This is Your Brain; This is Your Brain on Underage Idols…

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

After positively drooling over Hinoi Team in my last post – it was like a cartoon, you could have seen my face turn into a wolf with the eyes popping out and the tongue rolling down like carpet – I realized something quite wrong and quite horrible.

What is it, you may ask? That I was panting after girls young enough to be my daughters and not old enough to give legal consent?

Nah… I made my peace with that a long time ago. (And if you can’t take that joke, you may want to pass on the rest of this article…) Rather, my strong reaction to Hinoi Team reminded me that there are three – not just two – under-fifteen idol groups that demand my attention. Sure, there are other idol groups that also have singers still dreaming of a sweet sixteen party down the road – but they’re either mixed in with older idols (Morning Musume, Paradise Go!! Go!!) or haven’t earned my loyalty just yet (C-Ute).

So right now it’s a trinity of U15 girl group idols, but I only have two hemispheres in my brain! (I think.) Clearly, the hemispheric model towards underage idol groups simply won’t hold. There’s got to be another theoretical model that better explains why I think of each group in such a different manner.

And then it struck me: Freud! And it all fell into place immediately, with remarkable ease and a great sense of symmetry, as we shall see below.

Hinoi Team are the Id. Like Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King, they represent the part of my psyche that goes "I want, I want, I want!" And –

Wait. Whoops, wrong picture… Let’s try again. 

Hinoi Team are the Id. Like Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King, they represent the part of my psyche that goes "I want, I want, I want!" They epitomize the voracious appetites of modern youth, hell-bent on good times and instant gratification,with their para para and jungle interludes. That’s exactly what the id is about: unfettered impulses, immediate desires, the part of the psyche that is primal and instinctive.

Hinochi stirs up the basest instincts in me and seems to have no shame in doing this. I can appreciate that, but it also explains why they’re so easy for me to forget at times: when my libido isn’t in full U15 throttle, Hinoi Team’s existence isn’t as crucial. When I watch them, I get stirred up; when I don’t watch them, the urges are set aside for more civilized (and civilizing) concerns. To wit…

Berryz Koubo are the Superego. The part of the psyche that listens to the community outside the self, that seeks to follow the rules and enforce them. The superego is all about what others think: it is the aspect that considers outside influences and the demands brought upon by the socialization process. In that sense, Berryz are the soul of conformity and stability, and not in a bad way. They were regimented originally into the H!P Kids, trained at an early age, and then moved on to Berryz when their skills were deemed sufficient. They have trained well, and playing by the H!P rules, have succeeded.

Berryz stirs affection – rather than lust or intellectual curiosity – in me, perhaps because they do conform so clearly to an innocent picture of girlhood. Affection here is a kind of warm assurance, the comfort of girl-next-door charm and standard pop idol grace. Each girl is an individual with her own persona and quirks, but as a unit there is nothing threatening or innovative about Berryz. Honestly,that’s why I resisted paying attention to them for their first year of existence – they seemed boring, quite frankly (I know, I was wrong) – but at the same time, that’s now what makes them a compelling alternative to the other two groups.

SweetS are the Ego. The mediator between id and superego, between "what I want" and "what I am told to do", SweetS as the ego of the U15 Jpop psyche are about balanced thinking, about reasoning skills and complex decision making, about intelligence compromise as a way to thrive in this world. The ego has to make sure the id and the superego are taken care of, but not one at the detriment to the other. As opposed to the pure instinctual needs of the id and the jackboot of conformity from the superego, the ego asserts itself in a more measured fashion.

Given their complex history, it’s no surprise that this is the category SweetS fulfills: they started as a rather strange commentary on the idol industry and its desire for youth, re-fitted itself to be more marketable to a broad audience, and have since matured into idols of the first caliber.

For me, at least, SweetS are the grand puzzle of Jpop, a unified theory waiting to be unearthed and explained in excruciating theoretical detail. They’re in the same category of my brain as William Gaddis novels and sudoku and Neil Young’s Arc. Given that angle and my hyper-rational personality, it’s no surprise that SweetS have earned my deepest, most abiding loyalty.

* * *

Now, is there further proof of these distinctions, or is this just another example of my fevered Jpop imagination gone horribly awry? The answer, of course, is both! Let’s take a look at certain categories now.

Type of Music. What kind of music is most representative of each group, and does it tie into the larger theory?

  • Hinoi Team: Para para songs that are strongly repetitive with more than a hint of vulgarity.
  • Berryz Koubo: Catchy Jpop with the typical Hello! Project motifs (Arabian riffs, oldies rock). "If it’s good enough for your senpai, it’s good enough for you."
  • SweetS: Avex R&B, originally with a tongue-in-cheek postmodern twist of rorikon, then inspirational lyrics once the rorikon aspect got too scary.

