Last week I read the very well done article on Pure Idol Heart about being an idol fan and picking a favorites. If you have yet to read what Paul wrote, look here. It’s well worth a read if you’re at all interested in thinking about the nature of being an idol fan.
Personally, I agree with what Paul writes, in theory at least. I think you should like who you like, despite the predominant idea in idol culture that you should pick an oshimen. Being a DD, someone who likes everyone, is all fine and good, I think. However, I consider myself to be an MD (Minna Daisuki) which means that while I like pretty much every idol in groups I like, that I support one as my oshimen.
However, one reason I pick an oshimen, and this is a bit of a confession to make: I have a hard time following/supporting idol groups without a firm favorite member.
I’m not quite sure why this is the case, but there are some idol groups where I can get behind them as groups, but since there isn’t an idol that stands out to me that much as an individual I just can’t have that group be one of my favorites. This was a problem for me with SKE48, for a while; I had an oshimen in the group I was a fan of, Yagami Kumi (who, for the record, I think is super fantastic), but since she wasn’t at the level of my other 48 oshimen SKE48 became the 48 group I followed least, even though I think they’ve put out really great stuff. However, now that Kuumin is leaving SKE48, I expanded my horizons, and after a couple of missteps (mainly becoming a fan of Ogiso Shiori… who then announced her graduation), I’ve become quite a fan of SKE’s Hata Sawako. So we’ll see if Shawako is enough to make me follow more of SKE48.
This also came into play with Morning Musume. While I have a blog post planned about my on and off again relationship with Hello!Project and Morning Musume in particular, in short I’ve thought about completely quitting Hello!Project for some time now. However, recently my interest in Ishida Ayumi has grown to the point where she’s one of my top current idols. I’m now actively supporting Morning Musume (through merch purchases, mostly; I bought Ayumi’s birthday shirt), and this is entirely because of one girl and the fact I think she’s amazing.
I also think that having an oshimen is helpful in larger groups that have a lot of merch. While Momoiro Clover Z, for example, is really great about having merchandise for Hako Oshi (MomoClo fans who support the whole group), not every group may have that, and it might be easier (and financially more viable) to support one member. For example, for a while I supported the second generation of S/Mileage as a unified whole, and while those are still four of my top five current Hello!Project members (2-5, Ishida Ayumi being #1). However, this made me resistant to getting merchandise because four girls is kind of a lot on my college student budget. However, once I decided on being a Meimi fan, I felt more able to get merch.
The idol industry also supports the whole “you have to pick an oshimen” idea through songs like Team B Oshi, which not only tells you to pick an oshimen, but to support Team B. (Interestingly enough, it also says that changing oshimen, also known as oshihenning, is OK, but only if it’s to that individual girl. Most idol fans look down on someone who oshihens a lot.)
That being said, while having a specific oshimen is important to me liking an idol group, I think the “Minna” part of my Minna Daisuki thing is important, as well. Occasionally I see people who only like one girl and one girl only, disliking almost everyone else. While that’s your choice, it still feels like that would make liking that idol group frustrating and flat out not fun, especially if you’re not a fan of the group.
One thing of note, however, is I think that the oshimen dynamic changes depending on what group you’re supporting. If you’re an AKB48 fan or a fan of those groups, so much rides on the senbatsu election and the Request Hour Setlist Best 100 election, so that not choosing an oshimen would pretty much disqualify you from this part of the AKB48 fandom. Larger groups or popular groups, where there are elections or rivalries within the groups, it’s hard to not have an oshimen because they encourage you to support your particular member of choice. On the other hand, I feel it’s a lot less vital for smaller, indie groups (like the ones mentioned in the Pure Idol Heart article), and that it’s honestly less important to focus on one girl in particular. The biggest factor, though, is the word of “support,” whether that means one particular girl or your favorite group.
Ultimately, though, it is your choice, and regardless of what other people feel you should enjoy idols however you want to. Because really, idols are meant for fun.