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!
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Berryz Koubou at Sakura-con: Day Two- In which I learn wotagei and cry some more

July 10, 2011

Oh maaaan this post has been a long time in coming! I’d like to say that it’s because I’ve been out enjoying my summer to its fullest, but in truth I’ve mostly been working or hanging about doing largely uninteresting things. 😛

So with that said, let’s get right into the post. I promise to finish these up before the summer ends!

A note: As with the last post, this one will include few pictures or videos. You can find fan recordings of the concert all over the place now, so if you’re interested, please go check them out! One video that I found amusing was called “Documentary of Sakura Con: An Epic Berryz Kobo Adventure,” if you’re interested in looking something up!

Berryz Koubou at Sakura-con: Day Two- In which I learn wotagei and cry some more

Event: The Concert

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This day was the least packed, event-wise. I woke up early and headed pretty much directly to the Artists’ Alley. The area next to the Alley had become a sort of unofficial congregation point for anyone who was at the con solely for Berryz, and even though the concert wasn’t for another 6 hours or so, many people were already waiting there. I didn’t see the point in staying in one spot, waiting for a concert a half day away (and being held in another room on a different floor, for that matter), so I wandered around the convention for a while. Conventions can be very interesting (in both a bad and good way) if you’re not into anime. I was dressed up in lolita fashion (a Japanse street fashion based on Victorian and Rococo style), so at least I felt like I fit in, looks-wise! I mostly killed time by searching out breakfast and other lolitas to chat with.

As an aside, I should mention that the con staff started to get nervous and edgy about the BK fans during Day 2. I think the staff started to freak out over us the day before, when over 300 people were lined up solely to buy Berryz merchandise an hour before the Dealers’ room opened. Because of that, whenever groups of Berryz fans (easily identified by their t-shirts and uchiwa) were spotted congregating, they were split up and sent elsewhere by the staff. Some were threatened with being kicked out of the con, or even with having to deal with the police should there be any misbehavior… All of which was entirely unfounded, since the fans were generally orderly and well-behaved (at least until later).

More time passed, and the fans began trying to congregate around the concert hall about an hour or so before the concert was due to start. I was there and starting to feel very excited/nervous. I was going to see Berryz Koubou! In person! I spent the time drifting from group to group, trying to keep the door to the hall in sight.  The staff threatened all of us with banishment, but eventually relented and let us begin lining up early, much to my relief.

Certain hotels were affiliated with the convention, and people who stayed in those hotels were eligible to receive wrist-bands. People with wrist-bands were given a spot in a priority line, and would be the first to get into the concert hall. I didn’t have a wristband (because the hotels affiliated with the con were expensive!), but I did end up at the very front of the regular line… where I proceeded to freak out quietly. Every time another group joined the priority line, I freaked out more. I told myself that they didn’t deserve to be in that line, that most of them were just going to the free concert, didn’t even know who Berryz were, and other fun things like that. None of which mattered, but I needed something to focus on while I sat in line and clutched my Saki-yellow glo-sticks.

Then, after an extremely nerve-wracking hour, a voice came on over the loudspeaker (or maybe it was a man with a megaphone. I was in a nervous haze and don’t remember). The voice explained to us in no uncertain terms that they were going to start letting people into the concert hall. They also explained that we would Walk Nicely. They explained that if we did not Walk Nicely, we would Talk with some Police Officers who would Arrest Us. Very melodramatic.

After all of the priority seating people were led in, it was finally my turn! The concert hall was set up with a section of chairs somewhat far from the stage, and then an open, standing area essentially leading right up to the stage. Non-priority people were pretty much supposed to sit in the sits, but I (and many others) slipped out of the line and into the standing area in the front. There were tons of people there already, but somehow I managed to meet up with my friends. We were on the left side of the hall, about five people in length away form the stage. To my left and right were some of the Japanese fans, including a very quiet Saki fan who, with the air of a master showing a novice an ancient trade secret, pulled two glo-sticks out of his bag. I say glo-sticks, but they were practically light-sabers. They made mine look like pencils! After I admired them, he nodded serenely and put them away just as quietly as he’d pulled them out.

