Once in a while, I need to get these things out of my system. There’s nothing too immense going on in the idol world right now that I feel the need to share my take on, so I’m going to put up a much more personal post. Not personal as in my actual boring life (trust me, even I’d want to be spared the excruciating details of the tale of another neuroscience class, kthx), but much more idol-based. So! I present to you, my current Top 10 in the idol world.

The last time I did this was back in May 2007. At that time, I did a Top 12 because I was indecisive, and my list was– 12: Takahashi Minami (AKB48); 11 – Tojima Hana (AKB48); 10 – Noto Arisa (H!P Eggs); 09 – Niigaki Risa (Morning Musume); 08 – Takewa Haruna (SweetS); 07 – Natsuyaki Miyabi (Berryz); 06 – Tokunaga Chinami (Berryz); 05 – Iwasaki Mai (SweetS); 04 – Sugaya Risako (Berryz); 03 – Mitsui Aika (Morning Musume); 02 – Kashiwagi Akiko (SweetS); 01 – Umeda Erika (C-ute). Let’s see how things have changed, shall we?

10. Kashiwagi Akiko (SweetS)

I couldn’t bear to see Aki leave my lineup. Even though SweetS has been disbanded for over a year now, Aki will always hold a special place in my heart. Aki is one awesome lady in charge. Since she’s the oldest of the group, she was made leader by default, but this girl has the complete personality to back that position up. She brings her own aura and energy to the group; she’s not an adorable spaz like Mai in terms of energy, but she’s got an amazing presence. She’s a strong, confident girl, and she certainly doesn’t take your shit. Sure, she’s prone to playing a bit rough– she’s hit Mai at LEAST once on public TV, been a little less comforting and a little more DO IT! NOW (to Mai, in this video, coincidentally), and, well– actually, she pretty much focuses on Mai. But I still think she’s quite capable of kicking non-Mai ass.
I’ve always admired her dancing skills, and her singing is fantastic, as well. It was always a pity that Aki didn’t get more lines, because she could’ve totally handled them. Her solo song, Captain Smiley, from the 5 elementS CD (and the Earthship tour) is my favorite of the bunch, and when she performed it live, she pulled it off perfectly. Not only all of that, Aki’s absolutely gorgeous. She’s got a killer smile. And even though she got stuck with some pretty odd hairstyles (I recall a mohawk), she could still pull them off and just look awesome. She was always the show-stealer for me. And here’s a video of her singing ‘Captain Smiley’ live, just to prove how awesome she is:

09 – Yajima Maimi (C-ute)

To me, Maimi is the definition of a hard-working idol. There’s never really a time where I’ve felt myself disappointed by any of Maimi’s performances. Whether it’s in a PV or a live performance somewhere, Maimi’s always putting her all into her performances. She has some amazing stamina to be able to always keeping herself moving like she does, and sometimes, her vocal quality suffers because of it, but in truth, I’d rather listen to an idol that is trying her best than one who’s not trying much for the sake of sounding good all the time. And I don’t mean Maimi’s a bad singer– not at all! She got her own solo track on C-ute’s mini-album, and she completely deserved it and sounded fantastic in it. When she performed that song at the concert, the key of the song was taken down a bit, which I thought was a pretty smart move for H!P. She’s just generally got a deeper voice, especially live, so while the key change sounded a bit strange at first, Maimi made it work. Outside of singing, I honestly think Maimi is one of the best dancers in H!P. Watch any performance of Soku Dakishimete, and you’ll find Maimi doing that dance perfectly; her moves just outshine all of the other girls’. She’s tough competition, but she’s still loveable Maimi in the end. This girl is truly a star and deserves all the praise she gets.

