Way back when - August 20th, to be exact - Houkago Princess released an announcement that Odagiri Nana, Yamaguchi Miran and Kizuki Saori - arguably the three most popular members - would graduate the group in October, just shy of the upcoming single release. With this, a new leader will be appointed, and for the first time since the groups debut there will be a new face leading and representing Houkago Princess.
Odagiri Nana has been the groups leader since its inception way back in 2011. From 2010 she began her training with her fellow first generation members, initially made up of eight girls before dropping to seven just shy of their indies debut. Since then, she has watched other members come and go, seen the group through its highs and lows, grown a steady and dedicated fanbase and lead the group forward as its face, its lead singer and its main support. Eight years have gone by and it is undeniable that Odagiri is one piece of the groups main strength, not for her voice but for her leadership and popularity.
Yamaguchi Miran is a 3rd generation member who entered the group in June 2012 alongside six other girls. After being promoted to the Regular lineup in March of 2013, Miran has been an active front member of the group, known well for her powerful dance moves. Though she is not the strongest of singers, Miran is a popular and energetic member with a great love for football, and has been in the front for a fair while now. Alongside Saori, the two are a powerful duo and create an interesting combo when dancing. Miran is the last of her generation to graduate, though her decisions are understandable: Miran wants to focus on getting a job in her field of training.
Finally, Kizuki Saori. A 4th generation member who joined the group in October 2012, Saori was promoted to the Regular lineup the same day as Miran in 2013. One of the older members, Saori is noted for her elegant dance style and short stature, and typically leads the choreography for the group either alone or alongside Miran. She is fashionable, typically leaning towards a cute style, and is the sole 4th generation member left within the group. Saori is typically featured in dance breaks during music videos and live performances with a ballet style.
And now, before I dare get into my personal comments regarding this (late) announcement, below are the staff and members' statements, translated by my friend, Rika. Be warned, she is a major Sasara lover, and verifies her fandom in a rather specific way throughout the translations.
The new Houkago Princess single “Kaguya ni Negai ni wo”, to be released on October 10th, 2018, will be the last for Odagiri Nana, Yamaguchi Miran, and Kizuki Saori due to their graduation. This was a difficult decision made with strong will and respect for the members.
As soon as “Kaguya ni Negai ni wo” is released and promotions are finished, their activities as members of Houkago Princess will end. Odagiri Nana has been group leader since its formation, so upon her graduation Sekine Sasara (A FUCKING QUEEN) will take up the position as leader. Although there is only a short time remaining, thank you so much for your support.
On October 8th, 2018 in Zepp Diver City (Tokyo, Odaiba) the “Houkago Princess LIVE 2018 Princess Destiny ~Moon Light Serenade~” will feature Odagiri Nana, Yamaguchi Miran, and Kizuki Saori’s last one man live. Everyone, please come to see them.
Below are the words of the graduates.
Everyone, after Mayumi and Himari graduated, I’m sorry to have to announce my own.
I, Kizuki Saori, have decided to graduate after the release and promotion of “Kaguya ni Negai ni wo” on October 10th and the Zepp Diver City one man live on October 8th. 6 years have passed by in the blink of an eye, and there is nothing else that could have pushed me to live this life. However, I am already 27 years old, and when I thought about my life as a single person, I don’t have much experience outside of Houkago Princess, which is such a warm environment that I have a very narrow perspective on the world.
As a senpai, I am able to teach my kouhai in Houkago Princess, but those who can’t step out of their comfort zone remain inexperienced people who don’t know much…
Since I noticed this, I was struggling with the feeling of wanting to continue and wanting to jump out of this environment and experience new things, broadening my life as a human being.
After thinking for a while, I realized I could not forgive myself if I stayed on the same stage as my fellow members, so even though my conflict runs deep, I have decided to graduate at this time.
In Houkago Princess, I learned many things. I think the most important being the importance of connecting people with the hearts of others and supporting each other.
I was a regular girl faced with many challenges, supported by my family, fellow members, and even those in the office who all supported me.
And the fans who even now are thinking of me. Messenger Saori was not good at saying thank you, being shy and nervous there were many times I replaced it with a joke. But surely everyone kept supporting me with their big hearts. I would be happy if my existence has become vitality for everyone.
Thank you for finding me.
