The Great Shift in Japanese Pop Culture - Part Four

Last time we saw that the tastes of upper and middle-class “mainstream” consumers dominated Japanese pop culture from the post-war to the end of the 1990s. This time we will explore the most important cultural change of the last decade: the greater proportional power for marginal subcultures. Mainstream consumers, for the economic and demographic reasons given in Part One and Part Two, have ceased to consume with the same force as before and thus have lost their “voting power” within pop culture.

Part Four: The Rise of Marginal Subcultures

The drop in cultural markets has been almost perfectly pegged to the decline in incomes. Middle class consumers are buying less, and when they buy, now go for cheaper or risk-free products. Within this environment, we could expect marginal subcultures to also have curbed consumption. Yet they did not! And their steady buying into their own cultural niches has made huge changes in the tenor of Japanese pop culture.

Yankii and otaku: Consumption as pathology

The yankii and otaku have never traditionally been blessed with high incomes nor high future earning potential, and in pure homo economicus terms, should be cutting back even more than middle-class consumers. We must understand, however, that for the otaku, yankii, and gyaru, shopping is not merely a form of leisure nor has it even been an attempt to buy into a larger society-wide consumerist message. These groups use consumerism as a therapeutic solution to their psychological and social problems.

The otaku spend their time as avaricious collectors of goods and trading information with other otaku. In shunning away from mainstream standards of sociability, sexuality, and career success, the act of maniacal consumption becomes their raison d’être. They cannot relate with other people if not commenting upon these cultural goods. Culture — most of which must be purchased and enjoyed as object (even when it is just physical media holding content) — is the great satisfier of their deepest desires.

The gyaru, in comparison, put a high premium on social networks and romance. Yet there is a certain pain at the heart of gyaru culture. In his book Keitai Shosetsu-teki (“Cell Phone Novel-esque”), author Hayamizu Kenrou calls the basic aesthetic mode of gyaru literature — cell phone novels, Hamasaki Ayumi lyrics — “trauma-kei” due to its emphasis on overcoming personal tragedy. When I interviewed Nakajo Hisako, the editor-in-chief of Koakuma Ageha, in 2009 I asked, “Why do gyaru spend so much time on their clothing, hair, and makeup?” She answered, “Because we are not cute. If we were cute, we would just wear a white T-shirt. We have to work hard to look good.” There is an obvious logic to this: The gyaru’s transformation into golden curly hair and heavily painted faces is an escape from their normal selves.

Like Nakajo suggests, gyaru culture looks as it does precisely because they are not “blessed” girls (Nakajo’s words). And this means gyaru must spend on clothing, hair treatments, and makeup in order to achieve the desired self-image. Beyond this desire to look like someone else (and basically like everyone else in their peer group), there is also the social demand to show allegiance to a wider gyaru subculture by donning its uniform. To be a gyaru means dressing like a gyaru — no exceptions.

Marginal groups’ up their voting power in the consumer vacuum

The end result is that the otaku and yankii have an almost inelastic demand for their favorite goods. They must consume, no matter the economic or personal financial situation. They may move to cheaper goods, but they will always be buying something. Otherwise they lose their identity. While normal consumers curb consumption in the light of falling wages, the marginal otaku and yankii keep buying. And that means the markets built around these subcultures are relatively stable in size.

So as the total market shrinks, the marginal groups — in their stability — are no longer minor segments but now form a respectable plurality in the market. In other words, if otaku or yankii all throw their support through a specific cultural item, that item will end up being the most supported within the wider market.

The clearest example of this is AKB48. With the letters AKB in their name, this group of girls was unequivocally marketed towards older males based in the Akihabara otaku culture. Compared to past mass market groups such as Speed, the girls are intentionally chosen and styled to look like elementary schoolgirls and lyrically address older men with direct sexual references. (See the “cat-eared brothel” video for “Heavy Rotation” and the unambiguous “love knows no age” lyrics for “Seifuku ga jama wo suru.”)

