I have always found idol culture in Japan interesting, but partly because I sought to understand it. I found this video which helped a little.
These are several members of AKB48 who were in a contest with a bunch of Korean idols, and found themselves so lacking in comparison it seemed to completely wreck them.
I’ve often wondered how well the Japanese idol culture (in general) prepares the girls for a life in media. They’re not great at dancing (better than me, for sure, but not great objectively), they’re not all that good at singing (if you disagree, hold that thought, and then find one where they’re singing solo without accompaniment. They’re almost always way out of tune), they can kind of act but they’re not great at it. And that’s because that’s not their job. Their job is to be cute and funny, and incidentally, sell music.
And they’re really good at it. Ishikawa Miori (Fresh Lemon) comes to mind. I don’t know how you can get cuter than this:
But I have to wonder if they are well served by that. As they grow older, it becomes harder to be cute and funny, and if they don’t have any real skills to fall back on, what good has it done them? They’re kind of insulated from it because their fans love them for how cute and funny they are, until… they get slapped in the face with the rather rude realization that that’s all they’ve been trained to be.
As in the above video. It’s almost heartbreaking to watch them suddenly realize that when put in a competition with people who have been trained to sing, dance, etc., they don’t even come close to measuring up.
Japanese idols don’t really seem all that poorly treated (a little exploited, yes, but not in an abusive way), they look like they generally have fun, and even when it’s difficult they seem to have an attitude of “ganbatte” that helps them to be resilient. But I wonder how those girls will react to the horrible dose of reality they just got. Will they become depressed? Will they “ganbatte” – try their best with what they have? Or will they get themselves trainers and resolve that that will never happen again?
If I were in their shoes…. I don’t know which I’d choose, to be honest. But I’m pretty sure I’d react like they did. That’s not fun at all.