Monthly Archives: July 2014
親中派反對佔領中環的口號，不外乎近日反佔中簽名的「反暴力」，以及民建聯的橫額上的「保法治」。對「讓愛與和平佔領中環」說「反暴力」，一方面反映張 (周) 融的水準，另一方面卻也反映佔中運動的宣傳是何等失敗，至此未能消解大眾對運動的暴力想像。但筆者更在意的是那早已一而再再而三被討論的、佔中與法治的關係。誠然，對「佔中破壞法治」這指責的反駁，俯拾皆是，但論點來來去去都是「法治不止是守法」，然後就是中學通識科水平的「法治是甚麼」的解答。
BiS’s disbanding live was held on 8 July 2014 in Yokohama Arena. Notwithstanding the official information until even a week before the live that there had still been 10000 tickets unsold, according to my own observation 80% of the more-than-10000 seats in the venue were filled. In other words, by a conservative estimation there were at least 8000 attendees, which is quite a successful mobilization of fans (to an extent that includes even a Hongkonger like me).
I arrived Tokyo on 7 July, one day before the disbanding live, as well as the second day of BiS’s photo exhibition with the theme of “before-death funeral” held in Shibuya. I visited the photo exhibition partly to get myself ready for the live on the next day. In addition to a tiny mourning hall with BiS members’ photos (which replicates the setting of a traditional Japanese funeral), the exhibition also has six sex dolls, each with a member’s face, something we can also find from the cover of the Best Album Uryaoi. Such masochistic portrayals of death and sexual objectification are the BiS style which I always find appealing. The idea of “before-death funeral” had also been adopted in the venue of the disbanding live, where another mourning counter was set up for fans to express their “condolences”; multiple white lanterns and funeral wreaths could be found. Needless to say, such an interesting setup has attracted a lot of photo-taking.
Audiences were allowed entrance after 3:30pm, though the live would not have started until 5:30pm (and it turned out starting at 6pm). During that gap period Mitsuya (蜜矢), a new 22-year-old male singer sharing the same manager with BiS, gave his performance on the stage (this is not a bad opportunity to promote himself anyway). More interestingly, a special entrance had been made for those who held a low-price 2000JPY ticket. Fans had always been discouraged from buying this type of ticket; that special entrance also deliberately made the holders of low-price tickets feel neglected – the staff who received them looked like some impolite underworld guys and the passage towards the auditorium was placed with banana skins. These low-price ticket holders were again ridiculed by the host during the opening of the live. This kind of behavioural joke might have brought to the audiences another unforgettable moment of the evening. As a holder of a normal ticket (costing 6000JPY), I receive neither such “bad” treatments for low-price ticket holders, nor the privileges, given only to those who had bought a premium ticket, to behave as panic as BiS’s Researchers (i.e. loyal fans) in ordinary BiS’s lives. What was celebrating enough is that my seat was at least not among the farthest from the stage.
I was also glad that my seat was at the front side of the stage, though it was not quite possible to see BiS members’ face during their performance. Instead, I could see clearly how the crowd of the audiences surrounded the stage, which was especially epic when the live began with the nerve mass dance led by BiS and its three former members (Michibayashi Rio, who resigned in order to find a job and has become an office lady, even wore a formal suit to show her present status). This crowd mass dance alone made the live a worth-watching one, but this was only the beginning. After the first song BiS’s manager and sound producer came onto the stage and led the audiences to sing We Will Rock You together, celebrating the success of BiS in attracting the large amount of disbanding live attendees, perhaps also gaining time for the members to have further preparation. When the six members returned, it was an almost non-stop singing throughout the night, without any self-introduction and conversation with fans (which always occurred in ordinary lives), and only one three-minute break among the three hours of singing, from new songs to old songs. These hours were simply awesome, especially when it came to the second last song Reribi (レリビ), during which many of us ran and jumped around, followed then by the final song nerve (again), bring the live to the end with another stadium-wide mass dance.
It is noteworthy that despite being a live concert of a female idol group, BiS’s disbanding live had a surprisingly high female-to-male ratio, which is at least 3:7 according to my own observation. There were even two loyal female Researches with twintails wearing a school swimsuit to support BiS, who had it as the performing dresses for their debut single album PPCC. By the way, believe it or not, the girls next to me were more familiar with Wotagei (ヲタ芸) than I do, of which I don’t know whether I should be proud or ashamed.
