The Great Escape: Momoka Kinoshita (NMB48) Pre-Graduation Live Report
At the end of a winding Namba shopping arcade stands the massive Misono building, a multi-level warehouse adorned with nostalgic neon lights that has historically housed cabarets, saunas, hotels, and various small businesses. Wandering down into the lower level, Misono Universe, transports you back in time to a retro-futuristic dance hall with velvet couches lining the walls and huge colorful planets dotting the mirrored ceiling.
It was this fittingly bizarre venue that NMB48’s Momoka Kinoshita chose to hold her pre-graduation celebration on September 26, 2017 and fans packed the intimate 500 person-capacity basement for two back-to-back concerts starring Momoka and featuring more than two dozen guest appearances from other members of NMB48.
As first generation NMB48 member, Momoka had consistently pushed the envelope of what it meant to be a traditional idol, even before her hairstyles became ultra-short and colorful. Though she didn’t rank in the first three sousenkyo elections she participated in (and chose not to take part in the rest), her very first election video consisted of her running into the room screaming, and inexplicably soaking wet. It was later revealed she had originally hoped to be covered in fake blood, but staff vetoed her idea. Her fascination with gore also lead her to once create a particularly grotesque paper mâché head that was declined presentation at the AKB48 art club exhibition.
Over the course of her career, she became known for her unique brand of idol performance, occasionally staging girls’ love-themed Team M “Yuri Theater” skits (which eventually yielded a special calendar and DVD release) and taking part in the infamous Chaos Stage produced by Minami Takahashi. She released her host club-chic solo song and MV, “Priority” in January of 2016, and operated an often opinionated Twitter account until the time of her graduation (at which point she deleted all content.)
An atypical idol until the end, Momoka’s graduation festivities included two talk events on September 25th, two live house concerts on the 26th, and a final NMB48 theater performance and graduation ceremony on September 27th. The live house concerts’ title, “Release from the Correctional Facility Celebration!” joked that Momoka is finally being freed from the idol halfway house that shaped her from a crazy kid to a creative and capable young adult.
The first of two concerts on September 26th began at 6:30pm, with Momoka taking the stage to the electronic beats of her solo song, “Priority.” Dressed in a sparkling silver white suit complete with feathered fantail reminiscent of the Takarazuka Revue’s otoko-yaku (male role actresses,) Momoka was joined by the other “Priority” backdancers. Several girls fought for her affections amidst the upbeat choreography, and the audience erupted in screams during a generous series of kisses between Momoka and other members.
The stage was cleared, and a Momoka version of the NMB48 “Overture” played as fans waved pink penlights and chanted along. Momoka’s close friend Mao Mita appeared in a traditional all-black stagehand’s costume (which she was seen in during Momoka’s “Yuri Gekijou” skits) and warned the audience, “This is just the pre-show, it’s not even the real thing yet! Please prepare yourselves!”
Momoka returned to the stage in a black leather jacket with a red velour heart over the chest, a book and glittery Vaudeville-style cane in hand. She was joined by Mai Odan, Ayaka Okita and several research students waving feathered fans for the sultry Showa-style “Hoshokushatachi yo.” The steaminess continued as NMB48’s 5th single “Virginity” began, with Momoka taking a seat towards the back of the stage and receiving a blindfolded lap dance from Mai Odan. The portion’s energy reached a climax as the song ended, and Momoka peeled off her jacket to reveal a scant bodysuit covered in a print of her own face. After her performance of “Junjou U-19” Momoka joked loudly, “I bet you didn’t expect I’d ever perform this song like this when I was chosen for senbatsu!”
Mao Mita returned the stage for an MC with Takeshi Kaneko, the NMB48 theater manager, reflecting on the intensity of the first few songs.
