Do male idols have it worse after all?

IdolWedding

Now, if you guys read my blog at all you’ll know that I have very conflicting feelings about the no dating rule in the idol world. I have made a few posts on their own about it. My most recent, and in my humble opinion my best piece on the subject was, The no dating rule and Johnny’s special treatment. In that post I was able to vent all my frustrations about how male idols have it a lot easier than female idols do in regards to relationships. And the post was partially fueled by all the anger I accumulated over the years from beloved idols that were ripped out of their groups because of scandals.

The deeper and deeper I venture into the idol fandom the more clearly I see things, and the stronger an opinion I form about certain things. While I do still believe that male idols are getting special treatment in the short-term, I’m also starting to think that male idols may be getting the short end of the stick in the end after all.

And this post is of course talking about marriage. Marriage is considered one of the biggest, and arguably most important, moments in someone’s life. Certain people have to fight for the right just to be able to get married, and it seems idols aren’t any different. Male idols anyway.

Think for a moment of some of your favorite former female idols. Chances are around half of them have gotten married already and in some cases even have children. Even Nakazawa Yuko’s time finally came. Now think about the ages of these former idols. And more specifically think about the ages these idols were when they got married. Female idols have gotten married anywhere from 20-40. Now let’s look at the ages of male idols. If you exclude the younger members of Sexy Zone, the ages of debuted Johnny’s members range from 18-50. And of those only a small few are actually married.

Let’s look at the youngest former idol that got married that I’m aware of. It’s of course former Morning Musume member Tsuji Nozomi. Tsuji got married when she was just 20 years old. Now let’s look at the roster of Johnny’s members who are around that age. Sato Shori and Kotaki Nozomu are 18 years old. Kikuchi Fuma is 19 years old. Nakayama Yuma and Nakajima Kento are 20 years old. Kamiyama Tomohiro, Hashimoto Ryosuke, Fujii Ryusei, Okamoto Keito, Nakajima Yuto, Chinen Yuri, and Yamada Ryosuke are 21 years. Shigeoka Daiki is 22 years old.

That’s a baker’s dozen of male idols who could technically get married any day now if they were allowed to. Now there are of course several things to factor in. Not every single person wants to get married, not every single person wants to have kids, and not every single person wants to get married that young. And that is true. But for the sake of this blog post let’s pretend that every single male idol does in fact want to get married.

The average age a person gets married is between 25-32 years old. In the United States it’s 27 for women and 29 for men. In Japan it’s 28 for women and 30 for men. But because that’s just the average age and people obviously get married above or below the average I’m going to use the 25-32 age range for the sake of argument. Now let’s see which Johnny’s members fall into that age range shall we?

Kiriyama Akito is 25 years old. Miyata Toshiya, and Hamada Takahiro are 26 years old. Fujigaya Taisuke, Tegoshi Yuya, Kato Shigeaki, Kawai Fumito, and Nakama Junta are 27 years old. Masuda Takahisa, Kamenashi Kazuya, Yokoo Wataru, and Tsukada Ryoichi are 28 years old. Yamashita Tomohisa, Taguchi Junnosuke, Okura Tadayoshi, Kitayama Hiromitsu, Totsuka Shota, and Goseki Koichi are 29 years old. Yasuda Shota, Koyama Keiichiro, and Nishikido Ryo are 30 years old. Maruyama Ryuhei, Ninomiya Kazunari, Matsumoto Jun, Ueda Tatsuya, and Nakamaru Yuichi are 31 years old. Takizawa Hideaki, Murakami Shingo, Sakurai Sho, and Aiba Masaki are 32 years old.

That’s a whopping 30 members of Johnny’s that are around the marrying age. Even if only half of them have any desire to get married and/or have a family that’s still 15 members. Seems like a rather large number if you ask me.

And these are just the male idols that fall into the standard marrying age. It has nothing to do with the members who are younger or older than this who also want to get married. And let me tell you Johnny’s of various ages have voiced their desires to get married. Johnny’s Junior member Kyomoto Taiga said that he wants to be married by the time he’s 30. Yasui Kentaro said he wants to be a father by the time he’s 30. And Iwahashi Genki mentioned how he wants to be a father as kind and understanding as his own father on an episode of Gamushara J’s party.

