Monday, 30 March 2020

Thank You, Kobushi Factory - The Graduation Appreciation Post

In which Chiima finally reflects on Kobushi, their disbandment and the feelings she has stowed away all this time...

Around the time Kobushi Factory announced their disbandment, a friend asked if I would write about. At the time I said yes with the intent to express my frustration over the groups sudden announcement because, like everyone around me, I wanted to air my grievances about how Kobushi had been neglected by H!P upon becoming a 5 member group, how this disbandment announcement itself seemed extremely sudden and far too short a time frame for a H!P group. I wanted to talk about how unfair it seemed and the sadness I felt regarding Kobushi Factory's short run.

That post never happened, and in the end I went into a period of denial regarding the groups imminent dissolve. I am also aware that I am not alone in this.

I started to enjoy Kobushi Factory a lot later than everyone else. Before I was a Tsubaki Factory fan, favouring the underdog that everyone else seemed to dislike at the time. It wasn't until Ee ja Nai ka, Ninja Nai ka that I witnessed Kobushi's greatness. I slowly became a fan after that, enjoying the groups music and style as they found their footing together after three members left.

It was 5nin Kobushi that I loved the most. Their drive to stay together, the music they created and the acapella's they worked so hard on became aspects of the group that many came to love. That, and the members themselves are so charming and vocally talented that it's hard to not like them. So with their disbandment I can't help but feel both sad and disappointed that, after 5 short years as a Hello! Project group, Kobushi Factory are leaving during one of their strongest periods as a vocal group.

It's far too soon for them to leave. They didn't have as long of a run as they should have had, and now I can't help but feel a little lonely.

In the grand scheme of things, 5 years isn't that short of a run for a typical idol group, but that's where the problem lies here: Kobushi Factory isn't (wasn't) a typical idol group. Born from Hello! Project's own Kenshuusei program, the group was created within a company that creates idols and groups made to last. Even one of their sub-groups managed to hit a 10 year milestone before disbanding, so for a group like Kobushi Factory - one of the main lineups within Hello! Project - to disband after a 5 year stint is extremely perplexing for fans. It's too short of a run, and it's very unusual to see from a Hello! Project act.

Half a decade for an Idol is pretty good, but for a Hello! Project group? That's a little concerning, and I know I'm not the only fan out there to think this. And right after losing Country Girls - a group that had a short, almost 4 year run before being dissolved - it only makes H!P look extra suspect. But I digress.

Kobushi Factory's disbandment is both overwhelming and deeply saddening, and I feel like it came far too fast. Up until this point - y'know, the day of them actually ending their activities and pursuing new dreams - I was in complete denial over them actually disbanding, which is why I'm writing this now.

I can't deny what has already happened, and no matter how much I try I can not turn back the clock to give us another day of having Kobushi Factory in our lives.

Right now I am feeling frustrated, but I have shed my own share of tears whilst watching the final live performance. But I also feel extremely grateful to have finally understood the charm of Kobushi Factory, despite thinking I would never like them because they were the 'pushed' Hello! Project group. I am happy that I could enjoy their energy, listen to their music with happiness and become a fan of theirs during a time where they struggled the most. I am glad that I could support them for just two years of their time as a group and find solace in the music they created.

For three years Kobushi Factory created powerful, moving tracks that showcased strength and endurance. Despite the setbacks they faced, the lack of promotions and care from higher ups, as well as a sudden change in direction and image, Kobushi Factory still ran forward with force and happiness so that they could prove to us all that they were worth supporting.

With such motivation for both their fans and themselves, how could I not stop and give them the chance I hadn't given them before?

Granted, I did start liking Kobushi more after the girls I considered the least vocally talented had left, and I do stand by that, but I didn't care for Kobushi's music until Shalala! Yareru hazu sa had been released, but I didn't start focusing on Kobushi until their music became more of a motivational sound. It was refreshing, and though it clearly was not as popular as the group had hoped it would be, it became an important aspect of my fandom. Granted, I didn't enjoy everything Kobushi put out, but I enjoyed most of it.

Unfortunately I am one of very few fans who didn't get into their acapella movement, though when I did hear it I honestly appreciated it. I enjoy acapella, I think that whoever has the skills to do it is extremely talented and worth applauding, but I also don't follow it outside of seeing it in movies or in passing. I also don't watch Hello! Project's various youtube channels, which is where Kobushi's acapella was typically promoted, but when I did hear snippets of it... wow, I was amazed.

Kobushi Factory is made up of five talented young women, all of whom are incredible vocalists in their own right. Sure, none of them are perfect - who is, aside from Suzuki Airi? - but each of their vocal styles work well for each of them, and they balance the group out in a way that 8nin Kobushi could not. Adding their acapella into the mix only enhanced the groups ability and talent, and allowed for some variety in live shows that no other Hello! Project group could offer. Kobushi Factory truly were unique within their company, and it's sad that their unique flavour will be quashed sooner rather than later.

I do understand that each member has a path they want to go down, and I understand that they have lives to lead. But I am still shocked by the fact that Kobushi Factory's disbandment was as sudden as it was - along with many other graduations that have recently transpired within H!P these past few months - and I feel like H!P has lost their most vocally adept group since ℃-ute. I don't want to believe that it's all ended here, and I still want to believe that Kobushi could have had a much longer run if it weren't for Hello! Project ignoring them during a time where the group was trying to rebuild.