A chant began, which everyone quickly took up. My heart was beating faster and faster- I was afraid that I was going to hyperventilate unless the girls came out soon! Then a video screen came on and everyone grew quiet as the girls spoke about the earthquake and their efforts to raise relief funds. After letting the message sink in, the girls came out and lead everyone in singing Ai wa Katsu. That just so happens to be one of my favorite car-singing songs, so I sang along with all my might. And, of course, midway through the first verse, I was crying again. The girls were just as beautiful as I remembered them, and hearing their voices so loud and clear over the singing of the crowd was like a dream.

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The concert began in earnest with Special Generation. I had previously been exasperated with how often that song is performed, but I get it now. The energy in the room was insane. The quiet Saki wota next to me was suddenly shouting and laughing and jumping, and everyone else around me was lit up from all of the lights and power coming from the stage. As the concert was moved forward, the feeling of connection between the fans and the girls onstage never stopped. I tried to spend time focusing on each member, but gave up halfway through Special Generation. Everyone looked simply radiant. Miyabi, Saki and Chinami looked like they were having the time of their lives, Maasa and Risako looked confident and powerful, Yurina looked sweet, and Momoko looked professional.

The setlist was a great mix of old classics like Happiness ~Koufuku Kangei~ and newer songs like Icchoume Rock (which Miyabi performed with so much power!). I had so much fun chanting, although toward the beginning the Saki fan had to explain some of the more intricate chants to me. 😛 The highlight, which has become infamous now, was during the second MC when Chinami disappeared backstage, then reappeared in the fish dress from one of their recent tours, then proceeded to speak English at us! At one point she faltered and the crowd immediately began shouting “kawaii!” and whatnot at her, at which point she smiled and said “thank you” in the most adorably self-assured way. The concert finished with All for One and One for All, the perfect surprise, and finally a long chant of “Berryz Ikube!” (which would’ve been longer if the con staff hadn’t kicked us out to prepare for the next event)

After the concert, things turned a little crazy. I ran out of the concert hall pretty quickly. I was feeling overwhelmed and just wanted a chance to be alone to savor the immense energy and excitement I felt. I made my way out of the concert hall and toward the big open foyer in front of registration. There I sat by a pillar and, inevitably, cried some more. After just a little while of that, I started to hear a thunderous chanting coming toward me. It got louder and louder, and then suddenly the foyer was filled with a veritable parade of screaming, chanting, laughing and crying Berryz fans. Everyone was clearly wound up after the concert and still on a Berryz high, but I found the actions of the crowd to be somewhat mortifying. They were only confirming the opinions that the con staff had of us as dangerous and mob-like. I sat and watched the craziness for a little while, then as it began to disperse, went and met up with another group to go out for dinner. We ended up going to the same restaurant that Berryz reportedly ate at when they first arrived, and through no plan of our own, at the same table!

After dinner I met up with some other friends who had for their part made friends with some of the Japanese fans. The two groups were drinking together (and driving their waitress to distraction, I might add. By the time I showed up she wasn’t even trying to hide how frustrated and horrified she was, which was pretty funny since the group wasn’t being that rowdy). I hung around with that group for a few hours, just soaking up the feeling of being with other fans and chatting with friendly people in English and what little Japanese I speak. Watching the Japanese fans get tipsy was also pretty funny! Then we parted ways and I headed back to the hotel, where the energy that had propelled me through the day suddenly gave out, and I all but dragged myself into bed.

My major take-away from the second day of the convention was finally feeling the true connection between the girls and the fans. There is simply no way to feel it when you’re just watching a concert on your computer. You might recognize it to some degree, but the only way you can feel it yourself in its full power is to go see the girls onstage. Watching Berryz onstage made me understand why a fan would fly halfway across the world to see a bunch of teenagers perform pop songs. The girls exude a kind of magnetism and energy that is practically intoxicating (or maybe it is, if the behavior of the rioting fans is any indication).

Having seen Berryz live, I know for sure now that I simply must see them again. Seeing them on the computer is okay, but it’s a hollow substitute. More than anything now I want to go to Japan and see everyone again in concert.

Up Next: Day 3- in which I meet the girls face to face, and Saki cries with me.