But I don’t think anything is more heartbreaking than the members who are older and desperately want to get married but can’t. I’m sure all the unmarried members of SMAP and Arashi have probably mentioned at least once that they want to get married. I know for a fact that Arashi members have. MatsuJun even joked that on Arashi’s 10th anniversary all the members should announce their marriages at once. But when it comes to members wanting to get married no member mentions it as frequently and as heartfelt as Sakurai Sho.

But since Sho knows that he’s an idol and the fans would be upset he almost always either downplays, or doesn’t even mention, the wife aspect. Instead he mentions how much he wants to have children. He’s mentioned that he doesn’t even care about having a wife, but he wants a family and he wants to bring a large blanket and have a picnic with them in the park.

 

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He also mentioned that if he has anything else in life he wants to live to be old and have his grandchildren visit him on New Years.

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(translation credit to onaji_sora)

And if that’s not the most heartbreaking thing you’ve ever heard your soul must be missing. We have a poor man who desperately wants to get married but isn’t allowed to because he happens to be an idol. And it’s especially impossible for Arashi since they are national idols. So I ask you dears reader which is truly worse, being a female idol that has to graduate at 25 but after that gets to have a life, family, and most likely a new career, or being a male idol and having the freedom to continue to be an idol for as long as they wish to, but in return has to give up on one of the most important moments of their lives?

And with each passing year it gets worse and worse for every older unmarried Johnny’s member. They are starting to be too old to have kids or at least starting to have it be too difficult to keep up with those kids. Now sure you can have kids whenever you want. There have been people who had kids in their 60s. And my Aunt didn’t have her first and only kid until she was 41. But going from personal experience it makes everything harder. My father turned 35 a month after I was born. I’m 22 now which makes my father 57 years old. And I was my father’s 2nd child.

Since my father was already 40 years old by the time I was a child he was already having a bit of trouble keeping up with me while playing. My childhood friend and I would also joke about how old of a man he was. And he was always the 2nd oldest father in my class. (He only lost because one kid’s father was 60 years old.) You also always hear older men say how much they don’t want a child at this point in their life because they’ll be 60 years old once they graduate high school.

Now of course you could have kids at any age if you’re really willing to, and I’m sure some people are thinking I’m being ridiculous to focus on the age thing so much, but let’s be honest having a child that old isn’t really ideal at all.

And it’s really sad when you think about this because in one sense Sho’s life is completely passing him by. He can have all the success in the world but it doesn’t really mean anything to him because he doesn’t have a family to share it with. He would probably be fine with any level of success just as long as he has a family. And I really feel for the man, I do. Sometimes I wish they would let him be the one Arashi member to get married already. But at the same time it seems unfair because I’m sure every other Arashi member wants to get married just as badly as Sho does.

That’s why no matter how big of an Arashi fan I am, and no matter how upset I’d be, I would understand 100% if they disbanded the group tomorrow so the members could go off and start families. I’ve actually kind of mentally prepared myself for that announcement to happen any day now. The members are always kind of vague when it comes to the future. They’ll say things like they don’t think much about what they’ll be doing in a years time, or they want to continue doing their best in the future. They even once said that Arashi will continue for as long as Ohno is able to keep up with the dances and that it all depends on him.

However, at the same time it’s absurd that male idols have to either give up on having a family or quit. It’s just like Kago Ai said, idols are puppets. They are alive but they are unable to feel or love. Sure, male idols might seem to have the good life initially, partying and having a different girl every night. But eventually you grow up and you realize you want something more substantial than that. But they can’t because someone is pulling their strings.

And the fans don’t make it any easier. They certainly treat idols like puppets, dolls, or another play thing. They wind them up and watch them dance. They dress them up however they like but they must never touch. They place them on a shelf until they gather dust and swiftly cast them aside for the latest model.

People seem to forget that even though they are idols they are still people. That beneath that hard porcelain is a live beating heart. And that honestly has to be the hardest part about being an idol, living for someone else other than yourself.

How much of a culture are you really allowed to like?

