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The Moment the "Warring Idols Period" Began (Part 2)

Posted by Lurkette, in Translations 04 June 2020 · 0 views

2010 Era Idol Scene, Vol.2
The Moment the "Warring Idols Period" Began (Part 2)

Yoshida Gou, Takagi Reni, and Fukuda Kanon look back on a legendary event

2020.06.02 20:00

Welcome back to our multi-article series delving into the different sides of the 2010s idol scene. Continuing on from the first, this article will cover the subject of "Idol Unit Summer Festival 2010" (reference: A surprise in the end! Summer festival in Shibuya for 4 idol groups) held on August 30 and 31, 2010 at Shibuya C.C.Lemon Hall (currently LINE CUBE SHIBUYA/Shibuya Town Hall).

4 groups, SKE48, S/mileage (currently ANGERME), Momoiro Clover, and bump.y performed, and our current story is about this event, with contributions from Yoshida Gou, who is continuing to interview professionally for his life's work, as well as former S/mileage member Fukuda Kanon, and Momoiro Clover Z member Takagi Reni. We compiled testimony from each of them and asked about the behind-the-scenes of the beginning of the Warring Idols Period.

Editing, article: Onoda Mamoru
Interview cut photography: Numata Manabu
Translation: Lurkette

Fukuda Kanon, with her full-throttle, indomitable spirit

Let's review the Idol Unit Summer Festival 2010 up to this point. Yoshida Gou has the viewpoint, "SKE48's overwhelming defeat caught my eye." He also has the historical view, "S/mileage's strenuous effort stood out, and Momoclo bounced off of that, continuing into the system they made later in a dash away." Producer of said Momoclo, Kawakami Akira, was modest when he looked back: "We shot our arrow in return after being overwhelmed by the likes of S/mileage and SKE48." Then-manager of S/mileage (current president of YU-M Entertainment) Yamada Masasharu confessed, "I had a strong feeling of crisis as a result of Hello!Project not getting through to the outside world." On the other side of things, the organizer from Nippon Broadcasting, Masuda Yoshiko, was bewildered from not being familiar with the idol world, and the event was organized with the support of B.L.T. editor-in-chief Inoue Asao (currently HUSTLE PRESS president).

Up until the show happened, expectations were all over the map. However, it was not just Yamada who went in thinking he couldn't afford to lose, as each person involved certainly had those thoughts. So then, what sort of feelings did the members themselves have? From camp Yamada, who had broken into battle mode, the one above all others in S/mileage who went full-throttle with her "indomitable spirit" was Fukuda Kanon. Yamada sells Fukuda on being "whip smart" and her "sixth sense for off-the-cuff responses," and she fully lives up to the expectations he sets forth. The two have almost a teacher-student relationship, and at the same time, they're like partners in crime. Fukuda is, furthermore, the creator of the phrase "Warring Idols Period."

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S/mileage at the Idol Unit Summer Festival 2010 press conference. Fukuda Kanon is on the far right.

"I was active in Hello!Pro Egg (*A Hello!Project trainee organization where members take lessons to aim for a debut) since I was 9 years old, but Yamada was the one who told me when I was 15 that S/mileage was going to have a major debut. He said, 'Up until now you've been in a club, but now you're in the army' (laughs). But Yamada was the only person I'd ever had as my manager then, so I didn't feel like he was especially strict or anything like that. I treated it as a proactive thing, like, "The idol world only gets more difficult after this! We have to work hard!' (Fukuda)

At every press conference, Fukuda would repeat the most suggestive and instigative comments. She was always displaying her own predominance and gave a unilateral declaration of war against the foolishness of the national idols as well as K-pop group Girls Generation that had drawn attention to their beautiful legs, saying, "We're active as beautiful leg idols, too, but ours are fresher, I think." She would later go on to bear hostility towards her juniors in her own company, Juice=Juice, saying, "Once you drink up the juice, it's gone, but a smile you keep forever," which ended up upsetting a lot of people.

"When I thought of what my own role in the group was, I thought that was the obvious. I had just had the major debut I'd been working toward for so long, and generally every day was frenetic... With Idol Unit Summer Fest, the pressure of doing the first multi-act show ever for Hello!Project was intense. It felt like I was carrying an ad for Hello!Pro on my back, and I felt like I absolutely could not go home a loser. I really was desperate at that time" (Fukuda).

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Fukuda Kanon (left) at the Idol Unit Summer Festival 2010 press conference

Yoshida offers a supplementary explanation for Fukuda's statements. Last February, Fukuda appeared as a guest on Yoshida's SHOWROOM show "Gou's Room," where they engaged in lively conversation about that time period.