I do blame a lot of things on Hello! Project as a company, and I know many others do as well, but Kobushi Factory's disbandment is still a sore point. I am glad that the members will get to do things that they enjoy however, and I look forward to what their futures will become.

For the short time they were together as Kobushi Factory they made music, happiness and memories, and I am happy that I could enjoy a small amount of what they created. I will do my best not to be bitter towards a company that did so little for them, when the group itself tried to create warmth, happiness and laughter for us all.

I could write a lot of things, but I will begin to end this post with an expression of happiness and well wishes towards the members who worked so hard to uphold Kobushi Factory, its image and its name.

Kobushi Factory made me happy. In a surprise twist, the group that I had vowed to ignore and dislike became the group that was my reason for keeping in touch with Hello! Project. It became a group that created uplifting and empowering music during a time I needed it the most, and it became a group a group that I couldn't help but admire thanks to all they had endured and the hoops they jumped through in order to be recognised. Despite being handed everything in the beginning, despite the hurdles they faced just as their career was starting, the remaining members of Kobushi Factory still managed to jump high and worked even harder than before to fix a mess that wasn't even theirs to fix.

Individually the members Ayaka, Minami, Ayano, Risa and Rei did all they could to create a new image for Kobushi Factory, one that they could proudly call their own. Through perseverance they grew, and through collectively working together they became even more powerful than before.

I wish I could have met them once. I also wish that Kobushi Factory could have travelled a little further overseas and met some of their foreign fans within America or Europe, the Philippines or elsewhere. But I am happy that within 5 years they could do all they did, experience various things and find support within the fandom. I am happy that they could give us a final farewell, even with all of the issues going on currently in the world and the unsteady path they had been pushed along.

Above all, I am happy and thankful to have fallen in live with their music. Without it I would not have found some form of solace or encouragement in a time when I needed it most.

To the members who helped keep Kobushi Factory afloat, upheld its name and ran through the barriers put in front of them: Thank you. Thank you for creating music that allowed the fans to smile, and thank you for working hard all these years for a group that may have ended sooner rather than the time it did.

For my oshi and the groups Leader, Ayaka, who wishes to study music and songwriting, I look forward to where that path will take you. One day I hope we can see your lyrics and hear your own compositions in future songs, whether it is made for idols or not. I am excited to see how far you go in this field of choice, and I am glad that you are pursuing a dream focused within the industry your roots are embedded in. I wish you all the luck in the world and sincerely hope you persevere in all you aim to do.

For Minami, the powerhouse who surprises us all and wishes to follow a new dream where she aims to become a theatre actress: I hope to see you on stage with Tamura Meimi one day. I hope that this dream is something you pursue earnestly, because it is one that will be worthwhile. I also hope that you pursue musical theatre, because your singing talent should not go to waste. Good luck.

For Hamaura Ayano, the Ace of the Kenshuusei and the girl we all thought would rise high in the ranks within H!P, I look forward to your future as a model and actress. I sincerely hope that you become as accomplished and recognisable as your seniors, Kumai Yurina and Mano Erina, respectively. Though I don't know what area of acting you aim to pursue - theatre, TV or film - I do think you will shine, whatever you do. I look forward to seeing your name appear in the credits for a film or TV show! Good luck and do your best.

For Wada Sakurako, an idol who will leave the world of entertainment to pursue studying abroad. Thank you for everything until now, and thank you for the hard work you put into making Kobushi Factory great. Though we won't see you as an idol after this, we look forward to hearing from you in the future. I hope that you study hard of course, and that you enjoy your time as a normal girl. Please take care of yourself and continue to support your peers from the sidelines! Thank you for everything, and good luck with your future, whatever you choose to do!

And finally, for Inoue Rei, the idol who will continue moving forward with Hello! Project. A new chapter is waiting to be written for you, and though the fans and yourself are unsure what will happen to you, I look forward to seeing where you will end up in H!P and the group that you will shine within. You are already extremely accomplished and talented, but I hope that you can continue to learn various things within Hello! Project whilst also applying your past experiences to your present teachings. Personally speaking, I would love to see an acapella group created specifically for you, but I can only hope. Until we find out what sort of group or unit you will become a part of though, thank you for everything up until now, and continue to work hard. Good luck.

Thank you for everything, Kobushi Factory. 5 years is not long enough, but for five short years we could treasure you, your music and the happiness you delivered. Your fans are eternally grateful for everything you have ever done, and though tears were shed all around the world for you today, your Kobushi Gumi came together to celebrate each and every member and all that the group stands for, as well as the five wonderful years that you gave us.

Yes, it was a short amount of time, but a small measure of happiness is still more than we could have had. You worked hard for so long, and I am so happy that I could appreciate you for one last moment with the rest of the world.

Thank you for everything, Kobushi Factory. I am ready to say goodbye, if a little reluctant.

The Goal is A New Start Line!

Kobushi Factory, Thank You For 5 Years!

It was too sudden, too soon, but the five years we did have were worth it. I am thankful that we could have Kobushi Factory for this long, and thankful that we were given such wonderful music from five amazing, talented girls. I wish them all the luck in the world.

This is goodbye, though goodbye does not mean forever. After all, their goals are a new start line. Let's look forward to what they have in store for us for the future.

Thank you for everything, Kobushi Factory, but I can't promise I will be happy about this.

And now to end all of this with some of my favourite songs. Let's come together one last time, Kobushi-Gumi ;;

Thank you for reading.


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