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!