Japanese Reviews Reviews

Film Review: Idol Is Dead (2012) by Yukihiro Kato

” is a tongue-in-cheek horror movie, written and directed by virtually unknown and starring the unconventional Idol group BiS, founded in 2010 by former solo artist . The film was released in 2012 on the occasion of their second album – also called Idol is Dead – and major record label deal with Avex Trax and was conceived originally to be included – with the CD – in a special edition. Later, in 2014 will be followed by “Idol Is Dead: Non-chan's Propaganda Major War” another similar, film + CD operation.

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Riu (Pour Lui) works reluctantly in the provincial hostess bar Takasaki, whose motto is “Even behind the eyes we are smiling”. Dolled up and grumpy, she ponders about her failure to become an Idol and her not so good plan B as a singing hostess. One night, on the way back home with her drunk colleague Tsunko (), she stumbles across a feisty trio of girls and recognises their leader as a wannabe Idol, once her rival. She and the girls have now succeeded in becoming the idol group Ikaho Onsens and smugly show off their lineup of gigs. Needless to say, it all turns into a cat-fight, a rather vicious one actually, so much that the trio falls semi-accidentally from a bridge and gets killed.

In a frenzy to cover up the murder, Riu and Tsunko bury the bodies and decide to take the girls' place in the scheduled shows to divert suspicions. In need for a third member, they call up their friend Non-chan ( of BiS), an otaku and blogger, basically the least suitable person to become an idol they could possibly choose. Their plan includes a change of name to BiS (Brand-new idol Society), a program of rehearsals and physical training, and a show at a creepy barn, a supposed stepping-stone of stardom, where a bunch of local lobotomized males, “starving for entertainment” (but also for life), will decree their future success. All well, but stress and performance-anxiety are consuming Tsunko who eventually leaves and is replaced by eager A-grade student Yufu ( of BiS). The show must go on, but now grudge and vengeance in a horrific shape are on the way to spoil the party.

“Idol is Dead” is a slippery film to categorize. Positioned in between a music video and a low budget film, with an odd but sweet running time of 63 min., it works well as a vehicle for the group and it is indeed their fun project, but it doesn't take itself too seriously and for this very reason, it is rather watchable, even when extrapolated by its contest.

The message that BiS wants to convey is that the group doesn't follow the “kawaii” guidelines of the typical Idol group. They have always called themselves “alternative idols” and in the movie they are totally and unashamedly showing off their eccentricity with their clumsy dance routines, scruffy costumes and the “counter-idol” choice of a horror genre, playfully executed. An array of special effects, including a Tetsuo-style body horror, buckets of fake blood and hilarious decapitations, are so bad they are good, in a trashy sort of way.

Moreover, the movie is a cheeky yet affectionate satire of the whole idol-dom and its male audiences, portrayed as a zombie-like bunch of losers. One of them, an older groupie, completely devoted to Non-chan, is played by well-respected actor Shingo Mizusawa, recently seen in Yoshida's “The Scythian Lamb” and his funny and strong performance brings some weight and contrast to this bubbly sisterhood mash-up.

“Idol is Dead” is – no doubt – a means to an end but in its freshness and well played naivety is enjoyable, light-hearted fun. Pure pop with a pinch of rock and roll spirit.

About the author

Adriana Rosati

On paper I am an Italian living in London, in reality I was born and bread in a popcorn bucket. I've loved cinema since I was a little child and I’ve always had a passion and interest for Asian (especially Japanese) pop culture, food and traditions, but on the cinema side, my big, first love is Hong Kong Cinema. Then - by a sort of osmosis - I have expanded my love and appreciation to the cinematography of other Asian countries. I like action, heroic bloodshed, wu-xia, Shaw Bros (even if it’s not my specialty), Anime, and also more auteur-ish movies. Anything that is good, really, but I am allergic to rom-com (unless it’s a HK rom-com, possibly featuring Andy Lau in his 20s)"

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