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The thing that got me into anime (after mostly eschewing it for years) was the OP for “Oshi No Ko”, “Idol”, by Yoasobi.  I didn’t even encounter it on its own at first, I saw a music youtuber analyzing it, and thought it was so amazing I listened to it, and have probably listened to it hundreds of times since.  It’s amazing, not just because of the music, but because of how real it is.

When I first got into Japanese media, it was through Morning Musume, which is an idol group, of sorts.  Not in the same way AKB48 is, but I think it qualifies.  And as I watched more and more of their content, I was entranced.  Right up until I wasn’t.  Because there was something about the whole thing that was really kind of making me pause.

It didn’t seem genuine.  Or, more accurately, it seemed like something not genuine that was trying to be genuine, and very subtly failing.  It was just real enough that if you can ignore the signs, it would be really easy to get sucked into the world of cute, marginally talented girls who just want to pull you into their very cute and sparkly world.

But “Idol” blew all that apart for me.  It really put into words what I’d already been feeling about all the idol stuff – that it’s all fake, calculated, and if you don’t deliberately suspend your disbelief, it’s amazingly sad and depressing.

Now every time I watch idol stuff – be it Morning Musume, AKB48, or even Babymetal and Sakura Gakuin, I can’t help but feel like there’s something horrible just below the surface that’s really easy to miss – or skip.

And it’s terribly sad in its own way, because they are cute, they are adorable, and the very reason that they are so popular is because it gives people a, well… kinda sorta family.  And I can’t help but feel, even, just a little betrayed by the fact that it’s all so engineered and carefully scripted.

But the thing that is sad – truly sad – to me is the way people seem to completely miss the message of “Idol”.  There are so many videos on YouTube and elsewhere of people doing the “Idol dance” in cute outfits and, well, being exactly the thing that the song – and the anime to some degree – is rather vigorously skewering.  Being cute (and sexy) for money and clout.  I mean, what could be a better example of missing the frigging point than doing an cute little dance while lyrics like “I’m in love with you, my career is built on such a lie”, and other, even more poignant lyrics about a teenage girl who doesn’t know how to love, play in the background.  It feels almost disrespectful to the song and the intent of the mangaka, and the dancers don’t care.  They get to be cute and get the clicks, which makes them exactly what the song is about, and what it’s skewering.  And they’re so un-self-aware they don’t know.  Or worse… maybe they are entirely that self aware, and don’t care.

But, who know, maybe it’s my fault.  My career is not built on such a lie, and maybe that’s why everything I touch turns to shit.  People want lies.  And they’ll sacrifice anyone or anything on the altar of lies to get even a quick glimmer of a facsimile of what they think they want.  And that’s the lesson of idol, the one that people are unironically proving every single time they post one of those stupid dances to YouTube or Tik tok.

I love that song, I mean I really love it.  But not because there are cute dances, not because the singer is cute or even talented, not because it’s popular.  But because it’s one of the few pieces of Japanese culture that are willing to skewer it, and for the most deserving of reasons.  The fact that it’s become so popular and people are misinterpreting it makes them very rich (hopefully) but also serves to prove their point.  No one cares about an idol, and the most successful idols don’t care about their fans either, but can make a killing pretending they do.  It’s a game everyone plays, and the reaction when that illusion is punctured can be, and often is, violent.

As we see in, well…  that would be a spoiler, wouldn’t it?

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