I could be boring and give a very succinct answer. That would not make for an interesting post so as I do, let’s do a long-winded back story version.
For clarity, I do want to put some definitions so we’re all on the same page by what I mean when I’m talking about idols i.e. real life people, and then idol anime. So when I am referring to an idol, I am referring to this definition from Wikipedia:
“An idol (アイドル, aidoru) is a type of entertainer marketed for image, attractiveness, and personality in Japanese pop culture. Idols are primarily singers with training in acting, dancing, and modeling. Idols are commercialized through merchandise and endorsements by talent agencies, while maintaining a parasocial relationship with a financially loyal consumer fan base.” (From Japanese idol Wikipedia page).
When I am referring to an idol anime I am referring to this working definition from Honey’s Anime:
“Idol anime… Rather, what it is about is the passions, dreams, and singing of cute girls, for the most part, and lots of catchy songs that are meant to get stuck in our heads and eventually lead us to our wallets to purchase one in every color and version. … Full of cuteness, fanservice, and concepts that almost seem foreign in modern day society such as kindness, working hard, and friendship”. (From Honey’s Anime What are Idol Anime post)
With those definitions in mind, let’s briefly as I can manage, talk about my experiences with idols and idol anime to see why I’m not a 2D idol fan too.
I won’t lie that for a solid couple of years I was a Kpop fan. This period coinciding with my love of anime and manga and it was bad. Like picture the weirdest walking stereotype of a teenage girl Kpop fan in the early 2010’s and I probably was that in high school. My parasocial relationships with various groups, their individual members was not healthy to say the least. It was to a point where a good number of my non-Kpop friends threatened to cut me out of the group if I didn’t back off a bit when I was talking with them. I won’t get too deep into it, but I had a lot to unlearn from being in a rather toxic space so young.
I eventually grew out of most of it, and I reshaped my relationship to idol culture in general to be a more healthy and positive experience. I stopped giving all my free time to idols. I liked their music and would spring for an album when and where I could. I had a favorite member or two, but I didn’t know their entire life story. I went to concerts when I could (and can), but I’m not ditching work or school to go. It’s the little things I changed and I try to keep it moving. I mean, it also helped I transplanted myself into the world of Japanese idols. Sort of.
The majority of the groups I like the most are part of LDH Entertainment. They function more or less by the same above definition of idol, have their CD’s/DVD’s in the same departments as the Johnny’s and 46’s/48’s but don’t take the label of idol. Their fanbase is pretty vehement that they are not idols. Now’s not the time to go further into that so, keeping it moving I’m super into those groups, male and female artists, and also Johnny’s group Snow Man nowadays.
Which overall is really weird because growing up, even in high school I knew more people interested in 2D idols then real ones. Granted in high school I knew of the kids that liked 2D idols but I couldn’t tell you the titles to save my life. I remember the can badges that probably cost more to ship then their original retail price that adorned their bags. A side note I might be conflating idol anime with Vocaloid which was also getting popular at the time, but I truly don’t remember.
In college, I knew and was very good friends with many 2D idol fans. There were several fans of Uta no Prince-Sama in my friend circle. More then once they hosted watch parties, complete with karaoke sessions of the titles songs for themselves. The emerging fandom for Love Live! was there too. Even moving to Japan one of my co-workers was a dedicated Tsukipro fan. They had merch, fanclub membership, and even attended their stage plays with the real life actors.
Knowing that so many friends and acquaintances, who could care less about real life idols, were all super into one animated group or another – I had to give it a shot. I felt like I was missing out on a final piece of idol culture. And certainly the communities around 2D idols couldn’t be that different from my real people ones. Thus I began my quest for a 2D oshi, and 2D group by default to stan…
In 2016 – I started with B-Project: Koudou Ambitious. More or less because that was the hyped up boy idol anime of the season. It was fine, I didn’t really get invested aside from Goushi. I needed an oshi after all.
In 2018 – I went to Anime Matsuri and met some of the real people actors for B-Project, saw them perform live, and still didn’t get into it. I met tons of fans too who were super sweet, but didn’t vibe with them.
Also in 2018 – I began to watch Idolish7. Again, didn’t really get invested aside from Riku being my favorite character design, and Tamaki’s storyline being fascinating. Made a note that I would not be watching any follow-up seasons.
