I have written an article about the basic structure of AKB48 and its exploitative method for objectifying young women for public entertainment. Since then, I have created a Facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/groups/222928411085497) and also a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anti-AKB48-Group-or-Against-the-Commoditization-of-Women-in-Japan/144645835614669) promoting petitions against AKB48 and its related groups in hopes that people outside Japan will see how messed up the situation is and many will come to be aware of what has been happening to the Japanese girls in Japanese pop-culture. This time, I am writing some analysis of songs and their performances for the songs in order to see whether what I am saying about this group’s exploitative method is adequate or not. The songs I will treat here are three: Heavy Rotation (as has been briefly discussed in my previous posting), Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru (The School Uniform Is Getting in the Way), and Kuchi Utsushi no Chocolate (Mouth-to-Mouth Chocolate). In treating these songs, I would particularly emphasize the fact that many of the girls involved in these songs as well as in the performances are under 18 – one of them is 14 years old!
First of all, the above is the song, Heavy Rotation, with the English subtitles. This problem with this song is not with the lyrics but rather with its promotional video. The lyrics, though utterly without significance and somewhat incomprehensible, suggests longing for love and adolescent excitement of being in love. The imagery that comes with it, however, does not seem to correspond to the lyrics at all. In fact, no matter how hard you try to make sense out of it, it is impossible to see the artistic significance of depictions of girls kissing each other in underwear, taking a bath with each other, eating sugar and sweets while seemingly helplessly lying on the table (2:20 in). Eating of jello with cherries (2:30, 2:50) is suggestive enough, but what happens at 2:40 in is extremely explicit. One cannot help wondering how she has eaten her jello to get it on all over her face, as if her face is covered with sticky liquid. The number of underaged girls performing in this promotional video is 4: Matsui Jurina (13); Ono Erena (16); Maya Watanabe (16) and Miho Miyazaki (17).
This is the next song we are looking into – it’s called Moth-to-Mouth Chocolate. Asides from its sexually charged title and background, I have absolutely no idea what this song is supposed to be about. The song begins with the phrase, ‘Feed me chocolate mouth to mouth… stuff it in there forcefully,’ and ends with ‘this chocolate is bittersweet, your poison tastes so good, it would be a waste to close my eyes.’ According to one fan site on the Internet (1), the song is teemed with double-meanings in the lyrics on purpose, and the producer/songwriter ,Yasushi Akimoto, is intending this to have a sexual meaning. ‘Betty Blue’ that appears in the lyrics (‘just like Betty Blue, I am a cute girl’) is a character in French movie who “yearns for a better life and quit her last job as a waitress because she was being sexually harassed by her boss.” (2) Again from this same fan website, I found some detailed analysis of the lyrics (what surprises me is that this blogger seems to love this song precisely because of the reason I find it inappropriate). I will let this blogger speak for himself here.
“these lyrics are flawless in challenging a theme as delicate as the boldness of teenage and the first sexual fantasies. Teenage girls have as many of them as anyone else, and the chances of it being a daring high school girl’s fantasy is very high.”
“from the second verse: “Even if I spill my cocoa cup / And it makes a stain on my uniform / I don’t care about it”. The imagery is rather simple, but subtle: the stain on her school uniform means a stain on her “pureness” (let’s not forget that high school girls are often idolized as a symbol of pureness).”
“I love it nonetheless. If possible, I love it even more for the lack of hypocrisy and the tongue-in-cheek tone of the whole song.”
The reason why this blogger likes the song is because he thinks it lacks hypocrisy amongst other things. This person is clearly without education. The three girls singing and performing in this song are all underaged at the time of the live event: Aika Ota (14); Yuki Kashiwagi (17) and Natsumi Harajima (16).
This is the last song, ‘Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru (The School Uniform Is Getting in the Way). The approach is different from the other two songs, which focused on more or less ‘innocence’ and ‘fantasy’. This song speaks of ‘many ways of love’ suggesting that it is okay to have an unconventional relationship, i.e. teenage prostitution. Now teenage prostitution is a huge problem in Japan, especially in Tokyo area – Shibuya Ward – which is, incidentally, the same place mentioned in the song. The girls would often not go home and hang out at the game centers until late in the evening, and they go to Karaoke, and when their money runs out, they go home. That’s the standard patterns of high school girls in a big city in Japan. How do they get money? That’s where the ‘compensated dating’ comes in. It’s essentially the same thing as prostitution, but with this, girls make the phone call to a call center or some place like that and leave a message. A guy calls back, and the girl decides how much they will charge, and the rest is up to the guys. Naturally, these girls are normally under 18. In Tokyo city, I saw on the news that girls as young as 12 years old would even leave messages to have sex. (For those who are interested in the info, visit wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enjo_kōsai)
The lyrics, ‘I want to be loved freely, take me somewhere, to a world I don’t know,’ sounds suspiciously echoing the those girls curiosity in sexuality. The immediately following lyrics ‘don’t look at me like that, I am just a high school girl’ and ‘I don’t care if anybody is looking at us, kiss me,’ are way too obvious to be defended otherwise. Just after saying ‘you can do whatever you like, I want to experience adult pleasure,’ the phrase continues, ‘even if something (bad) happens, it will all work out.’ This is not just a suggestion, but a commendation to the high school girls out there who are curious but do not have the guts to make the step to sleep with someone for money. Towards the end, the image shows of a girls who is allegedly on her way to meet a stranger for sex. She waits in the tunnel, where people are not around. A guy comes, and asks her if she is who he thinks she is, to which she nods. Then, the shot changes to the morning. She looks still the same, somewhat worried, and perhaps regret, but at the very end, the music video ends with her smile, justifying everything that had happened to her, while at the same time reassuring those girls out there that ‘it’s okay’ to do it – as if to say, ‘every girl thinks about it, worries about it, and does it; then she comes out happy.’ The underaged girls in this song are 8 in number: Erena Ono (13); Yuka Matsuda (14); Tomomi Itano (15); Atsuko Maeda (15); Minami Mineguchi (14); Minami Takahashi (15); Tomomi Kasai (16); Sae Miyazawa (16).
Finally, as you can see from the above lyrics, their songs have no coherence in conveying messages. One song tells you how love can be exciting and wonderful, while another tells you there are different ways of love and the love in the form of ‘compensated dating’ is totally acceptable, while yet another sings about being dirty equals teenageness that you shouldn’t miss while you are young. Any real artists would probably concur with me in saying that art is the expression of the artists themselves, and such that they should not contradict with their works if they wanted to produce something meaningful or even least artistic. Expressing contrary opinions among the works may occur, but as long as it reflects the artists’ internal conflicts or when the artists are trying to make a statement with the intended contradiction/contrary. They cannot go back and forth, affirming love on one day and demoralizing it the next day, and go back to adoring love again the day after, end so on. For that is truly a mark of business-mindedness, and not something a true artist would do. For conveyance of messages must cohere internally in the works of the artists, or else the messages are lost.
Again, please join the Facebook Group (http://www.facebook.com/groups/222928411085497) or page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anti-AKB48-Group-or-Against-the-Commoditization-of-Women-in-Japan/144645835614669) I have created to raise awareness and let people in Japan know that we the International community do not tolerate this.