End of an era

So Berryz has gone on an ‘indefinite hiatus’. And I’m in an introspective and honest mood. So here is my last official blog post before I leave the idol fandom.

This was the first video that got me hooked on the idol fandom: Koi no Jubaku, or Love’s Spell.

Something about the intense seriousness of the girls, their close age to mine, the slightly punk/goth get-ups, and the screaming crowds just grabbed me and didn’t let go for a good long time.

I’m not sure if I will ever entirely wake up from this spell that Berryz cast over me long ago. I can’t say I even followed Berryz over the years, so this post’s timing is entirely coincidental. But this is goodbye, and it’s been building for a while now.

Why am I quitting?

I don’t entirely know. I could give a lot of reasons but none of them really ring true – I’ve grown up, I don’t feel as idealistic anymore (though I still appreciate idols and the positivity that they stand for), I don’t have as much time as I used to (I do, I just have other hobbies now…), I feel like I don’t know any of the girls anymore (I could get to know them…), I’m no longer the same age so it doesn’t feel the same, but mostly I just haven’t paid attention to idols for the past year at all and I don’t miss it much at all. I think now is a good time to say goodbye before I feel so distant as to not say anything at all.

But why did I get into idols in the first place? Because they inspired me, because I admired these pretty, talented and hardworking girls, because the live concert atmosphere was intoxicating even from a computer screen, and because I was basically the same age as these girls.

I had no close female friends for a long time, and idols, in some way, helped me grow up and keep in touch with my feminine side as I went through a maths-intensive high school (aka: almost all boys), suffered through an engineering program in university (aka: almost all boys again), and finally learning to have the courage to quit and pursue different passions.

Idols helped me realize, in a highly competitive and perfectionist university environment, that even kind of sucking at what you do was perfectly alright and admirable as long as you worked really, really hard, because working hard and working a lot will eventually produce results. (At the very least, it’s better than nothing.) Idols helped me become a more positive person, and to not take things too seriously. Idols helped me realize that it’s not a competition between women–that for every girl out there, or close to it, there will be somebody who can be her die-hard fan, even if she doesn’t have mass appeal. That you don’t have to be at the absolute top to be appreciated. But a bit of healthy competition and working hard never hurt, either. That it’s OK to put effort into your appearance, that even amazingly attractive people do, and that it’s OK to feel insecure and tired and still want to achieve a lot.

So here are a bunch of my favourite idol performances and pictures, in no particular order and the reasons why:

Chisato’s solo event and solo show, because she is so talented, and finally got the recognition after working hard to promote herself. I learned from her that self-promotion is a fine thing. (And that equipment malfunctions happen even to pros!)

Queens of H!P – when you get a couple of top performers together, with an awesome song and fantastic attitude you’d get something amazing.

I just love their singing, and the song is so emotional. I love how emotional idol music is. And I love how over-the-top Tsunku’s lyrics are, sometimes.

I love when H!P does power rock, I love how C-ute has evolved as a unit over the years to be this lean, performing machine, and I love how fierce the girls in this are. Imo their best single ever.

What kind of weird intro is that anyway? Does anyone still remember Melon Kinenbi? I just thought it was cool that these older girls were kicking around being idols…

In retrospect, they weren’t very old at all.

Remember when Matsuura Aya was popular for all of like two or three years? And how amazingly gorgeous and talented she was? I must have fallen in love to this song I don’t even know how many times. It’s so fresh and innocent and full of hope.

And now for some photos, because I too, like idols because they’re pretty.

Kusumi Koharu, Photobook, -97108

Koharu was so pretty.

Photobook, Maeda Yuuka, -177048

Yuuka wore it better.

Michishige Sayumi, Photobook-510902

And Sayumi is the prettiest.

The end.

Thank you all for the support over the years, and for coming along with me in my journey as I’ve tried to figure out my idol fandom. It’s been a great one.

Much love,

Verilian

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Shaba Daba Do~/The Penultimate Goodbye Post

First off, this song is extremely cute and catchy, though it’s been out for two months now and only has half a million views (MM, what happened??)

