- Nikkansports which broke the news first yesterday, has a series of follow-up reports today. In this article and another, they talked about how Johnny's Jimusho does not try to retain people who have indicated that they want to leave the agency and jump ship elsewhere. Past examples include Go Hiromi, Tahara Toshihiko and members of Hikaru GENJI. Note that there have been exceptions like Sakamoto Masayuki from V6 who quit once before the group's debut and came back but his situation was different in that he did not move to another agency and had actually quit to work in an office job as he was unsure about his future as an artiste then. However, there has never been a past instance where someone wants to leave the agency and go elsewhere and yet can return afterwards.
In view of the fact that the four members had indicated that they wanted to leave, the agency is seen as unlikely to make an exception in trying to stop them. When you consider the fact that in the past, the agency had done a lot to help them restore their images when some of them got into trouble i.e. Inagaki and Kusanagi, their actions now were seen as a betrayal thus further reducing the agency's willingness to go all out to keep them.
- Although the news reports had been very specific in naming the four members who wants to leave, it seems like the final verdict is not out because they have somewhat changed their minds about the decision.
In the beginning, Kimura was very clear about his intention to stay while the others decided to go. It was said that Kimura had sought advice from his fellow celebrity friends before he decided and a key factor was his wife Kudo Shizuka persuading him to stay. In this Sankei Sports article, it was mentioned that Kudo felt that they shouldn't betray Mary who had helped them when they got married in 2000. There was a lot of media attention on the couple then and Mary had helped to suppress excessive coverage on them during that period. In addition, they also have their two daughters aged 14 and 12 to think of. In the end, Kimura decided to stay on.
On the other hand, in this Sports Hochi article, it was said that Nakai reacted especially strongly to the criticism by Mary in the interview last January that SMAP cannot dance. No doubt Nakai may not be so good at singing, his dancing is viewed one of the best within Johnny's, if not the best in SMAP. As such, that remark by Mary was a huge blow to his ego thus making him very insistent about leaving.
However, with rumours now swirling around that Iijima Michi may not jump ship to another agency and that she may be leaving showbiz altogether, this is certainly not good news for the four who made their intentions known early. Without the backing of Johnny's Jimusho nor their longtime mentor, the four members will face a difficult path ahead. It is believed that even if they are to go back on their word and say that they wish to stay on, the agency might not be willing to take them back.
Before the coup actually took place from August, it was said that Iijima had tried to convince the members that they could still work as usual even after leaving the agency. It was believed that SMAP's appearances on NHK's long-running music show "Nodo Jiman" which celebrated its 70th anniversary last year was part of the plan to ensure that SMAP could work freely on NHK shows. As compared to the private networks which may be intimidated by Mary's influence, NHK as a national broadcaster was less vulnerable to such pressure. In addition, Iijima's secret plan to let SMAP be the hosts of last year's Kouhaku without getting the approval of Johnny-san, Mary and Julie was seen as the final blow which soured their relationship. As seen from the fact that Iijima allowed SMAP to take on the supporter role for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games despite the uncertain future facing them due to the coup, she was seemingly very confident about her plans even though the Games which is an international event are a good four years away.
Another version of why Iijima Michi cannot bring the four members to another agency or set up an agency on her own was mentioned in this Sponichi Annex article. It was said that the relationship between both sides was so bad that they needed to get lawyers to be present during the negotiation last September. Iijima had the intention to bring the artistes to a new agency but this was a big taboo in showbiz. Although it was rumoured that she had struck a deal with another big-name agency K-DASH which manages artistes such as Watanabe Ken, Takahashi Katsunori and Sakaguchi Kenji, this was said to have fallen through in the end. As such, nobody wanted to support her in this move thus resulting in her failed coup.
Although it was mentioned previously that Iijima had quit from J Dream earlier on her own accord, the background story was that there should have been a J Dream shareholders meeting held on 12 January which SMAP also had to attend as shareholders. It was then that they would have announced the firing of Iijima from her director's post. However, due to her failed coup, she had to submit her resignation thus there was no need to proceed with the meeting in the end. In an attempt to end the saga, Iijima was said to have promised to leave showbiz after her resignation but even so, it might not help the four members who supported her in staying in the agency.
- As to why the members may not have spoken yesterday when the news broke, it looks like they were mostly off work on that day. Normally, the five of them will be filming for SMAPxSMAP on Wednesdays but this week's Wednesday happened to be their off-day.
Kimura was said to be in the outskirts of Kyoto filming his movie "Mugen no Junin". Katori is expected to be back on set for the filming of his new drama "Kazoku no Katachi" from 16 January while Inagaki is the midst of rehearsals for his stage play. Nakai is expected to be back in the studio for the filming of his variety show on 15 January. Kusanagi was the first to appear in public among his members this morning when he appeared in TV Asahi's morning programmes "Good! Morning" and "Hattori Shinichi Morning Show" to promote his new drama "Specialist 4". However, he didn't talk anything about the SMAP saga and simply bowed twice towards the camera at the end of his appearance on "Good! Morning".