A Tale of Two Cities: A Fandom Fairytale

Dear Citizens of the Universe,

As many of you are aware of, there is a slight controversy (or non-thereof) involving the latest Morning Musume ’15 PVs. This exposed a lot of cultural differences and… I’m sad to say, prejudices between the fandoms (or the segments looked at). Personally, I’d rather stay out it as this came out while I was working on the Berryz Memorial Survey results posts. Unfortunately, one of my aims is to build bridges between various cultures, inspire dialogue between the different walks of life, educate people who may otherwise be misled, and interact without fanlove via critique. Plus, this has been on my mind and actually has been distracting me from composing the posts. Well, as of this writing, the April posts regarding the series is all set up and scheduled so I can give a little leeway to get this off my chest (or at least do something with the block of text made on my phone via the voice-to-text feature).

Let’s start at the beginning: At the end of March, the PVs for Morning Musume ’15’s PVs hit the online airwaves via Hello! Station. There was a bit of tizzy on YouTube among the Western fandom because Suzuki Kanon was sidelined with an injury and Juice=Juice face Miyamoto Karin was brought in to stand in for her. Over on 2chan, the Japanese fans there blasted on the Western YouTube commenters, along with providing an… interesting look, along with reminding us that Japan is full of people — and where 4chan gets their habits from. The translated posts can be fund in the following post on Jicchan with the following warning posted large and in red:

*WARNING! THIS THREAD CONTAINS HATE, NAME CALLING AND RACISM. IF YOU HAVE SENSITIVE FEELINGS AND/OR ARE EASILY BUTT HURT, PLEASE CLOSE THIS PAGE NOW*

Due to this warning, I have refrained from reading the post for a long time.  Most of what I know about it comes from secondhand sources, namely the following posts featured on Idolminded that provided a sensible eye to this situation.

These two posts provided a kernel of inspiration to this post (which is hopefully the last we’ll hear of it as this is something that doesn’t need more attention than it has gotten). Ray’s commentary sealed the deal:

There was something of a kerfuffle among fans about Miyamoto Karin subbing for Suzuki Kanon in the new Morning Musume videos, or at least 2ch fans from Japan thought Western fans were particularly upset about this substitution. Anyway, these two posts cover what seems to me to be a non-controversy in an even-handed manner.

All in all, this also sums it up (along with a potential bright side to this situation):

So… is the Karin / Zukki switcheroo really all that bad? And admit it – some of you must consider this a dream come true, H!P Jesus finally making it to the flagship.

Using this quote from the Tokyo Girls Update article about the MVs, I’ll express my hopes for Zukki and lay out probably the most rational, reasonable explanation for this:

For the sake of Kanon Suzuki fans all over the world, we hope she makes a complete recovery soon even though ankle injuries are hard to come back from, especially when one is expected to dance at the level that Morning Musume. does. Thankfully, Hello! Project has members like Karin Miyamoto who were able to fill in the formation. Maybe there will be versions of the MVs with Suzuki once she recovers but until then, this was what had to be done in order for Morning Musume. ’15 to stay on schedule for 2015.

Just like IC&MJ said, we should not make the mistake of judging the Japanese fandom by a small fraction. I know I have a friend who is wont to present the opinions of 4ch threads. They represent an at-times anonymous segment of a large and complex fandom. Twitter fans behave differently from the Facebook set, who act differently from those on Tumblr (who’d probably eat this stuff for breakfast — and probably already are).

I wanted to learn more about the world around me and I know it has its problems. In addition to the typical sources, I look at the BBC. (Boo, Kat. The only “news” you’re supposed to watch on TV is Stephen Colbert.) I see that Britain and the world have their issues. Same with Japan.  As much as I know about Japanese language and culture, as much as I’ve studied for over a decade, I am still some Japanophile from New Jersey who never left her country’s borders. If you want a real look at Japan sans the romance, look to Cube Watermelon (Let’s Speak English, Kiwi Blitz, Sleepless Domain) and Jkun (Crazy Sunshine). They are both Westerners who live and work in Japan as English teachers. (In fact, Let’s Speak English is about her experiences in that regard. On the latter’s regard, he mentioned the ubiquitous nature of AKB twice on his Twitter.) However, again, that is just one aspect to a country we are wont to fantasize and romanticize.

