Steps for Descending into a Fandom
I’ve been hit by a sort of plague recently.
What plague? Well, you’ll find out soon enough after reading the rest of the post. Rest assured that it is not something to laugh at. (I fully expect you to laugh anyways.)
For now, here are Kimi’s steps to Johnny’s fandom. (This may also work for females and males of the less idol-tastic sort, but I can’t guarantee anything.)
o1/ Discover you like a song by [the artist/group]. Deny vehemently that you like [artist/group] but appreciate the song nonetheless. Singing it at karaoke is fine at this stage, looking up more songs by [artist/group] isn’t. Yet.
Welcome to the downfall of one Kimitsu* as she takes her baby steps towards… 嵐 [Arashi] fandom. Yes. Arashi. ARASHI. That Johnny’s group with 4 guys and the one who’s everywhere. Whatever you want to call them.
I’ve been avoiding them (or as close as I can make to it, no thanks to Matsumoto Jun, “the one who’s everywhere”) for almost 4 years now. My first exposure to the group came while I was randomly searching Japanese pop boybands (to identify w-inds.) and came across a few of their videos from when they were still signed under PONY CANYON. (And then Kitagawa and JUNON had the split and PONY dropped them. Bet you anything PC’s still regretting that one.) I looked at them, laughed, and trudged on. It didn’t help that when I joined the now defunct wFL Forums, there were a large number of fans dedicated to them there, a number of them whom I got friendly with. (I still have them on LiveJournal, and they still like Arashi. Not obsessively, but they’re there. By the way, the ones not into Johnny’s were into Korean boybands, so it’s not like I had a better alternative.)
Then in March 2005, watching an episode of CDTV, Arashi made the countdown list with their then-latest single, サクラ咲ケ [SAKURA Sake]. I liked it. What more can I say? It had a fairly catchy chorus, and in one of the subsequent karaoke sessions that my friends and I started that same year, I joined in on the chorus with piro**, a friend of mine who was singing it. Just the chorus. Not the rest of the song. Because for the life of me I had no idea what the stanzas sounded like – if you’ve ever watched CDTV you know they only play the part where the chorus is on a rampage. Through your ears. Into your brain. And there it stays (I remember the chorus to this day, though I only memorized the stanzas this past week.)
I continued to avoid Arashi like the plague though. Wait, they are a plague.
o2/ Watch a drama, movie, or stage play in which [said artist/members of said group] plays a fairly important role. You will not only like the drama, you will enjoy the theme song of the drama. Which conveniently happens to be performed by [artist/group]. Repeat as needed.
Oh, Pika☆☆nchi. “Life is Hard Dakara Happy” indeed. On a plane ride to Shanghai from Hong Kong in 2005, the Japanese movie of choice just happened to be this one. With nothing else to watch (read: lacking all interest in the old Chinese movie selection), this was the one I put on and sat through during for an hour during the ride. Despite the presence of subtitles, because I hadn’t sat through the first and had no idea what Arashi member was who (with the sole exception of Matsumoto Jun), it was rather confusing and boring. The opening credits did nothing for me, thank you very much. (In fact, I barely could identify Matsumoto in the movie.)
Fast forward to 2007, where, against my better judgment, I download and watch Bambino!. Yeah, you remember that post, don’t you? I should’ve put in a warning about my reaction to the theme song, We can make it!, because that quickly became stuck in my head, too. I idly sang it while waiting in line at Six Flags and got the two girl friends also there (piro and Son-kun**) to join in with me. That was a warning sign – right there – that I was doomed. (Mostly because I never sang SAKURA Sake outside of that one time in the karaoke room.)
But noooo, I didn’t catch the hint and flew off to Hong Kong for the month somewhat distracted by my experience at Otakon. (By the way, the J-Pop radio channel on Cathay Pacific for the month of August had the full version of We can make it! on air. Apparently I wasn’t allowed to escape. But for your amusement, my notes on the song (I wrote notes on almost every song that played on the channel thinking I might make a post on it following my return) – I blame my post-Bambino kick for my liking this song. The entire thing is pretty damn catchy. But it’s Johnny’s! And Arashi! Bad for me! I don’t like that bridge. But the rap is nice. GAH. JOHNNY’S.)
