You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2009.

Introduction: Hello! Project’s Central Mystery

For ages, it has defied explanation, piggybacking on one group name after another. It waits, announcing its presence in a subtle yet forceful fashion, catching the eye with its unexpected existence yet never explaining its purpose. This elusive typographical flourish is none other than the ideographic full stop (。) at the end of several Hello! Project group names: モーニング娘。 (Morning Musume。), ココナッツ娘。 (Coconuts Musume。), カントリー娘。 (Country Musume。), アイスクリー娘。 (Ice Creamusume。), ミニモニ。 (Mini Moni。), エコモニ。 (Eco Moni。)—but interestingly, not プッチモニ (Pucchi Moni), a puzzle that we may be able to solve shortly. Unlike the names that precede it, this hardy symbol has proven immune to transformations like romanization: while “モーニング娘” can be written “MORNING MUSUME” in official documents (often, but not always, in all caps), the stop itself is never replaced by its Latin counterpart (.). There is something intrinsic to the ideographic full stop, then, that would be lost in translation. But what is it? As a distinguishing feature of the flagship group’s name since the very beginning, this little circular symbol lies at the heart of the Hello! Project enterprise, and understanding its true meaning may very well be the key to unlocking H!P’s greatest mysteries.

Ideographic full stop

Perhaps it is a simple matter of topology. The ideographic and Latin full stops can be viewed as essentially a zero-dimensional point and a one-dimensional circle, respectively. Since they are represented in two dimensions on the page, however, we can also consider them to be projections of two-dimensional objects in a three-dimensional space (the page itself is a two-dimensional Euclidean plane, so we must go to higher dimensions to have other types of two-dimensional objects). From this perspective, the ideographic full stop is homeomorphic to a 1-torus, while its Latin counterpart is homeomorphic to a sphere. These are distinct homeomorphism classes since there is no continuous deformation from one to the other, just as there is no way to continuously deform a donut into a ball.

But of course this does not explain the relevance of the full stop to Hello! Project. One important characteristic of the full stop is that it appears in the names of groups, so it is inextricably linked to H!P’s concept of a group. We may therefore be able to come to a fuller understanding of H!P by studying the structure of its constituent groups.

The term group also has a mathematical meaning, of course, and while on the surface the two meanings may seem disparate and unrelated, an in-depth analysis from a group-theoretic standpoint does yield a surprising number of coincidences, suggesting that H!P groups do have inherent mathematical structure worth taking a closer look at, whether or not this is the intention of producer Tsunku♂ et al. We may be able to gain insight into the nature of Hello! Project by viewing its groups in mathematical terms, and using group theory as a tool to aid our understanding.

The Basics of Groups

(See also Wikipedia’s article on elementary group theory, which may be a more useful intro to group theory.)

The mathematical discipline of group theory, a part of abstract algebra, examines the algebraic structures called groups. Groups are a central concept in algebra and other areas of mathematics, and have also found applications to physics, chemistry, computer science, and linguistics, among other fields.

Definition: A group consists of a set of objects along with a binary operator that can be applied to any two objects in the set. We can denote the set as G and the operator as ×, which for explanatory purposes we’ll call “multiplication” in a general sense, though numerical multiplication is only one example of a binary operator. Furthermore, the four group axioms must hold:

  • Closure: For all a, b in G, a × b is also in G. (The result of multiplying any two elements in the set produces an element in the set.)
  • Associativity: For all a, b, c in G, (a × b) × c = a × (b × c). (When there is more than one multiplication, it doesn’t matter which pair gets multiplied first—the result is the same.)
  • Identity: There exists an element e in G such that for all a in G, a × e = e × a = a. (There is an element that can be multiplied with any element, in either order, without changing it.)
  • Inverse: For each a in G, there exists an element b in G such that a × b = b × a = e. (Every element can be multiplied with some other element, in either order, to produce the identity.)

If a set and a binary operator defined on the set meet these conditions, then they form a group. We can specify further restrictions to define particular types of groups. For example, we can add commutativity to define the notion of an abelian group:

  • Commutativity: For all a, b in G, a × b = b × a. (The order in which you multiply elements doesn’t matter.)

One example of a group (which also happens to be abelian) is the set of real numbers, R, under addition. (Note that here the group operator is addition, not multiplication). We can easily verify that the four group axioms, as well as commutativity, hold (this is not a proof, just an example):

  • Closure: The sum of two real numbers is a real number.
  • Associativity: For any real numbers a, b, c, (a + b) + c = a + (b + c).
  • Identity: 0 is the additive identity. You can add it to any real number without changing it.
  • Inverse: For any real number a, -a is its inverse. The sum of the two is 0.
  • Commutativity: For any real numbers a, b, a + b = b + a.

The set of real numbers under multiplication is not a group, however, since 0 does not have a multiplicative inverse (there’s no real number you can multiply with 0 to make 1, the multiplicative identity). But you can make this a group by excluding 0.

As we will see shortly, H!P groups consist of both abelian and non-abelian groups.

Hello! Project Groups as Mathematical Groups

Set Composition

There are a number of ways in which to regard H!P groups as groups in the group-theoretic sense. A naïve approach would be to define a set consisting of the members of the group and define some appropriate binary operator over the members. Though this makes some intuitive sense and is relatively simple to start out with, we can easily show that it fails to capture the nature of H!P groups.

A counterexample would be Coconuts Musume。 after Ayaka’s graduation on 2008-04-30. According to the official graduation announcement on Hello! Project’s site, Ayaka, the last remaining member of the group, graduated from Hello! Project as well as Coconuts Musume。 (“2008年4月30日(水)をもちまして『ココナッツ娘。』及び『ハロー!プロジェクト』から卒業することになりました。”) This implies that Coconuts Musume。 as a group did not graduate from Hello! Project. After losing its last member, it must remain as a zero-member group.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a zero-element group. That would violate the identity property, which states that there exists an identity element. The smallest group is the trivial group, which contains just the identity and nothing else.