Avril

Hello there lovely readers. Long time no see. I think it’s pretty safe to say the only person reading this blog who enjoys my sporadic blog posts is myself. But, I’m sorry and I have to admit, I do enjoy writing every so often. Maybe that means I should contemplate reformatting how I write my blog. But that’s neither here or there, or what this post is even about. No instead I want to talk about one of the most hot button issues of the moment. And of course I mean Avril Lavigne.

I’m sure by now absolutely everyone on the internet all over the world is well aware of the whole Avril Lavigne Hello Kitty situation. You’d literally have to live in a cave 3 miles below the surface of the Earth to not have heard about it. And I’m sure even if that was the case as soon as you rose to the surface you’d immediately be bombarded with chants of ka-ka-ka-kawaii.

Ok, maybe that’s stretching things a little too far. But it is in fact every where. I think it’s even more prevalent in our little corner of the internet since we’re all about Japanese music, pop culture, television, etc. But I think this has been prevalent on the internet long before the atrocity that is Hello Kitty. And by that I mean cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is a term I myself wasn’t even aware of until I heard about it some months ago on tumblr. I of course knew that basis of what cultural appropriation is was going on in the world, but I wasn’t aware that there was a term for it. Now, I absolutely think cultural appropriation is abhorrent and not even remotely ok. But what I consider just as bad is the way people define cultural appropriation is maybe a little too strong. And I might go as far as saying a lot of it is mislabeled.

If you go on certain sites, say tumblr, you’ll find that a lot of the times what they consider cultural appropriation is if a White person shows any sort of interest in any non-White culture at all. And a lot of times it’s written in such a manner that you should feel bad that you are White and you should be ashamed of yourself if you even want to care about another country.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I always thought that the world was one. And that everyone should be open to, and should explore, cultures other than their own. But it seems that that isn’t the case at all anymore.

Now I’ve heard a lot of people say things such as White aren’t allowed to like or mix in other cultures, even though tons of other cultures mix in European or American cultures. Those other cultures are allowed to do so because European culture was forced on them and they had no choice but to adapt and add that culture into their own. White people aren’t allowed under any circumstances to wear other culture’s traditional garb. Even if they are currently residing in a Foreign country and a native from that country insisted that they purchase and wear a piece of traditional clothing. The only time it is ok is if they are attending an event where tradition clothing must be worn, such as a wedding.

And I might add that this is usually only said about White people. I’ve heard people straight up say that other non-White races are allowed to embrace other cultures because they themselves are also minorities. You’re also not allowed to say that that itself is a racist statement because then you are only being a whiny privileged White person.

I can wholeheartedly understand if you are being racist towards another culture and putting down their traditional clothing. Or inappropriately wearing them. Or only wearing them to make a fashion statement. Or being a male or female wearing traditional grab that’s only supposed to be worn by someone of the gender opposite of your own. Then you are absolutely doing something wrong.

But to basically tell people that they aren’t allowed to like something because of their race of where they were brought up, is absolutely ridiculous. So, I now ask the main question of this article, how much of a culture is someone really allowed to like?

I think the first time I took actual notice of cultural appropriation beyond reading a post here or there on tumblr was around Halloween. I was looking up Sugar Skulls on tumblr because I was thinking of painting myself like that for Halloween. And I came across someone on tumblr saying some random woman was disgusting for wearing Dia de los Muertos makeup without being Mexican. Ironically, the woman actually turned out to be half Mexican. But that’s the first time I went, “but why can’t I like something that’s Mexican?”

Maybe it’s in bad form to think of it as a costume. But then, aren’t beer wench Halloween costumes equally offensive to me because I’m German? Oh wait, I forgot, being a privileged White person I’m not allowed to think like that. I guess since I live in America which is right above Mexico it doesn’t matter at all that we learn a lot about Mexico. Or that Cinco de Mayo is hugely celebrated in the US. Or that I’ve always been fascinated by Dia de los Muertos in general. And I suppose that I’m not allowed to because liking any aspect of another country’s culture is disrespectful for some reason.