08. Nakajima Saki (C-ute)

Oh, Saki, Saki, Saki. Ever since I got into C-ute, she’s been one of my favorite members. The first things of C-ute I ever saw were the ‘Massara Blue Jeans’ PV (which wasn’t TOTALLY scarring) and a performance of ‘Ookina ai de Motenashite’ on Hello! Morning. While I didn’t notice Saki much in the Massara Blue Jeans PV (Kanna stood out much more to me), the Ookina ai performance made me find out who she was. It was a rather silly little point, but I noticed her because of it– in that performance, both she and Mai did the little ‘woo!’s that come at the end of the choruses, and Saki’s was FAR superior, I decided, when I watched that. So I wanted to find out who the two were. Saki was instantly awesome because of that kind of stage presence.
See? I told you, stupid reason. After finding out who she was, I looked up her name on Youtube to see what I could find, and I remember coming across her performance of ‘Hey Mirai’ on Hello Pro Hour, and that was… pretty painful. She had very little vocal control– her ducky voice was just bouncing all over the place, and often going off key. But as painful as it was, it was strangely endearing at the same time. I really didn’t have a lot of faith in her to improve her singing very much, but she absolutely proved me wrong when it came to their most recent concert DVD. Her duet with Mai (‘Disco Queen’) shows just how much she’s improved in only a little bit of time. Sure, she’s not perfect or anything, but it’s clear how much Saki’s progressed. Her voice is still ducky, but she can carry a tune now.
Outside of her singing, I’ve never really noticed Saki’s dancing much until the ‘Meguru Koi no Kisetsu’ PV, where she was VERY visible throughout the dance shots, much to my delight. While Saki doesn’t work herself as hard as Maimi does, you can still tell that she tries hard. In fact, whenever I think of the dance for that song, I always imagine Saki dancing to it. She impressed me quite a bit there; I was surprised to see how good she was! Youtube video of the dance shot will be below the end of Saki’s little entry here, so you can observe for yourself!
One more point I want to make about Saki is how awesome she is, even back when she was tiny and auditioning. In her audition, she reminded me of a little old lady stuck in a little kid’s body. She was absolutely adorable. She looked tired, kind of spaced out, and just… oh, it was just so much win. Saki~ ❤

07. Hayano Kaoru (AKB48)

Kaorin here is one of the idols on my list whose appeal I can’t articulate very well; I apologize in advance if none of this makes much sense. My story with Kaorin is actually pretty funny. When I was first getting into AKB48, I didn’t know much about most of the girls, but I still did a bit of a ranking of the girls, as much as I could. Kaoru was near dead-last on that list; she looked exhausted in the pictures I’d seen of her, and other than those, there really wasn’t much information on her that I’d come across, or any performances that I’d really remembered her in. Over time, however, she’s slowly been creeping up my list, and is now my second-favorite in AKB48. While watching AKB48’s Spring Concert (2007), I found my eye always going to her, whenever she happened to be in a shot. One of my favorite performances of the concert, the Team K song, ‘Nounai Paradise,’ was one she particularly stood out in. She’s a decent dancer, but it was her smile that caught my eye. Every time the camera was on her, she just looked so damn HAPPY. Like the kind of happy that makes you want to just LOVE AND HUG AND CUDDLE her!
When I watched Team K’s First Stage DVD, it totally sealed the deal. In that DVD, I got to see her more, got to get more acquainted with what her voice sounded like, and just see her perform more than I had in the big concert. And she is amazing. Her voice is absolutely fantastic; she gets this entire solo verse in the Team K version of ‘Classmate,’ and she just sounds so sweet and genuine (and conveys that exact emotion on her face when she’s performing, too). In ‘Dear my teacher,’ she also has a solo line that sounds just perfect with the song. Overall, she’s one of the more underrated girls in AKB48. But in her self-introduction, she calls herself a, “Shining Girl,” and I absolutely agree.

06. Tokunaga Chinami (Berryz Koubou)

Uh-oh! I fear I’m going to become a bit repetitive here, since I just explained why Chinami was so awesome in my last entry. So, really, I don’t mean to flake out on you guys here, but just scroll~ down the page, to the ‘My Dream Unit’ entry, and I wrote a bit on why Chinami is so very much win, earning her this #6 spot.

