Today, idols are as popular as ever in Japan and South Korea. This is the name given to young J-pop singers from both female and male groups [or those performing solo] who are ideal and innocent to the audience. You yourself have seen or heard of idols in anime more than once. In essence, they are a specific media product created by entire agencies. The culture of idols [or idols] in Japan is very close to anime and manga, and they are almost always presented as girls. Their popularity eventually reached such proportions that they began to personify the modern culture of Japan, although not always everything is as bright as shown on stage. For International Women's Day, we decided to take a look at the appearance of idols in anime and their phenomenon.
A Brief History of Japanese Idols
Idols as such appeared in Japan at the turn of the 60s and 70s. In the 60s, almost every Japanese family already had a TV, where the first Japanese pop idols debuted. The breakthrough in this form of media is usually credited to the Sannin Musume group, and Johny & Associates was founded in 1963. They targeted both male and female audiences.
The 80s are the real peak of idols' popularity and they are even called the golden era for them. Many performers who became popular then still appear on TV, for example, the SMAP group. But then they were all over the place, especially in advertising. Actually, due to their popularity in the media market, idols got into anime.
In the 90s, advertisers realized that using idols, namely young girls, was very profitable in commercials, and then they were literally everywhere. Such trends led to the creation in 2005 of a group of 130 members AKB48. The logic was as follows - the more participants, the more you can use them in advertising, give concerts in several cities at once and build up a huge fan base. Plus, while the rest of the idols seemed out of reach, the AKB48 members were positioned as idols to see. The group's name refers to the theater in Akihabara.
In addition, another feature of AKB48, if you can call it that, is the graduation party. All girls who turned 25 left the group and new ones came in their place.
Morning Musume is AKB48's closest competitor, founded in 1997, and the second highest on the Oricon music chart. Other idol groups are almost indistinguishable from regular pop artists such as Momoiro Clover Z, who are well known for the opening song of Sailor Moon Crystal.
At the same time, the conditions for the existence of idols are harsh. There are special schools where young boys and girls are taught to become idols in the future. And it's not a fact that this will happen to everyone, because the competition is huge. Plus, at least in South Korea, all idols sign contracts not to disclose their relationship, because they must all be innocent and, as a result, desirable. Most often, a cross is put on personal life.
And this leads accordingly to the fact that a specific fanbase is created. But more on that later.
What does Moe and Mecha have to do with it?
Besides the fact that groups like AKB48 perform anime openings, the idol genre is one of the most popular today. Sad as it may seem, even the studio Sunrise, which creates Gundam [and a bunch of similar anime], seemingly great mech franchise with more than forty years of history, survived at one time due to “Love Live! Sunshine! " - anime about schoolgirl idols. Just think about it!
But the irony is that idols have surpassed the fur genre, even though it was thanks to anime fur that they gained popularity in the 70s. For example, one of the first popular anime idols was Lynn Minmei from "Hyperspace Fortress Macross", performing "My Boyfriend is a Pilot" and the iconic "Do You Remember Love?".
Even earlier, in 1983, the anime Creamy Mami was released, which told about how a ten-year-old girl with the help of magic turned into a 16-year-old girl of an idol.
But even today, when the pop idol genre seems to be self-sufficient, even other genres are using its popularity to attract a larger audience. In the same sports anime as Basquash, there was a group of three side characters who were part of the idol group, but that was not the main part of the story. Also closely related to it is the moe genre, which is entirely based on the fact that we are shown cute girls by all stereotypes who do cute things.
The popularity of moe, according to various researchers, can be blamed on 30-year-old men who grew up watching Evangelion Neon Genesis and its protagonists, who were objectified.
Moreover, they are accustomed to seeing such girls as consumables or collection items, filling their rooms with things related to them.
The 1980s were a time when more and more consumer goods were directed towards otaku, and I can't say for sure if this coincidence is related to the golden age of idols.
Most moe fans claim that they are attracted to this genre because of the protective "instinct" [meaning the desire to protect the heroine and no more] that occurs when looking at the heroines, but dating simulators that allow moe characters to have sexual intercourse , talk about the other side of the question.
We can only say for sure about one thing - today such a combination of moe and idols can cause people to have a strong attachment to fictional characters, sometimes flowing into insanity. Suffice it to recall the popularity of K-On! or Haruhi Suzumiya, which also had idol elements.
All of the above has led to the idol phenomenon in Japan becoming such an important part of the country's culture that it permeates and fuels every aspect of the entertainment industry. Not surprisingly, given their increased popularity over the past couple of years, more anime has emerged that centers around idol groups. That being said, when most of them focus on how cool it is to be a star, there is a clear shortage of the dark reality of idol life.
Harassment and pain
As already mentioned, being an idol means adhering to the principle of "perfect and innocent". But the cost is high, not only because you are controlled by agents, but because of the eternal persecution. Many popular idols in both Japan and South Korea suffer constant harassment from fans.
Alas, but often the audience should always be out of their minds and this sometimes goes beyond all boundaries. For example, BTS members have been harassed by fans who invaded their privacy on more than one occasion. But perhaps the most egregious incident was with ARB48, when, profiting from the crazy love of fans, their agents organized a hand-shaking event with the members of the group. Fans could shake hands with one member, but before that they had to buy a CD with songs. If a person wanted to touch his hand again, he had to buy another disc. A man came to the event with a circular saw and tried to cut off the hands of the group members. Two girls were injured.
Back in the 90s, Satoshi Kon predicted a similar scenario in his anime Perfect Blue, when female idols could be persecuted by crazy fans. In it, the main character Mima faced not only the persecutor, but also the condemnation of the masses. She decides to change her profession as an idol to an actress and starred in a movie that has a sex scene. For fans, she gets dirty as she loses her innocence. The most absurd thing is that behind the condemnation of the fans lies their lust towards Mime. She is also pursued by a crazy, obsessed fan who follows her and drives her crazy. Read more about this in a separate article.
In the end, we can say that anime idols and their history are twofold. On the one hand, they represent both Japan and anime. But on the other hand, they are just a media product, part of a factory for riveting live entertainment for the masses.
The Topic of Article: The Phenomenon of Anime Idols.