The Future of Manufactured Idols: Update


I like to think that if I’d seen AKB48’s newest member Aimi Eguchi (江口 愛実) when she debuted, that I’d immediately have been able to tell that she was actually computer-generated. But I’m not so sure: whereas it’s pretty obvious in most of the shots here and here, I would never have noticed anything unusual about that ad above (all the members look quite fake!), nor that this and this picture weren’t of a real person.

It’s a little more obvious in the commercial itself though:

Thanks very much to @Septemberlena for letting me know about her. Unlike Hatsune Miku (初音ミク) that I wrote about two weeks ago, who very much resembles an anime character despite the impressive technology behind her, unfortunately such photorealistic idols clearly have a huge potential to insidiously affect teens’ body images. Especially when coming from a group as popular as ABK48.


7 thoughts on “The Future of Manufactured Idols: Update

  1. I think they’re all CGI – much cheaper, and they only say what they’re programmed to. That’s a logical progression from the micro managed puppets that are the current norm. Don’t have to have thousands of trainees, coaches, surgery, classes, makeup etc either, as they are expensive. So thousands of girls wouldn’t get traumatised during the process, though they’d then be trying to live up to a CGI character.


  2. The media coverage about the “Eguchi Aimi” CM was quite strange. In Japan was along these lines: the group comment something about this new member on some live event, then TV shows cover the news about the commercial itself (mindlessly as always), and then fans start to scratch their heads because there is something strange about this, so when people start to post pictures with other member’s facial features or people start to look at the data (she is born in the same place where the headquarters of the advertiser are, among other things) even that thing about the anagram that you could get “I AM CG” from their name, gossip media and blogs start to talk about this, and media start to pay attention to this again, but instead of using it as a joke about the state of the media (and then, losing all future coverage), they gave enough clues among days for everybody being “in the joke” when they admitted it. International coverage’s selling point was this thing about fake/real and the chance for them to point other people as guardians of “truth” and how “clever” they were (many media was pointing that fans didn’t know she was fake). Kind of ironic that this “showing the shadows under the brilliant façade”-type narrative was the hook to make them went viral (I mean even CNN USA covered this).

    Anyway, things that don’t get mentioned about this: this girl is the Aimi’s voice and as she impersonated her on one live show also the face-base where all the other features were pasted.

    Aimi is still a member:

    And you should try (for fun or feeling nausea) the game on the CM website:

    h ttp://


  3. I didn’t know about her until I read this post (not a follower of AKB48 in the least), so I wonder if I would have gotten any weird vibe off of her. I did notice her eyes didn’t move which freaked me out a little and her face seems a little stiff. I think I would have been like the fans who were scratching their heads as to how a new member managed to jump to the top without fan voting or anything else.


  4. First off, thank you for mentioning me in the post! *fangirls*

    Secondly, I’m an AKB48 fan and I actually couldn’t /quite/ tell when she first made her appearance in Playboy (it just looked like she was wearing a bit too much BB Cream, in all honesty) but gradually, when people started pointing out her facial features that were ‘stolen’ from other members (Watanabe Mayu’s eyebrows, Itano Tomomi’s nose, Maeda Atsuko’s nose etc.) and then they outright admitted it so I couldn’t delude myself any longer. If she was real, she would totally be a contender for AKB’s new ‘ace’ (currently the girl to the immediate left of Aimi, Maeda Atsuko)

    Anyway, while Aimi looks pretty similar body wise to the other AKB members that she’s standing with (who are obviously real people, which represents a somewhat attainable aesthetic) if the whole ‘CG Idol’ concept catches on, that could change and we could end up with realistic looking idols such as Aimi with unattainable body proportions. That’s even more dangerous in a group like AKB48 which is marketted as a group of everyday, ordinary girls that are easy for the fan to reach. I don’t think (or I hope not, at least) that Aki-P is interesting in creating any more of these computer idols as they don’t really work with AKB’s concept (they can’t perform in the theatre, and I’m pretty sure he’s more interested in making sure that every district in Japan has a group ending in ’48’) but as you illustrated with Hatsune Miku’s popularity, I don’t think the actual concept will go away any time soon. It makes sense – virtual idols don’t get boyfriends or get filmed smoking/drinking underage (see Kago Ai/that Ryutaro guy from Hey!Say!JUMP) don’t faint from overwork or exhaustion (see every k-pop idol ever) won’t sue you when they get popular (see Tohoshinki 1.0) and you don’t have to pay them. It makes sense for the fan (who will never be disappointed in their idol) and for the company. Whether it’s from an idol company or the people behind VOCALOID, virtual idols are only going to get more and more popular.


  5. Off-topic, but the Guardian has a piece about drinking culture in China, which sounds rather familiar:

    “If I drink, it doesn’t necessarily help me get promoted. But if I don’t, it’s less likely that I will be. So I must drink, even if it’s not pleasant at all,” Chi explains. “People want to show they are forthright and try to get along with others … It’s very normal to get an order to drink from bosses.”


    1. Thanks for passing that on. As a heads-up, I’m going to have to take a 2 week-break from blogging from this Friday (will explain later), so please feel free to mention it again on the Open Thread post I’ll put up then.


  6. Drinking is a part of business. Asian like to think that we drink, we show our true view on the relationship and a test of integrity. Business in Asia is all about that as I think it is the same in the west. Except you guys play golf more than we do.


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