Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yuuka's really leaving, isn't she?

I've had a night's rest and thought about yesterday's news and I think it hurts more today than it did yesterday. This is one of the longest posts I've ever made, so brace yourselves.

Normally right now is the time where I start going through the conspiracy theories on why they probably aren't true, but this time I think it's pretty obvious. A High School age girl that wants to go to university? How rare. /sarcasm

You can talk about how the new members being added and how Saki leaving had an effect on her (which I'm sure they did) all you want, but as the primary reason for her leaving? That just sounds ludicrous to me, especially if you are to believe what Tsunku said, "Even though she's been a member from the beginning, she expressed her will to concentrate on getting in to a university." (Thanks to sa1234 for the translation) I refuse to believe that Yuuka would give up everything she's worked for over a change in the group's operations.

So, instead of getting hyped on theories that barely have a leg to stand on, I want to look at what we do know. The first being that it was Yuuka's decision. We don't have a direct, clear cut statement from her saying those exact words, but just reading either of the translations of Yuuka's comment and blog post should point you in that direction. We also know that S/mileage "will continue to evolve with changes to it's members just like Morning Musume." (from the sa1234 translation above) And finally, we know that she's been thinking about this for a while. "I’ve been really concerned about not being able to do both work and school since I’ve begun high school." (TMKR and blog! project) That is quite a lot to digest in one paragraph, so let's take it one thing at a time.

Yuuka decided it herself, eh? Out of all of the possible reasons for a graduation, I think that leaving on one's own will, without a scandal is the most honorable. If one of your friends told you that they wanted to better their life and do something that they truly wanted to do, you'd be happy, right? There's certainly nothing wrong with that for normal people. However, Yuuka isn't normal; she's an idol - a public figure of admiration. Of worship even. In the post where I broke the news, Hime Ku-chan left a comment saying "I understand what people are saying but I feel we are being a little selfish." I agree with that, but I think it's a two way street here.

Yuuka is also being selfish by leaving behind a group that was pretty obviously (in my mind at least) being pushed as H!P's second flagship (or whatever you want to call them) group. UFA always promotes their new artists well by getting them on various TV shows and magazines, but then usually lets them fend for themselves after the first year or so. Whether it was due to the fact that they knew Saki was leaving is debatable, but S/mileage, even through their second year of being a group, has had pretty solid promotion, especially compared to their Berikyuu senpai who have been official groups for much, much longer (C-ute for example hadn't performed a single live on any TV program of note since Campus Life on Music Japan until the recent Berikyuu single. All four of S/mileage singles in 2011 were performed on at least one TV of note).

But, selfishness aside, that doesn't mean that I'm blaming Yuuka or saying that she's wrong to make this decision. Again, it's her life and she is welcome to do whatever she wants with it. It's just that by being a public figure (to be more specific - an idol, whose charm is being able to get to know them and see them up and close frequently, as seem by release events, FC events, handshake events, etc), her decisions impact more than just herself. She's a front girl and a popular member not just in S/mileage, but in Hello! Project as a whole. Not only was she the first S/mileage member to get a photobook, but she also got one before two of her C-ute senpai, Chisato and Saki.

If Ogawa Saki were still in the group, Yuuka's leaving would have a major impact. But as we know, Saki left a mere few months ago. I can only imagine the actual impact that this will have on S/mileage after what they've been through in the latter part of 2011. With Yuuka's impending graduation in December, S/mileage will have lost 1/3rd of its members in less than a year (we can't forget about Kosuga). The last time something like that happened? The EriJunLin graduation in December of 2010. Morning Musume was able to survive because of its tradition - members come and go and new ones are added to carry on the legacy. If S/mileage truly was being groomed to be H!P's #2, then there really isn't much choice but to follow Morning Musume's tradition, which brings me to the quote above.

"S/mileage will continue to evolve with changes to it's members just like Morning Musume."

Assuming the translation is correct (and from what I can tell, it is), then what one Anon feared in other post's comments section will probably come true, "I just hope to God that S/mileage doesn't get a 3rd gen. Adding 2nd gen was bad enough."

