5 Days for 5 Years Day 2: 5 Things I Have Had to Get Used to As an Idol Fan
1. Fake Nails– Well, as my readers know, I’m now obsessed with them, and I’ve even had fake nails myself, but I used to be freaked out by them. The disgust changed into a curiosity throughout the first year of my fandom, and here I am today, loving to see each new set of nails that my favorite idols wears. I can’t lie. Now nails are one of my favorite things to look for in each new Risa or Chinami picture. I know things about nails now. I even like to have my nails constantly done. And here are the results: the most memorable pairs of nails in H!P for me.
2. Bikini Photobooks– When I first got into idols, I was shocked by bikini photobooks. I thought that they were overtly sexual and a little degrading to the idols. Maybe it was the poses or the fact that the girls were skimpily dressed, but I was just offended by them. I was also just out of 7th grade, and still freaked out about anything slightly sexual after my first experiences seeing kids making out in the halls, but for whatever reason, I hated the photobooks. By the end of my 3rd year of my fangirling, 10th grade had finished, and I was used to seeing pictures of my friends and myself in swimsuits. It was around that time that I realized, if I can be comfortable having people see pictures of me in a swimsuit, why should I feel that idols would view it any differently. So now I just view bikini pictures as I would anything else: a facebook beach picture circulated much more widely. I still haven’t considered buying a photobook, but Airi’s new photobook with her looking beautiful in all of those dresses is changing my mind, and knowing how much I fangirl over Linlin, I know I’d buy her photobook in a heartbeat. But, seriously, look at Airi’s new photobook!
3. Bad Singing- Sure, I love to watch the initial rounds of American Idol to see the bad singing for purposes of pure schadenfreude, but bad singing professionally is a pet peeve of mine. And no one can argue that there are your fair share of idols who can’t sing. AKB48 skirts the issue with lipsyncing, and Momoiro Clover’s singing I won’t even bother to judge (Who can possible sing very well with those intense dances?), but Hello!Project sings live for the most part. I’m not going to lie- I can’t stand hearing Koharu live, and Sayumi isn’t good live or recorded although she is getting better (But I still love her because she admits singing isn’t her strong suit, and she’s so cute with the 9kis), but there are some H!P members that I don’t like at all for their singing. Risako and Ayaka may be very popular with the wota, but I simply can’t stand them. But, because I like the groups, and face it- these two will always get lines, I have had to get used to them singing. My tolerance for bad singing has risen so much, that I can say that two of my favorite Morning Musume songs have Sayumi as a co-lead: “Fantasy ga Hajimaru” and “Yowamushi.” The Wada Ayaka bad signing line I may never fully cross, but we can always see.
4. Popularity Ups/Downs– This was probably the hardest of all for me to get used to, at least of the ones I’m used to. In fact, I’ve only gotten used to it in the past month. When I first got into Morning Musume, they were still the dominant idol group for the first part. Perfume was beating them in sales, but as the normal graduating/recruiting/scandal-filled idol group, Morning Musume was on top. They were breaking records, getting invited to Kouhaku, and being invited to Music Station. Morning Musume also still had a Sunday Morning TV show, and they were having concerts at huge arenas. AKB48 had just started up 6 months prior, and they were selling around 20000 copies a single. Idoling!!! and Momoiro Clover were in the development stages, and the remaining Hello!Project kids + 1 egg in C-ute had just released their 1st big indie single: Massara Blue Jeans. The eggs were barely doing anything, and graduations/scandals were rocking Hello!Project’s make-up. I didn’t understand really why AKB48 got more popular, but I cared, and I tried to get into them (more about that later), but Hello!Project was still my love. I didn’t really get used to the idea that Morning Musume was being beaten in sales/everything by another group, thinking that they weren’t popular anymore. I got used to it finally, realizing that there are some of their records that AKB48 can’t beat as long as they’re around- like most Top 10 singles, most consecutive Top 10 singles, and longest running girl group. Also, even if AKB48 does beat their sales record, Morning Musume will still be remembered for all they did for the idol industry- if they hadn’t been created, we might not still have Jpop idols. After all, Japanese idols went out of fashion in the late ’80s, and they weren’t about to take the music industry over again until Morning Musume came along. If they hadn’t been so successful, then why would AKB48 even have been founded? Also, it’s really fun to know that the groups wota over eachother. Even if they aren’t allowed to express it in public, or to share their friendships, we know they’re there, and I love to see idol group collabs. *Is hoping for an H!P/AKB48 collaboration concert
though it will never happen*
5. The Japanese Idol Industry- The idol industry in general is probably the hardest part for me to get used to. I’m still not used to its contradictions, cultural differences, and overall insanity. There’s often no rhyme or reason to it. When I first discovered Morning Musume, it was almost unheard of for a member of Morning Musume to be in the group for more than 7 years, and suddenly we now have two 10-year vets of the group. Idols used to be fired for shotgun marriages, and now we have Tsuji Nozomi, one of H!P’s most popular graduates. In the same year as the Miki Fujimoto scandal that caused her to go on a forced hiatus and resignation from Morning Musume, there were Nozomi and Iida’s pregnancy/Shotgun marriage scandals that had no consequences. I entered the fandom right after the 1st Kago scandal, and watched as the 2nd one happened. I was sad when Kago left, but I could never understand why. Maybe I felt that she didn’t deserve it after seeing American celebs like Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan get famous for doing much more stupid things than Kago did. Whatever the case was, I’m still not used to it. The new smoking scandal with that Johnny’s kid is certainly proving to me that I haven’t gotten used to the industry yet. And there’s further oddities and contradictions. I loved Chocolove from AKB48, and was shocked to see their lead singer go the AV route, despite the “pure” image of idols. Tsuji, who I mentioned earlier, was always marketed as the immature prankster, but now she’s become a responsible and respectable wife and mother. Goto Maki, who once released cutesy idol songs or strong, sad ballads is now singing only sexy songs, and has been rumored to have a boob job, and yet, as her despair at her mother’s death and her decision to go back to private life after two major family events (her brother’s/her rumored boyfriend’s arrest in 2007 and her mother’s death) suggest that while she may be stubborn and willing to resist the agency, she still isn’t even close to as naughty as marketed. And then there’s Ai Kago, who was once also marketed as young and immature, grown up to be a strong, independent woman.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that while the idol industry tries to say that their idols are pure and natural, and that what you’re seeing is the real deal, it couldn’t be further from the truth, and not in a good way. I guess that I just need to get used to the fact that entertainment = lying anywhere you are. With the obvious contradictions in the Japanese industry, where the industry tries to ignore its own contradictions, I’m still not used to it, after being shown the American ones, where no “scandals” are covered up- they’re taken advantage of.