Organized Panel Session
In the early eighties, idols inundated Japan’s mainstream media, gaining an even greater degree of ubiquity. Behind each of these stars stood a dedicated fan base, known as shin’eitai, a term with an explicitly militaristic edge (to wit, the same label is used to describe Hitler’s SS). At times, media attention shifted away from idols themselves, focusing instead on these vast networks of fans, the likes of which had never been seen before.
When the media referred to shin’eitai, they were frequently brought up in relation to crimes committed by members, most commonly robbery or theft (Hori Chiemi’s shin’eitai, for example, stole over four hundred phones) or episodes of physical violence that occasionally erupted between rival fan bases. Yoked as they were to bubbly idols, stars who exuded innocence, shin’eitai connected idols to a world of delinquency and disobedience. In a manner of speaking, they represented the dark side of idol culture.
This paper addresses the history of the early eighties idol, but centers on the role that shin’eitai played in creating idol culture rather than that played by idols themselves. I pay particular attention to Matsuda Seiko’s shin’eitai, SEC (Seiko Engaging Circle), moving beyond the criminal image of shin’eitai to also examine shin’eitai participatory culture at concerts, where fans performed “calls” (kōru), chanting counter-lyrics in unison over the idol’s song. Through an analysis of these activities, I argue that shin’eitai effectively co-opted the commercial world of idols, anodyne and accessible by design, transforming it into something entirely their own.