SUPER HAPPY GENKI HYPERFORCE GO!

kanna

Most H!P fans will know by now that Arihara Kanna, the only non-H!P-Kids member of °C-ute, is currently on a pretty big hiatus for… bunions.

Now, before this incident, I had only a very slight idea what bunions were or how they were treated, but now I’ve researched. (This is a pretty informative site.) Now… I question whether Kanna will really come back.

°C-ute is releasing another single soon… one without Kanna. They’ll tour… without Kanna. There will likely be no new Kanna merchandise, no Kanna looking lovely in the PV, or being spastic in the making-of… And, really? Maybe she’s better off this way.

Both Berryz and °C-ute started as 8-nin groups. I argue that Berryz got better after losing Maiha, but °C-ute got worse. They are the leftovers from when Berryz were culled from the H!P Kids, and though the original intention was for the girls to rotate in and out? Berryz were good enough like they were that Tsunku left them alone, and went about making the rest of the girls into °C-ute… but not without deciding that they’d be better off 8-strong. Kanna fit the bill, it seems, and her Egg cracked so she could become one of the big girls. We all know I love Kanna best of all the °C-ute girls, but maybe I just see what Tsunku saw… a girl who is grateful for anything she gets… an idol who shows the full spectrum of her personality from surly to sad to happy to Airi-loving…

But, this is not supposed to be a Kanna-love post, so let’s get back on topic.

Fact: in the idol business, you will be on your feet a lot.
Fact: in the idol business, you may be required to wear shoes that are not the best for your feet.
Fact: in the idol business, if you’re not there, you’re forgotten.

Yet, after bunion surgery, Kanna will need to be careful of how much time she spends on her feet, let along doing things like dancing and exercising. She’ll have shoe restrictions for the rest of her life. She’ll have lovely scars on her feet. She’s already the least popular member of the group, and not being there for a single *and* a tour? That’s practically a death sentence to her popularity.

So, Kanna will likely come back… but I expect the group to have closed off to her a bit in her absence, and while she may get some more fans from this, I’m sure that a lot of the ones who were only haphazardly fans of hers will move on to the girls who *are* there. I don’t expect her coming back to work well at all. In fact, I expect her to graduate from the group eventually (as in… relatively soon thereafter).

What I expect her to do after that, I don’t know. I’d like to see her as a soloist. She’s got the looks, and I think she’s a lot more charming than Matsuura Aya or Manoeri… and maybe if she’s not surrounded by other girls that she’s more than willing to let shine instead of her, some kind of competitive streak will form in her that will allow her to get out there and make a name for herself. I have faith that she can, though I know the soloist thing isn’t her choice to make.

I want the best for everyone involved here, and Kanna does not deserve to be the least loved of °C-ute. She deserves to be better-loved than Manoeri… especially since Kanna is cuter, and can actually sing. (This goes for Ayaya as well. Fake cute is not that cute!)

And to prove, in a way, that Kanna has the potential to grow to become a great soloist?

Here’s Kanna on Hello Pro Hour singing “I WISH”:

And here it is again a few years later at a solo FC event:

Note the marked difference? More confidence, more cute expressions (that are sometimes sexy), and her voice had improved drastically. Now? Go back and listen to “4 Akogare My Star” and notice how Kanna starts off several of the songs. That’s her in the title track as well as “SHINES”, and the only worthwhile lines in “Aishiteru Aishiteru” are her’s to command. Left to wallow in the Maimi/Airi show with only the occasional glimmer of her own limelight, I don’t see Kanna flourishing as an idol, despite the fact that she’s gotten prettier. Given time and space and H!P backing her as more than a glorified back-up singer/dancer… I can see Kanna doing wonderful things.

Yes, this jumped from “Hey, Kanna has bunions!” to “Kanna should be a soloist!”.



Deal.

I realized that I’ve never posted my personal rankings on here before… though you guys probably know my favorites from comments here and there, and least favorites from the hate I have been known to babble on about, but want to know how it all actually falls? Well, here we go. (Psst… I put my specially made ranking pictures after the explanations in order to save some surprises!)

