[Warning: Long post and only one photo.]
I’m writing this while watching the ARASHI BLAST IN HAWAII live documentary for the nth time. But this post has been writing itself in my head for weeks now. Alas, my thoughts couldn’t write themselves.
There’s been two things that made the news recently:
- Cyzo’s malicious write-up on whether Arashi get along only for work after Nino was asked if he meets other members outside;
- an ex-manager writing a “tell-all” book on Arashi, implying that the group is not what it seems to be.
psycho Cyzo exists to bring Arashi down so most Arashi fans have learned to laugh and shrug their shoulders every time it comes out with trash. On the other hand, I don’t think Arashi fans are delusional to the point they believe that Arashi’s lives revolve around the group and they are joined at the hip even when they’re not working.
I mean, these guys are not only different in personalities but they also have their individual lives. They have their respective families, friends, interests and hobbies. It would be too much if, even after work, they still stick together when they already spend majority of their days together. Two days to film their weekly variety shows, maybe magazine pictorials and interviews together, recordings, music-related filming, meetings and when it’s concert season, rehearsals almost every day. Do they still have to be together in their downtime?
And that’s what Nino was trying to say; it doesn’t mean just because they don’t hang out outside of work, they are not close or they are not friends at all. Is it not enough they share the same dentist, among other personal details?
I don’t think they’d last 16 years if they stick together all the time, or even lived together under one roof, considering their extreme personalities. As they said in a previous interview, there’s no problem of living together but sooner or later, one would stop coming home.
One thing about Arashi, they never fed their fans any delusion of any bond. That so-called “Arashi bond” came from the media and fans who watched their earlier shows and saw their natural chemistry on TV. Even until now, when they are seasoned hosts and entertainers, it still feels like I’m eavesdropping on their conversation whenever I watch them–not so much on VS ARASHI but on SHIYAGARE–that sometimes they even forget they have a guest. It’s not deliberate though and no amount of script could cover up any awkwardness or cracks in their armor, if any, especially during unguarded moments and there are bound to be in their variety shows. But their public interaction is so natural it’s either they are just good actors or they’re just comfortable with one another.
Funny thing is, they can’t even define that “bond” or qualify it as “family” or “friends”. To them, Arashi is not family nor friends nor colleagues but a “genre” all its own. And I guess that much is obvious that only the five of them can understand what they mean to one another since they have a shared experience, and to a certain extent, a shared life; and most importantly, shared goals and dreams.
Those shared goals and dreams are very evident in the BLAST documentary when fans are finally afforded a glimpse on how Arashi is behind-the-scenes. When was the last time they had a concert BTS? Was it for HOW’S IT GOING (2003) with Nino doing that crazy dance backstage and Riida crawling over the seats in the bus? They’re not half as crazy anymore in BLAST, though they still have that dorkiness about them. After all, they’re adults now though one thing hasn’t changed, that focus on their work even during rehearsals, under the punishing heat and the unrelenting rain. You’d think they’re already performing live from their rehearsals alone and the way they go over their performance meticulously while occasionally clowning around, the way they are hands-on with their concerts and how they interact with their equally hardworking staff, is just so inspiring and heartwarming to watch. And somehow, it makes you feel you are part of this whole production yourself.
I’m glad to see the ownership that Arashi has developed over their work though. As idols who seldom compose their music and who are handed scripts to their shows, they did say that it’s through concerts that they can do whatever they want. Of course, they still have their staff and crew helping them come up with those awesome concerts, but the amount of planning and efforts they give to their concerts is on full display in the BLAST documentary. (The most touching moment for me though is during rehearsals for Season while Riida is looking up like a boss at the giant screen showing their photos through the years; and I need to mention that part where Nino and Jun wipe the rain off their own platforms before the second half of the concert. And I just noticed as I write this–why was Aiba carrying a plastic bag when they got down from the chopper after the concert on the second night as if he just went shopping from a konbini?)
Without a doubt, they have become such a strong brand and I’m sure they are aware of that. Now, are they just a business partnership as what Cyzo wants to make it appear?
Arashi ain’t stupid to jeopardize what has brought them success. They know that so-called bond is their strength. And just like any relationship, it needs to be nurtured, and at the same time, given enough space to be organic for it to flourish.
And this brings me to the “tell-all” book of ex-manager-san. The book covered until 2002 so obviously, the narrative is already dated. It portrayed a young Arashi struggling as a group, which is typical when you throw strangers together; an arrogant Sho, an insecure Nino, a diva Jun and the underdog Tennen pair (Aiba and Riida). As many Arashi fans pointed out, tell us something we don’t know. We have heard these stories from Arashi themselves, told in jest most of the time. But whether it’s accurate or not, and whatever the agenda was, nobody knows except for ex-manager and Arashi themselves. But that book, and the “dirt” it seeks to dig, won’t change the way I appreciate and love Arashi.
I think Arashi fans are under no illusion that these five dudes had it easy from the get-go. Much as they struggled as a group, for sure, they also struggled individually. Even normal people like us with our obscure lives and work struggle too, how much more idols like them who have to do all that under the glare of the spotlight and under the watchful eye of their handlers, media, fans and the general public. Certainly, it’s not a walk in the park. And that’s what makes Arashi special, the journey that they had taken to get to where they are now, and the path that they are still trekking. As what Jun said, the Hawaii concerts–with the chopper–were symbolic of the stop that they are making on their way to what still awaits them.
So is the Arashi bond for real or is it just a myth or urban legend? Let the 16 years (and counting) of Arashi speak for itself. The answer is right there.
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