"Fukuda is someone who can consider what her own role is in the group. Up to that point she was just supposed to be able to sing and dance cutely, but compared to the other, more composed members, she didn't have anything to project out about herself. Around her were the unbelievably cute Maeda Yuuka and the talented singer Ogawa Saki, so when she thought of her own self-worth, she came to the conclusion that all she could do was continue to blurt out things that would make headlines. I think that's an incredibly good story.

On the other side of things, Momoclo what they did in their own Momoclo-way, kind of stupid, but in a good way, right? They voiced complaints and poo-pooed those aggressive tactics, "Why do we have to be aggressive like that?" But then they go rouse up everyone during the show, unconditionally, and they end up dazzling everyone. That simple-mindedness they had led them right into Kawakami's pro wrestling schemes" (Yoshida).

Takagi Reni looks back on Idol Unit Summer Fest

One of the Momoclo members in question gave testimony to support Yoshida's views. Takagi Reni began, "It's called the Warring Idols Period, but for us, there may not have been any sort of sense that we were competing at all."

"We hadn't done a show on that big of a stage at that point, and I had nothing but admiration for other idols... There were people in Idol Unit Summer Fest that I had only ever seen on TV, so I was super nervous. It was even my first time being so close to so many adults in the industry at the venue, so all of the members were wide-eyed the whole time. I was anxious.

Still, we did discuss our plan or whatever you'd call it, to leave our mark somewhere in the middle of it all. Once it was decided we would do the show at Shibuya C.C.Lemon Hall, that was all we, both the members and the managers, talked about. So on the day of, I had that sort of push, but because there were so many idols I looked up to, I just ended up wanting to watch the performances above all else (laughs). I remember watching the stage as much as I could from a crack by the lighting area" (Takagi)

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Takagi Reni (Momoiro Clover Z)

Momoclo's particularly good-humored personalities made it easy for not just the fans, but also the industry professionals to embrace them. Takagi herself remembers thinking that the other idols seemed nervous before the show, so she should go up and talk to them, and she says she ended up speaking a lot with SKE48 members backstage.

"I was surprised by how much of a community feel the idols had. I realized how much fun being an idol was, and so I went home wearing a t-shirt from the fest that day. But even we could feel how frantic all the adults around us were, and while I admired the other idols, my feelings of not accepting a loss to them were strong, too. The setlist was as high-energy as we could make it, and we did something that seemed to make people go, 'Wow, who are they!?'

We had to leave our mark somehow, we had to show what Momoclo was about... In that aspect, I think our managers put up a hard fight, as well. That tense air also happened with 'MUSIC JAPAN' that same year, and that tension came out at every turn those days. How should I say it, it was such a tight atmosphere. Honestly, I couldn't help but hate it at the time, but thinking about it now, it might have been essential for us as a group. I think we would have just gone along sluggishly if we didn't have that" (Takagi).

The incident of Momoclo attempting to take over SKE's theater

Thus, the adults brandished their ambition, and the girls tread into the carnage of the Warring Period. As the chaos continued, unforeseen incidents kept occurring behind the scenes. The thing Yoshida upholds as the most important incident, in particular, was Momoclo deciding to perform at SKE48's theater.

"Momoclo was going to have a concert in Nagoya, and of all places, they set it at SKE's theater. The title of the show was, 'We kept it warm in your absence.' Of course this became a huge issue. Like, "are they trying to pick a fight!?" Aren't they? (laughs) So finally they changed the title, and then they changed the venue. Kawakami might have tried to make a joke of it at the time, but as a matter of course, adult society did not take it as a joke" (Yoshida).

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Yoshida Gou

That venue, it's not just for SKE48 exclusively, anyone can rent it~~~. The truth is someone whispered that into Kawakami's ear. That person had their name raised before with Idol Unit Summer Fest: B.L.T.'s former editor-in-chief, Inoue.

"I imagine Inoue simply thought it would be funny to stoke the flames. You might question if he instigated it because it profited him in some way, but I don't think it was ever anything that calculated. If anything, it was Kawakami who went well overboard with Inoue's influence. As for me, I felt a sense of duty to keep the flames burning in the idol world that had finally gotten an upswing after so long. I was exchanging a lot of information back then with friends I'd meet at bars. We all, including people from the Mowota (Morning Musume. fans) neighborhood, put things out around Momoclo, and it was this feeling of, 'Seems like something fun is going to start. What say we rile it up some?" Even if it wasn't directly related to my job, I would still somehow try to enliven the idol scene" (Yoshida).