In Which I Respond to Isilie and Reaffirm Myself as a H!P Fan

June 29, 2011

I don’t read a lot of blogs. I am a bad member of this fan community that way. But one blog that I always read and always love is Itsumo Genki. If you haven’t already, you should go read Isilie’s latest post there, in which she ponders the stagnation of H!P (its de-evolution, in her own words). The post affected me strongly, and after I read it, I began typing out a response. Well, that response ended up being… VERY long. Rather than take up all of Isilie’s comment space, I’ve fiddled with  my response a bit, and am now posting it here. I’ve tried to make this reply understandable even if you haven’t read Isilie’s post… but seriously, why wouldn’t you want to? Go read it! (And then come back.)

Isilie’s post made me very sad, for a lot of reason: because it put to words some of the worries I’ve been mulling over lately; because I don’t think I could have said it quite as gently and clearly as she did; and because I value Isilie’s opinions as a fellow blogger, so it makes me sad to see her at something of a low point in her fandom.

That said, my opinions on most of the points she made don’t match up with hers.

The first point that I take umbrage with is the idea that H!P groups ought to stop performing certain songs. To quote Isilie, “Some songs should just retire, not because they aren’t amazing, classic songs, but because H!P just isn’t the same place anymore.” I must disagree.

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I look forward to the times when H!P covers itself. Because I love all of the girls so much (with a few REINA exceptions), it’s a pleasure to see them succeed, fail, or even just meet expectations when performing another artist’s songs. It shows another facet of them, aside from their personally sculpted idol persona. Some song choices play into that persona, of course: Momoko singing Momoiro Kataomoi, Gaki singing Boogie Train, etc. But as Isilie mentioned, other choices are surprising. Maasa singing The Bigaku? Who would have expected that? But it gave us a chance to see her perform with a kind of sparkle and energy that is such a deviation from her usually my-pace character. Shin Mini Moni, the youngest bunch of performers in H!P, performing a sultry T&C Bomber number? I loved it. I would never have known that Karin could bend her voice in such amazing ways had I not seen that performance.

That said, I agree that there are times when covers flop. When the first BK vs. C-ute concert was announced, I envisioned a section in which the groups would cover each other. I wanted to see how the girls could transform, if the crazy girls of Berryz could badass it up in Tokaikko Junjou, and if C-ute could let it go and be crazy and fun with something like Piriri to Yukou. When no such thing happened on a major scale, I was sad. Disappointed. I felt like an opportunity had been wasted.

But now I think that might’ve been a mistake. Imagine today’s BK singing and dancing to Kiss Me Aishiteru. They’re a versatile group, but their recent experiment with sexy has made it clear that their strength lies in their fun, out-there ability to sing about monkeys with conviction. And C-ute. They’re great at the kind of cool, strong dance tunes that they’ve been putting out. Momoiro Sparkling was cute, but seemed so tame and dull when compared to the fierceness that we’ve grown used to C-ute hurling at us. Experimentation is great, but some groups have a niche, and H!P seems most comfortable letting them stay within that niche.

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Compare this…

But when the groups go outside of that niche, and fail… isn’t that all part of their growth as artists? Even the most ear-rending performances are valuable in that way. Take Risako. A few years ago, 12-year old Rii performed Matsuura Aya’s famous ballad, Hajimete Kuchibiru wo Kasaneta Yoru. She sounded awful. Terrible. She looked confused, and nervous, and, frankly, like a 12-year old child singing a song far outside of her comprehension. Five years later, she again performed the song, and look at her progress. She made that song into something that she could tackle. Maybe her singing still isn’t Aya-level, but that’s not her strength as an Idol. We as fans would never have been able to truly appreciate Risako’s handling of the song in this latest concert if we had not seen her fail at it so miserably when she was young.

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…to this.

And then, Isilie takes on the factor that fans try and fail to scrutinize- The Tsunku factor. Why, we wonder, has his music lost its popularity? Why continue to give Aya boring ballads when her upbeat songs sold so well? How the heck is he picking his auditionees? And just how much control does he have?

