Last year was a difficult time for Hello Project group, Kobushi Factory. They lost three members within a short space of time.
Ogawa Rena was the next to leave. She left the group citing mental stress and illness. Around the same time, she was in a scandal for having a boyfriend with pictures of them kissing being shared around the internet. She now lives a normal life and frequently posts and goes live on Instagram.
Taguchi Natsumi was the last to leave the group. Like Rio, she was kicked out of the group for “undisclosed reasons.” Though, fans believe that it may have been due to her unruly behaviour with staff and her parents, and the fact that she was also caught with a boyfriend. Pictures of them in bed were circulated on the internet. She sometimes appears in Rena’s live streams.
This brought Kobushi Factory’s member roster down to five members. To my surprise, management decided not to add any new members and continue with five members after what seemed to be a long hiatus.
Was this a good idea? At first, I was a bit skeptical. Do not get me wrong. Rio, Natsumi and Rena were not very good vocalists. All the best vocalists, Rei, Ayaka, Minami, Ayano and Sakurako (in that order), are still in the group. I knew that they will still perform and sing well. So, I decided the give the 5-member line up a chance. They released their comeback single “Kore Kara da! / Ashita Tenki ni Naare” in March 2018.
“Kore Kara Da!” was reminiscent of old school Hello Project, and dare I say, AKB48 songs. The music video followed a school theme and was a bit inspiring as the girls faced hardships but continued to work towards their dream. A concept that directly related to Kobushi’s unfortunate situation.
“Ashita Tenki ni Naare” was a more upbeat and engaging song. They even enlisted the help of foreign entertainer, Kurt KC Common, for the narration in the song. Another westerner featured in the music video which parodied late-night American talk shows. While this music video was fun to watch, this song and the other in the single were not engaging and memorable enough to keep me interested in them. They quickly left my mind.
According to Oricon, this single had 32,517 sales. Billboard cited 33, 723 sales. Excluding their previous single, “Shalala! Yareru Hazu sa / Ee ja nai ka Ninja nai ka,” because that was their lowest selling single, all their previous singles sold for an average of 40,000 or more sales. Their fifth single failed even to reach 40,000 sales. Was this a failed single?
There was a lack of promotion before the release date. There were not many handshake events or city visits. They did hold a campaign after the release where fans were able to win a keychain after giving their opinion about the stories that were uploaded to the group’s official YouTube channel. Yes, that is right, they were given a keychain. I am sorry, but that has to be the most demotivating prize ever.
Also, on Hello Pro Station, the girls had a feature showing the transition of Kobushi Factory from their all-time low to a new stage in their life. They discussed moving forward and how they will improve in the future. During this series, I expected new members to be announced, but I was wrong.
After this single and watching a few live performances, I realized that this five-member Kobushi was not doing it for me. The group seemed empty and desolate. Not only were their songs not as good as in the past, but the girls seem to have not fully recovered from last year’s trauma.
I imagine that the staff has not added new members for budgeting reasons and out of respect of the remaining girls. They have also been focused on the two new groups set to debut later this year. However, I am sure that they recognized the decreasing interest in Kobushi Factory due to lack of members, poor song choices, lack of proper promotion, and past scandals.
Their 6th single, “Kitto Watashi wa / Naseba Naru” was released on August 8, 2018. Yet again, there was a lack of promotion and not much hype was built for this release. It kind of just happened.
I love “Kitto Watashi wa.” It is the perfect feel-good summer song. The music video was inspiring, fun, and refreshing. I loved that it took place in an open and bright setting and they employed many extras. These elements, along with the fun story line, enhanced the video and drew interest. Unlike the songs in their previous single, “Kitto Watashi wa” is a bop that still plays in my head a month after.
On the other hand, “Naseba Naru” is a ballad that is very forgettable. It was noteworthy that the music video showed the girls doing everyday jobs and activities, but that was just it. Nothing else pulled me to the song or video.
This single had 24,422 sales on Orion and 27,835 on Billboard. I would imagine that sales are still being counted a month after, but they are still deficient, barely making it past the lowest selling single.
Overall, the single was not good except for “Kitto Watashi Wa,” but that is a personal preference. Some people may have loved it, but from the sales and fan feedback, many did not.
This brings me to the question: Should Kobushi Factory get the second generation? Should there be a change to shake up fans and renew interest in the group? Right now, the group is not doing well. They have been knocked out of their star H!P status (right after Morning Musume) and have been replaced by Tsubaki Factory.
Personally, I believe a second generation is one of the best methods to renew interest in the group. People will be interested in the new members and how they integrate with the current members of the group. I believe the debut single of the second generation would lead to increased sales. Of course, this will have to be coupled with rigorous promotion, highlighting the new songs AND the new members. Double the things to promote and double the attention of the group.
The new members should be selected from the Hello Pro Kenshuusei program. These girls have been training and performing for a while. Many of them have developed their skills and are ready to debut on the main stage. These are my personal picks for a second generation in Kobushi Factory.
All these girls have been training for some years and are highly capable of excelling in the group. Their lower tones and images fit well in the group. Not to mention, they are also popular Kenshuusei that would bring additional fans to the group, especially international fans.
If management wants to be adventurous and add four members instead of three to replace the departed members, I would also recommend Hello Pro Kenshuusei Hokkaido’s, Yamazaki Mei. During this year’s testing event, she has proven to be an enticing performer. Even the judges in the event confessed that she deserves to debut. She may be young, but she has what it takes to be a full-fledged performer.
Kobushi Factory also needs better music. They have strayed too far away from their original concept. They either need to go back to their rock-themed days or branch out to another theme that suits them while keeping fans engaged. Ballads are not really all that fun to listen to, especially during concerts, and inspiring songs can only retain interest for so long. They need songs that would bring people to their feet and work well at shows.
All in all, I believe new members, more (and better) promotion, and higher quality and more captivating songs will improve Kobushi’s current lull. This is just my opinion. Please feel free to start a conversation and share your views in the comment section. Let me know if you agree or disagree with me!