In the latest move of Japanese pop toward virtual or fictional stars, the newest addition to a Japanese girl group with millions of superfans turns out not to be real.
Aimi Eguchi starred in a candy commercial soon after joining the group AKB48, showing off perfectly coiffed hair, proportional features, and touting the candy in a sickly sweet voice.
AKB48’s fans were immediately suspicious. Every year, fans vote which of the group’s members are the most popular, and usually only the most popular girls star in the commercials. According to Eguchi’s bio, which detailed her age, hometown, and hobbies, she was just a lowly “research student.” Was it possible Eguchi didn’t even exist?
Soon after the candy company Ezaki Glico aired the commercial, it admitted that Aimi Eguchi was just a computer-generated mash-up of the best characteristics of several other members of the band.
AKB48’s management company initially tried to defend Eguchi’s humanness, saying, “She’s real! She didn’t take the 12th generation auditions, so we had to quickly accept her (into generation 12.5)”
Eguchi is another example of J-pop’s trend toward virtual or fictional pop stars.
The wildly popular hologram pop star, Hatsune Miku, plays sold-out concerts across the country to screaming fans waving glowsticks.
The fictional all female band Ho-kago Tea Time — featured in the anime series “K-On!” — released an album in 2009, which debuted at No. 1 on the weekly charts.
Aimi Eguchi is the first virtual member of AKB48, which is a theater-based group that has its own theater in the Akihabara district in Tokyo. The letters AKB in the group’s name are derived from the district name. AKB48 is said to currently hold the Guinness World Record for being the pop group with the greatest number of members, which fluctuates but is usually around 48.