On June 8th and 9th, Berryz Koubou came to AnimeNEXT in Somerset, New Jersey. Being a gigantic Berryz fan since the age of 10 and a resident of New Jersey, you know I was there. It was my first trip to North Jersey, my first convention, and my first concert attendance. Not only that, it’s my favorite idol group of all time. It was also the most amazing experience of my life.
Sorry in advance if any pictures are different in consistency. I was using so many different things to take photos.
I knew the ride was going to be fairly long. Every website I checked estimated that the journey would take anywhere from an hour and a half to two whole hours. My mom was nervous–she doesn’t like driving for that long. And not only that, but she’s never been to North Jersey in her whole 34 years. I was absolutely sure we were going to be fine, we had GPS and paper directions, there was no way we could go wrong.
So, after coming home from school with my best friend, we got all our belongings packed and headed out the door around 3:15. Now, I know the Opening Ceremony started at 3, but there was no way we could’ve made it anyway–we had school on Friday. We punched in the address to the hotel my mom booked right down the street of the convention center and started off.
The GPS calculated that the estimated time driving would be around an hour and a half–which was a decent time. We would get there around 5, get ready at our room, and go to the concert. In the end, the ride was pretty straightforward. Since we were going up north, we were basically on the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate roads for 75% of the trip. Once we were about 15 minutes away from the hotel, we had to pay attention to which roads we were turning onto. And since my mom is shitting her pants driving, I had to be her eyes and pay attention to whether we were supposed to go right or left.
We finally got to the hotel room safely without any problems around 5:30. We entered our room, set down our bags, and went on our way being females–putting on makeup, doing hair, and other lady things. Once that was finished we went downstairs and saw quite a few people in costumes. I was in awe. I only ever saw people cosplay in pictures, actually seeing it in front of you is a whole other ball game.
Before, I used to see pictures of cosplayers and just think, “Wow, you have wayyy too much time on your hands.” But when I was actually at that place, it was amazing. I saw so many characters–anime, video game characters, movie characters–that I recognized, it was so cool. Seeing all the people so into their characters was awesome–know why? Because it’s the time and the place for it. Obviously, if you walk down the street with those costumes on, people will look at you like, “What the FUCK is wrong with you?!?” But when you’re in a place where no one is judging you and everyone accepts you and compliments you, it’s such a friendly and calm environment.
When we arrived, we had no idea where the hell to go. But some guy directed us to the Pre-Registration area and we got our badges. My best friend and I obviously snagged the badge with the Berryz picture on it. By this time, it’s about 6:30. We walked around a bit, completely at a loss for words(also, just plain lost). We entered the Artist Alley(at the time, we had no fucking idea what it was) and just started looking around. About 15 minutes went by and my Berryz senses kicked in. “We have to go see Berryz! We have to go to the Main Events area!” We asked a staff member where it was and we easily found the entrance to the performance room.
On two giant projectors, the latest Hello! Project PVs were playing. C-ute’s Kimi wa Jitensha, Erina Mano’s Song for the DATE, S/mileage’s Dot Bikini. Soon enough, 7 o’clock rolled around and the lights got dimmer & the fog blurred the stage. An opening video played on the projectors(obviously not as good as their official concert ones), then Icchoume Rock! played without the girls on stage. I was just like, “DA FAWK IZ THIS??!?” But then their silhouettes appeared and I just screamed at the top of my lungs. Rival began and finally, we saw all the girls.
I was in pure disbelief. I just wouldn’t believe that my idols were just feet in front of me. All 7 of them. It felt like a dream. I was afraid that I would end up blinking and they would be gone, and I would be at home in my bed. But it wasn’t it was all real.
I know it sounds kinda crazy and psycho of me, but seriously. These are the girls I’ve admired since I was 10. I’ve been with them through 16 singles and 5 albums. I’ve never let my fandom slip away. I’ve never once doubted how much I loved them–never. Not to mention, they’re from a different continent entirely. How many other people will ever get the chance to say that they saw their favorite Asian idols live in their own country? Not many.
