Young Idols and Fans (Berryz Kyuuden Version)

Okay. So about a month ago yonasu did the first entry in his Wota Life series, where he questions several IntlWota bloggers about different aspects of their Japanese Idol hobbies to try and get a look into what wota are like and what these bloggers think about various issues and topics. It's an interesting read and I suggest you check it out and keep an eye out for future Wota Life entries. I know I am.


So, I enjoyed the entries and reading what my fellow bloggers had to say on the topic - it also came at a very interesting time because when it was posted we were right in the middle of debate over on Musume-Central forums about the very same topic. So it felt incredibly relevent to me at the time and I decided that, even though I'm not one of the people in the Wota Life entries, I wanted to pitch my own opinions none the less.

At what age do you think it's appropriate for an idol to start doing bikini shots?

This is an interesting one, and was the point of debate on Musume-Central. This is something I can't really put a number to. To begin with the question on M-C was "How do you feel about young idols doing photobooks and what age is reasonable?" Well. I held a firm stance and repeatedly said that young idols getting photobooks don't bother me. 12 year old idol wants to release her first photobook? Power to her. It depends on the content of the book, after all, Yossy had 2 photobooks with no bikinis or swimwear what so ever, can you really look at them and say, "That'd be too much for a 12 year old"? No? That's what I thought.

But what happens when the photobook contains bikini shots? What do I think then? Once again it depends entirely on content. I've used this as an example before. Yurina, aged 14, in a swimwear photobook? You may think that's way too young for that kind of photobook, but look at the picture. It is the kind of costume that looks good no matter what age the girl wearing it, be it 12 or 18. It's not something you really have to feel uncomfortable about. I call that photobook CLEARED!

However, I'm not 100% liberal about this. Some things may be stepping a bit over bounds. Take a look at this picture. And before you get too comfortable looking at her, know that this girl is Saaya Irie, a junior gravure idol. That's right, the photobook that picture was scanned from was shot when Saaya was 11 years old. This is the grey area in my mind. Is there really much difference between this and Risako's first PB? It's a junior idol getting a photobook. Risako's is, unlike Saaya's, not normally considered "gravure" and when you compare the two it's easy to see why the distinction is made. But ultimately, do the people who look at Saaya look at Risako for the same reason? I'm sure some do, but I can't in good faith condemn the wota world based on that group of people. It'd be like banning dogs as household pets because a couple of people mistreat the animal.

Ultimately, while gravure junior idols is a bit of a dodgy market and there are those out there who will view these junior idol photobooks in an equally dodgy way, I'm gonna call them fair game. It isn't the idol's fault, or indeed her concern, what those people do with the photobooks they purchase. She's just doing the job she loves which is perfectly innocent. It's only dirty if you yourself bring dirty meaning to it.

What do you think of older (30+) fans looking at young idols in a sexual manner?

Like I said above, it's those fans' own choice what they do with those photobooks and, to a certain degree, the manner in which they view their idol. Much of it may even be psychological and not even their own fault. However, in the end if falls to the fans in question and, unless you are one of those fans yourself, it isn't really anything to concern yourself with. Focus on your own fandom and they way you view these idols, not on others' fandom.

However, I do know many people who may or may not fit into this category and it doesn't make them any less human. They are great people and fun to be around. In fact, to a certain level, perhaps even more fun than those who worry about that kind of thing. If one of them makes an off-hand joke about how cute or sexy Airi is, and everyone can enjoy it, without having to worry about wether or not your company are too closed-minded or sensitive to have fun in those situations then that freedom to say what you want turns out to be incredibly powerful.

Is it just as bad to look at young idols if you’re 20 years old? Does it make it weirder if you’re 30+?

In the end, age is just a number. If you enjoyed idols when you were twenty and still have a good time when you're thirty then power to you.

Who’s the youngest idol you’ve ever been a fan of and what made you become this idol’s fan?

Tough one to answer, simply because of the scale and time period involved. It might have been later in the idols career by the time I discovered them, but I discovered them via clips from when they were 14/15 years old. Yossy for example, my first favourite. I didn't discover her nor Hello!Project until the start of 2007, by which point she was already an adult. But I discovered her watching clips (and most of the stuff I was into back then was from the same era) from 2001 etc.

I will choose Sugaya Risako as my answer, though. I became a fan of her through watching Berryz Koubou's Time Slip stage play, in a way. That was actually what led me to become interested in Berryz and Maasa in particular. It took quite a while afterwards for me to regard myself as a fan of Risako, because I was biased against her from a Maasa fan's perspective of "Stop stealing Maasa's spotlight!" However, months of Berryz fandom and even those prejudices begin to collapse as you begin to soften to the girl's character and her voice. It was inevitable.


yonasu said...

Thanks for the mention!

While I do agree that age is just a number, sometimes it does matter to me. I mean, I think it's more normal and appropriate for me to look at a young idol than if my father did it. But then again, age never comes first, but if a person happened to look at a young idol in a sexual manner, I'd prefer him/her to be 20 rather than 50. At some point it gets a little creepy in my opinion, if you're young yourself it's understandable^^

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