And that is the key to understanding how H!P groups work in a group-theoretic sense. All groups must have an identity, and H!P groups are no exception. What Coconuts Musume。 retained after Ayaka’s graduation was its identity: the name “Coconuts Musume。”. The name did not graduate along with Ayaka but remained as the single persisting feature of the group. Here, the term identity is applicable in both its mathematical sense and its sense of being a name or label, an identifier.

So all true H!P groups have an identity, a name that is distinct from the members who constitute the group but is itself an element of the group. Due to the potential for confusion in terminology, I’ll clarify that I’m using member to refer to a human constituent of a group and element to refer to a constituent of the group in the theoretical sense. In this study, I assume that a group’s elements are solely its identity and its members, but that assumption need not hold in possible alternative group-theoretic conceptions of H!P groups, which I will not consider here. Thus the current lineup of Morning Musume。 has ten elements (that is, it’s a group of order 10): nine members and an identity.

One could argue that the identity is just an insignificant auxiliary feature of a group, but I think treating it as an element in its own right does better to characterize H!P’s conception of its groups. The only element of Morning Musume。 that has remained throughout its changing generations is the identity, and it is solely due to the inclusion of the identity that the current lineup can still claim older songs like “LOVE Machine” or “Renai Revolution 21″ as its own, even though none of the current members were around at the time of those releases. The Hello! Project web site acknowledges the importance of the group identity: the official profile of the group has a section devoted to each of its ten elements, and each of the ten elements has its name highlighted in blue. The identity has its own section at the top, where it belongs, since it is the longest lasting and arguably most important element of the group.

Interestingly, H!P uses the term unit (ユニット) to refer to its groups. This term appears, for example, in reference to H!P’s special and shuffle units, and Tsunku♂ uses it frequently. In a mathematical sense, unit can refer to some form of the number 1 (for example, the unit circle, the set of points with a distance of 1 from the origin), which is often the identity element in groups (especially when the group operator is regarded as multiplication). In a way, H!P’s use of the term associates a group with its identity.

Group Operator

Having considered the question of set composition, we now turn to what kinds of binary operators exist in H!P groups. This is a crucial aspect of a group, as the group operator determines the structure of a group, and without it, a group is simply a set, an unordered, unstructured collection of distinct elements. It can also be particularly tricky to discern the existence of a group operator, since it is not always clear what the inherent structure of an H!P group is. That said, we can find examples of group operators in some H!P groups.

Let us turn to the tracklist for Morning Musume。’s album Platinum 9 DISC. Several of the songs are credited to a single member (Mitsui, Michishige, Kamei) or to a subset of the members ({Takahashi, Niigaki, Tanaka}, {Kusumi, Junjun, Linlin}). Especially noteworthy is the use of an interpunct (・) to separate the names. The interpunct is commonly used in mathematics to denote multiplication (a · b), alongside other representations such as a × b, a * b, or simply ab. (My physical copy of the album uses a space to separate the names, which is another common way to denote multiplication.) We can assume that this indicates the application of the group operator to the members in question. As the group operator is associative, we need not specify an order in which pairs should be operated on, but since groups are not in general commutative, the order in which the members are listed may be relevant. (In the next section, I argue that Morning Musume。 is an abelian group, in which case the order of the members is actually not relevant.)

Given the prominence of the “Produced by Tsunku♂” credit on the cover of most of Tsunku♂’s productions, it seems sensible to call the group operator the “Tsunku♂ product” (or maybe “Tsunku♂ produce”) for those groups produced by Tsunku♂.

Groups vs. Non-Groups

We have been discussing H!P groups without really defining what counts as an H!P group and what doesn’t. Here is a good place to distinguish between the two. A common taxonomy of H!P divides it into two categories: “groups” and “soloists”. This classification is largely consistent with our group-theoretic formulation of H!P groups, but there are a few exceptions, which I will now examine more closely. In particular, there are acts commonly classified as “soloists” that are actually groups, and there are acts consisting of more than one member that are not actually groups.

One example of the former is Tsukishima Kirari starring Kusumi Koharu (Morning Musume。). Commonly regarded as a soloist, this is actually a two-element group consisting of the identity “Tsukishima Kirari starring Kusumi Koharu (Morning Musume。)” and the single member Kusumi Koharu. The two elements are distinct from each other: Kusumi is also a member of Morning Musume。, but Tsukishima Kirari isn’t.

Most soloists are not groups. The key criterion is whether or not the soloist’s performing identity is distinct from their own. If so, then the soloist and the identity together form a group; if not, then the soloist is not a group.

On the other hand, we have collections of members that do not constitute groups. One example is the aforementioned “Takahashi Ai · Niigaki Risa · Tanaka Reina”, who are credited for two songs on Platinum 9 DISC. In this case, there is no distinct identity associated with this trio. They are simply individual members appearing together, credited as such. If one applies the group operator to the trio, the result is an element of Morning Musume。, but which one it is depends on the definition of the group operator, a topic we will address in the next section.

In practice, there is not always a clear distinction between groups and non-groups in H!P. Some acts, like Abe Natsumi & Yajima Maimi (°C-ute), have names that are composed of individual members’ names, so it may be equally valid to regard them as individual members appearing together, or as a group with a distinct identity that just happens to resemble the individual members’ names. H!P acts vary a bit in this regard, and some composite names seem more like distinct group identities than others.

One important feature of an identity, however, is its immutability. If you change the name of an identity, it becomes a different identity. So this could be used to determine what counts as a distinct identity. In the case of “Takahashi Ai · Niigaki Risa · Tanaka Reina”, different official representations have used interpuncts and spaces to separate the members’ names, so there is no single correct representation of the name, and hence no distinct identity. On the other hand, Shigepink, Kohappink is an actual group, even if it looks as though it could be a composite of smaller groups Shigepink and Kohappink. The half-stop or comma between the names is invariable, as can be seen in the track listing for 7.5 Fuyu Fuyu Morning Musume。 Mini!. While an interpunct separates Yoshizawa, Niigaki, and Kamei in the track credit above, Shigepink, Kohappink’s credit retains a half-stop.