The live resumed with the ultra-cute “ONEW no Uwabaki,” as Momoka proved she can still be just as kawaii as the best of them. Next up was Team M’s Momone Yasuda covering Miyuki Watanabe’s “Warukii” (this time, “Momokii.”) Towards the end of the song, screams erupted from the audience as Momoka suddenly appeared in the front row, decked out in her “Tengoku Yarou” otaku outfit and cheering enthusiastically for Momone. As Momone began another of Miyuki’s songs, “Yasashiku Suru yori Kisu wo Shite,” Momoka clambered onto the stage and made a dash towards Momone like a crazy fan. After a brief embrace, Momoka was swiftly removed from the stage by NMB48’s theater manager.
The streak of cuteness continued with NMB48 kenkyuusei Cocona Umeyama’s “Namekuji Heart.” Up next was the short-haired trio of Momoka Kinoshita, Mao Mita and Shiori Mizuta with “Shortcut no Natsu,” featuring summery outfits adorned with orange and yellow flowers, and Momoka’s bangs pinned above her forehead.
A short MC featuring a silly cooking battle between Rena Kawakami and Sara Takei came next, with the surprise winner being Miori Ichikawa, who appeared in her trademark lemon hat and danced around on the stage to cheer on the contestants.
Momoka returned in all black to kick off a tough rock medley starting with Sayaka Yamamoto’s “Yume no Dead Body,” crooning coolly into a microphone on a stand. Next was AKB48’s legendary “Blue Rose,” followed by “Itoshiki Natasha.” Although Momoka missed the opening lines of the song, she called out to the audience, “I forgot the lyrics but you’ll keep supporting me anyway, right?” which only got her fans more fired up.
Another MC invited several girls on stage for a mock quiz show with Momoka as the topic, then it was onto NMB48’s upbeat A-side, “Must be now” featuring an energetic dance performance from Team M member Yuumi Ishida and the NMB48 manager known as Chikapoyo.
Momoka and others returned wearing the various hand drawn T-shirts designed for the event for the peaceful “Ren’ai no Speed.” Momoka vanished midway through, only to reappear as the original Team M members began “Boku dake no Secret Time” this time with sunglasses and a sideways cap to hype up the crowd as the MC.
Momoka and the original members exchanged hugs and smiles during “Sotsugyou Ryokou”, a song about the journey an idol takes when she graduates. As the uplifting “Mikazuki no Senaka” started, Momoka thanked her companions as they left her to finish the song by herself.
Finally, she was rejoined on stage by Mao Mita, Rena Kawakami and Yuki Azuma for their unit song from NMB48’s M1 stage, “Tengoku Yarou.” Setting aside the otaku character she typically played during the song’s performances, Momoka’s natural smile was infectious as she danced playfully around the stage with her teammates, who were gradually joined by the rest of the concert’s participants, totaling more than 30 people in all for the grand finale.
As other members left the stage, Momoka’s message to fans was short and sweet. She asked for a show of hands of who would attend the second live, and who would be saying their goodbyes. After a few heartfelt thank yous to fans and others, a charming “I love you” to everyone, and Momoka was off to prepare for the next performance.
Leading up to her graduation Momoka insisted that her only future aspiration was to become a NEET (an unemployed person living at home), but her parting comments at her NMB48 theater graduation indicated she has managed to find new dreams, and hopes that she’ll be able to show her supporters someday. NMB48 may have lost a bit of its color with the graduation of Momoka Kinoshita, her existence will not be soon forgotten, and fans will be patiently waiting for this one-of-a-kind idol’s next appearance.
01 Hoshokushitachi yo
03 Junjou U-19
04 ONEW no Uwabaki
05 Momokii (Warukii)
06 Yasashiku Suru yori Kisu wo Shite
07 Namekuji Heart
08 Shortcut no Natsu
09 Yume no Dead Body
10 Blue Rose
11 Itoshiki Natasha
12 Must be now
13 Ren’ai no Speed
14 Boku dake no Secret Time
15 Sotsugyou Ryokou
16 Mikazuki no Senaka
17 Tengoku Yarou
NMB48 Official site: http://www.nmb48.com/
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