The mass idol group regularly has an “election” (sousenkyo) where fans try to vote their favorite girl to Number One. Buying certain AKB48 CD singles gives the fan a vote in the AKB48 election, which thus incentivizes otaku to buy multiple copies of the CD to increase their “political” power. The CD is thus no longer a means of listening to music but a way to influence the future of AKB48. This has created a legion of fans who buy dozens and hundreds of the same AKB48 CD or even 5500 copies. There are now doubts about that story’s authenticity but it basically was an exaggeration of an existing principle. Regardless, the marketing strategy of AKB48 does encourage the purchase of multiple goods, thus amplifying the buying power of nerds beyond their small numbers. This means as a consumer bloc, the AKB48 otaku fans can rival the non-otaku consumer base.

This otaku bloc strength, as well as other niche’s dedicated buying, can be seen through the music charts. In 2010 only three artists made the Oricon best-selling singles market — AKB48 and a Johnny’s Jimusho group Arashi. (At this stage, you can almost argue that music fans of Johnny’s groups are themselves a conspicuous cult rather than a mass market phenomenon.) Only two artists taking the entire singles market is unprecedented in Japanese musical history. In the previous decade, the average number of artists in the top ten was 8.2. The best explanation is that mainstream consumers stopped buying music, even single song downloads, so the favorite acts of marginal subcultures now appear to be the most popular.

Otaku and gyaru: winners by default

This principle demonstrates how AKB48 became an unlikely “mainstream” phenomenon. Despite AKB48 being so clearly marketed towards a niche audience, their success in a declining market has made them perceived to be the most popular in the entire market. Therefore 2010 and 2011 saw AKB48, with backing from advertising monolith Dentsu, doing advertisements for mainstream brands and chains such as 7/11. (Lawson’s has now countered with a nerd-drooling K-On! campaign.) With no major competition from more mainstream-oriented idols and groups, they became the obvious spokespeople and magazine cover girls — thus amplifying their fame more.

In the case of gyaru, there are larger numbers of gyaru than otaku, meaning that the gyaru can just consume their standard number of items and still dominate the market. Before I mentioned that the extremely “normal girl” fashion magazine non•no once sold close to a million copies per issue in 1996 at the peak of the publishing market, which was once far above the 310,000 copies for hardcore yankii/gyaru magazine Popteen at the same time. Around 2009, however, non•no dropped to a mere 180,000 copies a month while Popteen was still hovering around 310,000. Gyaru are still consuming fashion, and therefore need fashion guides to tell them how to do so. “Normal” girls have generally lost interest in clothing and do not need fashion guides as much. So in this collapse of the mass market, a magazine representing a marginal taste has become one of the best-selling.

With the yankii and otaku culture being so proportionally conspicuous in the market and mainstream and avant-garde styles being so minor and invisible, the once marginal looks have a greater legitimacy for less engaged consumers who mostly just desire socially-acceptable styles. As a result, gyaru and yankii fashion have had a strong moment over the last five years, leading to large-scale booms in things once unfathomable such as “hostess fashion.” University students at elite schools like Keio are likely to have hairstyles reminiscent of yankii hosts. Films and books with obvious yankii narratives, such as Rookies and cell phone novel Koizora, became huge national hits in 2009. Gyaru singer Nishino Kana is one of the few well-selling artists on Sony (formerly known for alternative musicians Supercar, Puffy, and Denki Groove). And even former “arty” magazines like CUTiE have moved towards the gyaru style, and the fiercely indie girl mag Zipper put gyaru icon Tsubasa Masuwaka on the cover. There is no popular female style that does not see a little influence from the yankii side of gyaru culture.

Not truly “the most popular”

While otaku and yankii cultures are enjoying a new cultural influence in their deep commitment to consumption, we should not forget that these groups do not make up any kind of actual societal consensus. The masses may be consuming parts of their culture, but these groups are at best pluralities rather than majorities — dominant in the market but nowhere near 50% of tastes.

For example, if you look at the sales numbers for the #1 single of 2010 — “Beginner” by AKB48 at 954,283 copies — this would not have been enough copies to make the top ten from the years 1991 to 2000, when the wider public bought CDs in droves. In 2001, it would have ranked in at #10 — a successful hit for a niche, but not the symbol of J-Pop for the era. The population of Japan in the last ten years has not dropped enough to make this smaller number of sales proportionally relevant — just less people are purchasing music.

