Random Fandom: SMAP and KaT-TUN, Mori and Jin
To the Faithless Departed
(Because Johnny-san Hates! Members! Who! Leave! Him!!!)
by Ender’s Girl
Something funny happened at the KaT-TUN concert in Tokyo Dome.
(Yes I know you’re sick of KAT-TUN, lol. Don’t worry, this isn’t about them. Er, technically.)
Don’t Shoot the Messengers?
Last July 25th, Johnny Kitagawa sent Akanishi Jin a message. — In a bottle, you say??? No!!! — In a — Johnny!!! Actually — No!!! — In a pair of Johnnies, to be exact! Tokyohive reports that during the July 25th MC portion of KaT-TUN’s World Big 2010 Tour (WTF World Big????? hahahahaha), the topic turned to TV dramas that members had co-starred in. And Kamenashi Kazuya, ever Johnny’s loyal hatchet man-thing, pointedly asked Taguchi Junnosuke if he had ever done a drama with another member before, to which Junno (aka The Member Least Likely to Act Like an Ass — Until Now) replied that no he had not, (conveniently) forgetting that he had actually done not one, but two dramas with newly minted ex-member Akanishi Jin. (Yukan Club in 2007 and Omae no Yukichi ga Naiteiru in 2001.)
Junno’s loaded denial sparked off a wave of indignation among Jin fans and prompted heated reactions that Kame and Junno’s snarky exchange was tantamount to “mistreatment” of the former KaT-TUN idol. (Snarky yes, but… mistreatment? LAWL riiiight. What is Jin, a 4-year-old child locked away under the stairs?) Both camps (Jin vs. KaT-TUN) have since exchanged accusations and sundry excuses, all swinging from the “keep blinking real hard until you get the logic behind them” headscratch-worthy variety, to the downright LOLWHATesque — like, Technically Jin isn’t part of the band no mo’, so Junno wasn’t obliged to mention him!!! Or — maybe Junno simply forgot!!! He forgot that he did those two dramas with Jin, amongst the — um, oodles of dramas he’s done it’s so hard keeping track of ‘em all!!!
I won’t waste anymore time trying to confute these views, because seriously folksss — I think it’s pretty obvious just whose gnarly, lichen-sprouting hands were doing the actually string-pulling here, using Kame and Junno (willingly or not, is anyone’s guess… though I suspect: Junno = unwillingly; Kame = very willingly, lol) as his mouthpieces to nail home the acrimonious message that Jin is DONE. Jin may still be a JE contract artist, and there’ll probably be a perfunctory effort — or two — to launch that U.S. career, but Johnny seems intent on making it clear just what Jinny Boy is to him now. Well, hell hath no fury like a Goblin King scorned, ne?
Ahhh Johnny-san, you spiteful old manhag, you think we can’t see past the gimmickry and subterfuge as you remain holed up in your Dark Tower, cloaked in impunity and stewing in your own sulfurous bile? You think we haven’t forgotten that you tried pulling the same sh*t when Mori Katsuyuki left SMAP in 1996 to pursue a professional moto racing career? He quit SMAP just when the group was hitting its stride, just as superstardom glinted on the horizon after five years of lukewarm to moderate commercial success, and you never forgave Mori for leaving. You even forbade the remaining SMAP members — under pain of death!!! (lol not really… but then again who knows, it IS Diyannehhh) — to so much as utter Mori’s name on SMAP live appearances… not on their radio show, not on their weekly variety show, not at press cons or their own concerts, not anywhere else in public.
You like to bury them alive, don’t you, Johnny-san? These Boys Who Leave? Mob bosses would be tickled pink to have you on their tag team. You muzzled NEWS when two of their members got the boot in 2006, and now KaT-TUN. The only difference between SMAP and your younger units is that SMAP had both the good sense and the cojones to flout your edict — openly reminiscing about the good old days with Mori-kun on What’s Up, SMAP and SMAPxSMAP, or simply mentioning his name in passing while discussing a related matter — whereas the current crop of Johnnies are too chickensh*t to even think of trying.