I came back and finished up a drama I’d been watching pre-HK and started on Yamada Taro Monogatari two weeks ago. Whether you’re reading that post now or remember it from then, I’m sure it’s not hard to discern my distaste for Arashi. And look at me now. (Well, look at this post.) Thanks to the opening song (Happiness) and the acting of both Ninomiya Kazunari and Sakurai Sho, I’ve been converted. And I hated Happiness and couldn’t see how anyone thought Ninomiya as Yamada was charming at first.
But if you really want a sense of how quickly they won me over? I only finished the third episode today.
o3/ Thanks to dramas, you will then be able to identify [artist/members of the group] by face alone. Test your newfound knowledge with pictures of the [artist/group]
that will sooner or later endear you to (most of) them. For egotistical purposes, of course.
By this point, I was able to identify 4 out of Arashi’s 5 members. 3 you know the reason why, the 4th is because one of the aforementioned LiveJournal friends rather liked this particular member. So technically I could identify the 5th man by default – if you had shown me a picture of the group of course. You’ll be able to tell who that 5th man was in a bit.
Talking with piro on the bus last week, the following is a relative account of how I described Arashi’s 5 members and her comeback (in italics) for each.
Matsumoto Jun: “The one who really really really annoys me. I don’t know, I just can’t tolerate his face.” He’s pretty arrogant, but I guess that comes with the confidence.
Ninomiya Kazunari: “He scares me. I don’t see how girls think he’s good-looking.” He’s actually pretty emo. Emo but funny.
Ohno Satoshi: “…half the time he looks stoned. Or sleepy. I can’t tell which.” OMG he’s so awesome and funny.
Sakurai Sho: “I get how girls think he’s cute. And that he’s smart. I like him too… until he opens his mouth.” He’s the cute and smart one, yeah. He’s really down-to-earth.
Aiba Masaki: “Aiba… I don’t even remember what he looks like. He left almost no impression on me. Clearly.” Aiba would be the cute and spacey one. He’s usually zoned out. And stupid.
Okay, now take a look at this picture. From left to right, that’s Aiba, Matsumoto, Ohno, Ninomiya, and Sakurai. Following the above conversation I took it upon myself to look up Aiba and see what he looks like. I’m still not impressed. But he doesn’t annoy me like Matsumoto, we’re good.
o4/ Look up basic information on the [artist/group]. Basic profile statistics, personality, educational background, musical history, film and discography. Past scandals, significant others to write hate letters to, and the [artist/group]’s addresses can come later.
Normally, you’d go to a fansite for this. Except AMNOS.net, the site that pops up first when you search for “arashi fansite” in Google, is surprisingly difficult to navigate, and also seems to be geared towards existing Arashi fans with its existence as a news portal. But when every other site points toward it as THE source, what to do?
Wiki! Be it Wikipedia or Wiki@ThePPN, quick basic easy information. That can more than occasionally be biased. But now we want fan perspective. Why should I love these guys?
And no. I refuse to interact on a mass level with Johnny’s fangirls again. I suffered enough trauma one night in March.
Thankfully, there is still a teeming mass of fangirls on LiveJournal, and I believe every currently-active Johnny’s group has had a “pimp post” made for them at some point or another. Problem solved. With little trauma.
o5/ Search and discover you like more songs by [said artist/group]. Inwardly curse [artist/group] as outwardly you groove and sing along to the music. Without having looked up the lyrics. Yet.
This happened with Happiness. I have not once looked up the lyrics but I can sing to the music video just fine.
My dignity as an not-so-Arashi fan is officially null and void. Those shreds in the corner are the remnants of my membership card from that group. As soon as they heard the opening notes come from my mouth they sent the Enforcers In Black over to rip it up.
o6/ Watch a music video by [artist/group]. Continue on to live performances. Repeat for backstage clips, making of videos, variety shows, and the like. Become enthralled with whatever it is that enthralls you by them.
I’m almost… no, actually, I’m really sorry to say that it took me only one music video. The one for We can make it!. Maybe I’d just soaked myself too long already. Because of this I was able to identify what faces to put to what voices – and despite having already read about the vocal abilities (or lack thereof) of the members, I still had my own impressions.