MORNING MUSUME
1. Junjun – I really don’t know why I love her so much. She is not all that beautiful, really, but there’s something about her. From “Onna ni Sachi Are”, I knew she was my preferred panda, and each clip I’ve seen of her, and every note I can hear her sing, just brings her up another notch. She has this grating irritating throat voice she uses sometimes (like during certain points of Alo-Hello 3), and I’ve grown to love that too. She’s quirky, and not perfect, but she’s just so natural that I adore it.
2. Takahashi Ai – I’ve always been fond of people who can do just about anything, and Takitty is that in a nutshell. She is the overall package, and I think I find her more interesting for that than if she had a loud personality, as well. She’s satisfied being the talent of the group rather than the overall focus, and I’m okay with that too.
3. Kamei Eri – I like fanged girls in the first place, and I like idols with good thighs as well, and then you add in her bubbly, weird personality and awesome dancing abilities? If I liked her singing more, she’s probably top Takitty.
4. Michishige Sayumi – Imagine my surprise to see one of the most “untalented” girls rank up here, but Sayumi is intelligent, plus beautiful, and that’s sexy to me. I don’t care if she acts like a 7 year old studying physics. I LIKE that in a girl. And she is much-improved.
5. Kusumi Koharu – The other “untalented” one, right? No. Not quite. Koharu is a force to be reckoned with. She’s not a consistent singer in the slightest, and may not have a lot of vocal power, or dancing prowess, but when she really tries? It’s there. The miracle does happen.
6. Niigaki Risa – I am surprised I ranked Mame this high, actually. I don’t think she’s that pretty, or that talented, though I’ll give her genki. Still, her whole personality seems forced. Actually, I think she’s only here because of Cinderella. Risa’s man-voice is good, but once she gets into her upper register? It kills it for me.
7. Tanaka Reina – I used to love Reina. She was my end-all, be-all fantasy girl. But, then I got well-versed enough in H!P to realize that she’s such a one-trick pony. She’s got some talent there, it’s true, but it’s inconsistent. And with as long as she’s been around? She should know better.
8. Linlin – You guys all expected me to put her at the bottom, didn’t you? Well, she *is* close. But, I do sometimes think that Linlin is not that horrible… unless she’s singing. I really hate her voice. If it hadn’t been for the cooking portion of Alo-Hello 3, she’d probably be dead last.
9. Mitsui Aika – But Aika’s last instead! I don’t like her voice, I think she’s annoying, she’s too cutesy to be anything I actually want to look at… I could go on, but I just don’t care. If she wasn’t in a PV, I don’t think I’d notice at all.

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BERRYZ KOUBOU
1. Shimizu Saki – Okay, say what you guys will about Captain… but take the time to get to know her as an idol and you’ll probably love her, too. Yes, she does not photograph beautifully. She always has the cheesy poses and grins and all of that. But, watch her in videos. Watch making-ofs and DVD magazines and specials. She is fascinating. She blushes about being a leader, but she takes charge of it. She dances divinely with a more nuanced performance than anyone could expect from someone her age, and her singing isn’t the best, but is still serviceable and then some. She does amazing harmonies. And, oh yeah? She’s super-hot now.
2. Natsuyaki Miyabi – I’ve always been kind of fond of Miyabi, though much like Takitty, she’s up here for talent. Plus, her shyness that comes out now and again is adorable.
3. Tokunaga Chinami – To a point, I feel like I’ve hopped on the Chinami bandwagon… but I feel like I discovered her in different ways than a lot of her bandwagon fans. Because of everyone pointing her out suddenly, I took special notice of her while really getting into Berryz and watching PVs and making-ofs and specials, etc., and found that the hype was validated. Her voice isn’t great, but it is charming.
4. Sudou Maasa – Maasa is a force to be reckoned with, and I didn’t even realize how much until recently. Her vocals are kind of awesome. Her voice is similar to Saki’s, but smoother. Her lips are awesome. And, now we know she looks good in a bikini.
5. Kumai Yurina – I have no strong feelings about Yurina one way or another. She’s kind of water in the bottom of a pot to me. It’s there, it has the potential to be useful, but it’s not exciting in the slightest.
6. Sugaya Risako – Socko may be way down my list, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like her. I don’t think her fame is deserved, and most of what I have against her is her popularity versus her talent. She’s not that good, and often doesn’t even try that hard, so I wonder why she is consistently the front girl. She’s much-loved by fans, but that just seems to perpetuate a vicious cycle in which all of the other girls get shafted, except maybe Momoko and Miyabi, and they’re both in Buono! as well. Risako is getting there slowly with her talent, and I have faith in her, but her spot on this list comes mostly because of how I hate the fans who fawn over her every performance, especially the ones where she is quite horrible.
7. Tsugunaga Momoko – Momoko, I swear, is the bane of my ears’ existence. She squeaks, she shrieks, and she does so with a tone I would kill a piece of electronic equipment for making. In 5 years, she’s gotten a bit taller and filled out a tiny bit, and her voice has dropped a few notes and strengthened a bit… but she is otherwise exactly the same as she was. She’s been in the business longer than Reina, and has changed even less. Also, I don’t find her attractive. And her personality? I find it even less attractive. Yet, I wouldn’t have Berryz without her somehow.
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°C-UTE
1. Arihara Kanna – Kanna, of the currently-not-in-°C-ute-and-wasn’t-there-in-the-beginning-either is my favorite. She’s always last place in the H!P store sales rankings for some reason, despite the face that she’s beautiful. Yeah, the teeth on the right side of her mouth are shorter than the teeth on the left side, but it’s interesting looking. Kanna is also strange in that she is often photographed using un-idol-like behavior. Kanna can look downright surly! It’s hilarious! Plus, her love for Airi… her cute voice… I would love to see her do something I could stand to watch her in, since I don’t like °C-ute. You may ask then why I’m bothering to rank them. Well, I tried. Being an H!P fan, it’s hard to just avoid a group altogether… and I did try with °C-ute, a lot… so I have gotten to know the girls, though not as well as I know Berryz and Momusu. Continuing on!
2. Suzuki Airi – Airi’s voice does leave a little something to be desired… there’s a quality to it that is a little rough, but she’s still a good vocalist. She’s the domineering force in °C-ute, and the laid-back one in Buono!, and I love her for it. She is also praticularly attractive, though H!P tends to like to make her hair bigger than her head… which doesn’t work much for anyone.
3. Hagiwara Mai – Mai has the occasional bit of surly to her as well. Add in the attractiveness, and the fact that she’s a better vocalist than Risako “for her age” and add in the huge sunglasses that were her youth? Mai’s pretty cool, and really the last of the girls of °C-ute that I claim to like.
4. Umeda Erika – Erika is kind of like Yurina for me, only she’s not as attractive, and they like to give her hair like Airi’s with it being bigger than her head. I think she looks awkward and doesn’t sound all that great and is rather blah. Also, she has chipmunk teeth without the chipmunk face needed to pull it off.
5. Nakajima Saki – This Saki does not impress me much. I don’t like her look, her smile frankly makes me wet myself, though I can see that she does try hard. That gives her points, at least. She’s also a pretty decent dancer, though not nearly as good as better!Saki.
6. Okai Chisato – You all expected Chisato last, didn’t you? I give the girl enough grief, don’t I? But, Chisato has improved slightly. She is not an eyesore anymore, though I still can not stand her voice. Her tonal quality is wretched.
7. Yajima Maimi – When I originally wrote this out, I has Maimi at number 5, but as I started writing these little explanations, I realized… there is no excusing Maimi. She may be much-loved, and such a forever-front-girl, but she can’t sing, she dances awkwardly, and while her face can be attractive? It bothers me just how little she has in her bra. It’s as awkward-looking as her dancing. Her thighs may be the milk and honey of the gods, but I still think her voice sounds like she’s singing through a stoma.
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Now, to rank the current H!P groups/soloists.
1. Berryz Koubou
1.5. Morning Musume
3. Buono!
4. Kusumi Koharu
5. Shugo Chara Egg!
6. °C-ute
7. Mano Erina

