Thursday, May 24, 2012

mAyKB48 – (20/48) Subunit – Not Yet

Not Yet is a newer subunit, debuting in early 2011.  The members are Oshima Yuko, Yokoyama Yui, Sashihara Rino, and Kitahara Rie.  The name of the group apparently comes from the idea that the members are not yet good at singing and dancing (which goes along with the whole concept of idols, following them as they improve) although I feel that this is somewhat debatable.  Their fourth single comes out at the end of this month. 

Of note on their latest single is that Kitahara Rie wrote the lyrics for one of the coupling tracks, guilty love.  As far as I know this makes her only the second AKB member to attempt this sort of challenge.  I’ve yet to hear the song, but I think it gives songs an added touch of personality when one of the members is more involved in the creation.  I also think giving the girls these kinds of opportunities is a great thing for the group, as it will help them grow as artists and possibly help them develop talents that they can use once they graduate from AKB.

Not Yet has the interesting honor of being the first subunit to get its own television variety show.  Yonpara Future Game Battle was a weekly show that featured the girls live chatting over Skype and completing various challenges.  They made 23 episodes before it was canceled last month.


While I had a hard time describing French Kiss’s style, describing Not Yet is relatively easy.  Not Yet is all about really catchy pop songs.  I have not been able to get their newest single, Suika Baby, out of my head since I first heard it.  It’s the kind of music you find yourself humming even when you don’t know all the words.  Appropriately, their dancing is incredibly bouncy and makes you want to nod your head along with the music.  Their music videos are a lot of fun and full of energy.

Although Yuko is by far the most popular of the members here, all of the girls are represented fairly evenly.  I feel like Yuko gets slightly more lines/screen time than the others, but it is pretty slight.  Although all the girls do get solo lines in most songs, it seems that the focus is more on the blending of the different girls voices, having them sing in different pairs.  This helps to keep things pretty evenly distributed and adds a bit of vocal variety to the songs.  The first solo song on a Not Yet single will go to Yokoyama Yui on their upcoming release. 


I really enjoy Not Yet, although I suppose I was bound to like them since my favorite member is a part of the unit.  But I think even if it were four different girls I would still enjoy their music.  I like happy bouncy pop songs, and, while they may not be the pinnacle of musical achievement, they are highly enjoyable. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

mAyKB48 – (19/48) Subunit – French Kiss

So after writing up no3b’s entry I really thought that these next two would take a long time, but it seems that most of the other subunits don’t have nearly as much back-story.  So today we move on to French Kiss.

French Kiss is the subunit home of Kashiwagi Yuki, Takajo Aki, and Kuramochi Asuka.  The group’s catchphrase is, “A trio you would like to introduce to your parents.”  They made their debut in June of 2010 and have since released four singles.  They have a 5th single and album in the works.  Early on many of the coupling tracks on their singles were covers of Team B stage songs, but by their third single the release included all new songs.  Their first single ranked number 27 in the 2011 Request Hour and one of its coupling tracks snuck in at number 93.  It was their only single out at the time, so it was a very nice showing for them.

For their first two singles French Kiss had an interesting gimmick.  One version of their singles included a mini drama starring the members.  These dramas were 40-45 minute and told realistic love stories set in high school.  The plots aren't exactly mind blowing and the roles aren't super challenging but the girls do a solid job portraying genuine emotion and being entertaining.  I think this is a cute gimmick which allows fans to see even more of these girls interacting together.  However, the dramas have not been present on the more recent singles, so it seems that it’s a thing of the past.  Possible factors in ending this interesting extra may have been cost and time of production or sales (the version with the drama CD costs almost twice as much as other singles with DVDs and almost as much as full albums so fans may not have been willing to spend that much).  I hope this is something that they return to with future singles as it is something unique that sets their subunits apart.

While no3b seems to focus on all of the members fairly equally, Yuki is clearly the star of French Kiss.  Take a look at their most recent single.  The A-side track of course featured all three members.  But of the four possible coupling tracks (depending on which version you purchase) only one features all three girls.  Two of them are duets, both featuring Yuki, and the last is a solo song by Yuki.  She has had a solo song on three of the four singles.  Yuki is by far the most popular member and she is certainly talented enough to carry solos.  And while she is the center, the others do get their moments to shine as well.

