In this post, I predicted (somewhat lightheartedly) that Erika would at some point decide to give professional modeling a try. For those who don’t want to click the link (Why don’t you? What’s your problem? Do you have some form of racism against links? Are you linkcist?! How do you play Legend of Zelda, huh?!), here’s the exact quote:
“- Yurina would call up her friend Erika and tell her how much fun modeling is. Erika gives it a try.”
So today after eating some delicious chocolate cake and looking in my local paper to see if anyone is giving away a set of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (no luck, although someone was advertising “4 free hens and cock”), I turned on the computer, went to Hello!Online, and what should I see but a brief article stating that Umeda Erika would be leaving C-ute to embark on a modeling career.
Damn. I hate being right about stuff like this.
I’m not exactly surprised. Erika never exactly fit in with C-ute. She was like a sexy giraffe amongst a herd of adorable zebras, or something. But still, I’m pretty upset.
Despite my disappointment, this brings up some truly interesting thoughts about H!P the likes of which I haven’t had in a long time. I’m going to discuss them here, and I’m going to start by comparing H!P and AKB48. Groan if you’d like, but I find this sort of comparison endlessly fascinating and, as this is my blog, will feel free indulge myself a bit. 🙂
(Look at all those cute girls whose names I don’t know or refuse to commit to memory…)
I’m not the best fan of AKB48- In fact, the most I can say for myself is that I love all Asian idols to some extent, and AKB48 are thus on my radar. I read news about them with a kind of detached, fuzzy amazement. When I hear that three of the members are forming a group to promote nattou, read the daunting lists of TV shows that feature AKB48 members in prominent roles, or see that yet another AKB48 girl has become a successful model, I never thought too much about it. As far as I was concerned, that was just something that came with being part of AKB48, along with the songs about lesbians and prostitution- sure, it was great, but nothing to think too hard about. I honestly didn’t wonder why members of H!P weren’t doing the same things (minus the S&M themed songs). Then this happened, and I wonder how I couldn’t have wondered that.
(Pictures like this give me hope for her modeling career. Handled correctly, she’s stunning).
Say you are a teenaged girl in a H!P-managed idol group. Unless your name is Sugaya Risako you are probably charming and have at least some amount of talent. You perform in concerts, have handshake events occasionally, and go on variety shows with the rest of your group whenever you have a new single coming out. Every once in a great while you might be allowed a solo photoshoot in a magazine filled with nearly identical photoshoots of other idols. If you’re not one of those bestowed with the elusive title of “Popular,” you might never appear solo in any magazine or on any TV show. That’s it- that’s the extent of your activities.
Imagine now that you turn on the TV on your day off. On every other channel you see the smiling face of a member of AKB48. You open magazines other than idol magazines aimed at single men and see an AKB48er posing in the latest designs from Paris.
You know that you can do more. You have interests- acting, modeling, advertisement. But for whatever reason, your management doesn’t allow you to do any of it. How infuriating must that be, never to be allowed to stretch out and find out the limits of your own potential? Eventually, you make the difficult choice: To find out what you’re capable of, you must leave the protection of H!P and head out on your own. Suddenly everything is in jeopardy. You’ve no idea whether or not you’ll make it outside of H!P. At least in your group you had some form of security in the knowledge that the other members were there with you. Now you’re on your own.
Members of AKB48 don’t need to worry about such things. They can go on and initiate modeling or acting careers while having AKB48 to fall back on if things don’t work out. This is a brilliant move on the part of those in charge of AKB48. When Shinoda Mariko goes to America to expand on her modeling career (It was she that did that, right?), that benefits AKB48 by generating positive publicity. What does H!P do that even begins to measure up to such accomplishments? A few anime roles, and Takahashi’s lone role in a drama that didn’t lead to a thing. Currently the only way a H!P member can expand her boundaries within the entertainment/advertisement industry is by graduating. If H!P doesn’t start changing their policies about such things very soon, they’re going to begin losing girls left and right. Erika may simply be the first in an growing pandemic of girls taking the plunge.
That’s not to say that H!P will be doomed for sure if they don’t change their ways. H!P has one thing that AKB48 doesn’t- a history of excellence (I’m pretty sure that that was my middle school’s motto…). But in the youth-driven idol industry, that will only get a group so far. The current incarnation of H!P is doing alright, all things considered. My point is simply that they could be doing so much more, so much better. The girls have the looks and the talent. Now all they need is the chance.
(Just… wow. I’m secretly giddy about her modeling career).
Happy birthday to Yurina and I- We’re 16!)