Group Isomorphisms

Once we can characterize the structure of a group, it is useful to relate it to a more abstract notion of a group. We can say that an H!P group is isomorphic to some abstract group—that the two exhibit the same group structure. In particular, this means that there is a one-to-one correspondence between H!P group elements and elements of the abstract group such that the relationships expressed by the group operator are preserved: if Takahashi, Michishige, and Kusumi correspond to the elements a, b, and c, respectively, in another group, and multiplying Takahashi and Michishige produces Kusumi, then applying the group operator to a and b in the other group should yield c.

One can then apply what is already known about such an abstract group to the H!P group in question, and also relate different H!P groups that are isomorphic to the same abstract group (and hence to each other).

Up to this point, we have not yet conclusively defined the group operator for any group, but for groups with three or fewer elements, we do not need any additional information to determine an isomorphism, as long as we know which element is the identity.

Field Guide???

If this were, say, a field guide to H!P groups in their natural habitats (or should I say group guide, since a field is another kind of algebraic structure), each group could have its own entry with relevant info, statistics, and taxonomic classification. In this post, I will attempt to provide a brief entry for several of the groups, and if any of you are interested, you can try adding entries for the other groups.

The first three entries will include one representative group each of orders 1, 2, and 3; the groups have already been mentioned above.

(Note that the concepts of subgroup and center don’t exactly correspond to their conventional H!P meanings. I’ll discuss these in Part 2.)

Coconuts Musume。 (post-Ayaka era, May 2008 — ???)
Order 1
Identity ココナッツ娘。
Elements and inverses
Element Inverse
ココナッツ娘。 (e) e
Cayley table
× e
e e
Nontrivial proper subgroups and cosets
Subgroup (* = normal) Cosets
None
Minimal generating sets {}
Center {e}
Cycle graph Coconuts Musume。 cycle graph

Isomorphic to Trivial group
Finite? Yes
Simple? No
Abelian? Yes
Cyclic? Yes
Perfect? Yes
Nilpotent? Yes
Solvable? Yes

Tsukishima Kirari starring Kusumi Koharu (Morning Musume。) (2006 — 2009)
Order 2
Identity 月島きらり starring 久住小春(モーニング娘。)
Elements and inverses
Element Inverse
月島きらり starring 久住小春(モーニング娘。) (e) e
Kusumi Koharu (K) K
Cayley table
× e K
e e K
K K e
Nontrivial proper subgroups and cosets
Subgroup (* = normal) Cosets
None
Minimal generating sets {K}
Center {e,K}
Cycle graph Tsukishima Kirari starring Kusumi Koharu (Morning Musume。) cycle graph

Isomorphic to Cyclic group C2
Finite? Yes
Simple? Yes
Abelian? Yes
Cyclic? Yes
Perfect? No
Nilpotent? Yes
Solvable? Yes

Shigepink, Kohappink (2006 — ???)
Order 3
Identity 重ピンク、こはっピンク
Elements and inverses
Element Inverse
重ピンク、こはっピンク (e) e
Michishige Sayumi (M) K
Kusumi Koharu (K) M
Cayley table
× e M K
e e M K
M M K e
K K e M
Nontrivial proper subgroups and cosets
Subgroup (* = normal) Cosets
None
Minimal generating sets {M},{K}
Center {e,M,K}
Cycle graph Shigepink, Kohappink cycle graph

Isomorphic to Cyclic group C3
Finite? Yes
Simple? Yes
Abelian? Yes
Cyclic? Yes
Perfect? No
Nilpotent? Yes
Solvable? Yes

The Cyclic Groups of H!P

It is interesting that Morning Musume。 was founded on a notion of “cycling” through members to establish successive generations, by inducting new members and graduating existing members. Both words in the name also reflect a notion of periodic cycles: mornings are part of the daily cycle, and musume (daughters) are part of a cycle of familial generations. The full stop also adds a notion of periodicity—both in its more common North American name, the period, and its circular shape. All of this suggests that a notion of cyclicity is integral to the concept of Morning Musume。 as a group, and perhaps to others as well, particularly those with the full stop in their names.

Indeed, groups in the mathematical sense can also be cyclic. A cyclic group is one whose elements can be generated by a single element of the group: every element can be produced by successively applying the group operator to the generator. In a multiplicative sense, every element is a power of the generator.

We can then conclude that every H!P group with a circular full stop in its name is a cyclic group. If a group has n members, then it is isomorphic to the cyclic group of order n + 1, which is isomorphic to both Zn+1, the group of integers under addition modulo n + 1, and the complex (n + 1)st roots of unity, \{e^{2i\pi k/(n+1)} : 0 \leq k \leq n\}. For example, here are the 6th complex roots of unity, a cyclic group of order 6:

Cyclic group of order 6

(It is worth noting that the circle group, being an uncountably infinite group, is not a cyclic group, so the pictorial representation of the full stop may not be accurate if perceived as a circle. However, it is possible to generate a dense cyclic subgroup of the circle group by using any irrational number as a generator, so there is a valid cyclic group interpretation.)

The three groups detailed above are all cyclic groups, but as we go higher in order, it is possible for groups not to be cyclic, so it is useful to be able to recognize cyclic structure where it exists.

The presence of the full stop establishes Morning Musume。 as a cyclic group of order 10. However, from just this information alone, we cannot conclusively determine Morning Musume。’s group structure. We know that it is isomorphic to the cyclic group of order 10, but we don’t know which isomorphism is correct. Depending on our choice of isomorphism, we could identify different subsets of the members as generators. (In the previous three groups, all isomorphisms are equivalent: any permutation of the members yields the same group structure; but in Morning Musume。, different permutations of the members can yield different group structures. There are in fact 90720 possible distinct group structures you can produce depending on which of the possible permutations of the nine members you pick—I leave the proof of this fact as an exercise for the reader.)

We therefore look to the standard order of H!P’s groups. Hello! Project generally orders its groups by seniority, and the standard order features prominently in musical releases, concerts, and public appearances. It is not an arbitrary order but an integral feature of each group. Accordingly, we use the standard order to enumerate the elements of an H!P cyclic group: the kth member in a group with n members is mapped to k in Zn+1 and to e^{2i\pi k/(n+1)} in the group of complex (n + 1)st roots of unity.

This yields the following entry for the current lineup of Morning Musume。:

Morning Musume。 (Takahashi era, June 2007 — present)
Order 10
Identity モーニング娘。
Elements and inverses
Element Inverse
モーニング娘。 (e) e
Takahashi Ai (TA) L
Niigaki Risa (N) J
Kamei Eri (KE) MA
Michishige Sayumi (MS) KK
Tanaka Reina (TR) TR
Kusumi Koharu (KK) MS
Mitsui Aika (MA) KE
Junjun (J) N
Linlin (L) TA
Cayley table
× e TA N KE MS TR KK MA J L
e e TA N KE MS TR KK MA J L
TA TA N KE MS TR KK MA J L e
N N KE MS TR KK MA J L e TA
KE KE MS TR KK MA J L e TA N
MS MS TR KK MA J L e TA N KE
TR TR KK MA J L e TA N KE MS
KK KK MA J L e TA N KE MS TR
MA MA J L e TA N KE MS TR KK
J J L e TA N KE MS TR KK MA
L L e TA N KE MS TR KK MA J
Nontrivial proper subgroups and cosets
Subgroup (* = normal) Cosets
*{e,N,MS,KK,J} {e,N,MS,KK,J}
{TA,KE,TR,MA,L}
*{e,TR} {e,TR}
{TA,KK}
{N,MA}
{KE,J}
{MS,L}
Minimal generating sets {TA}, {KE}, {MA}, {L}
Center {e,TA,N,KE,MS,TR,KK,MA,J,L}
Cycle graph Morning Musume。 cycle graph

Isomorphic to Cyclic group C10
Finite? Yes
Simple? No
Abelian? Yes
Cyclic? Yes
Perfect? No
Nilpotent? Yes
Solvable? Yes

With this group structure, we can evaluate the combinations of group members mentioned earlier (and since all cyclic groups are abelian, the order in which we apply the group operator does not matter):

  • Takahashi · Niigaki · Tanaka = 1 + 2 + 5 = 8 = Junjun
  • Kusumi · Junjun · Linlin = 6 + 8 + 9 = 23 ≡ 3 (mod 10) = Kamei

Or, equivalently, treating the operation as a product (the “Tsunku♂ product”) of complex numbers:

  • Takahashi · Niigaki · Tanaka = e^{2i\pi (1)/10} e^{2i\pi (2)/10} e^{2i\pi (5)/10} =e^{i\pi /5} e^{2i\pi/5} e^{i\pi} = e^{8i\pi/5} = e^{2i\pi(8)/10} = Junjun
  • Kusumi · Junjun · Linlin = e^{2i\pi (6)/10} e^{2i\pi (8)/10} e^{2i\pi (9)/10} =e^{6 i\pi /5} e^{8i\pi/5} e^{9i\pi/5} = e^{23i\pi/5} = e^{4i\pi}e^{3i\pi/5} = 1*e^{3i\pi/5} = e^{2i\pi(3)/10} = Kamei

Of course, this raises newer questions that we have yet to answer, but it seems Kamei is somehow responsible for “Guruguru JUMP”.

If we consider °C-ute a cyclic group as well, interpreting the degree symbol (°) to be analogous to the full stop, we have the following entry (assuming standard order to resolve among the 120 possible distinct group structures):

°C-ute (post-Arihara era, July 2009 — present)
Order 7
Identity °C-ute
Elements and inverses
Element Inverse
°C-ute (e) e
Umeda Erika (U) H
Yajima Maimi (Y) O
Nakajima Saki (N) S
Suzuki Airi (S) N
Okai Chisato (O) Y
Hagiwara Mai (H) U
Cayley table
× e U Y N S O H
e e U Y N S O H
U U Y N S O H e
Y Y N S O H e U
N N S O H e U Y
S S O H e U Y N
O O H e U Y N S
H H e U Y N S O
Nontrivial proper subgroups and cosets
Subgroup (* = normal) Cosets
None
Minimal generating sets {U}, {Y}, {N}, {S}, {O}, {H}
Center {e,U,Y,N,S,O,H}
Cycle graph °C-ute cycle graph

Isomorphic to Cyclic group C7
Finite? Yes
Simple? Yes
Abelian? Yes
Cyclic? Yes
Perfect? No
Nilpotent? Yes
Solvable? Yes

Being a cyclic group of prime order, °C-ute is a simple group, as opposed to Morning Musume。, which is not currently a simple group but has been so several times in the past. Prior to losing Arihara, however, °C-ute was also not a simple group, and in addition, had the curious distinction of being a group whose leader (Yajima) was not a generator, since Yajima’s index, 2, is not relatively prime to °C-ute’s group order at the time, 8. In most groups, the leader has the highest seniority and accordingly has an index of 1, which is relatively prime to everything, so it is usually the case that the leader is also a generator.