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The simple explanation is to recognize the fact that the T-man is insane… locked-in-a-padded-room-muttering-and-chewing-toothpicks insane. But there’s got to be more to it than that. There has to be SOME thought process behind what Tsunku does. He is supposed to be a businessman, a producer, a mentor figure. He has to make choices that, at the very least, make money.So, why do his decisions so often seem mind-bogglingly stupid?

At least on the outside, he has all of the power in H!P. But more and more often lately we as fans have been questioning his control. We know that he does choose line-distribution. Sayumi (who seems to provide the most insight into the inner workings of H!P lately) has made that clear. And yet, if he does, then some of his other actions just do not add up. If he chooses line distribution, then why not give lines to the two members who were supposed to help H!P expand into the rest of Asia? Tsunku allegedly has the power to have give Jun and Lin lines in H!P songs- and for some reason, chose not to. From a purely business standpoint, that was not a good choice. No girl can magically become a top-earner without any sort of push. And yet it seems as though that was what he required of them.

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God, it was fun finding pictures for this part…

Why? We just don’t know his motives. Pressure from higher ups? Maybe. Racism? Doesn’t seem so- he had Jun and Lin over for noodles rather often (according to his hilarious blog). Crack? A popular theory, but not likely.

Now we see the same kind of silly business being repeated with the 9th generation. Tsunku has his clear favorite in Riho, but how can he expect the others to become anything in the public eye if he doesn’t give them a chance to sing? Of course singing doesn’t count for everything, but a quick solo line or two might be enough to catch the ear of a new fan. Tsunku has to know that- he isn’t dumb. But if he does know that, he doesn’t seem to care.

All of that would make Tsunku seem predictable, and frustratingly so. Of course Reina and Ai will have 75% of the solos in the next single. Of course he’s going to pick one boring, seemingly talentless girl at his next audition. And yes, that would render him dully predictable… if he weren’t so damn crazy at the same time. We see his craziness all of the time- having C-ute put out passionate love songs one minute and cutesy summer songs the next, occasionally throwing the less popular members of the groups a memorable solo line, and especially in whom he chooses to be H!P’s next generation. Who could have expected that Riho would be so creepily talented, Zukki would be so entertaining, Ikuta so easy to root for, and Mizuki so lovely? If you give him credit, Tsunku could have, and did.

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Seriously, LOOK at her! SO cute.

I’ve stopped stressing about Tsunku’s motives. I’ve come to accept them as part of what’s so fun about H!P. He is part of the unpredictable craziness that we love most about Hello! Project. We never know when he’ll graduate someone, what the next song will be like, or who his next favorite will be. We don’t know if he’s just a character, or a scapegoat, or a god-figure looming over all of the project. Sure, we can formulate a pretty good guess based on his seemingly predictable past actions, but there have been so many unexpected moments that it would be silly to write the T-man off as a one-trick pony.

My love for H!P is stronger than ever. Do the low sales lately get me down? Absolutely. Do I think that H!P is in a strange limbo, both trying to move forward in the face of competition and trying to relive its glory days? Yes indeed. Is it stagnating, as Isilie posits? Perhaps. But none of that is going to stop me from loving every single moment of it. Even when I’m sobbing my eyes out over a performance of Ame no Furanai, I’m enjoying myself. I’m glad that I’m a H!P fan, and that means that I’ll take the bad with the good.

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Where else would I find images that make me burst into tears and laugh happily at the same time?


Berryz Koubou at Sakura-con: The First Day- In which I develop selective blindness for everyone that isn’t Risako, and cry

May 11, 2011

So you may have been wondering where my nightly coverage of Sakura-con was. Well, on the first night of the convention, I sat down and began recounting the day, putting down every. Single. Minute. Detail. After writing 2,000 words on just the first half of the first day, I balked. I’m sure very few of you actually want to read about what I ate for breakfast before going to BK’s Q&A session (nothing, for the curious). So I left the post to sit, and have only today felt able to come back to it.

