“The selling point is that they’re not yet developed” says otaku Shin after seeing a concert of middle school-aged girls singing their hearts out to a crowd of mostly middle-aged males. Such is the appeal of an “idol”—a Japanese pop-star whom older men obsess over to startling degrees (which includes, as a fan named Koji proudly admits, blowing an amount of cash on idol concerts equivalent to buying an apartment). Tokyo Idols tries to shed light on this weirdly fascinating industry, but unfortunately director Kyoko Miyake does much the same that these excessive fans do: she treats idol fandom as a means of escapism and not much else. The focus of her documentary is on the admirers and the different reasons each has for pursuing fandom, ignoring how the idol industry operates and how cutthroat it can be. There’s commentary thrown in sporadically about how the business empowers guys to look at women as objects, but there’s never enough information given for criticism to stick. Miyake relies too heavily on simply showing overly cutesy performances rather than say anything about the culture that exists around them. This is a missed opportunity to try and understand a deeply unique facet of Japanese culture.
Published as part of Japan Cuts 2017.