Dance Style. How do they move in their PVs and on the stage?

  • Hinoi Team: Para para dancing, the kind of easy and mindless moves one indulges when going crazy at a club.
  • Berryz Koubo: Regulation H!P dance moves with a good deal of pantomime thrown into the mix.
  • SweetS: Complicated but fluid dance moves, showing an urban touch and a demanding choreographer. (Remember, SAM – a.k.a. Mr. Amuro Namie – originally worked with these girls.)

Wardrobe. What kind of outfits do they wear in their PVs?

  • Hinoi Team: Brightly colored T-shirts and short combos – or barring that, dresses made of flower that are highly suggestive of a natural sexuality. (That said, some of the outfits I’ve seen Hinochi wear on TV shows are very hip and fashionable, more so than SweetS at times.)
  • Berryz Koubo: Elaborate uniforms for the most part, color co-ordinated with minor differences from one person to the next. The alternative is actually worse – horrible dayglo hippie rags, a kind of punishment to make the uniforms look better.
  • SweetS: Stylish and hip clothes, at one point (I’m not sure if it’s still the case) sponsored by the clothing line Penty. The girls not only look good, they’re doing it as part of a marketing deal.
    < /li>

Leader. What does each group’s leader tell us about the group as a whole?

  • Hinoi Team: Hinoi Asuka, whose too-brief solo career is most memorable for the very short miniskirts she wore.
  • Berryz Koubo: Shimizu Saki, who expressed puzzlement at the departure of one of her team. She subscribes deeply enough into the H!P groupthink that a defection struck her not only as anomalous, but ultimately unfathomable.
  • SweetS: Aki, who has mediated between her idol ambitions and the duty of academic achievement by taking a brief hiatus from SweetS to prepare for high school exams.

Best Adult Friend. What guidance do they receive from the adult world?

  • Hinoi Team: Comedian Koriki, who apparently doesn’t mind looking silly when having fun with the girls.
  • Berryz Koubo: Tsunku, the Hello! Project mastermind whose instructions are at times opaque in their reasoning but nonetheless followed blindly by the girls of H!P.
  • SweetS: The male/female production team duo Bounceback, who made the girls distinctive early on with their use of candy-themed songs, complex but catchy music, and clever self-reflexive come-ons to the audience.

So clearly, this is more than just some weird theory I cooked up while watching too many videos and drinking too many Frappucinos. Right?

Oh, and one last note: 

Momoko has her own special place in my brain. Just for the record. You know. Because she’s Momoko. So she’s both a part of the superego and… um… something more basic… lizard brainy, I guess… than that. To quote a pot-smoking, tax-evading, long-haired country legend, Momoko is always on my mind. The back part of my mind, near the spinal column.

Just so you all know.


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6 Responses to “This is Your Brain; This is Your Brain on Underage Idols…”
  1. santos26 says:

    lol, VERY interesting analysys and analogy. It seems the confliction between Berrys and Hinochi made you a SweetS fan. But there is always HINOCHI in the deepest place of your brain lol.
    As for me, maybe my Id is Saaya, Superego is AI, and ego is Anna Santos of B3 lol. Really striking and precise theory!

  2. ikiMark says:

    Underage idols eh… I must have lots of Berryz, Hinocchi and Koharu in my brain lol And even a special place for Tomoiki #^-^#

  3. niji says:

    You don’t really think of Berryz the superego stimulus of your brain, do you? I don’t think it worked, even with all the “reasons” you came up with so you could fit the 3 groups into Freud’s model. I would’ve said that SweetS was more of the superego since they seem to be more high maintenance, but whatever. Nice work anyway. 🙂

  4. Thea says:

    Lol makes it seem like Hinochi just makes you want them XD Oh I guess I have to agree with you. I dunno why I like Hinochi too since I think dream, SweetS, and Parago are more awesome than them in terms of being artist… They are my Id too? lol.

    All groups rock tho 😀 Altho I have vowed to be loyal to avex only now xD

  5. santos and ikiMark:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who can use this model.


    Berryz is very much the superego for me, as H!P strikes me as the very model of conformity – albeit a conformity quite different from the outside world (which makes them sound like a cult, but what the heck). And while I see what you mean about SweetS seeming high maintenance, they don’t strike me as high maintenance at all. I guess true love’s funny like that.


    Yeah, Hinochi’s appeal is hard to articulate but very very present. Hence, the id. Hopefully, working with Koriki so much won’t mess with their appeal.

  6. niji says:

    “I guess true love’s funny like that.”

    *scratches head* I feel a SweetS version of “Momoko, O Momoko” around the corner — even though you claimed otherwise. ROTFL