I’ve decided to change my tactics a bit and spare you all from reading through (or skipping over) my detailed fangirl gushing. I’ve scrapped the original version of my post and re-typed it. This version will be slimmed down and broken into more parts- Days 1-3 will focus ONLY on my interactions with Berryz Kouboou, with final wrap-up post to catch the important non-Berryz moments, including reflections on meeting other fans and Japanese wota. As an aside, I did not take many pictures during the conventions, so I won’t be including many in my posts. Hello! Sayunii has some of the best photos and videos collected conveniently, so if you haven’t already, please go there.

For now, here’s Day 1.

The First Day- In which I develop selective blindness for everyone that isn’t Risako, and cry 

Events: Opening ceremonies, Q&A, signing, guest reception

I went into my first day of Sakura-con without expectations. I wanted to see the girls, and that was all. All of my energy, my focus, was on that one thought: To see them at long last. I chose not to go to the opening ceremonies, so the first time I laid eyes on Berryz was at the Q&A. When they came out, the feeling was surreal. Risako was the first one out, and for a long moment she was all that I could see. Even as the other girls came out, I could only see Rii. She was simply stunning, in the most literal sense of the word. Everything about her seemed so solid, and yet my overall impression was that she was somehow doll-like, somehow delicate. The sight of her was overwhelming, and I immediately started to cry.*

Now if you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that Risako has almost always been my least favorite member of the group, though in recent months my opinion of her has improved. I think that it might have been good that I could only focus on Risako at first; because my feelings for her (at that point) weren’t particularly strong, seeing her was probably not as mind-obliterating as seeing the girls that I really adored might have been. Seeing Risako let me ease into the shock. Imagine if Saki had come out first- I probably would’ve hyperventilated in my chair!

The rest of the girls must have come out when Risako did, but I could only focus on them once they were all seated. For the remainder of the session I spent my time staring from one girl to the next. Momoko seemed reserved, possibly a little bit sick (she constantly sniffled and coughed). Miyabi and Chinami both had oodles of energy, and Maasa and Risako seemed spaced out. Saki, my dear favorite member, seemed nervous.

For me personally, the two best moments of the Q&A were being able to speak to the girls (the interpreter chose me as the first person to explain how I’d discovered BK!), and watching Saki misinterpret a fan’s question and do an impromptu bit of hip-hop dancing. So cool, and so adorable!

I was planning on attending the signing on the last day of the convention, so my next Berryz encounter occurred that evening at the guest reception. I was lucky enough to be standing not three feet from where Berryz were gathered, waiting to go onstage and introduce themselves. They all looked somewhat nervous (but SO beautiful, of course!), and Maasa still looked spaced out, so I called out to her, “Maasa, genki desu ka?” The look of confusion that crossed over her face was too funny, but she rallied quickly and gave a forceful “genki!” in response. The girls then went onstage, and I moved until I was once again near them. I was across from Risako and Miyabi, and both of them were so sweet and friendly, waving and smiling at everyone. I caught their eyes more then once, especially Risako,  who again looked gorgeous. The first time I met eyes with Miyabi, I was so touched: She was already smiling fit to break, but on catching the eyes of a fan, she managed to smile even harder, making sure I knew that she was smiling at me. That one little moment improved my impression of Miya a thousand times.

The BK bit of the guest reception was brief, but it was the closest I had come to the girls so far, and it brought me to tears once again.

The main take-away from the first day was the simple fact of the Berryz girls’ physical presence. Seeing the girls, whom I’d only ever seen before on tiny video screens, brought home the adoration-from-afar that I’d been cultivating for years up until that point. Seeing Risako walk out in real life during the Q&A session felt like the beginning of a personal paradigm shift. As the second and third days of the convention commenced, that shift became more and more evident.

*Let it be known that I cry easily, especially when I’m happy or overwhelmed. I just can’t stop the tears, and I have no desire to, either… which is lucky, because I ended up crying a lot of happy tears at Sakura-con!

Up Next: Day Two- In which I learn wotagei and cry some more


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.


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).


RR2!

March 7, 2009

The second installment of my Rankingu Revolution shall deal with the Berryz- my first and still favorite group of singing-dancing J-pop hamsters!

Last year’s thoughts

#7. Sugaya Risako

Former position: #7

Oooooooooooh C-ko, how I dislike thee! For all the standard reasons, of course; her hotter-than-thou persona, her refusal to sing like a civilized person, and her evident lack of effort when it comes to dancing.