My notation for Berryz and Momusu? It means that I’ve come to terms with the fact that I slightly prefer Berryz at the moment. They’re making better songs, and they’re being more consistent… and I like consistency. However, Morning Musume is still way up there… only very slightly behind, and they’ve got a lot more history, so they’re still number 1, just not as much. I know that’s lame, but they’re just that far in my heart. (That’s also lame, I know.)

Did I forget anyone? I figure Elder Club is technically gone at the end of the month, so I don’t need to rank them, and these are the only girls left in H!P other than the Eggs. (Though if I included them as a group, they’d be at number 6 instead.) Mano has potential, but her voice is kind of, um, bad. In a way, it’s worse than Koharu. At least Miss Crack-tastic always puts her all into it.

Just announced? Buono… of the Berryz and °C-ute Buono’s… will be appearing at the Stockholm Japan Expo coming up May 24th. Yes, that’s right… before Morning Musume hits up Anime Expo in Los Angeles for the 4th of July, and not too terribly long after HANGRY & ANGRY appear at Sakuracon in Washington state with Smile.dk and girugamesh in mid-April.

Suddenly, the girls of H!P (and associated acts) are winging their way around the world. Sure, Berryz went to Korea for an award not that long ago, and Momusu went to Taiwan, but H!P previously seemed to be pretty content just staying in Japan. But, it seems that somewhere along the way, someone in UFA realized that people from all across the world are willing to drop major bucks to watch underage girls prance around in ways that only safety pants save from indecency.

I don’t know what all of the girls think of this. I’m pretty sure Buono! thinks “Well, we do anime songs, so an anime convention kind of works,” even though Stockholm Japan Expo is also a musical artists smorgasbord or something. HANGRY & ANGRY had their mini-album released in America as well as Japan, so they probably understand too. Morning Musume is obviously kind of miffed, though. Ai and Reina have both commented publicly that they don’t think people will recognize them. Reina sounds much more excited about the potential for good shopping in LA. They have no idea that there are people in the US who care at all, except a handful of wacky gaijin who show up at their concerts in Japan.

Now, I live in the US. Only, I live on the other side of the country from LA. I’m in North Carolina. You can get further away, but not by a significant amount. I’m still trying to find a way to afford to go see my girls. (If anyone wants to finance my trip, I will attempt to make out with the Morning Musume member of your choice and film it. I’m completely serious here. If I hadn’t broken my ankle in November, I’d have money now, instead of debts. So, in order to go, I either need to clear all debts and then stockpile money, or someone needs to pay for me to drool for a few days in July. Living paycheck to paycheck does not give me the $500+ I’d need to comfortably book a flight, a hotel, buy the con badge, the concert ticket upgrade, the miscellaneous expenses, loathe though I am to think about it.)

What does this mean to the world of H!P fans, though? Well, obviously the ones who live where these groups are going are ecstatic. The ones a bit further away, but still within reasonable travelling distance? They’re still very much so excited. Those of us who are far away, but are finding it much easier to contemplate a trip across the country (where our language is still the common one) instead of across the world are still almost peeing our pants.

I mentioned in my 2008 in review post (or some post around that time) that Tsunku had said in his blog that he had plans for 2009 that involved a lot more promotion. And, here we go. We’re 3 months and change into the year and we have what is almost an H!P World Tour compared to the past years of never hopping a flight past the other Japanese islands except to go to Hawaii for the fan club tour.

Morning Musume may not get it yet, but American wota money spends just as well as Japanese wota money, and there are just as many people who could be willing to part with their dollars if they could get H!P items without ridiculous markup and shipping fees. The concert hall that Morning Musume will play in holds 7000 people. They are guests of honor at the convention, and while the ticket upgrade costs money, a ticket to the convention itself is enough to get you in the door, I believe. That means that the hall will likely be full. 7000 people is more than appear at a lot of Morning Musume concerts in Japan. Yet, the girls are confused about why they’re going to America.

