TokyoGirls'Update

“The Junior High School Second Year Theory” –What is the Prime Age for Idols? (Part1)

最強の学年とは何か? 前編 : 中2最強説/ネクストサブカルリーダー・岡島紳士のTokyo Idols' Update 第3回
“The Junior High School Second Year Theory” –What is the Prime Age for Idols? (Part1)

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Happy New Year!
What age is prime when it comes to being an idol? It’s a question that’s come up between any idol otaku, and is the first one I’d like to tackle this year with the first installment of this series.

When it comes to general popularity, from high school onward is considered the prime age

Elementary school students, junior high school students, senior high school students, and even adults make up the current idol scene, which is full of different ages and grades. But when it comes to “the best age for idols to shine”, “the cutest, prettiest, and most charming age”, or “the age where idols really catch their big break”, at what age are idols in their prime?

Before trying to come up with a theory, let me first go into a little detail about ages and grades in Japan. In Japan, generally elementary school is made up of six years, junior high school three years, and senior high school another three years, for a total of 12 school years in total. Also, the Japanese school year itself begins in April and ends in March, so disregarding students that drop out or have to repeat a grade, the general breakdown of student ages in each grade looks like this.

Elementary school first grade: 6 or 7 years of age
Elementary school second grade: 7 or 8 years of age
Elementary school third grade: 8 or 9 years of age
Elementary school fourth grade: 9 or 10 years of age
Elementary school fifth grade: 10 or 11 years of age
Elementary school sixth grade: 11 or 12 years of age
Junior high school first grade: 12 or 13 years of age
Junior high school second grade: 13 or 14 years of age
Junior high school third grade: 14 or 15 years of age
Senior high school first year: 15 or 16 years of age
Senior high school second year: 16 or 17 years of age
Senior high school third year: 17 or 18 years of age

So, let’s get into it. First, I’ll throw out the specific ages of current idols that made their big break. For example in the AKB48 group, when it came to their most recent general election, the top 16 girls, with the exception of Sakura Miyawaki (HKT48, AKB48) in her third year of senior high school, everyone else had already graduated, and their average age was 22.31. For Nogizaka46, among the top 16 members during the release of their latest single, “Ima, Hanashitai Dareka ga Iru”, only two members, Asuka Saito in her second year of senior high school and Minami Hoshino in her third, were high school aged or younger, with the average age of the top members at 20.87.

The average of the members of Perfume is 26.66 years, while everyone in Momoiro Clover Z is above graduating age, with an age of 20.4. In Morning Musume., out of the group’s 12 members seven are in senior high school, two are in junior high school, and the average age of the girls in the group is 16.83. The three members of BABYMETAL are all in high school, and their combined age is 16.66. Additionally, except for Rika Mayama, all of the members of Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku are high school aged or younger, with an average member age of 16.75. Since Dempagumi.inc hasn’t revealed their real ages, we couldn’t include the group’s average in with the count.

Perfume

Perfume

img_momoclo

Momoiro Clover Z

Morning Musume.

Morning Musume.

BABYMETAL

BABYMETAL

Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku

Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku

These are the average ages of the groups that are currently in the public eye. Averaging all of these figures puts their average age at 20.06. Given that the lowest average age mentioned was 16.66, the prime age for these popular groups seems to be high school aged or older.

However quite a few idol otaku would likely disagree with this result. In fact, when I tried to question other idol otaku around me on the subject, those who answered high school aged or above were few and far between.

So what do actual idol otaku consider to be an idol’s prime age? Let’s hear their thoughts on the matter.

Idols are meant to be consumed by fans before their short expiration dates

The first person I’d like to introduce is Mr. Sakechi, a 37-year-old company worker. He’s an idol otaku that got into the scene through Berryz Kobo, and would attend AKB48 events during their early period. At the time, his favorite members were Chinami Tokunaga in Berryz Kobo, and Natsumi Hirajima in AKB. He’s one of the “legendary” otaku who attended the ultra premium AKB48 Theater Open 10th Anniversry Festival held last year in December, as well as the special memorial concert held at the AKB48 theater two days later. According to him, the prime age is the second year of junior high school.

“I don’t feel like first year junior high school students are all that different from elementary school students, while third year junior high school students are practically high schoolers. So second year students are the more junior high-like. I think idols are at their prime during their second year of junior high school. In the past it may have been common for students to start working as idols from high school, but recently it seems that that there’s the impression that students who don’t start idol work as a junior high student are getting into it a little late.”

