Yup, even if you’re not male. Bear with me for a moment.
All this talk about the Love Live movie premiere made me decide to finally sit down and watch Love Live: School Idol Project.* Annnnd I finished it about 48 hours later. It’s a great guilty pleasure show with a quick pace, little depth, and lots of emotional bonding. It’s about nine girls who aspire to be idols, pop stars revered for their cuteness, energy, and dedication. If they want to make a great sports anime about girls, they should look to Love Live for inspiration.
There was just one thing that was a bit odd about Love Live. Every character with a speaking role was a woman! (Nico’s adorable baby brother is the exception that proves the rule.) The only adult man in the show, Honoka’s dad, is shown only partially. It’s clearly a very intentional decision on the creators’ part to keep men’s involvement to a minimum.
Now I’m used to shows that pander to people who like guys or people who like girls, and I know that’s what Love Live is trying to do here. But there was something artificial about it. Take Free!, which certainly attempt to pander to the viewer with touchy-feely bonding, yet still includes major female characters. So on Monday, I tweeted, “It’s strange how Free!’s female characters are Very Important, but Love Live doesn’t show men at all. Are male viewers threatened?”
Click the link to see the enormous discussion that exploded from there. I love Anitwitter because everyone is always down to chat about anime (though it’s not always great for my productivity). The majority consensus seemed to be that idol culture in Japan is about female “purity” from romantic involvement with men, and that mindset has leaked into this idol-themed anime.
Can you imagine if Taylor Swift had to sign a contract with her label stating that she wouldn’t date anybody? (What would she even write songs about then?) As bizarre as this would be, it’s totally commonplace among Japanese idols, who are marketed as bikini-clad sex symbols, but face medieval consequences for such transgressions as having a boyfriend. Perhaps you remember the Minami Minegishi “scandal,” when the 22-year-old idol was discovered to have a boyfriend and shaved her head in contrition. And yet, these extreme attempts to convey idols’ sexual availability still aren’t enough—last year at an idol autograph event, a 24-year-old man brought a chainsaw and slashed two idols’ faces, hospitalizing them. At trial, he revealed jealousy as his motivation. Jealous of whom? These girls aren’t even allowed to date!
On Monday, a gross new article came out illustrating that despite these past events, draconian idol culture hasn’t budged. A 17-year-old idol who was sued by her talent agency for having a boyfriend lost her countersuit. The judge sided with the agency, stating, “In order to obtain the support of male fans, the contract clause regarding a dating ban was necessary.” Ugh! This girl can’t live her life all so some pathetic superfans can fantasize that they have a chance.
We, the viewers, are the men of Love Live. There are no male characters so we don’t have to worry about “competition.” Joke’s on them though, because this is the Bechdel Test in overdrive. And even if they have zero male romantic options, I just ship them with each other—and I’m certain I’m not the only one. Tell me you don’t see the chemistry!
Have you watched Love Live? What did you think?
*As usual, email me if you want a Crunchyroll Premium pass!
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