In 2019 – B-Project: Zecchou Emotion aired, I watched, and honestly I couldn’t tell you what happened to save my life. I think Goushi wore cat ears against his will, but don’t quote me.
In 2020 it occurred to me that maybe boy idols aren’t my thing so I tried the first female idol anime I saw – Oshi ga Budoukan Ittekuretara Shinu. It was a better fit in terms of story, animation, and being memorable. I don’t like admitting this, but I can get very Eripiyo-esque at conventions where my favorite musicians attend. I even selected an oshi, Yumeri, but that didn’t go anywhere either. I genuinely tried too. I listened to ChamJam online, re-watched the dance sequences etc.
It was also during 2020 that I was actively trying to partipate in 2D idol fandom. I made a point to seek out forums, follow hashtags, and more to try and get into it. But a lot of idol anime are related to rhythm or Gacha games which I don’t play. The seiyuus were sweet and cute but after so many attempts to watch interviews of them or read translated materials they all blended together in a swirl of generic “cute seiyuu who voiced a 2D idol” for both guys and girls. Most of the discussions were more based on ships then the music, and the fan art and fiction was much the same.
Not to mention the overwhelming issue of many fans being overprotective of a 2D character. I knew ‘kinning’ a character was a thing. But the amount I saw in forums, and actually learning what that meant is now something I vaguely regret. The culture that cosplayers of these 2D idols were regularly threatened with glomping and other creepy early 2010’s anime culture stuff was disheartening. The amount of ‘I have more merch then you of this idol so I love them more’ was pretty on par with Kpop, but taken to extremes when I realized some of these fans were also in debt doing so. Nothing I hadn’t seen in Kpop or Jpop idol fandom to be clear, but there’s just something so off-putting about having an obsession being over a 2D idol of all things.
At some point I became annoyed, then immune to the amount of “Idol Anime 1, ripped off/copied/plagiarized Idol Anime 0!” arguments I read. Much like sports! anime – there’s only so many routes a series based around idols can take, there will be overlap. There’s not a lot of point arguing this unless it’s super bad like stolen assets, actual plagiarism, etc.
Nonetheless, Winter of 2021 was going to be my last push for 2D idols. I knew aspects of the culture, I just needed one group, one oshi to get me hooked. There were four options Idoly Pride, Gekidol: Actidol Project, Idolls!, and even Aikatsu Planet. However….
As you can guess, that did not happen. I just gave up on the idea of having a 2D idol group to follow because I had enough real life ones to follow. Looking back, I think my problem lies in the fact that I was forcing myself to get into the fandom, rather then being organically introduced to it. I most likely would have had the best shot becoming a 2D idol stan if I had ever taken my Uta no Prince-sama or Tsukipro friends up on their offers to do a watch party with them. Alas, the time has passed and I’m not going to break a sweat over that. Maybe sometime in the future, there will be a 2D idol group I get super into. For now, I’m fairly set with my real life ones.
This is a bit of a long winded fluff piece, but it’s on brand for me. Maybe it’ll be of interest to someone reading. Although I feel like I’m forgetting something…
Oh yeah Visual Prison was a thing that was more idol-y then Visual Kei-y. But I overly documented my journey with the series, so let’s call this post finished. With that I’ll see you next post!
“I remember the can badges that probably cost more to ship then their original retail price”; oooh… that hit a little bit too close to home 😅
For me personally, I was introduced to idol-themed anime at a pretty young age, so I feel like my overall interests/tastes within the culture of idols stemmed from that. But now that I think about it, it certainly has evolved over the years and I’ve started to stray away from the ‘fictional character’ part of the fandom. Being a seiyuu fan, there’s still somewhat of a connection since they’ve taken on a label of ‘2.5-D idols’, but nowadays, I’m much more interested in the actual personalities and real life activities of those voice actresses rather than the stuff they do in all the multimedia idol projects. You’re absolutely right about 2D idol franchises/stories feeling stale or the fanbases making it difficult to enjoy the actual content; I’ve definitely experienced the same, which is probably why I turn to the seiyuu shenanigans most of the time while, sort of, putting the fictional stuff on the backburner.
