|Also known as||Minihams, Minimoni to Takahashi Ai, Shin Minimoni|
|Years active||2000–2004, 2009–2011|
|Associated acts||Morning Musume, Tanpopo, Coconuts Musume, W (Double You), Baka Tono-sama to Minimoni Hime, S/mileage, Dream Morning Musume|
|Past members||Mari Yaguchi
Minimoni (ミニモニ。?, also known as Mini Moni., mini-moni., etc.) was a former subgroup of Japanese idol pop girl group Morning Musume, and a current group within Hello! Project. They were one of Morning Musume's most popular subgroups for their entire existence, because[original research?] of the combination of their outrageous music videos and live performances, and their widely varied musical styles.
Original Minimoni (2000-2004)
The group was founded in late 2000 by Morning Musume member Mari Yaguchi, who had an idea for a subgroup whose members were 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) in height or shorter. Yaguchi and Morning Musume's songwriter and producer, Tsunku, selected two of Morning Musume's newest members, Ai Kago and Nozomi Tsuji, for the new subgroup, and the trio began performing in concerts as Minimoni. American-born Mika Todd of Pop band Coconuts Musume was later added into the group to give the group "an international flavor", and Tsunku made them official. Their debut single, "Minimoni Jankenpyon!", was a #1 hit.
An interesting side note is that Mika Todd usually wore drastically different costumes to her bandmates (while the other girls wore skirts and bows, Todd was often seen wearing jumpsuits or typically more masculine outfits). This could be attributed to her being the tallest member of the group[original research?], just making the height requirements at the band's founding. It is also possibly due to her being from Hawaii as opposed to the other members.[original research?]
While Minimoni was initially directed towards younger listeners (in spite of the fact two of the members, Yaguchi and Todd, were in their late teens), they also had an older fan base consisting of older Morning Musume fans (especially of Yaguchi, Kago and Tsuji) and the parents of the younger Minimoni fans.
The quartet released several singles in 2001 and 2002, with most of these tracks compiled into their first album Minimoni Song Daihyakka Ikkan. The album's musical styles spanned wildly from track to track, defiantly incorporating such diverse styles as blues, electronica, march music, jazz, reggae, and horn-driven 60s soul music.
The group's almost anarchic presentation would also carry into some of the group's television appearances, many of which are circulated online, especially amongst the band's non-Japanese cult audience; these antics have included Kago playfully saying "big doo-doo" (in English) in response to a question on the music variety show Fun, Kago and Tsuji kanchoing host Norika Fujiwara backstage at Fun, and an Utaban appearance where Kago slugged Yaguchi in the crotch while Yaguchi was in the middle of a sentence (which was actually a Morning Musume appearance for the song "Sōda! We're Alive").
Simultaneous to their single releases, the band became the subject of a series of short cartoons of their own, Minimoni Yaru no da Pyon!, for which they supplied their own voices. They also contributed their voices to a string of movies based on the Hamtaro cartoon series, which featured a hamster version of Minimoni known as Minihams. The group released five songs on three singles under this pseudonym.
In 2002, Mari Yaguchi graduated from Minimoni to take on leadership of the subgroup ZYX, one of the first Hello! Project groups to incorporate members of the Hello! Project Kids (who would later split into Berryz Kobo and Cute). Another Morning Musume member, Ai Takahashi, took Yaguchi's place, while Mika Todd, as the oldest member of the current lineup, took over as the band's leader. That same year, all five members of Minimoni filmed the movie Minimoni ja Movie: Okashi na Daibōken! (Minimoni The Movie: The Great Cake Adventure), part of the storyline of which, in the context of the movie's fantasy setting, "explains" how Yaguchi ended up leaving Minimoni to begin leading ZYX and how Takahashi ended up in the band.
They started to have a more mature, modern R&B-heavy sound to their music with the single "Crazy About You", a style the group explored more heavily on their second album Minimoni Songs 2. However, their silly side was also well represented on the album with two of the songs they contributed to Hamtaro as Minihams. Former member Yaguchi also appears on three cuts, two of which previously appeared on the Okashi na Daibōken soundtrack. They also starred in a mini-series called Minimoni de Bremen no Ongakutai starring Takahashi, Tsuji, and Kago; Mika Todd made brief appearances in two episodes.
- Mari Yaguchi (矢口真里 Yaguchi Mari?) continued as sub-leader of Morning Musume after leaving Minimoni, and also formed the short-lived unit ZYX with five members of the Hello! Project Kids. In April 2005, she resigned from Japanese idol band Morning Musume and embarked on a solo career under the Hello! Project banner. She later graduated from Hello! Project in March 2009, with the other Elder Club members. She is currently signed to the Up-Front Agency as a solo artist.
- Mika Todd (ミカ Mika?) relocated to Los Angeles to study music, and occasionally travels to perform with her father, jazz pianist Johnny Todd. She released a self-titled solo EP in 2005 that has been available only at her rare live performances.
- Nozomi Tsuji (辻希美 Tsuji Nozomi?) and Ai Kago (加護亜依 Kago Ai?) graduated together from Morning Musume in August 2004 to form a new unit, W, under the Hello! Project banner. Kago was suspended in February 2006, and her contract was finally terminated in March 2007 after a series of tabloid scandals; she returned to the spotlight in 2008 under a different agency, having appeared in several movies and releasing photobooks and music since then. Following Kago's suspension, Tsuji continued as a soloist in Hello! Project until May 10, 2007 when she announced that she was engaged to actor Taiyō Sugiura and was already two months pregnant with his child. On November 26, 2007, Tsuji gave birth to a girl named Noa Sugiura (杉浦希空 Sugiura Noa?). Tsuji graduated from Hello! Project with the rest of the Elder Club in March 2009 and remains with Up-Front as a general talent.
