Idol Magazines

15 Oct

Because my life is just that interesting (as an update, I still have a cold, and am still bruised from my bicycle run-in, though I did get my bike fixed), I have another update unrelated to any of my current activities whatsoever!  In fact, this is probably not interesting to anyone but me, so I apologize!  But for anyone interested, here’s an explanation of the idol magazines I wait eagerly to buy every month.

I confess that I’ve retrograded over the years; I never read anything similar to an idol magazine in America, so I can’t even tell you if they exist or not, and I can’t compare the Japanese version to the American one.  I know it differs from things like Cosmo Girl or Seventeen (the latter of which they actually have in Japan) in that idol magazines are 100% focused on idols.  Every page is covered with photos of idols and the content is all either about idols or text transcribed from idols/written by idols.  When I say written by idols, I don’t mean the idols are journalists.  Rather, it’s easier to explain the situation in to say that there are 3 main types of articles in idol magazines:

❥ Block text format: These articles are usually literally that– a block of text.  Most of the time, they consist of 3 paragraphs or subsections loosely guided by a question or cue words, for example “What do you think of when you think ‘Summer’?” or “Something that recently shocked you.”  The idols will write 4 or 5 sentences about this topic, and the three topics are grouped together on the page of the magazine.  These can range from easy to read to full of slang that I don’t know to really really boring, depending on what the idols are rambling about.

❥ “Cross Talk” format: This is the Japanese name for what I can only assume is an article transcribed from a recording of what idols say when given a topic in a closed setting.  “Cross talks” are usually between a whole band or at least 3 members of the same group, and the sections of each “cross talk” are headed by a similar prompt to those used in the block text format.  For example, if the question were to be “What do you think of when you think ‘Summer’?” the “cross talk” might start with one idol saying “Summer makes me think of the beach!” Another idol might then respond “Remember that one time we went to the beach together?” and the conversation will go on from there.  These conversations are transcribed into the magazine like a script, with each line starting with an idol’s name to show who said it.  I find these less interesting and really difficult to read because they’re often full of slang and non sequiturs.

❥ “100 Question” format: These, as far as I can tell, are filled out like surveys and then handed in to the magazine to print.  Sometimes they’re 100 questions, sometimes 50, sometimes some other number, but usually, it’s a list of questions ranging in content from random personal things, like “favourite colour” or “food that you hate” to preferences, like “do you prefer beds or futons” or “do you shower in the morning or the evening,” or else hypothetical questions like, “What would you do if you won 3 billion yen in the lottery?”  These are the easiest to read quickly, since they’re mostly essentially lists.

Of course, there are other types of articles– these mostly appeal in the articles about specific idol groups, and the magazines often have articles about current TV shows and reports from concerts.  But the main content that I care about it what the idols have to say, because I’m just that cool.

And then, there are five idol magazines about Johnny’s that come out every month, which makes it very inconvenient for S and I to split them evenly.  For whatever reason, two idol magazines come out more than a month in advance, on the 22nd or 23 of the month two moths prior.  For example, in about a week, the December issue of these magazines will come out, I don’t know why.  The other three magazines come out around the 5th or 6th of the month prior, so about a week ago, the November issue of these magazines came out.  I seriously have no idea why it works this way, but that’s the way it works!  And so, here’s my brief showcase of the idol magazines, in the order they come out.

[Myojo] Myojo is currently having its 60 year anniversary, and I’m puzzling over what the heck it published back in 1952, before Johnny’s even existed.  The name “Myojo” comes from the Japanese 明星 or myoujou, which means either morning star (Venus?) or, as far as I know, in 1950s Japanese, a famous person (I’ve never heard anyone use this term currently; if you’re not an aidoru/idol or a serebu/celeb, then you’re a yuumeijin or, literally, famous person).  Myojo is published by Shueisha, a prominent company that Americans might recognize as the publisher of Shounen Jump, probably the most well-known manga magazine in America, and the owner of the American publisher of manga, Viz Media.  Shueisha has, as far as I can tell, an exclusive agreement with Johnny’s, as all of Johnny’s calendars and photobooks are published by Shueisha via Myojo, and as a result, Myojo seems to be the more “legitimate” idol magazine out there.  Myojo is, best as I can describe, the more “real” magazine as well; while it’s still filled with shamelessly large posters of Johnny’s groups and every page plastered with photos of these talents, the interviews at least contain semi-substantial content.  While it’s hard to justify that as “real” content… compared to the other magazines, believe me, it is.  Myojo is also awesome in that it gives out the best free stuff; once a year, it comes with stickers and a cardboard CD case in its New Years issue in February, and at least once a year, it comes with a bag of some sort (I’m the proud owner of an NYC mini-tote, an NYC makeup bag, and a Sexy Zone pencil case from Myojo).