Now, two of those three flaws also could apply to a certain Ishimura Maiha, adorable woodchuck Berry of my dreams (seriously, I love that girl), so what’s the difference, one wonders? Well, look at the difference in line distribution betwixt the two. See it? Good. Now go listen to Yume de Do Wop (Do up? Doo Wop? Uh… Nanchuu Koi wo Yatteru You Know’s b-side) and think about the Woodhchuck Berry, and sigh.

#6. Natsuyaki Miyabi

Former position (one wonders why I don’t say “former rank,” as this is a ranking…): #4

So at this point, rank doesn’t really matter any more. I love every single one of the non-Risako Berryz nearly equally. Where they rank just depends on how I’m feeling that day, or how they performed at the latest live.

So Miyabi gets ranked here, but there’s really very little change in how I feel about her from last year. She’s only getting more and more gorgeous, although lately I feel like she’s expressionless during live performances. I love her new haircut.

chinamilegs#5. Tokunaga Chinami

Former Position: #3

I could say that China and Momo are tied for their position, but that would be boring, wouldn’t it? I basically think that Chinami’s the hottest thing that’s ever walked around on two legs. Especially her two legs… She’s also nearly as funny as Momoko.

#4. Tsugunaga Momoko

Former Position: #5

I NAMED MY IPOD AFTER THIS MONKEYGIRL.

She’s entertaining and has the best singing ability (but not the best voice, that would be Miya) out of all of the Berryz. I absolutely adore her.

Also. What is with the Berryz looking like animals? Momoko is a strange monkeygirl, Miyabi is Seabiscuit, and Maiha was obviously descended from a long lineage of woodchucks. Kumai even has the word “bear” in her name! Hmm…

Idols genetically made to contain animal DNA…

It’s like a cross between Kirarin Revolution and Tokyo Mew Mew. OH GOD. THE SHOUJO. IT BURNS.

009#3. Kumai Yurina

Former Position: #2

After all this time, I still love Yurina. If I had to pick one Berryz member to meet, it would be Saki, and I’d fangirl all over her. But if I had to pick one Berryz member to call up when I was sad, it would be Yurina. Just looking at pictures of her calms me down, and watching her perform always has me sitting there with this stupid happy smile on my face. She exudes a sweet gentleness that always makes me glad to be around.

\

maasama#2. Sudou Maasa

Former Position: #1

Before I say anything; Maasa is getting her first photobook! Can I get a Hellz Yeah?! Whoever at UFA made that decision has my eternal love and respect. Then again, that same person might have had the idea to give Rii three (or was it four now?) photobooks before O CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN ever even got one, so… I revoke my respect.

I never download PBs- I’ve only done so on two occasions (That would be Kamei’s Maple and Yurina’s… whatever it’s called. Probably “Yurina” or something. First photobooks in H!P get the lamest titles), but I’m definitely going to find some way to download this one.

Maasa and Captain occasionally change places for first or second, depending on how I’m feeling that day. Maasa makes me laugh. I look at her, and I laugh. I can just feel that funny things are just around the corner. Maa has a strong personality, which is good when compared with such gentle creatures as as Kumai or Miyabi. She stands out. Plus she’s the only Berry who I think might be able to defend herself in a self-defense situation. Being the martial artist that I am, things like that matter to me.

captain-photo-by-chinami#1. ShimiSaki- O Kyaputen, my Kyaputen!

Former Position: #6

ShimiSaki can be so cool at times that I get as giddy as a middle schooler at a HSM concert. It’s like Return of the Yoshizawa Only Shorter and As Of Yet Not Blond. So on days when I want to fangirl my brains out, I look up Captain. She just has this amazing ability to draw one into the performance and keep you there, just like Yossy was always able to do.

The reason she’s come up so far in my Wota ranking is almost entirely the BK vs. C-ute concert. She did amazing things there.

All in all? I love the Berryz. It’s been five years since they came into the J-poposphere, and while they haven’t really made Musume-levlr strides om said microcosm, for this one fangirl, that doesn’t matter.

PS:

COMEBACKWOODCHUCK!