It took me forever to decide on a title for this post. I wanted to get across the point that it’d be about Risako, obviously, but I didn’t even know how to go about phrasing it. I’m not 100% happy about how in turned out– but it’ll do. It was either that, or replace ‘Mystery’ with ‘Power.’ (And then both of them led me to trying to form some pun like… Risakopower!! ga subarashii… and, just… anyway.) Power might be a bit more true to the entry, but it sounds awkward out of context and sounded more like some kind of late-night infomercial on alternative healing or something. But I guess that’s the inevitable trouble I face in trying to describe a girl as… extraordinary as Risako.

My feelings about Risako seem to come in waves. To begin with, she’s sort of my anti-Koharu story– in that I started out loving Koharu, and she fell out of favor, but then I liked her again. With Risako, she started out as my least favorite girl in Berryz. I remember last summer, when I was just getting into Berryz– I was browsing Youtube for any videos I could get my hands on, and I particularly watched some of Berryz’s earlier live/concert performances. To put in bluntly, I was just not impressed with Risako’s performances; her singing sounded more like yelling, she didn’t seem that confident, and still, she seemed to be a fan favorite! I just didn’t get it at all. Brain did not compute. And– dare I say it– it even made me a little frustrated. I was a big fan of Chinami from the start, and I thought she was a better performer, and she didn’t get nearly as many lines in songs as Risako did! She just seemed to be this painfully awkward girl placed in the middle of all this idol stuff and left seemingly nervous and unsure about everything.

And to be honest, I can’t even pinpoint exactly when it happened. I honestly believe I woke up one day and my brain declared, “Good morning, Samantha. Today, you will start liking Risako. No exceptions,” because I seriously cannot remember when or how that happened. I found myself no longer cringing at the sight of Risako in videos or the sound of her voice when I listened to Berryz songs. In fact, I didn’t just tolerate her, I began to like her. Quite a lot. I found myself watching her solo performance of “Yeah! Meccha Holiday” when I was feeling down, and her solo lines in both live performances and recorded songs suddenly became my favorites.

Just earlier tonight, I was listening to ‘Special Generation’ on my iPod– I hadn’t listened to the song in quite a while, and I was surprised at how much I liked Risako’s solo lines– even now. She totally owns all of her lines in that song– I couldn’t tell you why, because it doesn’t make any musical sense, but in my brain, it does. But anyway, I’m skipping around here. Back to the ‘suddenly liking Risako’ stage– Risako suddenly became a bit of a milestone in my H!P fandom. I came across some UFA photos on eBay one day– it was either earlier this year or late last year, and I toyed with the idea of buying a few just to have them. I almost didn’t, and closed out of the site– until another day, I found myself really wanting to buy, at the very least, one of the Risako photos that I really liked. So I did. (And ended up buying an Umeda Erika and MM 5th Gen. photo along with the Risako one, FYI). It may seem silly and unimporant, but really, that was the first time I ever bought something H!P related that wasn’t a CD. And later on, I liked that photo so much that I found out what concert it was taken from (judging by the outfit she was wearing), and THAT was the first H!P DVD I bought. The fact that the Miyabi/Risako ‘Anata wa Nashide Ikite Yukenai’ performance was in the same concert DVD sealed the deal on me buying it, but the whole reason I sought it out in the first place was because of that photo.

And yet, my feelings about Risako are not static. Just weeks ago, when the PV for ‘Tsukiatteiru no ni Kataomoi’ was released and Risako got tons of screen time (as usual), one would logically think I’d be very pleased about the whole thing– but really, I wasn’t. Rather, I really didn’t care that much. She hadn’t fallen into the realm of ‘dislike’ with me at all– in fact, she was still my favorite girl in Berryz. But my reaction was more like, “Oh, there’s Risako. She looks pretty here. Hey, Yurina’s really cool in this one. Hm, neat. *Click.*” I didn’t care for the song at the time, so that might’ve been a contributing factor to the whole don’t-care take on it. Now that the song has grown on me, I love listening to it– especially, you guessed it, Risako’s lines. It’s just so odd. One day, Risako’s in the “she’s cool, but I’m more interested in [insert name here]” category with me– and the next, she’s battling with Umeda Erika for my “top favorite” in Hello! Project. And that’s where I’m at now.

