Well I'm sitting here with a nice warm cup of tea thinking about the past 12 months. 2010 has been an interesting year on all fronts for me and looking back I don't think I've got much to complain about on a personal level, there's been the odd bump in the road as it were, but as a whole it's been a quality year!
On the Hello! Project side of things I've felt that my interest has been wanning, certainly if you've been a follower of my blog for awhile you've seen the amount of posts per month dwindle down so much that for the whole of November I didn't even attempt to write a post. So what was the cause of this decline? There's been a few personal reasons for the decline; shifting jobs has had an interesting affect on me, a mix of at times having too much work to post and on the other side, actually having free time on my hands. It's an odd thing to say that having free time can cause a lack of posts but since the start of this blog up until about 5 months ago I worked a day job and then worked evenings, and in the hour or so break I had I generally let the blog have my time. Now having weekends and evenings free I'm actually able to head out and do things, I'm sure I'll be able to come to some sort of balance in the near future. The server failure midway through the Hangry & Angry concerts which meant that I was unable to post anything without fixing and reinstalling the server was a major pain in the arse! I remember sitting on the train down to the coach station with my laptop out hoping that I'd be able to get it all sorted in those few minutes, WRONG!
Another large factor has been how crap the pound has been doing lately. Well, I say lately but the pound has been doing crap against the Yen and US Dollar for a good while now and for me it's finally beginning to hit and I'm tightening my spending habits. Gone or the times when I could order a CD from CD Japan or YesAsia for little more than I'd pay in the UK, now a CD Single will cost about a £10 and with shipping (from CDJapan) will generally mean that the price will exceed that I'll have to pay handling and import VAT charges when it arrives in the UK. Because of the costs I've dived into the cheaper Cpop and Kpop, which again in turn has influenced my thoughts of H!P. One of many things I like to repeat over and over again when writing on posts on this blog is what I feel is a decline in quality of releases, especially when you compare it to the amazing packaging and music videos that these other releases are giving us, and it's not just CD packaging and production levels of music videos that I'm talking about, just look at Girls Generation - The First Photobook, when we see a PB release like this for a unit under H!P it will be a glorious day!
* sits back, takes a sip of tea and munches on a biscuit *
But then, I wonder if my wishing for better things has clouded my view. Certainly if I was to choose a year that I enjoyed H!P the most it would certainly be this year, we've had a number of PB releases of members that we've all been waiting for, for sometime (well at least I've been waiting for them), we've seen some of the graduated Elder Club members making releases and most importantly for us Europeans we've had a whole number of concerts to attend. And although I haven't spent as much as I have done in the past on merchandise, I've probably made up for it with the trips to Germany, Paris and London to see both Hangry & Angry and Morning Musume. For Live Performances I can't complain at all this year as it really has been an amazing experience. And of course it's not just the watching of the concerts that's been the only exciting thing, but it's also been the perks we get at these events, getting to meet the girls, autographs and the talks they give (admittedly I didn't understand much of the French Morning Musume panel LOL). The fact that I was able to ask Yossie and Charmy a couple of questions at the German and French performances was amazing and certainly an experience that I doubt I'll have again, and that through the blog I was able to give other people this experience as well. And of course the meeting up with other fans at these events. I've had some awesome days and nights this year with fellow fans; Hangry & Angry antics, drinking in Germany with Almond, Kimuu and TheKueken (oh, and don't forget to watch Kimuu and Alm0nd on JPH!P radio on Sundays! Happy Hour with Kimuuu & Almond), attempting to meet Aqua in a tasty Pizza place, but being too drunk to remember where it was, getting completely lost in Paris trying to find hotels with Aqua, CDevil and Rachel (and getting amusingly mistaken by someone else) and stalking Hangry & Angry around the Trocadero with all of the UK fans! Then the whole Morning Musume Paris trip, certainly one of the most interesting coach trips I've had to Paris in awhile... and of course I mean the drink and banter <_< >_>. And the whole weekend was an amazing experience literally spending it in the company of CatchFiveBats, Hexi, InsaneLampshade, ebebop, Morningtime, Cdevil, Lily (who I still can't thank enough for getting me that ticket to the autographs), Gina, Loli and Jltos. Lot's of queuing, lots of random sleeping in awkward places (roads, streets and the expo) but most importantly lots and lots of fun, and I certainly managed to get the best room mate out of everyone, gotta love see through glass shower doors XD
With releases this year, we've had some amazing ones. Melon Kinenbi released what I considered their best album to date Melons Not Dead... and then have them promptly disband, but on the plus side we still have the awesomeness of the damn sexy Masao aka. Himawari still releasing music. We've also seen the return of Ayaya with Click you Link Me, which I can't stop listening too. C-ute and Berryz Koubou have had a steady stream of pretty good singles, but the real downer this year for me has been Morning Musume's releases. One single that I really like and a bunch of others I'd consider to be average at best, at least the album wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.
