Japan’s music industry, which is the second largest in the world, hinges on the production of pop idols (aidoru). These are young women who satisfy the curious requirements of 1) not being talented, 2) smiling constantly, and 3) not having any boyfriends. Their job is to give the impression that they have a close and personal relationship with each of their fans. Although Japan’s music industry emerged in the 1960s and followed the American model, it quickly developed its own approach: it offered consumers such young women as emotional commodities. Music was secondary, much less important than the “handshake events (akushu-kai)” where fans could actually touch their beloved superstars. By exploring the “games of fandom” – including video games, 3D media and versions that are designed for women – this article seeks to highlight a unique aspect of music as such. In the case of Japan, producing music for the masses is focused less on creating star power and more on providing the illusion of a girlfriend or boyfriend. What social functions do such figures possess? Do these change if the idol is real or fictional?
- boy/girl band
- video games