I don’t remember the whole tracklist exactly; I was just singing along, jumping up and down, and pumping my arm in the air. I do remember Dakishimete Dakishimete, Yuujou Junjou oh Seishun, Special Generation, VERY BEAUTY, Maji Bomber!!, Otakebi Boy WAO! (Spark Ver.), and Because Happiness. The whole crowd was extremely into it, too. They new exactly when to roar and call the girls’ names. After a few songs, the first “MC” started and the girls did talked their best English to let the crowd know how appreciative they were to see us.
Then the girls performed some more and I kept screaming and pumping along with every song. I was kind of irritated with my best friend considering she barely moved or even clapped to any of the songs. But I was just thinking, “Whatever. I wanna be the crazed fan. Idgaf who sees.” Another break ensued and each girl told the crowd to repeat a Japanese word and then gave us its English translation. I easily remember Maasa did “kuchibiru,” which she said meant beautiful lips–and I thought that was cute because Maasa obviously has amazing lips. Of course, Momoko(who insisted everyone call her Momochii) did “kawaii.” I also remember “eiga,” “shiawase,” and “yakiniku,” but I don’t remember who exactly did them(I think it was Risako, Miyabi, and Saki respectively, but I can’t remember). Chinami was also adorable when she was reading some of the script; she tripped over a couple words, laughed at herself and was like, “Ah, chotto matte!” The whole crowd laughed~
At the end of the concert, they all bowed and left the stage smiling and waving at the crowd. I screamed Risako’s name and tried to get a wave but I wasn’t very close so I probably wasn’t seen. But the concert was great, and the girls did phenomenal. (Yurina is always the quickest to start sweating, LOL!)
After the concert, we immediately went to eat. Attached to the hotel was a Ruby Tuesday, so we ate there. I wasn’t as hungry as my best friend and mom, so I barely ate much. After eating, we all went up to our room, got all washed up, and went to sleep!
We woke up on Saturday around 10-ish. Before going to bed, we got our schedule together. We planned on getting there, shopping a bit, going to a cosplay judging, the GRAMM fashion show, then the Berryz Q&A and autograph session. We all got ready, got our things packed, went downstairs to check out, and headed off.
First, we were starving. We went to the nearest Dunkin Donuts and bought some sammiches. Soon enough, we were back on the road. When we got to the convention center, the Dealer’s Room was our first stop. My best friend and I went straight to the Berryz Koubou stand. What were we met with?
“Sorry! All merchandise is SOLD OUT.”
I wanted to cry! I wanted to buy at least a fan and a T-shirt! But I told myself I wasn’t going to let that bring me down. We went around the Dealer’s Room(which is the spot where everything is sold), looking at all the merchandise. Now, I’m not a big anime fan, so nothing truly stood out to me. But everything from buttons to clothing to CDs to DVDs to jewelry was being sold. It was just awesome.
The first thing I picked up was an Adventure Time T-shirt. I….absolutely LOVE Adventure Time, and I’ve been wanting some sort of merchandise for months. Finally, I got a t-shirt! I was ecstatic, haha!
We looked around some more and saw a K-pop section. I was like, “OH MY BAJANGLES!” Of course, it was filled with more mainstream artists like SHINee, SNSD, and Big Bang. They literally had everything under the sun. Buttons, t-shirts, posters, bags, mugs, everything! But my mom insisted we looked around more before spending too much there.
I bought an official AnimeNEXT 2012 T-shirt and a necklace before declaring that there wasn’t much else to spend money on. So I went straight back to the K-pop section and bought a Big Bang poster(the last one to be exact), Big Bang buttons, and a U-KISS T-shirt.
