Idol Thoughts: Idol Demographics

I recently got the female idol issue of anan in the mail. While I was initially excited because Kanna from Rev.From DVL is on the cover (even though she’s not even my rev.From DVL favorite) and it looked like it was writing about a variety of idols, this magazine has been even more interesting.

anan is a Japanese women’s magazine aimed at women in their 20s; it’s not obviously for teens. So in doing this special issue about female idols, this magazine interested me for a┬ácouple of reasons.

1. A women’s magazine is doing a whole issue about female idols, which is not the demographic typically associated with idol fandom.

2. The magazine notably doesn’t talk much about AKB48 or Momoiro Clover Z.

This isn’t to say that AKB and MomoCLo are ignored; they are absolutely mentioned. But these mentions are more in the context of other groups, rather than the other way around. The acts that get big features are Kanna (though I wish more focus was on rev!), Morning Musume, E-Girls, Tokyo Girls’ Style, Babymetal, etc. These aren’t small groups, mind you, but it’s interesting that this magazine seemed to want to go for introducing idols to this group, rather than talking about groups that the demographic already likely knows.

There were other interesting aspects of the magazine, as well. One thing I found interesting was how the majority of the magazine was taken up by idols. There were the regular magazine sections near the end, but this magazine was taken up by idols; it wasn’t just an article or a feature. I also thought it was interesting that they clearly seemed to be trying to teach their audience about idols. There’s a section in the middle that has a map of the various idol groups and their relations to one another, a glossary of phrases, and so on. The magazine also didn’t shy away from the indie side of the spectrum; there’s a section that does small introductions on groups that didn’t get a larger feature, and groups like X21 and Sanmyu~ got a chance to shine.

Really, I think this is one of the biggest signs that idol culture has become a thing in Japan, beyond AKB48 and beyond who are traditionally considered to be wota. This magazine is proof that there’s an interest at the very least in learning more about idols, and that idol culture in itself has hit the mainstream. AKB and MomoClo are still by far the biggest players, for sure, but this shows that this idol phenomenon has reached beyond the male wota audience that most people tend to associate with idol fandom.

Is the audience 50-50 men and women? Probably not, especially for the tiny indie groups. Is every aspect of idol culture going to be accepted by the mainstream? Probably not. That said, this is a step, and a big one at that. This is the type of thing that those of us who love idol groups should be excited for.

3 thoughts on “Idol Thoughts: Idol Demographics

  1. The main point I wanted to bring up here is just in regards to your last 2 paragraphs. You seem to speak with the assumption that idols are something new and have been “working themselves into the mainstream culture” lately. Thing is, idols have been around since the 60s, and for most period of history within those almost 60 years, idols HAVE BEEN pretty mainstream and accepted outside of wota, with a few exceptions like the early 90s and mid 2000s. It isn’t something new that idols are being marketed to the mainstream and accepted by it to some extent.

    Even though the main chunk of the idol’s activities are targeted at wota, they can change their image and activities at a whim to appeal to other audiences whenever they want, and they often do. Like when idols do TV commercials or advertisements for computers or food or something else that has nothing to do with their regular activities, they’re just adapting to the situation and using their general image as “attractive, youthful people” to sell the products they’ve been commissioned to sell. These kinds of things are most of the exposure that idols really get with the mainstream most of the time.

    They’re really just marketing tools who are molded and changed on a whim when they get commissioned to do a different kind of job or appeal to a different kind of market, so I think this magazine in particular was highlighting some of the aspects of the idols that more specifically appealed to the audience that is the magazine’s target readers.

    With those two things in mind, I think you make it out to be a little bigger of a deal about it than it really is in regards to the industry or culture. Not saying you shouldn’t be excited about the magazine, as you can be excited about whatever you want, but I just don’t think it means anything major for the industry or culture. Interesting to hear your thoughts, though~

  2. Haha, I have the same magazine cluttering my desk XD

    I agree with you – it does seem like recently, the tides are turning from hardcore, predominantly male idol wota towards increased acceptance by the mainstream. Anecdotal evidence suggests that female attendance for Morning Musume and C-ute events seem to be steadily rising, and this new female audience seem to be composed of more relatively ordinary girls rather than hardcore female wota.

    There seems to be more acceptance for working as an idol as well. It’s not uncommon for a newcomer to the idol scene to mention a senior idol as their inspiration to enter the industry. Contrast this to the motivations of some pretty established idols:
    When they made a guest appearance on an Arashi show, all of MomoClo Z mentioned that they had joined their agency with the hopes of becoming actresses or singers. The agency just happened to put them into a sort of experimental dance group thing, which then blew up to where they are now.
    Also, some members of early generation AKB48 joined with the intention of gathering experience in order to become actresses, variety talents, and the such.
    There’s also Kusumi Koharu, who created quite an uproar when she mentioned that she considered Morning Musume as a stepping stone on the way to becoming a model.

    All in all, I’m in agreement that this kind of increased coverage is something good. It shows that idols aren’t just being supported by wota, but are also being backed by the mainstream audience. And as a plus, it also supports new entrants into the idol scene. More lolis for us!

  3. Just so you know, I dashed off this translation of page 14, where the idol feature begins. It does state at the end that they are trying to move beyond AKB and MomoClo

    {Huge pink letters} Researching idols in secret {/pink}
    Now, you can’t talk about entertainment, the economy, or fashion without mentioning idols.
    “Japan’s idols are on the move!”, one really feels.
    Therefore in this anan, an idol feature of women, by women, for women.
    From the ability to produce themselves; we get feminine power, expressive power, willpower,etc.,
    We’ve been studying from these idols, and there really is a lot.
    Now, study with all your might the things you want to keep an eye on in the idol scene beyond AKB48 and Momoclo. (Emphasis mine)

    As a bonus, top left on the cover: Currently surging, girls hooked on female idols!

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