My last one man live is October 8th in Zepp Diver City. Everyone, I’m happy we met, I’m happy you supported me, for me to think and express my thanks… from here on, “Saorin” will dance with full power so I don’t forget my existence. Please come see me at the live. With the days counting down to my graduation, I’ll be able to leave with the members to see me off, I want to make many more memories with my fellow members and fans.
Houkago Princess changed my life… Thank you for your support of the members who will follow us.
This time, Yamaguchi Miran has decided to graduate from Houkago Princess.
I joined Houkago Princess at 17 years old; 6 years have passed and I am now 23.
From high school 3rd year to university 4th year, combining Houkago Princess and studying, my youth has been Houkago Princess. Over this long period of work, there were many times I thought about quitting. However, in these times, I wasn’t sure I would be able to get a job in nursing, which is what I studied in school.
However, I felt strongly that I wanted to take on the Houkago Princess challenge, so that is what I chose over a job.
That is what I’ve been doing for a year and a half, but I could not abandon the feeling of wanting to take my newly gained qualifications and enter a new society. I can’t deny this feeling I’ve had for a year and half, and I only live once, so I want to try new challenges. This is why I came to this decision.
For me, Houkago Princess was like school rather than a professional entertainment industry. I love my precious fellow members, staff who worked with my parents, and I had fun with the fans who believed in me and supported me. I felt sad and frustrated sometimes throughout my time with Houkago Princess, but I learned many things and have grown every day.
I’m so happy to have been active in this wonderful environment group that I enjoyed so much, and which taught me for 6 years.
Even in my beloved soccer, I think there is a “generation change” in any group. We have three older members graduating, so thank you so much for your support of a Houkago Princess that continues to evolve as the new wind blows again and again.
In the remaining precious time, I want to thank everyone who cheered for me, giving me gratitude. Until the end, thank you for your support.
I, Odagiri Nana, will graduate from Houkago Princess after the October 10th release and promotion event for the new single “Kaguya ni Negai ni wo”.
The step from idol to actress, to a multi-talent… I have no goal like this. I just want to make everyone smile as an idol. I dreamed of singing and dancing in front of lots of fans on a big stage, and I’ve been working every day. This makes me happier than anything else and makes my life worth living…
I never imagined myself as someone who wants to quit Houkago Princess.
Within myself, “My own Houkago Princess” may have already climbed the stairs… this is the feeling that grew inside me. Despite my conflict with the feeling that I don’t want it to end yet, these feelings gradually increased every day, and I realized what I’m able to do with Houkago Princess.
Since I began singing the princess series songs with Houkago Princess, the songs always match the season that goes with the title. The songs are created to lie closely to our own feelings, but now “Kaguya ni Negai ni wo” is a song about the princess Kaguya who goes back to the moon. I thought this was the perfect ending to my princess story. Although there is a contract with the office for a while, I am not graduating with the reason that I wanted to do anything else, I just stopped walking the way I have been in order to to relax on my own as a woman and think about my future.
Since the first generation of Houkago Princess debuted 7 years ago, it’s been 8 years since we started. Since the beginning, our goal of “Stand in Budokan” has not been realised. It is a pity that I will graduate without being able to show the fans this scenery. However, because there was never an era of Houkago Princess without me, after I graduate I hope that it will show us new scenery that I could not show the fans until now!
So far I’ve been sending many members off [on their own paths], and I know this announcement is annoying to hear. It’s truly hard for me to let my fans feel so pained.
Since this decision to graduate was made, I have gone through every event feeling that each would be my last.
In the one and a half months that remains, I want to fill my fans with smiles, while enjoying myself more carefully.
On October 8th at Zepp Diver City, I will have my last one man live. I will leave with the efforts to fill the Budokan dream which I could not fulfill. I would be happy if you came to see the culmination of my career as an idol.
Even after I graduate, I will sing hard so the music of Houkago Princess will remain in everyone’s hearts until the last moment, so thank you for your support.
Staff also included messages from the newly appointed leader, Sekine Sasara, and vice president, Maika. Please read the translations from Rika below.
Regarding Houkago Princess New Leader’s Inauguration
Leader Sekine Sasara (queen) -Rika probably screaming internally at the fact Sasa is Queen of HouPri now-
This time, it’s Houkago Princess’s newly appointed leader, Sekine Sasara.
