Morning Musume Concert Tour 2009 Aki / Nine Smile : 4 of 5

This latest Morning Musume concert DVD has been long anticipated since it features the graduation ceremony of Koharu, ending the nine-person line-up that has been together for the past few years (the longest in Morning Musume history). This is actually a two DVD set so every moment could be included, and it's definitely an epic and emotional concert! Truthfully, I would have loved to see a Nine Smile performance on a non-graduation night, since it's obvious that the girls are all a little sad right from the beginning, so I think some of the songs lost a little energy. But it's still a wonderful show! Starting out in those "cow" outfits seems a little weird, but I guess there's no way to top the incredible opening of the Platinum 9 concert! Thankfully, the next outfit change is great, and later on the silver costume (with little bow-ties!) is really cool. The stage design seemed simple at first, but when the platforms and stairs started rotating I was really impressed! Sound-wise I think the vocals were actually too high in the mix, which is nice when you're listening to Ai-chan, but reveals too many mistakes for the rest of the girls. There are some great duets (especially Reina and Ai-chan) and solos (Sayumi's opening to Aruiteru is really cute!), and even a quick "reunion" of Sakura Gumi and Otome Gumi, which is really wonderful since Sakura Mankai is just about the best song ever! There's a long medley of B-sides that is creatively put together and performed with great enthusiasm, and of course, Koharu and Sayumi perform their Rainbow Pink duet for the last time (and the crowd seriously goes wild with the chanting!). Finally, the graduation moment arrives, and although I was never really a Koharu fan, the ceremony is full of tender moments and plenty of tears. Sayumi and Koharu forgive each other for all of their rivalry and hug so long that Ai-chan has to break it up! I thought Lin Lin's words were really heartfelt too, and it was funny that Jun Jun was sad she wouldn't have anyone to fight with now. Since Koharu is so weird and silly, the mood keeps changing from somber to bizarre and back again, but I guess she went out with the same goofiness that she's famous for! For any Morning Musume fan, this is definitely a must-see, must-own concert DVD, and while I know the girls can put on a better show, this performance is still fantastic!