A quick update

April 23, 2012

Hello, everyone who still checks this blog!
This is a quick note to let you all know that Aoi Usagi isn’t dead. It’s currently on hiatus until the life-suck that is college ends, which is in about four weeks.

If I’m in one piece at the end of the semester, expect some blog posts!

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Growing up with Idols

August 31, 2011
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In my last post I mentioned grabbing an old notebook at random from beside my bookcase in which to write. I keep all sorts of old things in that space- calendars (which I hate), wrapping paper from birthday presents, school things which I can’t bring myself to throw away, and all of my notebooks from freshman year up until graduation. After arriving at Ben and Jerry’s and ordering my sorbet, (but before setting out to write my Sumer Refreshment post), I opened the notebook and leafed through it.On discovering that I had picked up  my all-purpose notebook from Freshman and Sophomore year, I was immediately drawn in by the nostalgia. What interested me most were the page dividers. On each one I had doodled, scribbled, and generally left record of all of the dull and confusing math and science classes I’d ever been in.
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Y’know who else gets bored? Eri. Eri gets bored. But not Koha!
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Most of those doodlings had to do with Hello! Project. In my freshman year I had been a fan of H!P for two years. My scribbles were mostly about my most and least favorite members each group. On one page I explained that I hated Michishige Sayumi, that I couldn’t stand Sugaya Risako, and that Airi’s line-hogging annoyed me to no end.

On the next page, I wrote down ideas for various sub-groups, mostly in jest. One was Maxi-Moni, consisting of Yurina, Maasa, Koharu, Maimi and Erika. Another, somewhat less well-intended group was untitled but consisted of Matsuura Aya, Okada Yui, Saitou Hitomi and Goto Maki.

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Gee, wonder what this group oughta be called…
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On another page I had set up a challenge for myself: To remember all of Morning Musume’s singles in order. I didn’t do too poor of a job, and from Ai no Tane to Resonant Blue the only song I ended up missing was Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari (incidentally my least favorite Morning Musume song). Still other pages had little caricatures of my favorite members, charts drawing up proposed revivals of the old sub-groups (long before Tsunku had the idea!), and lists of those girls whom I considered the most talented singers.After leafing through all of the pages and eating half of my sorbet, I sat back. I looked around the shop and noticed that I was the only person eating alone. But most of the other people sitting around me looked sweaty and bored, while I felt pleasantly distracted. When I realized that, I sat forward in my seat and wrote these lines:”I have been a Hello! Project fan for five years now. For all of those years, Idols have been my main hobby. Whether I’m bored at school, alone at a restaurant, trying to fall asleep after a long day, or flying to a foreign country, Idols and their music have been my constant and sometimes best companion.”

I’d be lying if I said I had no regrets regarding the four years I spent in high school. But all in all, I had a lot of fun with friends, clubs, and school trips. Throughout those years, Idols were my soundtrack, my distraction, and my hobby. All of the songs on my ipod are more to me than just background music, and the videos I’ve favorite’s on Youtube aren’t just  entertainment. When I listen to Genki+ I am taken back to the plane ride to Greece during my junior year. Whenever that song comes up on my iPod I remember how excited I was, but also how close-minded. I was ready to judge and look down on all of my party-obsessed classmates. I also remember how much I opened up on that trip, how I was able to get along with the very kids I’d set myself up to despise. Whenever I feel myself starting to prejudge someone, I think of Genki+ and I remember to give them a chance.

Similarly, whenever I watch an episode of Ayaka’s Surprise English Lessons, I remember the time in my sophomore year when, lonely and shy, I set myself in the corner of the library and watched Ayaka teach Yaguchi how to say “I want to be naked on a deserted island.” To my surprise, a few kids came over to watch, and those kids soon became my friends.

