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Idols as Love Interests, or the Magic Power of “Gachikoi” Love Born from a Mutual “Awareness”

アイドルを恋愛対象として見る、「ガチ恋」を生み出す「認知」という魔力
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Idols as Love Interests, or the Magic Power of “Gachikoi” Love Born from a Mutual “Awareness”

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The song “Ai Oboeteimasu ka” from the anime film Macross: Do You Remember Love? begins “Right now I can hear your voice saying, ‘Come here’”, and was sung on stage by idol singer Lynn Minmay. The anime paints a love story between her and the main character, but as I watched it all I could think was, “A relationship with an idol? Really?”

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From MACROSS OFFICIAL SITE「MACROSS OFFICIAL WEB SITE」http://www.macross.co.jp/

Of course idols are girls just like me, so it makes sense they fall in love, too. It’s just I had never considered that person could be a fan.

But since hearing, for example, Yuko Anai from Tokyo Performance Doll talking about how she made phone calls to fans before, I began to consider that likely there was more than a zero chance of it happening. I had felt that there was a certain amount of distance between idols and their fans.

But this “sense of distance” has is very much different from idols from the 80s and 90s and idols now.

In the past, as well as now, there have always been fans that wanting to be in a relationship with an idol. Whether just a daydream or a real desire depends on the person. But now there are fans that view idols as normal girls or love interests, which is referred to as “gachi koi”. (Being “in love” with an idol as opposed to just loving an idol.) The song “Gachi Koi Revolution” by Akishibu Project treats the matter if it were entirely normal.

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Member photo from Akishibu Project Official Site「アキシブprojectオフィシャルサイト」より(http://akishibup.net/)

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But what is really surprising is when an idol starts dating (or having a relations) with a fan and then quits. There have been instances where not only was the idol dismissed, but a lawsuit was then filed against her. This might be an example of an extreme case, but I feel like the distance between idols and fans are now closer than ever.

The word idol doesn’t refer to the kind of idol that you worship, but evolved to mean a figure you can enjoy a pseudo-relationship with. You can think of them more “ai dolls” (“love dolls”), like the word sounds phonetically.

You may think idol talks and so-called “contact” events began with today’s idols, but many of these kinds of events were already happening in the 80s, with lines for post-release handshake events that would take place on department store rooftops and elsewhere. Of course even then there were loop fans (fans who line up again and again). However this kind of contact was considered a “privilege” and regarded as something special by fans.

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The author, at a handshake event for Eriko Tamura’s debut mini concert 田村英里子デビューミニコンサートでの握手会に向かう著者

Now this kind of contact is considered a given rather than a privilege. It’s not just that there are many of these kinds of events now, but is consciously reflected in both fans and idols. Fans recognize how the scene is based contact, and idols feel that they can appeal to fans through contact. No matter for how little the amount of time, both sides acknowledge creating that harmony in the current scene. It has an air that the handshake events of the 80s did not. During those days, the relationship between idols and fans were one-sided. There wasn’t much thought put into bringing up topics from the idols‘ side or the fans‘ side like there is today. Possibly one reason might be because they did not really know one another very well.

So I think this “awareness” turn into “being in love with an idol”. Through mutual awareness, two-way conversation was established. And in that space, idols and fans exist as merely men and women.

Now there are idols that give concerts or perform nearly every day. And so there are contact events going on almost daily. There are fans that participate in their concerts most days, and talk with them almost every day. Surely current idols talk with fans more than anyone else besides their own families. On the fans’ side as well, there must be many fans that talk with idols more than any other person of the opposite sex. In these circumstances, it would seem strange instead if romantic feelings didn’t spur from this kind of situation.

Currently idol concerts are held daily at a number of locations, and respectively, a large number of fans move around looking for their favorite venues.

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Photo by Yusuke HOMMA

Nonetheless, even though idols and fans are very close like this, the majority of idols draw a line to keep their distance from fans, without leading them on. Both parties must have mutual trust to maintain this idol and fan relationship, without crossing the line. As if it is fulfilling this kind of “pseudo-love”. This is just one part of an idol’s job, and I feel it is something very Japanese. What has been born from the close distance between idols and fans is a new culture in itself.

Featured song: “Ai Oboeteimasu ka”/Mari Iiijima

Translated by Jamie Koide

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Author
Toshiro Arai
Toshiro Arai

A producer of website "TOKYO IDOL NET", which "photography" and "idol" is its concept. He also writes for Tokyo Idol Project, and so on.

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