This also takes me back to when I was learning Spanish in school. I had an extremely cool Spanish teacher. I was actually one of his favorite students and we got along swimmingly. Mostly because I was pretty much the only one who ever tried in Spanish. One time around Valentine’s Day I was the only person who was willing to conjugate verbs on the board. When I conjugated them correctly he gave me a heart shaped cookie. We also bonded over pork rinds. Because he brought them into class one day for everyone to try because they eat them a lot in Puerto Rico apparently. I was the only one in my entire class who didn’t think they were disgusting. It was mostly because pork rinds are delicious and I’ve been eating them my whole life. But I think that’s more of everyone in my town being weird. We went on field trip to the Pine Barrens once and tried fresh root beer. I was literally the only one who liked it. To this day that was the most delicious root beer I’ve ever had in my life.

Anyway, he was originally from Puerto Rico and all he would ever say was how beautiful a country it is. And how it’s such a great country for swimming. And how everyone should make sure they go to Puerto Rico once in their life because it’s that pretty. Well, in 6th grade to further share his culture with us, everyone that was in a Junior High grade at the time had to make vejigante masks and costumes. We then had to wear them in Spanish class the day they were due. And afterwards they were displayed all over the classroom for a few months.

And all that makes me think of is, that if I still had my vejigante mask and posted a picture of myself wearing it I’d be called racist for not being Puerto Rican. Even though out teacher was hoping we’d be interested in it and wanted us to experience a bit of his culture.

Also, in Spanish class in 8th grade we had a gigantic dominoes tournament because Cuban-Americans in Florida love to play dominoes. That’s not me saying it by the way, that was literally a section in my Spanish text book. Specifically Cuban-Americans in Florida playing dominoes. You can call my textbook racist if you want. Since then I’ve been a big fan of playing dominoes, I always try to get my family to play with me but they never want to. But I suppose I’m not allowed to play dominoes right?

But let’s shift our focus now away from Central America and focus on what I’m sure everyone cares about, Japan.

Japan is pretty notorious for some things that if were done by White people would be considered cultural appropriation. For one, Japanese music mixes English words into their songs. It’s done to such an extent that it’s often hard to find Japanese songs that don’t have at least one English word in them. And the Japanese language itself has a ton of loan words from English and European languages. That one may be a bit of a stretch though, since most languages have loan words.

Japan is also influenced heavily by predominantly White cultures when it comes to fashion. The most famous influence probably being school uniforms. The familiar sailor uniforms were inspired by the sailor suits children in royal European families wore, and were first introduced in the late 19th century. Huh, I guess that rules out Commodore Matthew Perry and his American Navy ships forcing the naval stripes on their uniforms, since he visited Japan in the mid 19th century.

Also, the lolita sub-culture was inspired by the Rococo period in Europe. The ganguro sub-culture (which literally means black face by the way) was a way for Japanese girls to emulate the way girls in California looked and dressed. Not to mention that there’s the trend of black culture in Japan.

I’m sure there are other cases but these are the ones I know off hand, and too be honest I can’t be bothered to look up anymore. Surely these cases are purely innocent right? And it’s just Japan showing how much love and admiration they have for America and Europe? Quite honestly in my opinion it is. But make no mistake, if a White culture was doing the same thing about Japanese culture or any other non-White culture it would be a gigantic deal. After all, every other race of people besides White are allowed to do these types of things. That’s fair right?

So, that brings up another question was Avril Lavigne’s Hello Kitty racist to Japan and Japanese people? I read a great article on tumblr that showed that people in Japan don’t find it even a little bit racist. Instead they think Avril is showing great love for Japan. And they don’t understand why Foreigners find it to be so racist. While I personally do find the song itself to be terribly written, and her Japanese pronunciation leaving something to be desired, I don’t see how the song itself is racist.

I listened to the song yet again just to be sure. (God, the things I go through for this blog.) The song is literally about having pillow fights, slumber parties, playing spin the bottle, making pinky swears, and asking someone to play with you. The song is incredibly immature and truly something only a pre-teen girl could relate to. The only thing the people perceive as being racist about the song is her speaking in Japanese. But how is that any different than Japanese people singing in English?

