Happy Fourteenth Birthday, Chinami!

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

I’m going to resist poetry for Chinami’s fourteenth birthday – mostly because it all now sounds like “Momoko O Momoko” when I try – but we can’t let this auspicious day pass without at least acknowledging the greatness of one of H!P’s most unjustly overlooked idols.

I’m biased, of course. I have such a fondness for Chinami… She’s never been at the very top, but she’s always made the top ten in any geinou list including U15s. (Check them if you doubt me.) After Momoko (and now Maasa), she’s the one I most want to watch in any Berryz performance, the girl who makes me feel the warmth and delight that makes Jpop such an addictive pleasure.

So how come so few others sing the virtues of Miss Tokunaga? How come Chinami doesn’t get the love that Risako or Koharu or Hinoi Asuka gets? Perhaps it’d help if I bring up some of her finer points on this, her special day…

She outwitted the Celeb Machine. This may not mean a lot to some of you, but she was able to get to the pool party without clearing the Celeb Machine in “Fighting Pose”. That should count something among the diehard Berryz fans.

Her name is so wonderful to pronounce. Chinami. Chi – na – mi. Starting with a setting of teeth and lips like a smile, a flick of the tongue between one’s teeth, and finally a smack of one’s lips in a split-second kiss. Add to that the wonderfully evocative Tokunaga – a build-up to a pucker and then a retreat – and you’ve got a very special collection of syllables for a very special name.

And I must admit, Chinami remains one of the major contenders for the baby’s name if it’s a girl. “Chinami Mai Mescallado” has a nice ring to it, much as the wife detests the middle name…

She’s quite clever. She can come up with puns and have an audience applaud them, as she showed on Music Fighter. And there is that light of intelligence in her eyes which makes her immensely attractive – sometimes it comes out hard and inquisitive when she looks serious, other times it comes across as mischievous and playful when she smiles. But the cogs in her head seem to always be turning, there’s a depth there that’s impossible to dismiss. Which certainly contributes to the next point…

She’s got the best smile of any idol. Okay, this is where I’ll lose most of you… but really, every time I see Chinami smile, it’s just heartwarming as all get-out. When she smiles, I can’t help but smile as well. I can’t think of any other idol with a better smile… okay, maybe Ueto Aya. But among the younger idols, she’s got the best, hands down.

She does kawaii well without ever overdoing it. Much as I adore Momoko, there’s a good deal of affectation in her kawaii-ness and it’s only growing as the puberty train takes her further down the tracks. And even as I prostrate myself on the altar of Maasa, she was never quite kawaii but instead has morphed from ugly duckling to statuesque swan. Along with Risako, Chinami is the one who can be kawaii without making it seem forced (Momoko can as well, but she often chooses to force the issue). I don’t think it’s something she’ll grow out of, either – it’s a part of who she is.

She has the best moves in “Special Generation”. She’s got the head-shakes and if you watch her do those half-kicks in the dance version, she’s definitely got it going on… The more I watched the PV, the more I looked forward to her scenes over anyone else.

Rooting for the underdog is itself a virtue. Well, not really – but when it’s an underdog as talented as Chinami, then yes, it certainly is. It’s funny, but she and Saki and Maasa each have such distinct virtues as young idols, but they often go unnoticed while the four leads bask in greater attention. The tide may be turning, however – all three girls made a strong showing in their Music Fighter appearance – and as they all emerge into young womanhood, we may wind up with a very different pecking order among the Berryz.

So Happy Fourteenth Birthday, Chinami! I hope this year you get to show your potential even more and win over more fans! And if not, well, I’m pushing to name my child after you, so hopefully that can count for something.

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3 Responses to “Happy Fourteenth Birthday, Chinami!”
  1. Joey says:

    Damn! Are you ever gonna get off Berryz. You got a jones that just getting annoying. Give them a rest. They are yesterdays news and they had their 15 minutes

  2. Steve/Japonaliya says:

    Hey Joey:

    I am not a Berryz otaku though i love Momoko and some of their songs…BUt, yesterday’s news??? They are the most successfully H!P artists at present, ans up and coming…
    What DO YOU think Ray should be talking about? C-ute? A group without a single?
    Maybe you should have your own blog, then YOU can pick which groups to talk about.
    Ray can do as he feels, it’s HIS blog.
    If you don’t like his musings then find another jpop site to post comments to!

  3. As far as yesterday’s news goes, I’m actually planning an extended look back at Folder 5 and Akina’s solo career, once I clear up some of my backlog… At least Berryz are still around, Lord knows what happened to Akina lately, never mind Moe and the others.