Monday, 11 November 2013

On Idols, Rivalry, Image and Idoling!!! by Chiima & Steve - Part 2

All opinions within this post are those of Chiima and Steve. Please respect BOTH opinions, and do not bash anyone for what they think or feel. There are two sides to every coin, just like there are two sides to an opinion; positive and negative. Take what we say with a grain of rice or a pinch of salt, and bear with it. You may not like what you read, but please, just tolerate it. Thank you.

NOTE* This is Part 2 of 2 of this Discussion. Please be sure to read Part 1 if you have yet to do so. Thank you.



Please jump after the break for the full post!


(Continued from Part 1...)

Steve: Yeah, I was going to give some examples about how a lot of the Idoling!!! members have similar kinds of situations to how you were just saying about Sasshi, in a way. Because basically, with each new generation of Idoling!!!, their audition footage and most of the early stuff we see of them on the TV show, they're mostly just kind of "typical" idols in most ways, probably just because that's how their agencies train them before they get a real gig with a project, so watching early footage of basically any of the generations of Idoling!!!, they really don't stand out and are actually kind of...very boringly idol-ish.

But being in the environment of the TV show and being around all these older girls who have already come into their own and realized that it's actually encouraged to become your own kind of idol within that group. You see them start to change, usually pretty quickly, and they stop the kind of generic idol act and become someone almost completely different.

But oddly enough, with 6th gen, I think they were actually looking for girls that were already very much their own kind of personality who didn't even need the time to transform into what takes most of the previous generation's girls a long time to get to. I know you probably haven't seen much or any of the episodes of their show with the 6th gen girls, but they pretty much hit the ground running, as far as their personalities. A few of them are still working on being a little more outspoken and such, but overall, they fit in like none of the previous gens did before.

Chiima: No, I haven't watched anything with the girls. I only saw their TIF (Tokyo Idol Festival) first appearance, really. I know that one of them is the younger sibling of an older member, which meant that she already knew the members.

Steve: And that's the thing, in general, the Idoling!!! management is looking to form them into being real entertainers, not just "idols", cause I think, as you also said earlier, the term "idol" is losing some of its meaning now. Its kinda like anyone can be an "idol" as long as they look cute or have a gimmick, but being a real entertainer who can be on TV shows or live performances and capture people's attention.

Chiima: The Idoling!!! members originally started off with girls from different agencies, didn't they? And they were put into Idoling!!! to basically allow them to grow in various talent categories.

Steve: More or less, yeah, even after they join, they're still technically handled by their different agencies still, but the agencies let the members take part in the show and the group's activities to further their popularity and talent in various areas. It's almost like they're "on loan" from the agencies, in a way, but they have a contract with the FujiTV management to do the show and music/performance activities.

Chiima: It is a nice idea from the management of Idoling!!!, because it basically profits the agencies of the girls, whilst also benefiting the girls and their management.

Steve: AKB does the same thing actually, but they're a huge effing mess quite honestly, haha, what with how many girls and how many "sub-management" labels AKB has now.

Chiima: Yeah, I was going to say, AKB have the same concept with agencies, but it's basically all for profit for them.

Steve: Yeah.

Chiima: I think it's just AKS' way to show how many pies they have their fingers in.

Steve: More or less. That seems really common in Japanese business, though.

Chiima: Whilst Idoling!!! had that concept from the very beginning, to bring different talents together to create a super group who want to grow as Idols and talents.

Steve: Right, and on top off all this, the companies that Idoling!!! works with as far as their musical output are of much higher quality than the kind of stuff a lot of other groups do. Like some of AKB's sub-groups actually worked with the same music production company that Idoling!!! uses, and that group was AKB's best musical output by a landslide.

It also allows for tons of awesome variety in the music production, as opposed to something like H!P where its just Tsunku & friends 24/7

Chiima: I like Tsunku's music, but we know that already. However I do like when someone else takes over. I like the SATOYAMA songs a lot, and they aren't produced by Tsunku from what I know.

Another group who actually have a similar concept to Idoling!!!, with different managements for the girls but they come together as a group, is Fudanjuku. All of their girls are talents under different agencies within Fudanjuku, though most are already-established gravure/former U-15 models.