The song itself is obviously solely for the Japanese market. Since a great deal of Avril’s fanbase currently is in Japan. It seems to be the only country that cares about her music. Case in point being I only heard Avril’s What The Hell because I was watching a Oricon chart video a few years back. I never heard it play in the US.

The main point for racism is then put on the music. It’s racist to some people because she’s wearing a cupcake skirt, has an overly cutesy set, and is also filmed in a candy store. Which makes people say that Avril is being racist and saying that Japan is only about and known for it’s wild clothing and cute culture. But is it really doing that? Or is the music video this sugary sweet because the song sounds like it was written for an 11 year old girl?

Let’s say that Avril is playing off of Japan’s cute culture, is that itself really wrong either? Japan does have a lot of playful, cute, and colorful aspects to it’s pop culture. And Japan itself seems to be marketing itself with this image. NHK World features a show called Kawaii International, which is a show in English marketed to the Foreign market. The show itself is about teaching people about Japanese fashion sub-cultures and cute cultures and shows people all over the world who wear these styles. And also teaches you how to wear these styles yourself.

Let’s say Avril wasn’t wearing a cupcake skirt. Let’s say she was wearing a lolita dress. Or what about if she was wearing the gyaru style? Or maybe she was even wearing shironuri. Would that make her racist? There are thousands of girls all over the world who dress in these styles because they genuinely like them. Does that make it wrong? Or is this a case of once again it not being ok because the people doing it are White?

I know that pretty much anyone in the world that like’s anything Japanese is associated as being this horrible weeaboo. This person who is fetishizing a country and race of people. Or someone who thinks Japan is superior to their own country. And I won’t deny that most people who like Japanese things do go through this annoying phase. Myself included. But believe me, most of the time it’s short lived and you realized how much of an idiot you were. But no matter how much you’ve matured and no matter what you like about Japan, there is still this stigma that you are forever a weeaboo. And it’s absurd.

So, is Avril in her embarrassing weeboo phase currently? Probably. But honestly I could care less. It’s not really important to the topic at hand. That’s not what this post is about. This post is about how much are people really allowed to like of a culture. And how did just liking another culture automatically become cultural appropriation?

Isn’t telling someone they can’t like another culture continuing the divide of people? Isn’t it making racism an even bigger issue? Isn’t it basically saying, “hey you can’t like that because you’re not from here.” When news flash, I am from there? Last time I checked we all live on the same planet. The planet is closer than ever thanks to the internet. So, why are people using it to push people farther apart? I understand if someone is genuinely being ignorant to another person’s cultures and traditions. But when people just want to experience something new, why is that wrong?

Being a non-Japanese speaker in the idol fandom

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Yesterday the fandom was abuzz with everything SUPER GiRLS after the graduation of Yasaka Saori and the addition of 3 new girls into the group. And while I read people’s reaction to it, I sat there a little confused at what my own reaction was. To my surprise I didn’t feel anything I was expecting to feel, in fact I hardly felt anything at all. And the whole time I kept thinking to myself, ” Why?” I mean, I really like SUPER GiRLS. I’ve been following them since they released their very first PV, and I’ve been actively keeping up with them. So, why is it that I felt so apathetic? I then also started to think, did I even like them at all.

I have to say, first of all, I of course I do love the group. It’s just that at the same times it does feel like I’m not a fan at all. And I’ve been feeling that way about them for a while. And not really SUPER GiRLS alone, or in particular actually, I’ve been feeling this way about several groups. These feelings are surrounding by groups that aren’t, for lack of a better term, international fan friendly. And what I mean by that is, groups like SUPER GiRLS, Fudanjuku, YuiKaori, etc, that aren’t either insanely popular or are part of an established agency and therefore have a huge legion of foreign fans that subs and translate everything possible about a group or idol.

Fansubs and translations are basically the blood of the international fandom. I think it’s safe to say that about 7/10 (it maybe be more or less, it’s obviously impossible to know the real numbers) of the idol fandom doesn’t speak Japanese. Most of us, including myself of course, rely heavily on fansubs. But since there are way too many idols, not enough hours in the day, and not enough English/Japanese speaking fans, a lot of groups have hardly anything translated.