With that, we end our discussion of cyclic groups in H!P. Not all groups are cyclic, however, and while one valid approach would be to categorize all H!P groups as cyclic (since there is a cyclic group for every positive integer order), the characteristics of some H!P groups suggest that they exhibit different group structures not isomorphic to cyclic groups. And this is where H!P groups start to get very interesting, but as I’ve already written way too much for this post, I’ll end it here and promise to resume next time with a survey of a variety of non-cyclic Hello! Project groups, as well as a possible explanation for the lack of a full stop in Pucchi Moni’s name and the meaning behind the V in Pucchi Moni V.

to be continued…

The release of the new Hello! Project group album Champloo 1 ~Happy Marriage Song Cover Shuu~ includes new tracks by a number of revived H!P groups, most of them with extra bits appended to their names. Due to the name changes, I’m inclined to consider them new groups rather than new generations of old groups—with the exception of Aa!, which retains the same name but has had Tanaka replaced (‽). At the same time, they each have only one album track to their credit, so I would categorize them among other fledgling H!P groups like Shigepink, Kohappink (btw, happy birthday to the both of you! XDDD) and POCKY GIRLS. Most of these fledgling groups have been overlooked by many fans, though fortunately many of them do have their own Japanese Wikipedia pages. These fledgling groups deserve another post, which is in the works…

But this post is about ZYX-α, the only revived group that has undergone a change in number: while the original ZYX had six members, the new ZYX-α has eight, retaining only two of the original members (Tsugunaga and Umeda). I’ve always thought the name “ZYX” was supposed to be a pun on the number six, so it is interesting that ZYX-α would be the group to change number. So does “ZYX-α” somehow indicate eight?

Indeed it does! In physics, α (the Greek letter alpha) is commonly used to denote an alpha particle, which is two protons and two neutrons in a bound state (or a helium nucleus). The name comes from Ernest Rutherford’s classification of radiation into alpha, beta, and gamma types, named after the first three letters of the Greek alphabet. Alpha radiation is the least penetrative of ordinary matter, while beta radiation (electrons) and gamma radiation (photons) are more so.

So “ZYX-α” can be interpreted as indicating ZYX with an alpha particle attached. Given the physics context, we can take “ZYX” to be an abbreviated form of “atomic number six”, since Z is a conventional designation for atomic number, the number of protons in a nucleus. This refers to carbon, the element with atomic number six.

The name “ZYX-α”, then, would refer to a process in which a carbon atom and an alpha particle combine. In other words, this is the alpha process, a nuclear fusion reaction that takes place during stellar nucleosynthesis, in which stars build heavier elements out of lighter ones. The formation of carbon out of alpha particles is known as the triple-alpha process, and once carbon is formed, heavier elements can be produced by additional alpha processes.

In the diagram below, the “ZYX-α” reaction is shown on the right, following a triple-alpha process:

Triple alpha process, ZYX-α

So the “ZYX-α” reaction produces an oxygen nucleus with atomic number eight.

ZYX-α

They look just like an oxygen nucleus, don’t they? ^_^

This is my account of going to see Morning Musume。 at Anime Expo in Los Angeles last week, which is a bit delayed due to technical and other difficulties. It was quite an adventure, and there is much more to say than I have room for here, but this should be a nice recap of my experience. I’ve left out parts that I think have been covered comprehensively elsewhere, like details of the MM Q&A panel and the concert. So, without further ado, LET’S STARTING!!! (o_0)

 

Preparation

When it was announced that Morning Musume。 would be signing autographs, I wanted to make the experience super awesome, so I got some additional merchandise that hopefully I’d be able to get signed while at AX. This included a full-size Papancake poster (Taiwan version):

Papancake poster

(The Hello! Hello Kitty toaster is my roomie’s, not mine. ^_^)

This poster hung above our breakfast/dinner table for a while, and it was definitely enjoyable to eat breakfast with Koha (or eat breakfast while being stared at by Koha…).

I also got a Best☆Kirari poster and a Koha mini-poster, and my roomie got a Kirari to Fuyu poster.

After it was announced that we could get a different item signed by each member (for up to nine separate items), I wanted to do just that, since having all of their autographs on one item is kinda boring. Things didn’t exactly turn out as planned, but I was going to have these items signed:

  • Mini Moni ja Movie: Okashi na Daibouken! DVD cover — Takahashi
  • Souda! We’re ALIVE CD cover — Niigaki
  • Hare Ame Nochi Suki ♡ CD cover — Kamei
  • Ai no Sono ~Touch My Heart!~ CD cover — Michishige
  • FIRST KISS CD cover — Tanaka
  • Papancake poster — Kusumi
  • Onna ni Sachi Are CD cover — Mitsui
  • Shouganai Yume Oibito CD cover — Junjun
  • Platinum 9 DISC CD cover — Linlin
  • Osaka Koi no Uta CD cover — HANGRY

If it turned out I’d be able to attend more than one autograph session, I’d get something else signed by everyone. Or maybe everyone except Koha, because I had a ton of Koha stuff. ^_^

In addition, since giving gifts was allowed, I decided to give each member one. Being broke, I decided to get MIT t-shirts for Aichan and Sayumi and a plush lobster for Koha. On top of that, each member would get an individual personalized card.

I had a lot to say to Koha, Aichan, and Sayu (who also happen to be my roomie’s favorite members—we like a lot of the same things; it’s like we’re the same person ^_^), so I filled up their cards, but I didn’t know what to say to the others. So rather than putting something generic on all the remaining cards, I came up with some pretty random messages for a few of the other members.

Eri got a pretty terrible (and self-referential) haiku:

亀が好き kame ga suki I like turtles
亀井 大好き Kamei daisuki I like Kamei a lot
俳句です haiku desu this is a haiku

It was so bad it deserved another haiku to comment on its atrociousness:

詩は酷い shi wa hidoi poetry so bad
墓に芭蕉の haka ni Bashou no Bashou in his grave
寝返りね negaeri ne is rolling, isn’t he?

Eri haiku

Continuing with the haiku theme, I decided to write Reina some nonsensical Dadaist ones, all having a seasonal theme but otherwise not making a whole lot of sense (though they all have some extratextual resonance of one kind or another) … these actually took a while to write; nonsense isn’t as easy to write as it might seem.

