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A playful cat : Story of Shida manaka (志田愛佳)

The Idol genre has been evolving in many ways through japanese entertainment history, reaching new style like metal, rock and electro. Not only styles, but personalities have increased as well, from dark/gloomy (Yamaguchi Momoe,70′) to cute/innocent (Seiko matsuda,80′) or even group/family like (Morning Musume,90′). These days, it’s hard to bring an accurate definition of idol, because of this newfound diversity. But what if being an idol, is actually just being yourself? If that’s the case, then Shida Manaka is the greatest of all.

Shida “mona” manaka is what we can call an “exotic” beauty from her atypic facial feature. The kind that draws attention.

Standing out is the key to become popular in such groups like 48group and Sakamichi series. Manaka has this particular features like big ears and cat-shaped eyes that makes her easily to notice. Not only that, but all japanese female yearn for a slender face and cute nose. Manaka also have those. Adding her “model” height ( for a japanese girl that is) of 165 cm, you can say Manaka answers to Sakamachi standard of a tall, elegant idol member. My personal opinion would also be the haircut factor. Dying her hair to light brown helped her build this handsome/boyish aura, very popular among female fanbase. Was it a coincidence or not, the results were outstanding especially in “Kataru nara mirai wo” MV where she shone.

It delivered. Manaka is among the most sought Keyakizaka member regarding modeling and photoshoot. To have outside work despite being in a rookie group is of great help for keyakizaka to promote themselves indirectly. It’s important to point it out because modeling is known for being what differentiate Sakamichi series with the 48group. While gravure, which feature 48group top member frequently, target middle aged man with sexy pose in swimsuit, modeling in fashion magazine like Popteen or Seventeen focus more on “oshare” (fancy) clothing, and targeting young japanese girls.

It’s important for a member to find her place within the group. Hirate is center, Suzumoto is the best dancer, Akanen is the serious member of Keyakizaka, and Uemura is the loli. Shida manaka bright move was to develop her tomboy look. She became Keyakizaka visual along with her partner Watanabe Risa. But it would be nothing if she hadn’t developed a coherent personality with her looks. What does that mean exactly?

Shida manaka is in charge of Keyakizaka visual, but she’s surprisingly also a moodmaker.

Something that goes along with inexperience, is being oblivious at how to react during variety shows. In Keyakizaka early days, the girls were fresh but shy, and MC Host (Tsuchida and Sawabe) had the difficult task to take the girls out of their shell. Somehow, Manaka was exempted from this trend thanks to her easy going character. Oda nana is a moodmaker thanks to her sense of humor, creating funny moments ( this is what you call a “boke” in japan), and Shida manaka is another kind of mood-maker by laughing out loud. This is Mona particularity, she’s the complete opposite of aloofness; she will laugh at you for being ridicule. Not making fun of you (or yes, maybe) but laughing at the situation. It’s not mean per se, to laugh is Shida’s way to enjoy life.

Manaka’s existence in Keyakizaka is indisputable not only in visual, but also in the group essence; They are mostly introduced as Cool and inspired girls that oppose with the overall cute vibe of the 48group. But to reach national level, Keyakizaka need to embrace not only the cool side, but everything else. Shida Manaka, for being the outgoing, light-hearted fuel of Keyakizaka, helps the group grows in Variety. She’s the primary shield to awkward situation, laughing at all ridicule misstep (For example, Sawabe fail jokes) and inevitably making them fun in the end.

Manaka’s existence is crucial to take us back to what’s the most important thing in life : Enjoy our life. Well it’s not obvious as it seems; you take Hirate Yurina’s case and her absolutely horrendous schedule, you can’t help but feel worried and concerned about the pressure she handles and her health condition. Manaka’s pattern come as sincere; you can tell she doesn’t really have this ambition to be number one, but rather to spend good time with new companion (nakama) along the way. Manaka is the Worry-Slayer,and ensure that Keyakizaka is a place were we have a good time, along as high level of performance.

Despite laughing at everything, Manaka keep her feminine side, being embarrassed at showing her fashion sense or being afraid in haunted house.

Idols are often seen as playing a character in order to appeal their fanbase. Even if you are not that good looking, an idol will tell you that you’re very handsome to make you feel better. To make you feel special, they will surely tell you they remember you for coming to their handshakes lanes. It can’t be blamable. Idol encompass “work” as well. But it’s also understandable that non-fans see that as “fake” or “marketed product”.

Thanks to this outgoing&cheerful personality, Manaka is kind of exempted of the “work” aspect of an idol, simply because it’s not what’s important to her. She just like to be herself, bluntly telling you she doesn’t remember you in handshake, or rating you 50/100 in looks. (according to HS reports). This sincerity blends well with her outgoing character, and most of fans prefer something “honest” rather than something “acted”. In extreme situation, you can compare it to legendary “shio taiou” (salty reaction) from Paruru, as it is seen as “honest” reaction from her fans and “absolutely unprofessional” to others. To each is own.

Between members, Manaka has been a turning point in the group unity. Breaking the ice making silly games backstage, members got closer thanks to this “let’s get ridiculous” policy manaka introduced. It’s not awkward anymore when you laugh about it, right? Another thing that looks obvious, but when you think about it, the 48group has suffered from this lack of unity nowadays, making way to individuality (Jurina, Sayanee) rather than team bond (team 4, ori team K). Manaka, by embodying the playful cat, helped to strengthen the group cohesion .

“Laugh & jokes are the molding ground to social interaction and the gateway to smile & happiness”

I didn’t know what to expect from Shida Manaka, and i’m the first surprised at how well her cool visual mix so well with an easy-going personality. It will be partly thanks to her that probably, newcomers will call Keyakizaka cool but also fun. She’s not the type to be center of the attention, more like the one that cheer you on. And it is as much important. Do you remember DJ’s during party, who are in charge of keeping the tension high the whole time? Well Shida has this power. To make everyone look fun. (especially Oda Nana)

To conclude, it is clear that Shida Manaka is and will be a great asset to Keyakizaka potential, binding the present (enjoy your life) and the future (increasing outside modeling activities) to push everyone to the big league, like Nogizaka. When it comes to identity, Manaka has plenty contributed, and be sure to expect more of her as Keyakizaka biggest field to improve is still Variety.

If you make Manaka laugh in handshake, don’t take it personally, see it as an achievement!

-Gocchisama