Under Construction: The Differences Between Underground and Mainstream Idols
Suppose that I lived outside of Japan and could only see idols in person a few times each year, I think I would be more likely to follow famous idols like Momoiro Clover Z and AKB48. The reason is that it is easy to keep up with their latest news. The more famous idols become, the more they appear in media like television or movies. Big-name idols also release DVDs and Blu-rays of their live performances on a more regular basis. Even though the development of Internet narrows the gap between the concert site and the screen of PC, there still exists an absolute barrier. The DVD and BDs certainly helps their fans to enjoy the concert at home.
I mentioned the superiority of following famous idols overseas, but I would also like to strongly recommend such people to turn their eyes on underground idols as well. The word “underground idol”, 地下アイドル (Chika Idol) in Japanese, comes from the contrast of the place idols have concerts at. While minor idols mainly perform at small underground venues, major idols are capable of having a concert at a huge event hall like Budokan.
Recently, the meaning of the word “underground idol” has been changing. Regardless of the size of concert venue, famous idols like AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z are called “overground” or mainstream idols. On the other hand, lesser known idols like POP and Moso Calibration are referred to as underground. Those who made their major label debut are sometimes called overground idol but, in my opinion, a major debut has become more of a checkpoint in a career and it actually has less significance than it used to. I would like to add that the difference underground idols and overground ones depends on the degree of the performance’s perfection.
Underground idols are relatively inferior to those famous idols in the level of performance. The reputation is no doubt important to be overground idols but I consider such proficiency to be serious. Compared to overground ones whose performance is near to perfection, undertground idols have still much space to develop their performance. Idol otaku enjoys their process of evolution. Think that if your oshi does better performance than before, you would be happy, right? You can feel the emotion as you got to underground idols’ concert.
German sculptor Joseph Beuys, often claimed that an incompletion is the beauty of a work. His sculptures are mainly composed of poor-looking waste-like materials and they were not sure to be completed. He did not mean to make them as a work but they were a product of chance in the process of creating high dimension. The incompletion itself is not beautiful but the process is where the value lies.
On February 10, 2016, BELLRING Girls Heart had a concert with Japanese female singer and actress, Jun Togawa. After watching their rehearsal, she told that she remarked that she did not want to see them perform better. She explained that this was because girls were imperfect and if girls become perfect, they are have already become women. She also finds the importance in the process of evolution and progression.
Otome Shinto also can be said to be an idol group that is incomplete. They refer themselves to the second team but, they may become the first team someday. It can be assumed that they think the first team is perfect and the second team is imperfect so Otome Shinto still has much more room to grow.Also, the “Otome” in their name can be translated as “girl”, adding to feeling of incompleteness surrounding the group.
One of the reasons we support idols is that we often live vicariously through them. Many idol otaku were once young and full of dreams and hopes dreams and hopes that idol still have. However, as otaku realized that dreams rarely come true as they grew up and finally forgot even about the existence of them, idols help bring back some of those memories. As an adult who passed adolescence, what we can do is to help them to realize their dreams. Imperfect girls have many chances to realize their dreams but women who have “grown up” and become adults have put them aside. That is one of the reasons that otaku are so passionate about idols: watching the process is often more exciting than the end result.
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