But, is the possibility of a 3rd gen really such a bad idea? I'm sure S/mileage purists will all yell "No!" to the idea of another audition, but it all depends on what you want from S/mileage. Berikyuu have managed to stay around for a long time, fighting through quite a few changes (mostly on the C-ute side, obviously) without any additional auditions, but I think that they are the exception rather than the rule. There is definitely a shelf-life for idols and once a girl or group reaches that peak, the odds are overwhelmingly against them to survive. Scandals and graduations both make survival even harder than it already is in the crowded idol environment of today. With auditions and new faces being added, this would effectively increase S/mileage's shelf-life tenfold. Though, at what cost? Again, it depends on what you want from the group. If DAWA and Kanon both stick it out and continue on and the group has no more changes, there will be a point in time when the group has to end. Auditions are the natural cure to that inevitable ailment that effects all idols in one point in time in their career. The question is, would new girls be able to carry on the spirit and the overall feel to the mini-skirt, hyper, happy-go-lucky group?

Moving on to Yuuka's official reason for leaving - she wants to properly study at a university. She's at that age and time in her life when it's time to make the leap to move away from your comfort zone and pick out a university to study at. Each person's reason for making that leap is different. For most, it's to study to pick up a career. Others see it as a necessity to enter the workforce. Or maybe it's an entirely different reason altogether. The common denominator here is the betterment of one's life. Very few people go to college just because; more often then not, there is a reason fueling the want to move on with one's life. The real question here is why? If Yuuka is doing what she loves, then why is there a need to go to university when you're already living your dream?

To answer that, let's go back to what I said one paragraph ago. It's virtually impossible to be an idol forever. It's just an unfortunate fact of the business. That is why graduations are necessary. Part of me wishes that Yuuka would be sticking around longer, but then I remembered that she's been a part of Hello! Project just as long as Berikyuu (just as an Egg for most of that time). That's the reason why I'm torn.

7 years is a heck of a long time to be in the idol business. But still, the selfish part of me can't help but wish she wasn't leaving. Although I cried watching Aichan's graduation concert, this upcoming graduation seems even sadder to me because once 2012 hits, there is a good chance that we won't ever see Yuuka again, barring any stalker photos or some sort of a comeback years later (fingers crossed). As fans, we get so attached to these girls because they literally have a camera shoved in their face from the time they get to work until the time they leave work (and in some cases beyond that - i.e. stalker photos and self-shots for their blog, etc). But, for many idols her age, it's that exact reason why the choice is made. I've said it before, but being an idol is tough. Privacy is not something that any of them can say that they have anymore. For that reason, I can't be too hard on the girl for wanting to try and be normal again and wanting to do something else for a change.

Though I'm sure some people may wonder why her wanting to go to university when others have successfully did both in the past (I believe that Momoko is an example, but I'm not 100% sure) is the sole reason for her leaving. I do wish that Yuuka would have at least given it a shot first and then if she found that she couldn't handle juggling college and work, make the decision to leave, but let's not forget that Yuuka isn't Momoko. She's Yuuka and only Yuuka knows Yuuka's limits. "I’ve been really concerned about not being able to do both work and school since I’ve begun high school." (from TMKR and blog! project) If she had troubles in High School, then she's guaranteed to have even more trouble trying to juggle university and work, especially if S/mileage's promotional blitz continues in the future.

Yuuka made a very bold decision that may very well prove to benefit her in the long run, but that doesn't make the upcoming damage any lighter. I'm extremely worried about S/mileage after her graduation, even with the new members and possible new auditions on the horizon. This isn't the golden era, nor are we AKB48; we can't just plug in new girls and everything will be alright. Will S/mileage survive this? Definitely. Survival isn't what I'm worried about -- as long as UFA continues to give these girls work, they'll survive. There will always be the core wota fanbase that supports them no matter what. However, surviving and succeeding are two completely different things.

