Berryz Koubou at Sakura-Con 2011
For the first time on US soil, fans had the chance to see the Hello! Project group, Berryz Koubou.
Much like the previous night, avid idol fans and regular attendees filled the large hall next to the main auditorium, forming a line that snaked up and down the lengths of Auditorium 4B and waited until it was time. Once the appropriate time had passed, the patient crowd packed the main stage area and yet another period of waiting followed. That night, the slightly younger crowd was equally as excited as they were on Friday night when seeing exist†trace, but most were jittery and chatted amongst themselves while waiting.
Close to when Berryz Koubou were to appear on stage, thick layers of artificial white smoke poured over the stage, in a similar manner as the previous night and was used to rouse the crowd and to conceal the members as they appeared on stage -- the crowd took little notice of this, compared to the previous night. Three projector screens hung on stage with Sakura-Con’s logo on a black screen. The moment the two outer projector screens flashed images of damage from the recent Touhoku earthquake in March 2011 paired with a voice over of one of the members, the title of the slideshow, “We are not alone...we are all and all for one...” marked the start of Berryz Koubou’s first US live.
As soon as all seven Berryz Koubou members pranced on stage, fans screamed and cheered in excitement. Each member wore matching outfits: cute lolita-inspired outfits in blue, white and light shades of grey that had a beach-meets-London feeling, matched with black knee-high boots and large, glittering red bows attached to the front of the waistband. Footage of the seven members recording a charity song for the earthquake relief effort on the two outer projector screens started off the live in full motion with the first song, Ganbarou Nippon ~ Ai wa katsu. As much as two-thirds of the crowd moved in time to the music. The brightness on each Berryz Koubou member’s face in the footage was matched by the happiness they displayed while performing.
After a short break, each member introduced themselves and was followed by a catchphrase, either in Japanese and/or partial English. As Berryz Koubou started the second song, Special Generation, an embodiment of cuteness enveloped the crowd -- even the ones who knew nothing of the idol group -- wrapped the entire audience into a tight, warm bundle. Seeing each member dance and smile made everyone want to smile for no reason at all, and even the urge to want to jump on stage and dance alongside the members could be felt.
The intro of Shining Power meshed together a hybrid of late 80s and early 90s classic J-pop mixed with a faint lick of denpa ("denpa" translates to "uncontrollably, irrevocably cute" in English) -- but not quite crazy enough yet. Each member's movements on stage began with a slightly slower version of the choreography until it reached a point of change. The music sped up, the crowd grew more wild and Berryz Koubou’s movements as they bounced and hopped around on stage sped up as well. Their layered petticoats and skirts fluttered as they each danced around each other, hopping on one foot and alternating between each foot. Standing in a horizontal line and rearranging into a vertical line, the seven members took turns at being the leader and standing at the front of the line, singing the loudest and temporarily being the center of attention. Shining Power was followed by a short conversation about some of the places Berryz Koubou had visited while in Seattle; the experience of being here so far, the happiness of the crowd and buying things. While speaking, the crowd seemed to enjoy Momoko’s cuteness the most, but each member was appreciated on different levels by the audience.
After the cute yet smoothly choreographed Tsukiatte runoni katamoi and the extremely cute song Berry Fields, another short break followed. Chinami darted off stage for a moment and while she was gone, the crowd was taken away by surprise. This moment was the highlight of the entire live. To pass some time, Berryz Koubou, sans Chinami, kindly asked the audience to repeat some Japanese phrases such as “konnichiwa” and “arigatou.” Momoko led the quasi-Japanese lesson after a few repetitions from the audience, repeating more phrases of “uchuu no masa” and “MAJOR tanoshii!”, etc. Momoko and the other Berryz members grew excited at the audience’s skill and continued to say more phrases and got the audience to repeat them.
When Chinami returned, she wore a musk pink glittery fish costume with a sign on it, labeled “tai” (“tai” translates to "red snapper" in English). She then joined in with teaching the audience more Japanese phrases by first addressing everyone in broken English. “Do you like it?” she asked, with a giant grin on her face. “Do you like my fish costume?!” The other six members couldn’t help but laugh as she moved around in her costume on stage -- Chinami seemed like the clown of the group. She asked “Can you understand my English?” to the crowd again and when she received a warm reply, she was excited and thanked the audience. When the next song CLAP came on, she continued to dance; four members left the stage to change, leaving three and once the original four returned, the remaining three left to change costumes.
During the transition of costumes and a song change, Berryz Koubou had transformed from "cute" into a sexier version of their earlier outfits, with much shorter skirts and revealing figures. Each member’s bodice of the dress was a different color of the rainbow and signified their unity with one another. By this time, it was clear which of the audience members were true fans and knew the furitsuke ("furitsuke" translates to "hand dances" in English) and who were shoo-in’s; even a person cosplaying as a larger-than-life Kon, from Bleach, danced to the music.
The final song, RIVAL, was just as fun and bubbly as the first song of the live, and ended with a dramatic pose and a shout of the word “Wow!” Each member thanked the audience in Japanese. Chinami asked, if everyone liked the performance, to which they replied with a resounding “Yes!!!!” Berryz Koubou left the stage and as soon as they did, the audience realized only an hour had passed. They began shouting “berryz wa saikou!” many times until the members reappeared for a one song encore.
Straight afterward, fans made a beeline to the area where they had waited prior to the concert and waited in line to get autographs, all while chanting the words “Berryz wa saikou!” ("Berryz wa saikou" translates to "berryz are the best" in English) Fans who had purchased 7 Berryz Times at Sakura-Con received priority for waiting in line to get an autograph from each of the members with most of those being sold on Friday of the convention. Additional merchandise included tote bags, towels and other small items.
According to a tweet on Hello USA Store’s Twitter account, the official audience count for the Berryz Koubou live was an impressive 3500 people!
Berryz Koubou ended their US leg with another autograph signing — the first one was on Friday afternoon, in the very busy Vendor’s hall — and a banner prize drawing with signed personal messages from each of the members. Sometime in the near future, fans hope Berryz Koubou will return again.
01. Ganbarou Nippon ~ Ai wa katsu
02. Special Generation
03. Heroine ni narouka
04. Shining Power
05. P Ri Ri to Ikou
07. Tsukiatte runoni katamoi
08. Berry Fields
10. Magi Bomber
11. 1-Chome Rock
12. Otakebi Boy WAO
01. ALL FOR ONE & ONE FOR ALL