Houkago Princess has been around for 7 years, and thanks to Nana-san’s leadership, up til here I was able to work.
For me, Nana-san is an idol and a person who is a large presence you can respect.
I worry if I will be able to become a leader who everyone accepts, who can pull the group forward in the same way. However, now we are faced with an unexpected future, I have a mission to accept fate and only move forward.
Although I am not completely confident yet, I received advice from a reassuring senior Maika, as a graduate of HouPri Youth and a senpai, from here on I will teach the Houkago Princess that will be created from new candidates and new members. I devote myself to teaching from my own experiences and turning a new page.
I’ll be very happy if you keep watching me.
I look forward to your continued support in the future.
Vice Leader Maika
I’m sorry to surprise everyone who was always supporting me. I had the role of vice leader after about 9 months of being a member.
From there, with the help of many people, I have been trying my best to improve my performance and make the stage to meet your expectations.
This summer, Miyashita Maika’s solo activities began, and while continuing to challenge this work towards my dreams, the number of days off from group activities will increase… There are many things to think about.
As a result, this time I offered to become vice leader instead of the new leader.
It’s not that I am trying to shirk responsibility, but the new leader and vice leader will work hand in hand, and I was to help create a new Houkago Princess, and I decided to continue the wish to work hard.
Of course, from now, Maika of Houkago Princess will continue to work hard.
Although the position of Houkago Princess’s general manager may be exaggerated, I was appointed by the producer and current leader Odagiri Nana to supervise Houkago Princess and HouPri Youth.
As a vice leader for about 4 years, I would like to share with the juniors who will spend time together about the leader who has led and guided us until now.
We will continue to give our best to meet the expectations of our fans. Thank you for your continued support.
And there we have it. Messages from the members graduating, the up-coming leader and the vice president. I feel like there's a lot to talk about here.
I can't lie to everyone and say 'I'm surprised!' because in all honesty, I'm not. With four member promotions - two who should be crowned eventually - as well as the Regular member auditions being held this very moment, I had really high suspicions that at least two or more popular members would be graduating, with my suspicions leaning mostly towards Nana and Maika, and a little of it heading in both Miran and Saori's direction. Heck, I even said in my HouPri updates post that I wouldn't be surprised.
In fact, I'm pretty sure I called that shit.
So... yeah. BITCH, I CALLED IT!
In all seriousness, though; I'm not surprised, but that doesn't mean that I'm not surprised by the announcement, either, and here's why:
Given the popularity of the three members (as shown above), I expected an announcement that would give us a lengthy amount of time to process the information. I expected a 2019 graduation, a planned stage and a planned final release. I expected there to be a fucking parade dedicated to these three because - let's be damn real - they're the Big Three of HouPri. Their popularity (moreso Nana's) exceeds that of everyone else's because they've been in the group the longest. So, while they may not be stupidly talented in singing like Maika or charismatic as all feck like Sasara, these girls are well-known and adored as the three front faces of the group. It makes sense because they've been there the longest, they've seen the group through its darkest days and highest points, and they've worked their butts off to be where they are now.
Nana, Miran and Saori are recognisable, loved and popular, so to realise that even they wouldn't be given a big graduation like the rest of the members who graduated in the past was a big surprise. I expected there to be something more, but the realisation of it all dawned on me when I read the members' graduation comments: Houkago Princess is - and always will be - a group in which the graduation and its announcement is swift. It will never not be sudden, and it will never be extended until many months later for the sake of the fans or a members' popularity.
But it's not just the suddenness of the graduation that I'm surprised by. In fact, the thing that really took me aback was the leadership of Sekine Sasara. For my own personal, fan-related reasons I'm pissed off and offended, but because it's HouPri (and I expect them to fuck over the seniority system one way or another), I also expect this to some degree.
Don't get me wrong; I understand why it's been done this way. I understand it in a warped, confusing way, because I've followed HouPri since the beginning and I know their quirks and inner workings more than I wish I did (for a foreign fan, I guess). So, I get it. But I'm still a little to a lot pissed off about the shafting of longer-serving-member-than-Maika-OR-SASARA, Michishige Saho. But, that's all personal shit I need to get over, cause it ain't pretty being the bitchy, whiny fan I already am.