S/mileage has had success in the past, occasionally selling better than their senpai not named Morning Musume. I just hope that, going forward past this period of instability for them, S/mileage will do more than just survive. I hope that DAWA pulls her group together, picks them up, and helps them find success again. I hope that Tsunku finds the song writing magic that he did with their first few singles. I hope that the promotion and the positive spotlight continues to shine on S/mileage. DAWA, Kanon, and the other two founding members of S/mileage worked too hard to debut to just give up now.

When Mikan released and the official sales figures were known, people said that Morning Musume was done - that they were on the road to disbanding. Then Resonant Blue came out and nearly doubled Mikan's first week. C-ute lost Megumi, one of their early front girls, then years later lost Kanna and Erika in the same year. People wondered if C-ute could make it as such a small group and yet it's been more than two years since then and their overall sales have been incredibly stable. I have faith in S/mileage and I know that they too can bounce back from 2011 and make 2012 more memorable for all the right reasons.

Goodbye Yuuka! I wish you the best of luck with your studies.

tl;dr: I don't think any of the conspiracy theories are true this time around. It's normal for a girl her age to want to go to university. I wish that she'd wait to see for sure if she could handle the pressure or not, but it's her decision. She is being a bit selfish with her decision, but so are we (the fans) by wanting her to spend a decade of her life in a dead-end career. S/mileage has a tough road ahead of them now, but I believe in them.


  1. GOD OF POSTS!! :O
    Yuuka! Fight! in your Life ^^

  2. Thank you for this long post, you can express yourself really well.
    I can understand Yuuka very well. In less than 2 years I will finish school, and it's hard enough even without being an idol. It's still sad to think of all the effort she made to get this popular and now she's giving everything up. I wonder if she'll be sadder than the fans?

    I'm really worried about their popularity now, because Yuuka was veeeery popular. I often read comments on youtube when members are graduating. Some write something like "___ was my favorite member! She was the best! With her leaving, I can't be a fan of this group anymore.". We can only hope that many Yuuka-fans don't think that way, because fans like these sadden me.

    I don't know what to think of the auditions. Will there be a difference to Morning Musume? Tsunku will probably pick the most talented to be in Morning Musume and the rest will left for S/mileage, I fear. On the other side it would be unfair for the current members to drop S/mileage.

    You're right that C-ute survived the loss of 3 members well, but they were more from the start and they still had Maimi and Airi who were front girls from the very beginning. Yuuka and Saki were vocally slightly better than Ayaka and Kanon and the new members (as much as I like them) are far away from that level.

    However. We can only wait and see how the new S/mileage will evolve and support them.
    Yuuka was (or is still) my favorite S/mileage member, and all I can do is to wish her the best for the future. I will still love S/mileage, no matter how much they change. Even if all original members will be graduated.

  3. @MiracleHappyLove: You brought up a very good point about C-ute's lead singers vs S/mileage's. S/mileage just lost both of theirs, which is a huge loss.

    I think Kanon is a much better singer than most people think and DAWA certainly isn't bad. The new members are going to have to step up and improve to fill the void. Meimi has what it takes, I think. And Takeuchi was a former Egg and has the right skills to help out as well.

    I hope that everyone continues to support S/mileage like you are~

  4. That was an epic post. Not just in length but in content - you said a lot of important things about the idol industry, H!P and s/m in particular. I honestly hope this, sad as it is because I quite liked Yuuka, makes s/mileage go in a new direction.

    Quite frankly I don't enjoy cutesy idols very much. I'm a big fan of more rock inspired stuff like Buono (and Berryz sometimes), electro dancey stuff like C-ute, and the infamous Emomusume era. So while I'm sure plenty of people who are already fans disagree, I'd really like to see s/mileage play around with more genres and styles.

  5. S/Mileage is officially done. Stick a fork in 'em.

  6. Really, Anon, really?

    This post was wonderful and I definitely agree that it's not some conspiracy. I just feel that Yuuka's tired of being an idol, and I honestly think she's felt this way for a while.