Hmmm, well I think I've rambled so far off topic it's gotten silly. This was supposed to be a little recap of the year and then chat about the releases I've like this year, but with all this waffling I think it might be best to just leave this as it is, a post where I waffle and contradict myself. All in all, an awesome year! I hope everyone has a good start to the new year and if you're in a different time zone and already living in the new year, I hope it's been a good one!... Now let's hope my next post isn't such a rambling mess.
Well, it's taken me long enough but I've finally re-written the scrolling birthday part of the site (at the top right) and I've even tweaked it a little so that there's no odd flickering or blank spaces or certain months where the old version didn't like the amount of birthdays.
I haven't had a chance to post during Christmas, so I just want to say that I hope everyone had a good Christmas and in case I don't get a chance to post again before the New Year, I hope everyone has a great New Year!!!
Hearing that there were plans to release a pay to download version of the Morphing Musume app I was very much puzzled as to why anyone in there right mind would want to pay for what is such an awful game. It was flawed in many ways (Not So Mighty Morphin Musume App, this post shows the my views on the original app) and wasn't an enjoyable experience to pick up and play, in fact it was the biggest embarrassment I've seen the girls ever promote. The "Pay For" version has been floating around for awhile now and seeing as I hadn't heard anything from the H!P iPhone users I follow on Twitter I thought I'd take a chance and spend £1.19.
Initial impressions were higher than expected when I tapped the icon to start the App, one of the problems with the previous Free version was the loading time, taking 15 seconds and a poor loading screen to even get into the game. This newer version still has the not so nice to look at loading screen, but it does have the bonus of shaving two thirds of the loading time off, now we only have to wait 5 seconds to start playing. Upon loading I was shocked, literally shocked! For the first time in one of the iPhone App's it looks like some effort was actually put into make this look presentable! No plain white screens with a couple of images of text thrown in, we have a nice stylised screen that makes this look like a proper release! And this level of presentation runs throughout the whole game, so rather than looking like some sort of pre release testing version this looks like a proper full game. Going into the game itself we see that effort has been put into making the timer running along the bottom not only look better than that poor progressive black bar, it now has an indication of how long you have left to win. The game itself has actually been tweaked as well and actually improves the game play. The main flaw with actually playing the game was that you could just hammer the screen repeatedly to make sure that you touched everyone within the time limit. To get around that in this version, a 'Fail' touch incurs a time penalty so hammering the screen will just result in your time running out faster. And there's now a "Win" screen so you've actually got an indication that you've won!
I only have two minor gripes with this App, the first being the price; at £1.19 it is quite high for something that isn't really going to keep you occupied for more than a few minutes, but as a show of support for Morning Musume it's a trivial price to pay, especially considering the effort has been put in. The only other problem I have just makes the game that little bit more awkward to play, and that's the order that the tapped members appear at the bottom of the screen. For me the logical way to display the members would be in their hierarchical order (ie. Ai-chan, Gaki, Eri, Sayumi, Reina, Mittsi, JunJun and LinLin) but this displays it in a slightly odd way that means when you've only got one or two members left you'll find yourself sat there with your finger on the screen holding it there so the timer doesn't restart trying to work out which members your missing.
Overall, this is a great improvement over the previous free version and hopefully a sign of things to come with other H!P Apps.
So we're still waiting for full details as to what dates things are happening, but it was announced earlier today (well, technically yesterday but I only got the email a few hours ago so...) that Berryz Koubou will be attending the Seattle based Sakura-Con next April (the event runs from the 22nd to the 24th) as Musical Guests. From the email that was sent out from both JapanFiles and HelloStoreUSA the girls will be doing a "live show" and "autograph signing", hopefully we'll have the full details of their event schedule soon.
The question for me now is, can I afford to go? With flight tickets averaging about £500 the answer is a sad "no". Even with a cheap hotel and surviving on the likes of McDonald's or something similar for the whole weekend, it's going to be a bit pricey. But, that's not to say I'm not going to try, I'll be keeping my out for cheap flights and who knows with the Christmas and New Years sales going on there might be a more affordable flight. As much as I can't afford it at the moment, how can I possibly miss Berryz debut Western performance and of course getting the chance to meet the girls. I'd love to be able to meet my fave Berryz girl Chinami in person.
It's taken awhile but the cold has finally set in, it's take a little bit longer than usual as working from home most of the time pretty much means that if it in anyway looks like it's going to be cold, wet, snowing or any other kind of unfavourable weather, I turn the heating on get out some nice thick socks and comfy jumper, grab a warm cup of tea sit at my computer and laugh at everybody walking by outside. Today it's snowed like a mofo, and oddly (what with it being a Saturday) not a lot have been out on my street so the snow has spent most of the day looking nice deep and crisp... to cut a pointless story short I wanted to go ruin the slow but at the same time keep warm, walk to the Indian restaurant and grab a curry! This stroll in the snow reminded me about one my favourite Hello! Project buys, the H!P member scarf. Unfortunately much like last year there doesn't seem to be any individual member scarves, but there's no need to fret as C-ute have released a scarf set with their Aitai Lonely Christmas merchandise.