Tsunku knows his audience here. Wota are not always so far removed from the otaku they derive their name from. There are those of us who are just fascinated with Japanese pop culture in all of its forms. There are a certain number of them who can rightfully be called weeaboo, but for me? My interest in Japan came primarily from a video I watched in my high school World Geography class about the cultural traditions of Japan. I watched about indigo dying, and sword making, and shamisen playing, etc. The whole while, I drooled over the gorgeous oufits (KIMONO!) and the classical music, and the shrines, and the language (The start of my love for subtitles!). Then, I did a play where I played a daimyo and we sang the classic Japanese folk song, Sakura at the end. I fell hard for the traditional stuff several years before I learned what anime was. Granted, I’d seen some Voltron and Speed Racer and all of that as a kid, but I just recognized it as some fun, old-fashioned cartooning. Yet, as soon as I started to get into Japanese pop culture, my interest ballooned. This is not to say that I lost my love of the traditional, though. After I’d read “Memoirs of a Geisha” a dozen times, I picked up “Geisha: A Life” (or, the true story behind Memoirs…) and fell in love with kimono and dance and even more traditional Japanese arts.

Yet, above all of that, I adore H!P. I love loving the things I love, and I love hating the things I hate, and I love being indifferent about the things I’m indifferent about. If people threw money my way, it would go toward H!P. I’d buy every single… even the ones I don’t like. Every photobook would be mine, even if just to pull out to show people what I mean when I say that Konno Asami’s super-square jaw used to really bother me, as did the shape of Yasuda Kei’s eyes.

I feel like I’ve gone wayyyyyy off-topic here, so I’ll put myself back on track. Tsunku made this decision. And, honestly, the man is gold. It’s seemed like he hasn’t cared for the past 2 years or so, but now he does again, and it’s showing. We’re getting strong singles, and we’re spreading the love and the wealth.

I’m very much so looking forward to this year to see what else is in store. Where else will H!P tour to? If these events do go well, then where will they go next year? I feel more excited as an H!P fan now than I ever have before because it finally feels like there are possibilities.

It’s March 3rd… the 5th Birthday of Berryz Koubou! On this date, Berryz released their first single.

“Dakishimete Dakishimete” makes the 6th annual Berryz Koubou single release to drop in March, so let’s figure out which is best? These are listed in order of release.

berryz_anata
1. Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai – The debut Berryz single!
(c/w BERRY FIELDS) In the PV, you are treated to more plaid than is probably healthy to witness, but it’s a great introduction for a group that has grabbed my heart quite a bit, especially considering I initially considered them rather untalented. And let’s not forget the girls in their other outfits… with the sideways caps on scooters, and playing on escalators, and just having fun. Both the main track and the c/w track have a lot of distortion to some of the vocals, and I think BERRY FIELDS is actually better sung. It was kind of the first Berryz theme song. A good handful of their songs have the word Berry or Berryz in the title. Overall, a fun single, and with pretty good distribution of lines, too.

berryz_gen
2. Special Generation – The one that got me into Berryz!
(c/w Koishiteru Toki wa Itsumo…) I saw this PV on Youtube(specifically, the dance shot) as I was watching through a bunch of Morning Musume videos. It came up as one of the videos to watch after everything else I watched, so I broke down and watched… and am now the Berryz fangirl you see before you. From the beginning, Captain was my favorite, despite her not having a lot of lines, or really many at all. But, she danced the heck out of this, and the song really grabbed me, too! It’s upbeat, not badly sung, and really shows the Berryz character. To be honest, I never noticed Maiha in this, except that she was the other girl in the white shirt, but I’m probably one of the few Berryz fans who thinks they’re better off without her. (I think it would have taken quite a bit for her to be able to grow into her face.) Then, there’s the c/w track. Berryz have a history (to me, at least), of having strong c/w tracks that wouldn’t really have appeal beyond the fans (excepting Furare Pattern, of course). This is one of those songs that really demonstrates that to me. This is a nice little ballad-y song with a decent amount of emotion in it. And, once again, good line distribution. Sure, the a-side doesn’t have it too much, but all of the girls at least get good shots in the PV. Overall, this is still one of my favorites.

berryz_jiriri
3. Jiriri Kiteru – The one that made me realize Berryz are HOT!
(c/w Toshoshitsu Taiki) This song is also one of my favorites. A lot of the music sounds almost classical, but with a big twist. The PV is also good. The dance is one of my favorites, and all of the girls are either doing so well in their running/crying scenes, or they look so hilarious that I can’t begrudge them their inability to act. The c/w doesn’t seem to fit with the a-side at all, but it’s still a nice song… though VERY similar in sound to Koishiteru Toki wa Itsumo… for me. There are the same kind of awkward sounding high notes that have become a Berryz charm point for me, a similar tempo, etc. Overall, again, one of my favorites.