AKB48’s narrow popularity becomes very clear when the group appears on television — a medium that continues to have a mass audience (although disproportionally elderly viewers.) Maeda Atsuko had been repeatedly voted the #1 member of AKB48, and yet her recent drama Hanazakari no Kimitachi e (Ikemen Paradise)saw extremely low ratings (episodes around 6%). AKB48 variety show “Naruhodo High School” has drawna dismal 4.5%.

AKB48 have also been extremely popular on YouTube, which skews towards a tech-savvy male audience in Japan. And yet a song like “Heavy Rotation”— at over 50 million views — has nearly one-third “thumbs down” votes. This is an extremely high amount level of dislikes compared to other music videos on the site.

So AKB48 are the most conspicuous music group in Japan at the moment with the highest record sales and highest number of appearances, but they should necessarily be considered a “mass” phenomenon with widespread fans across multiple segments. The group has captured the strongest plurality in the market, and companies have mobilized around them in desperation. If Dentsu could sponsor a different hit idol group with an even broader fan base, they would. But ironically, no one other than AKB48 or Johnny’s Jimusho groups have the sales or market legitimacy to work in the context of mass market advertising. Marginal groups are now feeding and over-influencing the remnants of the mass market just as counter-consumer once did.

Next time, we look at whether marginal subcultures can produce goods that are easily exportable.

W. David MARX
December 1, 2011

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

76 Responses

  1. Arbitrary_greay Says:

    I’m not sure why you demand a female-targetted product, (or still exclude karaoke, for that matter) because only a specific subset of females buy female-targetted products.
    Could you find proof that any current celebrity has that kind of traction? KyaryKyaryPamyu maybe? I do know AKB48 have been chosen for many, many cosmetic product CMs before, but I wouldn’t know how to find sales numbers for them. Oh, and this. Maybe it was otaku voting her up, but there’s no proof for or against that, and like I said above, there’s no proof for any other celebrities doing “female targetted products” any more than AKB48, which throws the entire argument up in the air.
    Plus, my Britney Spears argument wasn’t pertaining to magazines or internet or anything, but just pointing out that sales don’t pertain to popularity.(Which the OP says as well, although as support for another argument) Nobody’s buying anything, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t casual fans. If females were buying those magazines, you’d probably just say they were female otaku because clearly only otaku buy things anyways.

    Its amazing that you are defending something that doesn’t even surprise 2ch.
    I don’t understand this. Could you please explain?

    Using “Heavy Rotation” only as a point of comparison is skewing the results. Of course more males are watching Heavy Rotation due to its content.
    Other AKB48 videos from their channel with a Female demographic listed in their “most popular with:”
    Ue Wa Mariko (and that’s not even the full PV, just a 30-second clip)
    Kaze Wa Fuiteru
    Noel Wa Yuru (another 30-second clip)
    Flying Get
    Kimi no Senaka (a 30-second clip for a B-side)
    Dakishimechaikenai (another B-side)
    Everyday, Kachuusha (hey, this one was a bikini-fest, too)
    Chance No Junban
    Sakura no Ki ni Narou
    Namida Surprise

    etc, etc, basically every video but Heavy Rotation and Ponytail to Shushu, the two PVs that were explicitly male-pandering. The rest all have some measure of female traction, even if with the tween market. And that’s to be expected of any idol. I bet Britney Spears would have had the same kinds of numbers back in the day, because it simply would not have been considered cool for older girls to admit to liking her. Let me check something…yep, Lady Gaga’s Telephone and Bad Romance have the same kind of demographics listed. See, I can pick and choose my sources too.

    I will admit that they don’t have much appeal outside of Japan, but doesn’t that actually prove that that Female demographic listed on the above videos are in Japan and can’t be hand-waved as international fans?

  2. W. David MARX Says:

    Heavy Rotation and Ponytail to Shushu — the two that are exclusively male-pandering, as you say — are the most popular on YouTube by a mile.

    Also the number one demographic for Bad Romance is young Females.