[Popolo] Popolo, I think, is Italian for “people” or something like that?  I’m really not sure.  There’s a really rad explanation of Popolo on the inside cover though!  Popolo, opposite of Myojo, which comes out on the same day, is the absolute pits of idol magazines in terms of any respectability whatsoever.  Most pages of Popolo articles have no text at all, but are simply huge photos of idols’s faces.  Often, the themes of these articles seem to be “idols laying shirtless on sheets covered with flowers” or “idols standing in dark rooms having awkwardly had water poured over them.”  Articles tend to be about 5 or 6 pages of just photos to 2 to 3 pages of text, often asking the idols ridiculous questions about romance.  All in all, I have approximately zero respect for Popolo… but somehow, either S or I buys it every month nonetheless.  The ice on the sketchy cake for Popolo is that it doesn’t have a real cover, but one that somehow resembles a tabloid.  Real classy, Popolo, real classy.

[Potato] To this day, I have no idea why Potato is called Potato.  The Japanese pronounciation guide (furigana, which often exists to clarify to readers as to how to read kanji in regular Japanese text) informs me that it should be read like the English word “potato,” rather than how a Japanese person might first pronounce those syllables, “po-tah-to” (you say potato, I say po-tah-to style).  However, the magazine has nothing to do with potatoes and everything to do with idols, as Potato is probably the second most “real” magazine, as much of its content is similar to that in Myojo.  However, Potato doesn’t have the deal with Johnny’s that Myojo has, and so it doesn’t have the “legitimacy” that comes along with it.  Also, not as much free stuff, sadly.  Still, it’s a reliable source of good content every month.

[Duet] Surprisingly, Duet, like Myojo, is publshed by Shueisha.  I’m not really sure why they need to have two idol magazinesin one company, but Duet has a hugely different feel than Myojo and probably (?) caters to a slightly differen audience.  While Myojo is Shueisha’s “real” publication in that it forcuses on good and interesting content about idols, the purpose of Duet seems to be fan service.  I’m not sure if I’ve touched on fan service in this blog before, but essentially, in a nutshell, fans like to see idols be close with one another, and so fan service is a strange phenomenon that, in Johnny’s, means that idols occasionally will say or do things with one another that dance along the line between friendly and more than friendly.  This can be anywhere from hugging to holding hands to saying in a magazine how much time they spend alone with the other person or how important the other person is to them.  Two members of Arashi, currently the most popular idol group in Japan and a cultural phenomenon so impressive that I can’t really find a good comparison in American pop culture, are known to stage kiss during concerts and have proposed marriage to one another in magazine articles… and Duet is the sort of magazine that prints that sort of article.  Many of their articles are rankings of the “best pair” (an ambiguous term) out of a group based on fan votes, or members writing their feelings about other members in block text-style articles.  For this reason… I’m a fan of Duet.  Also, since it’s Shueisha, Duet also sometimes comes with stickers, a plus!

[Winkup] Finally, there’s Winkup.  Winkup has a special place in my heart (despite its name being a very strange smash of English words) as the magazine that, most of the time, does what Duet does but better.  Winkup is also full of fan service, and has a special section called dengonban or “message board.”  In this section, idols write notes to one another that the other idol replies to in the next month’s issue.  In essence, it allows for, essentially, conversation between these idols in a public (and obviously staged) forum.  The marriage proposal between the two Arashi members occured in Winkup’s dengonban, and idols talk about everything from going out to meals with other idols to looking forward to starring in an upcoming drama with other idols to expressing their admiration for their idol senpai.  In essence… Winkup is really bad and yet really great at what it does.

So, now you know more than you ever wanted to know about idol magazines and can totally judge me about what I waste my time reading.  But hey, I’m getting a lot better at Japanese this way, at the very least.


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