Anti-Idol: Japan’s Beautifully Bonkers Pop Movement

by birtanpublished on July 2, 2020

you've spent enough time on the internet

to see one or two

babymetal videos and maybe you've seen

that one lady baby video but have you

gone far enough down the Japanese auntie

idle rabbit hole that you're staying

awake at night wondering who put

together an all-female j-pop group where

everyone wears Jason style hockey masks

and they make pro tunc wash metal


in another life I was a music journalist

and there's an old bad joke about

journalists and how they can't one two

trend how you end up with think pieces

of cloud rap and videos about cat bands

and baseball bands and all-female metal

tribute bands so I will be honest

because you can't be honest on the

Internet where can you be

I first heard the email a few years ago

and I definitely thought this is the

sickest ever and most assuredly

exists in a cultural vacuum


then someone showed me this Necronomicon

a pop black metal crossover and I was

definitely like this is impossible and

absolutely alone in this world


and then one night after a couple of

medicinal toots I probably googled

something like horror j-pop just to see

if I could count all the way to trend

and I got so much more than I ever could

have hoped for


babymetal was many a Western hashers

first window into Japanese idol culture

but idol groups trace their lineage well

past me reading about a sick new band on

metal injection right back into the 80s



a NATO Club are frequently credited as

the first idol group in Vega metal

despite all of the double kick action

it's still an idol group and therefore

the structure of these videos lets me

know that it's time for some extremely

cursory I don't want to work Japanese

idols are like highly evolved pop stars

manufactured from an early age by talent

agencies to be as adept at selling soap

as singles male or female these are

squeaky clean role models two core

trained as media personalities as well

as singers and dancers but before on

Janka club they mostly rolled solo like

pioneering seventies idols lonely



the problem with solo idols is they can

only represent one type of personality

and therefore only appeal to one type of

fan but imagine how many more fans you

could get with more than one type of

Idol with two or three or four or five

idols or with fifty-two Islands


oh no hoko pioneered the idol group

model and philosophy that has enjoyed

peaks and valleys of popularity in Japan

but has particularly dominated its pomp

scene over the last 10 years which took

us from this


to this

that's akb48 the defining idol group of

modern Japan there are a genuine

phenomenon with over 130 members spread

across five teams or subjects another on

yahoo club born idea that allows new

members to rise up the ranks starting in

more working groups and eventually

finding themselves in the more popular

subgroups within the larger union with

this constant churn idol groups who need

to not be defined by individual members

who graduate when they age out of the

group or are kicked out of the group for

violating strict codes of idol behavior

the idol language here is serious

business it's informative that the onion

clubs wikipedia page contains an entire

section dedicated to the shukan bunshin

smoking scandal a scandal in which six

members of the group were photographed


well each member of an idol group

undergoes rigorous training and indoors

near constant oversight from the talent

agencies that orchestrate their every

move both on stage and off punishing

them with Wikipedia controversy tabs for

even the slightest indiscretion which is

why it is so beautifully bonkers that in

that environment where akb48 is king and

the longest-running group is morning

muezzin a pause for some morning news

man which is why in that environment it

is so beautifully bonkers that this





Kim and joshie along with babymetal and

Necronomicon are part of a growing ante

idol movement in the Japanese idol scene

and that is the key here I'm not saying

that it's amazing Japan has metal bands

who wear costumes and headbang but these

are sterile idol groups in the classic

sense they're typically the product of a

talent agency like a music who created

babymetal and they feature cast like

subgroups that new members move to like

canon joshi steam Girls this honestly is

an improvement on the Anyanka Club

subgroup contents which typically

amounted to all of the short members

plus a tall member idol groups also

grind performing multiple times daily at

their own branded theatres at malls and

post offices you can see why you need

the subgroups to divide and conquer like

Alice juban another came in joshi joy

there was a time very recently when none

of this would have been welcoming a

traditional idol group no allusions to

Jason Voorhees no aggressive steampunk

aesthetic no base wobbles but that rigid

adherence to cutesy norms and virginal

sweetness that defied idol culture for

centuries was first challenged by Mamoru

clover Z


for me 2008 Ramiro clover was a

run-of-the-mill idol group at a time

when Japan needed exactly zero new

run-of-the-mill islands in a desperate

twist their producer ditched the

traditional Idol look at a disease of

the name and dope headfirst into the

unexplored waters of Super Sentai sci-fi

horror and wrestling to find new

creative inspiration


the result was a massive departure from