05. Mitsui Aika (Morning Musume)

Starting off my top 5 is none other than the adorable Mittsi! You know, they call Koharu the Miracle Girl, but Mittsi is my Miracle Girl. When the auditons for the 8th Generation of Morning Musume rolled around, I was a fan, so I eagerly followed along. It was pretty exciting– I’d finally get to see the whole process of how a new member is picked for MM; I’d get to follow them along the way, and pick and root for my favorites to get through. Now, Aika– when I first saw her audition aired on Hello! Morning, my initial reaction was something along the lines of, “What the hell?” Her voice was bizarre, the way she stood was bizarre, she looked kind of funny. But soon enough, I realized the errors of my way, and fell in love with the girl. Out of all those who auditioned, Aika was the one who made the strongest impression. When all was said and done, it was Aika who I remembered. When she got chosen for the top 25(? was it 25?), I was so glad, and then, when she got chosen as one of the finalists, I was ECSTATIC! Aika had a chance! But when I saw the competition she was up against, I was worried. How would she fare with the likes of Sato Sumire and Kikkawa Yuu? When the final audition episode rolled around, I was biting my nails the entire time. She wasn’t the best dancer or singer of the bunch, but she WAS trying hard, and that’s all I could really hope for. And in the end, when it showed the girls walking down the hall toward the proverbial door to their future, I was FREAKING OUT, just praying that Aika would make it in. When she was the ONLY one who walked through the door, my jaw dropped to the floor. I was SO proud of her– she’d made it! And she was the ONLY ONE!
Ever since then– that episode where she was just the cutest newbie ever, getting her own Aruiteru marching band hat fastened to her head, I’ve been supporting her. Since then, her dancing has improved SO much, her singing has improved along with it, and she’s grown so much as an idol. Like I mentioned in my last entry, I was absolutely crushed when it was announced that Yoshizawa Hitomi was going to graduate from Morning Musume. At that time, Aika was the only reason I kept faith in Morning Musume. It was hard to imagine a Morning Musume without Yossie, but I still had Aika to support. I wanted to watch her progress with the group, and thus far, I have not been disappointed. That’s why Mittsi’s my Miracle Girl. As long as she’s there, I have a reason to keep supporting Morning Musume. Just watch her go!