Mind you, this place is packed. Soo many people going all opposite directions. It’s like a New York highway. Not to mention, people are taking pictures all over the place. Getting around the place is a journey on its own, lol. But I don’t mind, because I was taking pictures myself. :]
After spending so much time in the Dealer’s Room, I had realized it was nearly 1:30 pm and there was absolutely no way to get to the Cosplay Judging. But next on our list was the GRAMM fashion show @ 2:00 pm. So we made our way to the Main Event stage where we met the dude(yes, that’s a man) above. Hey, he didn’t look too shabby, right? Plus we have Billy the Exterminator on the right -__-
After waiting about ten minutes we were seated in an area next to the Main Events stage to allow the staff to get everything set up. After another 10 or 15 minutes, we were sent to the main area. Another 10 minutes went by with photos and runway shots on the large projectors. Soon, the fog rolled along the stage and one girl at a time appeared.
I absolutely adored all the outfits. The style was something I was fond of. It was edgy and rocker-like but maintained a girly, frilly feel. I really love anything with tulle or lace, too. In the Dealer’s Room, they had their own section; I wish I could have bought something but everything was EXPENSIVE AS HELL. Literally one shirt costs over 100 dollars–I ain’t got that type a money, feel me? Each and every outfit contained the same elements but was so unique and different in their own way.
The fashion show lasted only for about 15-20 minutes, then it was followed by a Q&A of the designer. But as soon as the show was over, we split so we could get back in line for Berryz Koubou’s Q&A.
After about 10-15 minutes, everyone began to huddle onto one side of the line, opposite to the building. People began waiting and screaming and I knew Berryz were coming through that way. My best friend and I quickly raced over there and tried to get a glimpse. Finally, they began walking by us and we started snapping pictures.
I’m pretty friggin’ short so it was kind of hard squeezing passed men and older girls. On top of that, I was just trying to get a wave from Risako or Saki. My best friend got way better shots than me. But then my mom caught a perfect video of all 7 of them.
When she showed me, I was like, “OH MY GOD, RISAKO WAS TWO FEET IN FRONT OF YOU ASDFGHJKL!” It was amazing to be so close to them.
We stayed in line for a little longer and were finally able to enter. My mom, best friend, and I were in the left section(if you’re looking up at the stage). After some time, someone who made me think of a manager hopped on stage and told us that we’d get a “photo/video opportunity” before they start the Q&A. She also gave us the rundown on how the Q&A session will work.
The girls came up on stage and waved at each section of the audience. Everyone yelled and screamed and took their photos. Of course I was irritated that each photo I took was ruined by the lighting. But I yelled Risako’s name as loud as possible!
The staff set up the desk area on stage and soon, the Q&A began. One by one, people went up to the mic, asking questions or giving the girls presents. In the end, I’m sure that more presents were given than questions were asked. And honestly, I was pretty surprised by which girls got the most presents. Chinami probably got up the most. Yup, Chinami.
Now, I’m not trying to say that nobody likes her, but I was surprised with how many people actually called her their favorite. It’s nice to know that Western fans don’t necessarily notice just the girls who are always in the front. And here’s another surprise: Risako got the least amount of questions and presents.
I was shocked. I thought that Risako got a lot of screentime and whatnot, right? She does, but I guess that gives people a reason to hate on her. The only time she got up was to accept a gift for the group as a whole. And no one ever asked her a question directly. I wanted to get up and ask something but, I had absolutely no clue what to ask. It kinda made me sad.
After the Q&A, it was time for the autograph session. If you remember or read up on it, people with a wristband could get priority in getting an autograph. But what I didn’t realize was how many people actually had them. At first, only people with wristbands could get in line, then the ones without it. But we decided to sit down and wait a bit to see if getting in line would actually be worth it.
We sat in the front of the middle section, and the girls’ table was about ten feet in front of us. They sat down at the table and got ready to sign everyone’s merchandise.
We were waiting and waiting for a while. There had to have been near 100 people with wristbands. And since everyone’s merchandise was being signed by all 7 girls, it wasn’t all that speedy.