French Kiss definitely has a style, although I’m having trouble putting a descriptive label on it.  But I feel if you like one of their songs you’ll probably like most of them.  They sing a lot of cute love songs.  I really like If and Kakkowaruri I love you.  And the music video for Saisho no Mail is really sweet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

mAyKB48 – (17/48) Subunit – No Sleeves (no3b)

So now that I’ve covered my favorite members it makes sense to shift the focus to some of AKB48’s subunits.  A subunit is basically a small group of AKB members who release their own songs outside of their work with AKB.  Members of a subunit are often signed to the same talent agency which handles the unit’s activity and promotion.  However, the units are still under the umbrella of AKB (and Akimoto still write almost all of their lyrics).  If members of a subunit leave AKB they will either be replaced or the subunit will disband.  Eric has already done brief write ups of DiVA and Watarirouka Hashiritai7.  I’ll start off with the oldest of the five current subunits, No Sleeves.

No Sleeves is often referred to as no3b.  To understand how that makes any sense, you have to have at least a basic knowledge of the Japanese language and the way they represent English sounds (skip this paragraph if this is of no interest to you).  Japanese has no TH sound and so when adapting English words it is usually replaced by the SU syllable.  Japanese also doesn’t have an L, and the R they have is different than an English R (in complicated ways I’m not going to go into), so both English sounds are represented with R in Japanese.  And last, there is no V is Japanese, so its usually replaced with a B sound.  Thus, in Japansee the word sleeves sounds more like suriibusu.  Surii is how you would pronounce the English word three in Japanese.  So we end up with no3b. 

The members of no3b are Takahashi Minami, Kojima Haruna, and Minegishi Minami.  These girls were all original members of Team A (although Minegishi has since been shuffled to Team K), and they performed together in Junai no Crescendo (part of Team A’s 4th Stage) and Bye Bye Bye (during Himawarigumi’s 2nd stage) at the AKB theatre.  The girls clearly had chemistry together and so in November of 2008 they debuted as a subunit with their first single, Relax. 

The name of the group itself refers to sleeveless clothing and the girls can usually be seen wearing tank tops or sleeveless dresses in their promotion materials.  The group has released eight singles, with a ninth on the way later this year, as well as an album (almost all of which come in annoying multiple versions).  The three members also starred together in a TV drama called “Mendol ~Ikemen Idol~.”  In Mendol they play girls who desperately want to be idols, but keep failing auditions.  They witness a crime and have to flee from the culprits and then finally find a producer willing to let them debut.  To protect their identities they dress up as boys for their stage personas.  The group released two digital singles as the male idol group from the show (aptly named Persona).  They have also starred in a cellphone drama and have a weekly radio program.

If you’re a fan of any of the members, you will want to check out the subunit for sure.  They all have very nice voices and they harmonize together well.  And since there are only three of them, they each get a decent amount of solo lines, allowing you to really get a feel for their individual voices, something nearly impossible to do in most AKB48 songs.  Also it’s common for subunits to feature solo songs as coupling tracks on their singles, and since not all members get solos in AKB this is a great opportunity to hear what your favorite members can really do.  No3b’s last two singles, as well as their album, have come with a solo song by each member (although you only get one, depending on which version of the CD you purchase).

As for their music, they don’t seem to have one set style.  Songs range from the basic pop of Pedicure Day to the almost Latin rhythms of Lie to the rocking Kuchibiru Furezu….  They are very adaptive and make all the song work although all of the songs may not be to everyone’s taste since they are so different.  My favorite of their singles is Answer.  The dances for their music videos don’t seem to be too intense.  I know that Minegishi Minami is considered a great dancer and Takamina is pretty good, so I wonder if Haruna just isn’t on the same level so they tone it down a bit.  Or perhaps they simply want the unit to focus on vocals and not flashy dance moves. 

Overall I like no3b.  All three members are very experienced by this point and it shows.  This group is the only subunit so far to have 2 members who are in the top 10 in terms of popularity (last election Haruna was number 6 and Takamina was 7).  This probably contributes to the unit’s popularity.  In 2011 subunit songs were still allowed in the annual Request Hour Concert, where fans vote for their favorite 48 Family songs and the top 100 are counted down over four days, and four of their five singles, one of their Persona songs, and one of the coupling tracks from a single ranked.  That’s pretty impressive.  In 2012, they made all subunit and soloist songs ineligible and instead had a separate Unit Matsuri the next day, which did not involve voting of any kind and was mostly just a showcase of the different subunits.  In the future I hope that they will have a Request Hour just for subunits and solo songs in the future.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

mAyKB48 – (16/48) My oshimen: Hirata Rina

You know how I mentioned that Mariko moves down the more I learn about other girls?  Well this girl is probably my new number five and thus a great example of that.  My newest oshimen is Hirata Rina.  Nickname: Hirarii.