Just a few days ago I packed up all of my things and moved to New York for college. I’ve been here a few days, and the uncertainties and feelings of timidity and the desire to prejudge are already upon me. I have to find a job, find all of my teachers’ offices to arrange interviews, and for the first time in my life do all of the little things that make up life without parents. Amidst all of the future uncertainties, one thing is solid. I know, without a sliver of doubt, that Idols will continue to be there for me. Even if all of my most beloved groups disband tomorrow, there will always rise up another group of smiling young women with questionable musical talent. I’m not going to go into why I think the Idol phenomenon in Japan will never die (at least not in this post)- this post is simply meant as a reflection on my past and future, and all of the ways in which Idols have and will affect me.

I guess what I’m really trying to say in this post is a huge thank you. To Idols, to their producers, to their fans, to their questionably sane costume designers, their choreographers, and to everyone I have met as a result of this unusual hobby. True, more often than not I have found things to complain about. I will continue to rail against the evils of the Manobeast, and Tsunku will probably never be fully on my good side. I’ll probably never be able to look at S/mileage and not think of Wada’s xenophobia, and AKB48 will continue to confound me. But even that is all part of what’s so wonderful and fun. So thank you, Berryz Koubou, Morning Musume, C-ute, H!P Eggs, AKB48, Onyanko Club, and all the rest. I’ve had a lot of fun these past five years thanks to you. I look forward to every fluffy-skirted and squeaky voiced moment that you will provide me with in the future.

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Thank you!

An Announcement (because I like to keep things exciting)

April 21, 2011

*This is the part of the post where I talk at length in an entertaining and/or thought-provoking way. If you are the kind of person who relied on SparkNotes in school, you may want to skip to the end of this post, where there will be a shortened explanation of what your more ambitious peers have decided to read. Be warned: You may come to regret your decision next class…

I have gone through many different phases during my five years as a Hello! Project fan. When I first stumbled across a H!P PV (Berryz Koubou’s Waracchaou yo Boyfriend), I threw myself into a rush to absorb general knowledge- who was whom, which group sang which songs, and basic H!P History. A little while later, I began to treat my love of H!P as more of a hobby. I absorbed all of the specific information that was readily available, concerning myself with height in centimeters, favorite flowers, and obscure groups like Sheki-Doll. The next phase of my journey as a fan came swiftly on the heels of the last as I realized that facts just weren’t enough anymore. I wanted to contribute more to the English-language H!P community. Around that time I began to read blogs, and the next phase of my fandom began as I made the decision to start my own blog. Since then, much like any fan, my interest in H!P has fluctuated. Currently my love for all things UFA is stronger than ever.

Throughout my journey as a H!P fan, my love for a certain group has acted as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, both preempting my general feelings toward the rest of H!P and often providing the catalyst to my move to the next stage in my fandom. It may not surprise the longtime readers of this blog (I like to flatter myself that I have a few of those) that the group in question is Berryz Koubou.

As my first H!P group, my relationship with Berryz has always been on a somewhat different level than my relationship with the rest of H!P. Even when my favorite Idol was from a different group, I held Berryz Koubou in high esteem. They weren’t my favorite group. They weren’t the most interesting group or the group with the best songs. But that didn’t matter. They were My Group. So it is fitting that My Group, the first H!P group that I encountered, will also be the first Idol group that I’ll see performing live.

When the announcement was made that Berryz Koubou would be performing at Sakura-con in Seattle, I was glad in a distant sort of way. I felt proud of My Group for getting the chance to perform overseas, even if it was at as niche a venue as an anime convention is. I didn’t think about going myself: I live on the other side of the country, and I’m a student saving up for college next year. But events conspired, and suddenly I had both the ability and the conviction to to get myself to Sakura-con.  I bought my plane ticket a few weeks ago, and Thursday morning I’ll be boarding a plane at the tiny Burlington International Airport. In just three days I’ll be seeing My Group, live, in person.

To express the excitement being able to see Berryz is bringing me is difficult. After five years of loving H!P from afar, separated by miles upon miles of ocean, it seems unreal that in a few hours I’ll be seeing Captain and the rest in person, separated by at most a few feet.