  3. M-Bone Says:

    Why are we demanding evidence of a female fan base for AKB48? Female idol groups from Candies and Pink Lady to Speed and Morning Musume all topped the pops thanks to strong support from the young female market. This is also true of female solo artists, right up to Utada Hikaru and even Koda Kumi. If that demographic does not go for AKB48 and they still are a top seller based on a nerdy male audience, this is a huge change in Japanese popular culture (which Marxy has deftly identified) and it does not bode well for the future of Japanese pop music, which seems to risk becoming an adjunct to otaku culture.

    This can be coupled with the presentation of “AKB48 and female fans” online in Japanese. I’ve been curious about this issue myself and googled several different search terms (AKB48, josei fan, etc.) and the results are always the same. There are some articles which have a “surprised” tone that AKB48 has female fans at all. On top of this, there are some hilarious TV presentations. I saw a clip talking about the “surprising” number of female fans at a handshake event. As they were interviewing one, however, the background was a dozen guys with glasses, hooded sweatshirts, and backpacks and one old bald dude in his 60s.

    In short, the history of J-pop is a strong young female fanbase for top female artists or groups and the conventional wisdom in Japanese discourse now is that female AKB48 fans are different enough to be newsworthy.

    As an addendum, Japanese surveys (Video Research) are now reporting that not a single AKB48 member places in the top 50 female entertainment personalities (a list topped by Becky, the survey includes respondents 10 and older). This is currently being presented on the J-web as evidence that AKB48 are entirely niche.

    If you are going to upend the history of J-pop (rooted in support for top female idols by audiences of both genders) and current Japanese understandings of how AKB48 fits, you are going to need some damn good evidence.

  4. Arbitrary_greay Says:

    Heavy Rotation and Ponytail to Shushu — the two that are exclusively male-pandering, as you say — are the most popular on YouTube by a mile.
    This is true. But the original claim by zoltan was “AKB48 at least has no pull among the teenage female crowd,” and “Safe to say that AKB has no traction with females in Japan.” I agree with the fact that their primary target is still male otaku, but I’m defending Cag’s statement that “I think saying that all of Japan is “tolerating” them and only otaku like them is a little far fetched.”

    M-bone: I’m not sure if you’re saying AKB48 does or doesn’t have female fans?

  5. M-Bone Says:

    Point by point:

    All other famous female groups in Japanese history have been successful because of young female fans.

    Same with solo artists like Utada Hikaru.

    This does not seem to be the case with AKB48.

    If you search “AKB48, female fans” in Japanese, you find articles that express surprise that they have female fans. This suggests that most Japanese assume that their popular is because of male (otaku) fans.

    Japanese TV manufactures trends. In clips talking about AKB48s female fans, there is nothing but nerds and old guys in the background. Nobody has presented any trend data that proves that AKB48 have significant numbers of female fans.

    Video Research Japanese survey says no AKB48 members voted in top 50 female entertainment personalities. This suggests that they have a relatively modest core niche fan base with few mainstream female supporters. They are not mainstream, and few women seem to support them.

    Hence the conventional wisdom is that they don’t have significant numbers of female fans.

    If you want to go against the conventional wisdom on the Japanese internet and the dismal showing for AKB48 in the Video Research poll, please present evidence of significant female fan engagement with the group.

  6. zoltan Says:

    I’m gonna do this one last time.

    I bring up 2ch becoz they were surprised that AKB does have female fans but 2ch KNOWS that they hold keys to the kingdom.
    Google this -> hato 2ch net / akb / and read the threads.

    You bring up western artist because that’s clearly all you know. Why no comparison to Morning Musume or Seiko Matsuda or even Anna Tsuchiya or Aya Ueto? As you said, AKB has limited appeal outside of Japan, so compare with artist in Japan.

    Namie Amuro and Seiko Matsuda are a good example. Namie for being the initial inspiration (gyaru) and Seiko Matsuda for introducing burikko. SMAP initiated the 3rd boom of Para Para purely from demonstrating it on their TV show. These were truly mainstream stars who were a social phenomenon in Japan. And all these people sold a lot of singles/albums.

