When Mnet announced their “new” trainee survival project Girls Planet 999, most fans’ first thought was, “How is this going to be different from Produce 101?”
The answer thus far? Not much at all. Good work CJ ENM.
Girls Planet 999 takes the lucrative and thoroughly tarnished Produce 101 format and gives it a Carl Sagan-inspired reupholstering. 99 girls (where are the other 900, MSNAKE?!) will compete to form a 9-member group, which will no doubt be a huge success. The show’s “galaxy” consists of 3 “planets”: One for Korea, Japan, and China (Taiwan and Hong Kong being lumped into China because, well, you know).
Rumors are abound that the trainees aren’t competing in an “interplanetary” sense, that each set of 33 trainees will compete for 3 spots in the final group. But that doesn’t make any damn sense unless you’re just making 3 sub-units that never perform together so I’m not so sure about that one. Even the rumored guarantee of an even 3/3/3 split seems like disappointment waiting to happen. But it’s CJ ENM so “runaway garbage truck full of burning Port-a-potties” level disaster isn’t out of the question.
The ghost of PD101’s vote scam haunts this show and CJ ENM knows it. So, in order to provide some semblance of a guarantee that the PD’s aren’t getting handjobs in a norebang bathroom to do fuzzy math on your favorite trainees, the voting this time will be on NCSoft’s K-pop fan platform UNIVERSE, and will support international voting. Voting being handled by a 3rd party will purportedly ensure fairness and prevent the production team from futzing the numbers. I wouldn’t take that bet.
There’s guides on how to sign up and vote littered across the internet, but the gist of it is you have to earn points by watching ads and doing other things (like pay money?) to vote. Netizens are comparing this to I-LAND’s structure/format, but I didn’t watch that show so *shrug*.
On the hosting side, actor Yeo Jin Goo is the host, and Sunmi and Tiffany Young are mentoring, probably with a “healing” type energy. None of the trainers from the PD101 series are returning. Instead we have perhaps more relevant teachers on call: SM Entertainment Performance Director Baek Kooyoung, Sunmi/IZ*ONE choreographer Jang Juhee, MonoTree songwriter/vocal director Lim Hanbyeol aka ONESTAR, and TWICE/(G)I-DLE/ATEEZ vocal trainer Jo Ayoung. All-in-all, the staff of Girls Planet 999 leans much younger than Produce 101; we’ll see if that has any bearing on how the show plays out.
There are three ‘Theme Performance’ videos, one for each planet of trainees. The theme is actually quite nice (good work MonoTree), one of those J-pop/K-pop hybrid songs with a strong chorus that nugu groups feast on. In true PD101 fashion, “O.O.O” gets a companion slow piano version to go along with it. CJ ENM’s newfound commitment to fairness gives us 3 centers and a plethora of ending fairy winks and spurts of aegyo.
Mnet has also blessed us with a massive dump of introduction videos, and fans are already drooling in the comments, deciding on their one-picks. There are a slew of marquee names on the trainee list: CLC member Yujin, Cherry Bullet members Jiwoo, May, and Bora, Fanatics/Produce 48 Kim Doah, TXT Hueningkai’s sister Bahiyyih, Nizi Project contestants Kishida Ririka and Sakurai Miu, and CHUANG/Youth With You/Produce 101 China contestants Roada Xu and Su Ruiqi.
All are coming in with already installed fanbases and project to be heavy favorites. The tragic ballad of Lee Kaeun tells us that victory is anything but guaranteed, though.
A stark difference between specifically GP999 and specifically Produce 48 is the baseline talent level of trainees, specifically the non-Korean ones. AKB48’s clown car of idols was delightful in its own way, but there’s a big difference when you’re sourcing most of your talent from ex-Korean agency trainees, aspiring K-pop dance cover squads, and more internationally-focused management agencies. It seems most, if not all, the trainees can speak at least a little bit of Korean, regardless of where they’re originally from. Veteran trainees like Roada Xu and Sakamoto Mashiro are fluent. Expectations are much higher this time around. Unlike Produce 48 which sought to find some sort of non-existent middle ground between Korean stagecraft and Japanese otaku pandering, GP999 firmly plants itself as a K-pop show, with multiple trainees mentioning during their PR vids that they’re on the show because they love K-pop.
Anyway, I’ve watched all the PR Vids and read all the profiles. Here are some of my favorites from some of the under-the-radar contestants. Keep in mind that if I didn’t mention your one-pick here, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them, the show hasn’t even started yet, you weirdos.
Sakamoto Shihona – Yoshi with a six-pack. Yoshi. With a six-pack.
Kawaguchi Yurina – Former X21 member. She sang “Lullaby” from Dreamcatcher. Instantly IATFB‘s favorite.
Arai Risako – Out of all the “art” creators on the show, she’s @mbmelodies’ favorite. Also her company, Biscuit Entertainment, has 4 likes on Facebook, and three of them are me and my friends. Extra points for Oh My Girl references. She’s the oldest contestant in J-Group.
Okazaki Momoko – BABYMETAL dancer. Sakura Gakuin alumni. Will GP999 see a metal-concept stage???
Ito Miyu – Gives me Kim ‘Dirt’ Sihyeon vibes. Good Crayon Shin-chan impersonation. Some intangibles here reflected in the above average viewcount. My dark horse candidate, her Weibo #’s seem to be trending high as well.
Li Yiman – Arale impression complete with poop stick. Flexing with her TOPIK results. Just firing on all cylinders here.
Liang Jiao – From painfully shoving a fistful of chicory down her gullet to snitching on her twin sister/fellow contestant Liang Qiao, Liang Jiao probably has the best overall PR intro vid. She really explores the possibilities of the costume as well.
Lin Chenhan – It’s a simple formula: threaten my life with a sword, get my vote. Please please please carry this energy into the main show.
Wang Yale – Youth With You 2 alum from Chinese powerhouse agency Jaywalk Newjoy. She did diddly-squat on YWY2 but is going for a 4D, Faye Wong-type look here. Do Koreans like Faye Wong? We’ll see, I suppose.
Tammy Wu – I got a weird vibe from this one even before she busted out her “never-been-cut” braid and whipped it around like a vampire hunter. 加油加油, Tammy from New York!
Yoo Dayeon – Seoryn from LIPBUBBLE glowed up really hard. Feels like an all-rounder, kind of like a Cho Seungyoun-type. Popular with the uncle fans? Probably.
Guinn Myah – PD101 outfit finds Myah channeling Somi. Also, look! A Charli XCX fan!
Kim Hyerim – Former LIMESODA member attempts a comeback. According to the wikis, she left the group because of “disagreements with the company”. Always nice to root for a trainee to get out of nugu purgatory (nugu-tory?).
Suh Ji Min – Bilingual giant. Could be a Wonyoung-type? I dig the confidence here.
Kim Doah – Okay, Doah isn’t under the radar by any means, but I just want to recognize that she has become mouthier and weirder even after debut. Hoping she gets some protagonist action from Mnet this season.
Anyways, it’s likely we’re not gonna be doing episodic reviews, but maybe we’ll check in every couple weeks and see how it’s going.