Student Critic Patrick Dalziel reviews Tokyo idols (Kyoko Miyake, Canada/UK, 2017)
“It’s not a phase, it’s a religion” chants an obsessive Otaku fan at the start of Kyoko Miyake’s latest documentary.
Here, the Peabody award winning filmmaker has turned her focus away from world issues, to Japan’s increasingly popular idol culture. An industry which sees millions of middle-aged men pay large amounts of money to watch very young female popstars perform. What’s interesting about the film, is how discerningly this subject is discussed.
Miyaki’s choice of lead interviewee Rio, a 19-year-old idol, is responsible for this graceful approach. Her honesty and humble attitude towards the lifestyle creating a contrast to her exuberant live shows. Shown to us in loud bursts of neon and strobe lighting, cinematographer Van Royko captures the crowd’s animalistic responses in a suitably dynamic manner. Rio’s fans who call themselves “The Brothers” are also interviewed, giving surprisingly rational reasons for their obsessive nature. It would have been easy to portray it as a perversion, but Miyake chooses not to over simplify and instead creates a layer of sympathy towards many of “The Brothers”. Two other idols are also interviewed, one of which is only 10-years-old, but their stories feel undeveloped compared to Rio’s. They’re far too brief, and probably should have been left for a follow up documentary.
Thankfully though, this is the only real gripe with the film. It’s a very interesting topic, especially given how alien it is to Western audiences, and the stylistic nature of the film manages to capture the culture’s energy with ease.
Patrick Dalziel is 20 and studies Journalism at Edinburgh Napier University.