Morning Musume. '15's Sayashi Riho: Why Graduate? The Path She Has Taken in the Group and Future Hopes
Morning Musume. '15's Sayashi Riho on 10/29 announced her graduation from the group in her personal blog.
Sayashi made her CD debut as a 9th generation member in 2011 with "Maji Desuka Suka". From then on she has been the primary driver of the group's performance, and after Michishige Sayumi's graduation it can be said she's been the lead player and face of the group. Concerning this graduation, in her blog she wrote, "While continuing to run along, I've been thinking a lot about my future life especially this year. It got me thinking that as a single person, don't I have to experience lots of different things in order to live strongly?" which made it clear she'd been worrying about many things, and she decided to make herself a goal of "I want to go abroad to study English and dance" while still remaining part of the agency.
I wonder why Sayashi decided to graduate when she was still young at 17 years old? Mr. Prse, who is very knowledgeable about talents at the agency and calls himself an "idol song disc guide", made a guess at the context of her path within the group.
"Having grown up in Actors School Hiroshima, and being targeted as the ace of the future right after she joined, she's been contributing greatly to the group's performance side since the graduations of Takahashi Ai-san and Tanaka Reina-san who were pulling along the group at that time. Though one can probably say she lived somewhat in isolation from sticking out within the group, it was also more or less the reason for Sayashi-san's personal character. If one had to say, she is an awkward type, and she developed a "bocchi" (lonely) character to the extent people would call her "Hito-RihoRiho" (hitori = alone) and she herself would even use that as material, so you can plainly imagine how she might really want to shed that character and become closer to everyone, which might also have caused stress to develop for her. Also, Michishige Sayumi-san would fawn on her calling her "RihoRiho", and although Sayashi-san isn't really the spoiled type, since it made her become closer with Michishige-san it built up their relationship. However, after Michishige-san graduated in 2014 and the 4 9th generation members rose to the top position, that dependent existence of hers disappeared. That's likely also something which caused her more pressure."
To continue, concerning the influence Sayashi had on the group, he stated this about the role she inherited from the senpai members.
"It was in the period called the 'Platinum Era' when Morning Musume. came to be valued more for their strong skills, and the 9th generation who joined afterward inherited that tradition of maintaining skills and work ethic. Also, on TV Asahi's "Kanjamu Kanzennen SHOW" the other day, at a meeting to reflect on the live which just ended, it was symbolic how a scene was broadcast of Sayashi-san scolding and warning Sato Masaki-san who made mistakes in the choreography, and made me think of how she herself was appealing the stoicism of the group to the world. It's undeniable that with her graduation the appeal of the group will decrease, so we may sooner rather than later see them open new member auditions. However, since there are still members remaining within the group with high performance ability such as Oda Sakura-san with her strong singing ability or Ishida Ayumi-san who along with Sayashi-san was pulling along the group's dancing, one wants to hope for continuing evolution."
He continued analysis concerning the timing of her graduation announcement.
"What the timing of this graduation announcement makes me think of is the case of when 7th generation member Kusumi Koharu-san graduated. She announced her graduation at the first day of the fall 2009 tour, and gave a very sudden comment that she would be graduating in December on the last day of the same tour. This time, with Sayashi-san's last live being the Hello Pro Countdown live in which they'll also be appearing with other groups, there seem to be many people who don't know what would have led her to decide on that date. This time it was also a sudden comment, and trying to think about it now, one ponders for example how over the four days from 7/18-21 she missed concerts due to poor health, and explained her reasons on the next day's "MBS Young Town Saturday" (broadcast every day) of "I was so exhausted that although I wanted to go out there I couldn't even stand", so perhaps that was another omen.
Mr. Prse continued on, focusing on reasoning for Sayashi's "overseas study" from now on, OG member activities, and her state of mind.
"As for her motivation for studying overseas, things like repatriated girl Nonaka Miki-san joining with the 12th generation members, the group going to perform in New York in 2014, having a song "One and Only" which is entirely in English and featured as the opening theme for "J-MELO" (NHK World), and SU-METAL (Nakamoto Suzuka) who is like Sayashi-san formerly of Actors School Hiroshima and, as a member of BABYMETAL, increasingly does overseas performances, Sayashi-san also likely wanted to become more familiar with English and places overseas as a prime factor in her decision. Also, in the past Ogawa Makoto-san and Mitsui Aika-san who after graduation went to study overseas, have come back and resumed activities in showbiz. With Sayashi-san only being 17 years old, even if she takes multiple years to study she'd only be around 20 and so it wouldn't be strange if she once again resumed solo or group activities, so one looks forward to her future."
Lastly, he goes on to say this about her and the group's future with movement throughout all of Hello! Project as a basis.
"Since Michishige's graduation in 2014 there have been huge movements within the whole of Hello Pro, but this case can be said to be a difficult situation as the last in this year of transformation. Those who've become fans in recent years are probably concerned about the durability of Hello Pro continuing on like this, but those who've been fans for a decade or so realize this huge seismic shift is just part of what Hello Pro is, and although it may be wrong to just not worry about it, I think one can only think and react to it as a whole. Also, Sayashi-san making this decision at 17 years old shows her individual strength, and in this environment where she feels this is what she has to do, this strength and intensity as an idol I feel is something precious. Saying this without fear of misunderstanding, I think this decision has a great ambition and romance to it."
This is incredibly shocking news to the group and fans as they reach the end of the year. I want to keep watching over how the group trends to see whether this is just one more thing which will make them stronger as a whole.