by Jason Young, staff editor, Inside AX-Anime Expo
Berryz Koubou’s first appearance in America was quite impressive! I must congratulate the lovely starlets not only with their great fan interaction, but staying for the entire convention from opening ceremonies to closing. Something that not many groups have done in the past. With a highly successful, and entertaining, Q & A session on Friday, along with two well-organized autograph sessions and a rocking concert on Saturday night, their debut can only be described as “wota bliss.”
Pulling a number of hits from their top albums and singles including Shining Power, Heroine ni Narouka and Otakebi Boy WAO!, the concert was easily one of the top j-idol concerts that I’ve been to. Dedicated to the victims of the Tohoku Earthquake, the group’s poignant message of “all for one, and one for all” at the beginning of the concert was something that was very classy and touching in my opinion. Especially after how they all thanked all of the countries worldwide that pitched in to help them during their time of crisis, particularly America. I couldn’t help, but feel particularly proud of the way that our country has pitched in with “Operation Friendship.”
As the concert went on, I was very impressed with the staging of the performances. Although it took place in an exhibition hall, the lights, fog machines and screens made it feel as if it were a larger budgeted concert. Congrats to the Sakura-Con staff for doing such an awesome job. Standing in the mosh (otaku?) pit, I had a chance to experience wota euphoria as we all jumped around waving glow sticks for one-straight hour plus the encore as we all chanted in unison. The party didn’t stop afterwards though, as we all continued to yell “Berryz Koubou!” as we left the hall.
However, what impressed me just as much as their actual performance was the camaraderie shown between all the fans. With a diverse amount of backgrounds, ranging from the hardcore fans that traveled from Europe and Japan, and ages, including an adorable seven-year old kid, everyone was welcoming and caring as we all took care of each other to make sure that none of us were left behind. The most impressive feat to me though was the fact that it was us fans who ensured that whoever lined up early in the morning to land one of the precious guaranteed 300 priority autograph spots got their autograph. Joining the line at 9 a.m., I was one of the lucky 300 to get an autograph and even got a chance to give Kumai-chan a plushie kumamushi!
From a fan standpoint, I couldn’t ask for anything more from an American debut for one of my new favorite idol groups. I went to Sakura-Con with the purpose of meeting enjoying the concert and a chance to relax from the daily grind. Although I accomplished both of those goals and more, I walked out with a new slogan in mind, “all for one and one for all.” And just like the Three Musketeers, I hope that all of us Berryz fans can live up to the expectations given to us by our j-pop starlets and continue to help Japan during their time of need.