And because of that I kind of feel like I’m only 1/2 a fan of a lot of groups. When I like a group I like to absorb myself in them completely. I like to not only listen to their music and watch their concerts, but I like to know what each song is about. I like to know everything about them. I like to get to know a little bit about each member and then picked that one who’s got that something special that makes me go, “Yes, this is exactly my type of idol.” And then I like to put my full support in them.

As of right now a lot of my favorite idols are based on physical appearance or being drawn to how they perform in concerts or by the impression I get of them. And I really don’t like doing that because I think idols have a much broader appeal than cuteness. Take MomoClo for example, my initial oshi was Momoka. I thought she was this cute little spunky girl, and that was literally my basis for liking her. That was my oshi reasoning for a while. When I finally started to see some MomoClo subs happening I realized that Kanako was actually the member for me. I thought she was incredibly charming and I was drawn to her energetic and cheerful nature.

I think a much better example of this is with my Johnny’s initial oshis. With Johnny’s it was of course a lot easier to fall into picking members based solely on looks. And my initial oshis for each group were as follows: Ninomiya Kazunari, Akanishi Jin, Fujigaya Taisuke, Nakajima Yuto. And it was based on which  members I considered to be the most attractive. My favorites are now Aiba Masaki, Tanaka Koki (I know not a member anymore but he works for the point), Tamamori Yuta, Nakajima Yuto. My favorite member in JUMP is still Yuto but the point I’m making is really about my second favorite member Okamoto Keito. Now these are all members I never thought were even a little attractive. You don’t understand like I used to think a lot of silly things about them for completely shallow reasons.

But the thing is the moment I learned more about each group the more I could form actual opinions about the members and picked members for their personality. I was drawn to Aiba’s cheerful and playful nature, Koki’s funny side and the fact that he was incredibly sweet, Yuta’s airheadedness, and Keito’s awkwardness. Plus as I’ve said, I also do that thing where the more I like someone as a person the more physically attracted to them I become. I actually think all of my favorites are pretty gorgeous and can’t even believe there was a time that I didn’t.

To this day the only Johnny’s members that I liked initially that I am still a fan of are Nishikido Ryo, Nakajima Yuto, and Kawai Fumito. I’ve obviously always liked Ryo’s bluntness, it was perfect when I found out how energetic Yuto was, and the first time I came across Fumito was because of his impressions, so it’s always been personality from him.

And it’s because of this when people ask me who my favorite member of a certain idol group is a lot of the times I never feel 100% confident with my choice. Sure Maeshima Ami is probably one of the cutest idols that has ever existed, but does that mean she’d be my favorite SUPER GiRLS member? I do love how happy and energetic Mori Shiori is during Passpo concerts, but does that mean she’d be my type of idol? Hibi Mikoto has an incredibly adorable singing voice, but how do I know if she’s the best member of Dream5. And the list goes on and on.

And it’s not just not knowing everything about the members that bums me out, it’s not knowing what a song is about that also gets me down. When I hear a song on the radio for the first time it usually take me about 4 minutes to decide if I like it or not. But with idol songs it’s tricky, sometimes it takes me 4 months to decide if I like a song or not.

I obviously usually judge if an idol song is good initially by the music or how it’s sung. But that only really determines if the song is catchy or not, not really if it’s a good song or not. I have to wait for translations before I 100% can say, “hey, this is a great song.” There have been tons of times where I was super into a song and then read the translation and found out it was actually an awful song. Like I did with Berryz Koubou’s Ai no Dangan. Or how about the times where I was just not feeling the music or the way a song was sung and completely wrote it off until I read the lyric translation and found out it was actually a beautiful song? Like what I did with Passpo’s Sakura Komachi. Which is probably why I did not like Koisuru Fortune Cookie until I heard JKT48’s English version of the song. Since I instantly knew what the song was about I could make a connection to the song while I was listening to it.

And whenever I think of that I’m instantly transported back to school when I told one of my classmates that I like Japanese music. And instead of doing the first thing people usually do when you tell them this, which in my experience has been mocking, he did the second thing which was asking me, “How? You can’t even understand it.” My response was of course, “Yes, I can.” His retort was then a mocking tone of, “No you can’t.” The conversation then swiftly ended with me matter-of-factly saying, “Yes, I can.”