    Now you have AKB who sells the most, has the most appearances, and has the biggest web presence and yet not a social phenomenon by the prior standards. As the article pointed out, the population didn’t decline that much so majority of Japan just doesn’t care about AKB. So its a niche crowd. Supported by a very tech savvy male oriented crowd but still a niche.

  7. zoltan Says:

    Oh yea,

    Marx, that lecture at Tokyo Uni ?
    Any written transcripts or audio?
    I would love to hear what JG had to say.

    And was Patrick Gilbraith there? Man disappear from the net for some time.

  8. W. David MARX Says:

    I have the audio. I need to process it, but thinking about uploading.

    P. Galbraith not in Japan at the moment.

  9. M-Bone Says:

    Galbraith is wisely focusing more on academic publishing now. I imagine that it is also time for him to pull finger on his thesis – a reality that also claimed Tobias Harris, possibly by the word the most prolific Japan blogger of all time while he lasted.

  10. W. David MARX Says:

    Still a sad irony that joining the academic world means sharing less information with those interested in your research.

  11. M-Bone Says:

    Something to be said for waiting until it is really polished before one shares it, however. A hundred thousand word book is a lot of blog posts, and some things are better thought about for years before publication (this five parter seems like it has been stewing for years, no?).

    You strike a good balance, but looking back on it, what exactly is a Harris post on a second tier Fukuda Cabinet minister making a gaff worth right now? I’m far more interested in seeing him organize his best information about the DPJ into a clear argument with enough time behind it to add perspective.

    Being an academic also means teaching something like 200 students a year. That’s quite intimate compared to blogging.

    I agree with the basic sentiment, however. Academic journals behind corporate paywalls is BS. For my little part I’m working with a web journal and an open article depository. I also want to start doing English translations of everything I publish in academlish.

  12. Arbitrary_greay Says:

    Huh, looks I should have done some more searches before embarking on my comparison arguments.

    Helpful fanbase piechart as seen here
    2010 piechart as seen here
    Females at AKB48 handshake event
    AKB48 mostly popular with teen crowd
    Last year AKB48 was ONLY popular with the teen crowd
    AKB48 in female-targetted product campaign that really didn’t need to include them
    If they’re beating Ueto Aya I bet not all of those companies are male-targetted
    Latest drama featuring AKB48 member doing okay. Most people agree that HanaKimi and Q10’s writing and production were atrocious, which contributed to their tanking ratings.

    Just curious, but do you also think that Johnny’s groups aren’t truly popular, since their sales and support derive primarily from fangirls? Not including SMAP, of course, but AKB48 is beating out even Arashi at this point. Given that apparently today’s men in Japan are all passive,(one of the apparent reasons for the women preferring Kpop) how is AKB48 motivating them to where they can even beat out the hordes of boyband fangirls that have led to Johnny’s traditionally dominating Jpop?

    My karaoke argument still hasn’t been answered. Also, it’s been pointed out that many of the artists that appear to have decreased sales, like Koda Kumi, actually have comparable sales to that of yesteryear’s when you look at digital downloads. Guess who still does strong in downloads.

    Why no comparison to Morning Musume or Seiko Matsuda or even Anna Tsuchiya or Aya Ueto?
    I made a Morning Musume comparison a while back, and it got struck down because apparently they aren’t similar enough. In that case, the only comparable group in terms of an explicitly otaku-targetting group that became popular would be Onyanko Club, which was too short-lived to compare either. I made Western artist comparisons to show how our own preconceptions of idol vs. artist change how we view the same situations. At least the Britney Spears comparison still applies, because at that time she was definitely an idol, and America had gone through an idol movement.

  13. W. David MARX Says:

    the only comparable group in terms of an explicitly otaku-targetting group that became popular would be Onyanko Club

    They weren’t otaku targeted at all! Their male fans were more of the yankii tip if anything.

  14. M-Bone Says:

    They don’t publish the methodology of those pie charts and I’m calling BS.

    BEHOLD – there are as many male Kat-Tun fans between 35 and 64 as there are female fans in the same age group!

    My suspicion is that they divide the poll respondents between different age groups and equally between the genders, allowing respondents to tick as many as they “like” or perhaps “know” or ” think is famous”.

