We need to have a talk about Ladybaby

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As Ladybaby’s world tour kicks off in New York, Garry has some questions about the group that no one else seems to be asking.


Okay so I’ll just say this straight up, I don’t get Ladybaby. Then again, there’s a lot of things in the world of Japanese pop culture that I don’t get. Maybe that’s just something that happens when you become an old man like me. You’re just not down with the kids anymore.

Seriously though, what is the appeal to this group? People keep saying they’re the next Babymetal but what does that even mean? I got what Babymetal were trying to do really easily. They’re three cute looking girls doing heavy metal music with heavy metal gimmicks, the whole idea is to play off the contrast between those two things. It also helps that they do it really well.

Ladybaby on the other hand are a cross-dressing guy and two young girls singing pop songs. Although to be fair, Ladybeard is a fairly well known personality in Japan so perhaps I sold him a bit short there. Kuromiya Rei is also fairly famous in certain circles too but more on that later. My point is, I don’t get what they’re trying to do here. The best I can come up with is it’s just another one of those “Japan’s so crazy!” things. Yes, it seems like we’re still beating that tired old horse until there’s nothing left but a soupy puddle on the ground.

If you need actual validation for this claim, let’s just consider the facts. The group blew up almost instantly online, legitimately or not is anyone’s guess. Now, just a scant few months later they’re going on a worldwide tour after having released just one single. Unlike Babymetal who I think we can agree have a lasting draw, this smacks of trying to cash in on your hype before your fifteen minutes of fame rapidly run out.

Speaking of Ladybeard, why is no one in the western media making any kind of deal over how he’s in this group with two young girls? If we’re totally honest, “If this were anywhere else, people would be making a huge deal out of it!”. Not that I’m for one second suggesting that anything inappropriate is going on, after all I could get sued for defamation because I live in this “great” family of nations called Britain. I just find it interesting that all of these journalists saw this huge former pro wrestler and no one thought “Hey, wait a minute…”

Maybe the world is just changing for the better. Even if that is the case, I find it incredibly hard to believe that not one single news website picked up on Kuromiya Rei’s other means of making some pocket money. There’s potentially a huge story and discussion right there for the taking. It’s not like her other job is even particularly hard to find, with even the most basic Google search of her name providing plenty of hits.

You see Miss Rei, who is currently 14 years old, does this thing where she gets photographed and videoed wearing very little clothing. I believe the term is U-15 gravure which is basically provocative underwear/swimsuit modelling that gets bought by a certain demographic to do who knows what with. It is (or at least was before Japan started cracking down in preparation for the 2020 Olympics) a fairly big industry with various stores and websites peddling all manner of CDs, DVDs and other items.

This isn’t even a recent thing for Kuromiya, not that it would make it any less eyebrow raising. From what I understand she’s been doing this kind of thing for almost half of her life. I’m not really sure what kind of parents let their child pose half naked to be ogled at by perverts, even if it could be a way to get into the entertainment industry, but that’s a whole other article. The fact is, not one news article thought to mention this.

The third part of this equation, Kaneko Rie is positively normal by comparison. Unlike the other members of the group, she’s taken the much more conventional way of breaking into the entertainment industry. Entering missiD, lending her face and voice to various projects, all fairly typical things for someone on the path to stardom to do. Her perseverance being even more impressive given the recent passing of her father. Something else I’m surprised news outlets didn’t really pick up on for whatever reason.

Getting back on track, the whole Rei business does strike me as odd because let’s face it, news outlets are always crawling around in the gutter looking for the dirtiest dirt they can find. I thought for sure VICE would have been all over this like they were with that one video/article series they did a few months back about idols and young girls in Japan being sexualized and all the rest.

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It was a great headline but I don’t seem to recall VICE actually DOING much in the moment or the aftermath. I don’t claim to know the inner workings of VICE, but I’d say with a decent amount of certainty that they probably didn’t donate any of the money they made from that series to any of those poor, objectified girls. In fact, it could even be argued that VICE themselves took advantage of the girls they featured in their videos. Again, a topic for another article perhaps.

Ultimately, this whole thing comes down to lazy journalism and that’s honestly what bothers me the most. I guess that’s how the news works these days. A headline, a link to a Youtube video or maybe a Vine but no substance or actual investigation. So many opportunities for investigative, thought provoking journalism just pass all of these hacks by because why take any pride in your work? They still get paid disgusting amounts of money anyway.

The current state of journalism makes me glad that I gave up that career path to focus on something else. Sure the money might be nice but I think my soul is probably worth just a little bit more. With a few exceptions, there’s no honor or value in reporting anymore.

 
What are your thoughts on the points raised here? Did you perhaps not know of or consider some of these things? Leave a comment and let us know.

About NSK

New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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14 comments

  1. Hope to get an update on the music weekly posts! miss them!!!!

  2. All I can definitively say is that to me, this group’s image is bizarre and unappealing. I’m really creeped out especially by the pictures and such where the girls are hugging up on this dude. I’m not saying idol groups are a good example of “morality” in general, far from it, but that’s just… yeah. To me, that stuff is way creepier than Rei’s gravure past. lol.

    I can’t help but wonder if this group is really popular with some people for the same reason it creeps me out. Maybe they like the group because there’s a legitimate spot for them to transplant themselves into for their daydreams or something.

    And for the sake of a complete opinion, I also find their music terrible. This stuff isn’t for me. I’ll be glad when the fad runs out of steam and you have to go to knowyourmeme to find this nonsense.

