Column

Yone's KawaiiDEMPAGUMI.inc: Same Sex Kawaii

October 29, 2013

DEMPAGUMI.inc is an idol unit based out of Akihabara’s Dear Stage live house and bar in Tokyo. There are six members, and each one has their own story to tell – stories that represent the shut-in lives of Japanese society’s darker side.

These days I work closely with DEMPA. It’s been eight years since I’ve been so close to idol group – the last time was when I was the original visual director for the AKB48 idol collective. My initial meeting with the girls wasn’t a coincidence. It was just one month after the massive 3.11 (Mar. 2011) quake that rocked the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan.

I had put together a charity drive called “ONE SNAP FOR LOVE,” where I asked Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to perform as a guest on stage. It was at this event that I first met Nemu Yumemi of DEMPAGUMI.inc, and I still clearly remember receiving her namecard that day and then looking up their URL and thinking that these girls must have been living and working out of the Akihabara underground.

At the time, and of course even now, my field of interests were mainly in the Harajuku “aomoji-kei” fashion scene. It’s pretty straightforward; aomoji-kei is clear-cut fashion for girls – one that doesn’t care about what boys think, one that finds inspiration from their own kind. It’s for this reason that there isn’t the regular sort of “sexy” that boys look for. Their theme is “Same Sex Kawaii.”

After years of working with the concept of “girls that appeal to girls,” I’ve naturally found myself in the place I’m at now. You may think that the maid uniforms of Harajuku and Akiba look the same, but the difference comes out when you compare who they’re being kawaii for – girls, or boys. I had always thought that the girls in Akiba that existed in the fantasies of otaku boys wouldn’t be of interest to me…

(I’m going to veer off for a bit here, and for the record: When I worked with AKB, my job was to make the girls popular among girls. AKB producer Yasushi Akimoto fully understood that if you wanted to go major, you had to appeal to them. That was what we had in mind when coming up with the visuals, and I’m positive that’s the reason behind their success.)