04. Sugiura Riho (Canaria Club)

Now, tell me you didn’t see this one coming. Osugi is crazy, and she’s VERY, very worthy of this #4 spot on my list. Now I can’t quite remember what I wrote about her in my past Canaria Club entry, so I apologize if any of this sounds repetitive. This girl isn’t the leader of the group or anything, but I’m pretty sure she’s got some kind of hypnotic mind control over them all. I just got my ‘Seishin Banzai!’ Single V in the mail a few days ago, and while she isn’t as completely CRAZY as she is in the ‘SWEET & TOUGHNESS’ making of, her presence is still very much there. This making of let me learn just a little bit more about her; one pretty prominent thing is that she’s VERY aware of herself. While she may act like she’s on complete crack half of the time, she does it really deliberately. She knows when she’s acting stupid, she knows when she’s hamming it up for the camera, and she constantly laughs at herself. That quality is really admirable in an idol, I think. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, but she’s not totally off somewhere in la-la-land like some of them. And, I swear, that gives her power! Whenever she feels like spazzing out, she just grabs a couple of the other girls and brings them along for the ride. When she doesn’t, she just sits back, chills, and is sometimes just so damn candid about everything.
And I can’t forget the badass thing. I’ve noticed that through her little glares and tiny moments of frustration before, but more and more, in those Kokuchi-ch videos, as well as this Single V, I’ve been noticing how forceful she can act. If she doesn’t get a say in anything, she’ll usually pop up with her signature, “YAY!” But she won’t always do it cheerfully– sometimes it’ll just be this loud, blunt, “YAY,” accompanied with a fantastic glare. JUST in case we didn’t notice she was there. (Don’t worry, Osugi, I notice!) This girl is just fantastic. She’s confident, witty, aware– and, oh! I’ve totally skimmed over her singing and dancing! After color-coding ‘SWEET & TOUGHNESS,’ I came to the conclusion that she and Matsui Yurie did most of the harmonies in that song, and that is an awesome talent to have. The harmonies were really gorgeous in that song, so it’s nice knowing that Osugi’s a part of that. And as far as her dancing goes, I really think she’s one of the best dancers in the group. The new PV highlighted this even more for me. While Ayubee is the most energetic dancer of them all, Osugi’s got so much grace and fluidity in her dancing. There’s this one part in the new PV where she, Ogawa Mana, and Ayubee all do these ballet-like twirls. Well, she and Ogawa do the twirls– Ayubee just sort of spins by haphazardly and doesn’t stay in one place, so I’m thinking she wasn’t meant to be in sync with Osugi and Ogawa in the first place, but that one shot alone just floored me. I’d always noticed that her dancing was near-perfect and on time before, but WOW. She’s so great at it. While Ogawa seems a little bit shaky– her legs look like they’re a little weak, and are kind of flopping all over while she’s turing (it’s REALLY, really subtle, it doesn’t look sloppy at all, but you can see if you watch it a few times/look really close), while Osugi’s in back, spinning around and kicking out her leg perfectly while Ayubee crosses RIGHT in front of her. The entire thing is just perfect– executed like she was a professional dancer. I really wonder why they don’t put her in front– I’m not just being biased here, she seriously is one of the best dancers in the group. And even at the most shallow level– she’s absolutely GORGEOUS. See, now this might be me being biased, but I think she’s the prettiest girl in the group. They have no reason to be hiding her, so I DEMAND MORE OSUGI!

03. Kashiwagi Yuki (AKB48)

I first saw Yukirin when she was a part of the Morning Musume 8th Generation auditions. Along with Aika, she was one I was rooting for all along the way. She was one of the few that I picked out when I first saw her video that I was just blown away by. This girl’s voice is AMAZING. Have a listen for yourself (here). It’s very sweet and melodic; I thought she would be just perfect for Morning Musume. When I saw that she made it into that top 25 during the auditions, I was so happy! There were my two favorites from the audition process– Aika and Yuki. Because of her voice, I was absolutely positive that she’d make it through to be a finalist, but I was disappointed to find out that she wasn’t. Even though I was ecstatic that Aika got through, I couldn’t believe that they let this kind of talent walk out the door.
A few weeks after Aika was announced as the only one to pass the audition, I found out that Yuki had been picked for a group called AKB48. I’d heard of them before– heard about them apparently ripping off Hello! Project. So I was a little uneasy, but just the fact that Yuki still made it into the idol world was enough to try to get myself into the group. Because of Yuki, I started researching the group– looking up information, getting to know the girls, listening to their songs. After that December, I forgot about them for a little while, until I ended up wanting to use one of their PVs for a presentation I was doing in my Japanese Culture class. When I’d looked them up again, I just kind of wondered how things were going for Yuki. Apparently, at that time, not a whole lot with Team B had been released yet, but by June of this year, I found myself supplied with enough Yuki media to totally drag myself into getting back into AKB48. The Team B previews were up on the official website, and I was THRILLED to see that Yuki was being pushed as one of Team B’s front girls. Team B was doing their version of ‘Seishun Girls,’ and Yuki had gotten Oshima Yuko’s part in ‘Kinjirareta Futari,’ which was fantastic, because it’s just a duo! In that little preview, I got to hear Yuki’s voice again, and I was totally charmed once more. You can see the preview of this song here, from the official site. After watching a few of those previews, I found out that Yuki wasn’t exactly the most graceful dancer, but her voice makes up for it so much. She’s not a lazy dancer or anything like that– her moves just come across as a bit stiff. You don’t see it too much in ‘Kinjirareta Futari,’ but you can particularly see it in the preview for ‘Fushidara na Natsu.’ Either way, I think Yuki will improve as time goes on, and, as I said before, her voice makes up for her not-so-spectacular dancing.
I’m a little disappointed that, with that kind of voice, she hasn’t been totally featured in their recent singles. She was one of the few Team B girls (if I recall right, it was just Yuki and Watanabe Mayu) picked to be in ‘Bingo!’ (even though everyone is in the PV– she’s in the promos and such), but she wasn’t one of the main singers, and then she wasn’t picked at all for ‘Boku no Taiyou.’ While I’m a bit upset about that, at least she gets her share of attention on stage. But anyone who really isn’t into AKB48 hasn’t been shown the true Yuki, then! Injustice! Anyway, just a few days ago, it was announced that Team B would be doing ‘Aitakatta’ (Team A’s Second Stage) for their Second Stage. So I’m looking forward to the end of their First Stage, because then we’ll get the DVD of it– eventually! Which means more Yuki! And here’s hoping for even more front-girl Yuki in their next stage!