    But anyway, I will continue to support S/mileage in all that they do, and you know what, bring on a 3rd Gen, I'm actually looking forward to one now~

  7. Indeed: conspiracy theories be damned.
    Idols don't get to throw hissy fits and leave when everything isn't going according to their wishes. That would be incredibly selfish not to mention unprofessional. I for one don't believe Yuuka is like that.

    I choose to believe her stated reason for leaving. It is not without precedent: Konno Asami left Morning Musume to go to college as well, although of course she did come back but it no doubt helped her to get that announcer job. The part about Yuuka leaving the industry completely admittedly stings a bit.

    I see 3rd Gen (or the addition of Eggs) as a necessary inevitability. It should happpen sometime in the first half of 2012. Not to take away from the current members but if S/mileage intends to survive and grow the Morning Musume way, there's just no way it won't happen.

    I was a Morning Musume fan before I was a H!P fan so I can accept this, although I can understand why it's hard for some people. Yet 2011 seems to be shaping up as the year of the great H!P change (more promo, Tsunku seemingly taking a more active role and H!P finally taking this "age of the idols at war" seriously)

    I'll miss Yuuka, but just the same it has to be said: it is an interesting time to be a H!P fan. We lost some good people but we gained some as well. All I can do is support them.

  8. i wasnt saying we shouldnt be sad i was just thinking of it in a different way. i agree with all you have said here and i, personally, want to enjoy the time she has left and then wish her luck in all she does.

  9. Thank you again for your excellent and concise analysis of miss Maeda Yuuka's graduation. It has given me more appreciation of the world of idoling, and how this aspect of Japanese entertainment is an ever revolving door where you have to be ready for the unexpected.
    As an H!P fan in general, we must support other than the groups that we liked because if one spoke on a wheel breaks or stumbles, it will cease and halt its momentum.
    Yuuka should have realized this "ephipany" sooner, not later when s/mileage is gaining popularity. Still its her decision, she wants to move on and I hope the fans move on as well.
    As for the leader Ayaka, miss Cinderella wota and the new members, I'm looking forward to their new "revolution" as Kanon always remarks..
    Fandom is what H!P is all about as well as great music. By commenting on this blog, we get to voice our opinions and support these hard working idols through good and bad times.
    Thanks Yuuka for the memories, and ganbaranakutemo eenende!

  10. Fans need to take a look at the issue at a financial and cultural perspective.
    Why would a girl stick around to be an idol when she is paid only 200,000 yen per month? This for ALL new hires in the JApanese entertainment industry. And by all indication, Yuuka became a full time employee of UFA around smileage major debut.
    She has to stick a lot time before the pay even reaches 400,000 yen. By then she be 24/26 years old? That's the expiration of idols and after that what? It be pointless for her to go back to university

    And this goes to cultural differences or more how education is viewed in Japan. They still follow the same system which is
    good high school -> good university -> good company.
    In Japan, when you are fresh out of high school, to avoid to being an outcast or be branded a loser or to secure a decent white collar job, YOU MUST GO TO COLLEGE straight after high school. No gap year, no nothing. BUt at least you have a secure job till middle age.

    Western fans are upset that are being "lied" too or they "know" better. Japanese fans are more like "No don't go, plesae stay as my fantasy" or "SO you are really a normal girl".

  11. @issy34

    Agencies pay their celebs two different ways (one or the other). One is by salary and the other is by sales. I bet UFA pays everyone (at least H!P) by salaries. Also, if Yuuka thought of quitting because she is getting low pay, someone must have told her. I doubt she knows how much she is getting paid because most idols at her age gets their money forwarded to her parents. I'm pretty sure her pay is not much different from 7-9th Gen if they are the same age. And think about it, 200k yen per month is not bad since you are living at home. You don't have to pay rent or bills.
    I will also like the comment that Yuuka leaving H!P for school is not a bad choice. Some wotas are probably sad because Momo is also in university and being an idol. And look at how much TV time she is getting...

