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Nostalgia flavor from Showa Era : Story of Yuichanzu (小林由依 x 今泉佑唯)

i don’t remember who i got this header from (twitter), but if you do, please tell me so i give credits. I particularly like this one.

Yuichanzu. Yuichan’s. Yui&Yui. Two different character, tied together thanks to their love for music. Sub-unit is something common in idol history. Morning musume had tanpopo, AKB48 had not yet. This is a cheap way to diversify music setlist of your group, or gives a chance to specific members to raise above the mass. In that regard, not only Yuichanzu was a great opportunity to develop two popular members, but also to give a special smooth flavor to a group that decided to focus on the cool/dark side of the idol spectrum. Yuichanzu fits the idol framework perfectly : 2 cute young girls singing love songs. But the context, the history, the timing, makes our duo an incredible asset to Keyakizaka, and a landmark to fans. What are the main reason of their success? Let’s find out.

Very early in Keyakizaka debut, management noticed the chemistry between the two (around omotenashikai). Credit to @ARTE VIRN

Let’s look back at the two, when Keyakizaka46 debuted.

Kobayashi Yui is the quiet type, not making any waves. In the waiting room, she talks to no one while the likes of Oda nana and Suzumoto Miyu start talking to each other. Probably that Yuipon was frightened to stand into a totally unknown environment. She never met the girls that would be soon her comrades. Let’s be honest, if you put a shy person into a room full of strangers, Yuipon reaction would not be surprising.

On the other hand, you have Imaizumi Yui. She has a bright, high tension (genki) personality. It’s not surprising either, as she is the youngest daughter after a brotherhood of 4. You bet that her family atmosphere is lively where she probably interact all the time with her brothers, also explaining her outgoing manner, typical from boyish side. She is totally comfortable in approaching others, using her natural cheeky personality to warm people up to her. Even someone as shy as Yuipon couldn’t stand a chance against Zuumin easygoing personality.

How the two first met has been revealed in Keyakise (Keyakizaka mobile game). During otomenashikai (introduction mini concert), the girls had to think of showing a skill to the audience. Zuumin was the first to make a step to Yuipon, and ask her to perform with her. However, Zuumin omit to say she never played guitar before. It end up being consecutive rehearsals of Yuipon teaching Zuumin guitar, and the latter sighing of her obvious lack of progress. Still, Yuipon was patient and Zumiko hated to lose; they finally succeeded in performing together at the mini event. From then a friendship bloomed.

Yuichanzu has been a recurring duo in Keyakizaka landscape, developing their own identity within the group. Here in their first drama, “who killed Tokuyama”

Management proceeded to put their promising duo in good use with Shibuyagawa. A very simple, idolish tune. But very efficient. To set things in motion, everything has been taken into account : A music video just for them, a smooth storyline where an high schooler is worrying about her friend who isn’t coming, the a cappella part to showcase the girls vocal ability, the symbolism with their matched red colored guitar, and the natural groove embodied with the beach scene where they play on a stage made of rocks and sand. Wrap everything up with a love song where someone never found the strength to confess, and you reach a young audience for sure.

 

Shibuyagawa was efficient but conventional. To get leverage, it was important to make a difference, and i believe they did with their second B-side, “Bob Dylan wo kaesanai”. Why is this song unexpectedly good to fans? It is the first track that define Yuichanzu lead : the showa genre.

What is showa genre? First, the showa period refer to the timeline of emperor hirohito, from 1926 to 1989. But especially in Japanese music history, it refers to a period of creativity boom, where exceptional artists lived like idols turned divine Yamaguchi momoe and Seiko matsuda. It was a period of growth and wealth, where the japanese nation could express their feelings through music and culture. Nowadays, the late showa generation (50-60’s) are still very nostalgic of this era. Yuichanzu second track has this melancholy flavor that brings those memories. Following the code of treasures of the past, Yuichanzu bet on reaching deep inside people hearts.

Memories can never
Be neatly organized
Since that day, I’ve had something on loan…
I’m sure somewhere in your heart
There’s still love lost among that sadness

At the bottom
Of my dusk-colored cup
Is a lump of sugar love
That hasn’t yet melted away

If you keep looking at me
With such kindness
I won’t be able
To give up on you

Idols are supposed to cheer you up, play the innocent card. Here we talk about past love, pain, regrets in a melancholy tone that makes you lost in thoughts. Lost in your past memories. This is a pain that you recall, and it reach you. It’s even more true when you watch their performance: the crowd silently watch Yuichanzu singing with all of their heart the tale of a painful lost love. Audience is not interacting with Yuichanzu per se; they set sail in their own memories. Yuichanzu serves as catalyst.

The melancholic past, the good old time is once again used with Fukyouwaon B-side, Tuning. Showa style was hinted in Bob dylan lyrics, but here we clearly see their showa flavor in the music video, where they are sent back in the eightie’s and their stripped pull/Compensate shoes.