I’m planning on bringing my mother’s netbook with me to Sakura-con. Each night I’ll write some form of report on the day’s events. The report could simply be a brief summing up, to be expanded on later (I suspect that I’ll be emotionally drained by the time I have free time to write). For those of you who aren’t able to attend Sakura-con personally, I’ll try to write the posts with as much specific detail as possible. Please check back here over the next few days to catch my posts!

* I’m going to go see Berryz Koubou at Sakura-con in two days, and they’re My Group, and I LOVE them, and this is VERY exciting for me, and this will be the first H!P performance I’ll see live. Now good luck on the test next class, Mr. SparkNotes.


Alright, people

February 9, 2011

It’s always amusing to look and see which search terms are leading people to my blog. More often than not, the terms have no clear pattern. On the same day, a person can reach this little snippet of the internet by searching “Natsuyaki Miyabi’s twin brother” or by searching “AKB and coffee”

There is, however, one search term that always comes up again and again. It’s not particularly offensive, but the sheer number of people finding my blog by searching this term is enough to make me pause and give it my attention.

The term is “Youth and Beauty.” I’ve used it only once- in reference to Kusumi Koharu. Since making that post, the smallest number of times people have been referred to my blog via that term is 14 times in one day:

What exactly are you trying to find, Youth and Beauty people? This is not a make-up nor a fashion blog. I am not going to teach you how to make a Gaga-bow out of your hair, nor will I provide you with information on the beauty tricks used by Japan’s trendy Gyaru or Korea’s pretty (and slightly scary) ulzzangs. This is a music blog. There will be youthful and beautiful people featured here, and you will have to be content with that.

While I’m on the WTF-train, what in the world is up with someone finding my blog after searching “Man sitting on a chair looking at the moon?” Have I ever used those words in conjunction before? Ditto for “crazy old black man.” Unless it had something to do with Melon Kinenbi, I rarely mention crazy old black men on this blog. In fact, I don’t think I ever have.

Lastly, just so we’re very, very clear: No, I will not direct anyone to porn through this blog. People searching for stimulation and titillation will have to look elsewhere. (That means you, “maeda atsuko look alike porn stream” person.)


Why the worst matter

July 26, 2010

(This picture somehow seems appropriate)

We all feel this way at some point. Every time she shows her face- be it in concert, the middle of a music video, or on TV, we cringe. We want her gone. We wish the cameraman would stop worrying about spending somewhat equal time on all of the members, and just stay the heck away from this one.*

She’s a different member for each of us, but every wota can identify her in a heartbeat: Their least favorite.

I’m fairly vocal about my least favorite members, and even my friends who aren’t H!P fans (IE all of my friends…) can at least point to Risako or Reina and say “She’s the one you don’t like, right?”

So yes, I can’t stand Reina or Risako. I don’t like ManoEri either, although she’s kind of a special case (in that I’m terrified of her). I’m not going to talk about why I dislike these girls in this post. I feel like I mention my reasoning in every other post I make, and for the purpose of this article, reasons actually don’t matter all that much. I dislike these girls, and that’s all there is to it.


(Pure, murderous intent)

Whenever my least favorite gets half of the lines in their respective singles, I rail and rant about the unfairness. “It should have been Maasa/Captain/Lin/Sayumi/insertunderratedidolhere!” I say, closing my eyes in despair at the unfairness of it all.

However, there’s another layer to my Idol-Wota relationship when it comes to the least favorites. I dislike them, yes. But that’s not all.

I recently re-watched Berryz Koubou’s 2009 Aki ~Medachitai~ tour, and the above video made me angry enough to leave a comment essentially detailing everything that I hated about Risako. Someone else commented and agreed with me, and at first I was all happy to have found someone who felt the same as I did. But something in their comment didn’t sit right with me. This was their original comment (sorry, I can’t find the video again, and I don’t remember my exact comment) :

” I know! I can’t even say how much I hate her. 😛 She’s the worst in the group and she’s getting all the lines! I can’t say how much better my life would be if she just left Berryz forever. She’s just plain gross!”

