Onyanko Club. Two words able to give a chill down the spine any jigging-giggling-young-japanese-girls amateur.
Sugar-coated pop-songs, scandals, swimsuits, tears and ex-idols becoming OL… A wild odyssey through the 80’s in Japan, through the dazzling splendor and irremediable decadence of the idol industry…
Onyanko Club is all of that. And even more.
Let me begin this tale from its beginning.
If Onyanko Club marked the start of a new era in the history of japanese pop music, it is because their producer/manager (Yasushi Akimoto) invented a whole new concept for the occasion.
Before The Kitten Club, idol units were composed of two or three members (even four members were not that common during the 70’s) and each one of them was meticulously prepared and introduced to the audience because of their talent, attractive face/body and sometimes their charisma.
Idol units with only three members (excessive in numbers during the 70’s) allowed the audience to remember each girl name and recognize their vocal patterns in the recordings.
The downside was it is time and money-consuming to go through several auditions to find, if lucky, one talented girl.
So Yasushi Akimoto threw everything by the window and bet on quantity instead of quality. And that’s basically how the first idol super-group was created.
Another advantage of recruited dozens of young girls is that, even if 3/4 of them was not really gifted, if you make 30 girls sing together a simple chorus it gums out all the imperfections. Yasushi Akimoto is still using this strategy to make us believe that AKB48 members can actually sing.
If it occurs that one Nyanko reveals her real talent then she is strong enough to sell records and appear in commercials by herself. She doesn’t need the unit anymore so she ‘graduates’ (another novelty at the time, now a standard system in the idol industry). Sayuri Kokusho, Shizuka Kudo, Sonoko Kawai, Mamiko Takai (who later married Yasushi Akimoto in pure Celine Dion fashion)… are some of the idols who managed to emerge from the Club.
Onyanko Club becomes a laboratory for the record company : with a weekly TV show consisting mostly of live auditions for new members, they could easily detect new faces to launch into the market.
In a way Onyanko Club predate X-Factor, American Idol and the likes of 20 years.
Another genius concept thought by Mr Akimoto : sub-units.
With a successful super-group as Onyanko Club, Yasushi Akimoto suddenly has A LOT of songwriters sending him their newest creations or even old things lying around. Ready to use as much material as possible, he decided to launch sub-groups to sing the not-enough-catchy-songs for Onyanko Club tunes.
And the sub-groups already had those weird bow-legged concepts behind them ; one was basically the shortest Onyanko member put together with the tallest one. That’s it. That is enough to start a new ‘idol group’.
With a total of 52 members (!), new songs are recorded every week. If you had a mediatric omnipresence (television, radio, magazines…), you understand how and why the public fell into the spiral. The trap was too perfect.
No surprise that the Onyanko model has been reused so often (Hello!Project, AKB48…). Yasushi Akimoto simply found the most profitable way to make money with idols.
But that is not, in my opinion, the most important thing about Onyanko Club.
Well, the group reinvented a business model but it also brought something interesting, sociologically speaking. Onyanko Club openly exploited the lolita-complex like no one ever did before them.
Of course, the seventies also had some young singers singing love songs with slight sexual insinuation (the best example would be Momoe Yamaguchi, 15 years old, humming about getting deflowered by an older man). Onyanko Club had the perfect timing to pick up the money.
Onyanko Club first single (and biggest hit of the year 1986) :
Sailor Fuku Wo Nugasanaide Kudasai
Don’t make me take off my school uniform
The first impression is that the kittens are singing strongly about chastity and the pureness of being an immaculate teenager. But it’s the contrary. A few lines later, the pussycats sing : ‘tomodachi yori hayaku ecchi ga shitai kedo’. Which can translate either as ‘I’d like to know the simple pleasures of flinging’ or ‘I got to get down that thing before the girls, I am so horny’ and everything between the two.
Aah, the haziness of the japanese language! Isn’t it beautiful?
And that’s how the pretty sailor-styled school uniform enters the sexual fantasies of 80% of Japan male population. In less than 4 minutes :
This is how we do it