Even if you are familiar with AKB48 you may not have heard of her.  That’s because she isn’t an official member yet.  She’s a 12th generation research student.  Now there are already over 60 girls in the main group, so I tend not to even notice the research students.  When Team 4 formed I had no idea who any of those girls were (and other than Paruru and Miori I still don’t).  So it’s a bit odd for me to now be focusing on a girl who I normally would not have paid much attention to.  But you see, there is something special about Hirarii.

Hirarii is fluent in English.  Her AKB official profile claims she was born in Fukuoka, but according to Hirarii herself in a self introduction video she did she was born in Arizona where she lived for most of her life until recently moving back to Japan.  (I have no idea why her official profile apparently lies to us and would hate to think that it’s because the staff of AKB don’t think she could be popular if she isn’t FROM Japan.)  It’s clear that she’s spent most of her time speaking English, and at first she stumbled over her Japanese a bit and still struggles with kanji. 

Hirarii’s parents were living in America for her father’s job, but it seems that they may have always planned on moving back to Japan.  To keep Hirarii and her younger brothers up on their studies in Japanese they basically attended school year round.  During summers she would spend 3 months in Japan, but not on a vacation.  She would attend Japanese school during the American summer break and then return to America when the new term started.  This is really interesting to me as I had two elementary school students show up to my very small town school doing basically the same thing last summer. 

Her voice is several pitched higher when she speaks Japanese than when she speaks English, which is kind of adorable, although I suspect may be irritating to some people.  It’s not any sort of act though, my voice does the same thing.  I didn’t even realize that I had a higher “Japanese speaking voice” until some friends pointed it out to me (I also have a “talking to an answering machine voice”). 

Akimoto has already made use of her skills having her speak to an English news reporter from CNN and translate for the girls as well as including her on the trip to Washington DC to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of the cherry blossom trees there.  She had a lot of MC work and despite getting a bit tongue tied handled herself very well and impressed many of the fans there.  Having an English speaker around could mean a bit more reaching out to the international market.  It’s a lot of pressure to put on a 13 year old (and even a bit unrealistic to expect any 13 year old to be a perfectly confident and elegant public speaker), but if she stays with the group and grows and matures with it she could easily be an asset. 

Hirarii also uses her English skills to promote herself on Google +.  She uploads daily videos that contain 30 second English lessons where she teachers her viewers how to say short sentences in English (Be sure to check out my favorite video, which unfortunatly, I can't embed, which includes Hirarii singing the ABC song and introducing an alphabet book she drew herself).  She’s very active on Google + and was even going to be a member of the Google + senbatsu (whose song is a coupling track on the upcoming Manatsu no Sounds Good single) until Google insisted that the members all be over 18.  It’s a bummer because it could have given her a big push and with all the posting she does with Google + she clearly deserves it. 

The other thing that strikes me about Hirarii is that she seems to have such a positive attitude.  She is known for being super energetic at handshake events dressing up, waving at people, and dancing around when no one is in her line.  When she wasn’t able to be part of the G+ senbatsu she took it in stride, congratulating the members who made it in and assuring everyone that she wasn’t going to stop posting her videos and how happy she was that she could connect with everyone through G+.  When several of her fellow 12th generation members got promoted to Team 4 she was genuinely happy for them, praising their hard work.  She explained that she wasn’t upset that she wasn’t promoted yet because she still had many weak points and needed more experience, but she vowed to keep working even harder so she could make more people happy.  This is amazingly mature for a 13 year old and makes me want to support her even more.

Not only is she adorable and bilingual; she is also a talented girl in singing and dancing.  She has practiced ballet since she was three years old and has a very nice voice.  And every video I see of her performances makes me smile.  She’s been filling in all over the place with the different stages but they are apparently comfortable enough with her talent to have given her a solo and made her part of a small unit song.  Hiarii has mentioned that she wants to make everyone smile and I’m certainly one person with whom she has already succeeded. 

