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|I thought the whole gyaru thing was RIP, but Popteen is a player in the publishing world, Tsubasa was a big star before her surprise yankii wedding, and this mag Koakuma Ageha is literally the brightest thing on the shelves. The black-face Ganguro are ancient history, but the angelic Koakuma Gyaru are being spun to be “Gyaru + Cosplay” because of the tiaras and lacy dresses. Everyone, however, is ignoring the white elephant in the room.|
Read the Japanese State’s official take on them here — only mentioning the word “hostess” in a single sentence. That’s like only mentioning the word “cocaine” once in describing Crack Whore Monthly.
I was in denial about the hostess-ness of the Koakuma for a while, but actually browsing through an issue of the magazine, I admit defeat: the editorial tone takes for granted that the reader works in the “the night life” or is hoping to once Senior Year at Saitama High School finishes in March. 41% of girls date guys that are “customers.” This doesn’t mean that love bloomed over the cash register at Wendy’s.
Perhaps the word “yankii” is too much rooted in a specific late 1970s fashion, but there is a very resilient aesthetic of the Japanese working classes. They did dark skin and bleached hair before it was “okay.” And that aesthetic guides the all kogyaru/kogal after the original girls as well as the current boys doing O-nii-kei. These subcultures stab the “Japan is a classless society” myth right in the heart. They represent not only a different fashion but a completely set of social mores. These styles are despised and not recognized by the “middle-class” fashion press. The magazines for these styles come from smaller independent publishers. The magazine content presents employment in semi-sexual nightlife services such as hostess and host clubs as not only an option for employment, but the job to take after high school (Host Knuckle, anyone?). There are no sections about “what to wear to your interview with Mitsubishi UFJ Trust & Banking.
Magazines like Egg speak frankly about sexual promiscuity and activity in a way that “mainstream” magazines do not. But more importantly, they set the expectation that everyone gets married around 20, as is normal in Japanese working-class communities (Tsubasa was not pregnant, just “marryin’ age”). Sometimes these marriages don’t work out, however, and everyone heads back to their subcultures. Koakuma Ageha has a special section called シンママ同盟 — “Single Mother Community” — a section I don’t remember seeing in Non•no or even CanCam
Here’s the real question: is the sudden popularity of O-nii-kei and these post-ganguro gyaru further proof of social disparity in Japan? The “working classes” are growing as the middle-class generally descends into lower stratum. Makes sense that more and more rural lower and lower middle class youth see delinquent subcultures as a lower risk than in the past since behaving properly in the education system does not pay off so well anymore. Or perhaps the barriers to entry in the media world are low enough that the working class subcultures can advertise their cultures more. In the past, the Bosozoku did not have their own monthly fashion magazines to teach kids the best places for a weekend gang rape. Now if you want to learn what to wear so that some married Assistant Director of Logistics keeps coming back every Thursday night, you can pick up an issue of Koakuma Ageha at 7-11. Japanese conservatives surely liked it more when the working classes stayed hidden out in the countryside and were not setting “trends in Japan.”