Matsumoto: I like his voice. But I hate him. Therefore I hate his voice too.
Ohno: There is no denying this is a nice voice. He has an even nicer face when he looks awake.
Aiba: My. Poor. Ears. D:
Ninomiya: He sounds like a 12-year-old, the way he’s trying to belt out his lines. Please stick to smiling or acting emo or whatever it is you do.
Sakurai: He? Does? The? Rapping? (I previously thought the rapping was done by Ninomiya.) But I like his singing voice! SING.
Thanks to a certain person, too, I’d looked up the music video and a concert performance of the song Lucky Man. And despite the crackiness of the opening, it has grown on me. (Though I continue to hate the crowd-raiser line of “Somebody. Everybody. SCREAM/Sawage!” – m-flo and accompanying artists used it way too much. “ASKDFOIAWEN! ENOUGH.” That’s what I shall scream if I ever have to hear it in real life.)
That same person also did me the “favor” of screencapping parts from a clip where Sakurai discovers Ono and Ninomiya sleeping together in the same futon for ghei pretty boy crack. And with this I was undeniably amused and hooked.
There still needs to be color-coded lyrics out there for this group though. I WANT TO KNOW WHO SINGS WHAT WITHOUT MASSIVE PAUSING AND SQUINTING AT VIDEOS AND LIVES.
o6.5/ If it is a group, identify a favorite member of the group. Do not question why, just do it. It will happen sooner or later. Usually sooner.
In this case, it happens to be Sakurai Sho. Whether it’s because I have an fondness for Japanese rapping no matter how oddly it is done, because he’s educated well, because he’s (to me) the best looker of the group after Matsumoto Jun (who doesn’t count for this due to the reasons previously stated in Step 3), or because I apparently gravitate towards men born 5 years before me. I always did like the number 5.
o7/ Find someone to blame for your sudden obsessive tendencies. Blame them. And blame them HARD.
Surprisingly, this honor does not go to my friend piro** (no relation to Fred Gallagher of Megatokyo), though she ought to deserve it because she’s been trying to get me into Arashi for almost three years now. Whether it’s by referring me to or discussing dramas in which Matsumoto Jun stars, telling me to watch the various variety shows they’re in (G no Arashi and Arashi no Shukudai-kun in particular), and even inputting Arashi songs when we go to karaoke – though she got me to join in on the chorus of SAKURA Sake that one time.
Nor does it go to my dear friend Son-kun** – who hasn’t particularly tried to get me into Arashi, but loves them and especially Matsumoto Jun all the same. (She does, however, find it rather insulting that I’d fly to Japan to visit her (where she is currently studying) only if she could get me to hang out with AAA as well. What can I say? I’m a fangirl. I do wish her luck on her MatsuJun stalking escapades, though.)
Also surprisingly, this honor does not go to the fangirls of JE-NYC who are a rather nice bunch though I haven’t met them even once since that tiring karaoke episode. I think there were more KAT-TUN and Tackey & Tsubasa songs sung that night than Arashi anyways.
No, rather this odd honor goes to Raid-kun of TORI-E@Blogspot. Who seems to have subconsciously (or perhaps very consciously) decided that since we share tastes when it comes to most pretty male idols, I need to be inducted into the hordes of the Arashi mob. You can’t even call them fans anymore, there are so many that they could take over the world if they ever decided to do it.
If you’re reading this, Raid? I hate you. So very very dearly. ♥
* Internet handle used to protect the damned.
** nicknames used to protect the unsuccessful and damned.
Switch and repeat the above steps as applicable, and voila. A quick way to damn your soul to the pretty (and not so pretty) that is Johnny’s. Now whether you decide to spend your money on them or not is up to you – but because I’m materialistic, it seems a bit odd to call oneself a fan without any actual merchandise in hand. But we’ll see. I’m holding off on buying the singles as long as I can.
I’m still not a mindless fan yet, thankfully. (I’m making this post, aren’t I?) And Arashi has a large enough discography and their hands in way too many things to keep me from rushing down that road anytime soon. But the prospect of becoming such a thing… it is terrifying. It is madness.
At least it isn’t Sparta.
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