Let’s be clear: what SagSousuke has started – and already accomplished – with this post is important. As in, we’ll be referring to this as discussions of the idol world evolves, as we try to better understand the appeal of idols and the relationship between idol and wota. Any serious minded fan of idols would do well to read this, see if they agree or disagree, and hopefully build on the ideas being set forth.
This initial post is already expansive enough that all I’m going to offer here are some initial reactions to the key ideas – parts that I think are essential, a nit pick here and there, just to get the dialogue rolling.
SagSousuke starts things out smartly by determining definitions and setting out taxonomies. He’s creating a foundation, a set of shared assumptions that are explicitly stated, in order to assure that everyone who joins this ongoing discussion are speaking the same language and are on the same page.
He plays a little fast and loose with a definition of idols, but this is to make clear just how nebulous and widespread the concept has been in Japanese pop culture. From there, he determines three traits that idols possess in varying degrees – looks, talent, and personality. On the face of it, this seems obvious – everyone in the entertainment industry shares this, but not all of them are idols, after all – but he uses this to show how different combinations and priorities with these three components would benefit different kinds of idols.
These three components of an idol are terrific and very useful in building the taxonomy further, but I don’t think they’re sufficient for a working definition. That said, perhaps the missing part of the definition is right there in the essay: the idol-wota relationship. The KIND of pararelationship that an idol inspires in a wota is what sets it apart from other kinds of celebrities and famous people. So maybe there’s a definition right there, somehow – that an idol isn’t just what a person is but the sense of attachment that are stirred in the audience.
I also have some nitpicks on the treatment of AV idols and gravure idols. SagSousuke doesn’t consider JAV actresses as idols, which I take strong issue with. Not all women in JAV have idol qualities, but there are studios who actively treat their stars as idols, and one can easily think of a stellar roster of true AV idols: Sora Aoi, Yua Aida, Maria Ozawa, Naho Ozawa (my favorite!), Rio, Nanba An, and even Matsuura Aya lookalike Ran Monbu. If you want further proof, what about all the AV idols who’ve been forming music groups in the wake of the current idol boom?
I’d also argue that there’s more than meets the eye with both AV idols and gravure idols. Or rather, making it look effortless and attractive takes a whle lot of effort and skill. For AV idols, learning to look good while sucking two dicks and getting fucked from behind certainly takes a measure of talent. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself in front of a camera and see what the results are.
And while the genetic lottery is certainly a huge part of any idol industry and espcially in gravure – at least, post U15 – I would argue that it requires a certain skill to projcet one’s charms properly to the camera. There are so many young women out there who rely solely on being cute or having a great body to become a gravure idol, and they simply fail to be interesting beyond those obvious assets. A Shihono Ryo or Reon Kadena or Mayumi Yamanaka has a lot more on the ball than just being able to stand still for the camera.
I also love the way suspension of disbelief is used, though I prefer to see it as postmodernist complicity. Not just because those are longer, fancier words, but because they better describe the double bind of being a self-aware idol fan. But that’s a whole other topic perhaps best handled later.
Finally, the categories for different kind of wota is very helpful, and SagSousuke applies it immediately to the No Love Rule to show just how different these types can be about different assumptions regarding idols. As SagSousuke himself notes, these categories shouldn’t be too hard-and-fast or exclusionary – that is, being firmly in one category doesn’t mean that a certain idol or situation may not have you behaving as if you belong to a whole other category. But even with that in mind, this is a useful tool, a great starting point for further discussion, and even a good way for individual wota to take stock of their own values and priorities. Who knows? It may even be a good shorthand to prevent some of the sillier argments between different kinds of fans.
So yeah. This is a long read, but a very rewarding one. A necessary one, I’d even argue. And we can all look forward to more from SagSousuke as he releases future parts to this series, hopefully illustrating some of the basic ideas as he does so.
And on a final note: The Mutou is apparently doing okay as a solo singer. No, really. I have no fucking clue what to make of that. But don’t worry, that won’t make me stop from continung to use her name in vain. It shouldn’t stop any of you, either.