    As for S/mileage's future...
    It really all depends on what Tsunku does. First of all, S/mileage beats C-ute/BK/Mano Erina because of the style they have. They are very similar to Super Girls, NMB, Passpo, like high-pitch, fan-service, and energetic songs. C-ute/BK/MM sales are based on core fans and not from casual idol fans. Think about it, I doubt DAWA+Kanon+Yuuka can beat Airi+Maimi any day in terms of popularity.

    You may also think that being THIS much of an idol was not in Yuuka's job description. She joined H!P to become like Morning Musume or other senpais. I doubt MM did anything that S/mileage is doing right now (wearing short skirts, have a "made-up" personality, etc...). If she sees that S/mileage will never have the same style of Morning Musume, she might leave...

  12. I think Tsunku pretty much sent the girls a message with the auditions, which is "you are expendable and easily replaced." He didn't help things by suggesting that he could demote the original members if they didn't measure up.

    Yuuka never struck me as happy with this arrangement, or with the profound change in S/Mileage's identity. I'm sure she was undecided for a long time about her future; I think the auditions made it a lot easier for her to leave H!P for good.

    I just have to wonder whether Yuuka would still be around if UFA had been more attentive to her feelings. She's by far the most popular member of S/Mileage, and I worry about the future of the group with her gone.

  13. I don't believe a word of it. She really is probably going to study for school but there is not a doubt in my mind that the decision to leave came first and the direction to go in live came later. Anyone that believes that even 10 percent of the girls in HP that leave are going for the reason given to the public is just being naive. She will be missed.

  14. I just wonder how long it has been in the works. Was it for as long as Saki's graduation has been? I thought I read somewhere that Tsunku had 3 announcements that were to be made.

    1. Saki's graduation
    2. New members
    3. Yuuka's graduation?

  15. Oops,

    1. New members
    2. Saki's graduation
    3. Yuuka's graduation

  16. Lots of comments to reply to~

    @Aleria: Thanks. It took an epic amount of time to write too lol.

    I think that it's inevitable at this point because the core of S/mileage is gone. Like you, I like those three types of music mentioned, but that's also why I liked S/mileage so much - they were way different and gave us a cutesy side that we haven't really had since Minimoni.

    @Anon: We'll see.

    @Leia: I'm surprised that you want a 3rd gen lol. But yeah, me too. Of course I like DAWA, Nyon-sama, as well as the new members, but come December 31st, S/mileage's overall talent level will go down significantly (again). If there is a 3rd gen, I really hope an emphasis is put on talent. If they can find another Riho (or even a Kudo Haruka), S/mileage would once again be right up there with their senpai. Otherwise, the burden is on the new members to step up.

    @tommvd: Yeah, even if I don't always like to admit it, the conspiracy theories usually have at least some merit to them, but this time around I see absolutely nothing fishy.

    I'm always for adding Eggs, but at this point the Egg pool is pretty depleted. Of course, there is still Karin, but besides her I don't know of any other stand outs. 2011 definitely had its highs and lows - I just wish there weren't so many lows (because seriously, it would have been one of H!P's greatest years without all the drama).

    @Hime Ku-chan: Of course, it's natural to be sad and there's nothing wrong with that. I know it's going to take me a while to finally move on.

  17. @Anon2: You're welcome.

    Very interesting metaphor, but very true. I've said this before, but it's times like this where S/mileage (and any group in a similar situation) needs us fans the most.

    And I love the sentence in your second to last paragraph that says "Fandom is what H!P is all about as well as great music." I don't think I could have said it any better. For me, that's what separates Hello! Project, western music, and even J-pop in general. Well said.

    @issy34: You said some very interesting things, but I'm wondering where did you get those figures from? I faintly recall somehow a ballpark figure of H!P salaries were revealed years ago, but how do you know exactly how much Yuuka makes?

    It is definitely true that idols don't make a ton of money (at least compared to say, American singers and celebs), but if you see some of the name brand stuff that the girls sport in stalker photos and personal photos, you'd know they definitely aren't hurting for cash. But, for arguments sake I'll just give you the benefit of the doubt and say 200,000 yen is accurate.

    $2500/month is a lot of money for a student, especially one that has nothing more than a middle school or high school education and that lives with their parents with little to no bills to pay.

