Expanding horizons?

This week the Daily Yomiuri featured an article about the potential for overseas expansion of Japanese pop culture, including a few comments from Takahashi Ai. 

I felt I wanted to weigh in with my own perspective.

The main focus of the article seemed to be an the apparent boom of popularity enjoyed by South Korean artists at the moment. While a decade ago it was cool to like Morning Musume, it certainly appears that schoolgirls all over Asia are managing to prop up this titan of an industry. It's suddenly trendy. We could could several Japanese public figures, including current and former Hello! Project members who have also bought into the Korean wave.

But why?

I'm not fooling anyone by claiming that I'm an expert on Korean Idols. I've quite famously made a point of hating them. Not really out of dislike for Korean people (though it's not above me to joke that I do), or even out of a superiority complex about Jpop. It's actually a whole lot more simple than that. It's musical taste.

Where the music that Tsunku writes for Hello! Project mirrors the rock music that influenced him and that he wrote in SharanQ, the very little Kpop I've heard tends to ignore the rock genre completely - instead focusing on a more R&B-influenced approach.

And that's my problem. I'm a rock kind of guy. I have never been a fan of R&B or Hip-Hop, or it's other various shoot-off genres. And, frankly, I hope I never feel the need to become a fan of those genres.

In the article, Takahashi claimed that the reason for the incredible momentum that various Korean Idol groups are seizing the world is that Japanese Idols just don't have the same drive for global success whereas Korean artists tend to be much more goal-orientated, pushing themselves onward in the hopes of achieving those dreams.

A lovely thought. And I have no idea as to the veracity of the statement on Korean people, but her analysis on the Japanese psyche seems to have hit the nail on the head.

In general, Japanese Idols aren't driven by desire for world domination (or at least, aren't seen to be), but rather a desire to please their fans.

It seems to be a very Japanese thing. Being content with one's lot. Instead of hoping for massive success around the world, they hope to maintain the fans they already have. It also reflects in the agency. Where rival agencies spend big money in the hopes of generating a big payoff of new fans, UFA has, instead, opted to cut costs in the knowledge that they can get buy with larger profits on the fans they already have.

In a way, it also sounds like the difference between the US and British approach to the recession. But that's another story entirely.

Does that make the respective fans seem more or less important? Do the Korean artists take their fans for granted while the fans of the Japanese Idols know that their oshi is working hard for them?

I honestly have no idea.

But the last line in the article proved to be a clincher.
When I ask young people in China why Hanryu idols are so popular in there, I always get the simple reply: "Because they come here."
This is a concept which, unfortunately, the Japanese still haven't fully grasped.

Whenever a western fan's interest in Hello!Project seems to decline, and I've seen this happen, all it often takes to restore that interest is a concert. This especially helps when that fan has been in isolation. Meeting other fans and seeing one's Idol in person often prove to be the jumpleads that one's fandom needed.

It's true that Hello!Project still haven't fully understood how to exploit this budding overseas popularity, but if they took it upon themselves to organise concerts and events, rather than waiting to be invited by Japan Expo or Anime Expo, who knows what would happen!


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger