The Divide Between Mainstream Fans and Otaku -What is the Prime Age for Idols? (Part2)

最強の学年とは何か? 後編 : 世間とオタクの間のズレ/ネクストサブカルリーダー・岡島紳士のTokyo Idols' Update 第3回
The Divide Between Mainstream Fans and Otaku  -What is the Prime Age for Idols? (Part2)

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Happy New Year!
In this volume we’re addressing an issue that all otaku idol fans face, which is what is “the best age for idols to shine”, “the cutest, prettiest, and most charming age”, or “the age where idols really catch their big break”, or rather, at what age are idols in their prime? Last time we heard from three otaku who insisted that it was the second year of junior high school. In this next part, we’ll hear from two more otaku, and analyze the reason for the separation between mainstream fans and idol otaku fans when it comes to their “prime age”.

Emphasizing that “my the second year of junior high school in the past” now dwells within the first year

The fourth person I’ll be introducing is Reibon, a 37-year-old theater director. His otaku history began with Morning Musume, Berryz Kobo, and SKE48, and his former favorite idols were Tomomi Oe (AKB48) and Sawako Hata (SKE48). He believes the first year of junior high school is their prime.



“Before I believed that the best grade was the second year of junior high school. But as society keeps changing, I think is also changing, too. For example, speaking for my own generation, when we entered junior high school we suddenly became more aware of the opposite sex, and it was like a whole new world had been laid out before us. I think that awareness, as well as the physical changes experienced at the time, really became a part of you in your second year of junor high school. But now with the internet and smartphones, I think that happens sooner than before. So I though it over again and decided that the second year of junior high school in the past is probably the first year of junior high school now.”

I was amazed at how much he continued to talk about his “favorite age”, regardless of being unrelated to the topic of idols. When I pointed this out to him, he explained that, “Idols are a symbol of the opposite sex, so it’s the same as with the prime age of idols. Where the confusion of adolescence and idol activities meet, there you’ll find the real charm.”

He went on to say that this is why it’s better to focus on the grade rather than the exact age.

Think of a grade as a certain environment and background. More than just recalling my own youth, idols give me a basis for inserting myself back into that moment. I can also feel the underlying desire I felt during boyhood rise up again. Somewhere I want to be able to put myself back into that time again, to actually be a part of it again. So in that way, more than with girls in their second year of junior high school, I feel like “the second year of junior high school in my past” lies within girls who are in their first year. I don’t want to run away from my past, nor do I want to lie about myself during that time.”

How stoic. Such a description perfectly fits Reibon. This time I won’t get into whether this stoic interpretation is correct or not. I sincerely want him to be happy.


Finally, the last person I’d like to introduce is KETA, a 39-year-old public servant. Originally a fan of Seifuku Kojo Inkai (Ski), through AKB48 and other groups, currently he into the Harajuku Ekimae Parties. His favorite members are Haruka Iwasaki and Rurika Yoshizawa, both in the sixth grade of elementary school. However when I asked him about the prime idol age, he spoke vaguely.


Rurika Yoshizawa (Right), Haruka Iwasaki (Left)

“Well… When it comes to age or grade, I’m not sure that I personally have a preference. I think their sweet spot is somewhere between the sixth year of elementary school and the third year of junior high school, but when I go to see idols, I’m not particularly concerned with their age. I think I have a tendency to fall in love with girls soon after they make their debut. But I know there are many idol fans who are particular about age or grade.”

Not being concerned with age or grade is usually something common with those new to the idol scene. There aren’t many idol otaku like him. Nevertheless, he seems to think the prime age sits between junior high school or just below.

The reason for the “prime age” divide between mainstream and idol otaku fans

We’ve heard from five different idol otaku. All of them shared common points, like being in their mid-thirties with over 10 years of experience as idol otaku, including being fans of AKB, so I admit that there may have been some bias in my sample. However, as an author with around 20 years of experience of being an idol fan, and having encountered idol fans of all ages and tastes during that time, when talking among other idol otaku about their opinion on the “prime age”, I don’t think there is much difference in opinion from what these five shared with us. Idol otaku feel that the ideal grade is the second year of junior high school. And even if there might be those who don’t agree, in the very least none of them think it is somewhere in high school or past that age. It might feel like I’m pushing my own opinion, but I feel rather certain about this.

So why does the prime age of most mainstream fans differ from the prime age according to idol otaku? Let’s try and analyze why.


First of all idol fans, who are interested in the idol genre as a whole, have a tendency to recognize a number of idol artists that may not have much name recognition, but “could break out at any time”, unlike mainstream idol fans. Although idols who get their big break may be in high school or past that age, but before that most inevitably got their start when they were younger. Among idol otaku, there are many that believe in “buying the field while it’s still green”, “that idols are most interesting while working toward their big break”, “following idols from their debut”, “and that before an idols gets their break, concerts are closer and handshake and other events more enjoyable when there is less distance between them”… and so on. For that reason, many put their interest in idols who are in junior high school or below. Therefore it’s no wonder that the adage exists and is repeated by many idol otaku that, “the first year junior high is elementary, and third year junior high school is the first year of high school,” or in short, “only second year high school students are true junior high school students”. On that note, there’s even an unspoken rule on members of the 23-year-running musical group featured on children’s variety series as part of NHK Education, Tensai TV-kun, that child actor regulars(Terebi Senshi) must graduate after their second year of junior high school. Although the theme and the focus of the program is different from the topic of idols, I just wanted to mention this fact. The Tensai TV-kun Series is the best.

But what about those who aren’t idol otaku? The swimsuit gravure trend for idols who are junior high school age or below, referred to as “junior idols”, isn’t welcomed by mainstream audiences. In fact it’s often forbidden until idols are high school aged or above. This isn’t the only thing shunned because “they’re too young”. In general, society feels strongly against cheering on idols who are junior high school aged or younger, or thinking about their cuteness as a member of the opposite sex. Perhaps the element of pseudo-love that is deeply tied into cheering on idols is another major factor behind it.

So with this, I’d like to conclude this volume about “the prime idol age theory”. Although much of it may not be more than speculation, for those of you reading, I hope you’ll give the topic of “what is the prime age” some thought. Thinking about it is sure to put a smile on your face.

And to close out this volume, I’d like to give you this author’s opinion on what “the prime age” is. As an Idol Expert and Writer, I, Shinshi Okajima, think the prime age is elementary school sixth grade. The reason is a little embarrassing for me to state here, but should we should ever meet face to face, please feel free to ask. I’ll whisper it to you secretly. I’d like to thank you all for reading and sticking through this volume until the end.

Cover photo
Model : 美由 (Miyu)
Photo by Fuchizaki

Translated by Jamie Koide

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Shinshi Okajima

Born in 1980. Idol writer. His works (includes joint works) : "Group Idol Shinka-ron" "AKB48 Saikou Kousatsu" "Idol Gakkyoku Disc Guide" and so on. Worked as a main adviser for "Media/Idol Museum" exhibition organized by Saitama prefecture. Manager of the idol contents website "IDOL NEWSING".

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