夏休み natsuyasumi summer vacation
サスカチュワンに Sasukachuwan ni to Saskatchewan
果実 飛ぶ kajitsu tobu fruit flies
 
紅葉の絵 momiji no e picture of autumn colors
手押し車は teoshi kuruma wa the wheelbarrow
青いです aoi desu is blue
 
冬の道 fuyu no michi winter road
あいにくケーキ ainiku keeki unfortunately the cake
うそじゃない uso ja nai is not a lie
 
春か猫 haru ka neko spring or cat?
量子力学 ryuushirikigaku quantum mechanics
知らないよ shiranai yo I don’t understand

Reina haiku

Having run out of creative haikujuices, I offered Aika the Y combinator in PostScript:

Aika card

Apologies to Risa, Junjun, and Linlin … yours weren’t as spectacular, alas, other than a banana drawing for JunJun. :-o

As for the other three, Aichan got a green MIT t-shirt with a design like this but in black and white:

MIT logo

Her card had this on the back (“MIT ♡ Aichan”):

Aichan card

Inside, I told her how I really liked Q.E.D. Shomei Shuryo especially due to its MIT connections and that I knew of at least five current MIT students coming to AX just to see Morning Musume。 (which is a considerable number given that the school only has about 10,000 students), and several more who are H!P fans.

Due to her professed interest in math, Sayu also got an MIT t-shirt, but one that was more disguised. It had this design (not my photo, and not the shirt I bought):

MIT shirt

In her card, I commented that the three letters clued by the formulae also happened to be the first three letters of her family name in Kunreishiki romanization (Mitisige). It’s like Sayu and MIT were made for each other… XD SayuMIT!

The back of Sayu’s card (featuring Euler’s identity):

Sayu card

Koha’s was by far the longest, as I had plenty to say. I told her about how her music was largely responsible for getting me into the H!P fandom, and that the “sine cosine tangent” line from “Hana wo Pu~n” was too awesome. I drew diagrams corresponding to her hand movements in the PV (the angle is in the bottom left, and she outlines the two sides whose ratio is the sine, cosine, or tangent of the angle; note that in Japanese convention, you put the denominator in a ratio first—1/3 is “sanbun no ichi”):

(The above was actually my first ever YouTube video, posted under my old account, back before this blog even existed.)

Koha card

Also, I told Koha I shared this clip in my electronic music class and passed around my copy of Kirarin☆Land, and that my classmates and the instructor were very impressed (which is true … one classmate even wanted a rip of the album tracks).

In addition to this, I wrote down all eight of the double dactyls I had written to celebrate Koha’s birthday last year on a larger card and rolled it up.

That sums up my preparation, I think. Now to attend my first ever non-classical concert and my first ever anime convention! XD

 

Day 0 – Airport Awesomeness and Line-waiting Lameness

I flew into Orange County on June 29, and stayed there with my relatives for a week, other than the days of the convention. As this is irrelevant, I’ll jump to Day 0, July 1, when Morning Musume。 arrived at the airport.

I wasn’t originally planning on going to meet them at the airport, due to my lack of transportation and not wanting to inconvenience my relatives. But as June 30 rolled by without a sign of the group, it became clear that they’d definitely arrive on July 1, which was eventually confirmed by a fellow passenger on their flight.

I decided to get myself to the airport by public transportation only, as part of the charm of visiting a new city for me is getting lost in its public transportation, which inevitably happens regardless of how much planning I do. This has happened to me with Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, so I was eager to add Los Angeles to the list.

It took me 3.5 hours to get to LAX, using two local Orange County buses, an Orange County express bus, two Metra trains, and an airport shuttle. I did in fact get lost, as I failed to request the Harbor Freeway station stop to switch to the Metra Green Line. The bus didn’t announce its stops, and since no one requested that stop, it drove right on by. :-o Eventually, we got to downtown LA, driving right by the convention center, so that was my first glimpse of the place I’d be spending most of the next few days. I got off at 7th street and took the Metra from there, adding about forty-five minutes to my planned trip.

Arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare, I saw that a small group had already gathered at the waiting area in the Tom Bradley International Terminal:

Airport peoples

It was here that I met Bryan and Jen, hosts of the truly epic Hello! Party to come, and Claudia and Ivet, creators of the 3,2,1 BREAKIN’ OUT! OPV that won the Morning Musume。 prize. XDDD

After much waiting, during which several passengers from another flight from Japan did a double take after seeing the huge banner we had up (“Ehh~~??? Morning Musume。‽‽‽”), the members themselves appeared, to much fanfare and chaotic screaming:

We chased after them (from a respectable distance) and saw them get into a white van. Seeing them up close (and getting waves from them ^_^) was so awesome! One fellow passenger on their flight, after asking what all the commotion was and being told they were a popular J-pop group coming to America to perform for the first time, had this to say (regarding Aichan, I think): “She had nice legs.” :-o

I next went to the LA Convention Center with Bryan, Jen, Claudia, and Ivet, and got in line for badges. I was melting and hungry, so I parted ways and went to grab food, which in retrospect was probably not the best decision. Returning to the line a bit later, I saw that it had grown to a ridiculous size. Oh well. Unfortunately they had computer trouble, so I ended up waiting 90 minutes in the blazing sun. Ugh. And after that line came the concert ticket line, which was fortunately mostly in the shade. After four hours of waiting, I finally had badges and concert tickets for myself, my roomie Kyttyee, and our dear friend Aaron the Apathetic Wota (whom I will affectionately call A~ron in this post), who earlier this year had managed to accomplish the amazing feat of unintentionally attending a Johnny’s concert in Japan.

I also met up with CatchFiveBats, maiZe, johpan, Greg, and Paul Thomas.

Unfortunately, this meant I missed the last express bus out of LA, so I had to get a ride from my relatives. :-/

 

Day 1 – Opening Ceremony, Q&A Panel, and More Waiting in Line

The next day, A~ron and Kyttyee picked me up, and we arrived at the convention center in time for the opening ceremony, details of which you can find elsewhere. Afterward, A~ron and I got in line for the exhibit hall, which was ridiculously long and extended the entire length of the South Hall and a bit further. Once we got inside, shortly after noon, we rushed to the JapanFiles/JPopHouse booths to get autograph tickets. Unfortunately, the lines for the two booths had merged, and the staff were trying to untangle them. As it turned out, I was in the JPopHouse line when I thought I was in the JapanFiles line, and the rearranging resulted in the section of the line I was in getting shuffled to the back of the JapanFiles line. So after thirty minutes of waiting, I was now back at the end of the line. >_<

A~ron, having gotten into what looked like the JPopHouse line, ended up further ahead of me in the JapanFiles line, and was able to get a HANGRY ticket, but no MM ticket. So we managed to get something after all. Later on, we were able to get a second HANGRY ticket from JPopHouse after the panel, as they still had them for a while longer.