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4. Very Beauty – The ballady thing that divides all Berryz fan between Risako lovers and haters!
(c/w Gaki Taishou) The PV for this really is gorgeous. The dance shot bits are a bit overdone (the outfits can be a bit much to take in comparison to the simple outfits for the close-up bits), but everyone looks good, and almost everyone sounds good. I do not like the chorus to Very Beauty because it always sounds like someone is off. But, I even like Risako’s solo lines. This has some of those high notes that are typically reserved for the c/w track, and they actually work rather well here. Then, comes the actual c/w track which is much more upbeat and not too dissimilar from Berryz first single, but with more of a focus on the girls’ voices which have already improved drastically. Overall, a pleasant change from their previous singles, but not too large of a departure as to seem truly out of place. Not a favorite for me, but still very strong.

berryz_dschinghis
5. Dschinghis Khan – The one that sticks in your head and got an official remix single!
(c/w DARLING I LOVE YOU [Berryz Koubou ver.]) If you count in the two remix PVs, there are an astounding 13 versions of the PV. The regular, the dance shot, the Mongolian dance shot, the close-up, the 7 solo close-ups, and the two kinds of dancing sheep… and I love each and every single one. I was familiar with the song this was based off of, and Berryz killed that version in so many ways, some probably in ways old Genghis Khan might have disapproved of.
The song is so upbeat and fun, and so are all of the PVs. Everyone is loving it, except maybe Miyabi, and she’s still faking it well enough. This is widely accepted as a good Berryz song, so I’ll talk about the c/w track now. °C-ute had their own version of this song on whatever their single du jour was at the time, but Berryz owns their version, too. So, it’s two different songs that demonstate that Berryz does it better. Overall, two thumbs, a sheep, and a keytar up.

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6. Dakishimete Dakishimete – The new one!
(c/w Sono Subete no Ai ni) Somehow, the c/w track has leaked for this already, possibly just so I can do a full single review and not just a PV review. Although, I think I’ve covered all of my thoughts on this song and PV already. It’s awesome, wow Maasa’s voice, almost even line distro, persons A through G are HOTTTTTTT doing this/that/the next thing. Then, the c/w? It’s bringing back the ballad-y song with the higher notes that Berryz has done for about half of these. Only, everyone sounds really good now. The harmonies sound absolutely awesome (Thanks, Captain!) and Risako has really learned how to take control of her voice. Granted, it still needs a bit of work, but she’s getting there. Overall, this single holds promise to be among my Berryz top three, and the a-side is definitely there.

What I find here… is that all of the March Berryz singles are good, and are among their best songs. I cannot pick a favorite. 4 of the 6 are among my personal favorites! Does H!P just try harder around the anniversary of Berryz’ debut? Maybe not… but maybe the girls do. Props to them because I am falling something seriously hardcore for this group. Also, it’s been 5 years… and Momoko has not changed in the slightest. She looks the same, and sounds pretty much the same, too. But, that may be why she (and Reina from Momusu) is so popular.

On a side note, congrats to Maasa for getting her first PB! I’ve seen a couple of the bikini shots, and damn, girl! That’ll definitely be worth a look, and I have hope that the other Berryz girls will finally get PBs this year. Chinami could have one of just her legs, and it would sell well, and Captain needs one desperately. She’s just gotten more and more photogenic over the years, and while she doesn’t take the best pictures all the time, I think if the right photographer was brought in, it would work.

Let’s talk about some Berryz, guys. More specifically, my newfound inability to not watch/listen to their new PV. I mean… I have to be at work at 6:30am this morning (this hour typically doesn’t even exist in my vocabulary) and I willingly got out of bed at 5am because I realized I could get in a few more viewings of said PV over my bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. I am THAT far gone.

I was once one of those girls who thought that MoMusu could do no wrong and that the H!P Kids were merely a pale imitation of everything the flagship was/is. Only, now? I think I’m equally into MoMusu and Berryz, with Berryz trying very hard to take the lead. (I will never be a °C-ute fangirl with the current incarnation of the group, though.)

So, anyway… because I’ve already watched this thing 20+ times, let’s review the new Berryz PV “Dakishimete Dakishimete”.

This is another grown-up song from Berryz which is not a bad thing because much though I loved “Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance”, it was a bit childish for a group of girls who are all beginning to grow and mature. “Madayade” was maybe a bit *too* old? The girls are not yet old enough to be OLs, so the portrayal was a little off. But this is an uptempo love song sung by girls who are obviously old enough to be feeling those feelings (Miyabi’s pseudo-scandal, anyone?) I had initially only heard concert rips of this song, and was trying very hard to get into the feeling, though I’ll admit that I couldn’t make out of a lot of the details over the cheering and all that, though I did go in and fiddle with the sound enough in Adobe Audition that I think I had a rather better idea of the song than most people who only listened to that.

Let’s discuss the song itself before we head into the PV. Berryz can be vocally strong, but they are not terribly there in this release. Risako’s voice is unsure or something and while she’s more technically good than I’d say she has been in a while (and her nasal-ness does kind of fit along with this song), I wish she hadn’t gotten the 4-line solo. As it is, every girl gets at least 2 solo lines. Up until 3 minutes in, the song is equal between all Berryz. Miyabi gets one extra line after Risako’s solo, and she handles it much better. She’s developed such a smooth-sounding voice, though, that she’s beginning to sound as out of place as Momo did when she could only squeak.