02. Junjun (Morning Musme)

Ah, yes. I’ve chronicled my shaky start with Junjun on this blog before. She wasn’t an instant hit with me. It took me a long time to really warm up to Junjun– all the way up until the ‘Onna ni Sachi Are’ PV preview, in fact. But ever since then, I’ve been hooked. Even before that PV preview, I always secretly admired her a bit. When she was attacked on her weblog by people who were angry that she would be joining Morning Musume, Junjun handled the criticism (not even criticism– sick racial slurs and personal attacks) SO well. She’d replied that they could insult her all they wanted, but she wouldn’t stand for having them insult her own country. It wasn’t just her patriotism there– it was the sheer bravery of standing up and replying to all those hurtful attacks like that– that made me admire her. That took a lot of guts and maturity to handle, and that showed me that despite her looking so tired and ‘dead’ all the time, there was a lot more to her than I’d figured.
But anyhow, Junjun’s been amazing over and over again. She looked amazing and inspiring in the ‘Onna ni Sachi Are’ PV, and she completely livened up for the cameras when it came down to performance time. She’s smiling all the time in her performances now– and that’s the Junjun I’ve been waiting for! 
I’m going to indulge my shallow side for a bit here. What is awesome about Junjun is that she can completely pull off two kinds of looks– the typical, idol-cute look, which she pulls off perfectly and looks absolutely adorable, along with this mind-blowing sexy look. Now, as a straight female myself, I have no qualms about saying that Junjun is hot! It’s really, really not often that I find myself saying that about my idols. They’re always cute, adorable, etcetera– but Junjun’s really the only one that I’d say can really do the sexy look. She pulls it off in the ‘Onna ni Sachi Are’ PV in a pretty subtle way, and, well… here’s some photographic evidence. Just… wow. Just look at her! [Insert incoherent fangirly ramble here.] What I love about Junjun’s body is that, unlike some of the current Momusus, she actually LOOKS healthy! My favorite comparison picture is this one. You can CLEARLY see the difference there. Reina has always looked way too anorexic to me, and you can see how much healthier Junjun looks next to Reina’s disgustingly skinny legs. It probably wasn’t the best move to put Reina next to Junjun in that dance– not just because of the comparison in their body types, but because I think if either one of them misstepped, I’m pretty sure Junjun would totally knock Reina out.
But anyway, back to the less shallow side of things! Junjun is just amazing. She’s mature, beautiful, a great singer, a good dancer– she’s just the whole package– a real woman among the Musumes.

