Today is the day Hey! Say! JUMP surprised fans with the announcement of their debut. I can still remember the excitement and confusion of the announcement as it went through the Johnny’s, or more precisely the Junior, fan community. It was the first debut I got to witness as a new Johnny’s fan and has left a strong impression on me since.
The creation of the group came at the price of disbanding two Junior groups, J.J. Express and the much beloved Ya-Ya-Yah. I think the JJE fans were more prepared with the group shifting members quite a bit and then having the Junior Hey! Say! 7 using members, Takaki Yuya and Daiki Arioka, and rumors then that those members would leave JJE. Even though there were some signs that Yax3 would not stay together they were minor and only clearly seen after the fact. Such as Yabu Kota and Yaotome Hikaru getting the lion’s share of stage and screen time and performing without Yamashita Shoon and Ayukawa Taiyo, or with those two more as back dancers than members of the same group. And it probably did not help that when the announcement of a new group debuting came out for the next issue of Myojo before HSJ’s debut announcement many were speculating that it meant Yax3 were debuting.
It did not seem easy being a Hey! Say! JUMP fan during that first year when there was such backlash from Junior fans or J-pop fans. Most of it being that they were too young to debut, even though really only the younger five could even have that applied to and even then it could be a bit of a stretch seeing as some of them were not much younger than the younger members of NEWS were when they debuted. But there was no way my love for this group would stop as I found there was just so much I could learn from them and I loved the fact I could still continue to support the members of the Junior Hey! Say! 7 in a group together.
Probably what was the hardest for me as a fan was going through 2009, the year the only HSJ release was a concert DVD. I was rather lucky though that happened to be the year I was in Japan and got to see them in concert, so I had another way to enjoy their music but I am sure for international fans that could not do so the wait was even more painful for that next single. Thankfully HSJ has not gone through another period like that even though they do not release singles on a regular basis.
The group has faced hardships as well, probably none greater than having to lose a member. With the fact that Johnny’s groups are not meant to switch out members like most female idol groups do a change in the roster is a big thing. An even bigger thing if it happens because of a scandal, as that just about stops the member from ever returning to the group.
I know there are still some fans that have not given up hope that Morimoto Ryutaro will return I am not one of them. The best I am willing to hope for is him to come back as a Junior, like Uchi Hiroki and Kusano Hironori eventually did (though Kusano ended up leaving in the end), and perhaps have a career akin to what Uchi has now. Though I am not sure if that is not hoping for too much as Uchi was really popular before his scandal and Ryutaro had not really gotten the chance to get close to gaining that level of popularity. That is of course if he even decides to go back to Johnny’s and not decide to do something else with his life.
Even though losing a member to a scandal must be hard for a group I think HSJ has come out stronger for it. Most likely because they have experienced how much they can lose if such a thing is repeated and probably come to treasure being able to be able to work with each other. Many members have friendships with each other that pre-date HSJ’s debut, like Yaotome Hikaru and Inoo Kei becoming friends during their Junior days as they went home the same way and Nakajima Yuto and Yamada Ryosuke were paired up frequently as Juniors and became friends then. So I think they would want to keep those friendships, which is why I think they will make it without losing another member. Especially since next year all of HS7 turn 20 years old and underage smoking and drinking will no longer be a concern for the group.
Speaking of them all being 20 and older by the end of next year it is sometimes hard of me to see some of the younger as the young adults they now are. Most of it is that I simply have followed them for about five years and still easily remember them when they were young teens. But I think I am finally getting used to the idea, but I will probably forever see them as cute first no matter what. Kinda like seeing the kind of a friend or something grow up.
In these past five years I still love HSJ. They will probably always be one of my favorite Johnny’s groups as they were the first I got to see grow from the start. And I hope I can continue to see them grow as a group for many years to come.