Honestly, everything about this announcement was a lot to process, and I was a lot sadder learning about this that I was Iikubo Haruna's. I guess it's because I've been a fan of HouPri since their debut, and watching a group form, find its own feet, watching members come and go... it has a big impact on you, especially when two of the three members graduating were at some point your favourites.
For a long time I've been a fan, and even during the point where I lost interest, I wanted to see how HouPri were getting on. Since the beginning of my fandom Odagiri Nana has been there, a presence that was constant, creating a steady pace for the group. Her leadership is the only one the group has known, so even when I was never a big fan of hers I am aware that this change will be a sudden, impactful one that will really hit home when I don't see her face. It will honestly be so weird not seeing her in the groups single after this one, or any of their up-coming promotional images.
I think the saddest part about Nana's departure is how unsure she seems of this decision, and how highly she thinks of HouPri and the dreams they had that she couldn't achieve with them during her time as leader. For so many years she has worked hard and created a dream and goals, watched members leave and seen new members grow, but it feels like her message is one where she's unsure about her own path and future. I just hope that once she has graduated, Nana herself will find a way forward and watch Houkago Princess grow as a newly unified group.
Yamauchi Miran is a member I liked consistently. Though I never went on to full Oshi-status with her, I was aware of how much I liked her and the presence she delivered. She is a fun, energetic and entertaining member. Yes, her fake cutesy voice is annoying as all heck, but as a performer she is genuinely great to watch, leaving me feeling like I was given a true performance that was filled with her passion for dancing and singing. Given that Miran herself has been a member of the group since 2012, and has been in every single since the third, Kojiki Shika!, it will be so damn weird not seeing her in up-coming releases or promotional imagery, especially when I consider her to be one of the more eye-catching members of the group.
But, Miran herself is going on to a future that is a little more secure right now; she wants to go into nursing, a degree she worked hard for and that she wants to make into a career. I always thought that if she did leave, it would be for her degree, but I also always thought that if Miran were to graduate, it would be with Saori. Those two are almost like best friends within HouPri, and whilst I don't necessarily want them to go, I would rather those two leave together.
In regards to Kizuki Saori, I feel somewhat weird about knowing she will leave. She was one of my more favourite members for a long time, and at one point I did oshi her. I liked her cute look, how she seemed to mostly tweet about the group rather than herself, and then I started to find her nature hilarious the more I found out about her. And, despite being one of the older members, I thought Saori to be quite childish in contrast to her age. She just intrigued me, so to know she's graduating is... it's hard. She's the member I liked the most of the three who announced their leave. It's going to be weird, not seeing her in promotional imagery, seeing her do ballet sequences or even seeing how she knits her brows together in MV's. It's going to be so weird.
I think that Saori's message, in my mind, is the saddest. Whilst Nana herself is unsure about her leave, and Miran is off to use her degree, Saori is more than sure about her graduation, but it's the idea that she feels like she's inexperienced and that she's missed out on living life because she was comfortable in Houkago Princess. I understand her feeling with this, and I understand her need to improve herself and chase a new dream, but it's saddening that she's come to this conclusion after teaching trainees and kouhai about stepping out of their comfort zones, only to realise she is not practising all that she preaches. It seems to have weighed on her a lot, and I know it's come to the decision to graduate, but I am glad she came to this conclusion in the end. It seems to have been a difficult decision to make for Saorin.
Houkago Princess will go through its biggest change yet. With three of its leading members leaving this October, I have a lot of fears and faith for the group. I fear the fandom will have a huge drop with the departures of Miran and Saori, and especially Nana. I fear that the group won't last long, or that it will slowly fall into limbo as they did in 2012 until 2013, when there were barely any national releases or big events. I fear that Maika is planning her own graduation soon to focus on her solo career.
But I have faith that the new members they choose will create a different Houkago Princess, and I have faith that the current members will create a fun and entertaining HouPri. I have faith in Maika, Saho, Sasara, Yuria, Nanase and Natsumi, and I look forward to all of the activities, songs and costumes that Houkago Princess create in the near future. I look forward to a new era, a new leadership and new members. I look forward to Houkago Princesses change.
I fear some things like any fan does when a group goes under such a big change, but I also have faith in this group that I love.
I look forward to seeing a new Houkago Princess and I anticipate the future path that they will create for themselves. But, what about you?
Until next time, everyone. Take care.