DARIA GAMLIEL for Cinetalk.net
Japan’s idol industry may appear very strange to Western music fans. In North America, it’s common for the star to be guarded and fenced in, away from their fans’ grubby paws and selfie sticks. In Japan, idols hold events specifically designed to allow human contact and photo ops. Japanese pop stars (and their management) in the Internet era attempt to bridge the communication gap with face-to-face interaction. The relationship between idols and their fans is portrayed as “a religion” in Kyoko Miyake’s Tokyo Idols. The story about real-life idol Rio begins at a concert. The screen fills with lightsticks while audience members perform synchronized dance moves. This scene would be familiar to anyone who has attended pop concerts in Japan. It is so very Japanese that Western viewers may not recognize or understand the strange fandom behavior.
Tokyo Idols gives a glimpse of many behavioral concepts that would be entirely foreign to non-locals. Without elaborating too much of the whys, Miyake has created a little gem of a documentary about the sometimes absurd rituals in Japanese pop culture. Even to locals who don’t follow what’s ‘cool’, the interaction between fans and their idols might seem obsessive and unhealthy. However, idols have given a place in society to many people who otherwise would never fit in. Such commusho appear in the lyrics of one of Rio’s songs. A fan explains that commusho are people with “communication disabilities”. In recent years, these socially awkward folks have become more Continue reading