We headed to the panel and got there as the one before was letting out. We were able to get seats at the right of the fourth row, and after the panel was over (details of which you can find elsewhere), we got our autograph tickets and followed the directions to the back of Hall K in the Exhibit Hall. There we found hundreds of people running around in circles following each other, quite an amazing thing to experience. After overhearing some more sensible directions from the info booth, we headed upstairs to Room 301 and found the actual autograph line. Unfortunately, there were two lines on opposite sides of the building, and we were told to go to the other line, despite being right by one line of people who had already gathered. I decided to go to the other line while A~ron secured a spot for Kyttyee in the first line. The other line, when I got to it, wasn't much longer, so I stayed there. As it turned out, that was a mistake, as Kyttyee was able to get autographs in like 30 minutes (and a 3-minute conversation with Aika! :-o), while I ended up having the door shut in front of me with about twenty people ahead of me (I was #182).

Oh wells. Try again on Saturday?

We (CFB, Greg, maiZe, joh, and Paul, I think) headed down to the JPopHouse booth and got in line (yet again!) for some H!P merchandise. I bought a photoset and a Platinum 9 Disco poster, since the autograph session had specified one item for all members to sign, and I didn’t have anything I wanted to have signed that had all nine members on it. I also purchased some glowsticks and glow bracelets from JapanFiles. They had run out of all the colored glowsticks, but luckily found they still had a box of the red ones (Koha!!) as I got there. So yayz.

Having not eaten anything since dinner the day before, I was ready for some dinner, which I had at IHOP with CFB. Afterward I chilled for a bit with CFB and friends. We heard that Morning Musume。 was staying at the Westin, and discussed going there, but alas, I never actually went there the whole time I was in LA. :(

Returning to the convention center, exhausted, I napped in the lobby (should have brought a save point to set up next to me XD), and eventually got to the Econolodge motel in Hollywood or somewhere, where I would stay the next two nights with Kyttyee and Sekai no Melody friends Vivi and Kimi. Before catching some Z’s, we sang, danced, and listened to some of my mashups, and fangirled over the Koha posters Kyttyee and I had brought. ^_^ Kohaaaaa~~~!! *squee!*

 

Day 2 – Concert, HANGRY, and Hello! Party

In the morning, Kyttyee, A~ron, and I found ourselves back at the convention center for some more awesomeness. We met up with our friend “Edwin », who introduced me to Morning Musume。 in the first place, back when I was just getting into J-pop way back in 2007. Unfortunately, his choice of “LOVE Machine” left me disappointed with the group (I stopped watching the PV a third of the way in because I couldn’t stand it), and it wasn’t until several months later that I found that MM had awesome songs I liked.

Anyway, “Edwin » (being “Edwin ») didn’t stick around for the concert (!) and parted ways with us. We made our way over to the main hall, and somewhere along the way, I lost the poster that Kyttyee, Vivi, and I had made for Aichan (saying “MIT ♥ Aichan! We’ll always support you! Ganbatte ne!”) and took pictures of us with in front of MIT’s Great Dome, which we were planning to give to Aichan as a present (sorry! :( ). In addition, I had forgotten my glowsticks and glow bracelets at the hotel, so all I had were the eleven glow bracelets that had broken and which I was wearing. Kyttyee got us some more glowsticks (no red, alas…) and glow necklaces, and while waiting for the concert to start, I hooked them together into an awesome glowstarball that I waved during the concert (though it would have been even more awesome with non-dead glow bracelets forming the star, and with red glowsticks).

I must say, I was disappointed with “LOVE Machine” being performed, but the rest of the concert was pretty cool, other than having “3, 2, 1 BREAKIN’ OUT!” performed way too many times and being too short overall. But the medley and “Sono Bamen de Bibiccha Ikenai jan!” were definitely awesome (I use that word too much…).

Afterward, Kyttyee and I got in line for the HANGRY autograph signing, and since they wouldn’t let us form a line past a certain point, we walked around in circles and grabbed some food, which we ended up eating in line and actually brought into the autograph booth with us (“Hi HANGRY! Have some nachos!”).

ZOMG, HANGRY in person! It was surreal. I gave her the card I had written for her, and asked her to sign Osaka Koi no Uta, which she did, as “HANGRY → Yossie” (in hiragana):

Signed Osaka Koi no Uta

Due to the excitement (which for the second time I just typed as “exciteness” … ???? O_o), I think I forgot to shake her hand. Blargz.

I grabbed dinner at IHOP (the third time I ate there while in LA), and headed to the awesome Hello! Party, where I encountered lots of fellow H!P fans, including Amy, Rocky, Lysa, CK (who I had met earlier in the day), mp122984, and delrey28.

The party was super awesome, and I stayed until the end. Kyttyee and I were planning to karaoke Renai♥Chance!, but we were too far back in the queue and didn’t get to. But I’m still eager to see what mashup karaoke sounds like and what kind of reaction it would get from a large gathering of H!P fans. (Next Hello! Party? XDDD)

 

Day 3 – Ch-ch-chance!

Waking up at 8:00 was FAIL. Checking online, I found that the line for the morning autograph session was already more than a hundred people long. Nevertheless, we rushed to the convention center and found the line (thereby missing the second half of the TSUNKU♂ panel >_<). Kyttyee and Kimi chilled in the standby line, while I joined the ticketed line with my ticket from Thursday. And to my surprise, the line was shorter than I expected, with me being only #183 in line (one spot higher than on Thursday). Since Thursday's session had started late and ended early and was rather unorganized, I was hoping it'd be speedier this time and get through more than 160 people.

Unfortunately, after waiting 90 minutes and having had my hopes up, I had the door shut in front of me again, with only twelve people in front of me. >_<

Thrice thwarted!

Dejected, I made my way down to the exhibit hall and joined Kyttyee and Vivi for some lunch before going over to the afternoon autograph session in hopes of finding someone who was getting individual items signed and didn't care much for Koha (so I could get my Papancake poster signed instead). As it turned out, they had changed their policy at the last minute to be only one item for all the members (like the other sessions), so this wouldn’t have worked anyway. But at the time I didn’t know that, which worked out in my favor, since after unsuccessfully asking a few people in line, I ran into Claudia and Ivet, who had an extra ticket (thank you so much! you are awesome! XDDDD). Unbelievable joy!

So I got in line (in front of Amy and Mozenator) and had all my individual items out, along with everyone’s gifts. It was hard to hold everything at the same time and I accidentally dropped some of my stuff on the floor (>_<). The line was moving really quickly, compared to the previous lines I was in, and in no time, we were right in front of the booth MM were in, which I had walked past before getting in line, seeing them through the curtains.

At this point, they told us that we could only have one item for all the members, so I was desperately trying to stuff all my individual items into my bag, pull out and unwrap my group poster, and keep from dropping everything on the floor at the same time while walking into the booth—where I found MM in not their expected order (!), so I had to re-sort my gift cards as well. I handed my poster to a staff member (who promptly unrolled it in front of Reina, sitting at the front) and asked if it was ok to give gifts, then handed over my pile of gifts as well. As a result of this chaos, I didn’t get to say anything to Reina other than a quick “arigatou gozaimasu” since she had already finished signing. >__<

Having failed to shake HANGRY’s hand on Friday, I wanted to shake hands with Morning Musume。 this time. Apparently this session was a “no handshakes, no touching, no chitchat” session, unlike the previous two (probably because they needed to rush through 200 autographs—I think only 200 of the announced 300 tickets were actually given out) in a short amount of time. But I didn’t know that—I assumed handshakes were ok because they were fine in the previous sessions. Either they didn’t announce the policy for this session, or I was too busy trying to do too many things at once and didn’t register what they were saying. So I came in expecting to be able to shake hands and say a few reasonably short things to the MM members.

I remembered to ask for a handshake only after Reina was already done signing, so I attempted to shake Linlin’s hand. She didn’t appear to notice (and my brain was too frozen to say anything), so I retracted my hand and moved on. >_< I don't think any of the staff noticed either, because I didn't get any response from them.

Next was Aichan. I managed to say hello to her and tell her I'm an MIT student (showing her my MIT ID card), and that I loved her drama Q.E.D. Shomei Shuryo. She seemed pretty excited and said “arigatou”. ^_^ I was cut off by a staff member saying something (presumably telling me to hurry up), so I thanked her and moved on. XDDD

After Aichan were Risa, Aika, and Eri. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what happened at this point because I got an unexpected “HI!!!!” and enthusiastic waves from both Eri and Aika (at different points in time) while I was still in front of another member. I hope I responded appropriately to their greetings and remembered to thank all three of them for their autographs… :o

Next was Sayu, and I was going to say something mathy, but everything was rushed and confused, so I wasn’t able to say much. I do remember that my poster rolled itself up, and I got a “sorry, sorry!” from Sayu and maybe Koha while I helped them unroll the poster.

Seeing Koha unoccupied (and looking pretty tired, I think), I greeted her with a “KONNICHI PA!!!” and got a “KONNICHI PA!!!” in return, along with an ever-delightful Koha-esque 8D of utter glee (XDDDD). Since I had missed my chance to shake hands with all of the previous members, I offered my hand, and Koha, after a brief moment of hesitation (well, it was a “no handshakes” autograph session after all …), shook it (♥ ^_^ ♥). KOHANDSHAKE!!! XDDD *squee~!*

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to tell her how awesome she was, but hopefully she’ll have a chance to read the card I wrote for her.

I hope I didn’t completely skip over Sayu while doing this (if so, I’m sorry!). D-:

And I don’t even remember what happened with Junjun. O_o

And … curses! I was going to wish Sayu and Koha a happy birthday, and I forgot! >_< gahhhhhhhh … well, I put it in their cards, so I hope they saw them… ^_^

Overall, getting to see Morning Musume。 in person and interact with them was a blast, even if the session was extremely rushed, and the members didn't seem to be enjoying it too much (from other people's reports, apparently several members were told to hurry up and not to interact with the fans, and at least one fan had their hand slapped by a staff member for wanting to get a handshake >_<). I don't recall making eye contact with Reina, Linlin, Risa, Sayu, or Junjun (T_T), but being greeted by Eri and Aika and getting to talk a bit with Aichan and Koha (with a Kohandshake!) was definitely too awesome for words. XDDD

MM signed poster

Afterward, there was much ecstatic squeeing as we met up with CFB, CK, joh, maiZe, Rocky, and Paul and looked at what we’d had signed. ^_^

And that is where I’ll end my report, because I left the con later in the evening and didn’t do anything on Sunday. Maybe I should have gone to the airport to see MM off (Koha was wearing glasses and Sayu, Aichan, and Junjun were wearing what appear to be snowboots! I totally approve, having worn glasses and snowboots at the con myself… XDDD), but it was nice just to relax after several days of rushing around, waiting around, and not getting enough sleep.

I’d like to thank Morning Musume。, HANGRY, and TSUNKU♂ for taking the time and effort to come to LA and meet us fans, and the AX/UFA/JapanFiles/JPopHouse staff who made all this possible, even if things could have been done a bit differently. And a bucketful of huge thanks to Bryan and Jen for organizing Hello! Party, and thank you to all H!P fans for your support, whether or not you attended AX; without you, this event wouldn’t have happened. Until next time! ^_^

Tweets from Kirarin☆Land

Remixes

DJ Kirarin☆Snow ☃'s remixes are now appearing at K!☆Mixed.
July 2009
S M T W T F S
« Jun   May »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Categories

Blog Stats

  • 66,641 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.