the tough times if I just think back to how I held out during those times.
- Not that you're not looking before you leap, but if you don't plunge into something, nothing will get started.
Yajima: That's true. So in a sense, it's time for us to have to grow.
Suzuki: I've found a new dream. The members will each go down different paths, so looking at it objectively, I'd like to work together because we're going down different paths. For example, I'll sing the theme song to a drama that Maimi-chan is appearing in. It would be nice if we could be connected through our work in ways like that, in different ways than we have up until now. I'd like to support each and every member as we shine on different paths. And it would be great if that led to the blossoming of other new dreams.
- Well then, how about messages to... the member to your right?
All 5: Oh.
- How about we start with Okai-chan? (situated on the writer's right)
Okai: A message to Airi......
Suzuki: Oi, you're worrying a lot over it. (laughs)
- For example, 'Let's use up everything we've got until the very end'.
Okai: Let's use up everything we've got until the very end.
- Oi! (laughs)
Okai: Let's see. Compared to when we made our debut, Airi has been excitable recently. Even when we were together, there were all sorts of times when we thought ’Is Airi not going to show herself to us?' or 'Will Airi not show her true self?' But recently, it's been the other way round: she's showing too much of herself that it's annoying. (laughs)
Suzuki: Ah! You're saying that I'm annoying - are those words of praise? (laughs)
Okai: But in that way, we're friends until the very end...... Though we might have a fight midway through.
Suzuki: Shall we fight once, around the 31st of May?
Okai: We'll see. (laughs) Well, it would be great to go on cheerfully and energetically until the very end.
- Next, Airi-chan.
Suzuki: There's something the personally worries me about Nacky, which is that you're the member who inadvertently gets depended on. That's how it is with dancing, and when the two of us share a room, Nacky will make sure to wake me up in the morning. While I think of you as a reliable older sister, we've always been together from way back, so I can immediately tell what you're thinking about and what you'd do in certain situations. So after our breakup, I'd like to have girl-on-girl discussions with you, in a relationship different to what we have now......
Nakajima: It would be nice to have girl-on-girl discussions.
Suzuki: Yup. It would be nice to do so.
- Continuing on, Saki-chan.
Nakajima: Mai-chan has always been my buddy from way back. We've keep getting put in similar places, and we keep getting the same positions, so we always say things like 'Good luck today, buddy' or 'This is the best' to one another. You know, while we might not think the same way, we're somehow similar. Like in our opinions towards work. Talking with you makes me take another look at myself, our relationship makes me desire to improve myself even more, so you're a real great help.
Hagiwara: Same here.
Nakajima: We've talked about going to the gym together even after ℃-ute is done. With things like that, I'll be in your care in the future as well.
- Continuing on, Mai-chan.
Hagiwara: At first, Leader was a completely different leader than the other leaders that were around us, so it felt really fresh. But as the years went by, I started thinking that I was glad to have her as our leader. As we draw closer to our breakup, I've started thinking that there must have been hurdles that only Leader knows about, hurdles that we didn't know of... There really are a lot of things where all the responsibility fell on Leader, so she's been working hard on all sorts of things for our sake, she's been helping us out. Personally, I've really been under her care ever since we were small, which makes me happy. It's a good memory.
- Finally, Maimi-chan.
Yajima: Chisato's the mood maker for ℃-ute, and whenever we ask her to do an impersonation, no matter how tired she is, she'll be fully willing to give us a show, she'll definitely make us laugh. That's really great. I think it's sad that we'll no longer have that in the future. But I hope that whenever we meet, she'll make us laugh again. Also, personally, Chisato's the sole member that I've fought with as well.
Hagiwara: That's true.
Nakajima: You know, it's only been [Yajima and Okai].
Suzuki: Never between us.
Yajima: But I'd never had a relationship like that before, so thinking about it now, I'm grateful.
- Well then, finally, please give a message to the fans.
Hagiwara: ℃-ute has continued on for 12 years. So I'm truly grateful to everyone, be it the people who have kept on supporting us since I was in primary school, those who have just started cheering us on recently, and even to those who have thought that ℃-ute was a good group, even if it was just for a week, even if it was just for a short while. I'm grateful that you discovered ℃-ute. In the midst of ℃-ute's activities, I never thought that we'd be able to stand on huge stages like the Nippon Budokan and the Saitama Super Arena. But we were able to get there thanks to the support of the fans. And I don't think that ℃-ute would have lasted this long if it wasn't for the fans. All your support has been the biggest thing, so I'd like to get my feelings of gratitude across.
Okai: There may be people who have supported us for 12 years, and there may be some of you who have only just recently discovered us. And when we go to different places, there are likely to still be people who support us. This isn't me paying lip service, but back when we made our debut, I really didn't have any fans. That being the case, I really remember the faces of the people who were my very first fans. Since then, if there was even a single fan of mine around, it made me feel like I had to do my best. I’m the kind of person who definitely won’t make fans if I just go through things normally. So my confidence was built up by people giving me support and telling me all sorts of things. While we should be the ones giving courage and dreams to the fans, for me, I was probably only able to work hard to this point due to the fans helping me out. I grew because I wanted to live up to your expectations. So I’m really grateful, so grateful that just saying ‘Thank you’ wouldn’t really cut it. I think that it would be nice to have more opportunities to see all of you, so it would please me greatly if you all gathered up when that happens. We’ll be counting on your support for ℃-ute until the very end.
Suzuki: We have no idea how to repay you for the time you partitioned away for our sake, for the love you’ve showered upon us. From the deepest recesses of my heart, I really, really, really, REALLY think of Team ℃-ute as wonderful companions. Compared to any other idol fans, you’re warmer, kinder, good at getting the mood pumped up - you’re companions whom we’re proud of. Up until now, you’ve always said that we should spend more time smiling than in tears. But at the very end, don’t hold anything back. It’s fine to cry your hearts out. With my own two eyes, I want to see you let out all your feelings for ℃-ute at the Saitama Super Arena.
Nakajima: Just as the members have said, if it wasn’t for the people supporting us, ℃-ute wouldn’t have gone on for so long. The words of all of you who support us, telling us how good ℃-ute is, those words have acted as provisions to let us do our best until now. We really got here thanks to the strength of all of you. I’m filled with gratitude. I would like to tell you that ℃-ute will be counting on you until the very end.
Yajima: I think that I can always meet the ℃-ute members, but I don’t know what’ll happen in the future when it comes to the fans. That’s the saddest thing to me. During tough times, my biggest support was the powerful strength of all the fans. I’d read letters, which would make me think things like ‘Even someone like can give others the power to live on’ or ‘I’ve got to work hard’. So, I probably wouldn't be here without all of you, so I’m really grateful. These 12 years are thanks to all of you, and I’m really glad that we’re able to bring all of you to the Saitama Super Arena. I’d like to convey that gratitude to the members of Team ℃-ute all around the country, so we’ll be counting on you until the very end.