Yoshida was observing, among other things, these moments of idol "challenges" at events. What especially stood out to him was an event he hosted ("Idol Festival in Hibiya" at Tokyo Hibiya Yagai Daiongakudou on May 21, 2011), with a scene where Passpo☆ suddenly went on a rampage.

"The number of songs and set time had been decided in advance, but it was obvious during the show they were going over. That was such a perfect crime. The stage director was furious, 'This isn't what we talked about!' He took fault with everyone. But the reputation they got from doing such an overwhelming show was amazing. Then after every set was over, we had planned for everyone to sing "Hotaru no Hikari" together, but then Passpo☆ didn't come out. They dared to step out as a different beast. I don't know who instigated that, but that's the kind of era it was, where even the gentle Passpo☆ would break rules like that in a game of war, " (Yoshida).

Everyone was serious those days

Moving around the timeline a bit, before Idol Unit Summer Festival occurred at the end of August, NHK aired an "Idol Mass Gathering SP" on MUSIC JAPAN on May 30. There were 7 performers: Idoling!!!, AKB48, S/mileage, Tokyo Girls Style, Vanilla Beans, Morning Musume., and Momoiro Clover. It was a show to pay attention to, with the number of applications to be in the audience surpassing 60,000, and so there are those who mark the start of the Warring Idols Period on that May 30.

"NHK's producer, Ishihara Shin, didn't even particularly have that level of enthusiasm like he was starting a war, I don't think. What started the Warring Period was probably just some strong accidental factors. Certainly, after they got all the applications for the MJ filming... Maybe that's the story they're going with. Regardless, gathering so many people ready to fight in one place is a legend now in and of itself.

TIF (TOKYO IDOL FESTIVAL, the first held from August 6-8, 2010. Reference: Over 40 groups in total! Hot Shinagawa Idol Fest is a huge success) was similar, where it just seemed like they started it as an expanded version of a joint concert that YGA and Idoling!!! did together. The ones who were at the core of it were Yoshimoto Kogyo and Fuji TV. They were guiding it towards being a major production for the TV station, but at first they weren't planning on it being anything as big as that; that's why Hello!Project and 48 Group didn't have anything to do with it in the beginning" (Yoshida).

Yoshida is the type to pursue a more savage component in idols. It is a matter of course, then, that he paid attention when war become not just a phrase to use, but a real battle among different sides of the entertainment industry. The Warring Idols Period was not simply a gimmick; it was serious clash tied directly to business. From Yoshida's perspective, the scene might be maturing now, but it's unsatisfying for the era of idols fighting in the same arena to come to an end.

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Yoshida Gou

"'Mecha2 Iketeru! Hilarious idol athletic meet with only non-AKB48 members" (aired on Fuji TV in 2011) where Momochi (Tsugunaga Momoko) had her big break, and then 'The First Ever YubiMatsuri ~Idol Special Meeting~' (held at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo in 2012)... For me, those are the last two places where idols really battled it out. There was a general concept for these two of what "winning" and "losing" meant, but since then there hasn't really been anything that brings out that sort of viewpoint.

They hadn't finished any set of rules for the industry back in 2010, so I think on the administrative side they kind of fumbled around trying to see how far they could go with what. Perhaps you could say that we've gotten where we are now because they learned how where the line was where people got angry. At any rate, obviously the managers were, but the fans and editors were all serious about it. At editor and writer bar hangs, we'd seriously fight, we'd seriously cry, we pored over this plan to seriously fight and build up the walls around this Warring Idols Period. That same level of heat we had back then probably isn't really in demand anymore now" (Yoshida).

It's no mistake to say that in 2010, the heat that was swirling around those venues was just the beginning. However, even the people involved had no expectation that the boom called the Warring Idols Period would not end quietly, and that it would continue even through today. During that time, many groups have broken up, and many idols have disappeared from the stage, but so many stars have been born.

No matter how far idols would go in terms of sales, the world would still sometimes see them as being so much less: "It's just idols." Now, 10 years after the beginning of the Warring Idols Period, however, those views have largely gone away. This is the result of, in short, idols jumping from sub-culture to the mainstream. You can also put it another way and say that idols really acquired their legitimacy these last 10 years. In the end, how has the scene changed over this decade? And where do idols go from here? We plan to continue a thorough examination of the 2010s idol scene with various themes and testimony from people involved.

(Honorifics have been omitted)

Again thank you