The song is techno-y, which I love, and has some really good blends and harmonies and such and if you just listen to it (without viewing the PV), you can practically feel it. The chorus parts are really high-energy, and while the solo lines are a lot more restrained, there’s still a power behind them. There are a lot of “Woo!”‘s in it, and some weird distorted bits thrown in before Risako’s solo, but I really like listening to this song. I’ve probably already listened another dozen times just writing this.

Now that I’ve written over 500 words without actually touching on the PV, let’s talk about the looks that the girls are sporting. Saki is wearing a leopard-print fedora that is actually sex itself, and yet Captain looks even hotter than the hat. This defies explanation, but suffice it to say that while Saki’s get-up is cool (the black-and-white striped shirt with jeweled skull image, the layered skirt over jeans [I think], the two colors of combat boots), it doesn’t exactly fit her all that well. There’s too much fabric to the shirt, and Saki moves with her shoulders back so far that is nearly looks like she has no chest and a lot of stomach. Her hair, though, with the asymetry and the blue-black streak? Wow, Saki. Want. Please?

Miyabi is in printed tights, a teal shirt with black print, a short skirt, boots and a black fedora. Her hair has a pinkish streak, it seems? It looks kind of awesome. Really. But, she kind of fades to the background a lot because there’s nothing particularly flashy about her outfit.

Massa is looking particularly wonderful, too. The outfit doesn’t do her much justice as it looks like one of Junjun’s grandma-approved potato-sacks. But, her hair is awesome (also asymetrical) under that grey fedora, and she looks a bit thinner than she’s been looking.

Chinami and Risako look like the stylist raided Momusu’s closet for their outfits. Risako has a red jacket a’la Nai Chau Kamo, only splatted with black paint to make a black zebra print, plus the black skirt, and the stylist yanked a few feathers off the old Onna ni Sachi Are costumes to stick in her hair when some of the black paint got on them. Chinami, though, got the white jacket, and her black skirt was put in some bleach first so it turned kind of brown. Her hair ornament came from the old Iroppoi Jirettai costumes. Both of them have hair that is up with pretty drastic bangs that look kind of awesome.

Momoko is the only one rockin’ the pink (or is that red?) with a babydoll dress, and I think she works it. She’s got a leather half-jacket, too. She doesn’t look as out of place as she could.

Yurina has the most boring hair of everyone. It doesn’t really work with her facial features or her outfit which has the whole matching scarf/jumper thing and a white floofy skirt she stole from Momo, though I do like her leggings. When it shows her back at all, it looks like she’s strangely proportioned because of a hood/the scarf on her back.

Most of the girls have on one fingerless glove, and all of them are wearing relatively punk jewelry. There are a lot of leather collars in that room!

I guess I still haven’t really talked about the video itself yet, have I? And this is almost 1000 words in!

The video starts off with a showing of disco balls and some vague shots of Miyabi and Momo’s heads, I think. Yay?

From the start, the girls are into the dance. Their moves explode. It is awesome. I can’t wait to see the dance shot for this just because everyone looks so on their game. Chinami at times seems to fall a bit behind, but then I just notice her legs more, so I’m not complaining.

Someone thought it would be fun to let Berryz man the DJ booth. Most of the girls do a pretty good job, though I was put off a bit by Risako leaning down to put the record needle on, as well as Saki rotating the record. Hilariously, if you watch, a lot of the motions done during this section happen with pinkies up.

There’s also the slightly overdone moments where the Berryz members are multiplied. Yes, give me Saki dancing in front of a colorful background, but just one is fine. Eight of her? That’s perhaps a bit of overkill. It looks odd compared to everything else.

The main dance-shot portion has a lot of colored lights. It’s obvious that some of them were actually running while they were shooting (not many though) and the rest were added in later. It still works for it though. I do kind of feel like I’m in a club as I’m watching.

Other bits are shot with the girls in front of speakers with their color of light shining on it, and there are also some partial group shots with the girls in more light in front of part of the background (the silver ribbons hanging down).

The dance itself has a lot of popping and locking and chest thrusting and even some Para-Para like moments. There are moments that nod back to Berryz singles past, too. Tell me you don’t notice a move that reminds you a lot of Special Generation? The girls are a pretty well-oiled machine by this point, though. They’ve been together for a while and are really starting to be able to dance as a cohesive unit. It’s awesome, and while it’s a relatively simple-looking dance? It’s one every girl looks good doing and is deceptively easy. Watch Saki to see how it looks taken up a notch. She’s not exactly doing what everyone else is, but she doesn’t look out of place. Saki’s dancing reminds me a lot of BoA in this video which is very high praise indeed.

Still, there are 2 moments that stand out beyond all others in this. At 1:35? Chinami’s skirt. That is hot stuff right there. But even better? At 3:38, Saki’s movements as she sings along to the little “Woo!”? I want to manage to make an icon of that moment (though I think I need to wait for a higher quality version of the PV) because it is so awesome and amazing and wonderful.

So… 50+ listens in now, probably (only watching the PV about half the times I’ve played it) and this is undoubtably in my top 3 Berryz favorites. I need more of this kind of stuff from these girls, and the sooner? The better. This PV is very much in line with the kind of stuff Momusu has been doing lately, only done better because it really fits the song.

One final word: LOVE.

