Well it's happened, Johnny's net has updated the profile page for Hey! Say! JUMP. The new group picture is only of the current nine members and Morimoto Ryutaro is no where to be seen as they have taken down his profile information. He has also been removed from the J-Web site. I think it's now clear that officially Ryutaro is out of the group and there are no current plans for a return.
From what I've heard from Johnny's fans that were around when NEWS lost Uchi Hiroki and Kusano Hironori it took quite some time before they were removed from the profile pages of their respective groups so this comes to no surprise to me. Whether people like it or not I think it's time to really start to accept that Morimoto Ryutaro is not going to return to HSJ. His scandal was just not something an idol, especially a young idol, can just be forgotten and forgiven in the industry. Especially not when the image of the group is clean and wholesome. It may be unfair but with the entertainment business very little is.
For his fans the best to hop for is that he decides to continue on with Johnny's and returns as a Junior again eventually, much like Uchi Hiroki. Of course it'll be his decision in the end to make and hopefully what he decides will make him happy as that'll be the most important thing for him, IMHO.
There might be a slim chance I could be wrong but it's more than likely that I'm not. As I've mentioned before on this topic Uchi and Kusano are the two cases most similar to Ryutaro's and as we can see from them an easy return won't happen. So even if it is possible for him to come back some day in the future it won't be just handed to him, he will have to do something to prove his dedication at least, much think those two had to go through being trainees before regaining Junior status again. After that it'll be in the agency's hands what they want to do with him and unfortunately no fan can really say what they'll decide to do when the time comes. But I just wouldn't keep your hopes up as Johnny's doesn't seem big on giving second chances, unless it's for their most popular talents, which unfortunately Ryutaro wasn't.
Personally even though I know this day has been coming it still feels like a blow to have it finally happen. I've been following HSJ since their debut and I honestly love each member as they each brought something different to the group despite its size. I honestly thought after enough time members that were shuffled in the back would each get a chance to shine a bit and it saddens me that Ryutaro never got that time or now ever will.
Not only that but just like the concert footage on the second limited edition DVD for Magic Power all video with him will be trimmed to cut him out as much as possible like with other groups that had members leave. And to me that hurts the most because I don't like it when it looks like Johnny's is trying to erase the past like that. Ryutaro's time with HSJ meant something to me, to his fans, to the group's fans and of course to the group members. But I don't see Johnny's changing their policy for this and I will treasure the DVDs I have of their concerts and PVs with all ten members as it'll be the only way to see those videos from now on without excessive edits.
This is a depressing way to start a week, especially since today is the 4th anniversary of HSJ's CD debut to top it all off. I guess they must have figured that it would be a good date to confirm as much as they will ever confirm that Ryutaro is gone and it will be the current nine that make up the group from now on. And while I understand the reasoning behind it I can't help but disagree with it, as the thought just makes me even more miserable about it all.
Whatever the outcome I just wish Ryutaro well with whatever path in life he chooses to take. And I hope others learn from his mistake so history doesn't repeat itself again.