IDOL, BURNING by Rin Usami
Translated by Asa Yoneda
Having spent the better part of my teen years obsessively fanboying over bands that have either been forgotten to time or I’ve sought therapy to forget, I felt an instant affinity with this story of a Japanese teen’s struggle with hardcore fandom. Akari devotes her life to her “oshi” (idol), Masaki Ueno, one part of the huge J-Pop band, Maza Maza. She blogs, live streams, tweets, effectively cyber-stalks… you get the drift. It’s all posters, love and ridiculous merch until Ueno is accused of hitting a fan. What’s worse, it’s rumoured that the person he hit was (*gasps from all the teens*) his girlfriend.
Idol, Burning offers a shrewd glimpse into the world of extreme fan culture. Akari’s struggle to reconcile her fandom with her idol’s fall from grace, and her attempts to navigate the fan community as it turns on Ueno, makes for some serious teen anguish. The book was a huge hit in Japan. It won major awards. It was even championed by some J-Pop stars. But rip away its facade and I’m not sure it was a world I cared to revisit. One time round the Gunners/Bros/MC Hammer merry-go-round was quite enough, thank you very much.
Idol, Burning by Rin Usami (Tr. Asa Yoneda)