Marcel WinatschekPhilosophical Thoughts on Modern Design, Computer Science and Digital Pop Culture
Keyakizaka46: Songs of Rebellion and Loneliness
© Seed & Flower

Songs of Rebellion and Loneliness

I finally watched the documentary Our Lies and Truths last night about the rise and fall of Japanese girl band Keyakizaka46, which a few hardworking fans translated into English and made available on their website. After all, Techi and her fellows have been my most listened idols over the years. Songs like Silent Majority, Ambivalent and especially Black Sheep are still on daily rotation on my phone and the accompanying music videos are perfomeric masterpieces.

Yasushi Akimoto, who has been responsible for acts like AKB48, Onyanko Club and Iz*One and also launched Keyakizaka46, is not without reason the most talented and at the same time most hated producer in Japan. Some people say that Yasushi Akimoto destroyed the Japanese music industry, and I agree with that, the commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs Shunichi Tokura once paid tribute to him in sharp words.

But the most interesting thing about Keyakizaka46, which was the first sister group to the pop band Nogizaka46 formed four years earlier, was originally supposed to debut under the name Toriizaka46, and lost two members even before its first performance, is neither the music nor the dancing quality of the band, and certainly not the powerful man in the background, but the sheer force with which their center Yurina Hirate took over the entire internal as well as external image of the idol group, which was founded in 2015, in a very short time, before falling further into madness with each passing year, only to finally announce her departure in 2020 after a long back and forth. Shortly after, the band then had to rename themselves to Sakurazaka46 because they couldn't handle the hole left by the Techi named Yurina Hirate, who became a part of Keyakizaka46 at the age of fourteen.

The movie Lies and Truths, produced in 2020 by the band's own record company, shows the continuous decline of the cast together. It's a drama about depression, burnout, and absolute physical and mental overload on Techi's side and a strange mixture of envy, anger, and admiration by her colleagues.

Techi was a prodigy and no one could handle it - especially not herself. In intimate interviews, the former members of Keyakizaka46, named after a street in Tokyo's Roppongi district, review the impact Yurina Hirate had on them and their fans and try to pinpoint the moment when everything went off the rails.

No one knows exactly what turned Yurina Hirate, described by the Japanese press as the reincarnation of Momoe Yamaguchi, a masterpiece beyond Atsuko Maeda and, at the age of only fifteen, one of the most attractive idols of the year, from a cheerful girl into the bleary-eyed and perpetually alone and apathetic little pile of misery sitting in dark corners. Only herself. But she doesn't talk about it. Maybe someday, she hinted in a radio interview due to her graduation in 2020.

Even in the documentary, Techi takes place only in snippets from the past. Then she dances up, and sometimes falls off, the stage, kicking herself in ecstasy, drawing all eyes on her and imploding at the end. I can't!, she can still be heard sobbing, before she is stuffed into a new costume by the black-clad people behind the scenes.

Keyakizaka46 sang songs about youth, rebellion and the feeling of being different. Messages that struck straight to the heart of Japan's depressed schoolgirls and traumatized misfits, setting the band apart from the poppy, colorful idol competition. What remains is the cultural impact of a short-lived musical group, its remnants craving recognition and identity, and a restless soul now seeking happiness elsewhere.

Keyakizaka46: Songs of Rebellion and Loneliness© Seed & Flower

Keyakizaka46: Songs of Rebellion and Loneliness© Seed & Flower

Keyakizaka46: Songs of Rebellion and Loneliness© Seed & Flower

Keyakizaka46: Songs of Rebellion and Loneliness© Seed & Flower

Keyakizaka46: Songs of Rebellion and Loneliness© Seed & Flower

Friday, January 27, 2023

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