I’m really hoping that Hirarii ranks in the upcoming election.  I have no idea how likely it is with over 200 girls competing for 60 spots.  Her election video is currently the third most watched of the AKB research students with over 14,000 views.  That’s more than most members of Team E, Team M, or Team H.  So that’s something, although I have no idea what kind of an indicator the view counts really are. 

I’d love to see her get promoted to one of the main teams (and there are technically 2 open spots, currently being held by “temporary members” from SKE and NMB for some silly reason).  I suppose I could be happy if she ended up on the inevitable Team 8, I just feel that she would get more exposure mixed in with the more well known girls.  I’m biased because I still think that the very idea of a Team 4 and a Team 8 is really silly, so I want her in the “real” AKB48.  (This is not a put down to any Team 4 members.  They are just as legitimate members of the group as those of the other teams and I do understand why the team was formed from an administrative point of view.  I just think it’s silly.)

AKB's current face and AKB's future face?
I can dream...

While it seems like many of my oshimen could graduate in the next few years, I’m hoping that Hirarii has a long and exciting future ahead of her with the group.  Here's a self introduction video from Hirarii unfortunatly without any translation, but if you understand some Japanese you can follow most of it.  If not you can just admire how adorable she is.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

mAyKB48 – (14/48) My oshimen: Shinoda Mariko

I’m not even really certain in Mariko is still in my top 5.  But for a long time she was my number 5, so I feel like I should talk a bit about her here.  Mariko probably has the most interesting back-story of all the AKB members.  She is the only one to have never passed an audition for the group.

Since AKB48 was founded on the concept of idols that fans could meet, the staff listened closely to feedback from fans.  The whole concept was a new one and at first the girls did not have many fans.  So the management was very attentive to the feedback they received with the hopes of keeping the fans happy and attracting new ones.  At the time there was a vote box in the lobby for fans to write the name of members that they liked.  Votes started popping up for a girl who was not appearing on stage.  At first the staff thought that it was a prank until someone remembered that they did have a girl named Shinoda Mariko working in the café.

Mariko was from Fukuoka, which is fairly close to where I was living in Japan and not really close at all to Tokyo.  After she graduated from high school she moved to Tokyo to audition for the first generation of AKB48.  She was 18 at the time.  But she failed the audition.  Despite this, she didn’t return home.  She wanted to try a bit longer, so she got a job working in the AKB Café serving juice and ice cream to customers and handing out flyers outside to promote the stage show.  From the café she could glimpse the stage whenever anyone entered or left the theatre.  The stage was so close, and yet it was still far from her reach.  Mariko had chatted with many of the customers about her dream of being on the stage one day and to show their support for her they had written down votes for her.

One day Akimoto approached her.  He had seen the votes for her and had observed her working in the café.  He did not remember her from the auditions, but told her that if she could remember twelve songs in four days then she could perform on the stage.  This was no small request, but Mariko saw her dream closer than ever and practiced as hard as she could, learning the lyrics and the dance steps.  Her hard work paid off and she was made an official member of AKB48.  Because she entered the group after the first generation but before the second generation auditions were held Mariko is considered to be the only member of generation 1.5.

Like several of my other oshimen Mariko drew my attention early on because she was easy to pick out of the crowd.  With her height and short hair cut she was easy to recognize.  I was also drawn to her because she is the oldest member of the group, only a few months younger than me.  But the more I get to know about other members, the lower Mariko seems to drop for me. 

There isn’t really anything I dislike about her.  She’s cute and has a nice smile.  But we don’t seem to share a lot of interests.  She’s super into fashion and I’m really not, so a lot of her appearances in magazines just don’t appeal to me.  She seems to have a really quirky sense of humor and is known as the elder sister to all the AKB girls (which includes teasing them as an older sister would quite often).  She clearly cares a lot about the group and its members, but there just isn’t anything that really endears her to me in the special way that my other oshimen have. 

