The graduation of Aika coupled with adjusting to my life in Tsushima led me away from NMB for a while, but as I’m slowly getting back into it, I find myself really liking Jo Eriko.
Two years ago, before 4th Anniversary, I attended a handshake event. I loaded up on a bunch of tickets for girls I thought I liked, as well as a bunch of day tickets. It was my first handshake event, I was super confused and didn’t know what to say, and my Japanese wasn’t that great. (Well, it’s not great now, but that’s another story.) It was definitely a dizzying speed of saying hi, figuring out what to say, and balancing it with how much time I had to say it.
I mean, that’s what happens as a foreigner fan. The events become “pilgrimages” as you pour all your effort into this one meeting.
I declared myself an Aika-oshi based on watching her at stages, thinking she was adorable but being really talented at performing. But when I met her, it was pretty awkward. I just remember being lost for words and her just staring at me. (Which still happens often with me at other girls, lol.) When she graduated, I had only attended one handshake. It was pretty one-sided, knowing that I didn’t really meet her and that I was a really distant fan, but still a fan.
Jo, on the other hand, is a different story. Of course,
Pepperidge Farm remembers I remember Jo from Naniwa Nadeshiko, and I kind of liked the comeback story when she announced it at 3rd Anniversary, but what changed it all was that one handshake. I used a day-ticket on her and I remember telling her that I had the same name as her as a joke, and she gave me a high-five. It was so hilarious to me that I ended up using another ticket on her and liking her a lot.
With the election, I got it, well, half-sponsored and was able to attend the handshake in Tokyo, and Jo (and Anchu) made it feel like it was worth it. All the other girls felt pretty standard, some I liked more than others, but overall I enjoyed the interactions I had with Jo. No flirtatiousness, mostly silliness. And just to confirm that, I went again last week to a handshake event. That day I had a lot of awkwardness, but Jo was still silly and fun.
In stark contrast to Aika, the fan relationship with Jo feels a lot more reciprocal. It has a very new and personal feeling to it, one that I’ve never really expected out of being an NMB fan since I was overseas for so long and… might still technically be overseas. It almost feels liberating.
Keeping this in consideration made me think a lot about the 5th gen handshakes I had. When I watched the documentary, I could pick out my favorites, but going to the handshake was completely different and reframed a lot of the girls.
The girls that stood out to me the most, Aa-yan and Cocona, ended up giving me the worst handshakes, with the idol aura being too strong on Aa-yan and Cocona making me feel like I’m too old for this. On the other hand, Mirai’s bubbly attitude, Rei’s fishing, Karin’s genuine joy at being at the event, and Rika and Momorun trying to speak English stood out a lot in my mind. Being able to judge them for more than just an appearance but also how I’m being treated as a fan is just a whole new perspective.
I’m very curious on how this new approach to NMB is going to work out, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.