A Theory on Idol Attraction?
My sister is, in some ways, a NEWS fan. She enjoys their music, their looks, the occasional dancing. (I think a number of NEWS fans will kill me, but frankly. NEWS. Cannot. Dance. It’s like KAT-TUN, Kanjani8, and NEWS all balance each other out by being in the same “generation” of JE bands, but that’s another post.)
When I started writing this, though, it might have been more accurate to say that she was a fan of Sakurakouji Jun, Kusano Akira, Inoue Kouta, Nakahara Shouta, and the two boys who do CHIRARIZUMU. (Still somewhat accurate, really.)
Oh, and I guess she’s also a fan of Utsugi Minoru, Kurosaki, and whatever random characters she’s seen Koyama as (though highly unfortunate that she roots for him to die almost everytime).
She doesn’t identify the individual members of NEWS for who they are, but what she’s seen them do. It was a wonder that she knew Ryo’s name, because she’s only ever seen him as Shouta. Koyama and Shige, she’s seen in dramas, but the dance of CHIRARIZUMU seems to have left the greatest impression upon her. Tegoshi and Yamapi she knew because she’s seen them in two dramas, but even now only by those same terms – if I say “Yuya” or “Tomohisa” or even just “Pi”, she’ll give me a blank stare. (Apparently, that was the minimum requirement because sometimes she referred to Massu as “the other buttsex boy”, and the other times, “Who’s the one that smiles a lot?” Now she knows him as “Massu”, but because of his grin.) She barely knows Uchi, and knows of Kusano as “the guy with the pants” (from their Fiesta/Wonderful World performance on Shounen Club. This disappoints me because I’ve made no secret about my support for Kusano.) – but they are both the idiots who got drunk underage. Someone forbid I ever bring up Moriuchi Takahiro around her.
But in all her overreacting unglory (can we call that a word for the sake of this post?), she squeals over them, drools at them (I’ve jokingly talked about unleashing floods of saliva over a certain member of AAA, but never literally. This girl is unfortunately literal.), hunts down pictures and videos, and causes me much bodily harm to get at what she can’t get herself.
Granted, I don’t know if this applies to even an eighth of the drama-watching pretty boy fandom. I mean, for one thing my sister’s pretty spoiled. The only way of getting Japanese entertainment she bothers with is mostly streaming performances because I can download anything else she’d be interested in. And actually, she’s somewhat limited to what I do show her.
But she shares something in common with the rest of the fandom, and that is an adoration for the idols’ achievements. (It should be noted that much as I use the word “achievement” in this post – not all of the actions are positive. Scandals are considered as much of an “achievement” as starting a trend or getting an award.) Because much as any idol fan likes to delude themselves that they’re in love with the idols in question for who they are… it’s really what they do. Regardless of the idol’s gender, company affiliation, or actual abilities, we come across them because they are put in the spotlight and do something to catch our eye.
Take me for instance. Way back when AAA debuted (really not all that long ago, sad to think of it), the one who immediately caught my eye was Urata. But unfortunately, really, not due to his looks or his dancing, but because he was one of the three lead singers. You had the rapper, the girl, the girly-guy, and the not-so-girly guy. (Really not hard to identify who’s who with that.) Everyone else in AAA would take me at least another two months to identify. (Even Shuuta and Yukari, yes. The former of which really didn’t catch my eye until his part of the Dance Corner in the 1st ATTACK concert; the latter when she shoved her boobs at the camera for DRAGON FIRE‘s PV. Again, what they do.)
Or more recently – I’ve all but declared myself ready to marry Nino at the drop of a hat (wait, no, I said that too), but not even a year ago I shunned Arashi like a plague. It was after Yamada Taro Monogatari (in which Nino starred with Sho), after hearing his vocals in Niji and CARAMEL SONG, after seeing him cook on Mago Mago Arashi (because food is such an easy way to my heart), and after discovering his capabilities with various musical instruments that I found myself increasingly admiring the person. But there is nothing to prove that the Nino who exists in my head is really the same as the real person, and isn’t that the case for everyone? And no, Raid, I got over any idol relationship scandals way back in my wFL fandom when I thought the Ayaya hate was plain silly. My heart will not break over Nino getting some. In fact, if he didn’t get any I might really think he was a girl. Though that wouldn’t be such an odd relationship either.