Steve: Ah, I don't know much about Fudanjuku and can't stand their music, but the girls are talented and are actually pretty good at variety as well, even though they don't get as much chance to show it. They were on a couple episodes of Idoling!!! TV show last year and they were amazing, and when they're in the group where they actually appear as females, they're mostly really gorgeous girls, too.

Chiima: I love Fudanjuku, they are one of my favourite groups, and I think they are pretty relate-able because they represent the female Otaku culture, making them so much more realistic and approachable and, as you say, they are attractive girls when they turn into their true counterparts.

Steve: Yeah, their music is just a huge turn-off for me, and music is really the most important part of any idols for me if that cornerstone is missing, the rest kinda falls apart for me, but maybe that's just me since most idol fans really don't seem to care about the music.

Chiima: Honestly, music is a huge factor for me too, it's why I like Idols in general. But I like the more generic stuff, but the way they look is also appealing. Thing is, if I didn't really like AKB's music, I wouldn't care about them. Their looks don't appeal to me because it is generally all about what a man wants in terms of how they look, and their main demographic is male dominated, so it's understandable (in terms of AKB's styling).

Steve: I really look at idols as entertainers and performers first and foremost, everything else is just kind of a compliment to those things, but if those things are missing, it all falls apart.

Chiima: I mean, when I listened to Idoling!!!, it was because I genuinely liked their music.

Steve: Yeah, that's another interesting subject that was just brought up recently, too.

Chiima: I didn't care much for their image, though Idoling!!! have very normal looking girls, which is pretty appealing for me as a viewer. It's like, image-wise, you know Idoling!!! don't factor just cute girls - they have girls who look plain or average. Sure, they have gorgeous members, but you know that they don't go for the typical adorable girl like AKB48 and HKT have been going for recently... Or any Stardust Promotion group.

Steve: Yeah, that generic kind of idol image has really made me sick lately, I just really can't stomach any more of it. AKB is really making it so much worse, its sad. Anyway, I meant to say this a few minutes ago but never got a chance to.

I linked to an article written by one of the closest fashion people who does all the styling for Denpagumi and works closely with their producers to convey the image they're looking for, and they specifically called out the fact that most idols now are just designed to appeal to a certain demographic and the girls are shaped into the most efficient package to convey that image. Like most modern female idols are mostly designed to be "what guys want" etc. But with something like Denpagumi, and I think in Idoling!!! as well, they don't just succumb to that pandering crap.

Chiima: That, or they become a fashion accessory to sell brand clothing.

Steve: They're basically designed to appeal to both sexes simultaneously. They use the personalities that the girls already have and kind of "accent' them with the styles they use, but the girls remain more true to themselves, not just becoming a font for what management wants them to be.

If you watch Idoling!!!'s TV show, every season, they change the outfits they wear on the show and every time, they all have different outfits that are tailored to fit that girl's personality, and with Denpagumi, they're all just wearing things that are weird, artistic representations of their own personality whereas with the majority of idol costumes, it's all about unity of image and being that perfect, unified image of what management wants them to be, and since you mentioned that Fudanjuku was appealing more to the female side of fans, it brought that to mind.

Chiima: Thinking about all you have said, and image and such, I agree with it, and it makes me think how Fudanjuku seem to have outfits tailored to their own styles. I mean, the outfits unify them, but it does have an individual feel to it.

Steve: Yeah, they do.

(After a few words about Idol rawness and me confusing the Hell out of Steve...)

Steve: So, back to the point of how the last time H!P really had rivalry was the shuffles or Gumi units, etc. and that the later shuffles just ended up having all the different groups on one CD so there was really no rivalry any more, and you said it was probably because "they were dying"... did you just mean H!P as a whole was dying? in terms of popularity? Did you just mean that H!P in general just didn't have the same kind of power or audience that it did to support that many multiple releases all at once?

If so, I agree.

Chiima: H!P as a whole were probably dying, but they were (definitely) giving up on the shuffles. It was obvious they were.

Steve: Though, I wouldn't quite say H!P was really dying as of the 2003 shuffles, but by the time the 2005 ones came along, that was definitely the case.

Ah, yeah, that makes more sense that the shuffles in general were losing their appeal even as of the 2003 ones, but H!P as a whole was losing steam as of 2005. Why would you think the shuffles would be dying, though? I guess that's my main question. What do you think would cause that, not that I disagree, just looking for what you think.