I love the lyrics – from the sly wink to Sayu’s (of course) non-existent first love to her ‘non-existent’ singing skills, to her fear of aging–this just reminds me of Sayu at her finest: all meta, understanding of what it takes to be an idol, and delivering strongly as one.

This is why I love Sayu: she works so hard, and takes herself as an idol so seriously….just so things can remain light and fun, always. She might not have the best singing or dance moves, but she’s got the right attitude (or at least eventually stumbled upon it), and that’s taken her far.

Originally I had planned a deep, introspective post about saying goodbye to girlhood and the power of idols/”just being a girl” and how they inspire us to keep things light and fun in our every day lives, but I somehow I don’t think it’s so necessary. Or even expandable.

But just watch Sayu dancing her way out: light, meta, and beautiful. She’s said it all. In some ways she’s got the ultimate idol story – from underdog background vocalists who only gets ‘ah’s to being the centre of the group through more than ten long years of hard work – Sayu’s made it, is making it, is it. From being insecure and only focused on herself to actively trying to push the other members , established as an idol, and the leader – this was Sayu’s journey, and I hope this will be for the other members.

So basically I came back to say goodbye. This isn’t goodbye yet, and I’m not sure I’ll ever really leave fandom, but this is the beginning of the end for this blog. Thank you all for paying attention to this blog, and stay tuned for the ultimate goodbye before “indefinite hiatus” of this blog, featuring Berryz. ;)

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SASHIHARA #1!

YES! I am so happy.

I think lot of people didn’t seem to see this one coming, or felt like Yuko or Mayu ‘deserved’ it more…because they ranked better last year, and it wasn’t Sashihara’s ‘turn’. The girl who couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance, and wasn’t cute, voted #1 for AKB48 senbatsu – and why not? She’s the media darling of the collective, never mind actually being able to somewhat sing, dance, and kind of does look pretty cute. Yes, Yuko and Mayu work hard, but the election (thankfully) isn’t something that you slowly get pushed into #1 for by management, or something you can only win by seniority, or else it’d be utterly predictable. I feel like this is the first election where I’ve been really invested in, especially when Sashihara was announced #1 for the preliminaries. 

I’m just so happy for her. I’m so happy with this result, and I really do think that the next election single is going to be really interesting because it’s going to be Sashihara-centred. I think it’s going to be interesting what they’ll do to highlight her character (hopefully) — and maybe make the girls more approachable as a collective, instead of producing an overly slick, block-buster production, because AKB is supposed to be the collective you can meet.  I just love how the fact that working hard, being approachable (being honestly, genuinely unpolished and self-effacing), and being really positive about her own industry and supporting others really won over fans for Sashi, no matter what she did long, long ago. 

I’m just so happy and hyped, and really looking forward to something from AKB48 for once. AND CONGRATS TO SASHIHARA! For me, she totally deserved it.

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Fantasies of girlhood

A while ago, along with purchasing the last MM music CD, I also bought Suzuki Airi’s Perfect Book. It was oddly compelling book for me, for some strange reason, and I often flip through it when it’s too late for a cup of tea, just enjoying the pictures of Airi going through her ‘regular’ life. And it got me really thinking of why I follow idols, as a female fan.

I don’t claim to speak for all women, but I seriously think it’s a little bit of a fantasy-fulfillment thing. I used to sing and dance as a child. I  sang decently well, though I was never passionate enough to do anything with it. I think a lot of why I follow female idols, is because for me, in some way they’re kind of acting out a girlhood dream of mine – following my passions with my meagre talents, and having legions of people shouting in support while I’m at it. Always wearing cute outfits, being unfailingly polite and well-mannered, and looking approachable yet perfect. Having every small moment photographed and noticed. Accomplishing great things based on my ordinary abilities. Having photobooks done of my surprisingly ordinary yet amazingly photogenic life. And of course, being surrounded by other equally-talented, hardworking, and good-looking girls who are (at least to all appearances) supportive of your endeavours, loving, and there with you doing the same thing.

In short, being a girl, in a way a Perfect Girl, and being celebrated for it. I think it hit me doubly hard because I tested well for maths and physics at an early age, and was shipped off to a focused high school where there was literally something like 6-7 boys for every 3 girls. It wasn’t bad – it was just more culturally ‘male’ than female. Idols helped give me a sort of escape from that environment, and I used dreamed of a place where I could have been ‘just a girl’, like being an idol, being supported and celebrated for it.