And an interesting thing about being a fan of those voice actresses is that it has recently introduced me to some non-anime related idol groups. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with any of these but I’ve gotten to like a couple of the Stardust Promotion groups like SHACHI and Batten Girls, as well as a different unit called =LOVE so… I just thought it was funny how 2D idols ended up putting me in the world of 3D ones haha
But yeah, I honestly don’t blame you for not being too interested in 2D idols. With what you mentioned, and the fact that the amount of content can be overwhelming (Love Live/Idolmaster fans like myself somehow manage to remember dozens and dozens of characters), calling all of it ‘idol hell’ is pretty accurate 😛
(nice post! and i apologize for the lengthy comment lol)
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Please never apologize for a lengthy comment! It was so informative and fun to read, so thank you!!
First off, that cal out was also for me too. RIP my wallet in the early days of Kpop fandom before it blew up.
Your story with idol anime and going from 2D to 3D sounds so interesting. In the past when I’ve read your blog I noticed that trend too! Seiyuu’s are such an interesting blend of pop culture, people knowing their voice(s) more then their face, but also those know the reverse. Like they have all the promos they have to do for the fictional character in a group, and double duty on promoting themselves are as real talent on top of it. I can’t quite wrap my head around it but it sounds like it’d make for some great stories.
I’ve actually had quite a few discussions with idol fans about those groups! I had no idea that SHACHI and Batten Girls were considered anime idol groups – just always assumed they were just idols. =LOVE has been on my radar too since I know a few super fans online, and their songs are just so sweet and upbeat! It’s funny that 2D idols got you into 3D, maybe the reverse will happen with me sometime lol.
Okay, but I also genuinely have so much respect for Love Live and Idolmaster fans. I saw a forum post where someone had seen a picture of someone in Idolmaster, and was asking more about her, etc. And the fandom in that forum was so kind with links, explainations, and people willing to help a new (?) fan out. I mean idol hell is pretty real for 3D fans too. I have no idea how some 46/48 fans remember all the current, former and up and coming members…
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Only recently did I buy idol/seiyuu can badges for the first time but even then… the shipping costs *are* pretty crazy lol
I completely agree with your statement about how seiyuu are a vast blend of the overall JP entertainment culture. Compared to 2D idols, IMO they have a lot more ‘content’ for fans to enjoy, for a lack of a better term. Fictional characters are primarily shown within that series or franchise, while voice actresses have a plethora of unique things you can like from them, whether that be their acting roles in other anime/games, SNS accounts, solo music careers, etc. Not knocking those 2D characters and what they bring to fans, but I guess it just comes down to personal preference.
Actually I think only TEAM SHACHI has dipped their toes in the anime world once, when they provided a theme song for a show 😅 But even then, I’d like to see those two groups have their music in some anime; I think they’re worthy of doing an OP/ED for a show or two. And funny enough, I believe a few idols from the =LOVE and ≠ME units are actually voicing some characters in an idol anime that’s currently airing, titled “Shine Post”. So it’ll be interesting to see how well they do as voice actors, since I think this is essentially their ‘debuts’ as seiyuu.
I guess when you put it like that regarding the 3D side of idol hell, that is true haha! I’ve only gotten to know one single AKB48 member out of the however many there have been, so I can’t imagine how diehard fans deal with that 😛
Shipping is getting insane in general. >….< I hope the Seiyuu fans are nice to them… I just want all the different fandoms get along…
Oh same about AKB48 – I loved Yamamoto Sayaka forever in AKB but weirdly stopped following her once she left… but so it goes. The handful diehards I've met… they deal with it in their own unique ways lol.
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I’ve never been able to get I to this 2D idol thing too. They’re just not my spec lol. No disrespect to those who like them though. I can totally understand being a stan of something. About two das ago I saw a pic of one of the characters from Bang Dream (the drummer I think) It was cute and I’m contemplating trying it. Guess we’ll see.
By the way, I’m done with the Nana anime. Really liked it too. It was nice seeing some of my favorite manga panels in colour. Plus the VA’s, both Japanese & English, totally rocked and suited each character. I’m bummed that it’s incomplete though
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I think that’s fair enough. I respect the fandoms and stans (within reason) but I don’t think it’s fully my speed either.
Oh man, I’m glad you finished NANA! I’ll have to figure out when and where I can make time to watch it these days. Especially since it seems I can’t go wrong with either VA options. Also NANA will always leave me with a hole in my heart since it’s still incomplete. I’ll just be re-reading it forever.
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