The Yamanaka Sisters: Pleasures And Pitfalls Of Being Adolescent Idols


Tomoe Yamanaka ~ Limited Gallery 02 [2011.06] – Jappydolls
Mayumi Yamanaka ~ Secret Gallery [2011.06] – Jappydolls

The Yamanaka sisters have been bringing joy to junior idol fans for years now, each of them debuting as U12s before letting puberty do its thing. Mayumi is now eighteen, Tomoe is now sixteen, and these two very recent pictorials show how much they’ve grown over the years and what their strengths are as veteran gravure idols. They also illustrate the pitfalls of being an idol during one’s adolescence.

Older sister Mayumi has had more exposure, certainly more DVDs featuring her, and retains her distinctive look and pleasingly full figure now that she’s a grown woman. She never had the striking beauty of a Shihono Ryo or Koike Rina but has always been irresistably cute and playful and can project a sense of being genuine in all her shoots. She also has a great ass, which is shown to wonderful effect throughout this spread. Mayumi also has the mechanics of gravure down: the right way to look at the camera, how to work with her clothes (i.e., taking them off in a visually pleasing manner), striking natural looking poses, but that’s been the case with her since very early in her career. She’s a true pro, and worth admiring for that as much as her beauty.

I guess what concerns me now is whether or not she’s going to take a turn towards a more mature style of gravure, the way Shihono did with her Adulteen mooks. On the one hand, she’s still too babyfaced to make a believable leap – on the other hand, that may be exactly why some fans would want her to be more risque in the first place. I’d rather she not, personally, but now that the option’s there it may just be a matter of time.

Younger sister Tomoe comes as a bit more of a shock – not that we haven’t seen her grow from photo spread to photo spread, but her looks have certainly changed more significantly over the years than it has for Mayumi. Her face has filled in more, she’s been trying out different hairstyles more aggressively, and she isn’t as distinct looking as she was in her younger years. Not to say that she’s a generic looking gravure idol, but recent growth spurts haven’t done her any favors – that, or her stylists haven’t. Her hairstyle, as I’ve alluded to, is a bit too severe and doesn’t accentuate her facial features as well as it could. To sum up, she’s at an awkward phase right now.

Looking through her pictorial, though, one can’t help but notice how much the photographer is focusing on Tomoe’s breasts – much more than Mayumi’s pictorial (which may have well been taken by someone different, but the gravure genre demands certain tropes and expectations). On the one hand, she may simply have more visually pleasing breasts than Mayumi – or at least more ample ones. On the other hand, it may just be to distract her from her face. She seems to be trying too hard – there are a couple of shots of her winking that seem too forced, even by gravure standards, and her poses aren’t as natural as they used to be. I wouldn’t necessarily say her work at twelve and thirteen was better – I’d just plead that whatever flaws are in evidence here will pass with time.

Now that I think of it, Mayumi didn’t go through an awkward phase like Tomoe is now… if anything, she looks just about the same now as she did at sixteen, fourteen, and pretty much at twelve. Just more developed, but with the same smile and charms from the start of her career. Which may be a big explanation for her continued success and longevity.

It’s pretty clear that Mayumi is going to move on to gravure work as an adult, and I’d say the same is true for Tomoe (though I’d hedge that bet just a little more). It’ll be exciting to see how they’re doing another five or six years from now. And with any luck, we’ll be able to keep track of their growth, as we have since the start.

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