DG 2

Fans will need to part with two million yen (US$18,181) to earn the weekend getaway.

Last Sunday, Japan was appalled at the shocking reports that Mayu Tomita, a popular idol singer, had been stabbed over 20 times by a deranged fan over what he perceived as the unbearable insult of the musician refusing to accept a personal gift he had previously sent to her. With Tomita still hospitalized and in critical condition, the fanatic fringe of idol fandom is coming under increased scrutiny by the Japanese media, with broadcaster Fuji TV’s Goody! talk show recently highlighting the promotions of one idol unit in particular, called Deep Girl.

Trying to pump up idol CD sales by offering special prizes and presents to people who buy multiple copies is nothing new in Japan. As a matter of fact, top idols owe much of their success to the economic support of ardent admirers willing to shell out for the exact same product over and over again. But even among superfans, there are different levels of devotion, which is why Deep Girl offers a large number of reward tiers depending on how many CDs someone buys.

On the lower end of the scale, buying 10 singles gets you a personal 15-second video thank-you message from your choice of one of Deep Girl’s four members. Lay out the cash for 50 CDs, and you’ll get a thank-you letter instead. Those sound like perks a lot of fans would want but bear in mind that single CDs in Japan are priced at 1,000 yen (US$9), so that video is costing fans 10,000 yen (US$90), and the letter a whopping 50,000.

And the rewards, and outlays required to earn them, only get more startling from there.

● 75 CDs: A week of morning wakeup phone calls (not to exceed one minute long) from the idol of your choice
● 100 CDs: A private 45-minute photo shoot with the idol of your choice, plus a batch of home-made cookies from her
● 150 CDs: A one-hour phone conversation with the idol of your choice
● 300 CDs: Lunch with the idol of your choice (accompanied by a staff member), who will also clean your ears
● 500 CDs: Dinner with the idol of your choice (accompanied by a staff member), who will also clean your ears
● 1,000 CDs: A one-day date with the idol of your choice (accompanied by a staff member), in Tokyo, lasting from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
● 2000 CDs: An overnight trip to a hot spring (not co-ed) with the idol of your choice (accompanied by a staff member)

While it’s not hard to imagine many fans would like to start their day with a sweet-voiced wakeup call from their favorite songstress, a few of the other items on the list are a bit harder to wrap your head around. For example, even if you’re talking to someone you know well, it can be hard to keep a phone conversation flowing smoothly for 60 minutes, so we imagine there are going to be a lot of awkward pauses for fans who snap up 150 CDs (although perhaps long stretches of just listening to the idols breathe would be seen as a plus by some of them). Likewise, while ear-cleaning is indeed seen by many in Japan as an intimate activity, it’s usually not something that’s done directly before or after eating.

But the topper, of course, is the stay at a hot spring inn. While Deep Girl’s website does specifically state that the hot spring baths will be gender-segregated, it makes no mention of separate rooms for the night. Granted, at traditional Japanese inns guests sleep in single-person-sized sleeping mats, not beds, meaning said mats can be placed as close or far apart as their occupants desire, and the presence of a chaperone suggests the fan and idol won’t be alone together when it’s time to turn out the lights and get some sleep.

Still, it all sounds like a particularly provocative package of rewards. Making things somewhat more troubling is the imagery that Deep Girl’s most recent music video, for the song “I Kill,” makes use of, which includes schoolgirls leaping from a building in a suicide attempt, being bullied and brutalized in a restroom stall, slashing their wrists with a box cutter, and heading to a hotel room with a stranger, after being given the advice “Ask for the money before you do it.” There’s also the repeated on-screen text that translates to “You make me sick you ugly girl. Die, school. Get away from me, you pieces of trash!”

Granted, one could make the argument that the video is highlighting the plights of bullied or isolated individuals, and serves as a message of hope that others share their struggle. There’s also the fact that while the members of Deep Girl dress in schoolgirl outfits, the two whose official profiles list a year of birth are both now 24, and the remaining two idols don’t look to be significantly younger. That would make them all full-grown adults who are aware of (and seemingly accepting of) the implications of this style of marketing.

Still, given the undeniable themes of mental and emotional instability in “I Kill,” it’s surprising to see the same group actively courting fans with CD-buying rewards that play into, and seem to encourage, extremely possessive tendencies.

Source: Deep Girl official website via Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/SHOWROOM RECORDS