01. Umeda Erika (C-ute)

If you know me, this should come as no surprise. Erika totally stands out in C-ute– and no, not just because of her height! Her voice, her dancing skills, her personality– Erika’s another one with the whole package. Her voice is so clear and on tune when she’s singing live, her height doesn’t make her dancing look at all awkward, and she has such a fun personality! I remember the exact thing that won me over and made me an Erika fan– I was watching segments of ‘C-ute Has Come,’ on Youtube, and much to my delight, one of the girls would be interacting with Finnish people! The entire point of the mini-show was to have the girls track down certain people from different countries, speak with them in English, or even a bit in their native language if it wasn’t English (though they all ended up using English, most likely because it was the most convenient– I’d be majorly impressed if Erika actually knew Finnish! XD), and explain to these people what C-ute was. The people they explained it to would write down, in their own language, what they thought the girls had explained to them– sometimes it was right, sometimes it was totally off. I think one of the foreign people had gotten the impression that C-ute was a baseball team during one of the segments.
Anyway! So I was curious to see how the Finnish meeting would go. There’s always a place in my heart for Finland because I’ve studied abroad there. And it happened to be Erika who got to meet the Finnish people! So it was really this video that made me an Erika fan:

When Erika finds the place she’s supposed to go, the hilarity begins. She walks up to the entrance, and for SOME REASON, she thinks that she has to stand in this entrance way (or hide behind it, I can’t tell), and REACH OVER with that long arm of hers and ring the doorbell simultaneously. When no one comes for a moment, she skitters around, until someone finally opens the door– at which point she shrieks in surprise and runs BACK to her hiding place. The guy has to actually come out before she finally greets him and goes inside. So, finally, she meets the people inside, they try to communicate for a bit– but the REAL winning moment comes at the very end, when Erika, I think, says something to the effect of, “The people from Finland are–” and pauses– TO DO HER OWN SOUND EFFECTS– “Ja jan!” The response: absolute silence. That part got me totally ROFL-ing, and it was the beginning of me just falling in love with this girl.
Since then, I’ve come to appreciate the many aspects of Erika– her quirky personality, voice, dancing– everything. Another thing I really love about Erika is that in her performances, she’s always THERE. She never looks dull or not attentive– she’s REALLY a performer, and I think she’s grown so much over the years, especially if you compare her now to her ZYX days.

In that video, you can see that Erika was a bit lacking in confidence. In her close-ups, she kind of nervously looks back and forth from the camera– occasionally she gets the hang of it, but most of the time, she just looks unsure of herself. And looks at her now.

She’ll stare the camera right now, make goofy faces while she’s in glasses– she does everything right! It’s really amazing when you look at what tremendous progess she’s made. And it’s sort of funny now– she’s even portrayed as the arrogant character of the group. During the Spring 2007 Concert, there’s a short video break, where it shows clips of Nakajima Saki spying in on the other girls. Maimi’s memorizing lines, Airi’s singing with a piano, Chisato’s running in the park, Kanna’s stretching, Mai’s trying on glasses, and Erika… is posing in the mirror and calling herself cute. So, so amazing. XD There’s even another point in the ‘Sakura Chirari’ Making of, where I believe it’s Saki holding a camera, and she goes up to Erika and asks what her charm point is. Erika’s reply, “My charm point is… everything!” In fact, throughout that entire Making of, you can catch Erika generally hamming it up for the camera every time it’s on her. She’s so amusing to watch!
And all of that– her talent, her progress, her personality– seats her comfortably at my number one spot.

Now, comparing this to my last ranking, Erika and Chinami are the only two to have stayed exactly where they were before. In fact, everyone else except Aika and Aki is completely new to my top 10! There’s a much bigger showing for C-ute, a smaller showing for Berryz, a smaller showing for C-ute, the same showing for Morning Musume (2 girls), and the same showing for AKB48 (2 girls). Sugiura Riho introduced the Canaria Club to the ranking, so that’s all brand new. It’s pretty interesting to look back and see how, in just a few months, my idol ranking has changed up quite a bit! Makes me wonder what it’ll be like next time around.