Mariko was ranked number 3 in the first two elections and dropped slightly to number four last year.  She’s very popular with women, especially high school aged girls.  She’s another who appears in almost all of the singles.  This past year she won the yearly janken tournament, winning the center position for the next single.  The single was set to be a cute fluffy song about penguins, but with Mariko as the center they decided to change it to fit her image better (the penguin song was made into a coupling track on the theatre version of the CD and performed by Team 4).  They went a step further and actually made the song about her, making her the first and only girl in AKB48 to have her name in the title of a song.  This shows that she has a lot of pull and influence in the group, even among the staff.  (It's kinda a long video, if you just want to hear the song skip to about four minutes in.)

While most of the older girls in the group have graduated or were shuffled off to SDN48 Mariko has remained.  I think it’s good for AKB’s image as idols are often seen as only young girls, so having Mariko around shows that being an idol is about more than age.  Older girls often graduate to go on to “more serious pursuits,” but Mariko seems to be doing just fine where she is, so I can’t imagine why she would ever want to leave.

And as always, here is Mariko’s private video.  It’s definitely the oddest of the ones I’ve shown here, with more of her just being zany and hanging out with her friend (and fellow AKB member) than actually introducing herself.

Monday, May 14, 2012

mAyKB48 – (13/48) My oshimen: Akimoto Sayaka

The second half of my top 5 oshimen have been shifting around a bit lately.  I normally consider Miyazawa Sae my number 4, but I mostly like her because she is Eric’s favorite.  And she is undeniably cute.  But at the moment I think Sae may have moved down to my number 5 spot, being bumped down her good friend Akimoto Sayaka. 

Like many people, I’m sure, when I first got into AKB48 my attention was drawn to the front girls.  They were the ones who appeared on TV the most and so it was easier to get to know their personalities.  But as I got more attached to the group some of the more unappreciated members caught my eye.  Sayaka is one such member. 

Sayaka is a second generation AKB member joining with Yuko and Sae when Team K was formed.  She was named captain of Team K.  But then scandal happened.  You may remember me mentioning that idols are held to a very high standard in terms of behavior.  And sometimes even perceived indiscretion is enough to harm your reputation.  The scandal involved an older male, Hiroi Ouji, staying the night at Sayaka’s apartment.   Adding to the scandal was the fact that Ouji produced the AKB musical in which Sayaka won the lead role, leading some to wonder if she had won the role in an honest manner.  Both denied that anything inappropriate had occurred.  The relationship between the two is that of a student and pupil with Ouji advising Sayaka on acting.  Sayaka commented that since Ouji is older than her father it never even occurred to her that people might think that something had occurred between them when he spent the night on her couch.  But because of all of the negative attention it brought, which Sayaka felt responsible for, she resigned as the captain of Team K.  I am woeful that it sounds like I’m making excuses,” she said, “I’m sorry for all the fans who support me, and also for AKB members… I’m sorry.  This became such a big issue, and it is all my fault.  I should be the role model for other members, but I’m not qualified as a captain anymore.”  Some fans felt that she should have left the group because of the bad press, but others stood by her and continued to support her.

Sayaka kept working hard despite how unqualified she felt.  The members of AKB supported her.  And about four months later Akimoto reinstated her as the Team K captain.  She later admitted that she never really stopped doing the captain’s job but at the time didn’t feel that she could ask the other members to look to her.  However, the scandal had lasting ramifications.  Sayaka had been a part of almost every single since she joined AKB.  But since the scandal broke she has had a part in only three singles, two determined by senbatsu election (where she dropped from 12th in prescandal 2009 to 17th which she held steady at in 2010 and 2011) and one from last year’s janken tournament.  So while many fans continue to support her, the management of AKB has clearly still not forgiven her completely opting to keep her in the undergirls rather than as part of the main singles, although she does sometimes fill in for senbatsu members during live performances.

I can trace how I was drawn to Sayaka fairly easily.  Once Eric and I had out first oshimen picked out it became clear that our favorite team was obviously Team K.  I picked up the DVDs of Team Ks early stage shows and there I found Sayaka.  Like Takamina she has an incredibly strong and unique voice (hers is the other voice I can consistently pick out, even in group songs). 

The other thing that drew me to Sayaka was the fact that she can speak English fairly well.  I would say that until recently she probably had the best English in AKB48.  And as a fan who speaks English and taught English to Japanese students this is a very endearing quality.

