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?

D-Boys/ D2 Update

Being the OTDT liaison to the D-Boys/ D2 fan community, I feel obligated to bring you, our readers and listeners, periodic updates regarding events affecting the troupe and the community as a whole.

On Monday December 1, Tooru Kamitsuru announced on his blog that he would be stepping down and leaving Watanabe Entertainment (the umbrella organization that manages the group) when his contract expires on December 25. Thanks to translations from the lovely tumblr user maketakunai and her D2 blog, I was able to read both his original post, and the series of replies from the other members of the subgroup. The outpouring of love and support in the midst of the corresponding heartache truly enlightened me to the kind of person Kamitsuru-san is.

Kamitsuru-san was one of the founding members of D2 when it was started as an offshoot of the main D-Boys group. As more people were brought in, eventually bringing their number up to 16, everyone seemed to initially be afraid of him and his bleached hair. He quickly turned their opinions around, though, and one by one they started to rely on him as a senpai and older brother type. He often took Master of Ceremony duty at live events, and seems very much the sort of person who leads by example.

I’m sad that a lot of this information was gleaned second-hand, as the majority of my fandom stems from the television. He primarily appeared on the theater stage and at live events, so he hasn’t been as visible to me as some of the other group members are. This is also my first idol graduation, so I haven’t been sure on multiple levels what an appropriate reaction would be.

The factors in his making this decision remain unclear, whether it just seemed like the time was right, or whether there are health concerns going on (as had been the case with Nakamura Yuichi, who was sick, recovered, and is now returning to entertainment through a different talent agency). There’s also the theory that while the merger with the main D-Boys group last year may not have been a factor, it probably made the decision a little bit easier. I know that there had been some concern in my corner of the fandom, since his blog posts had become less and less frequent, that something wasn’t quite right. Either way, the other members of the group intend to stay as close to him as ever, even if he won’t be appearing with them on stage anymore.

Let’s stand with them in wishing him luck in whatever adventure lies next on his path.

X-men, Amplitude, AKB48 Assaulted By a SAW, and a Professor Layton Follow-up

The crew, joined by Aki Munnell, Bryan Spiegel, and Sara Goldberg talk about X-Men the good, the bad, and the future.
THEN the show actually starts!
They take a look at the results of the Harmonix Kickstarter Amplitude. Give a final look at Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy and rate it.
Then they wrap it up with a talk about AKB48 and the recent attack on the group by a guy with a saw.

Want to see it the show live tweet at us using the hash tag #screwitdoitlive?
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