I spent Saturday night watching old Arashi performances. YouTube is a black hole that sucks you in and before you know it, it’s almost sunrise.
Watching those old clips not only felt nostalgic but interesting. Arashi as young performers, still trying to find their groove, was on full display. Jun was still flamboyant in his dance moves, Riida’s vocals was still a rough diamond but already brilliant, Sakurap was just coming to its own, Aiba looked like he was having the time of his life and he still does, and Nino, well, he is forever 17.
Now, they’ve become professionals, elegant in their dance and in beautiful harmony when they perform. Unfortunately, the kira-kira clothes that come with the idol territory occasionally still make an appearance especially for their concerts.
But they have evolved, in their performance and music. If one watches their first concert up to Blast in Miyagi (since Japonism is not out yet on DVD for the general fandom to watch), it’s obvious how their productions have become more sleek and cutting edge. Their concerts have become their trademark in the industry and the public always watches out for what new thing they will do every time they mount a tour.
As a fan, I’m both happy and proud to see how they have evolved, keeping up with the changing times and continuously challenging themselves, going beyond the idol boundaries. I can only hope they keep on evolving as seasons change because that is the only way to survive in a cruel industry.
The SMAP drama the past week has brought home one thing that we already know: nothing is forever. Even for idols who sell dreams and promise forever.
You have a dream. You work hard. You get famous. You reach the top. Your interests change. Your priorities change. You change. You get old. New idols take your place.
It’s already a blessing that Arashi has kept their top status seven years after their peak (they consider their 10th year in 2009 as the tipping point) but nothing lasts forever, especially not fame that can be so fickle and send you to oblivion with just a snap of a finger and a little mistake.
But is there a retirement plan or an exit door for idols?
No one is indispensable, not even idols, or rather, most especially idols.
And to be honest, I do not want to see Arashi continue to perform the way they do now once they are in their 40s. Sho turns 34 today. Arashi will be in their mid-30s soon though they don’t look like they’ve aged more than 10 years since they debuted in 1999.
They say age is just a number but it’s a crucial factor in an industry that banks on youth and looks. And 10 years down the road, I don’t want them to keep on pushing the idol image because that would already be a stretch. They grow up, as we all do. It’s a fact of life.
I would rather see Arashi doing something they’d be comfortable doing than watch them forced into something they no longer enjoy. Of course it’s another story if that’s what they still want to do, after all Higashiyama senpai can still do backflips effortlessly and elegantly at 50. (Higashiyama senpai is also a perfect example that there is life post-idolhood.)
Arashi is lucky that they have their senpais to learn from on how they might probably handle the next years. For all we know, they are already preparing for when the time comes they have to step back. But as they said (I can’t remember if it was Sho or Nino), they won’t stop working and giving their all for as long as they can and that younger groups will just have to work as hard as them.
Their collaborations with artists like Hotei Tomoyasu and Yamashita Tatsuro are a good way to evolve and mature as a group. As individuals, I have no worry that they will certainly be able to stand on their own. They have successfully built individual careers as actors, on top of the other fields they have been specializing in at the same time such as news for Sho and
fishing arts for Riida. They have reached that point that they are Arashi as much as they are Satoshi Ohno, Sakurai Sho, Aiba Masaki, Ninomiya Kazunari and Matsumoto Jun. They’re already synonymous with the brand they have painstakingly built for 17 years now and counting, and I can only hope that the politics that surround them will not put to waste the blood, sweat and tears they have invested over the years.
But more than anything, I hope that they won’t also be weighed down by the Arashi brand and the expectations thrown at them. They have given fans a lot of happiness I just want to see them happy, and that’s enough.
At the end of the day, we fans can only speculate what happens behind the scenes. We don’t know anything, we are also always the last to know. And the only thing we can do is support them in their endeavors and wish them only the best, and that at the end of the road, more than the thought that they made us proud, that they were also proud of the life choices they made.
Happy birthday, Sho-kun!
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