Sayaka has a distinct appearance with her height and the fact that she is half Filipino.  She’s a girl who won’t give up and is honest almost to a fault.  She’s known for being a rather sporty girl.  She has practiced Aikido since the 5th grade and has a 2nd Dan Black belt.  She has also completed the Tokyo Marathon for the past two years, which I find to be incredibly impressive.  In 2011 her time was 6:53:53 and in 2012 her time was 5:34:13 smashing her goal of finishing in under 6 hours.  She improved so much even without being able to train as much as she would have without her busy AKB schedule.  It’s really inspiring. 

Sayka has always loved acting and singing and after she graduates from AKB she hopes to continue as an actress.  She’s appeared in a few movies already, as well as a few dramas and even a number of stage plays.  Most recently she has taken on the role of Princess Ann in the stage adaptation of Roman Holiday, the same role famously played by Audrey Hepburn.  It’s a role that’s very different from her normal character and she looks forward to showing a new side of herself in the role.  I haven’t seen her act much, but she is very expressive and I’m so happy for her for winning a big part like this.  It certainly bodes well for her future as an actress.

In many ways Sayaka needs my support more than Yuko or Mayu or Takamina do.  While those three are consistently in the top 10 Sayaka struggles to remain in the top 20.  In this year’s election the main single will be cut down to only the top 16 members.  So if Sayaka stays at 17 she will not be able to be a part of the senbatsu.  And while my other oshimen will be in all of the singles that follow, this is one of only two chances a year that Sayaka seems to have to make it in and the other relies entirely on chance.  My hope is that Sayaka supporters will go all out this year to keep her in the senbatsu and boost her rank and Akimoto will decide that she is worthy of being a senbatsu member again. 

And to close here is Sayaka’s introduction video from a simpler time before the scandal and the anxiety that followed it. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

mAyKB48 – (9/48) My oshimen: Takahashi Minami

Today I will introduce my third favorite member of AKB48.  My second favorite is Watanabe Mayu, but since Eric already did a write up about her on his blog, I’ll refrain from doing a whole entry on her here.  Mayu caught my eye for the same reason that Yuko initially did.  She had a cute smile.  I knew nothing about her, but she was cute, and in the beginning that was more than enough criteria for me to pick a favorite out of so many girls.  She also had an easily identifiable hairstyle, so she was easy to pick out even when I was unfamiliar with the majority of the members.  My fondness for her grew when I learned that we shared interests in anime and manga.  But enough about Mayu, on to the real topic of today’s post, Takahashi Minami.

Minami, perhaps better known by her nickname Takamina, is one of the original members of AKB48.  She is the captain of Team A and thus the captain for AKB as a whole.  She leads the team huddles before a performance and is often the spokesperson for the group at events.  She advises and supports other members and is known for her hardwork and leadership ability, contributing greatly to the group's success.  Like Mayu, Takamina has a recognizable hairstyle, often seen with her trademark ribbon in her ponytail.  And like Yuko, she seems to be a very genuine and passionate person with a good sense of humor.

It's no surprise that these two are good friends.

The thing that drew me to Takamina was her voice.  Her voice is lower than many members, but very strong.  She often gets solo lines in songs and was the first member whose singing voice I learned to recognize.  In a group where a spectacular singing voice is not required she stands out and is very impressive.  As such, she’s always been among the front girls of the group and has been in every single the group has released except for those determined by janken.  Her dream is to one day be a solo singer and she seems well on her way there.

Her ranking in the group has been dropping a bit each year (5th in 2009, 6th in 2010, and 7th in 2011), but her popularity has clearly grown with her getting more votes each year than the year previous.  What’s more, she doesn’t seem bothered by being “only the 7th most popular member.”  In the last election where several girls were clearly upset by drops in their rankings, there were two girls who didn’t seem fazed at all and in fact ran up to the podium when their name was called, gratefully accepting their ranking.  One was Takamina and the other was Sae.

"Lucky seven!"

Another thing I really like about Takamina is that she is a big fan of manga, especially shonen manga.  She once had a meeting in the same building as the main editorial office of Shonen Jump (the company responsible for Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece among many others) and she took a detour to their office and got a picture taken with the staff.  She gushed about the experience later on her blog explaining how she could barely contain her excitement to be there.  It’s the kind of thing I too would be excessively excited about and just makes her all the more endearing. 

Her favorite manga is One Piece.

As I did with Yuko I'd like to end this with a short video from a few years ago of Takamina introducing herself, including some adorable video of her as a tiny child dressed as Sailor Moon.