I’ve kept it no secret that I hold Chinami in high regard. In my whole scheme of favorites in H!P (and elsewhere in the idol world), there’s very few idols that I think can really do no wrong. Chinami is definitely one of them. I honestly don’t remember ever being disappointed by anything about her– her personality, voice, performance style. Nothing. And that’s why I think it’s such a shame that Chinami always seems to get the short end of the stick. She has disappointingly few solos in Berryz singles; ‘Tsukiatteiru’ was the most recent, and what lines did she get? “Ne ii deshou?” Oh, fantastic. We get to hear Chinami singing solo for about half of a second. And the other most recent was, “sore ga onna yo,” in ‘Very Beauty’– it was notable that she was the only one other than Risako, Miyabi, and Yurina to get a line– but it was one line, not verses like the others got. And yet, even with the little glory that Chinami is personally given, the girl knows how to work with what she’s got. She absolutely owns her solo lines, and despite not being a front-girl for the group, she’s always energetically performing.

I still remember when I was first browsing Berryz videos– ‘Gag 100kai bun Aishite Kudasai’ was one of the first ones I found, and it was just one little appearance that made the entire PV enjoyable. This girl had me at “no nyu!”

There’s one thing I can say about Chinami with absolute confidence– this girl is one of the world’s most charming idols. I’ve never noticed Chinami messing up anything. I’ve never seen something where I thought, “Hmm, Chinami must be having an off day.” She’s always spot-on and charming. Chinami has her own brand of confidence that makes her incredibly unique, too. When I think of confident H!P idols, I usually think of strong personalities like Fujimoto and Yossie, but Chinami is another one that immediately comes to mind, and her kind of confidence seems different than the kind that Miki and Yossie have. She doesn’t really have the potential to strike fear into my heart like Miki does, and she doesn’t have the larger-than-life personality of Yossie. Chinami can be just another girl in the background if she doesn’t care to be up front, but when the spotlight’s on her, she absolutely shines. I was just watching the episode of Music Fighter where Berryz guest star– around the time of their ‘Jiriri Kiteru’ release, and that show demonstrates this aspect of her personality.

Throughout the show, there are girls that the hosts seem to particularly focus on (like Risako, but she’s painfully shy here), and then those that open up quite quickly without much prompting (like Momoko). It’s only when Chinami is specifically referred to– when they ask about her being “in charge of comedy” in Berryz Koubou, that she first gets some decent time to talk (around 4:27). And right away, she’s ready with a pun to give an example of her comedic talents. One of the things I love about Chinami is how prepared she seems; there’s barely any hesitation and shyness in her demeanor. She’s strong right from the start. And it’s things like that that make me think that if Berryz had an epic battle of wit, Chinami would absolutely slaughter the competition. What’s ironic, though, is near the end of that clip, Chinami talks about how she gets told by the others that she’s very cheerful and energetic, but she thinks that she’s lacking in sexiness. But confidence can be very sexy. She just needs to learn how to work that kind of sex appeal, and she’s certainly got a lot of time to develop that skill.

Heck, I think she’s already working on it quite well. I’m convinced of that after watching some recent performances, particularly her very memorable duet with Yurina in the 2007 ‘Sakura Mankai’ concert. I honestly think that their performance of ‘Nicchoku ~Geinoujin no Kaiwa~’ is one of the best of that concert.

I’ve read comments where the two have been compared to models on a catwalk in that performance, and I think it all has to do with their confidence. The footage at around 0:24 is almost surreal. The two look like totally captivating goddesses, and all they’re doing is walking! Throughout the clip, the one that consistently grabs my attention is Chinami, though. There’s just an aspect of energy and confidence in her performance that makes me forget about Yurina and focus on her, instead. I’m not quite sure if it was choreographed this way, but at parts in the dance like at 01:33, Yurina wiggles around a little bit, while Chinami totally goes for it.

Still, it’s impossible to think of Chinami and not picture her bright smile and her often goofy personality. Comedians always win me over, so I absolutely love that Chinami just seems to love to laugh, and she’s never afraid to joke around backstage with the other girls– or even while she’s on stage.