And if they were dying then, why does it seem to be a big factor right now, with AKB using it as marketing tactics and Idoling!!! creating these rivalries now? Maybe just because it was getting stale back then, but now after many years of not really having any rivalries, people are open to the idea again?

Chiima: I have no idea why I think they would be dying, but I guess Tsunku or anyone behind the scenes were kind of getting bored of it, promoting different groups made up of a jumble of girls, or they were possibly tired of creating so many songs to go against each other... that, or they were losing money and/or members who brought in the money.

I think now it's more of a thing, because so many people are actually invested in these rivalries, whether it is between two groups from different agencies, or two groups created from one group. It has become more interesting and has been revived because there is actually a lot more interest in Idols, I believe.

Steve: Yeah, the losing members with their own appeal when in situations or groups out of their usual comfort zone was maybe a factor, too. they were losing some of their bigger main draw girls around that time.

Chiima: H!P used to do it because back then there were a LOT of groups around producing stuff to sell, but those groups diminished because the girls were older and wanted to do other things with their lives.

Steve: Yeah.

Chiima: A group like AKB or Idoling!!! can do this now because they have a lot of girls within the group that enables them to do it.

Steve: They lost Goto Maki in 2002, etc.

Chiima: Exactly, and I think at that point, H!P were losing members quite a bit, or some were going on hiatus.

Steve: Yeah. Maybe Tsunku & friends saw the sky was falling and decided to consolidate a little.

Chiima: Possibly.

Steve: It's odd, thinking about rivalries.

I think true rivalries are also pretty indicative of management willing to take some risks in a way, because releasing things in direct competition seems to generally generate less sales overall, but is often better for recognition or making some fans happy, and also likely why AKB does these kinds of "pseudo-rivalries" that aren't really rivalries because they can't bear the fact of missing some of their precious sales numbers for the sake of making things more interesting.

And back when H!P did these rivalries, I don't think they were quite content with their status among fans like they are now and weren't afraid to take risks like now. They didn't just play it safe all the time back then like they do now so in a way, I feel like the H!P of 2000-2002 was kinda like how Idoling!!! is now in more ways than one, but specifically on that subject of not being afraid to take risks and not just playing it safe all the time.

And really, aside from all that, as I think you've mentioned before, it also can be pretty healthy for these girls to have competitions, to learn how to deal with defeat if it comes down to it and learn what it means to really compete with others, not just these fake rivalries that AKB sets up.

Chiima: With the rivalries that H!P once had, I think it was also a case of that there really was not that much to lose back then (in terms of profit etc). If you compare the Wota or Fans from then to the ones we have today, they really were not as prominent back then when H!P were at their high point.

Idols are so prominent now, and Idol fans have become more open with what they enjoy as a pass time. Sales have also increased, to the point where selling so much is the norm for an Idol, but back when H!P had shuffles, they would have probably sold about the same amount as a normal single anyway, and wouldn't have really lost any profit.

In fact, I think that it's a lot more logical to release shuffle CD's pitting groups against each other now than it was back then; it's no secret that the fans are willing to pay for a certain girl or group to win, so why not do it now? Especially with an Idol giant like the AKS franchise, who would probably make a killing from AKB rivalling another group under the same agency/management.

Steve: Well, that's an odd scenario, from how I see it, because I'm always kinda considering or thinking that something else is really going on with AKS that we don't really see.

Chiima: This is why I don't understand why AKS have yet to release anything from NG46 and AKB48 on the same day, which would really solidify their 'rival' status for me. Right now, it just seems like AKS are playing safe, because they know that NG46 aren't real rivals and would be whipped against AKB right now.

Steve: And putting together some other information I've gathered over time, I have a few ideas of why they don't.

From most information that anyone has, Idol CD sales are actually the least profitable part of the business of what they do the investment and work that goes into releasing a CD usually costs enough to where the CD sales themselves don't actually turn into much profit at all, if any. The costs of marketing, manufacturing, creating the content, paying all associated parties, etc. usually costs far more than the CD sales costs.

I've seen figures that say CD sales are usually only around 3%-4% profit for an Idol agency, but the hype and recognition that surrounds ranking high on Oricon or breaking records with sales numbers is what I think AKS is really after, because that means they can then expand their power to what TV shows they appear on, what advertising partnerships they get, how many frivolous "fan events" they can create to milk more money out of people etc. etc.