I recently posted about Kago’s new line of “adult” photos that people have been harping about. I’ve been thinking about it more lately, though, and I’ve tried to figure out how Kago’s image changed so rapidly, and why. It’s one thing to say that she’s just doing it because H!P kept her in the same idol mold for too long, and quite another to display it in such a way that is is a believable conclusion. Then, I discovered what made the most sense to me about how she became like this:
kbed
Some of you may be anime fans. Maybe you’ve heard of Satoshi Kon? He’s directed a lot of great things: Paranoia Agent, Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, etc. But the first of them all… was Perfect Blue. It follows the story of Mima Kirigoe as she transitions from part of the idol group CHAM into an actress. Already sounding familiar?

Now, there are important differences to note between “Aibon”‘s life, and that of “Mimarin” in an animated feature. Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller, to start with. There are serial murders happening around Mima involving people key to the change in her image. In a way, she’s kind of going crazy as her life starts to drastically change. Last I checked, not so with Aibon.
trio
The thing that made me find the parallel here, though, is a certain scene. The two girls leftover in CHAM start anew and are backstage talking before an appearance. They reveal that Mima is about to do a photoshoot with a photographer who’s well-known for getting girls to take it all off. Mima does indeed do so, and doesn’t outwardly show any signs of disliking it. It isn’t until later that we see her disgust.
boobs1
Mima’s first dorama is actually something of a bit part in a drama as a dead character’s sister in a murder mystery drama, only her part evolves to something bigger as her manager promises that she’ll do just about anything, and that it doesn’t matter because she’s graduated from being a pop idol. This gives her a much larger part, but it culminates with a rape scene. Her second manager doesn’t think this is a good idea, but Mima agrees to go along with it anyway.scantily
The pertinent line that Mima screams as she’s tearing apart her small apartment and throwing herself on her bed is this: “Of course I didn’t want to do it! But I couldn’t trouble all the people who brought me this far!”
bikini
Is this what is happening with Kago? Someone (her manager?) brought up the idea of the photobook to her, but it’s someone who helped her get back to where she is now so that she felt she couldn’t say no? It makes sense. Kago does look uncomfortable in a lot of her new pics. I argued that she probably wouldn’t have done them if she hadn’t wanted to, but that doesn’t mean that it was her preference.
backstage
Kago is finally making a name for herself, post-H!P, post-scandal, post-childhood, etc. FRIDAY is even talking about her again, trying to claim she’s in some big illicit relationship again. Only, this time? Kago’s management is denying it, and Kago wouldn’t even be “in trouble” if it was true this time. She’s 20… old enough to be allowed to make her own decisions. We, as fans, can only hope she’s making the best ones she can. After what she’s been though and seen, though, I think she will. I have confidence that this Kago will be the Kago that people will truly love forever.
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There are several other lines from Perfect Blue that relate here, and one in particular comes to mind in light of this. Mima, in a scene that blurs between her role in the drama and her reality, says “I’m a pop idol! No… I’m an actress. That’s right… I’m an actress.”

Kago had no plans in the beginning to get back into singing. She was strictly going to be an actress. Now, she’s writing her own music that will start to drop in a few months (something I’m eagerly awaiting). She’s heading back to being an idol, but with a better head on her shoulders, and stronger hands to hold her up if she starts to fall. Yet, she’s not giving up acting in the slightest. It’s kind of wonderful, though to be true, I’m finding that while I like her acting, it doesn’t grab me like when she sings. I’ll keep watching though, because it’s still enough, or at least is for now.
actress
Kago has changed a lot since her debut way back when. I sometimes wonder if she looks in the mirror and fails to see that part of herself that was with her for her H!P years. To quote a last line from Mima… her first lines in her first drama were “Excuse me… who are you?”, and it’s a phrase that is repeated quite often throughout the movie. I wonder if getting back into singing is Kago’s way of reclaiming that part of her life she feels was taken away.

Regardless, I wish her luck, and look forward to seeing the future with Kago in it.

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°C-ute’s “4 Akogare MY STAR” is out now, and being both bored and a glutton for punishment, I, not a °C-ute fan by any means, will attempt to review it. I’ve listened to everything °C-ute has released before anyway because I *want* to like them… I just don’t. I’ll include my thoughts on the 3 singles included on here as well.

4 Akogare MY STAR

4 Akogare MY STAR

1. ★憧れ My STAR★ (akogare My STAR)
First impression: the initial music sounds too much like their voices. Do not like.

It sounds overdone, and there’s not much melody. I was expecting better because a lot of people had been saying after hearing the preview that this was the BEST °C-ute song EVER! Only, um, no. The only voices I can always pick out in °C-ute songs are Airi and Maimi, and the former sounds great here while the latter has her normal nasally voice that does not appeal to me at all. Oh, good. It’s over. >_<

2. One’s LIFE — 梅田えりか・岡井千聖・萩原舞 (Erika Umeda, Chisato Okai, Mai Hagiwara)
I cannot even begin to take this song seriously. The rapping, the squeaky voices, and weird harmonies. I like Mai, I tolerate Erika, and I make fun of Chisato looking like a leukemia-victim all the time. (I do not understand the appeal of Chisato at ALL, guys. She looks like she’s tan, but has gotten pale because she’s sick. Her hair looks like a wig. I cannot look at her without thinking she’s about to collapse, and do not even try to talk to me about being so mean. I have put pictures of Chisato side by side pictures of leukemia patients wearing wigs, and people have incorrectly chosen which one had leukemia by saying Chisato was the obvious choice.) Good. This one is over now, too.

