So this is really it? Berryz is gone? That is such a strange feeling. I don’t actually think I’m ready for it. Those H!P kids have always been strange for me. When I started in this fandom, I didn’t really get, nor did I agree with, the idea that an idol could be a girl as young as nine or ten. It worried me that these girls were asked to be professionals when they were just children. (gif from Boom! Berryz Koubou)
Japan is a different place though. Now that I’m much more familiar with the culture, I have a better understanding of why this is acceptable. I still find myself feeling protective of younger idols, especially the ones that become “the ace” and suddenly have to be the face of their group. These particular tiny children decided after a decade that they were ready to move on and now we have to face it.
I am facing it with a list. Of my top eleven singles (because ten wasn’t enough and I’ve watched Nostalgia Critic too much). I’m sorry I can’t give them a more heartfelt send-off. I will do my best with my modest fandom.
Musically, I was never really interested in Berryz until Konno Asami’s graduation concert (2006 Wonderful Hearts) in which three songs basically pwn-ed my socks off and I’d had no idea they belonged to those kids.
One: Special Generation, performed mainly by Yossy and Ishikawa. One guess why I loved it so much. I don’t think I’d really heard what is arguably Berryz most popular single before that and it was so dramatic. When I went back and watched the pv, I kept giggling because they all looked so tiny, but their voices weren’t too bad; very high and very young, but not as terrible as I’d expected. Miyabi’s “woa, woa, yeah”s are the best part of that song (and how Risako sounds like she’s singing with one nostril closed).
Two: Waracchou yo Boyfriend, performed by Berryz minus Miyabi (she wasn’t at that concert for some reason). This is just a very charming and very catchy song. I didn’t mind it and then I found myself humming along to it. I still do. It’s not on the list, but it’s definitely an honourable mention.
Three: Piriri to Yukou, performed with Momusu in a medley with their song Sukiyaki. This is another case of Tsunku acknowledging that he copies himself. Splicing these two weird songs together was seamless. I adore this performance because every girl on the stage is so into it and because both songs are so damn addictive. Piriri is cute and genki, but the youthfulness of it really made me smile. For once, I wasn’t laughing at them being tiny little munchkins, but laughing in appreciation.
Then they fell off my radar until the funky, the hilarious…
This was the first Berryz song that I loved from the minute I heard it. I know I really love a song when I constantly sing along to it, but also put it on my mp3 player and rock out to it. I loved the silly pv, with the silly fist-pumping dance and the “foreigner” bosses attempting a story-line. The girls were just the right amount of weird and cute. I was intrigued.
10) Special Generation
You have to include this one. It’s a rule. Tell me it isn’t their most popular song: I won’t believe you.
If not their most popular, then maybe their most iconic song. This is the song they absolutely must perform in every concert. It’s like the Berryz bait song: they hook you with this one and then you must keep listening.
In my case, it was really more Yossy’s fault, but the original non-Yossy version was still so awesome that I had to include it. Just cause it’s not higher, doesn’t mean I don’t love it.
Su Pe Shall. GENERATION. OY!!
Oh, Rival. It brings back so many memories. I watched the pv one day, on a whim, and from then on I was hooked. I sang this song so often, found myself humming it so often, that it still surprises me. I think that’s why I love it. It’s not something I’d put on my mp3 player, really, but it’s become dear to me because singing it really cheers me up. It’s just a catchy, bright song and the girls sound wonderful.
The pv is very Berryz: kinda weird and childish, but it works because the girls are just weird and cute enough to pull it off.
8) Munasawagi Scarlet
Another dance-shot I am shamelessly hooked on. I am still angered that 480 is the best they could give us on youtube, but at least it’s there.
This pv is too bright, the hair is unfortunate and the costumes look more orange than anything else, but the song is just irresistible. It’s catchy and everyone who gets a line sounds perfect. Again, very young, but it just works.
I can’t stop watching this dance. I don’t even know what they’re doing, but the dramatic parts look fabulous and during the beat-box-y middle those hand motions are lookin’ pretty damn sharp.
This is Berryz when they were still dancing with every fibre of their little beings. They sing with a hint of desperation, a sincerity that made these early songs work so well for them. I think this is what we wanted from Berryz all along: be dramatic and a bit more grown-up, but keep being your strange little selves (I know I keep saying ‘little’ this and ‘little’ that, but they are TINY in these earlier ones).
7) Otakebi Boy WAO!
This was the first double-a side that made me do a full-on pic-spam for Berryz (shameless plug). This song still gets me pumped up and it began what I thought of as Berryz “rock” stage. It’s not that this is a rock song exactly, but the singles that followed this one all seemed to lean towards rock rather than just pop. This song is a strange, aggressive, insane mess that just pwns.
The dance is ridiculous, but Berryz have been doing these weird dances for ages. It doesn’t phase them at all.