But it really is a fantasy. Having had some skill at music and singing before, I know just how much gruelling practice and sweat goes into just maintaining these skills to be at a level where someone can even begin to appreciate them, much less as a professional. I’m sure the girls have decent relationships, but I am also sure there are a lot of competitive tensions between them. I’ve been in exclusive choirs, and I can only imagine that’s what it’s kind of like at times. While the support of the wota is great, there are many untold lonely hours of hard work that goes into those few hours of cheers. And the constant scrutiny of your physical appearance and the need to look good, the  sore feet from wearing high heels to dance, the restrictive dating rules, the constant need to watch your diet while pretending that you are laughing it up eating cakes, parfaits and candies…

And still, despite all this, the image of an idol is a girl becoming a woman, in a very fantastic way, and it’s compelling, even when I know about it. Nobody in real life lives that life, not even idols, but somehow I still cherish it. Even though the girls are not living lives like that, they are trying and striving, and in some ways, that’s gotta be enough.

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I think Tsunku’s really got it now.

Okay, I’m supposed to be on hiatus, but I’m going to make this real fast, so enjoy the unedited goodness! In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s “Kimi sae ireba nani mo irenai”, the other A-side to “Brainstorming” for Morning Musume’s 53rd single.


Some people hate the techno sound, some people like it. I kind of hate only the first minute of the song and start liking it once you get to the girls’ solos. I think it’s really only because I can understand “two thousand people on the dance floor”, but I think in this case making it in English was smart, because if it was in Japanese then the Japanese fans would have to hear it. It’s distracting.

Sometimes I think I like Japanese idols just because I really have no idea what is going on a lot of the times.

Anyway!

To my main point: I think Tsunku’s really got it. I think starting with “Maji Desu Ka Ska”, he was experimenting around with a look and sound for the new Morning Musume, and he’s finally found it. It works well with their front girls – the look and sound is cool, kind of funky, and confident. It’s also kind of classically Morning Musume because in some ways that was what the original image was, and I really do think Tsunku’s only arrived at this look after watching the girls grow and gel. I think it’s telling he never added Karin, because she just doesn’t fit in with this group of girls – who I’d say are pulling the cool/funky/fierce look off remarkably well.

(Oh gosh, Eripon looks so cool in this.)

Sometimes, I look at girls like Tashima Meru (10th gen finalist, apparent new ace of HKT48 and all-round cutie), and think of the song ‘The One That Got Away’ by Katy Perry. But then I think Tsunku really does pick girls based on how well they’d fit into the brand, and Morning Musume isn’t about the conventionally cute and sweet girls. Even the cute and sweet ones all have poison tongues. It’s all about…sharpness and coolness, which I feel has really been honed in these last few singles, and especially with the addition of Sakura, whose defining characteristics are probably her coolness and confidence.

Once Reina leaves I feel like this is a comfortable image for the current girls to be pulling off, because it feels like this is an image that fits them, the current girls, most especially. This isn’t a straight-up rehash of the old eras, this is individualistic and different but yet isn’t too far from the mainstream to be incomprehensible to current tastes. The personalities of tenth gen especially bring it out, which is kind of brilliant of Tsunku – that image of brightness, freedom, passion, quirkiness, and coolness which is Tsunku at his best.

And yeah, I don’t really like this song, but it’s OK. I like the image.

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Okay, I admit, I’m really, honestly, truly a fan now.

When I first saw this video, my jaw just dropped. I think I might’ve squeed. I might’ve thought this like ‘holy crap’, ‘awesome’, ‘epic’, ‘oh my god I have to buy the next single, like I bought the last single, and I might have to buy every one after this, and not just on itunes but an actual physical release because daaaaaaamn Tsunku’.

I just…like this. I like this better than anything Reborn Musume has done, because I feel like it’s all come together now.

It’s like Tsunku finally got hang of the new music style he’s working, while keeping true to his own Tsunku fashion. I feel like the group has finally come together, and all of the girls look comfortable (even if Sakura only barely looks comfortable, with the dance).