What? Leave the group? Berryz Koubou without Risako’s annoying, pouty, face? Inconceivable!

I may hate on Risako. I may scream with indignation whenever Reina thinks that, just for a change, she’ll wink during her solo line. But I would never, ever want to see either of their groups without them.

This is the part where you, reader, will sit back and say to yourself “Rebecca, I read your blog because it occasionally makes me laugh, think, cough up phlegm, or do all three at once. I enjoy your solid convictions against your least favorites. What up?” I will tell you what is up, dear reader. Least favorites are essential to keeping interest in a group alive. Without them, my favorite groups would be cool and groovy rage-free zones, yes, but also terribly dull.

(Do I really want her out of the picture?)

Not convinced? Stay with me.

Take C-ute. I have my favorite in Okai Chisato. I champion her, and I like to say that her sultry vocals can spread world peace. But C-ute is my least favorite of all of H!P’s main groups, and I barely pay attention to them. I surely devote less time to them than BK or Morning Musume (for the sake of arguments, I’m leaving out S/mileage. They’re too new). And guess what? C-ute is the sole group without one member that I dislike. True, sometimes I whine about Nakky’s duck voice, but she is just so pretty and good at dancing. Yeah, Airi has pretty much taken over the group’s singles, but damnit, she’s gorgeous and talented, and if anyone’s going to have a solo single, it ought to be her. Maimi is a freakishly gorgeous cyborg woman, and Maimai is turning into a beautiful young lady.

When I watch C-ute’s concerts, there’s no suspense. I don’t care who gets a line or when, because no one in the group makes me rage. In fact, I tend to skip over most of C-ute’s performances, because I know that they’ll be good enough, but lacking anything that I need to watch out for. After Erika and Kanna left, I didn’t worry about who their lines would be performed by because as far as I was concerned, it could be anyone and I’d be happy.

When I finished watching C-ute’s Shocking Live tour, I felt like I’d watched a good concert. I ate some rice pudding. I felt guilty about doing so even though I wasn’t hungry, then remembered that I’m Jewish and that eating and feeling guilty is what we do. I felt better. I went to bed.

Cut to Morning Musume’s Genki Pikka Pikka tour. My god. I was practically glued to the screen during group songs, flashing back and forth between Youtube and Project!Hello’s colorcodes, wringing my hands and wondering who was going to get Kusumi’s lines. I was on an emotional roller coaster. I cheered when Linlin sang “Torokeru torokeru yumegokochi” in Aishite Aishite Ato Ippun, groaned when Reina (and Ai)  got all of the graduated Nutjob’s lines in Resonant Blue. It should have been Sayumi- her voice would have been squeaky, but at least it would have been someone different. I commented multiple times to that effect, and with each new performance I felt something new- rage, happiness, relief, and at one point, extreme hatred toward all maxi dresses ever.

(I hope this fad is eaten by Lady Gaga and dies.)

What that concert was over, I stayed up late writing this article, then talked on the phone for an hour with my cousin (who is tolerant of my Wotaism and even occasionally indulges in some herself). I went to bed tired, partially annoyed, but more importantly, really excited to see the next Momusu concert. Who knows? Maybe the lines would be rearranged. Maybe Reina would lose her voice and be forced to sit to the side for the entire concert, desperately winking every time the camera swivels past her on its way to someone more talented (hey, I didn’t say that I wouldn’t mind the groups without Reina or Rii’s voices. Just their presence. 😉 )

So yes. I will continue to preach dislike of my least favorites. I might cry a little bit when once again, Saki is pushed to the back in favor of Risako. But you won’t hear me wish them out of the group. Hello! Project is all the better for their presence.

(…Yeah.)

*No, I’m not talking about Aika on a bad hair day ( Y’know. Most days).