Which leads us to another strange one…
6) Watashi no Mirai no Danna-sama
The whispers, the saluting, the feathers….what’s not to love? The setting is confusing: the empty classroom, the tv screen and that feather room with the dentist chair…just, wut? Wouldn’t it have made more sense if they were mannequins in a wedding boutique that suddenly came to life and started dancing around and fawning over pictures of grooms-
Ahem. Not that I’ve envisioned a pv like that or anything…although it would have been epic…
This is another one that I both sing along with and listen to a lot. Miyabi’s last little “choudai” might be the best part of it, but there isn’t much about the song I dislike. The verses are what capture me the most. I like the whispery vocals and the echoes.
5) Cha-Cha Sing
Flash mob version!! I wish that this was my life, because that dance looks like such a blast.
I know it’s a remake of another song and it’s not a Tsunku original. I know it didn’t do that well (wait, did it?). I don’t care. This song made me, and continues to make me, SO happy.
Catchy is not a strong enough word for it. I remember feeling so relieved at this song because it felt like Berryz was back. They were having fun again and maybe they weren’t being as weird as before, but still full of life.
Plus they all sound awesome. Momoko manages not to scare me and she got pretty damn scary in the last couple years. Risako is being a miserable fish, but hey, even she can’t ruin it for me. Oatbag = pwn!
Besides Diamond-Sucker redeems herself when I watch this one:
4) Heroine ni Narou ka
I love this song. It’s Berryz proving once again that they could handle dramatic, cool songs as well as they could handle the genki stuff. The “lady gaga” moments (when they put on silver wigs and pasted jewels on their faces), while interesting, didn’t really grab me as much as that choreography.
I love that the dance-shot is so full of shadows. It isn’t frustrating (think Osaka Koi no Uta by Momusu – you can’t even tell who is who or what is going on), it just makes the pv better, atmospheric. Everyone looks gorgeous.
And as I mentioned, Risako pwns that dance. That final punch is perfect. Isilie is a sucker for hair-flippy moments.
3) Dakishimete, Dakishimete
I still remember posting about this one (shameless plug 2!) and feeling strange that I liked this song so much. I had never really thought Berryz could do something “cool” without it being the strange dramatic stuff like Jiriri Kiteru or Special Generation. This was teenage Berryz, dancing their arses off and being downright shmexy about it. I give you the dance-shot because (as you are probably sick of reading) I love choreography.
Risako didn’t impress me much here, but I still love the song. What she lacks, Oatbag more than makes up. Love, love, love those fishnets.
2) Ai wa Itsumo Kimi no Naka ni Hikaru
I know this is a very recent song. Maybe that makes it not count for you. Lists like these are usually about nostalgia. Well, my Berryz fandom has never been strong enough to warrant a lot of nostalgia. I looked back into their discography and these were the ones I loved most, that have stuck with me strongly enough that I’ll listen to them forever. I’m sorry, but there aren’t that many. This song was released just last year, but it’s one of those singles.
What can I say about it that I haven’t already said? Aggressive-Berryz was rare because they were always about youth and weirdness and sunshine (I can only comment on their singles, not the album fare). The other a-side in this single is their song about being an idol for ten years and it’s a bittersweet reflection song. This one just seems to want to hammer a message into your head.
“That devil inside you whispers it would be easy to blame others/…are you going to forget your frustration?/…come on, smile and THROW DOWN THE GAUNTLET!” (paraphrased from here). In the past two years, the group seemed less and less happy with each release, despite trying their best; this song feels like a vent for all that pent up frustration. There is something cathartic about it.
Mainly though, it just kicks ass. Thank you, Berryz for finally figuring out how to do the adult-thing without being awkward.
And finally, my absolute favourite Berryz single. This wasn’t actually that hard to decide. I made a list of all the singles I truly loved and I knew this one was number one.
1) Tomodachi wa Tomodachi Nanda
And yes. It’s the dance-shot. Because this dance is perfect without exception.
This song is Berryz. Whenever I hear it, it makes me smile; whenever I sing it, I will cheer up or tear up. I’ve sang along to this one even more than Rival. It got its own mega-pic-spam (shameless plug 3!) even though I barely knew their names. The girls look wonderful, sound wonderful and best of all, we still have Maasa’s super-mega-happy-awesome-smile that she just doesn’t seem to want to make any more.
This song is how I will remember Berryz: Momo wasn’t an annoying kitty-monster, married to her pig-tails; Risako was miserable in a funny way; Maasa was super-hardcore-happy; Chinami and Yurina were balls of genki wrapped in sunshine; Captain shone, delighted even in the background and Oatbag delivered her every line like a pro. This song will probably make me a bit sad now, but it will always be my favourite.
Berryz thank you for a decade of hard work, for giving up so much to give your fans so much. Sorry about giving you unflattering nicknames like Oatbag, Diamond-Sucker, etc. It’s all in the name of fun, ne?
We’ll miss you.
Go forth and lead these new H!P kids!
THROW DOWN THAT GAUNTLET!
(PS: I apologize for any editing mistakes. I’ve had to repost this several times. You have no idea how much WordPress didn’t want me to publish this thing. Wow.)