3. Yes!all my family — 鈴木愛理 (Airi Suzuki)
I *do* like Airi. I liked Tsuugaku Vector, though it’s not one I listen to a lot. So, I’m expecting a lot from this. 30 seconds in, I already think it’ll be the highlight of the album, at the very least.

I get upset that Airi doesn’t get quite as much attention in Buono! as she should. She does have a good voice (a million times better than Momo’s, at least) so it’s nice that she’s getting these solo songs.

This song has a decent beat, and with the exception of the "Woah-oh!" that Airi does around the 3 minute mark, all of her lines sound really good to me. There’s something about the beat used for the song though, that isn’t so appealing, but Airi’s voice drowns most of it out.

4. 涙の色 (Namida no Iro)
This is the song everyone told me would make me love °C-ute, only it doesn’t. It sounds like a group of 10 year-olds doing a strangely arranged version of MoMusu’s Iroppoi Jirettai. It’s just not appealing to me. I’d rather listen to the LALALA song.

5. 愛してる 愛してる (Aishiteru Aishiteru) — 中島早貴・有原栞菜 (Saki Nakajima, Kanna Arihara)
Okay… I like Kanna. I like her voice. But, this song? NO.
Blech. I don’t even like this kind of song. It was bad enough in the 50’s in America, but screeched out not-so-well by one girl I like a lot (Kanna) and one I constantly make fun of (Nakki)… well, this is just painful. Some of the singing bits are not SO horrible, but every part that breaks the rhythm, and the kind-of talking bits? Ugh. Just, no. No, no, no. I had to keep checking to see if this song was almost over. It was not so soon enough. My eardrums will not forgive me until at least next week.

6. 青春ソング (Seishun Song) — 矢島舞美 (Maimi Yajima)
Again… I do not like Maimi’s voice, so I must really hate myself to put myself through this. *listens for a bit* Oh, hi, train wreck! I really hate the sound of Maimi’s voice leading the pack of "shouts". The rest just sounds like she’s singing from a stoma or something. Maimi may be hot, but I do not think she’s the "talent" in °C-ute that everyone says. She may even be the biggest reason I don’t like °C-ute’s music.

I like the beat to this song, just not as sung by this girl. Not over soon enough. Oh my gosh. I’m going ahead and deleting this one so I never have to hear it again.

7. Big dreams
This one sounds like a knock-off version of MoMusu’s "I WISH" at the beginning. Other than that, it is unremarkable. I think I zoned out during it because nothing changed. It’s just the same rhythm over and over again with the occasional call back to the beginning.

8. SHINES
What? Do they want to use this song for the next World Cup? The beginning reminds me tremendously of a soccer game. The group singing bits of this song actually sound pretty good. The solo/duet(?) lines don’t really seem to fit together or with this song. Still, for the most part, I’m kind of enjoying this song. I am AMAZED. The end is kind of weak, though.

9. 約束は特にしないわ (Yakusoku wa tokuni shinai wa)
Oh, that’s right. Have to have the ballad-y love song. Now, I like Airi’s voice, but when she comes in on this, she sounds off-key. I don’t think she is, but I don’t think her voice goes well with slower songs too well. Also, omg, Maimi. Shut up. Again, they sound kind of decent all singing together, but not so much on the solo lines. It’s official. °C-ute just needs to sing in unison on every line with the occasional Airi and Kanna solo lines and I’ll like them. Still, I think I felt every second of this song.

10. FOREVER LOVE
I do kind of like the chorus of this song, and I like the instrumental for the most part. I, like most people, do not think they belong in the same song. Airi sounds good, Maimi has less of the stoma-singing than normal, but I still can’t really bring myself to care.

11. 江戸の手毬唄II (Edo no Temari Uta II)
Ah, the handball song. Again, the unison parts are decent. The solo lines ruin it for me.

Favorite song: SHINES. This surprised me. A LOT. Yes!all my family gets honorable mention.
Least favorite: Seishun Song. Omg, Maimi. Please, graduate to only do gravure because I love to look at you, and hate to hear you. Aishiteru Aishiteru gets honorable mention.

Basic consensus on this album? Do Not Want. Call me when °C-ute does an entire song in unison and I’ll probably come along and enjoy, otherwise? Nah. I figure if I’ve listened to 4 albums and all of the singles so far and I still have less tracks than I can count on 1 hand that I find truly listenable, °C-ute just isn’t my group.

Bottom middle. Oh yeah.

Bottom middle. Oh yeah.

Just make Airi and Kanna into a GAM-like group (because they would totally make out on camera, I’m sure) and I will probably fall in love with them, but just how cute is °C-ute? Not enough to overpower my dislike of how they normally sound.

Edit: I should probably clarify the Chisato/leukemia comment. This is something of an inside joke between me and a few other people who were around as I was getting into H!P. For whatever reason, the first few times I saw °C-ute PVs or photos, it did look to me like Chisato was majorly sick. I thought it was amazing that she was in an H!P group, and that she performed even as well as she did (which isn’t to say that I thought she was good, though) when she looked like she was going to keel over any second. I thought this *just* from her looks. There is something about her that in my mind likened her to someone with leukemia, and I’ve seen enough people her age with it to know. When I found out that I was wayyyy wrong, imagine my chagrin. But, I do feel the need to make fun of it.