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I. Tsunku: The Enigma

If one follows the development and output of Hello! Project, one is likely well acquainted with Tsunku, the Producer:

Of course, Tsunku does not produce everything in Hello! Project, nor is his work limited only to production. A prolific lyricist and composer, he is also responsible for writing most of Hello! Project’s songs. One need only scan any recent (Tsunku-produced) Hello! Project release to see Tsunku’s name emblazoned across the front cover, acknowledging his role in producing the record. In addition, on the interior of the liner notes, one may often see both the lyrics and composition of the tracks attributed to Tsunku, his name rising elegantly above the very words he has penned.

Indeed, let us journey together, dear reader, through the experience of gazing upon Tsunku’s name as it appears on the Berryz Koubou single “VERY BEAUTY”, selected arbitrarily as a typical example of a Tsunku production.

Observe in particular how the three simple hiragana strokes (つんく) are embellished with a Mars symbol (♂), prominently displayed yet not intended to be pronounced. An interesting touch, otherwise attributable to Tsunku’s idiosyncratic whims but for the fact that this name appears differently on the interior:

Here the Mars symbol is noticeably absent. One might dismiss this as a mere typographical error, but closer examination of other recent Tsunku productions reveals that the Mars symbol is consistently missing from the lyrics and composition credits while present on the cover production credits.

One might fancy the notion that behind the “Tsunku” nom de plume lies a team of two individuals, one a producer and the other a lyricist and composer, differentiated only by the presence or absence of the Mars symbol. While there is some merit to this possibility, one must consider the history of this peculiar symbol as it is displayed on the covers of Tsunku-produced releases over the ages. In particular, one must note that early Hello! Project releases credit Tsunku as producer without the Mars symbol.

Immediately some pertinent questions arise: At which point did Tsunku the producer begin adopting the Mars symbol as an essential feature of his pseudonym? Did he consistently omit the symbol prior to this point, and has he consistently included it since then? And perhaps most importantly, why are there two Tsunkus now when once there was but one?

Speculation about Tsunku’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation aside (to be addressed in due time), let us examine in detail, dear reader, the evolution of this name, in hopes that such an endeavour may uncover heretofore unacknowledged clues to illuminate this enigmatic figure and to guide us in dissecting this mystery.

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