I of course didn’t have the time to explain to him, and quite frankly didn’t feel like explaining, that even though I couldn’t understand it I still could understand it. That you can find practically anything, within good reason, Japanese related you want either translated or subtitled if you knew where to look. And if you were willing to wait.

But having everything subtitled does make you a bit lazy to an extent, because my main complaint in this whole post could probably be solved if I just knew Japanese. I’ve been in the Japanese music fandom for many a years, September of this year actually marks my 10th year listening to Japanese music. You’d think I’d be able to speak it by now. But tons of circumstances have kept me from really attempting to. Most of my time was spent learning the language I was taught in school, which was Spanish, and because of that I had almost no motivation to learn another language. The fact that my mother would never allow me to have anything Japanese related for the longest time. Along with, of course, my own shear lazyness.

Nothing is really stopping me from learning it now, except the fact that it is an incredibly daunting task. Japanese is one of the hardest languages to learn. It’s a category V language, a language that is considered exceptionally difficult for native English speakers. And it apparently takes 88 weeks, or 2,200 class hours to learn. And that’s only to become proficient. I don’t dare to think how long it takes to become 100% fluent or native speaker level.

Maybe not knowing which idols favorite food is sweet potatoes, or not knowing which idol is funny, isn’t the biggest deal in the world. But at the same time it’s incredibly frustrating. I consider idol music to be one of my main hobbies. A hobby that includes many elements. I’ve got a new PV to watch practically every week, news to keep up with every day, dozens or so new concerts and albums a year, blogs and interviews to read, dramas, variety shows, movies, and miscellaneous other TV appearances. And I like that there’s so much going on that I’m never bored. But at the same time if I don’t understand what’s going on can I really enjoy it?

I know that there are a lot of fans out there that watch things raw and still enjoy it. That’s never been for me, and I don’t really understand how people can do that. If I don’t understand what’s going on it sucks all of the fun out. And it ruins it for when it does, if it does, get subbed. I’d honestly rather wait months or years for something to be subbed than to watch it without subs. Unless it’s something you don’t need subs for like music shows or Momusu’s recent Dokkiri.

I think being a non-Japanese speaker in the idol fandom is like being someone in the comic book fandom who has to read comics with half of the pages ripped out. It can certainly be done, and you can still wholeheartedly enjoy it, but it’s not really the same. And you never do get over the disappointment of knowing you’re missing out on something you see everyone else so easily enjoying. I guess for the time being us non-Japanese speaking idol fans have to just wait for the rest of the pages.

My thoughts on AKB48’s 5th Senbatsu election

AKB48By now I’m sure everyone is aware that a few days ago AKB48 announced their 5th Senbatsu elections. Most of the announcement was pretty similar to past Senbatsus. This year’s Senbatsu will take on June 8th during AKB48’s Super Festival concert. This Senbatsu is set to decide the lineup for AKB48’s 32nd single. However, even though this years’s election seems like more of the same a surprising , and equally shocking, twist was added, and that twist is incorporating a new candidacy system.

So, what exactly is this candidacy system all about? I’m glad you asked. This new system basically means that instead of every member of AKB48 and it’s sister groups automatically being included in the Senbatsu this year ant girl that wasnts to participate needs to submit a written notice to the election committee. Now, if that twist wasn’t enough for you there’s more. Beyond that they are also changing which members can participate. Along with the current members os AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, and HKT48 they are also including the girls who were moved to overseas sister groups. And in the biggest shock of all graduated members of AKB48 who were members for 4 years or more are now eligible to participate in this Senbatsu. Another small surprise is as of yet they haven’t made it clear if the Kenkyuusei can participate. So, it seems like Mii-chan fans might not be able to vote for her even if they wanted to. Unless they counter her as an AKB48 member of 4 years or more. But since she technically hasn’t graduated from AKB48, does it still count? I’m a little confused by that. And of course they also means other Kenkyuusei in general might not be about to participate.