  3. I’m not sure (yet also positive) about what drives the group’s appeal either. Ladybaby always seemed like a transparent cash grab to me. Using the success of Babymetal as a template for the group was expected- FFS, the group name is a even portmanteau with the word “baby”. The addition of Ladybeard to the group looked (to me) like an attempt by management to upgrade the “crazy Japan” factor. I didn’t know about the U15 model, and I suppose her inclusion in the group adds a weird pedo/fetish aspect – which seems to rock the world of more than one Japan-o-phile.

    In short, Ladybaby seems to be created by taking a list of Japan fetishes and systematically filling that list. It shoves all sorts of negative aspects from the Japanese entertainment industry into our faces. It’s a mockery. Check, check, and double check.

    • I agree with your analysis, we’ll see how long Ladybaby remain a thing I guess. I don’t see them being around longer than Babymetal though.

  4. While it’s easy to write off LADYBABY as some sort of cheap knock off, I think there are a few interesting points to take out of them. One of them being Garry’s point about why the Media isn’t reporting on them a certain way.

    Is it because he’s not a creepy Japanese otaku? Is it because he’s not middle aged? Is it because he’s a performer too and not on the other side of the stage? Or could it be that his weirdness and cross dressing is awkwardly comforting? In a way that because he’s a weirdo he can’t also be a pervert?

    Secondly, I think it’s pretty smart for them to have found a way to “ride” the BABYMETAL wave. They are absolutely a reaction to the phenomenal success of BABYMETAL. There was a long post by a guy who worked in the Japanese Music Industry detailing about how BABYMETAL was changing the way Japanese companies viewed music sales, specifically in regard to digital distribution. He specifically talked about how BABYMETAL was forcing the door open to Western markets and how Japan wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop that.

    With LADYBABY, they’re definitely not the most original group out there. There are at least a handful of groups in Japan that already kinda do the metal things with girls and then there’s also a group like Death Rabbits with a male “center.”

    But I think you have to acknowledge that management or who ever came up with this idea, found what the general unknowing mass audience is comfortable with. They’re being accepted in a way that’s completely opposite of how BABYMETAL was being scrutinized. Maybe it’s because they’re not doing the real “metal” thing, but it’s interesting to see.

    Like it or not, you’re probably going to be hearing about them for the foreseeable future. Assuming they can deliver on a few more songs and have at least a decent live presence. I think the main selling point of this group is their marketability to a Western Market. They’ll probably be doing the Anime Convention Circuit for a bit. And since LADYBEARD speaks English, that’ll be a far different experience for any convention goer. When compared to meeting Japanese guests, they’ll be able to get the interaction and conversation that has been lacking in the past. And maybe it’ll stick with them longer than normal.

    Which means…. Is Japan now targeting the West as a viable market?

    • I don’t really agree with some of your points but I do appreciate you taking the time to not only read my article but to also leave such a long and well thought out comment. Thanks man.

    • Which means…. Is Japan now targeting the West as a viable market?

      small acts try to target the west (as well), Japan itself is not. there is a clear line between acts that are controlled by the big companies (AKB48) and small acts that are on their own (Ladybaby, Babymetal, maybe Suiyoubi No Campanella in the feature).

      small acts can and are willing to use distribution techniques that became available in this decade bypassing the the rigid system of the Japanese show biz. and they get successful with it.
      this tells me that the people who are in charge of big companies are old, narrow minded, likely to avoid risks, and prefer already working concepts (copying) as opposed to the creative way of thinking of these small acts.

      in the last 5+ years something began emerging in the Japanese music world that is fueled by the local idol otaku culture and began with the popularity of the AKB family that later transformed into something more underground, something that is building on the uniqueness of the Japanese society instead of just copying western concepts using Japanese singers (ex: Hamasaki Ayumi in the past). this’s been recognized by the western otaku culture as well.

      i think it’s great and they are on the right track. sometimes weird? for the target audience, it’s not. they are not aiming for world domination anyways.

  5. Your article reads a little scattered. You call reporters out on crawling around in the gutter to find all the dirt they can and possibly exploiting the subjects they cover, but simultaneously criticize them for not doing that on the subject of Ladybaby. But also: why would they?

    They are a group to be gawked at and share a few laughs; different from Babymetal who (perhaps unintentionally) found themselves universally accepted by the international music scene. We’ll see if Ladybeard is somehow able to follow that same road but it’s highly unlikely.

    Ladybaby articles are fluff pieces for niche news sites, and hardly begs to be “investigated”. Ladybaby is likely hardly more than a passing distraction for the majority of the people checking out their videos. There have been reporting on minors and the gravure industry, and I don’t think Ladybaby’s existence really has any direct correlation, unless they simply wanted to use it as a springboard; but imo this isn’t even a substantial enough act yet to use it as one.

    But even if it was, why would Ladybaby have to answer for the practices of the gravure industry? If there was a link besides “well, there’s a gravure idol in this group”, then please let me know because it wasn’t stated in the article.

    And finally — how many journalists who report on things like this make even a living by it, let alone “disgusting” amounts of money (unless by disgusting you mean criminally little)? By leaving the journalism career path, you likely chose the financially smarter decision.

    • Yeah, I guess my article is kinda bad huh? Probably a good thing I gave up on the journalism thing in the end. lol

  6. xcrossfacekillahx

    I got to know Ladybaby through Rei and Rie (MissID). The addition of Ladybeard might have worked now, but maybe the hype will die out soon. Groups with mixed members are not uncommon on this day but still it’s like management tried something that they never thought would work.

    Since the group is fairly new, they don’t have that much songs to begin with. When Ladybeard had a mini live here, he did some cover songs turned into metal. I didn’t think there are people who would be into this group because of that.

    If this setup doesn’t work, would they have gone down with the Babymetal route by building the group around Rei and Rie?

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