How Gifted Is Saaya?

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

Anjin wrote an interesting comment to my first blog entry about 11-year-old F-cup model Irie Saaya, ending with the observation,

When you take pictures of other ppl, there are allways pix on which a person doesnt look good in certain situations. But not in her case. It is really impressive how her charme works on every photo. I think she didnt learn that. She must have a natural talent for media.

This made me think about my own belief that being a gravure idol involves a specific talent, just like singing or dancing. Being pretty and having a nice body does not automatically make you a good gravure idol, there’s a certain quality one must possess – in front of the camera, perhaps ingrained in one’s personality – that’s necessary to succeed in gravure.

For all practical intents and purposes, Saaya is a very young gravure idol. As for whether or not Saaya has that gravure quality… Well, I decided to look over the photos I’ve downloaded of her a few weeks back – several dozen of them, actually – and yeah, they are pretty good. I’d attribute it more to the selective process of a professional photographer who can set up good shots and then pick the cream of the crop from there… but even the most skilled photographer is hog-tied shibari-style when dealing with a non-photogenic subject.

I must admit, I’m biased about Saaya – slightly against her, actually. I think she’s okay but don’t find her particularly attractive. So the photos don’t always strike a chord with me and some of her shots aren’t as good as others. That said, I can’t deny that she does have a gift and some of her photos are indeed extraordinary – not just because of the photographer, but because of her role, her performance, in them.

So the bigger question is: if Saaya does have such a gift, why not make use of it? Does the fact that she’s so well-developed for her age mean she should conceal her body? If she’s got a talent for gravure, shouldn’t she take advantage of it? As long as she doesn’t break any laws, as long as her work as a model observes the limits dictated by her culture, then why not let her have this head start? Her early success clearly indicate that at least a portion of Japanese culture – the older male portion, I’m guessing – want Saaya to keep doing what she’s doing. So why not give the people what they want, especially since it does no one any harm?

On a related note, Santos at Idolizing St. Anna compares Saaya to the oldest gravure model in Japan, 27-year-old Hoshino Aki. As always, Santos does a great job of providing some background information and conveys a sense of Aki being proud of her work as a gravure model. She freely admits that her “Lolita face” was what first earned her an audience but, considering how well the industry has treated her and how much she’s benefited, Aki aspires to remain a gravure model for as long as possible.

Now, whether or not it’s a career path you want to set for your eleven-year-old daughter is debatable… but from what I understand of the idol industry / subculture in Japan, there are hundreds of little girls who want to be the next BoA or Hamasaki Ayumi or Ueto Aya… why not the next Ogura Yuko or Hoshino Aki?

At any rate, I’m now hooked on Hoshino Aki. Given a choice between the youngest and oldest gravure idols around, it’s no contest for me – Aki hands down. But for those who’d prefer younger Saaya – well, I don’t agree, but I can at least understand.