Our tuning matches perfectly
Your existence
Is what I’ve been unconsciously searching for
We understand each other without even trying
Knowing this instantly isn’t something I can explain
It must be compatability

Just like
We’re in tune with each other
I met you
There’s a song I’ve always been practicing in my room
I’d like to put my love into it and play it for you on my guitar
It’s far more fitting than any words I could say
Love is our tuning together

I want to talk about their performance as a duo. In the 48group, the usual formation is one center in a 16 member line up. However we never really feel a vocal lead in it. Most of the time, vocals are build on one thick block of female voice mixed up with sound devices. Yuichanzu takes the problem upside down, offering a perfect vocal chemistry, mixing harmonies, one voice lead, one voice support, and successive lead. I want to point out that the real genius of the duo comes from Kobayashi Yui support role. Thanks to Yuipon perfect pitch, and support voice in Bob dylan, Imaizumi Yui allows herself to let loose, closing her eyes and unleash her powerful voice, without worrying to match with Yuipon. To reach full potential, Zuumiko entrust everything to Yuipon ability to adjust to her.

With 5 B-sides, 3 MV, and countless interviews and photoshoot, Yuichanzu is an existence completely set in stone, with still lot of rooms to improve.

But behind this overall good relationship they show in front of Keyakizaka fandom, to say things matched perfectly would be a lie from a smooth criminal. Let’s keep in mind that if chemistry in vocals exist, their personalities are quite the opposite. In Zuumiko comeback interview from her hiatus, she admits having few arguments with Yuipon before about Yuichanzu musical lead. Probably Yuipon was not keen to give all the solo line of Yuichanzu to Zuumin. The girl who always support from the back, who is the quiet type, was becoming more and more self aware of idol competitive spirit. But Zuumiko also prove to be stubborn and Yuipon eventually end up saying “it’s okay, i will work hard my guitar skill so you can focus on singing”. Perhaps Zuumiko felt guilty at that time, and things turned awkward before she takes hiatus for health issue.

When she saw her nakama after a long time on the making of “Getsuyobi, skirt ga kirareta”, Zuumiko (wearing a wig) didn’t know how talk to them. Akanen and Yuuka, as co and captain took the first step to her, but she was still unsure how to do things with Yuipon. After all, the two ended up talk casually, like nothing happened. Yuipon was really supportive of Zuumin comeback, and their relationship became stronger. Imaizumi Yui, who showed strong individual ambition that probably rumple teammates (and yuipon?) became much more conscious of Keyakizaka as a whole. From there, the two would start a new chapter in the group.

In their legendary showroom you can definitively sense a change of mood. Thanks to Zuumiko influence, Yuipon opened herself much more in the comedy field, being cooperative in comic skit, cheerful applause and lively announcement. Yuipon really got out of her shell.On the other hand, Zuumin learned a lot of Yuipon inner abilities : soft acting, voice control, patience (in guitar learning), all of those that Zuumin had trouble dealing with. Yes her illness is part of her slowing down, but because Zuumin didn’t want to let down Yuipon, she worked a lot to match her quiet type. In fact, both respectively took a piece of the other half, making them even more compatible. And powerful. They learned to accept each other, with their respective strength and flaws, to become whole.

To replace Techi in Glass o ware, Yuichanzu take another challenge by showing a cool side of them. Successfully.

And now, their existence in Keyakizaka. We often worries in putting too much pressure in Hirate Yurina, the prime center of the group. First Yuichanzu was pictured as an alternative image of Keyaki, with a cool/soft duality. But here the boundary is broken as Yuichanzu also compensate Techi absence in the cool. When it comes to individuality, it’s hard to find heavyweight like Yurina. But what about Our Showa duo, which identity and strength has been nurtured by management since their first single shibuyagawa?

Their presence in the group take another scale as they become candidate to center position. Being eligible means a shift in the group direction, style, flavor. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was management plan from the start. Changing center was beginning to be urgent (Techi exhaustion) and Yuichanzu has built enough experience to withstand the pressure. It would have been problematic if the two were not on the same page (like last time). But here, they work together so Keyakizaka has enough support to not rely everything on Techi. For Keyakizaka sake, they want to be centers.

I’ll give you that, Yuichanzu songs have all the same music background, making them somewhat similar. To make different successful tune while preserving a recognizable style is the signature of the greatest (Queen has a one of a kind, recognizable style but has many hits song). That’s why i say Yuichanzu still has room for improvement, by evolving, improving their image in new fields. Yuipon taking on ELLEGARDEN rock style? Zuumin trying R’n’b? Why the hell not?

Yuichanzu is the guardian of Keyakizaka musical awareness. This is not where you seek innovative tune like eccentric, but where you seek safe investment, where there’s little risk for disappointment. This is also a heartwarming relationship inside the group, where seeing them interacting or going to outdoor activities makes your day much enjoyable. Them having fun in Hakata is one of the few example that comes to my mind.

All in all, Yuichanzu is an undeniable strength to Keyakizaka. I always said that what makes a group successful is not so much the quantity of capable members in it, but the ability of storytelling, to shape an identity of something as abstract as a idol group. Still Yuichanzu brings this flavor where identity is born. Yuichanzu is friendship, Showa, beautiful singing in one package.

My kingdom for one more Yuichanzu live performance.