    You mention that they don't get an increase until the edge of their career, which sounds about right, but the salaryman culture that you alluded to in your next paragraph is the same way. If you're hired at a keiretsu or any similar big company out of college and have one of those for-life jobs, you are started at the bottom of the food-chain and make very little. It's only until you reach a more senior position like a section chief that you get a much larger sum of money.

    For me, it really goes back to whether or not she truly loves being an idol. Yes, as you and I both have said, they have a shelf-life, but it's not like UFA suddenly kicks them out on their 24th birthday. Even if it may seem that way, UFA has technically only fired one person - Kago. (Sure you can go on about how they covered up scandals or whatever, but that doesn't apply to Yuuka's case.)

    The overwhelming majority of girls who have graduated H!P and stayed in the show business are still with UFA in some capacity. The mass elder club graduation? Yeah, they left H!P, but just moved to the M-Line club. And in their cases, they are even given a longer leash as to what they can do (i.e. Koharu doing modeling, Miki getting married). It's basically being an idol without the restrictions and/or pressure.

    Although it's a very adult thing for Yuuka to think about her future properly and make a bold move, if she truly wanted to stay in show business (not necessarily as an idol), she could have.

  18. @SFG: If I had to guess, I'd say it's a little of both. I'm sure there's some sort of base salary and then girls that are involved in more things (i.e. sub-units like Buono!, solo magazine promo, etc) get bonuses of some sort.

    I think that you raised a good point in the last paragraph. S/mileage definitely has a distinct style different from anything in H!P currently but I'm sure they weren't the ones who decided on their style. However, there is no denying that it fits them well (or at least it did with the original four members).

    @Roddy Reta: I wouldn't quite go that far, even if it may seem that way. The girls being expendable may have been some of the collateral damage imposed by the auditions, but I think they were a necessary evil, especially if both Saki and Yuuka were both considering quitting. Would S/mileage really have been fine as a duet?

    I think I mentioned in my reaction post to Saki's leaving that there is a breaking point for these girls. There's ups and downs, positives and negatives of every situation and some things just rub people the wrong way. It could very well be that the auditions was the last straw, but I don't think that she based her decision solely on S/mileage's new direction.

    @Kenji411: Why do you think we are being naive? What reason does H!P have to lie? It's not like there was some sneaky tabloid photo published or some rumor going around like in some past graduations. She's a young girl at the crossroads of her life and decided on one road as opposed to the other. I simply don't see what's wrong with believing that.

    @Holly: In Yuuka's comment, she said, "Since becoming a high school student, I have been unable to keep up with my S/mileage work and school at the same time and it has bothered me a great deal."
    So if you want to believe Yuuka, then it basically started about 3 years ago.

    I didn't hear anything about Tsunku making 3 announcements though.

  19. Maimi: http://blog.mm-bbs.org/yajima-maimi/36905
    Chisato: http://blog.mm-bbs.org/okai-chisato/36901
    DAWA: http://blog.mm-bbs.org/wada-ayaka/36893
    and Yuuka: http://blog.mm-bbs.org/maeda-yuuka/36950

    all have new blog posts on the subject for anyone that cares.

    Yuuka's was definitely the most notable one. She basically says that she has been thinking about this for a while and she's completely made up her mind now and that she feels like its something she must do.

  20. I think this is just like Momusu's first steps... They started like this, loosing members and adding members that nobody liked at firts, but they got theyr way to peoples hearts. -sorry if my english isn't that good XD-
    Maybe they'll put Karin in S/mileage now as a desperate try to add talent to the band.

  21. I don't think Yuuka would have made this decision if Saki hadn't graduated. The whole "easily expendable" thing must have really gotten to her. The problem with S/mileage adding new members is that they've never had a "golden era" beginning like Morning Musume, so adding new members after 2nd gen won't really increase their sales OR appeal.