The most controversial part of the night comes to be the announcement at the end by the manager about the next step of the members of the disbanded group. Basically except Tentenko, who becomes free from any artist contract and will perform as a DJ in rock events in august, everyone will continue to stay in the entertainment industry; some of them are even forming new idol groups. The news gave the audiences the impression that the disbanding of the group was not a genuine one. Worse still, it was then announced that a live performance by the “former BiS” would be held on the next day (9 July), of which ticket fee is 30000JPY, telling brutally to the world that the disbanding had been somewhat a gimmick.
Fierce criticisms are expected, and it is perfectly understandable that some fans feel deceived. Nonetheless, I just find everything above consistent with what BiS has always done (or at least since the second half of 2013, when I first knew the group), which is exactly to exemplify the bloodiest and most avoided sides of the idol industry through themselves being idols. From DiE and primal.2 MVs, the inhumane country-wide tour during which members had to sleep on a coach and eat only self-cooked rice, to emphasizing “10000 tickets unsold” to beg for support, BiS have just been consistent.
Furthermore, given the fact that each member will from now on develop a different career, BiS, the only GROUP that has attracted me, has disbanded in a genuine sense. The attractiveness of the BiS lies, rather than (purely) in the appearance or talent of one particular member, in the totality of the six members each playing their own role in the boundary-pushing group and the effects thus generated. If only members’ appearance is concerned, to be frank, except Tentenko I find no one really appealing, while there are plenty of other Japanese idols who are much prettier. I would admit that Tentenko was the one who first caught my attention on BiS and is now still my most favourite member, but there are much more in BiS without which I would not have flied to Japan for their disbanding live. Hirano Nozomi may have been most severely criticized for her appearance, but in my view she is literally the pillar of the group, not only because she is the only establishing member other than the leader Pour Lui to sustain the group, but also because of her rare skill among idols to make live consonance for songs. The wildness (in whatever meaning) of First Summer Uika and the dancing, cosplay, and auditorium diving of Kamiya Saki also bring to the group artistic qualities for appreciation. With regard to youngest, most junior and immature Koshouji Megumi, maybe she is not very talented a stage performer, but she has the affinity internally essential for a group. The tension-easing effect of her mere existence has contributed to the solidarity of the group, partly explaining why BiS have not repeated the desperate fate of having one member resigning after another. It is BiS with their final six members, most well-balanced both internally and externally, which are most appreciable; it is also BiS with these six members which have genuinely disbanded.
To those who like BiS more as a group than for a particular member, the disbanding is neither a lie nor a mere gimmick; the disbanding live on 8 July with more than 8000 audiences is an end, a really good end. Ending itself may be saddening, but BiS is thereby immortal.
近日香港警察對示威集會者使用不必要武力的情況越趨嚴重，反東北包圍立法會一役更出動反黑組，將示威者當作黑社會對待；七一遊行後由學生帶領的佔領中環更有逾五百人在數小時內被拘捕。香港警察已淪為港共公安之聲日烈，合情合理。在我們大力聲討這些政權爪牙濫用公權力的同時，一些活躍於社運的文學界中人卻提出極為另類的策略──在警察面前讀書──似乎意在針對香港警察將示威者視為暴民的態度，欲以文藝改變警察對示威者的看法。筆者雖認為此策略成效成疑，結果只會是自我感覺良好，完成以文學參與政治的想像，但作為一個文學人 (雖因不入流而從不為其他文學界中人所認識) 筆者亦不欲輕易否定文學能參與當前香港政治的可能性。在香港，以文學對抗暴政和其爪牙並非不可能，但絕不可流於單純在警察前讀書這種自我實踐，而需要一場具針對性的文學創作活動。
*This is an English translation of my article written in Feb 2014 with some updates, originally in Chinese.
When the term “research” is mentioned in Hong Kong, people may immediately think of the following conversation in Stephen Chow’s comedy From Beijing with Love: “I am now having a research job in the Central Institute of Psychiatry. (What is the subject of research?) I am the subject of research!” Such a joke may equally be applied to Brand-new Idol Society, a Japanese female idol group.
Brand-new Idol Society, or Sin-sei Idol Ken-kyu-kai (新生アイドル研究会, literally translated as Newborn Idol Research Society) in Japanese, commonly known as “BiS”, is not really popular in Hong Kong (personally I have never heard of them from any of my friends). Nonetheless, the title of this idol group is interesting enough: a “society” in the name of researching on idol is itself an idol group. On what is to be researched by them then?
