Never Think Impossible

Fantasia Film Review: Tokyo Idols

The japanese word otaku is used in the western world to denote someone who has an obsession so overwhelming it takes over all aspects of life. It’s often said in connection with anime, video games and manga. However, back in Japan it most often denotes someone who is so obsessed that they will not leave their home, mostly with a negative connotation. In other words, someone so far removed from society that it’s unhealthy and probably even mentally unstable. The word has slowly transition to a positive description as time goes by, but it can still be used as pejorative.

Enter the world of the idols in Tokyo, Japan. They’re young stars that sing and dance to pop music, first starting in label-manufactured groups and sometimes transitioning into solo careers that are short-lived. As stated by one of them, Rio, an idol has a best-by-date invisible label attached to their name.

You might think of them the way that you see all the young Disney starlets in their starting years, but the surprise is when you turn around the camera and take a look at their very enthusiastic and involved audience. The audience is color-coordinated and even coming up with a similar set of movements than their star. They’re also rather older, in their middle-age years and primarily male.

Director Kyoko Miyake gives us an open and non-judgemental documentary that takes a look at the phenomenon of the very young Japanese idols and the fervent and much older otaku followers. The result is a rather human, even compassionate view inside their world. It’s a symbiotic fandom in which the idol gives the time and the attention and the followers their passion, their lives and yes, a lot of their expenses.

But there is also the notion of the disconnect between traditional genres. The men are no longer socially engaging women their own age. They are embracing, even worshipping, the idea of the female sexuality being fragile and innocent in its teenage state. Idolizing has a sexist component in which girls are objects of worship but objects all the same. Grown-up women don’t seem to exist in this world. That being said, there doesn’t seem to exist an element of malice in the view the otaku have over their idols. It doesn’t seem like a healthy dynamic in a mental or social capacity either in the long run.

Recommended for non-judgemental viewers. The culture of the otaku is probably the most complicated to understand. Is there a limit here? A warning flag that should be issued for all parties involved? Or is just a sign of the times in which the very lonely idolize the talent of the young? You will either feel that getting exposed to this culture is either too much or too little. What happens after the idol becomes of age is never explored. Perhaps a subject to be considered for another documentary.

That will do for now.