Home > Arashi, Fashion, Johnny's Jimusho > The Pretty Boy in his natural habitat.

The Pretty Boy in his natural habitat.

Today… well, today I says to myself, “Kimi, what is it about media blogs?” I hate them and yet I admire them. I don’t mean the download-sharing kind, of course, but the ones that get by solely on posting pictures and YouTube/Dailymotion/Veoh/imeem/what have you links.

I hate that all their content is mostly based off what they’ve probably leeched from the Internet. (But if it comes from their own wallet, all the more power to them.) I hate that there is little actual thought behind the decision other than “I like this, people might like this, so here you go”. Insert smiley or one-liner on the media in question, press “Publish/Post”, watch the comment and hit counts fly.

Perhaps a great deal of it is because while I value a pretty face and watching choreography, a good deal of my music fandoms are not visually based. I’ve never found much merit in photobooks, partially stemming from some disappointment with my collection of artbooks that sit gathering dust on my bookshelf and the fact that I’d rather have them sit pretty than do anything to them. Trading cards, too, are considered more as a collectible item (going back to my days in high school where I amassed over 300 booster packs of Japanese Yu+Gi+Oh! cards for the sole purpose of having the collection). And while I like looking at pictures, I am not the person with several gigs in pictures of their favorite artist(s).

No, my music fandoms develop because of that same music, and rarely go further. I’m perfectly content to listen to people like Younha or Gackt or even, say, AAA without wondering what sort of person they are, or being obsessive about how they look. (Sure, Shuuta being hot helps. Urata’s body helps even more. But I got into them because I liked their music and I liked their dancing. Not how they looked. Thankfully, because they looked pretty bland early on.) Only recently has this changed, as my purchases of Japanese magazines increase, but I’m still fairly selective about the magazines I buy, preferring to preview the photoshoot before deciding on any actual purchase. (But we chalk this up to how expensive buying said magazines in this country is. My poor wallet.)

And I suppose to some extent, the download blog earns my ire as well. I’m grateful, sure, because they widen the ways to get your Japanese media. But when I know that they get over hundreds of hits solely for the downloads, it kind of hurts. Especially because this little blog, no matter how much I pour into it, barely averages about 100 hits overall a day, but half of them for nonsensical google searches or what lyrics I’ve color-coded for my amusement. I say this with a sad confidence, you know – let it beat! was a download blog too and it averaged 100 hits for whatever my latest post was… until the next one came along.

But I feel justified – even the teeniest bit – in knowing that I fleshed out those same downloads with hopefully interesting text. Whether or not people read it was up to them, but at least I wasn’t completely relying on the allure of Koda Kumi’s pumping hips, Domoto Koichi’s angsty face, or AAA’s way-too-many releases to draw people in. I had my own opinions and ideas to share, at least.

For that same reason, I admire them. I admire the gall those same media blogs have in doing that. And of course, their success. Because not only do I think I could ever do that, just post a picture or a video link, but my head might possibly explode if you ever put me in front of a keyboard and blogging program and told me I wasn’t allowed to type under pain of everyone in the world collectively crying “Bullshit!” and stoning me to death. Actually, I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t happened yet – the latter part, that is.

…it might be hard to tell, but this post wasn’t supposed to be a criticism of media blogs. Oops.

No, this post, with great pains, sends me temporarily joining the legions of media-sharing blogs once more. With your weekly dose of fangirl rambling, of course.

Just over a month ago, I chanced upon the December 2007 issue of Myojo at half-price – the Kinokuniya I found the Myojo at was closing and everything had to go. You get the idea. Torn between being repulsed by the wide-open mouths of Hey!Say!JUMP on the cover and my growing love for Arashi… I bought the magazine. (Half-off and even with the importing charges, it was cheaper than I would’ve had to pay for it in Japan. I was happy.) Luckily (or perhaps not so luckily for me when I opened the magazine during the long subway ride back from Manhattan), the Arashi shoot inside was gorgeous. (The following scans are thanks to warriorkitana@LJ on boys_paper.)