BiS are frequently labelled as “unorthodox idols” in Japan (which they have always admitted). It is by no means difficult to have a quick grasp of their extraordinariness with simply a Google search; what I can supplement here are only few:
1) Since their formation in late 2010, they have had their number of members increased from four to six, but there are in total five members who have resigned; three resigned in 2013, followed by the joining of four new members in the second half of the same year.
2) The newest member joined in October 2013, at a time the group had repeatedly emphasized that they would disband soon in 2014; eventually it was announced on 12 February 2014 that the disbandment will take place on 8 July 2014 (then they acclaimed “hurray!” loudly together with their fans).
3) There were some rumours among the Sinophone sphere that BiS had been ridiculed by netizens for having too much bodily contact with fans and thus nicknamed as “touchable idol”, but actually these are in no sense only pieces of news among netizens, but officially endorsed views.
If BiS are truly researching on idols, they, being themselves idols, do it in a way of pushing every boundary and bottom-line of the concept “idols” with experimental acts. These acts include not only nude and porn-like depiction, MVs with homosexuality, rape, prostitution, physical violence, endoscopic images and bodily mechanization as themes, and the infiltration of death metal and noise into their music, but also adopting cockroaches, robots and display of human organs in the design of performing dresses. Moreover, being an idol group, they set their goal at nothing else but disbanding. All these upset the existing impression and understanding towards Japanese female idol groups.
But the previous paragraph has to start with a really big “if”. The researches, if they really deserve the name, lack any detachment of the subject from the object, which is expected in any serious research. As a matter of fact, BiS has admitted that their unorthodoxy is a way to survive (as idols) in the “Sengoku Era of Idols”. In other words, the unorthodoxy is with less a pure intention to research than to earn a living as idols. To conclude what BiS has done in such a way is however inadequate if the following question is asked: why they still push the moral boundary with their own bodies, rather than performing as idols in a much safer way, especially when they are not actually going to survive as idols for long after the decision to disband? It is not a question that I have an answer; maybe it is not a question which need be taken seriously. Praising their courage to be different is too hypocritical a comment; what should really be appreciated are the artistic effects of unreasonableness – no matter whether they are intended – which their ground-breaking MVs also possess.
Perhaps someone, particularly immature leftists, would denounce BiS’s unorthodoxy and provocative acts as merely enabling the consumption of alternativeness: after all, idols, who have to survive on fans’ support and media exposure, cannot really escape the power relation between watching and being watched. However, this general view on idols is not quite applicable to BiS, for their fans (called “ken-kyu-in”, or researchers), especially those active ones, are always part of BiS’s performance.
Watching how these fans join BiS’s performance in a comical but proficient manner, and then becoming part of them, are somewhat the greatest motivation of attending a BiS’s live show.
The group who researches on idol becomes the researched; audiences who watch a performance become also the watched. BiS is such a performing group which has successfully caused confusion between subjects and objects. Breaking various boundaries in the name of researches, BiS has caused significant effects which are worth studying. Becoming idols – someone supposed to be “consumed” – under the name of research is not to subvert the definition of idols (it is nothing worthwhile to emphasize on subversion after all, especially when you know how easy one can be prosecuted for subverting state power in People’s Republic of China); rather, it is to make research also an object to be consumed, hence provoking the consumers’ reflection on what they have really consumed. As a matter of effect, BiS can really be said as contributing to researches on Japanese female idols and their performance, though extraordinarily unorthodox not only in terms of how they act as idols but also how such researches (if any) have been conducted – collapsing the boundary between subject and object.
To many, it may be unnecessary to complicate thing as such when it comes to J-Pop. You can also enjoy BiS’s music just by watching the MVs, then you will be shocked and feel the difference between BiS and the other Japanese female idols groups, as if when you encounter some modern art works which cannot be completely understood with your rationality. Of course, to be able to enjoy, you first have to prepare yourself for something a bit hardcore.
Update after Feb 2014
1. The design of performing dresses keeps surprising. The ones since April looked ordinary, or strictly speaking too ordinary to be performing dresses – only some causal wears with a floral pattern. The great trick which again makes BiS stand out is, however, that the cloth on the dresses can be torn out part by part; the dresses then gradually become completely tattered, like something worn by girls in desperate hardship. Being the performing dresses toward disbandment, they somewhat reflect or symbolize the damages suffered by the members during the difficult journey of idols.
2. The disbanding Best album is with outrage graphical theme: abandoned sex dolls. The covers of the album are sex dolls with the members’ photos treated as garbage. The double self-denunciation – sexual self-objectification and abandonment – is again thought-provocative, exposing the meaning of disbandment of a female idol group to its ugly extreme.