Review Monday: 1 Oku 3 Zen Man Sou Diet Oukoku

I’m not Berryz Koubou’s biggest fan. Sure, I got into them as my first ever idol group, and I was (and still am, to an extent) a pretty big Tokunaga Chinami fan, but they just haven’t impressed me as of late. I rank them generally as my least favorite Hello!Project group, and I don’t pay much attention. I was not planning on reviewing this single at all. However, it completely surprised me, so I thought that I had to review Berryz’s Diet Song.

Song: As a song, I do like this. I feel like Berryz is finally starting to figure out their style lately, which is good. IMO Berryz’s biggest downfall was their Inazuma Eleven years. Not that what they did there was bad; some of my favorite Berryz songs on their own come from that era (I particularly like Otakebi Boy! Wao! and Ryuusei Boy), but they really lost group identity then. Berryz is a weird group. None of the members particularly fit together, they’re all shapes and sizes, and they’ve done really odd things in the past (Dschinghis Khan and Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance?).

This song doesn’t quite bring back the Berryz I became a fan of, but I mention this because I like the weirdness. I like the repetition of phrases and how robotic it sounds. This is still more in their recent Asian Celebration phase than their Monkey Dance phase, but I like how it sounds. I don’t know if I’d consider this a good song as a whole; Some of the phrases go on too long, and it’s a bit sad when repeated phrases hold my attention more than anything else. However, this is a better song than Berryz have been given lately, which is a good thing.

Lyrics: Normally I don’t pay the lyrics much attention, aside from the really obvious things. Lyrics can matter, but most idol lyrics aren’t the best and are pretty irrelevant to how I feel about the song. However, this song is all lyrics, in terms of my interest in reviewing it. By the way, I’m referring to the official video translation. I know these aren’t perfect, and I’m supplementing this with my own Japanese knowledge, but they’re what’s being promoted to the US.

So. These lyrics. The way I see it, the intent of these lyrics are unclear, and there are two main options for how they could be taken; it could be either, or, or a little of both (which is what I think it is, mind):

1. Tsunku is mean, and fatshaming is in. Since he’s said that Berryz has heavy members, this is a dig at them. This is promoting a nation of dieting.

2. This is a critique of fatshaming and the concept of a nation of dieting, saying that other things are more important.

Here are my thoughts on each of those ideas.

1: Both Japan and the US have a complicated relationship with weight. A lot of people do, really. It’s difficult, really. Healthy eating and exercise habits are important, and something to promote. On the other hand, shaming overweight people doesn’t work and makes people gain weight. A healthy diet is a good thing, but promoting unhealthy diets is a bad thing.

When the lyrics mention that Japan is a nation of dieting, while that might be synechdoche, it’s not inaccurate. Japan has a law on the books that fines people with a large waistline after the age of 40. Japan is the least obese industrialized nation, and “To the contrary, there is a problem of leanness in young females.” (Source) Health is admirable, but this isn’t necessarily the cause.

It’s easy to see this song as promoting that type of behavior. The song focuses on “every single person likes beautiful girls,” which could infer that by beautiful they mean slender. All these lyrics about dieting are surrounded by “I want to love” and lyrics about aiming for one’s dreams. If this is saying that this is achievable by dieting, then this is a terrible message. Being healthy is a good thing, but unhealthy dieting and getting too underweight is a bad thing as well.

2: However, the more I’ve thought about these lyrics, the more interesting I find them. Take the “all year around” and “every single person” lines that are repeated; by using repetition, the part that’s repeated is how this affects every single person and that this is a constant thing. This isn’t necessarily promoting diets, but saying that this is a long standing thing that’s firmly embedded. The girls almost sound robotic, as well, which reinforces that this isn’t an individual choice but something that was put in them.

There are a lot of interesting things about the lyrics as well. There are two lines in particular that stand out; the first is the one that ‘even slender girls diet.’ This is true in life as well as in song; haven’t all of us seen an idol blog and been shocked when an already slender idol is talking about dieting? But this means that slender girls are still caught up in this cycle, that even when you get to a healthy (or beyond) weight that it’s not enough to make them happy. The other line that makes me pause is the line about waking up drenched in sweat; the only thing that the subject of the song can think of is all the weight she’s burned, never mind things like being late and grades. This shows the skewed morality and skewed priority system.

Still, even things like the “koi shitai” and lines about the girls wants can be interpreted differently. All those things are expressed as desires, things they want to do. The dieting is all present or at best not far into the future (today I will start my diet). While it could be that these things are seen as achievable post-diet, it could also be that they want to break this cycle of dieting and actually focus on these other things instead.

Honestly, the more I think about it, the more this is a judgment call. I personally think it’s more of the second category than the first, but that this could and probably does promote unhealthy dieting. However, things are ambiguous for you to decide what the song ultimately means.

PV: After the lyrics, what can I even say about this? This is fine. The production values have gone up, but that’s not by much; there’s still issues with lighting, especially in closeups (a girl with hair and features like Risako is not treated kindly with this type of lighting). The set doesn’t look terrible (much better than some of the other Berryz sets), but it’s not particularly great. I was going to do a whole review, but the PV is wholely unremarkable in most ways. It’s serviceable, and not awful, but certainly not good.

Verdict: Berryz Koubou’s latest isn’t very interesting musically or visually, but the lyrics are interesting; depending on your opinion you may hate or love them.

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