    Honestly, that there are as many male Kat-tun fans between 35-64 as there are AKB48 male fans between 35 and 49 by proportion shows that the polls are typical arbitrary Japanese TV stuff with no transparency and that they are worthless for fan base analysis unless you want to argue that about 1/7 of Kat-Tun CDs and concert tickets go to a bunch of oyaji.

    Evidence should come from a third party that is not devoted to promoting the group on TV and publishes its methodology and so far, all we have is the Video Research poll where they struck out big time.

    The CM data is an indication of how well Dentsu has been promoting them, not a diverse fan base. Edo Harumi was the TV CM champ for her 20 minutes of fame, now she’s vanished from the face of the earth. Promotion companies and advertising companies force “talent” on advertisers all the time.

  15. Arbitrary_greay Says:

    Akimoto also wrote lyrics for Onyanko Club,(and married one of them) both Morning Musume and AKB48 took their rotating lineup and subgroups concept, and the rotating lineup thing being one of the main things that made MM into an idol group rather than the SPEED-like singing group they were originally, and Onyanko Club had a sexual seifuku song as well… Their name means “Kitten Club”, and their TV show was called Yuyake Nyan Nyan (means “sunset meow meow”), and that doesn’t sound like a yankii-appealing group to me.

    I’ll conceded that the pie charts may be BS. However, the OriStar survey is still valid, and it shows that AKB48 has traction with the teen crowd. The 2011 survey doesn’t have a gender breakdown, but AKB48 don’t show up in the otaku age range where Arashi does has to mean something.

    I threw in the CM data because zoltan said “Show me that AKB48 has traction with females via products targeted to females.” I don’t know where I can find sales data compared to, say, Namie and Vidal Sassoon, though. Any suggestions?

  16. Aceface Says:

    More than 60 comments so far and no sign of Momus weighing in….
    Times changed.

  17. Anymouse Says:

    He’s too knowledgeable about Japan. He’s too cool for these people.

    Because he doesn’t know Japanese.

  18. W. David MARX Says:

    Here’s my take on Onyanko back in 2005:

    The model was very much Morning Musume’s predecesor, but I’m telling you, the audience wasn’t otaku. It was average guys, and then weirdly later, yankii. In Yankii Shinkaron, Namba Koji talks about this specifically.

    The other thing we should remember is that the entire concept of an “idol” has changed. They used to be demure cute girls, scouted from the streets, made for a mass audience (Matsuda Seiko, etc.). Now they represent an intentionally average-looking set of women meant for otaku consumption (AKB48, Perfume, Momokuro, all the 2nd, 3rd rate idol groups focused around Akihabara). There’s probably an entire book somewhere about this change, and Onyanko was a big part of the evolution (at least the, let’s collect average looking girls together instead of aiming for traditional beauty), but you can’t go back and make Onyanko some specifically otaku-thing.

  19. Arbitrary_greay Says:

    Do you have a link to “Yankii Shinkaron?” I couldn’t find it searching Google for “Yankii Shinkaron,” “Namba Koji,” or a combination. I did find this, but I can’t access the actual posts. Do I need to be searching in kana/kanji?

    Wow, this brings all sorts of new meaning to AKB48 member Kojima Haruna’s nicknames by her own fellow members: Harunyan and just straight-up Nyan-nyan. That’s hilarious.

    I guess the closest MM came to sexual content was first proper single “Morning Coffee?”

    I know that Akimoto wrote songs for a wide variety of people, including some Johnny’s and Misora Hibari’s “Kawa no Nagare no Yō ni.” Has he only written explicitly sexual songs for the girlgroups, or are my suspicions that the man is responsible for the way Jpop developed completely off?

    Off-topic: AKB48’s “Dear My Teacher” is, amazingly, less explicit “Stop it, Teacher.” Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” might actually be that kind of joke-y song that Momus mentioned, but then again, it doesn’t have those “must seduce because girls are stupid” implications.

    Do you really consider Perfume still idols and not mainstream? From what I’ve read, people seem to consider them more like performing artists as opposed to conventional idols like AKB48 and MM, and their fans shill them as “real” artists, but they could all also be otaku trying to up the credibility of their group, so. I don’t know how accurate the translation here is, but it looks like AKB48 girls consider Perfume at the very least to be “like a savvy artist while accompanying the enthusiasts,” a very apt description for Kpop groups as well.

