Rooting for Berryz

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

As always, Idolizing St. Anna’s got news worth talking about. Berryz Koubo’s new single, “21 ji made no Cinderella,” debuted on the daily Oricon charts at an impressive #5. I was going to write about how this shows Berryz’s strength since they didn’t need a gimmicky event to promote sales for their single. They had a release event (with Goto Maki and Viyuden attending!), but didn’t make the rabid fanboys buy multiple copies of a CDS in the hopes of shaking a favorite idol’s hands.

But today, again from Santos, news that the single dropped to #15 on the Oricon daily. So… never mind.

Considering the staying power Morning Musume’s single had over the course of its first week – sustained no doubt by their handshake lottery – “Iroppoi Jirettai” finished #4 for the week, a very respectable showing and one that should be applauded. That said, I want to see what happens when they’re not using such a gimmick to sell their CDs and see how well that does. The multiple copies reported to have been bought by hardcore Momusu fans doesn’t bode well in that regard.

On the bright side, Berryz is doing very well for the Hello! Project stable. They’re succeeding without the benefit/burden of a group name that has a long history and strong expectations, nor have they had any line-up changes (despite the original plan for Berryz to have a rotating line-up of H!P Kids).

Personally, I believe Berryz will surpass Morning Musume very soon, perhaps by the end of the year. But that’s cause I’ve finally given myself over to the group. After months of complaining about not being able to tell who’s who in Berryz and dream, I can now identify and name all the Berryz by sight (not yet with dream, but give me time). I also have a clear pecking order of favorite members: Risako above all others, then Chinami, then Yurina (who just turned an astounding 12!). And there’s even a Sayumi-like figure in the group who continues to stir ambivalence in me, the “is she talented or just annoying?” Momoko. I’ve been listening to several of their older singles (that is, from before “Special Generation” which is when I first started to give a damn about them) and loving “Piriri to Ikou” and “Fighting Pose wa Datejanai” especially. I look forward to the two group photo albums coming out this month, which is itself a great show of faith on management’s part. I even have a Berryz wallpaper on my laptop, and the last time I’ve had an H!P wallpaper has been way too long…

In other words, I’m emotionally invested in Berryz, perhaps more than any other H!P group right now. (Though nowhere near to SweetS, but that’s another story.) I like Viyuden a lot musically and admire their girl-grope PVs, but don’t feel as committed to them. I absolutely adore Kago Ai and Tsuji Nozomi, but their unit W hasn’t sparked my interest so much musically these past months. Melon Kinenbi seem to step in and out of H!P limbo – which is better than being stuck there, like some other units.

And as for Morning Musume – I love them still, but they don’t stir my fanboy otaku nerves the way Berryz do right now. Maybe it’s fatigue from all the line-up changes and scandals in the first half of 2005. Maybe it’s because I find myself missing 15-nin Morning Musume so much (sales aside, I’d argue that was the last truly great line-up for the group, though this line-up also holds great promise). Maybe I don’t like flamenco as much as I thought I did. But my pecking order at MM is Reina on top, then everybody else… And the recent MM songs don’t get nearly as much play on my iPaq as other eras of MM (golden age and 15-nin, specifically) and recent Berryz.

The new Berryz single doesn’t do much for me yet and I’m actually mildly horrified by the costumes they’re wearing for this. They look like pastel street urchins, making the prettier girls look dorky and the less-pretty girls look… well, mildly mentally deficient. (You know I care about Berryz if I’m searching for euphemisms.) That said, I’m reserving full judgment until I see the PV – as visually oriented as I am to Jpop, a great PV would do wonders for my liking a song.

I know I’m not the first to predict Berryz’s ascent in the H!P pantheon. Some have seen it a long time a-comin’ and while I used to scoff at this… well, they’re preaching to the converted now, and I can’t wait to see the girls earn the audience they deserve.