It can be a saddening but enlightening experience to see this, the illusion being shattered and seeing the world for what it is (or appears to be). However, in the development of any person in life, we come to discover the truth and it can be painful to take at times. Japan has its own issues to deal with, like with any other country (i.e. America). I spent aporton of my childhood playing with an atlas so I know that there is an entire world outside of America. (I nicknamed myself “The Geography Queen” in the fourth grade because of my geographical prowess.) One thing I love about the Internet is that we can have a conversation with anyone and everyone in the world (or anyone who can connect o the Internet). In fact, quite a few early acquaintances and friends I’ve had since becoming a netizen (through joining the Powerpuff Girls forum Puff Works) were from places outside America. I follow a few artists–on DeviantArt, Tumblr, and Twitter–who hail from outside the U.S. (one being the aforementioned Jkun, who was born in Scotland). Heck, there even bloggers within the H!P fandom (some of whom I follow or at least goten to know on a bloggerly level) who aren’t American. There was a portion of my teen and early twentysomething years where I was depressed over the idea that I could be hated simply for the fact I was an American (and that Americans were so despised). (Nevermind any possible prejudices that might experience within my native country because of who and/or what I am.) I know not every American is perfect and America isn’t this grand utopia. However, same with any country, I’ve learned to accept it and take people as they are. I love learning about other people and connecting through something we all have in common. Part of being an idol blogger fan (especially if you’re mucking around H!P’s corridors) is accepting that the idol world isn’t all sunshine and cheer. These idols sell an idea, a positive idea that we buy into.

Exactly what the management wants. So what if our foreign bucks mean little in the Oricon charts? There are those who continue to do so out of sheer love for the idol scene. The feeling of holding official idol merchandise, going through the ritual of visiting Japan for a concert out of sheer love for the idols. What audacity to not pirate the content like the other half of the fandom these fans belong to! They’re out of their minds!

At the same time, why go through the hassle of coming to the States, even for anime conventions? Why sell on iTunes other than Japan? Why sub videos (even if they can be of a rather strange quality at times)? After all, if that base means so little to you, why go through all of that hassle? Bangkok is okay because it’s Asia, but those gross Westerners, ick! They can never understand out Japaneseness!

Because it’s business. It’s an experiment. Japan may be where the main base is, but they’re acknowledging the fact that foreigners care enough to do these things out of pure fan devotion. (IC&MJ did say that most of the Japanese fans they’ve encountered were overjoyed at the fact foreigners love their stuff. Plus, the commenter said that 2ch has a bit of a bad rep anyway.)

It’s still business and part of being in business is recognizing an opportunity, especially for growth. The Hello! Project brand is in a state of regeneration like the Time Lord it is. While it is nice, they cannot afford that isolationist approach anymore.  H!P has entered its Meiji era, so to speak, so it’s truly trying to open doors and test out new waters in this age of increased competition in the idol world. (Just you wait, there’ll by an NYK48 audition announced in New York and an LAS48 in LA soon enough. It already found success in Shanghai and Jakarta! It’ll be less of a novelty act than Coconuts Musume and a true branch of the 48G Empire Franchise.)

On that note, it is purely for a business reason the switch happened. As previously noted:

  • Miyamoto Karin is a popular draw for both Ju=Ju and H!P so the ripple effect is that she would draw fans to MM. Kanon may have international appeal, but this is a single making headwaves in Japan here.
  • This was done as to keep the promotional schedule of the single on schedule. Like all o us here, the management want this single to sell well so they have to maintain brand awareness. This is especially crucial in the era of social media where we’re all drowning in media messages.
  • Some of you were probably crying for her to be in Morning Musume (and probably wanted to be in MM to begin with). The Morning Musume brand is that strong and the Juice=Juice brand is that strong.
  • As others mentioned, Ishida Ayumi subbed in for Karin in a previous PV so in a way, it’s returning the favor.