At one point, I was paying attention to the line and my best friend was looking at the girls. She called Miyabi’s name and waved. I finally snapped out of it and asked, “Did she wave at you??” And she did! We both started tearing up like a bunch of nuts. Suddenly, she jerked me forward and said, “Risako’s looking over here!” I looked directly at her, called her name and waved. And she looked directly at me, smiled and waved. I WAS NEAR TEARS.
Like. My idol since the age of 10 just waved directly at me. Omfg.
A few minutes went by and there was a break where Saki was sitting and she was directly in front of me. She looked up from the table to fix her hair. And then she looked straight at me. LIKE. CAPTAIN’S EYES LOOKED INTO MINE. My heart stopped. I was frozen solid. I didn’t even know where I was anymore. Then, she smiled and waved. And I quickly did the same. She giggled then went onto the next person in line.
BAHHHHHH! LIKE OMG. DO YOU KNOW HOW HAPPY I WAS?!? I’M SURPRISED I DIDN’T START BAWLING LIKE A PSYCHO.
Risako was the last person to get the merchandise to sign so she was free every so often. When I looked over a second time, she saw me and waved again.
RISAKO WAVED DIRECTLY AT ME TWICE, GUYS. I CAN DIE AS HAPPY AS HAPPY FEET.
After a solid 30 minutes of sitting and waiting, the chances of us getting signatures were obsolete. I was sure that we probably weren’t going to be able to get autographs. So my mother asked the somewhat-manager-lady if it was possible, and they had to say no. They were on a time schedule and getting in line wouldn’t guarantee anything. Unfortunately, we had to go.
I tried to wait until Risako didn’t have anything to sign so I could call her again, but as I went by, she was looking in Yurina’s direction and I couldn’t wave. I was so sad.
We left the convention center and started on our long journey back home.
We made it back perfectly safe and sound.
And that was the end of the best 24 hours of my life.
I wanted to do a little section specifically for how I thought the girls performed or acted with the fans.
Saki was exactly how I thought she would be: a perfect little leader. She had a smile on her face the whole time and was so friendly with everyone. There was no other way to describe it. She’s like a mini Ai Takahashi.
I finally realize why Momoko is such a fan favorite. You know how she is in variety shows and MCs? Well, she’s really like that. She’s so outgoing and spunky; she’s a perfect idol. And that’s why some people give her so much grief, too. But she’s just trying to be the best idol she can be. Even my mom loved her!
Chinami is an East Coast favorite, I tell you. Like I said, she got the most presents. And she had such great chemistry with the audience–way better than I thought she would. She would trip over words and make a joke about it. She would stay behind the whole group to wave at every single person that called her name. It was awesome to see how energetic she was. It really made me like her a lot more.
Maasa was fairly quiet. Her cool, jokey side didn’t come out as much as I thought it would. She did say she gets awful jet lag. But she performed so well in the concert. Even my mother said that she was super sassy.
Miyabi was still goofy and cute as she normally is. She did great at the concert and was also very cheery with fans.
Yurina was her usual towering self. I thought she did great during the concert and was cheery was well. In the Q&A, she was so adorable. She danced a bit to Mr. Taxi and described her height as “Very tall!”
Risako was quiet. And I always knew she was like that. She has that reserved quality about her, and it shows; my mom noticed, she said to me, “Of course you would like the one that’s super shy!” It also made me think about all the people who bag on her. It’s a shame. Such a shy, sweet, reserved young girl could accumulate so much hate just because she’s usually center. She had such amazing, powerful vocals during the concert, and I believe she gave it her all. I love you, Risako-chan! Oh, and blonde looks amazing on her.
And thus, that is the end of my journey! It was an amazing 24 hours that I’ll never live again. Even though I couldn’t buy any merchandise or get anything signed, I still had a fantastic time. No matter who is the musical guest of AnimeNEXT in 2013, I’m still going. And my best friend and I are gonna go all dressed up! I hope everyone who went had a great time. Leave a comment below to let me know that you went! Till next time, ~Kio.