Idols: The Image of Desire in Japanese Consumer Capitalism

  • Patrick W. Galbraith


On 22 November 2010, fans across Japan rushed to purchase Tomochin!!, a collection of photographs of Itano Tomomi, a member of the popular female idol group AKB48. Of the 148 pages in the book, 64 were manga; drawings of Itano and a fictional story about her accounted for 43 percent of a photo book bearing her nickname and presenting her to fans. While the reaction was not entirely positive, it is interesting that such a conflation of images could occur at all. This was not an isolated incident. Just a few months earlier, the members of AKB48 began appearing as characters in their own manga series. As Tomochin!! makes clear, for some perhaps uncomfortably so, fiction is part of the makeup of an idol. The association of real and fictional images exposes how idols are made up and how they are imagined.


Image Video Viewing Position Grand Narrative High School Girl Object Relation Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adorno, Theodor. 1991. The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, edited by J.M. Bernstein. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Allison, Anne. 2000. Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics, and Censorship in Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amano, Tarō. 2007. “Idol Exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art: ‘IDOLS!’ Understanding Contemporary Portraiture Through the Depiction of Idols.” Trans. Suda Takahisa. High Fashion: Bimonthly Magazine for Women and Men 313 (1 February): 261.Google Scholar
  4. Aoyagi, Hiroshi. 2005. Islands of Eight Million Smiles: Idol Performance and Symbolic Production in Contemporary Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University nAsia Center.Google Scholar
  5. Barthes, Roland. 1975. The Pleasure of the Text. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang.Google Scholar
  6. Barthes, Roland. 1982. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang.Google Scholar
  7. Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. The Logic of Sense. Trans. Mark Lester. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1977. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  9. Durkheim, Émile. 2001. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Trans. Carol Cosman. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dyer, Richard. 1979. Stars. London: British Film Institute. Ezaki Glico Co. 2011. “AKB48 Oshimen Mēkā.” (accessed 21 June 2011).Google Scholar
  11. Fiske, John. 1987. Television Culture. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  12. Friedberg, Anne. 1990. “A Denial of Difference: Theories of Cinematic Identification.” In Psychoanalysis and Cinema, edited by E. Ann Kaplan, 36–45. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Galbraith, Patrick W. 2009. The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider’s Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha International.Google Scholar
  14. Gamson, Joshua. 1994. Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gigazine. 2011. “ ‘Nioi ga Deru Terebi’ Kaihatsu-chū, Aidoru ya Joyū no Kaori mo Saigen Kanō ni.” 22 June. smell/ (accessed 1 July 2011).Google Scholar
  16. Grassmuck, Volker. 1990. “ ‘I’m alone, but not lonely’: Japanese Otaku-kids Colonize the Realm of Information and Media: A Tale of Sex and Crime from a Faraway Place.”∼leng/otaku-e.htm (accessed 1 June 2011).Google Scholar
  17. Hills, Matt. 2002. Fan Cultures. London: Routledge. Ivy, Marilyn. 2010. “The Art of Cute Little Things: Nara Yoshitomo’s Parapolitics.” In Mechademia 5: Fanthropologies, edited by Frenchy Lunning, 3–30. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  18. Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Karniol, Rachel. 2001. “Adolescent Females’ Idolization of Male Media Stars as a Transition into Sexuality.” Sex Roles 44, no. 1/2: 61–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kimura, Tatsuya. 2007. “History of Japanese Idols: From the Silver Screen to the Internet Via the Living Room.” Trans. Suda Takahisa. High Fashion: Bimonthly Magazine for Women and Men 313 (1 February): 259–260.Google Scholar
  21. Kinsella, Sharon. 1995. “Cuties in Japan.” In Women, Media, and Consumption in Japan, edited by Lise Skov and Brian Moeran, 220–254. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  22. Kinsella, Sharon. 2002. “What’s Behind the Fetishism of Japanese School Uniforms?” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture 6, no. 2: 215–237.Google Scholar
  23. Kinsella, Sharon2006. “Minstrelized Girls: Male Performers of Japan’s Lolita Complex.” Japan Forum 18, no. 1 (March): 65–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kitabayashi, Ken. 2004. “The Otaku Group from a Business Perspective: Revaluation of Enthusiastic Consumers.” Nomura Research Institute. http:// (accessed 1 June 2011).Google Scholar
  25. Lacan, Jacques. 2007. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVII: Other Side of Psychoanalysis, edited by Jacques-Alain Miller. Trans. Russell Grigg. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  26. LaMarre, Thomas. 2006a. “Otaku Movement.” In Japan After Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present, edited by Tomiko Yoda and Harry Harootunian, 358–394. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  27. LaMarre, Thomas. 2006b. “Platonic Sex: Perversion and Shōjo Anime.” Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal 1, no. 1: 45–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. LaMarre, Thomas. 2009. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  29. Lukács, Gabriella. 2010. Scripted Affects, Branded Selves: Television, Subjectivity, and Capitalism in 1990s Japan. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McDonald, Paul. 1997. “Feeling and Fun: Romance, Dance, and the Performing Male Body in the Take That Videos.” In Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, edited by Sheila Whitely, 277–294. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Mulvey, Laura. 1989. Visual and Other Pleasures. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nakamori Akio. 2007. Aidoru Nippon. Tokyo: Shinchōsha.Google Scholar
  33. Ōgawa Hiroshi. 1988. Ongaku suru Shakai. Tokyo: Keisō Shobō.Google Scholar
  34. Okada Toshio. 2008. Otaku wa Sudeni Shinde-iru. Tokyo: Shinchosha.Google Scholar
  35. Ōsawa Masachi. 2008. Fukanōsei no Jidai. Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho.Google Scholar
  36. Ōtsuka Eiji. 1989. Shōjo Minzokugaku: Seikimatsu no Shinwa o Tsumugu “Miko no Matsuei.” Tokyo: Kōbunsha.Google Scholar
  37. Ōtsuka Eiji. 2010. “World and Variation: The Reproduction and Consumption ofGoogle Scholar
  38. Narrative.” Trans. Marc Steinberg. In Mechademia 5: Fanthropologies, edited by Frenchy Lunning, 99–117. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  39. Saitō, Tamaki. 2007. “Otaku Sexuality.” Trans. Christopher Bolton. In Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime, edited by Christopher Bolton, Stan Csiscery-Ronay Jr and Takayuki Tatsumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  40. Sasakibara Gō. 2004. “Bishōjono Gendai-shi. Tokyo: Kōdansha Gendai Shinsho.Google Scholar
  41. Szollosy, Michael. 1998. “Winnicott’s Potential Spaces: Using Psychoanalytic Theory to Redress the Crises of Postmodern Culture.” Psyche Matters. http:// (accessed 23 June 2004).Google Scholar
  42. Treat, John Whittier. 1993. “Yoshimoto Banana Writes Home: Shōjo Culture and the Nostalgic Subject.” Journal of Japanese Studies 19, no. 2: 353–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tsunku. 2000. Rabu Ron. Tokyo: Shinchōsha.Google Scholar
  44. Ueno Chizuko. 2010. Onna-girai: Nippon no Misojinī. Tokyo: Kinokuniya Shoten.Google Scholar
  45. Williams, Linda. 1999. Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible.” Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patrick W. Galbraith 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick W. Galbraith

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations