It's the first Friday of the month and that means it's time for Featured Idol Friday! This time around we will look at former Hello! Project soloist, Mano Erina.
Mano Erina had a long career as an idol. She joined Hello! Project in 2006 at the age of 15. Initially she was a member of "Hello Pro Egg" (now called "Hello! Pro Kenshuusei") but quickly debuted as a member of the group "Ongaku Gatas". Ongaku Gatas was a group that contained members of the futsal group "Gatas Brilhantes H.P." and contained a wide range of members from Eggs to former Morning Musume members. Together they released several singles and one album. Mano Erina would only see two of those singles and the album before she graduated to a solo career.
Here is the PV for Ongaku Gata's second single "Yattarouze!"
It's this solo career that will be the focus on here. Her debut singles were penned by KAN and her early gimmick was that she was a piano-playing idol who would, and did, accompany herself both on record and live. This angle did not really last too long past her indie releases, but it is worth noting that all her concert tours featured a segment where she would play the piano with other her older songs or with more recent ballads. Her indie debut was "Mano Piano" released in the summer of 2008 and always stuck out to me for some odd pronunciations throughout the track that were not repeated in later lives nor in the song's re-recording on her first album.
Here's a performance of "Lalala Sososo" from the 2009 Hello! Project Winter Concert Tour.
Her popularity was slow to build and it wasn't until the following year that she saw her major debut with "Otome no Inori". This would come after two more indie singles "Lucky Aura" and my personal favorite "Lalala Sososo". Her initial PVs and lives were also unique in that she was often paired with them up-and-coming Hello! Project group, "S/mileage". Similar to the early days of "W" and "Berryz Koubou"'s joint lives and PV appearances, the effect of promoting both new artists worked well. Both her and the group (along with members of Morning Musume) would appeared in the drama "Hanbun Esper". Following S/mileage's indie, and eventual major, debut, Mano's concerts and PVs would still serve as a training ground for Eggs whose talent would eventually lead to a debut. These Eggs included future S/mileage member, Takeuchi Akari and future Up-Front soloist, Kikkawa You amongst others.
Here is the PV for "Sekai wa Summer Party" which features S/mileage.
In 2010 Erina took on dual starring roles in the horror movie "Kaidan" which saw a US debut at the "Club 2 The Max" event in Los Angeles that ran concurrent with that year's Anime Expo. She appeared at these premieres which also featured a short Q&A and a brief performance.
Below is a picture from the event.
While she would continue her career as an idol with much success (even winning the "Best New Artist Award" at the 2010 Japan Gold Disc Awards) she was just as prolific an actress. Besides the aforementioned "Hanbun Esper", she also appeared in the dramas "Tokyo Shoujou", "Minna! Esper Dayo!" and "Suugaku Joushi Gakuen". She also starred in many net dramas like "Koisuru Seiza", "Mano Spy" and "Death Game Park". She even took a lead role in the "Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Fourze & OOO MOVIE Taisen MEGAMAX" movie which featured the rare addition of a female Kamen Rider. All these roles served to build her career, but also created some confusion as to what her main focus within the Hello! Project collective was. Something that would not be completely cleared up within her time there.
Below is the PV for "Genkimono de Ikou!" which features many familiar faces of Hello! Project, some cameos and some direction from Erina herself!
Movies and television aside, music was still a strong focus in her career and she would release thirteen major singles, and three albums, before she announced her graduation in 2013. The announcement did not come as a shock to many as her career had been slowly moving towards that of an actress for years. While the sales of her releases were somtimes sporadic, her career spanned many interesting singles from "Love & Peace = Paradise", the PV of which featured Hello Kitty, and "Genkimono de Ikou!", which featured Mano Erina directing segments of the video and would become a live favorite. This author's personal favorite single is the Takui Nakajima-composed "My Days for You" followed closely by "Tasogare Kousaten". Both songs are strong ballads that feature amazing music videos with production values one doesn't always see in Hello! Project. Following the aptly titled "NEXT MY SELF", Mano Erina's solo releases would come to an end.
Below is the video for "My Days for You"
Following the Hello! Project 2013 Winter Concert Tour, Mano Erina graduated and moved onto a career as an actress. Since this graduation, she's appeared in television dramas like "Kumokiri Nizaemon" and the "Minna! Esper Dayo!" revival. As for as film appearances, she has been just as prolific most notably appearing in the "THE NEXT GENERATION -PATLABOR-" movie where she also performed one of the insert songs. Her career is just as active as before and here's hoping it continues for many more years!
I leave with the video for "Tasogare Kousaten".
◆ Rin Rigoni