Racer Mori and Rapper Jin
Jin’s recent departure and the ensuing brouhaha (Exhibit A: Kame’s Sin of Commission + Junno’s Sin of Omission last July 25th, lulz) got me thinking about that time in 1996, when SMAP was faced with a similar predicament. Then 22, Mori Katsuyuki left JE for good to try his luck as a pro racer before he got too old. An enthusiast since childhood, racing was his lifelong dream (and his father’s as well) that superseded all other aspirations — even becoming an in-demand pop idoru. Somehow, the purring of motorbike engines and the smell of asphalt mingled with dust held a far stronger pull than the bright klieg lights of the TV studios, or the screams of fans at concert arenas. And unlike Jin’s hiatus+return back in 2006-2007, for Mori it was a one-shot deal. When he left SMAP and JE, it was clear that he was never coming back — not even if he failed to make it big in the racing world.
To be fair to both sides, Jin isn’t Mori, no more than KAT-TUN is SMAP. The circumstances of leaving are different, as are the group makeup and inter-member dynamics. And so much has changed since 1996 in terms of the general J-Entertainment landscape, the size of the market, the industry politics and power bases, the speed and accessibility of information, and the freedom and openness of cyber-discourse. (Only Johnny-san remains unchanged, hahaha. Him and his ruby-encrusted shoes, hahaha.) But if KaT-TUN has any intention of moving past this imbroglio, it would do them well to draw from the example of SMAP, a group that has been favored with greater success and longevity (22 years since formation; 19 since their official debut — an eon in pop industry reckoning) than any other J-Pop group.
It’s true that the SMAP dudes have their own checkered history of hot-headed scrapping and cold wars, of bullying and asshole behavior *cough* Kimura *cough* and other immature sh*t way back in their callow youth, a phase experienced by any unit that has been together since boyhood. But when the chips were down, when the group had to weather crisis after crisis over the years, whether collectively or individually — Mori’s early retirement, Kimura’s shotgun marriage, Goro’s arrest, Tsuyoshi’s very public meltdown… these were SMAP’s finest hours, the times that the group was at its strongest and most cohesive, when the members’ respect and loyalty towards each other — not towards their parent agency, or the industry moneybags, or even the fickle fans, but to each other — could be most keenly felt. It’s easy for any pop group to fake the skinship just to crank up the fanservice. Which makes you wonder how long these other groups can last running on just that. But true solidarity and resilience in the face of adversity — that can’t be faked.
And — yes, this is really about SMAP, lol. So I’m posting this video link of the May 27, 1996 episode of SMAPxSMAP where Mori bids a final farewell to SMAP and to the fans. The talk portion comes right after a medley performance of songs that Mori himself selected. The vid clip isn’t subbed, but I managed to fill in certain portions (see below) using translations by yanie from her wonderful (and wonderfully long) video tribute to SMAP, which came out in 2006. (If you’re a SMAP fan and haven’t seen yanie’s labor of love, I strongly recommend that you do. The download links (not sure if they still work) can be found at D-Addicts. Otherwise, she can be contacted at her LiveJournal site.)
(Video credit: mmAngela @ Youku.com)
(MC portion right after song tribute)
Nakai: Hai… (breaks down, can’t continue, oh Nakai!)
Kimura: (quickly) This medley, the songs were all chosen by Mori-kun.
(nice save, you unsentimental, heartless, always-perfectly-composed bloke, you! *flying kisu*)
(KimuTaku, why you so hawt???)
Mori: Hai… Hai.
Kimura: I guess… this is an atmosphere that we never expected to feel in SMAPxSMAP…
[…] (Mori says something, but it’s all… Greek to me this part wasn’t included in the clip that yanie subbed.)
[1:03] Kimura: What do you think, Tsuyoshi?
Tsuyoshi: I guess, from now on, this is Mori-kun’s beginning, you know… Though we’ve been together for quite some time… this is his beginning. (awww Tsuyoshi!!! you’re so sweet)
Kimura: Yes, yes, yes… Shingo? (note: Shingo, the youngest, was just 19 at this time)
[1:32] Shingo: (struggles to speak) Well, I guess… of course, we’d find something missing…
[2:11] Kimura: Goro.
Goro: This is not good… (LOL oh Goro)
(Kimura says something)
(KimuTaku, why you so hawt???)
[3:22] Kimura: With this, we’d see you less often, but I think, we can still meet on some other occasion. Ganbaro. Nakai.