A very memorable Chinami performance moment (for me, at least), is right around 5:50 in that video. The girls are performing ‘Gag 100kai bun Aishite Kudasai’ in their Summer Concert from 2006. I can’t say for sure what makes Chinami do this– it could be the slight stutter of Miyabi’s voice that happens just before that moment, but Chinami gets a SERIOUS case of the giggles, and the camera catches her cracking up. She makes it through her “no nyu!” lines shortly after– but just barely. She even seems to cut the last “no nyu!” a split second short because she immediately tries to stifle her laughter afterward. But you’ve just got to love that kind of thing– we get to see Chinami being Chinami, right on stage– breaking form just for a tiny bit. And instead of being disappointed, I’m completely charmed by the moment, simply because it’s Chinami, the Comedy Queen of Berryz. And, as mentioned before, she’s certainly no stranger to joking around and having fun backstage. Whether it’s trying to coordinate the “Chi – na – tsu” line with Miyabi, pretending she’s a wota in the audience with Saki (~1:21), or just generally being her loveable, rather dorky self, Chinami brings a sense of fun wherever she is.

And even so, Chinami still remains a serious, valuable performer. Her dancing skills are great, as mentioned before, but I haven’t yet mentioned her singing. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Chinami’s voice on several occasions. I know that I’ve referenced this particular video before in one of my posts, but it’s so good that I want to bring it up once again.

Once again, it’s a performance from the ‘Sakura Mankai’ concert in 2007. ‘Very Beauty’ is the song being performed, and this was one where Chinami was just lucky enough to get one solo line. Among the verses from the regulars (Risako, Miyabi, Yurina), we get to hear one line from Chinami, and she just owns it. I’m positive I would’ve overlooked this one as just another concert performance if Chinami didn’t sing that line the way she did. Risako sounded… like she usually does; Miyabi sounded… like she usually does. Yurina sounded slightly better than she usually does, but it didn’t wow me. Then Chinami comes in (~3:09) and puts a very needed spark back into the song. She’s not just going through the motions here, and as corny as it sounds, her voice just sounds very hopeful and alive, so much more than the others. She holds her last note out just beautifully before the musical break in the song.

Another thing that I love about Chinami’s singing is that she doesn’t back off at all. If you pay attention to how the girls seem to approach their singing, Chinami’s voice is quite strong. I’ve been impressed by her in this area several times recently, and I’ll share both. The first is the concert performance of ‘Sakura wa Rakusa,’ and Chinami’s lines are at ~01:03 and 01:45.

Chinami’s voice comes across with a very crisp, clear tone to it. She shows that she knows how to sing out without straining her voice or becoming screechy or shaky. That can be pretty difficult to achieve while dancing at the same time, but Chinami makes it look so effortless! Another recent performance where Chinami really caught my eye was from the 2008 Berryz Summer Concert.

There’s two songs in that video, but the one I’m referring to is ‘Yume de Do Up,’ which starts at 04:30. The dancing made me chuckle a little– seeing all the Berryz girls skittering around in a big circle is just not something you see every day (imagine if you did!), but I guess it’s appropriate for the whimsy sound of the song. Anyway, Chinami’s just great in this one. You can hear her distinctly at 05:01, and when I was watching this concert for the first time, that line just made me take a step back and, literally, say “WOW.” She hits those low notes with that clear, strong voice of hers. And later in the song, at 05:42, she gets another great solo line, followed by one of her infectious smiles.

The saddest thing is that Chinami is so often overlooked. She’s proven herself time and time again– she’s charismatic in PVs and live performances, her voice is great both in the studio and live, she’s got such a loveable personality, a winning smile, and still, if it weren’t for album tracks and b-sides, we’d be barely acquainted with Chinami’s voice in the scarce solo lines she gets in singles. And that’s definitely not the way to go. Chinami is someone you’d want to promote in the idol world; you’re not making any gambles on whether or not she’d bring everything she’s got forward, because she’s shown that she already does, even with what little she’s been given to flaunt.

Chinami has always been this… capsule of potential. From the very beginning, in ‘Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai,’ Chinami was cute and charming, in voice, looks, and demeanor. She’s kept on improving ever since, and I still think she’s got tons of potential in her– she’ll just keep on improving. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing more of Chinami in the future. I think it will be impossible to shove her in the back for much longer. She simply can’t be ignored.

(And, of course, I’m still waiting for my dream unit of Umeda, Linlin, and Chinami. Oh, if only…)