The topic for the content of the article was a simple “What moves/doesn’t move you?” thing. But it’s the photoshoot itself that has me starry-eyed. The opening two-page spread is nice, but doesn’t quite do the coming shots justice. (But since it is part of the section, might as well…)

Arashi gives the overhead camera looks that are a mixture between blank and defiant, but what’s meant to catch the eye is their darkly-dressed figures juxtaposed against the light background. The entire image has a sort of surreal sense to it, sort of like they don’t belong, especially with the way the shadows look elongated – and Arashi apparently knows it. At the same time, the camera angle and their casual outfits shoot them back down to earth. This becomes the overlying theme of the photoshoot – Arashi juxtaposed against the world around them, scenes where they could easily blend in and yet they still stand out for various reasons. (Because of the camera focus, of course, but let’s attribute it to the artistic values it has.) What makes this photoshoot pretty isn’t the Arashi guys, it’s the way that it appeals to my aesthetic and ironic senses. But pretty boys help too. They always do.

On the subject of their clothes for this shot, I must confess to more than a fleeting sense of amusement at how sharp Aiba, Ohno, and Nino’s footwear were compared to the rounded ends of Sho and Jun’s sneakers. Also, Nino’s bad posture makes him look small against the other members and calls to mind a puppy dog. Please don’t ask why. (If you really must know, it’s the dangling tie. I just want to grab hold of it and use it as a leash. “Yes, Nino, good puppy, now come along and get your “treat”.)

Turning the page leads us first to Jun. Let us acknowledge that he’s the youngest member of Arashi, born two months after Nino, and suddenly the use of a playground – complete with kids playing – as a backdrop seems much more appropriate. The scene is bright and vibrant, between the sun filtering through the trees and the kid running by in the background, but Jun stands isolated and, well, drab. You come up with a better term for his facial expression. It’s completely blank and almost eerie, as if he’s waiting to be molded into something despite being a living, breathing creature. (Well, I know some people who would disagree.) There’s nothing to be read into his body language either – in fact, there practically is none. It’s sort of interesting that for an article with the theme “What moves you?”, we are given this shot where Jun seems immovable.

All of Arashi’s following outfits have the same theme of “jacket, inner shirt, pants w/ belt, and sneakers”; but it’s interesting to note that Jun, despite striking the happy medium between casual and formal in the individual clothing pieces, looks the most formally-dressed out of them all. (Sho might beat him, but it’s his manner that sort of throws off the impression.) His jacket is buttoned, his white t-shirt (or maybe just shirt) is tucked into his jeans, and his sneakers shine as much as any well-polished dress shoes. But he stands in the most casual location of all the shots. The playground, buzzing with kids and families, is probably the place where formal manners are least expected to be required, after all.

So all of this makes him stick out like a sore thumb, even though one imagines that one day he’ll be in the playground himself as a father fondly watching his own kids wreak havoc on the world. But today is not that day, now is not that time; Jun is still part of the world of idols, somewhere straddling the imaginary image line between humans and gods.

Next is Ohno. Oh, Ohno. For all that he attempts a neutral pose and expression… his face looks like it’s twitching. In confusion or about to smirk, I can’t tell. But the slightly cocked head doesn’t help. It’s good though, if he were really neutral he’d probably be lying on the ground asleep.

Ohno’s standing in front of the entrance to a studio – with someone setting up equipment in the background – and for someone who’s often pointed out as not really all there in the idol business, it’s an interesting choice. (Either that or I’m reading too much into it because they just photographed Ohno whereever they could get him.) This is where he currently belongs, but it’s not as though he wants to be there. He’d probably rather be off fishing.

For someone who usually stands in the background, Ohno’s picture is the most vivid. Because that studio door has been caught in the foreground, Ohno isn’t the only object in the camera focus. The colors in this picture are evenly divided between the setting (green door, neutral interior, gray concrete) and Ohno himself (skin tone and black clothes with dark pink/white accents) rather than the tendency towards direct contrast or color monotony that the other 4 shots have. And whereas the rest of Arashi look like they were superimposed onto their scenes, Ohno’s picture looks somewhat candid, as though he was just leaving the studio for a quick break and came across the cameraman at the doors. “What are you doing here?” But he’s an integral part of the picture, and if you took him out you’d be left with a strong feeling that something was missing. Most of the other Arashi members are placed in front of what might be considered an artistically interesting view, appreciable even without their presence. But Ohno is necessary, both in this picture and in Arashi, even if he doesn’t seem to be doing much.