  22. I'm a little bit late with this news but I am really shocked at it anyhow.

    I don't think it's selfish to want to go somewhere in life. When I read Airi's blog I honestly sometimes feel like she hints at wanting to do something other than singing, but because of being an idol she can't say so straight out. All she ever does is school, work, school, work- and that's most of her life now. I honestly feel sorry for these H!P idols because they are expected to work full time (they have very little vacation time) and attend to school at the same time. I don't know how in the world they do it. They miss a lot of school, that much I know. So people shouldn't be calling a young girl selfish for wanting to do something she truly wants to do. It's her life and her future, and she shouldn't sacrifice those things for the sake of pleasing fans or the company she is a part of.

  23. @x_x Lovely I-Chan x_x: Adding Karin would make me feel much, much better about S/mileage's future.

    @Anon1: That's an interesting question you brought up - would Yuuka had left if Saki didn't?

    Honestly, I can see it going either way. She sees one of her best friends leave, possibly because of S/mileage's change of direction and saw it as an opportunity to do the same.

    However, I'm leaning toward the idea that she would have left no matter what. Looking at what she said in her blog post on October 25th, "...was glad that the 4 sub-members would become formal members as was announced... at the same time I thought the timing was right." The way I read that statement (well an excerpt of her statement) is that Saki's departure made her not want to leave because she didn't want S/mileage to feel empty, but when she found out all four sub-members made it, she felt okay leaving since the timing was right now that she knew S/mileage would be fine since they've grown bigger.

  24. @Anon2: Under normal circumstances I would agree with you, but as you noted, these aren't normal girls - they are idols and have adult responsibilities even if they aren't necessarily adults themselves (whether or not you agree with that has to do with idols in general and not Yuuka). They (UFA) have invested an awful lot of time, money, and effort into S/mileage to give them a fighting chance to succeed and then she walks out on them a year after S/mileage's debut. To me, that's being selfish.

    However, I am not saying that she is wrong in making her decision. As you said, it's her life and she's welcome to do what she wants with it. I'm glad that she decided to think about her future properly and has some idea of what she wants to do with it.

    But, as a result, her actions have put S/mileage into a huge bind. I'd hate to see what S/mileage would look like had the auditions not occurred - the group would effectively had been destroyed, if not physically (i.e. disbanded), then philosophically. Maybe selfish is too harsh of a word to describe her and this situation, but there isn't really any other word that I can think of to briefly say "acting to better oneself while [intentionally or not] negatively affecting others". The synonyms - egocentric, narcissistic, etc - sound even worse. (Also, I want to add that I'm not calling Yuuka herself selfish - just her decision.)

    I'm not going to condemn the girl for wanting to do something different with her life (especially if it's what she truly wants to do), but all of the things you mentioned - missing school, lots of work, pleasing fans - are the exact prerequisites and definitions of being an idol. This isn't something that only Yuuka is going through, it's something that all idols her age are.

    Being an idol is hard, I don't discount that. But, it's what she signed up for. Yes, she was a young girl when it all began, but surely living the life every day for 7 years is enough to figure it out. She has the right to walk away (well actually maybe she doesn't - she signed a contract to work for UFA and as long as that contract is valid she probably doesn't without UFA's approval), but doing so has its consequences. The timing may have been perfect for Yuuka's interests, but in the wake of Saki's leaving (as well as the other graduations this year), the timing couldn't be worse for UFA.

  25. I don't usually comment on blogs, but now I feel like I have to do it. I'm not really that much of an avid fan of the idol industry: I mostly like to listen to the music. For some time, reading your blog was enough to keep me updated on what's going on with H!P. Only recently I've started to read Tokyohive to get more information on the Japanese entertainment business in general. But I must say this was an excellent post, together with everyone's comments.

    Yuuka is one of my favourites. Not just in S/mileage, or even H!P, but of all the Japanese singers I know. She's such an adorable, gentle person, who has an amazing voice. I'm really sad to see her go, but I'm still happy that she's made her decision and doesn't have to wake up every morning thinking whether or not she should quit.

    I'll say this to you, Chris, and to Yuuka alike: Keep up the good work! Ganbatte ne.

  26. Thank you for your comment and feel free to comment anytime!