Rio Uchida and Pure Smile

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I don’t know much about Rio Uchida – she was chosen Nittelgenic Girl of 2010 and… that’s it. However, she’s probably the most exciting new gravure idol I’ve encountered in a long while, and I’ve been watching bits and pieces of Pure Smile since I first got my hands on it. I keep going back to the video and even loaded it on my tablets, which is a good indication of finding an idol I’ll have a long-term interest in.

However, like I said, I’ve only been watching bits and pieces – small snippets. Otherwise, she drives me crazy – and not in the good way, but in the way that makes me wonder why I’m interested in idols in the first place.

The reason for this? Well, for most of the DVD she has this habit of looking at the camera, smiling… while her head shakes side to side, back and forth, like some kind of bobblehead. Seriously, it’s like if you had a Rio Uchida bobblehead and gave it a light tap at the top, the movement from that is the same as the one we’re treated to for most of this video. And it manages to make a gorgeous young woman seem empty-headed, even mentally challenged, which is not what you want for a gravure  video. Well, not what I want, at least.

The video itself is standard fare: horrible pop/rock  soundtrack that I turn off immediately, lots and lots of bikinis, some flowy dresses, and a general atmosphere of fun and sexual objectification. The amount of exposure is more adventurous than the bland vanilla of Hello! Project, but not nearly as bold as the stuff done with AKB48 or your typical junior idol video. Basically, she’s getting a bit more respect for being a legit talento model and not just an idol, so it’s about the same kind of close-ups and panning body shots that one gets for a Koike Rina or Okamoto Rei.

Let me stress that Rio is incredibly beautiful – she’s a true model, not just a gravure idol, and those Nittelgenic folks picked a real winner with her. I find myself comparing her to another model I love, Okamoto Rei. Or, looking at the idol world, she seems like a cross between the best aspects of Nakajima Saki and Yajima Maimi, both of Hello! Project’s C-ute.

It’s just that the bobbleheaded smiling retard thing really does put a damper, and the facial close-ups almost inevitably lead to interminable moments of it. It gets to the point where I’m thinking “boing-a-boing-a-boing” to myself, and not in a sexually suggestive way either.

That said, the alternative to the smiling retarded bobblehead approach is even less desirable: a po-faced, serious Rio. She indulges in this kind of scene a couple of times towards the end of the DVD, and there are mixed results at best.

In the first scene, she is wearing a very fetching outfit of a lacy white half-top and denim shorts. At one point we see the camera move up her body, showing off her midriff to great effect, and I’m fearing that we’ll get the dreaded boing-a-boing-a-boing…

But it’s even worse, because she’s NOT smiling and looking kind of sad or pensive, and it doesn’t work for her at all. I wouldn’t say it’s painful to look at, or even contrived – I think Rio is too much of a professional and too talented to keep it from at least appearing natural. However, it’s just not very attractive on her, the way it is on say Shihono Ryo or even Koike Rina. It looks pouty and resentful more than thoughtful and serious-minded.

For the last scene of the video, she finally strikes something of a happy medium. She does the serious mode as she walks around and lies down on a beach, wearing a white dress. (Which immediately made me go, “It’s white! If you stain it with the sand, you’ll have a harder time getting those stains out!” Which… yeah, that’s pretty much beside the point, I know. But I had that reaction anyways.)

She does look more pensive than resentful here, melancholy even, and it’s like she’s haunted by a sad memory and trying to cheer herself up because the viewer is present. It’s actually very nicely acted for a gravure video, and quite effective in winning us over.

And at the every end she walks right up to the camera, breaks into a huge grin, her head does that bobble thing as she blows a kiss, and fade to black. I have to admit, that’s the one point where I didn’t mind her doing that, since it’s so brief and it works to end the scene on a happy, hopeful note. While perhaps a bit too sad for my own tastes, more scenes like this last one – and nothing like the penultimate scene – would’ve done the DVD a great favor.

I’m sure there’s more DVDs from Rio out there, and I just found out her first photobook was released this month and is available at YesAsia. I’m hoping we get something a bit more… steady-headed in future releases, because Rio is definitely a beauty and a talented idol for the most part. I can easily see her entering my personal pantheon along with Ryo and Rina and Yuuka and Rei.