And for once, I can explain why! I just recently purchased Risako’s first photobook. Once again, Risako claims another milestone in my H!P fandom, and J-pop fandom in general. Not only was that the first H!P photobook I bought– it was the first photobook I ever bought. Once again, I had to toy with the idea a bit before I actually went through and bought it. Someone posted in LiveJournal that they were selling it– so there the opportunity was, right out of nowhere. I’d seen the photobook before (online), and it was so close to Christmas. I’d bought my presents for others at that point– but would I really want to spend even more money on an early gift for myself? Eventually (obviously), the answer was yes. Might as well, right? Erika didn’t seem like she’d be getting a PB anytime soon, so why not actually see what this whole photobook thing is about and spend a little bit to buy one of Risako’s– the girl who had always fascinated me. So I got it, just last week. Flipped through the book, was taken aback at the photo quality, and then noticed the ‘making of’ DVD at the end. I didn’t recall ever watching the making of for that PB, so I popped in it my computer, and after watching it for a bit, it hit me. Gradually, I’d been seeing a lot of myself in Risako– I just never really wanted to admit it. Our personalities seemed similar, and just– there was something that I always saw in Risako that I could relate to more than any other idol. People have even told me I look like Risako, too. But it took watching that making of for me to fully realize what I’d been thinking all along.

And it’s sort of funny– the things that made me dislike Risako in the first place became the true “charm points” that eventually won me over. I found myself rooting for her along the way, and I was not disappointed. Risako has been improving in singing, and, quite tremendously, in her stage presence. She’s come a long way since the beginning of Berryz– the transformation is really hard to believe. That awkward kid who cried at the end of one of her first performances of ‘Anata wa Nashide…’ (I can’t find that video for the life of me, or I’d link it– my apologies!) has become a confident performer today. She still seems to get nervous from time to time, but it’s understandable. As a performer myself, I can certainly say that I’m not inevitable to stage fright from time to time.

To me, Risako went from being the “worst” idol in H!P to the one who I wanted everyone to see. When I would show my friends H!P things, I would make sure that I would have to show them something about Risako. When I was making up my presentations on J-pop for my Japanese Culture class last semester, I deliberately picked Berryz clips where Risako got the most screen-time.

It’s sort of humbling to actually acknowledge all of this about Risako. But it really is just one manifestation of the power of the idol world at work. I can’t explain why, but Risako became one of my favorite idols. (I’m still reluctant to say that Risako is my favorite idol, because of my attachment to Umeda Erika and Kashiwagi Yuki (AKB48), but deep down inside, I might really have to admit that she is my favorite. In fact, it seems kind of silly to even compare them all at times– Risako is in an entirely different league than the others.) I suppose I can mostly blame that whole relatability factor– the fact that I can relate to her so much is a huge pull. She just “clicks” with me, for some reason, like no other idols do. But I can’t help but wonder– if it was the same with another idol… if I related to someone else so well, would they be my favorite? Or is it actually the power of Risako— uniquely Risako– that won me over all along? I doubt I’ll ever find out, but hey, c’est la vie!

I really apologize if this entry was particularly boring or I rambled on and on about insignificant things, but this was one of those ‘I really need to examine this’ entries, and I did just want to put it out there that I am completely under Risako’s spell, if anyone can relate to that. XD That and I think this is another interesting thing about the whole idol world– how close you can feel to particular idols, seemingly out of nowhere, because of so many different factors. So anyway, for anyone who got bored (and anyone who didn’t!), I’ll wrap this up with the beautiful performance of ‘Watashi ga Suru Koto nai Hodo Zenbu Shite Kureru Kure,’ by Risako and Momoko, from the most recent Berryz concert DVD. Well, actually, it’s a big clip from that DVD, and the performance of that song (I just REFUSE to write out that title again) is in the middle– right after ‘Sprinter!’

(And, for the fun of it, my favorite Risako picture.)

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