Following him is Nino. This is where, if I were your average fangirl, I’d be swooning. As it is, I complain that the greenish backdrop combined with the lighting and overall dark colors makes Nino’s skin look extraordinary yellow. Yes, his outfit looks good – everything, from the pea coat’s snaps and zippers to the pocket hems on his cargo pants to the metal-rimmed lace holes on his sneakers, has a little extra detail to detract from its lack of color in this particular lighting and otherwise ordinariness. It’s borderline oshare, though I doubt Nino cares about that, but the regular man could just throw this on and look good. And out of Arashi, it’s Nino that tends to look the most plain. (Ahem. Jun sexes it up though with the wrong angle he looks like a monkey, Ohno looks stoned when he’s not making faces, Sho attempts manliness and looks like an awkward chicken, and Aiba varies between extreme degrees of adorable and ugly.) So it works, and he looks good. Except, he looks yellow.

He also looks – dare I say it – unhappy. Most Arashi fans at some point will learn that a majority of the group had wanted to leave Johnny’s by the time Arashi was formed and debuted; Nino was one of these members. There is still nothing he would like better than to just sit at home and play his games, too. So even though he’s one of Japan’s most visible idols, this sticking out thing isn’t really what he enjoys. It’s funny to note that since his particular shot is so monotone, the only reason why he sticks out is because he isn’t motion-blurred like the two people walking in the background.

I could also pull something out of my ass about how the shot taking place in a tunnel could be symbolic for Nino’s preference to not obstruct anyone even if it conflicts with his own feelings; and how that he’s standing straight in the middle of a two-way path requiring people to walk around him becomes ironic, but who cares? It’s Nino and I want to lead him along on a leash.

Then Sho. This is where my sister, quite possibly worse than the average fangirl, does worse than swoon. She causes bodily harm. (Luckily for her, she has her own copy of this same issue… and less luckily for me, she didn’t pay for it at all.)

While all of Arashi has been standing in relaxed, neutral poses, Sho – possibly because of the wind attacking his hair and jacket, possibly because he’s a stiff-bodied kind of guy – seems unsteady. Being able to see a bit more of the undersoles of his shoes (giving the idea that he’s trying to balance on his heels), the uncomfortable expression on his face, the uneven slump of his shoulders, and the fact that his particular backdrop is an intersection adds more to that effect.

Again, the lighting is bright, the atmosphere is relatively busy, and if Sho were to be mingling in the crowd, he wouldn’t stand out in his clothes. Maybe pass for a flashy salaryman or some kid heading for a job interview. (I really don’t like the pink striped shirt. But then again, I just don’t like pink.) What’s interesting about the added uneasiness to this photo is that he’s standing in the shadow of some building – and the shadowed area has a definite contrast to the rest of the pavement. It gives off the sense that out of Arashi, he’s the one closest to facing off against “the real world”; the regular concerns of normal life and knowledge of what’s happening in the rest of the world is really hitting him.

Last is Aiba, who, poor boy, is apparently a creature of the night. He wants to suck your blood. He looks tired, his face receives some pretty bad lighting (the shadows around his cheek and jaw don’t help), and this is anything but a good shot of him if he were trying to appeal with his facial features. Or body – the curve of the jacket makes him look pudgy, and the way his jeans hang off his legs create the illusion of stumpiness.

He’s had better photos, of course. But this is this picture for this shoot for this issue of this magazine, and let’s face it – Aiba is not the looker of Arashi for this shoot. (It sort of pains me to admit it, but that goes to Jun. Again.) He stands in front of a dry cleaner’s storefront at night, spotlighted by a street lamp. As far as coloring goes, the picture is pretty bland – all dark and nothing especially eye-catching except for Aiba in the center. And that’s when it hits – Aiba’s emphasized because there’s nothing around him that could also draw attention. For any other member, this wouldn’t be something extraordinary or worth noting, but Aiba is a people person. Even when I boil Arashi down to just their achievements that make them unique in Johnny’s (Jun got in on looks, Ohno has his exhibition, Nino was in a Hollywood movie, Sho was the first in the Jimusho to graduate from a university/college), Aiba doesn’t really have anything special to his name. What he does as an idol is just work best with people and lighten the mood. Here, there’s no one in the immediate scene; any signs of human life are secluded in buildings. So instead of the usual perky, high-tension personality we see, we have a secluded Aiba who looks very human (as compared to a lofty idol image), and very alone.