Chiima: Then wouldn't that be even more reason to really put that rivalry concept between AKB and NG48 into action? Or any of the AKS sister groups. It would certainly draw attention if ALL of the xxx48's went against each other on the Oricon, and what the outcome would be would gain a lot of fan and media hype. The Oricon results would be fun to see, that's for sure.

Steve: So splitting up sales between two different groups would take the attention away from the people who just look for high sales numbers. Think of it this way; If AKB and SKE both released CDs on the same day, I don't think fans could handle it, or at least wouldn't have as much spending power as they would on one release at a time.

Say Fan A has saved up $500 to spend on the next AKS release and it comes out as an AKB CD, he can just buy tons of copies of that same AKB CD and boost the sales numbers astronomically, but if that same fan who saved the same amount of money had to split it between AKB and SKE in the same day, he'd only be able to buy half as many copies of each, so the sales numbers would look worse for both.

Chiima: ... It would be equally as fun to see the fans lose power, actually.

Steve: Contrary to popular belief, wota actually DO have limited amounts of money, they just usually run pretty sad lives where they go out of their way to earn money just to turn it over to idol management companies who have them by the balls.

Chiima: I do understand where you're coming from, don't get me wrong. I'm just seeing it from a point of view where I think it would be 'fun' to do it, as opposed to the numerical aspect.

Steve: But AKS doesn't care about the fun or making things interesting, they just like to shock people and then rack up numbers. Statistical data is what they use to sell AKB products into future business ventures. They've created what is basically a self-run marketing machine with nearly unlimited power based on the manipulative control they have over devoted Wota.

Chiima: And that is scary, but clever.

Steve: Unfortunately, H!P is pretty similar, they just do it in slightly different ways.

Chiima: So basically it comes down to the fact that if a group wants to create a rivalry within its own group, then it is best to leave it to an Idol group that is not as established as AKS is? Or so intent on the numbers, profit and the loss of profit this rivalry would create?

Steve: Yeah, that seems to make sense, but I don't know if that would ever happen so much, but I don't think anyone else would ever agree to be in any kind of competition with an AKS group, because they'd have no chance.

Chiima: Which is why a group like Idoling!!!, who are established, well known and loved, but still not as well-known or manufactured as AKS are, can easily do a rival-based single, and still not lose out.

Steve: I think so.

Chiima: I do think that going against AKS is not a wise thing to do, at least not right now, but for general Idol groups who could easily do the rivalry idea like Idoling!!!, LinQ and others, it's a pretty fun idea to have the members go up against each other. In fact, I believe LinQ are splitting the group up and rivalling their single sales.

Steve: They also always do a maximum of 3 versions of singles for Idoling!!, too, which demonstrates so far that they have no desire to rival or be like AKB or H!P in that way, and more be something of their own nature.

AKB and H!P release 5-10 versions of everything, for those sole reasons of making sales numbers higher. Instead of following the leader, it seems Idoling!!! is content going in their own direction, which is a huge breath of fresh air in the current idol market.

Chiima: I admit, it is rather weird when I see that an Idol group is releasing only two or three versions of a single, but I am used to the amount the bigger Idol groups release. But honestly, I am happy to see that rivalry in Idols, especially within one group, is coming back. It's refreshing to see, and like you said early on in the post, you start to notice the girls individually as they are not clustered together.

Steve: Yeah, I think it has already created some interesting buzz for the group as well as a little freshness in the industry as a whole. I'd be interested to see if it inspires some other groups to start these kinds of rivalries again.

Like you said, LinQ might be doing it soon. And again, Idoling has done this twice before, but they were both before the idol boom really hit a few years ago, so this is kinda the first one after AKB changed the landscape. Or should I say... monopolized the landscape.

Chiima: I would honestly like to see the rivalry return in Morning Musume with a split group, but I think the members are too close as friends now. Back when Sakura x Otome gumi was around, the members were rivalling each other for the front. Now, they are just relaxed and don't rival one another.

And I have to agree with monopolizing, AKS have really set a 'standard' for modern Idols now..

Steve: Hmm, it could definitely be interesting for them, or at least bring a little something to the table, but I guess it would also have to do with how well management handled it... but I don't really think UFA has the balls to do anything that isn't completely safe for them. They really haven't done anything like that since platinum era, really, its just gotten worse recently.