Additionally, I asked Mr. Sakechi about the appeal of junior high school idols.

“Junior high school students aren’t very woman-like yet, which I think is better. Or rather, they’re not completely women yet. It’s a very short period, and a very precious one. Once they become women, they remain that way forever. That brief period between being a child and an adult really has a sense of value. Idols themselves have short expiration dates. When I think about it, Chinami-chan (Chinami Tokunaga) was cutest during her second year of junior high school. I never thought I’d feel the same excitement I did then (at the Berryz Kobo solo concert at Saitama Super Arena on April 1, 2007)!.”

He went on to say, “In fact, I had considered giving up being an otaku once Chinami-chan had reached high school,” showing just how strong the appeal of junior high school idols were to him. When I asked who he would marry if Chinami-chan had proposed to him as a second year or third year junior high school student, he immediately answered, “Her second year of junior high school!”

The second year junior high school theory goes like the old otaku adage, the “first year junior high is elementary, and third year junior high school is the first year of high school” and that “only second year high school students are true junior high school students”.

The second person I asked was Mr. Sotochi, a 37-year-old aquarist. He got into the idol scene through ZONE, and was a fan of Minami Takahashi during her early days in AKB48, and often went to see the group at their theater. He also felt that the prime age was the second year of junior high school.

Mr. Sotochi

“I keep falling in love with idols during their second year of junior high. MAIKO from ZONE and Takamina (Minami Takahashi) from AKB were both cutest during the second grade of junior high school. I love that age so much I’d personally be willing to get rid of the fifth year of elementary school. Like elementary school students aren’t all that cute to the opposite sex. That appeal comes out during their second year of high school. Then when they’re in high school, they’re pretty much adults. The legal age of marriage is from 16 and above, and at that age there’s no legal obstacle to falling in love, so their rarity value isn’t as high. Junior high school students in their third year are already thinking about high school. During their first year they’re still getting used to wearing their uniforms, and still haven’t completely left behind their last year in elementary school. So when you think about it that way, the only pure year of junior high school is the second year.”

Like Mr. Sakechi, the second year junior high school theory is deeply rooted in his mind. I can’t seem to shake that old otaku adage “first year junior high is elementary, and third year junior high school is the first year of high school” and that “only second year high school students are true junior high school students”.

The third person I asked was Mr. Ishimaru, a 31-year-old company executive. At one time he had been a fan of Kaoru Hayano in AKB48, but now he’s crazy about the Harajuku Ekimae Stage Parties, He also echoed the second year junior high school theory.

Mr. Ishimaru

Mr. Ishimaru

At 10 or 12 years old idols still haven’t come of age, and when they’re selling goods they’re not good at making conversation. They become able to interact duriing performances and so on from around the second year of junior high school. For me the second year of junior high school is the peak, and depending on their age, my level of interest will either continue to rise or fall.”

I noticed when talking to Mr. Ishimaru that he was commenting on both grade and age when it came to the topic. In addition to idol otaku who care about the grade, there are also those who care about their age. When I asked Mr. Ishimaru which was more important, he replied it was about “half and half”.

“I think the prime is 14 years old, during the second year of junior high school. Speaking of which, I just found out my current favorite idol, Kiri Ito, is a third year junior high school student. I had thought she was a second year student… But until she turns 15 on her next birthday, I still consider her as being ‘second year’.”

For a moment I couldn’t believe my ears. What was he saying? But no matter how many times I asked, he was adamant that, “Even if she’s in her third year, until her 15th birthday comes I still consider her in her second year.” He was completely subborn about it.

This author also supports the view that “the first year junior high is elementary, and third year junior high school is the first year of high school.” Altough I think I should point out the part about the third year of junior high school, where a 15-year-old is considered a third year student. With that train of thought, a 14-year-old third year student is more like a second-year student. So to summarize, “a 13-year-old in her second year until a14-year-old in her third year are both considered to be second-year students”.

By affirming what Mr. Ishimaru had said, I couldn’t really make a comeback. Idol otaku with a strong opinion will even bend the Japanese language itself if it comes down to it. Being liberated from words would be another way to put it, I suppose. Once you break your worldly bonds, you then enter the realm of the Gods.

Cover photo
Model : 美由 (Miyu)

Translated by Jamie Koide

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Author
Shinshi Okajima
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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