Unfortunately at the moment I've yet to find a photo bigger than the postage stamp sized low quality jpeg on the Hello! Project website, but to be honest I don't really care, I WANT THIS! Christmas just doesn't feel right unless I have a scarf on order, so my eyes will be constantly checking the HelloStoreUSA for when this moves out of the 'Coming Soon' section and is ready for me to order!
Post Update Hmmm. Well in about 10 mins after making this post and saying that I couldn't find any better photos of the scarf set, I find a lovely seller on Yahoo! Auctions who has them up for sale and has some nice sized photos, which make me want these damn things even more, they look sooooo warm!!!! HelloStore needs to get these up soon!
At a time when LinLin, my current favourite member is graduating (OK, JunJun and Eri are graduating too but meh, lol) it's been nice to experience a bit of excitement in what otherwise would be a sad and annoying couple of days (WHY TSUNKU WHY?!). But the exciting news is that Mittsi will be getting a PB and DVD release and there's already a preview up on the UpFrontChannel on YouTube.
It's been awhile since I've really felt the urge that I HAVE to buy a PB or DVD release (...ok, that might be a lie CHISATO PB WANT) but I've been arguing for sometime that a Mittsi PB would be one of the best releases out of the current line up of Morning Musume members, obviously being my current favourite member I'm biased (but to give me my dues, at the time of arguing she was only my 2nd fave haha), but she's so damn cute how could you not want this release? And if you don't think she's cute, that's when my second argument kicks in... those boobs! :O
So we're yet again treated to an iPhone app featuring the girls of Hello! Project, this time around it's Morning Musume's turn and unlike the current Apps out for S/mileage and C-ute this one is a little different. Rather than a profile of the group with some photos thrown in, this is actually a game.
I haven't exactly been a fan of H!P's recent attempts to string together an App for the Apple devices, but waking up on Saturday seeing that it was avaiable for download I thought to myself I'd give it a chance and see what it's actually like, this wasn't just a profile app this was a game and from what I've heard they'd actually been some promotion of it as well (I'm not sure if there was promotion of any of the other Apps or not, I only heard about them through eastazabu's Twitter account) so that meant it had to be at least semi decent right?
Well... I hate to say, but... I thought wrong. If this was anything other than a Hello! Project related App this would have been deleted off of my iPhone within 5 seconds of playing it. The basic idea of the game is simple, the girls faces morph into each other and you must touch the screen when it's 100% on one member, if you manage to touch all the girls within the time limit then you win the game. A simple idea doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad, but in this case it does. It's not in anyway enjoyable, maybe the first few goes I had a tad bit of fun with it but even then I think I'm pushing it. Sure it's a free, but so are a lot of other Apps in the App Store and they're much better than this. The real problem I have with this is much the same problem I have with S/mileage and C-ute Apps available for download, the quality and presentation are just so bad. Just because they're free doesn't mean that they should just be whacked out, because at the end of the day nothing is free. This is clearly an App to help promote Morning Musume and their new single (do you see the outfits they're wearing in the photos?) and something like this just reflects badly. This just reminds me of something I programed when in Uni during my Event Driving Programming course, I wrote a nice little program that you bashed away on the keyboard and it moved cars race across the screen, it was shit, took about a day to do and made anyone using it have severe epileptic fits (we weren't taught screen buffering or anything like that ha). And it's not only the style of play of hammering the screen as fast as you can to win (why wait and possibly miss when you can repeatedly tap and win) but also the presentation.
Essentially this game is one screen. The top half shows the photos of the girls morphing and if you're not playing the game you get to see a pic of the lovely Ai-chan, the bottom half of the screen is either the menu to select your style play (there are two types, the only difference being how quick the girls morph from one another) or a timer and a counter for all members you've successfully touched. So visually there's not a great deal going on, but as with all games the incentive is to win if there's no incentive then what's the point? Being a gamer for many years, I've had the crappy feeling of sitting through an entire game to complete it and be presented with the worlds worst ending that makes you wonder why in the hell you even bothered sitting through all of that if that was all you was going to get at the end of it. So with a game based around Idols you'd at least expect something worthwhile on completion? Perhaps a group photo? Maybe a video/sound clip of the girls? Something? Well, this game takes winning to a whole new pointless low, you get nothing! To be honest the first time I completed this game I thought I 'Failed' as all it did was take me back to the title screen, there was no indication that I'd won, nothing... but then I realised when you lose you get a screen telling you you've failed... so I must of won! And yes, if you win you're presented with a big fat nothing not even a screen saying that you've won, you're just thrown back to the title screen WTF?!
As a game, this is thing is pointless, a badly thought out idea, a boring style of game with no incentive for ever playing again. As a promotional tool, again pointless, badly presented and ultimately if I wasn't a fan of the group this would do nothing to entice me further. As an app for a guy that likes to have a screen full of H!P related apps, well it's got a point it fills another slot on the screen, but will I ever be playing it again? Only if I meet another fan who hasn't seen it.
And if you think I'm being a little harsh, just watch this clip of the girls promoting the game and look at Reina's face after she's finished playing... she seems WELL impressed XD