Chiima: At least not for now... they've only just come back into being recognised, I doubt they'll try and lose that spot.

Steve: The whole "recognized" thing is really subjective, quite honestly.

Chiima: Well, they've recently 'returned' to the Idol scene, and are getting noticed by people, old and young.

Steve: I think a lot of that is just H!P fans tooting their own horn and making things sound far more important than they really are. The die-hards who never gave up even when they were in death valley for a half a decade, just telling other fans that they're doing well to validate their own fandom.

Chiima: You have such a cynical way of viewing it XD

Steve: I do, cause I was there for the whole thing, haha, and I'm there now.

Chiima: Old Timer!

Steve: And I'm seeing how much more interesting and better other idol groups are doing than them, and they're just getting more attention because EVERY IDOL GROUP EVER is getting recognition right now.

Chiima: Well, I don't deny that there are Idol groups out there that are better than any unit in H!P or AKS, because there really are some talented groups out there who produce amazing music.

I mean I love my generic music, but I love groups like Juliet, Afilia Saga, Bump.y and Fudanjuku because I personally find their songs amazing and on a whole other level to H!P... though Afilia Saga is questionable now, given they are co-produced by 5pb and Tsunku...

Steve: Yeah, same with Backstage Icchoume. They were pretty amazing when they started, then they became garbage once they had a major debut. Their first few singles were really unique and awesome and used some styles and ideas from the Denpa music scene, and now its as generic as it gets. Thanks, Tsunku.

Chiima: ... That 'Thanks, Tsunku' has kinda killed me XD

But yeah, I really have to agree with you there. I was amazed by Bakasute's sound, and then when their Major debut happened, and Yorupiko Pikoyoru, I was disappointed... But as someone somewhere on the internet said, Tsunku saves his best work for the Indies phase, and then he lets it go downhill...

Steve: Pretty much. Like THE Possible, too. They were great for a little while after their debut, but then went to shit after a certain point. They've had a bit of a small comeback lately, but its not as consistent, but they're kinda always technically Indies, in a way, though.  

Chiima: That's cause they seem to have fizzled out of favour with management, I guess. Like Melon Kinenbi, I guess. They still release stuff, you just... kinda forget they exist or that they have NOT disbanded.

Anyway, I guess we had better wrap this up, Steve XD I'm pretty sure you're busy.

Steve: Yeah, but I think we covered all the bases here.

(Stuff that I wanted to keep in, cos it's important In My Opinion...)

Steve: I'd like to see how it turns out, it was an awesome conversation though, in any case. I think we both probably understand each other a little more.

Chiima: Yeah, I know! I was thinking earlier '... Now I see why he really likes Idoling!!'

Steve: Yeah, I'm really not even out to try to "convince" other people to like Idoling!!! or any of the other groups I like, I just want them to understand why I do.

And if that sounds appealing to them and they want to explore the groups more, that's awesome, but if not, at least they have a better understanding of where I'm coming from.

Chiima: Yes!!!

Steve: I can say something short like "I like how they're managed, I like their music and their concept" etc. but it doesn't quite describe the full reasons why.

Chiima: And I am happy that you have allowed me to talk to you about it in order to share it with others.

Steve: Yeah, I learned a few things from you I didn't know too, so that's nice.

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And that, my friends, is the end of that discussion! Obviously there will be other times where I talk to Steve about Idols, but for you guys, this is the end of the discussion I have posted here! So, that all written and read, what are your thoughts on the (original) topic of Idols x Rivalry?

That said, I want to give a major thank you to Steve for agreeing to talk to me about this! It was fun, I enjoyed it, and I hope that you all have a better understanding of a cynical Wota mind! Muahahaha!!!

For now though, that is all~ Until next time!

Chiima~

2 comments:

  1. Wow, Steve seems very biased against H!P. Give them credit where they deserve it and stop being an ass.

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    1. Steve has been within the Idol fandom far longer than I have, way back before even H!O was created I believe (he is indeed a relic, as I said to him XD) and he has basically just lost favour with H!P. He pretty much watched them fall, and as just never gone back... Honestly, he does compliment them, it's just most compliments are on Facebook, and towards Berryz Kobo, whom he feels has the last ounce of talent in H!P. At the end of the day, it is his opinion and I can not sway how you feel about what he says, but he has been around for a while, and he knows his tastes now, and H!P is not a taste of his.

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