Popularity is a fickle thing. Some people are loved, adored. Some are not. Most never become accurately aware of what the masses think of us. Shizuka Oya did earlier this month.
AKB48 is not only Japan's biggest girl group, but one of the biggest groups in Japan. The outfit's most recent single, released on October 27, has already sold over a million copies! AKB is getting its own PSP game in which the object is for players to reject the advances of all the girls but one.
Some of those girls might take rejection a little harder than others. There are roughly 48 girls in AKB48, but only a handful of them appear on the cover of magazines or star in music videos. The rest are more or less background - like 18-year-old Shizuka Oya.
Much of AKB48's success is due to the group's accessibility. The group holds "handshaking events". Fans can meet their favourite idol, but they must buy the group's latest CD as an entry fee.
Purchasing a CD entitles fans to a ticket that can be redeemed to shake hands with one AKB48 member. Morning show Zoom-In Super! showed one schoolgirl who purchased 80 tickets for a recent event! The average length of each handshaking session? Seconds.
And it's not just Japanese guys that dig the group. AKB48 has a growing number of female fans. Those fans, male and female, lined up for hours for AKB48 stars like Atsuko Maeda (see above). They didn't for Oya.
And she started crying and actually left the event hall at Chiba's Makuhari Messe, home of the Tokyo Game Show. This incident was featured on one of AKB48's television programs, and Oya discussed the event, all teary-eyed. She also mentioned that she's not the best singer, nor is she a great dancer. Her lack of popularity at the handshaking event will, more than likely, actually endear her to fans.
Idol fans like "pure idols", but not necessarily "perfect idols" - hence the Japanese idols with bad teeth and whatnot. Their shortcomings become appealing as fans have something they can relate to. Whether this all translates into longer lines at these events, that remains to be seen.