THRONGS OF ADULT MEN BLISSFULLY WAVE glow sticks in unison as they gaze upon the object of their devotion. “It’s like a religion,” a man observes in voiceover. As the camera pulls out, it’s clear these men are not wor- shipping a deity promising an eternal afterlife. Rather, they’re genuflecting before nymphets offering heaven through a vacuous song-and- dance routine. Kiyoko Miyake’s TOKYO IDOLS is a deep-dive into this twisted, only-in-Japan subculture, exploring the symbiotic relationship between otakus, the name for emotionally stunted super fans, and their young female idols. The film focuses on a minor idol named Rio and her most fanatical supporter, Koji. Nearly aging out of the idol game at 20, Rio grinds out a life of fan service with an infectious enthusiasm that her fans adore, hoping for that last shot for the big leagues. When she’s not performing pop routines in dingy venues for several dozen fans, she’s live-streaming, hand-packaging branded goods, or working meet-and-greets. At many of these events, she is cheered on by the irre- pressible Koji, 43, who admits to attending over 700 shows in a year, draining his entire savings on idol-related activities. But his worship of Rio, as presented in the film, is Travis Bickle-like, at once disturbingly obsessive but also oddly chaste. Koji’s a true otaku, part of a lost gener- ation of Japanese men who’ve traded in a shot at real relationships for mediated fantasies. Making its West Coast debut after its Sundance bow, TOKYO IDOLS offers sharp commentary about the misogynistic roots and pernicious ef- fects of idol culture. Director Miyake, however, avoids mocking the sad fans as nothing more than creeps and losers. Instead, TOKYO IDOLS aspires to something greater: finding com- passion for these oddballs who’d sooner give everything up just for one minute with a girl who could be their daughter.
(Synopsis from Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival)
Film Festivals (selected): Sundance Film Festival, Japan Cuts, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Available to stream on (subject to change): Kanopy, Ovid, Apple TV
[This film is NOT available to stream on SAKKA. We do not own the copyright, and this page is for informative purposes only.]