For anyone keeping an eye on the Juniors it's pretty clear things are changing up for them, especially the Tokyo Juniors. It was pretty much assumed that A.B.C-Z would fill the gap Kis-My-Ft2 left when they debuted but now with them debuting as well there really isn't a group to do so anymore. The only group that could really do so would be B.I.Shadow but of course with Sexy Zone's debut that group no longer exists. And going from the recent reports for the January Shounen Club taping as well as the latest magazines the other group that might have filled that slot, Hip Hop Jump, is no longer a group. Of course there is still Mis Snow Man, but Johnny's seems rather insistent on keeping them as back dancers and Question?, who seem to be around to either be a support band or perform with Uchi Hiroki.
This of course makes for a perfect set up for new groups to be formed. But until the newly debuted groups stop dominating Shounen Club, which probably won't be for a few months yet, we probably won't see too many getting formed for now. Perhaps we'll get a group to be the back dancers for Hey! Say! JUMP's upcoming winter concerts but I don't see much else being done and just a lot of shuffling of Juniors around as Johnny's let the debuted groups stay in that spotlight as they continue to promote the units that have releases to sell. I think though we'll finally start seeing Kisumai show up less on SC when their concerts start up as it would just be too hard for them to do such an extensive national tour and an overseas tour. Of course it'll be interesting to see if they'll have a new Junior unit for back dancers for at least the larger venues or will just use the older back dancer units like M.A.D., M.A.D.E. or even Mis Snow Man. Of course they could also have a group of group-less Juniors but we shall wait and see about that. And who knows how long it'll take for SZ and A.B.C-Z to stop being regulars on SC.
I think it's clear that Juniors like Kyomoto Taiga and Tanaka Juri are benefiting quite a bit from the recent changes. These two have been getting quite a bit of screen time and are probably likely candidates for a possible new group, especially with Juri considering Hip Hop Jump was probably put together in the first place for him. But I think with a new group he should go further. I think Juniors like Matsumura Hokuto and Morimoto Shintaro will probably do well to be in a new group, seeing as their futures seem a bit uncertain at the moment but seeing as they are getting placed with Kyomoto and Juri for performances and photo shoots I think they're not in too much trouble yet when it comes to be eventually shoved into the back ground. Plus they have their ages on their side unlike older Juniors who probably have less of a chance unless they manage to get the lucky breaks Kisumai and A.B.C-Z managed to get, but that will mean being in a group.
Two Juniors I think that people should be keeping an eye on would be Sanada Yuma and Nozawa Yuki. While they are probably two of the "older" Juniors with how they've been pushed recently, with being regulars on a national TV program and the fact they are more often seen without their group, Mis Snow Man, than with them I think shows clear signs that Johnny's has plans for them. I would not be surprised at all if they are put with another group eventually and Mis Snow Man is left as a five member group. Which rather sucks for Mis Snow Man as they don't seem like they're gotten much of a chance to really showcase themselves as a group, but at least the movie they did, Hot Snow, is getting a DVD/BD release so fans will have something to hold onto and show their support for the group with.
I have the feeling Inoue Mizuki might end up being the chibi Junior that will become the next golden boy now that Morimoto Shintaro has grown too old for the role. I do admit I'm mainly basing this off the fact he had a role in Kimura Takuya's current drama as it makes me think of Nakajima Yuto in Kimutaku's drama, Engine, when he was just a chibi Junior himself. But considering the star power of SMAP and the fact he's also a part of the Junior segment of SMAPxSMAP, he's in the right spot to begin getting that kind of pushing from the agency as people outside of Junior fandom have more of a chance of knowing him than any of the other young Juniors. Of course it's probably still rather up in the air about this but I think the upcoming year we'll see one of the chibi Juniors get noticeably more attention than the rest and right now my bet is on Mizuki.
Of course it's not just the Tokyo Juniors getting a shake up. With the recent Christmas concerts for the Kansai Juniors comes reports that the non-headlining groups for the shows have had roster changes, probably the most noticeable being that Shadow WEST is now a duo with the current members being Mukai Koji and Kaneuchi Toma. There's a good run down over at the Kanjuu live journal community for those interested in that, as well as confirming some departures.
2012 is shaping up to be an interesting year for Juniors and their fans. It will probably be just as frustrating as it will be exciting as Johnny's shuffles groupings around trying to find good matches to go with whatever they have planned. But what is Junior fandom without some heartbreak?