From Back Dancers to Legendary Idols: ℃-ute’s 12-year Legacy and Their Final Squall
On June 12 2017, ℃-ute will complete their final performance and take their bows before their fans for the very last time. The concert will take place at Saitama Super Arena, the biggest venue they’ve ever performed at and a fitting farewell for the veteran idol group. As they close the curtain on their long 12-year career, we look back on ℃-ute’s journey and the legacy they left in Hello! Project.
Before ℃-ute came into being, they were simply the Hello! Project Kids who hadn’t been chosen to form Berryz Kobo. It was a period of frustration at being left behind, but the remaining girls eventually formed ℃-ute—Maimi Yajima, Megumi Murakami, Erika Umeda, Saki Nakajima, Airi Suzuki, Chisato Okai and Mai Hagiwara became members of Hello! Project’s newest group in 2005. Kanna Arihara was later added to the line-up, and the group burst into the scene with their first indie single, “Massara Blue Jeans” in 2006. Dressed in bright whites and blues and dancing with a pizzazz beyond their years, it was an unforgettable precursor to the rest of their career.
Climbing The Ranks
Growing from back dancers to full-fledged idols, the young group began to carve their own path in the entertainment world. They churned out catchy singles that showed off both their power and cuteness (they weren’t named ℃-ute for nothing), gaining attention and drawing new fans. Despite being so young, they proved that they could also show off a mature, bold charm in songs like “Tokaikko Junjo” and “Namida no Iro”. There were a few bumps along the road, like when Murakami and Arihara withdrew from the group following separate incidents involving male relationships.
The “Dark Period”
When the oldest member Umeda graduated from the group in 2009, a shift occurred. She had become the third member to leave ℃-ute, and they were left significantly smaller with merely five remaining out of the eight original members. It was at this period of time that ℃-ute was forced to recalibrate, struggling to reestablish the identity they’d built up over the years.
This culminated in their 11th major single “SHOCK!”, the first release featuring five members. It arguably became their most controversial single—Suzuki was the sole member to get solo lines, having to sing much of the song by herself with the other girls joining her in the chorus. She would later talk about the frustration and pressures she faced while drawing negative attention at the time, to the point of wanting to quit if she remained in this position. This was a critical moment for ℃-ute; they were reaching a breaking point and in danger of disbanding.
In the end, ℃-ute persevered through what was one of the biggest slumps of their history. They gradually regained their footing, dividing the focus between members and rejuvenating the group dynamic. While Suzuki was still the center most of the time, the other girls began to receive more much needed attention. More united than ever before, they determinedly got back on their feet with singles that rapidly increased in sales and cemented their status as a powerhouse in the idol industry. From fans to the media to their own producer Tsunku, people praised them for their powerful dance and vocal skills. ℃-ute even went on to make waves beyond Japan, going to several foreign countries including Paris and Taiwan to perform for their overseas fans.
The Veteran Era
When longtime comrades Berryz Kobo went on indefinite hiatus in 2015, ℃-ute became the most senior group in Hello! Project. Once upon a time they’d been back dancers for Morning Musume. and known as “the girls who weren’t in Berryz Kobo”, but after a decade of hard work and struggles they finally reached the top of the mountain. Their juniors from other groups and trainee program looked up to them, with many expressing that they were inspired by ℃-ute to pursue their own idol dreams. Leader Yajima also took the helm of Hello! Project, leading the groups as a highly respected senior before recently passing the baton to ANGERME leader Ayaka Wada. For the past four years they steadily churned out double and triple A-side singles, showing their incredibly versatile range of styles and maturing into the veteran idols fans know today.
℃-ute’s Enduring Legacy
The star appeal of ℃-ute is founded on the quality of their performance, but it’s their individual characters that come together to create a unique force of personality unseen anywhere else. With over ten years of friendship and working together, the girls can effortlessly combine their different strengths and camaraderie. It’s how they’ve endeared audience for so many years, and continue to do so till the end. The fans can strongly feel the members’ bond, including even the former members who left.
After they finish their final concert, the girls will head out on their new paths as individuals. Shortly before their graduation, they took to their official blog to tell fans about their future activities and plans.
The two oldest members Yajima and Nakajima both intend to pursue acting; throughout their career in ℃-ute they’ve amassed significant experience in acting on stage and in film, so it’ll be exciting to see how they develop their acting chops.
Main vocalist Suzuki will, unsurprisingly, continue singing as a soloist. Suzuki has long been associated with her vocal gifts and it’s only natural that she would flourish in a singing career.
Meanwhile, Okai decided she would concentrate on appearing in variety shows. She’s always been counted on for her sense of humor and casual spirit, so it’ll be reassuring for fans to see her personality come out as strong as ever.
Last but not least, Hagiwara also announced her own plans. Unlike her fellow bandmates, the youngest member has decided to bow out of the public limelight and retire indefinitely from the entertainment industry. She expressed her desire to take on new challenges by herself, starting with going abroad to study English.
The five members are going on different paths, but there is no mistaking the legacy they’ve left behind. They’ve fulfilled their dreams together and found new ones for themselves, so let’s send them off with our support! Their activities are coming to an end after 12 years, but they leave behind an irreplaceable history.
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