    So the fact that AKB48 is all but copying Onyanko’s style, but that the audience then and audience now have changed from yankii to otaku, is a great example of what you said about how otaku culture itself has changed.

  20. Arbitrary_greay Says:

    I did find this
    My bad, the link was to a search page of old Neomarxisme posts. I found the actual posts using the search bar here. But still no results for “Shinkaron.” Would I find it amongst the posts under a “Yankii” search here?

  21. W. David MARX Says:

    ヤンキー進化論 by 難波功士

  22. Kyary Says:

    Your argument is kind of ridiculous though. If AKB were only supported by the otaku why did they ever sell 20K copies of a single? Did they just manage to find MORE otaku so that they could miraculously sell over a million in a time when nobody else in Japan does?

    How about the other otaku catering groups, like Morning musume. Why aren’t they selling a million if the trick is just to sell to the otakus? What are they doing wrong then? Was it the same thing AKB did wrong for the first 3 or so years of their existence before they found a secret gold mine of 10 otakus buying thousands of copies of their singles so that they would reach a million copies?

    It just makes no sense. Call it what you want, denying that AKB was originally meant for otakus would be naive, but being stubborn and saying that it still works that way is reaching. Otakus are being disgusted by the way their management is ignoring them in order not to alienate their mainstream fanbase.

    Also, look at the Shiseido, Peach John’s and a lot more of cosmetics, do you think those are aimed at otakus? Or do you think that they are secretly aimed at otakus but then they appear on TV with a clearly different target audience just to fool all of us into thinking they aren’t meant for otakus?

    I just don’t understand how can you be so stubborn…

  23. Meh Says:

    Never disagreed with your point about AKB48, just that SNSD appeals to a different market.



    They all do it to appeal to men, which shouldn’t surprise anybody. Just think you’re seeing what you want to see in some attempt to marginalize J-pop and prop up K-pop when they are two cogs in the exact same pop machine.


  24. Meh Says:

    Fail to see why zoltan makes the point that SNSD is more popular than AKB48 worldwide. How is that a shock or an indication of mainstream reach in Japan outside of the male demographic, which was the topic of conversation?

    The Korean government backs K-pop and uses it as a tool to spread their culture around the world. They admit as much and are doing everything possible to spread it as far as possible. It should be popular and despite their attempts to prop it up as some gigantic phenomenon, it’s a niche interest. I can see it being the Korean version of Japanese Anime. If you look at the international demographics behind it, the similarities are eerie.

    Japan and their backward companies are doing the opposite, basically making it impossible for anybody overseas to access their content without paying for it. Basically banning everything on YouTube, Dailymotion, etc that aren’t teasers.

    Personally, I prefer K-pop because it’s Westernized and simply because it’s a pain to access J-pop easily. If I want to write or link to a K-pop performance, it’s simple. If I want to write or link to a J-pop performance, I either have to dig for it through pages or upload it myself. Forget that.

  25. Meh Says:

    I’m unsure which is more disturbing: people blindly defending AKB48 as if no perverted men like it, people saying K-pop is some superior form of goddamn pop music, or the usage of these stupid Japanese polls as objective evidence.

  26. lol Says:

    i think it’s funny that you say AKB only target men when most of their fanbase now is teens and people in their 20s. they have pervy men like most of the other girl group but still, they’re mainstream now.

    and Heavy rotation wasn’t a “cat brothel.” Don’t you know it’s normal for japanese girls to kiss and take bath together? they have bath house, it’s just different cultures. Not to mention the video was more popular among girls than men in Japan too. Obviously men will like it but you can’t ignore that they actually have alot of female fangirls because of that song.

    Also Acchan Hana Drama did bad but Yuko drama did really well, around 15% rating. so it’s just based on the drama. most people hated that drama isn’t because of acchan, but it’s because of the “futsumen” or regular looking guys in the supposedly “ikemen drama”

    and anyway every decade, trend change.
    and people that think kpop is so big is delusional. so many views but they can’t sell over 300k until they go to japan?