Now that the facts are out of the way I can finally vent my feelings about this. When I first heard that graduated members are able to participate in the Senbatsu I was shocked to say the least. I literally gasped and said, “what?” in a genuinely stunned matter. But the initial shock wore off and was almost immediately replaced with anger. Not so much of rage filled anger, but more like anger out of annoyance. I guess I am more annoyed by this situation than anything else. I don’t understand the reason for including graduated members other than a cheap ploy to ensure that their 31st and 32nd singles sell a lot. I can see this latest gimmick maybe being record breaking sales, and in a big way.

Now, I’m usually a big fan of AKB48’s gimmicks. I usually marvel in the PR geniuses that are behind AKB48. But this latest gimmick doesn’t sit well with me, honestly it just seems desperate. And it makes me think I was right when I said AKB48 are going to reach their peak soon. And it seems like the people behind AKB48 are aware of that and are trying desperately to hold onto their high sales with more and more gimmicks lately. Why else did Eien Pressure come with B-sides for each sister group and not just the usual Team or Undergirls format? And why did So Long come with Team dramas? AKB48 is still selling over a million copies of each single so it seems almost far-fetched to say they are declining. But juts sit for a minute and ask yourself, without all the gimmicks how well would they really sell? Of course most idol groups use some gimmicks to sell. We see that with Morning Musume coming out with like 6 editions of singles and like 4 different B-sides lately. But AKB48’s gimmicks have always gone above and beyond that.

This current tactic is to just bleed wotas dry even more by enticing them with the chance to let their former favorite be in just 1 more single, and maybe even for the chance for them to be center. And I do admit it is a brilliant tactic because I know I would jump at the chance for Ryo-chan or Kusano to be in just one more NEWS single. Or to see KonKon, Koharu, Eri, Aika, or LinLin be a member of Morning Musume one last time. I might admit, and see, how much of a brilliant business tactic it is, but to me it’s still seems like AKB48 are really grasping at straws. And as much as I’d loved to see my beloved Ryo-chan or Kusano as a part of NEWS, it would probably cause more trouble than it’s worth.

Another interesting point to make is that it’s going to be extremely hard for the 100+ girls to battle it out for the measly 64 available positions in this single. And to make matters worse they now have to compete with former members. I’m sure it’s still going to be fairly easy for the extremely popular girls. But now it’s going to be near impossible for the unpopular members. It’ll even be difficult now for the secondary popular members. Former members had their chance to shine and now it’s the current girls chance/time. And even if former members didn’t get a proper chance to shine it still doesn’t make sense to steal the spotlight from the other girls. Which is probably why Acchan and other members have announced that they aren’t taking part. But so far 2 former members have confirmed their participating and members still have until April 7th to write in their candidacy. But I still question what was the point of graduating if you are just going to jump into a single again? I can accept members like Meetan trying again because of how quickly SDN48 was disbanded.

They only good aspect coming from this new candidacy system is that participation isn’t automatic. But even that is still a double edged sword. The Senbatsu is just heartache, pain, and disappointment to the unpopular girls. Those girls end up feeling worthless and feel like they let fans down for not ranking high enough or not ranking at all. At least now the girls can opt out of the pain. Because after all you can’t be hurt by ranking low if you’re not included at all. But at the same time I’m willing to bet the girls who feel like they aren’t worthy, good enough, or popular enough won’t even bother sending in their candidacy. And that’s juts incredibly sad. And the fans probably won’t let the girls who don’t participate live it down. Just last week Shinohara Kanna announced her graduation from NMB48 because during handshake events some fans questioned why she was a member of Team N and said that she was the reason N wasn’t moving forward. Which is just incredibly rough.

I guess there’s just nothing I like about this year’s Senbatsu. Which actually seems like an unpopular opinion because I see a lot of fans flipping out over this. But I’m just not one of them. Perhaps because I’m just a casual member. But it’s things like this that keep me casual. AKB48 has a lot of good points, but at the same time they have equal amount of bad points. No idol group is perfect, obviously. But like I said before I think once the main hype of AKB48 dies. down and some of the gimmicks fade, I might be able to appreciate the group more for what it is. Once they only sell around 500,000 copies I think the whole fandom, and the whole experience of AKB48, will be a lot more chill.