Review: Idol, Burning by Rin Usami, translated by Asa Yoneda
This was an interesting glimpse into Japanese fan culture. I thought I knew fan culture and I thought I had seen obsessive fans before. One only has to go as far as any celebrity's social media and they will soon encounter fans that seem far more intense and far more interested that someone who simply likes the celebrity and their work. But this is next level. The culture Usami writes about is fans who are utterly devoted and exploited to the max by their idol's management. (For example, the more copies of the same CD they buy, the more rights they have to vote for particular things.) While most teenagers will grow bored of some things, in Akari we have a character who can only live for her idol, as her mental illness threatens to overwhelm her day to day life at every turn. The real strength in the book lies in the fact that Akari expects nothing at all from her oshi, and sees his life as totally separate from hers. There are no hints or suggestions of erotomania, a theme I was expecting to pop up at some point. I struggled a little with the timeline, which feels a bit non linear in places, but overall this is just as much an exploration of what it means not to be neurotypical as it is an exploration of the level of devotion that some people experience for their favourite bands and artists.