Tokyo Idols – Film Review

“Tokyo Idols” is a documentary about Japanese idol culture. With teenage girls wanting fame, they launch themselves into the ‘idol’ world hoping it will be a way into the Japanese entertainment industry.

The documentary mainly follows Rio Hiiragi touring the underground idol circuit and her fans known as the Rio Brothers. The documentary focuses more on underground idol culture rather than the proper popular idols and only briefly addresses “AKB48” who are the biggest and most popular professional idol group in Japan. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is also a popular ‘kawaii’ idol but was not even mentioned at all.

I was very disappointed by the biased views of this documentary. For starters the filmmaker, Kyoko Miyake is a person who grew up in Japan but moved to the UK because she didn’t care or understand the idea of Japanese idol pop music scene which is obvious in the way the film has been documented. Some of the shaky camera shots were amateur and I feel the director deliberately intended to paint Japanese idol culture in a negative light.

Fans of Japanese idol culture are no different to passionate fans of pop-artists in Western culture. I am a Katy Perry fan and consider myself a ‘KatyCat’; a hardcore passionate fan that supports Katy throughout her career and doesn’t just pay attention when she’s in my country. I love Katy Perry unconditionally and look up to her as an artist and as a person. But just because I love her does not mean that I am a pervert or have sexual feelings towards her.

I think this is what angered me about “Tokyo Idols”. The director was clearly demonizing Japanese idol fans making them out like perverts and sexual predators when it isn’t all about that. Like any fan, being a fan of an entertainer isn’t a sexual thing – you do it because it makes you happy. Sure it’s an expensive hobby, but their song, music and story connect with you and you feel you can relate to them. This was something that wasn’t addressed properly in Tokyo Idols and angered me. There is literally nothing wrong with going to see your favourite artist multiple times and if you can meet them – then that’s awesome. The documentary focuses more on the middle aged male fans which is ridiculous because there are a lot of female Japanese idol fans out there, yet purposely none were interviewed for this film.

Japanese culture is already very repressed and they are so self-conscious of their social status. So Japanese idol fans are merely people who consider themselves social outcasts, not following the social norm of what society expects them to be and are instead finding their happiness in being dedicated to their favourite pop idols. Western culture has child beauty pageants, cheerleading and dance competitions. Japanese idol culture is not much different from Western culture – except being an idol can be the doorway to entering the entertainment industry and actually relies on talent.

This documentary is inaccurate, misleading, shallow and terrible. I am genuinely sick and tired of the stereotype that all passionate fans of musicians and artists are merely groupies that want to ‘sleep with the band’, are crazy or stalkers. I am none of those things and for the most part, neither are the Japanese idol fans.

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