Riho looks amazing in this. I actually want to see more Riho. I think she’s finally blossomed, came out of her shell, grew into her features, found the right hairstyle (so straight and shiny *0*), etc. I don’t like her singing very much – I don’t think I ever will. I’m not fond of the sound of her voice, nor Ayumi’s actually, but her dancing is like…whoa. And her stage presence is amazing. And she just looks really good in this, really owning her fierce and mature aura now that she’s grown up a little bit.

I actually think Reina sounds the best in this song, and I’ll kind of miss her. She added her own brand of disaffected girly yankee consistently to Morning Musume, and nobody could replace that. Yeah, she winked a bit too much over the years, and hasn’t changed the way she sang since…2003, but she started strong, and was always a consistently solid idol member, I feel.

I love Masaki’s voice in this. I love Sakura’s voice, but I’m not sure her epic diva voice actually fits in here. But it is an epic voice.

I must’ve watched the MV on loop at least ten times last night, and I feel completely blown away, and kind of feel like I can’t stop the verbal gushing. I’m not sure I like this, because I rather liked being a detached-fan-observer, and I haven’t felt like this since Ayaya had active single releases, but it’s not a bad thing, I think.

The only thing I don’t like about it is that during their dance, when they form the “m”/phoenix, their hand movements are seeeriously lame. Like, flapping hands? Is that supposed to represent feathers or something? I am not buying it.

But other than that, I’m just amazed. I’m also amazed that MM’s been able to build up this momentum in the last four singles, and keep it going–I still remember the long stretch of years when it felt like H!P could never get anything right again, ever. It’s good to see that they can get away from that.

I think the girls are going to be all right when Reina leaves–the reduced presence of Reina in this single gives us a bit of a taste of the future, and it’s going to be OK. I’m actually going to miss Reina’s presence a lot, despite the fact that I’ve never paid her much attention over the years. She kind of grew on me as a solid presence in the group though, and it’ll be odd without her for a while. But I’m sure the other girls will hold up fine.

On an ending note, I’m going on a month-long hiatus from idoldom to focus on work and school. Hopefully, in-between, Reina would announce her solo/group single release, in/not in conjunction with this one; a final cut of this MV will come out; previews of C-ute’s new single will come out and be amazing; and HTK48 will shoot to the top of the charts with Tashima Meru and Sashihara Rino at the helm. Juicy Juicy Juice=Juice will show off how talented they are, Kanazawa Tomoko will wow everyone with her talent and photogenic-ness, and Miyazaki Yuka will show everyone that her sweet demeanour and personableness makes her the underrated star of the new group. And Berryz and S/mileage will do…release their singles and maybe do well.

…phew. Those were some long sentences. Anyway, thank you dear readers for having stuck around, and see you guys in a month!

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“Juice juice”? I don’t even — … !!!

I can’t stop laughing when the girls say “juice juice”. I can’t explain it.

I like how the girls are repeating “juice juice” like it’d reveal the secrets of the universe to them. It’s…hehehehehehe. Sorry. Ahem.

I’m sure it sounds a lot cooler in Japanese – actually I’ve half mind to beg all of you just to call them “juusu-juusu”, but I just…I can’t. I don’t know. It’s just so ridiculous. Can we just call them J=J for short? “Jay equals jay”. It almost sounds kind of cool, maybe even R&Bish.

I know idol band names usually aren’t all that amazing (I mean, seriously, AKB48? SCANDAL? Hime Kyun Fruit Can?) but this one just breaks my brain. Juice juice. It brings me back to being three, or talking to three-year old kids, trying to coax them into drinking. “Juice juice time!” “Here is juice juice!” “Here juice juice juice juice…!”

I think I’m going to settle on J=J. If I hear one more ‘juice’ I think I’m going to burst out laughing again. *cry*

I do like the member fruits idea, and I’m kind of hoping they throw in a blue before debut, but otherwise I think I’m looking forward to this group’s debut. And it’s funny, but I find that the girls always seem to jump up in the looks department right before a debut.

Back on topic, does anyone else have a good idea for a nickname for this group?

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