On the subject of his outfit – his body is a gradual color shift from black to white, which of course, helps him stand out because of his position and his surroundings. (Black jacket against the lit storefront, white sneakers against dark pavement, grey jeans with a happy medium between the two.) For all that they direct your attention towards the ugly bulge, I rather like the diagonal lines drawn by the zippers and collar of Aiba’s jacket. But it’s still a pretty plain outfit, something any guy – fashionable or otherwise – could just throw on, adding more to the humanization. Like with Ohno’s picture, though, Aiba becomes important in this shot (albeit by being the sole person) and it would feel empty without his presence. Arashi, as well, needs Aiba – without him, they would probably lose nearly half of the “down-to-earth good-natured idiots” appeal that’s won them so many fans.

Perhaps the various ironies and symbolism I’ve drawn from this shoot weren’t in the photographer’s intentions, but they’re certainly there, and they make this shoot all the more interesting. You’ll forgive the lack of any further concluding sentences for this entry, by the way. This must be the 14th time I’ve had to type it up this week and I’m too tired to come up with further nonsense. Oh, how I envy the media blog’s lack of text all the more…

  1. February 17, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Now why is it that people are not complaining about your ENDLESS ARASHI POSTS?!

  2. Lilian
    February 17, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    That seriously astounds me!! I mean, usually I just look at those pictures and squeal and do all those fangirly things but I never really think about it… Damn…..

    I like this post! It opened up my eyes to this photo shoot… ^^
    I agree, it’s not Aiba-chan’s best picture. I love him more when he is smiling. Actually, I like a photoshoot more that has Arashi smiling and all those extra things that screams happiness….This photoshoot is kinda dark…… -.-

  3. Siria
    February 18, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Don’t envy media blogs, your writing is ten times worth their “Leav commms!!1!” (or whatever it looks like in English). At least yours appeals to the brain (yes, I just said that on an Arashi post. You ought to be proud =D). I should tell you that I read what you write on the others artists, I just don’t have anything interesting to say in a comment ^^

    It’s also the first time I’ve read an idol’s photoshoot analysis. This shoot is one of the weirdest I know from them, plus you may (I’m sorry to say so ^^”) be reading a bit too much in it, but nonetheless it was really interesting.
    I’d like to say some more things, but I may find words for them later -_-” For the time being, thanks for actually making me think about art while browsing in this fandom ;)

  4. celestia414
    February 18, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    I very much agree with you about Nino, puppies, and his tie. hehehe

  5. Kei
    February 25, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Whether it’s reading too much into it or not, this was a very interesting post. I’d definitely stick around for more analysis of JE idol photo shoots (I LOVE this sort of thing). Much better than poorly thought out media blogs :)

  6. April 18, 2008 at 5:17 am

    Hahaha, I’ve read quite a few of your posts – namely, the Arashi ones – but I must say that I’m quite jealous that there was actually anything Arashi-related left at that Kinokuniya! Not to come across as a complete stalker, but I live in NYC as well and remember that sale. The only thing that I was remotely interested in was some random magazine with Okada Junichi on the front cover and a volume of Kimi wa Petto that I had already read :(

    Man, I really did not like Aiba’s perm – don’t know why fangirls were so crazy over it – and despite Jun’s twerpiness in this shoot, I still liked the picture, sigh.

  7. March 11, 2009 at 1:25 am

    I’ll never look at a photoshoot the same way ever again.
    This was very refreshing.

  8. April 24, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Wow. This is why I come here for the psychoanalysis. xD

    Though I’m ept at disecting art, I have to admit my mind goes to mush when I’m looking at Arashi photoshoots. I remember /swooning/ ^^; because I really liked the real-world vibe created by shooting at everyday locations. It looks like you’d be able to walk past Nino on your way to the station or something. Often photographers try to bring out the sense of down-to-earth-ness out of Arashi, capturing their /somewhat/ candid smiles as they muck around with each other or on location, which is the type of shoot I like best.. rather than close up shot of their face, and lying on a fur rug.. About their blank expressions, its somewhat a requisite for a boyband to pull off that ‘cool, unassuming gaze’. I do wonder what they’re thinking about to pull that off.

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