(Nakai by this time has composed himself, and launches into a long, heartfelt message for Mori. I think the best part is what he says at the end:)
[5:05] Nakai: Mori Katsuyuki as a man… I really… I’m really glad I got to know you. Thank you very much for all these times. Ganbatte, Mori! (shakes Mori’s hand)
Besto Friend, Besto Friend
When the Goro Crisis hit in August 2001, speculations once again ran high as to SMAP’s future. But Goro returned in 2002, and the clip below is from their concert tour in the same year. (Translations by yanie)
(End part of MC portion)
Goro: Minna-san, thank you for coming out in this cold weather… Last year, I was apart from the members and went through the cold winter alone. It was a bitter memory for me. But now I feel warm because I’m with all of you.
Nakai: I think many things happened this past year. Bad things, lonely things, sad things… But we’ll do our best next year, so that we can meet again in the summer. Hontouni arigatou gozaimashita. (bows deeply)
(Video clip starts)
Nakai: Please listen to this song which has never been sung before at our live concerts…
(“Best Friend” intro music)
SMAP: Best friend, best friend, the person that I love the most… Always, forever, my best friend
Nakai: Though we fight, but I don’t really mean it… Nobody can see through kindness, anyway
Goro: It’s just that I can’t express these feelings that well… I know you are worried about me, that’s why
SMAP: Please express your feelings softly… Best friend, best friend, the most important person… The closest person to me, my best friend
Tsuyoshi: I don’t want to see your sad face like that… I even suffer a bit and look away
Shingo: Even though my ears don’t listen, my heart is always listening… I can hear you, you can trust me, forever
SMAP: Please express your feelings softly… Best friend, best friend, the person I love the most… Always, forever, my best friend
Nakai: Tonight I’m gonna leave a memo on the table, I plan to write “I’m sorry.”
Kimura: After the wind has blown and the storm has passed, I believe and hope the sky will become bright and clear as always
SMAP: Hopefully your feelings reach my heart… Best friend, best friend, that beautiful smile… Please show it to me tomorrow, my best friend… Best friend, best friend, the person I love the most… Always, forever, my best friend…
Watching this performance it doesn’t really matter that Nakai has a broom splayed around his head, or that Shingo dyed his shaggy mane that shade of platinum, or that Goro’s never-changing mono-hair seems to defy the vagaries of time (“Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” lol). It doesn’t matter that they can’t seem to hit the right pitch for three consecutive notes, much less actually sing in harmony. It doesn’t matter that some of these grown men are crying freely before a sea of equally emotional fans. And it doesn’t matter that the cheesy “Best-o Friend” lyrics sound like they were scribbled by a third-grader on strawberry-scented Sanrio stationery during recess period. I guess, if you knew what they’d just been through together, none of that stuff would really matter.
Mori: A Postscript
Private Citizen Mori Katsuyuki, 36, seems to be doing well in his speedway racing career. (Reports also say he got married in 1998.) I found a recent (unsubbed) video clip of one of his races dated January 2010. He’s biker #7, and goes on to win the event after starting out in the middle of the pack. (Yay for Mori!) Interview follows. (Video credit: 0ANGEL0ANGEL @ Youtube.com)
It turns out that Mori hasn’t shunned the limelight altogether, as his racing career has made him a minor sports celebrity (with a couple of endorsement deals to his name) and kept him visible on the sports news channels. Of course, we’ll never know if Mori ever feels the occasional twinge of regret that he left SMAP, or whether he would make the same choice all over again even if someone had told him back in 1996 that SMAP would go on to become what they are now. (And something tells me that yeah, he’d still choose to race.)
But one thing’s for sure: if there’s any remaining shred of doubt in Mori’s mind as to the wisdom of chucking SMAP’s success for a riskier — and shorter-lived — career in motorcycle speedway, that will be quickly obliterated after seeing what Nakai, Kimura, Goro, Tsuyoshi and Shingo have been wearing onstage to their 2010 concert tour, lollll
(Mori: Aieeee!!!! No regrets!!! I made the right choice!!! I made the right choice!!! *hops on motorbike and vroooms away*)
Photo credits: D-Addicts.com, japanuptown.com, noizumi.wordpress.com, Yahoo Auctions Japan (via SMAPxSMAP community @ LiveJournal)