I’ve often mentioned how much stronger Morning Musume would be as a unit if they had a wider age range. In the past few years big personalities like Kaori, Yaguchi, Yossie and Miki have left and to a certain degree none of the remaining members have the strength of personality yet to really step into their shoes. However when it comes to beauty and strength there is nobody quite as formidable as Yuko. With a strong yankii-style personality and good looks too she was perfectly cast as Morning Musume’s first leader. Unlike the young girls who join MM today Yuko had some life experience. She’d actually lived some before embarking on her singing career. This gave her the perfect maturity to be a leader to the younger members. She has a strong personality and is not the kind of person to be afraid to stand up and be counted. Nor would she be afraid to stand up to anyone whose behaviour she felt needed improving. It’s easy to see just why she was so successful as MM’s first leader.
It’s also easy to forget just how funny she can be. She played up to her image brilliantly on Hello! Morning. Especially in the news segments where she found the perfect foil in Rika. With Rika’s scatty humour, Takahashi’s kawaii and surreal dressing up and Yuko’s knowing sending up of her own self the news segments with the 3 of them were the highlight of each show. If you watch early Utaban’s you see the same self-knowing send up with Yuko always happy to play at being the scary quick-tempered matriarch. The Memory Seishun no Hikari episode has lots of humour with talk centered on seating arrangements on future shows after Fukuda Asuka graduates. Yuko is quick to bite that she wants the centre position all to herself. Always delivering such lines with a glint in her eye and a smile that gives away that she’s not really quite as scary as she jokingly makes out she is.
Although Yuko did still at times give off a tough image you are left in no doubt that the other members loved her. Yaguchi – who would seem the mirror opposite of Yuko in terms of personality and attitude – has talked glowingly of Yuko on several occasions. She has mentioned how her parents are thankful to Yuko for nurturing Yaguchi into a strong person and how Yuko’s support after the death of her grandparents was very helpful. Even very recently Yaguchi appeared on a Japanese tv show talking of what she went through when she left Morning Musume under a cloud in 2005. She mentioned how Yuko phoned her and was very supportive. Then there’s the tv show that showed Yuko’s surprise graduation presentation. All the members seemed genuinely thankful for Yuko’s support and mentoring. Several mentioned how her leadership had helped them become better at their job. She was probably the most natural leader Morning Musume ever had.
Away from MM she also had a successful solo career. Although single sales did drop off eventually her earlier singles sold well and to this day her presence would sell out a concert. She remains popular with the fans just as she is still held in high regard by those who worked with her. It would be nice to see H!P really pull out the stops to create some strong new songs for her. I think her talent is being wasted at the moment although she is by no means alone in that. I think she is another example of H!P being a bit lazy in the type of song they write for their solo artists. H!P don’t always seem to know what to do with their soloists. Often you end up with a procession of similar songs and thus the law of diminishing returns appears. Yuko should really be able to have a more active career. Her enduring popularity with fans who remember the old MM is proof that you dont have to be a teen to be popular.
She is also proof that you don’t have to be a teen to be beautiful. Mentally strong, funny, sharp, and very sexy Yuko is the idol young idols should look up to. The idols idol you could say. She is H!P’s leader and deservedly so.