A request

June 23, 2010

Hello, blogosphere!

I have a few posts that I’ m working on. I shall post those in due time!

However, the purpose of this post is not to allay any fears about my blogging schedule. I have a request, a plea, even.

A while ago there was a stage play in which Abe Natsumi and Shibata Ayumi both acted. At some point, the two performed a duet of “Shall We Love” by Gomattou. The performance really got to me. I was new as a fan at the time, and the performance really was amazingly emotional and well-sung.

My request is for that performance. Since seeing it years ago, the video has been deleted from youtube, and my searches have turned up nothing. Any information about the performance, such as the name of the play it was from or when the play was performed would also be amazingly helpful.

Please come to a fellow fan’s aid, blogosphere!

Thank you!


Hello

May 29, 2010

(Picture unrelated, but when you look that amazing, who cares about relevance?)

Despite the fact that I now have less free time than ever, am testing for my second degree black belt in one week, have finals coming around the corner, and just missed eight days of school, I have decided to re-start this blog.

Call me crazy? Er, sure, if you want. I mean, it’s your own opinion, really.

First of all I’d like to apologize for having disappeared without notice. That is inexcusable (not to mention hypocritical. I’ve railed time and again against bloggers and webcomic artists who did that very same thing). Those of you still checking this blog, thank you very much for doing so. From now on, I’d like to continue to post in this blog. I can’t say it’ll happen on any regular schedule, or quickly, but I will post. I had decided to keep my fan opinions to myself and just enjoy being a fan for a while, but now I’ve changed my mind.

Now, here is the reason for that change of heart…

Above, I mentioned having missed eight days of school. No, I didn’t come down with H1N1 long after all of the cool kids. Rather, I was traveling. Thanks to my school’s Ancient Greece class, I and 30 of my classmates were able to travel to Greece for a total of 10 days. We were originally slotted to leave about a week earlier than we did, but then the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland erupted and we found ourselves postponed (for those still struggling to pronounce the name, here’s a handy pronunciation guide: vol-KAY-noh). Undaunted, we eventually flew out a week and half later. I had a lovelyish time, and managed to avoid getting sunburned.

This anecdote does have a relation to my blog and to Hello Project. Our group spent a long time wandering around the Heathrow Airport in London while we waited to see if the Greek riots would strand us in Britain (there are worse places to be stranded. The first time we attempted our trip, we ended up in CANADA). At the time I was wearing the Linlint-shirt highlighted in my last post (I was wearing some other things, but they aren’t relevant).

During one of my wanderings, I decided to go get lunch at the Wagammama noodle restaurant. They serve yummy (but overpriced) ramen and the like at long, cafeteria style tables. I ended up at a table with a group of people I didn’t know. I ordered and was well into my ramen when I heard a voice say, “Excuse me!”

I looked up and saw a youngish-looking Japanese man sitting across from me. I was immediately terrified that I had accidentally slurped my noodles too fast and sprayed him. Instead, he pointed at my shirt and asked, “You are Linlin fan?” When I nodded, he broke into a huge smile and pronounced, ” I am too! Linlin is number one!”

I have never talked in person with another Hello Project fan. Meeting that man was the biggest and best surprise of the entire trip. We spent the rest of our meal speaking in both English and Japanese about everything Idol. When it came time to leave, I went back to my group nearly in tears. Many of you in the blogosphere can understand how I felt. The majority of you must be like me: isolated in your love of H!P, never expecting to meet anyone who shares your strange hobby. The feeling of being a H!P fan- alone- is an entirely unique one. I never realized how lonely a feeling it can be. Finally meeting someone in person who knows what I mean when I say “Mitsui Aika needs to change her hairstyle”… I can’t put the feeling into words.

That moment spurred me to re-start this blog. I enjoyed the time I spent keeping my fandom to myself, but I think it’s time to return to this particular corner of the blogosphere.

I hope you will all forgive me for my unexplained absence, and welcome me back.