5 Reasons the Berryz Kobo Final Concert Was Heartbreakingly Perfect

Berryz Kobo final concert stage

The stage for Berryz Kobo’s final concert at Budokan.


On the evening of March 3, 2015 in Tokyo, j-pop idol group Berryz Kobo performed its final concert at Nippon Budokan, eleven years to the day following its major debut. While the all-girl group is known for doing everything from performing a capella harmonies to dancing in fish costumes at its concerts, the seven members had a few more surprises up their sleeves to surprise and delight their fans until the very end.
An Unexpected Setlist
One of the most iconic songs in the Berryz repertoire is “Special Generation”. As the first of the group’s songs to hit the Oricon top ten, it has been featured in several concerts over the past ten years, usually near the end. Imagine the surprise, then, when it was the very first song of the night. The setlist proceeded to include several B-sides and album tracks, and the girls performed full versions of all twenty four songs with no medleys, solos, or small group numbers. The selected songs were heavy on opportunities for crowd participation, guaranteeing a completely engaging show from start to finish.
From Cinderella to… what?
After opening the concert in magical transforming Cinderella dresses, the girls stepped backstage while a brief video chronicled their adventures from their elementary school debut days to adulthood, including footage from their Anime Next and Paris appearances. When they returned, they were dressed in monkey outfits that were anything but elegant, celebrating the fun novelty songs that made them stand out from their Hello! Project peers with one final performance of “Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance”. In an ironic play that only Berryz Kobo could pull off, the girls followed that number with a spirited rendition of “I’m so cool!”
Breaking Kayfabe
Pro wrestling fans may be familiar with the term “kayfabe” which refers to the in-character story lines and personalities that we are supposed to believe about the wrestlers. The world of idols is similar, but we got a few surprises during the girls’ final messages to the fans. Kumai Yurina has long been known for her “Enjoy!” catchphrase. She explained during her speech that it came from a questionnaire she filled out early in her career. When she was asked for her favorite word, she wrote tanoshimu — and then her manager later erased it and filled in the English equivalent. In an even bigger shock, Sudou Maasa confessed that while she always said she’d auditioned for Hello! Project because she was loved Morning Musume… that was a lie. At the time, she auditioned simply because her little sister was doing it, and she couldn’t even tell two of the most popular group members apart.
Self Produced
Berryz Kobo producer and Rhythm Heaven creator Tsunku revealed on his blog that the members of Berryz Kobo were heavily involved in the production of the show, including the selection of the setlist and costumes. It’s a fitting transition from a career where their public lives, as we saw, were micromanaged by others. With two members continuing with Hello! Project backstage as advisors, and two others remaining on the front lines as “playing managers,” it appears as though the overarching Up Front Agency is realizing the wisdom of leveraging its young talents’ years of experience. The other beautiful outcome is that when we look at all of the positives outlined above, we know that they come from the members’ love for their fans and their experiences with the band.
That Final Number
For their last encore, Berryz sang “Love Together” with a live pianist accompanying them. Voices quavering, their singing seemed to grow steadier and stronger as the audience chanted for them and eventually began to sing along, a sound which barely made it through on the broadcast but was deafening inside the arena:
Toki ga sugi Sorezore no 
Michi ni mukatte yuku 
Dakarakoso Kono shunkan 
Takaramono da yo 
Wasurenai wa Kyou made no 
Suteki na kono michi wo 
Suki yo Suki Daisuki 
Mata aeru yo ne
Time passes, and we all
Head toward our separate paths
That is why this moment
Is a treasure to me
I won’t forget the road
We’ve traveled together until today
I love you, I love you, I adore you
We’ll meet again, right?

Why You Might Care About Baseball’s New Posting System

ESPN is reporting that Major League Baseball has reached an agreement with Japan’s Nippon Pro Baseball league regarding player transfers.  Previously, if one of the 12 NPB clubs posted a player (that is, made him available), MLB teams could submit a blind bid for the negotiating rights to that player.  The highest bidder then has 30 days to negotiate a contract with that player, paying the bid to the club and the contract to the player.  Now, the bidding system is still in place, but the maximum bid is capped at $20 million.  If multiple teams post a max bid, then a player is allowed to negotiate with any of those teams.

This was the plan for a while, but there were a few obstacles.  Earlier reports had 11 of the 12 NPB clubs had agreed to this.  The lone holdout was the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who just so happened to also have this year’s prized prospect, Masahiro Tanaka.  Considering previous bids had topped $50 million, you might be able to see the Eagles’ line of thinking.  The reports also implied that had the $20M posting cap was put in place, the Eagles would not post Tanaka, who still has 2 years left on his NPB contract.

So why is this interesting?  Well for one thing, the Eagles’ roster includes former major leaguers Takashi Saito and Andruw Jones, which is kinda cool. But what is likely more important to you is that the Rakuten Golden Eagles are owned by, surprise surprise, Raukten Inc.  This multidimensional corporation specializes in online retail, owning Buy.com (now Rakuten.com), and Play.com among others.  Rakuten has also invested heavily in Pintrest and Tsunku, the latter contributing Golden Eagles’ fight songs via Hello! Project.  In other words, Rakuten has fingers in a lot of places important to netizens and otaku.

In all likelihood, Rakuten is upset that they’re the ones getting 40 cents on the dollar when Seibu and Nippon-Ham got full price.  It probably doesn’t help things that the Eagles’ previous post attempt yielded a $19 million bid in 2010, but the Oakland A’s were unable to come to terms with Hisashi Iwakuma. The bid was retracted and Iwakuma stayed with the Eagles until 2012, when he went to the Seattle Mariners (partially owned by Nintendo, by the way) for nothing in return.  I don’t know about you, but if I was shorted $45 million over 3 years, I’d be a little peeved.

However, what if there’s something more to this?  Granted, $30 million would be less than 1% of Rakuten’s $4.7 billion in revenue, but it wouldn’t be the last time someone spent money they didn’t have, especially when we’re talking baseball.  If the presumed posting payday had already been earmarked, that could be problematic for the defending Japan Series champs.  The issues regarding a shortfall and/or drop back to mediocrity (Rakuten won 82 out of 144 games duringthe 2013 regular season; they averaged 67 the six seasons before that) could spill over into the rest of Rakuten’s footprint.  For want of a nail, the castle may not be lost, but there is the potential for damage.

Like I said, this is likely much ado about a little, but in a world that tends to get smaller every day, don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t.