the idle north and as you can guess or

like this video and concluding massive

commercial success and by bringing in

new collaborators like the guy from the

go team lamoureux clover Z not only

changed idols aesthetic landscape but

it's sonic possibility



that sounds an awful lot like the goatee

and crucial to this part of the video is

they also did a collab with kiss but

like two years ago


so sick although I do feel like this

other pioneering anti idol group would

not be caught dead making nice with the



brand-new Idol society or best represent

a more extreme vision built around

formerly normal popstar poor Louie bass

kicked off a career of an ending

controversy with the release of a music

video in which the members frolic nude

through a go kiyohara the japanese

suicide forest it's censored but in a

way that somehow more unsettling which

was business hole stick while others had

laid the groundwork from the

transgressive 80's pop of june Tagawa

to the shredding and shrinking of

Midori's Mariko go to' this and poorly

combined it all into a highly sellable

commercial package and then through plug

at that package every single chance they



this and mamuro clover Z had proven that

there was an audience in arena sized

audience that would fall in love with

idol groups that weren't afraid of a

little controversy on their Wikipedia

page and so the floodgates were opened

to high-gloss metalcore like Frick




and opened to the bloody food fighting

pop-punk of wit proc and opened it to

death rabbits whose producers the

previously underground digital hardcore

group Akira death are equally involved

in the presentation of their digi the

floodgate got so open that there is a

vaporwave idol group especial which I

only include because I know a few of you

will be hello stone


with seemingly endless possibilities for

talent agencies looking to incorporate

new genres or sub cultural identities

into the prefab pop framework of an idol

group I started to wonder should should

I start an idol group I mean there's

symphonic death metal idol and there's

that promise a title that I just played

and there's darkwave idol I could do

this I have a vision

I could start an idol group hey Sam hey

Rick how's it going man how are you I'm

doing great he can you hear me okay I

just was fiddling with my mouth more for

a second but there we go

keno man attack yeah I can hear you fine

can you hear me yeah another problem so

I called Ricky Wilson who manages

Necronomicon he was a huge help in

sketching at the scene for me he's also

an American from Pittsburgh living in

Tokyo combining j-pop and battery and

basically living the coolest life that I

can imagine and so naturally I started

to imagine it for me

is there a bright future for American

metalheads moving to Japan and starting

all idol metal groups would you

recommend this career path to other

frustrated hashers from your homeland

you know who haven't living in an

opportunity to fulfill their metal

dreams and just like a standard-issue

American metal band so I started

studying Japanese when I was in high

school so that's the first step so these

people have to start learning Japanese

now yeah I mean I started when I was in

high school I was a Japanese major in

university I did a study abroad and I

had lived here my wife is Japanese I had

been working as a translator I've been

working as a interpreter for a while

here and every single day I find my

Japanese ability lacking when I'm trying

to do this group it's still not enough

I'm 34 now I started when I was 16 so

again is 17 or 18 years of study

something like that okay so that's this

a long way so I can't do this like

tomorrow which is good so it's an uphill



crushing my dreams of running a this

exist talent agency in Tokyo

Ricky truly is doing the wards work with

Necronomicon when they're not playing

with the textures and imagery of black


they're running monthly hardcore shows

and then linking up with the esteemed

Dan tournaments to make crazy rad synth



at various points working on this

episode I had trouble believing that all

of these groups really fit under the

same umbrella but as disparate as they

sound and look that Idol framework

remains inexorably linking the heaviest

to the corniest in a lot of ways it's

just the bloodiest loudest incarnation

of the maxim that defined Onyango Club

one Idol can't hold the broad appeal of

many idols just look at one sound or one

aesthetic can't reach every music man

and so you end up with this amazing

canvas bridging capitalism and art crass

commercialism with genuinely astounding

creativity with the most unexpected

cultures colliding in the interest of

filling every possible in each with a

pop star of its own like I said it's so







what do you think our an title group is

really changing the boundaries of pop


will someone bring Necronomicon to

Canada and if I can't start an idol

group could one of you let me know in

the comments especially if you start an

idol group and subscribe for new because

of this exists every time I can write a

good one they get everyone who supports

this show on patreon and a reminder that

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get extra behind the scenes videos and

cool things thank you to all of you so

if you took a long time it's really hot

in my house be excellent to each other

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