Friday, September 26, 2014

Locodol: Living For Something Greater

Among all the great shows that have aired this season, one more show has come up to be one of my favorites: Locodol. I've talked about this show's intimate charms when I brought it up during my seasonal "what I'm watching" post, and the show has continued to maintain that special charm throughout its run. What makes this show so special is how the Nanako and Yukari, who form the Nagarekawa Girls core idol group, and Yui and Mirai, who take turns playing the town mascot Uogokoro-kun, are doing their "idol" work not for personal fame, but to promote their hometown, both to give the town's residents a greater appreciation for their home and also to bring attention to the town to outsiders.

If their national debut causes their grandparents to buy a big-screen TV with full sound system, that's just a bonus.
This provides a significant contrast to other idol shows, where the focus is on drawing attention to the idols themselves. This focus on the hometown that drives the Nagarekawa Girls is also something that can be notable to Christians. Warning: Moderate spoilers after the jump.






One thing that always makes me feel weird for liking idol shows is in the term itself; after all, in Christianity, an idol refers to an object of worship other than God, and worshipping them is considered a major, Ten Commandments-breaking sin. The word has since evolved to refer more generally to famous singers (i.e. American Idol) and has then traveled to Japan meaning singing and dancing performers who are visually pleasing. Even then, though, the general concept of Japanese "idols" is still based on "worshipping", or at least making fans of, the idols themselves; idol performances are based around drawing attention to the performers and inspiring affection for them in the audience. It's still a rather off-putting thing, though thankfully, most idol shows do turn the attention back to their fans, focusing more on how they can better inspire them in return rather than how to enjoy all their fame.

Nevertheless, the concept of "locodols", a.k.a. local idols, is one that I feel helps redeem the concept of performing idols, at least a little. Locodols are geared more toward drawing attention to their hometowns than to themselves. And sure enough, the Nagarekawa Girls, as well as the mascot team behind Uogokoro-kun, live very much according to that principle. It's really nice to see how, even when these girls are facing such significant idol events as national debuts, idol/mascot competitions, and the opportunity to write and debut their own song. Their thoughts are always first and foremost toward how they can support their own community and share their love for their hometown to the rest of Japan. And it's really nice to see their efforts rewarded when others come to see their town because of their work.

It's a great picture of how Christians are to live, if you replace "hometown" with "God". We were not meant to live for ourselves, but rather live in a way that gives glory to God in all that we do. That means caring for the "locals" of God's kingdom, and living in a way that reflects being a child of God, potentially inspiring others to want to see what God is like.

The Fame Trap

There's one particular moment in episode 11 that really stood out to me. As the girls go to a major locodol competition that gets a national broadcast, they have a chance to help out at a stall where they sell various local specialties, mostly of the edible variety. They help their stall's business through their initial stage appearance, where Nanako shows how much she enjoys the food personally. It works well, and combined with their efforts to reach out to the others at the event, they sell out of their local specialties at the end of the day.

While there, they also get to meet other local idol groups, including the nationally famous Awa Awa Girls of Tokunami City. Their popularity is one that rivals actual idol groups, and many have come to the event just to see them. The Awa Awa Girls themselves seem to be good girls (despite some Miyako awkwardness), and they like the Nagarekawa Girls for their devotion to the locals. They then mention that, because they have become so famous, they are not allowed to personally attend to their city's booth. At the end of they day, they sneak over to their booth, and notice that while they have completely sold out of all of the Awa Awa Girls-related merchandise, a lot of the Tokunami City specialties remain unsold.

For many Christians in certain areas of ministry, there is a particular danger of the messenger becoming more popular than the message. This can happen to preachers, Christian musicians, authors, TV personalities (see: Duck Dynasty), and yes, even bloggers. Unfortunately, when this happens, the message of God's love goes "unsold", as the messenger becomes a true idol, taking the glory away from God. Many times, this overshadowing fame is unintentional; either the fame just accumulates naturally, or higher-ups try to popularize someone without express permission from them (it's worth noting that while the Nagarekawa Girls are considered government workers, other locodol groups are managed by talent agencies just like normal idols). Nevertheless, if we notice that we are starting to steal the glory from God, we need to do what we can to bring people's attention back to God.

(For a Biblical reference, Paul dealt with this situation with the Corinthian church when divisions started to occur because parts of the church claimed to be followers of him while others claimed to be followers of Apollos, and so on; the book of 1 Corinthians overall is Paul's trying to bring their attention back to God. This also highlights another danger of fame: divisions that can occur within the church.)

Ordinary Christians Tried Becoming Lord-ols.

It might be fun to watch fictional performance idols in anime, but for Christians, the "I"-dol way of life is not the way we should live. The way of the locodol, who lives and performs for the greater sake of their hometown, is closer to how we should live... though we will need to replace the "loco", since our "locale" is not a place as much as a God. So, we should be... Godols? Lordols? Christols? My naming sense is not very good, but I think the point that I have taken, with the help of Locodol, is clear: the most fulfilling way to live is to live for something--or Someone--greater.

2 comments:

  1. Excellent post! I was referred here from a friend of mine's post -- http://beneaththetangles.com/2014/09/26/something-more-christian-anime-idols-sailor-moon-gossip-and-integrity-in-sao -- and I thoroughly enjoyed this read, even though I don't watch a lot of anime other than Studio Ghibli films.

    I most loved your explanation of the word "idol," because I get sick of hearing some people talk as though the word has only ever referred to false gods, and so I am grateful you knew of other uses. Take care, and God bless!

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    1. Thanks! Your comment on the uses of the word "idol" reminds me of how, when I was younger, I thought that American Idol was of the devil, because of the whole "idol" bit. Of course, I know better now (a number of Christian singers actually started out there, such as Mandisa).

      It's also worth noting that a lot of English loan words in the Japanese language oftentimes take on different meanings than their English counterparts (for example, "toilet" refers to the entire bathroom, not just the commode).

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