The J-Pop all girl group AKB48 are sold as the pop idols you can meet and now, apparently, attack. The Japanese group were at a fan event in the Iwate Prefecture in Takizawa City when a 24 year-old man attacked two of the girls, and a member of staff with a 20 inch saw.
The man, who was described as being unemployed, was standing in line to meet the young members of the singing group when he attacked. AKB48 have cancelled their next few events although all those who were singled out for attack have been reported to be okay after being medically treated.
This appears to be the first time that AKB48 have encountered this type of incident. The group was formed in 2005 by producer Yasushi Akimoto expressly to create “idols” that people could meet every day. The name of this all girl J-Pop group comes from the area that they were formed in. They have a theatre in Akihabara, hence the AKB is a shortening of the town name and the 48 equates to the original number of girls in the group.
Akimoto may have stressed that the group would contain idols that everyday people could actually meet, versus the usual Japanese idol who has very little interaction with his or her adoring public, but looking at the group’s music videos on YouTube, a different image emerges from the innocuous “vision” by Akimoto.
Following the usual Japanese male fantasy, and obsession, with young school girls, AKB48 may be pop idols you can meet, and now attack, but they also fill the ultimate sexual fantasy of the average middle aged man in the country.
The group’s videos all have millions of views with the most popular having over 104 million. This particular music video is titled Heavy Rotation and it features the girls in lingerie, a giant pillow fight, and two young ladies naked in a bubble bath together. The song itself, which consists of some English chorus lyrics that say “I want you, I need you, I love” is upbeat and catchy.
All the girl’s videos have this catchy and simplistic formula, scantily clad girls having, apparently, the time of their life singing and dancing with just a hint of some sub-plot. The group’s members all smile, make heart shapes with their hands and don’t really do anything of a sexual nature at all.
Rather it is the video content that draws upon the “harmless” fantasy of beautiful young Japanese girls in school uniforms, bikinis, lingerie, or in one video, nothing at all. (Granted, the viewer cannot see anything in the way of body parts, it is all just part of the “illusion.”)
It is still surprising that this sort of “cross message” has not encouraged other attacks, either violent or sexual. In any other countries it surely would result in some sort of fan misbehaviour.
AKB48 have become so popular that the group has grown from the original 48 to over 120. The J-Pop sensation now have theatres in other areas of Japan, not just Akihabara where the girls perform almost daily, and their adoring fans can come into close contact with them.
The group have their own television shows and different “teams;” each one standing for something different. For example, Team A might stand for fun while Team B stands for girl power. According to the official website, the group’s members are split into three separate teams with 18 girls in each.
The performers have a huge fan base, it seems that middle aged men are not the only ones who love the singers, so it was shocking that AKB48 would have any of their members attacked. The attack, which came after a mini concert on Sunday, occurred during the group’s meeting of fans inside booths at the event.
The two girls who were struck by the saw wielding man were Rina Kawaei aged 19 and Anna Iriyama aged 18. Both were treated for broken bones in their right hands and for injuries to their heads and arms from the 20 inch saw. A member of staff, who was not identified, was also treated for injuries. The attacker has been named as Satoru Umeta according to Jiji Press.
AKB48 will no doubt recover from this “meet and attack” incident and these cute pop idols that you can meet will continue to be popular. Their music, despite the somewhat mixed message of their accompanying videos, is catchy and cute, aka kawaii in Japanese. This “non-threatening” fantasy image will still be popular enough to guarantee the group’s longevity as well as their very addictive, fun and simple songs.
By Michael Smith