- Ai Takahashi (高橋愛 Takahashi Ai?) continued as a member of Morning Musume, and was the leader of the group until her graduation September 2011. Her distinctive vocals have been more prominent on their last several singles and on their albums Ai no Dai 6 Kan, Rainbow 7, Sexy 8 Beat, Cover You, Platinum 9 Disc, 10 My Me, and 12, Smart. Along with same gen member Risa Niigaki, she held the title of longest time in Morning Musume, being in the group for over 10 years.
Minimoni's revival (2009-present)
On May 26, 2009, Minimoni's original leader, Mari Yaguchi, posted a blog discussing how the head producer of Hello! Project, Tsunku, had contacted her asking for permission to bring the group out of hiatus. Tsunku would later make a post on his own blog confirming that Minimoni would be revived with an entirely new line-up, confirming S/mileage member Kanon Fukuda as the first member. Morning Musume's Linlin was announced later as the group's leader, and that Hello Pro Eggs Akari Takeuchi and Karin Miyamoto would be the final two members in the new line-up. This line-up is referred to as Shin Minimoni (新ミニモニ。?, New Minimoni). On the last day of Morning Musume's fall 2010 tour, Rival Survival, Linlin graduated from Morning Musume, and thus left Shin Minimoni as well. (She has returned to China since her graduation.) The three remaining members proceeded to perform as a trio in the Hello! Project 2011 winter concert.
Minimoni in American media
In February 2006, Minimoni's name was invoked on American television (NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno) during a skit claiming that one of Leno's house band members had started out as a member of Minimoni; a manipulated picture of the Leno band member with Minimoni (in their outfits from the cover of Minimoni Songs 2) was aired as part of the sketch.
In June 2007, an excerpt from a November 2000 appearance by Minimoni on Hello! Morning of a prairie dog suddenly turning his head became the basis for the Internet phenomenon The Dramatic Chipmunk. A parody of the Dramatic Chipmunk clip, including lookalikes of Minimoni, appears in Weezer's music video for their 2008 single "Pork and Beans". The real Minimoni did not appear because of licensing issues, their lack of mainstream recognition in America, and other logistical difficulties (including the fact that both Mika Todd and Ai Kago were no longer contracted by Up-Front Works by that time).
|1||Minimoni Song Daihyakka Ikkan (ミニモニ。ソング大百科1巻?)||2002-06-26|
|2||Minimoni ja Movie: Okashi na Daibōken! Original Soundtrack (ミニモニ。じゃムービーお菓子な大冒険オリジナルサウンドトラック?)||2003-02-19|
|3||Minimoni Songs 2 (ミニモニ。ソングズ2?)||2004-02-11|
|1||Minimoni Jankenpyon!/Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu Daisukki! (ミニモニ。ジャンケンぴょん！/春夏秋冬だいすっき!?)||2001-01-17|
|2||Minimoni Telephone! Rin Rin Rin/Minimoni Bus Guide (ミニモニ。テレフォン！リンリンリン/ミニモニ。バスガイド!?)||2001-09-12|
|3||Minihams no Ai no Uta (ミニハムずの愛の唄?)||2001-12-05|
|4||Minimoni Hinamatsuri!/Mini Strawberry Pie (ミニモニ。ひなまつり！/ミニ。ストロベリ〜パイ?)||2002-01-30|
|5||Aiin Taisō/Aiin! Dance no Uta (アイ〜ン体操/アイ〜ン!ダンスの唄?)||2002-04-24|
|6||Genki Jirushi no Ōmori Song/Okashi Tsukutte Okkasi! (げんき印の大盛りソング/お菓子つくっておっかすぃ〜?)||2002-11-27|
|7||Minihams no Kekkon Song (ミニハムずの結婚ソング?)||2002-12-04|
|8||Rock 'n' Roll Kenchōshozaichi (Oboechaina Series) (ロックンロール県庁所在地〜おぼえちゃいなシリーズ〜?)||2003-04-09|
|9||Minimoni Kazoe Uta (Ofuro Version)/Minimoni Kazoe Uta (Date Version) (ミニモニ。数え歌〜お風呂ば〜じょん〜/ミニモニ。数え歌〜デートば〜じょん〜?)||2003-05-14|
|10||Crazy About You||2003-10-16|
|11||Mirakururun Grand Purin!/Pi~hyara Kouta (ミラクルルン グランプリン！/ピ〜ヒャラ小唄?)||2003-11-19|
|12||Lucky Cha Cha Cha! (ラッキーチャチャチャ！?)||2004-04-21|
- Yaguchi, Mari (2009-05-26). "New Minimoni" (in Japanese). I'm a Beginner: Mari Yaguchi Official Blog.
- Tsunku (2009-05-27). "Minimoni" (in Japanese). Tsunku Official Blog.
- Tsunku (2009-06-03). "Minimoni" (in Japanese). Tsunku Official Blog.
- Cult of Pop - Leno and Minimoni
- Langdon Alger (2007-06-24). "Origin of the "Chipmunk" clip". Retrieved 2007-07-04.
- "BREAKING: Dramatic Chipmunk - From Japanese TV Show Hello! Morning". 2007-06-23. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
- Kawaiirrhea (2008-05-23). "Mini Moni meets Weezer". Retrieved 2008-05-25.