First Impressions on Aibon’s Latest Return

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When I first heard that Aibon has returned to the media spotlight to do an interview, I thought of swallows and Capistrano – it seems that every year around this time there’ll be an Aibon Eruption of some sort. This wasn’t the kindest way to think about it, certainly, but it showed how tired I had gotten of this seemingly unending drama.

Then I saw photos of her and was struck by how ugly her new haircut is. (My wife saw the photos and said she looked like she’s forty. I wouldn’t quite go that far, but she may have a point there.) When Aibon returned last time, she looked sexier than ever; here she looked matronly, like an OL on her coffee break.

But it’s still Aibon. And she’s still beautiful. And she’s got that incredible smile. And she actually looks healthier somehow – or perhaps happier? There is a confidence and maturity to her appearance, not just in her hair and clothing, but also in her smile and her expressions, which made me realize how tentative and anxious she looked in last year’s photos.

And yet, I still found myself annoyed more than anything else about hearing of Aibon’s return. What does she want now? I felt myself a little put-upon, somehow, as if I was being asked to care about something I didn’t want to care about anymore. Aibon and all the drama that’s accompanied her in the past two years has been tiresome to me.

What I think was even worse is that she disappeared each time, and we’d be left hanging wondering where she’s been, what she’s been up to. Quite likely, a part of me simply doesn’t want to be abandoned by her again, to have her popping into my wota life, disrupting it, and then vanishing yet again like some nightmare ex-girlfriend. It’s one thing to lose a favorite group like ZONE or SweetS – you get ready to let go, and you move on with your life. But Aibon refused to do that – and I don’t know if I should resent that or exult in it.

Something I do resent a great deal, though – and it’s not entirely her fault – is that I’ve been forced time and again to focus on Aibon The Real Life Person when Aibon The Idol should be my main concern. It’s not fair, it’s not what I want from my idols, it’s not something I welcome from any of them. My recent dream of Momoko made that clear, and yet… for Aibon, for all that’s already happened, it’s too late. If I stick to that clear wall between idol and person right now, then there is no Aibon in my life. Weak as I am, I simply cannot do that. As an idol, she’s important enough to be the exception that proves the rule.

If it’s not clear yet, Aibon is one of my absolute favorite idols. To me, she’s in the pantheon along with Ishiguro Aya and Takewa Haruna and Shihono Ryo. She had one of the best idol personae in Hello! Project and was one of its most talented singers. She was there for many of the most memorable moments that H!P has provided its fans, and she always stood out even in the crowded field of Tsunku World. She was la belle dame sans merci and wota loved her for it. To lose all that over a cigarette and some older guy seemed wrong and petty and unjust. It still does, actually, but I had thought I’d made my peace with it as another example of how unfair real life can be.

From what I’ve read, she apparently tried to hurt herself after she was kicked out of H!P. That is truly scary stuff, and makes me wonder about how much anguish she has dealt with, how much emotional turmoil all idols face within their limited ecogeinousystem. Along that line, she’s also reportedly writing a book, which I’m hoping blows the cover on Hello! Project and how it really works on the inside. The H!P Kremlinoligist in me is already salivating at the thought of this. (Though how likely is it that this book would be translated into English.) And while I hate to contradict myself, the biggest rumor I’d want her to address is that Orange Range abortion thing. True or false, I’m just dying to know one way or the other.

And she’s planning to return to show business, which is great news for fans. Based on her new appearance, I doubt she’ll go back to the hyper kawaii genki style that we associate with her. I want to hear her sing again, I want to be lost in her wonderfully vibrant voice, to hear how it’s grown in the ensuing years, to have her charm us in front of the camera as well as behind the microphone.

She’s already looking more and more beautiful in my eyes again, I’m learning moment by moment to appreciate the haircut, the maturity, to see new depth in her eyes and her smile. I’m falling in love with Aibon all over again, it’s impossible to resist. I think I’m just still getting used to the idea of Aibon coming back and mattering to me all over again. I’m hoping that all the plans I’m hearing about are true, even as it raises more questions that need to be answered.

And yes, there’s a lot more that needs to be talked about, patterns in the idol firmament that should be teased out and studied and debated over with this latest development. One third of the Golden Age Musumes have left H!P under undesirable circumstances in 2007; two of them are now expatriates living in the United States (supposedly – do we even know she’s in New York, or is that still conjecture as of this writing?). The presence of major idols in America may even have a direct impact on us, the overseas fans, as the Goto Maki events being planned clearly demonstrate. (I wouldn’t do anything to show my support for Gocchin, but I’d be willing to fly to New York if I could show my support for Aibon.)

Beyond that, Aibon – like Gocchin – is apparently trying to start over again as an adult geinou and not the child idol we know them best as. How will that influence the way wota relate to them? How will it influence the way they present themselves? Will they even be idols any longer, or are they going to shed that aspect for something less manufactured, and perhaps less fun?

And then there’s all that personal life stuff, the scandal stuff. I want to be able to ignore it finally, or at least know there will be more to Aibon again than that. Despite whatever lascivious jokes I make, I really don’t care who she’s with, I don’t care what she does behind closed doors, as long as she’s happy. And if it makes her even happier to return to the spotlight as a performer instead of the latest tabloid sideshow, then there’s reason to rejoice right there.

Kago Ai is only twenty years old. At her age, I was still switching from college to college, unsure of what I wanted. Aibon had a whole lifetime’s worth of experiences behind her, as well as a whole lifetime of experiences ahead of her.

Please stay around this time, Aibon. I think that’s all I can ask.


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3 Responses to “First Impressions on Aibon’s Latest Return”
  1. YankeeOtaku says:

    Cannot believe how drop-dead beautiful this girl is, all slimmed down. Can you imagine a Morning Musume-type costume on Aibon right now (and her voice sounds pretty darn clear). Yes, she makes everyone suffer, but in the end there might be some payoff. I wouldn’t mind seeing her on some kind of independent track. Methinks some big cash is piling up around her to get her back on that stage.

  2. Jarret says:

    It may not be nice to say, but I wonder if that self-harm claim is true. It attracts more attention than only saying that “my parents’ divorce caused me much grief.” Of course, if it is true, it’s sad that she had to go through that.

    It’s nice to see her again, but her story isn’t much different from other impatient child stars who tried to spread their wings too early. Hopefully, now that she is an adult, she can better cope any troubles she may run into.

  3. Cat says:

    I have mixed feelings about Aibon’s return as well, mostly because I’ve always been a huge fan of hers (and of Gocchin) and seeing both of my favorite idols get kicked out/resign sealed the deal for me that I shouldn’t be such a hardcore H!P fan anymore if it was going to hurt me all that much

    And then they both decide to return… I don’t know what to make out of it right now, quite frankly

    I’m sad to hear everything that she’s gone through, and I believe her story, she looks very honest to me, and whenever I read the translations of her blog I simply feel like this is the real deal. Aibon is gone, but in second thoughts, I like ai a lot better. The simple warnth and appreciation she exudes in each one of her blog posts is enough to make me support her forever and wherever she goes. I doubt that she’ll be doing music again (although I would love it!) and I think that she’ll remain either a talent or an actress, and both are things in which I just can’t follow her, which saddens me a bit.

    Still, I might not really be a H!P fan right now, but I have made a new commitment to stay true to the idols that somehow made a big impression on me, regardless of what they might be doing in their lives right now


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