Pour Lui, the leader and founder of idol group BiS, has been suspended from the group for the near future, including for an upcoming show at Tokyo’s Akasaka BLITZ, because she failed to reach a target weight by a set deadline.
Fans of BiS - and general viewers - are outraged not only at the move, but the decision to upload the emotional moment Lui finds out she is suspended in a YouTube video. Over the past week, the story has gone from a fan community issue to something gaining attention from mainstream Japanese news sites.
BiS came together in 2010, going through numerous lineup changes and eventually breaking up in 2014, but standing out for their “anti-idol” attitude during this period, which included risque photo shoots, controversial music videos (NSFW) and un-idol-like songs. During this time, Pour Lui was the one constant. Lui and manager Junnosuke Watanabe announced in 2016 the group would come back, holding auditions for new members. They debuted later that year, with Lui once again a prominent fixture. The music sounded more or less the same as to what BiS had been doing before their first curtain call. Watch a recent clip below:
Earlier this year, Watanabe started a series called DiET or DiE, which found Lui trying to lose weight via Japanese fitness chain Rizap. In the wake of this controversy, official uploads of the series have vanished from BiS’ official channel. Yet a handful of episodes remain floating online. Most focus on Lui exercising and detailing her diet.
The episode in question - now removed - found Lui weighing in to see if she met her weight loss goal. She fell short of it, and Watanabe suspends her from group activity as a result, which will force her to miss a big upcoming show in the near future. Lui then cries while being filmed, covering her face with her hands.
Fans responded harshly to the video, leaving highly critical comments and showering the clip with dislikes on YouTube. Watanabe took to Twitter to defend his decision, saying he had to keep his promise:
But soon apologised for everything:
Lui hasn’t commented directly on the incident since.
Idol music has long been riddled by controversy brought on by efforts to show that performers are “working hard” for their fans, and the entire DiET or DiE series plays up this angle.
Female performers in Japan who are seen as doing something wrong often have to apologise on camera, and share their agony with an audience. The most notable idol case of the last few years was when AKB48’s Minami Minegishi shaved her head and tearfully apologised on video for being caught dating a man.
Making this instance more problematic is BiS’ status as “alternative idols,” referring to idol groups that play up how they aren’t like other pop outfits in Japan (while still taking part in many of the activities associated with that corner of J-pop). BiS, in their original incarnation, indulged in all sorts of activities that could seem questionable, and come off as pure stunts (again, very regular idol too). The new BiS has done them too, but they’ve often lacked the subversive edge that, deserved or not, made other efforts appear alright. Most notably, Watanabe had the group eat only rice and sleep in a car...before making them run a 100 kilometer marathon.
Yet this latest instance has particularly rankled supporters, and crossed over to mainstream publications such as Huffington Post Japan, due to the issue surrounding weight loss. Idols and their diets have long been scrutinised in Japan (and in K-pop, and America, and beyond).
The danger in glorifying this is in driving people to get obsessed about becoming thin. A situation closely mirroring Lui’s recent incident was when Reni Takagi of Momoiro Clover Z “failed” a public weigh-in, and in the months that followed many speculated she developed an eating disorder. Fans worry Lui could experience the same thing following this very-public spectacle.
If you or someone you know is struggling with negative body image or an eating disorder, the Butterfly Foundation for Eating Disorders can help. Get in touch on 1800 33 4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the website for more information.
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