No matter how much we learn about their personalities, we can never completely tell how much is real and how much is just marketing. Of course, it’d be great to say that they’re all amazing actors if what we see is completely made up, but once we do get to know the actual person and know for certain that it is them, we’ve crossed the intangible line that separates a fan and friend. (You can be a friend and a fan; but not a fan and a friend, if that makes any sense.) But with the high level of exposure idols get doing what they do, it’s all to easy to imagine that we’ve crossed that line.
If we throw the personality out, what does that leave us? With looks and actions? But standards of beauty are different for everyone, and it’s much easier to say a person is unattractive when you don’t know who they are. Really, as much as the idol world is heavily based on appearances, looks don’t count for anything. (Or didn’t count so much before, in Johnny’s.) And we’re back to my original point, that idols matter to us because of what they do.
So (going back to NEWS) Kato Shigeaki can’t sing around the release of NEWS’ first album touch. Couldn’t sing. Whatever. We knew that, he knew that. And sure, he was a pretty decent looking kid and that could help a bit, but he was also quiet. I couldn’t identify him until recently when NEWS was decidedly shunted down to 6 members, really, and I knew of NEWS since CHERISH. But he took vocal lessons, improved, and it is that improvement that helped me take notice of him. (Then came the studying law in college and mentions of wanting a live poisonous jellyfish or something of that sort.)
Switching to KAT-TUN. My sister only identifies Ueda by process of elimination. (I identify him by his lips and somewhat expressionless face.) Because we don’t listen to KAT-TUN, don’t watch their performances, and Ueda is the only member of KAT-TUN we haven’t seen in a drama. (In contrast: Kame ranks at two with Nobuta. wo Produce and 1 Pound no Fukuin, Jin and Junno at one with Yukan Club – but Jin has an edge thanks to his solo “ha-ha” back in the days of Utawara and his English, Koki also at one with My Boss, My Hero, and Nakamaru again at one with Sushi Oji! – but the latter two also have an up what with their roles (Rapper and beatboxer respectively) in the group.) With nothing to base our impressions of Ueda on, he becomes nearly nonexistent.
Let us move on to Kanjani8. Even after watching their two appearances on Utaban, my sister and I remembered only an additional three members in addition to Yoko and Ryo – Subaru (whose “Pierrot”/”Jyanni Depp” nickname amused), Yasuda (who was teased for acting gay), and Hina (Murakami Shingo – who just talked a lot.) After watching the Neoki Dokkiri/Surprise Wake-up special we can identify them all. But my sister? Does it by their Eito Ranger colors. (I talk about Shingo, she goes “Who?”. I say “Purple/Eggplant Ranger”, a look of dawning comprehension comes across her face. Ohkura is identified as the idiot who suggested the idea, and Maru suffers from being the process of elimination guy. Or being the Orange Ranger. Your choice.)
Even in Morning Musume, I’m surprised I remember who’s who throughout the generations despite not being a fan. But after some not-so-deep reflection, it is again an association of their images wwith their achievements. Yaguchi Mari has three things linked to her – MiniMoni, Sexy Beam, Oguri Shun scandal. Fukuda Asuka has one – first one to graduate from group. Ishiguro Aya – first Morning Mommy. Ishii Sayaka – started her own band. Abe Natsumi – plagiarism and turtle scandals. Ishikawa Rika – former head of Biyuden/VUden/however the hell you want to spell it, general beauty queen admired by Sayumi, and called the fans kimoi. (I could be wrong about that last one, I’m really not double-checking any of these.) Kusumi Koharu – in Kirarin Revolution and sole winner of 7th gen auditions (in the second round). And so on, and so forth.
In contrast to the high exposure of Johnny’s and scandals of Hello!Project, I look at an idol group like HINOI TEAM and think of how I identify the four members. Asuka is clearly lead vocals. Hikaru is the other lead vocal who happens to be taller. And I realize I can’t differentiate between Keika and Rina at all unless I’m watching the video for PLAY WITH THE NUMBERS. In dream, though I do love their music, I can only identify Kana and Yu because they were in the original trio. In PONY CANYON’s boyband trifecta, I can identify the individual members because I’ve spent so much time in the fandom – but there is still the “Hiroki, Lead no leader“, “Ryuichi, rapper/rocker of w-inds.”, or “Seigo, the new guy in FLAME”.
Perhaps I (and my sister) are unique in our idol fandoms. She takes hers rather shallowly, and I (for all that I make as much of an effort to get to know the idol as much as the next fan) am willing to disregard everything I’ve been given. But idols themselves are characters, as much as the ones in a game or a movie or a cartoon, and while it’s a bit wrong to associate them with the roles they play, it is as much a part of them as anything else we’re shown. And maybe it’s these things that draw us the most.
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