Business. A dirty word, but a word that must be used. Business, which is why some girls get more lines than others, some girls are pushed more than others, why activities are done (and why promotional efforts skyrocketed after One Two Three).

Therefore, no matter what space of the world you’re in, if you want to support the brand, support the business, keep doing so. Fandom shouldn’t be bound by geographical lines for love has no borders! Embrace it and don’t let a few bad apples spoil your fun. Instead, ferment those suckers and make hard cider out of them before drinking it down with satisfaction (or give it to someone willing to drink).

What I’m saying is… accept the reality that no country’s perfect and don’t let some bad vibrations keep you from getting excitations about H!P or any other Japan-related thing you like.

I’ll probably write something after actually reading the thing. If that’s not next time, either one of the two topics are: the beginning of the Berryz Memorial Survey or the official news regarding Tsunku’s cancer saga (which I’ve literally read just now I’m writing this. This too warrants another post.

Whichever gets posted after this, one this sure: the idol world keeps turning and I’ll keep a-posting.

Until next time,
Magi-Kat

P.S. I really hope this is the last time we’ll speak on this “non-controversy” (as Ray put it). It shouldn’t be given any more attention than it needs/should.

P.S.S. the blog’s 100th post is coming. See this masterpost on Kathartic Bohemia for ways you can contribute.

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7 Responses to A Tale of Two Cities: A Fandom Fairytale

  1. […] A Tale of Two Cities: A Fandom Fairytale – Magi-Kat presents “Morning Meteora” Kat gathers up reactions from the blogosphere – including my own – and provides what I hope is the eloquent last words on the matter. I find it interesting that most everyone who has commented significantly on this seems to want to move on since it doesn’t seem that big a deal. That said, the commentary feels essential because the Zukki/Karin substitution isn’t nearly as crucial as the narrative surrounding fan reactions (especially American fan reactions) to it – and hey, we have to protect our tribe. It’s a natural enough impulse […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anon says:

    People seem to think the big issue was the actual standing-in that Karin did, but for the most part (at least of what I have read) the real problem people have/had was Karin getting direct, solo facetime in the videos – reasons being because it was far more than Kanon will probably ever get, because it ended up being more than any other actual member of the group, and because Karin was given the chance to film her own closeups when her leg was hurt and Ayumi filled in for her. I don’t think most people minded her filling in for the dance at all.

    Even I understand that Kanon’s position in the group is perhaps not high enough to warrant that same treatment; she isn’t a main or the ace (even if backgirl Aika had a similar chance), and I get the idea of a cross-promotional opportunity, but I can’t say I understand pushing it over the new generation that needs the appeal time, or your main ace(s).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. isilwentari says:

    I haven’t read the thread either, but I’ve encountered lots of things that burst my initial ‘Japan is PERFECT’ bubble. It’s easy to get into. There’s also the way fans can some times separate the beautiful dream side of idol-dom from the business side. It’s hard to swallow, but it’s just reality, right?

    Thank you for posting this and reminding myself (and everyone who reads it) that every country has their issues and it shouldn’t stop us from enjoying H!P. Business is business.

    And Zukki shows up in the “Another version” pv which is a million times better anyway. Mwahahaha. Lovely post as always. 🙂

    Like

  4. […] yes, that one has caused quite a storm when the PVs were unveiled a few weeks ago: Yuugure wa Ameagari and Seishun Kozou ga […]

    Like

  5. […] this year. One was the “infamous” switch for the spring PVs. (You can read my reaction here, but I must warn you that I was going off of secondhand sources so take what I day with a grain of […]

    Like

  6. […] quite a few other posts that dominated April in their quirky ways. For starters, I took a look at a fandom “controversy” and discussed Tsunku’s vocal chords. Furthermore, I celebrated 100 posts in this iteration of […]

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