Tokyo Idols

An inside look at Japan’s Idol industry, and it ain’t pretty.

While it’s easy to think that the United States has cornered the market on the commoditization of young girls for the male gaze, in many ways we don’t hold a candle to — wait for it — Japan. Kyoko Miyake’s often-unnerving documentary Tokyo Idols looks at one of the more prominent aspects of this phenomenon: the 10,000 teenage girls called “idols,” and the $1 billion industry surrounding the worship of them by much older, purity-obsessed men. Miyake focuses on 19-year-old Rio as she struggles to maintain her singing career in spite of the unforgivable sin of growing too old to be an idol — a role she hadn’t wanted to play in the first place — and 43-year-old Koji, leader of the yellow-shirted Rio fan legion, who acknowledges that he lives vicariously through Rio to compensate for his disappointments in his own life.

Tokyo Idols also gives a necessary platform to journalist Minori Kitahara, a vocal critic of how the idol movement protects male fantasies and the objectification of women, for which she’s received major backlash. (See also: Sarkeesian, Anita.) Though not the most egregious age disparity on display, there may not be a creepier scene this year than when a 20-something fan describes giving his favorite idol, Amu, dance shoes for her 14th birthday. Fourteenth, Jesus.

Tokyo Idols
Not rated.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.

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