Real or virtual, Japanese idol groups have a way of stealing our hearts and wallets.
There are ups and downs to being a committed J-idol otaku. It takes a lot of physical stamina, emotional resilience, lung capacity, bottles of water, and sewing badges onto floor-length coats. With idol fandom, you’ve gotta be 100% – 1,000% – sure what you’re getting into.
Pro: you’ll find someone you like
Con: good luck finding them ever again
Some groups are legit huge. AKB48 set a world record for group size – back in 2010, when there were only 43 members. Only. The member count’s been over 100 for years since. If there isn’t 1 face/personality you’re keen on in a group that big, you have no soul.
Once you’ve found an oshi, you’ll need to work hard to follow them. Keeping track of your faves in larger idol groups involves a magifying glass, and freeze-framing your way through music videos.
You’re best off choosing a member with a distinctive look. The blonde one, maybe, or the one who always styles her hair the exact same way. And if you’re stuck, it never hurts to just pick the girl standing at the front. Most other people do too.
Pro: the music
Con: the music
J-idol pop music isn’t for everyone. Wait, let’s be fair – your typical cute and high-pitched J-idol pop, sweet enough to make your ears sick, isn’t for everyone.
Some groups experiment with music styles, to boost their appeal to mainstream fans. The others cling to kawaii sugar rush tunes that keep the hardcore wotas dancing. Neither camp can really say they follow idols for ‘quality musical composition and arrangement’.
(Unless we’re talking about a Tsunku song, those are classics don’t @ us.)
We have to like at least 2 songs by an idol group to keep following them – that’s how we roll. Over the years, we’ve discovered J-idol songs we genuinely love, and always will. Judge us on this list, in no order at all:
- Morning Musume – One Two Three
- AKB48 – Flying Get
- Momoiro Clover Z – Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina
- Angerme – Gashin Shoutan
- SKE48 – Kiss Datte Hidarikiki
- Keyakizaka46 – Fukyou Waon
- The iDOLM@STER – Go My Way
- BABYMETAL – Ijime, Dame, Zettai
It’s a fun, unpredictable mix of music styles, we know. To us, they’re all bops.
Pro: even unpopular members get merch
Con: merch in unpopular colours
Red, blue, yellow, orange, green, purple, pink, white. All good – unless there are 9+ members…
Bigger idol groups need to get creative with shades and naming. You end up with official member colours like mustard, yellow-green, Italian red, and – whisper it – grey. Many SKE48 members avoid colour clashes with 2-shade or 3-shade combos, like ‘orange & green’ for Jurina.
Haruna from Morning Musume ended up with Honey, but know what her member colour was before that? Chocolate. You wanna stand there and wave a dark brown stick at a teenage girl? No wonder it didn’t last.
Pro: kennin status mean your oshi gets seen
Con: full transfers to other countries
‘Kennin’ (兼任) is ‘concurrent’ – when an idol’s actively part of 2 groups. AKB48 and Hello! Project both tried it out, to varying levels of success.
In a way, it gives fans more chances to see their faves. (Assuming they’re in senbatsu.) Double the concerts, double the handshake events, double the fun. Try not to think about double the travel cost til you get the credit card bill.
The next, more drastic step is permanently moving members to other groups. It’s a loss to the original group, and to your wota wardrobe. All those shirts, muffler towels and wristbands with the old group name on go out of date in a snap.
And if you’re a super unlucky fan, your oshi could move to another group outside Japan. Several 48 group members packed their bags and went to places like China, Indonesia, and Thailand. The choice between buying flights or 50+ copies of the new single is one we don’t envy.
Pro: solo activities, dramas, and variety shows
Con: graduating to do that stuff more often
Yay, your oshi’s on TV way more than usual! Ah crap, she’s leaving the group to focus on TV work…
Idols grow up. Sad fact of life. And as they get older, they start wondering what the hell they’ll do with the rest of their career. The only person who still gets away with the cutesy stuff over 40 is Haruna Ai.
When your idol’s cast in a new drama, or gets a regular spot on a primetime variety show, at first you’ll be thrilled. They’re getting the spotlight you’ve always known they deserve! Feel yourself swelling up with pride over every second of screen time.
But it’s then you should start worrying. Your girl’s had a taste of ‘normal’ fame, a sip of fine wine after chugging the idol Kool-Aid. Once the ‘regular’ work starts, you know the date of their graduation ceremony’s drawing near. Brace yourself for the oshi-hen.
Tiger, fire, cyber, fibre, diver, viber, DEJAPAN!
No matter which Japanese idol groups and members you support, we’re here to support you. Get your hands on official idol merch from Japan, via DEJAPAN’s proxy shopping service in English.