I really don’t know how to take this. According to this thread on Hello!Online every member of the Elder Club is graduating on 1 March 2009. Yes that’s everyone. No more Elder Club. That’s Nakazawa Yuko, Iida Kaori, Abe Natsumi, Yasuda Kei, Yaguchi Mari, Ishikawa Rika, Yoshizawa Hitomi, Tsuji Nozomi, Konno Asami, Ogawa Makoto, Fujimoto Miki, Inaba Atsuko, Satoda Mai, Melon Kinenbi, Maeda Yuki, Matsuura Aya, Miyoshi Erika, Okada Yui and Ongaku Gatas. Well that explains the Mega Best’s. The final performances will actually be on January 31st and February 1st according to this site.
Apparently the members are staying in UFA but I wonder. With sales for most of those who are still releasing music being low will they really be staying in UFA? With Hangry & Angry being launched I can’t believe there is any way that Rika & Yossie will be ditched. Maybe Ongaku Gatas will carry on then too. They still seem to have some popularity. I really hope so as otherwise I can’t see Konno staying in the music industry. Konno along with Yaguchi and Iida is a firm favourite of mine. Nacchi as well come to think of it. I think I’ll be lucky to still see releases from just one of them to be honest.
But for the likes of Yuko who hasn’t released any music in ages this seems like the end of an era. I can’t see Inaba Atsuko having much to do either. After all she’s never had any solo work or any group since T&C. Backing vocals is probably the best she’ll get. Kaori is a mother now and I don’t think we’ll see her as a singer again (damn). Yaguchi and Yasuda aren’t singing anyway anymore except for the Elder Club concerts. In fact when I look through the list there’s only really the Hangry & Angry pairing that I feel any confidence for. I loved V-U-den but it looks like Yui and Erika have had their day. And then there’s Nacchi. Will she continue? Her sales aren’t great but she’s still getting top 15 singles so I really hope UFA will allow her to continue. Although her last photobook being called End of Summer could be portentous. In recent times she has sold the most singles of all the Elder Club, based on the Wiki so I really hope UFA allow her to continue. There’s still a market there and with a relaunch on a new label maybe she can increase her popularity again?
Maybe there lies the one ray of hope. Perhaps this will be a good thing for some of them (although definitely not for all). The Elder Club didn’t do much and the individual music releases by what few members actually got releases never seemed to be marketed that aggressively. Perhaps by removing these well established members from the Hello!Project ‘idol’ image they can be reborn? Maybe be given a chance to have a fresh start? I think the problem in the past has been that too many of the members have been given nothing to do. For instance when Ayaka left she’d done nothing for years other than Elder Club concerts. It was a stupid situation to put talented singers into. Maybe it’s not a bad thing that the Elder Club is being disbanded. I think the answer though depends entirely on what plans UFA actually have for these members. The same UFA who disbanded V-U-den. Hmm. No, I’m definitely worried!
You can’t continue to stagnate. Change is inevitable. The way the Elder Club members had been treated for the most part invited stagnation. Relying on an ever decreasing number of fans and not enticing any new ones meant that this was bound to happen in the end. I just hope UFA do have something good up their sleeves for those members who want to continue as singers. Yuko and Yasuda act a lot and maybe they don’t want to continue? After all they have been in H!P for a long time. Yaguchi is a great tv presenter. Tsuji and Iida are parents. But the rest? Surely the likes of Miki Fujimoto, Miyoshi Erika, Okada Yui and Maatsura Aya want to continue in the music industry? If so I hope they get the chance to.
Edit: Hello!Online has translations of Tsunku and Yuko’s comments here.
Anyway because it’s all new and shiny, a poll. You can pick as many answers as you like…