Onyanko Club - on Video

One of my old blog Néomarxisme’s early successes was my translation of lyrics from seminal idol-collective the Onyanko Club: “Don’t Make Me Take Off My Sailor Uniform“, “A Pervert! (Otto Chikan)” & everyone’s favorite ode to the fact that girls have to have sex with their married teachers to make up for being bad at math “Stop it, Teacher!” At the time I wrote those essays, however, there was no YouTube, so it’s worth going back and taking a look at these bizarre sexually-frank songs in action now that the internet has delivered video capability.

「セーラー服を脱がさないで」/ “Don’t Make Me Take Off My Sailor Uniform”

The archeo-feminist in me always shakes its head at this track, for the fact that crafty male producers and songwriters got together and forced a bunch of bland teenage girls to sing unambiguous, unpoetic lines like, “I want to have sex before anyone else does” and “It’s boring being a virgin.” But the song is even weirder in context: note how generally boyish, unattractive, and unerotically dressed the girls are. (If you think I am making an overly-subjective or personal judgment about their relative cuteness, ask anybody from that era how they were perceived. Onyanko Club started the “throw a bunch of mediocre daughters of overambitious stage mothers together and the total cuteness will suffice” strategy that Morning Musume perfected.) Also note how the (incredibly shady-looking) male hosts and male audience are so enthusiastic — much more so than the girls in the group or the female audience members. The Onyanko girls look like they learned the choreography ten minutes prior and are promised a half-hour outside of their cages if they can get through the three minutes without messing up too badly.

Nothing about the actual staging or execution seems to recognize the sexual content of the song, reinforcing the interpretation that the whole thing (along with the openly-sketchy title of the show Yuyake Nyan Nyan) was a massive subversive practical joke on the part of adult men. You can argue for some Shinto non-Christian morality at the heart of this TV phenomenon, but show me similarly open child sex-pop tunes from the ’70s and ’90s. In most cases, we get “flowers blooming” and other silly metaphors, but not “I want to do H like that shown in the weekly magazines.”

Rest assured that in this clip you are peering into a fleeting moment of Japanese pop culture that would never quite hit the same touchpoints. In this day and age, Akimoto Yasushi would never pass off such literal material to AKB48 or even Jero.

W. David MARX
April 4, 2008

6 Responses

  1. Daniel Says:

    The looks on the faces of Japanese women in the audience is pretty telling – check 1:26, 1:42, and 1:47.

  2. M-Bone Says:

    Thanks for this. The only other time that I had heard the song was in a pachinko “richi” video with little animated characters singing it. The impact of the straight-up homely girls singing it live is somewhere north or hilarious.

    While different in many ways, something a bit like this in spirit has recently played on Japanese TV – the anime “Kodomo no Jikan”.

  3. Matt Says:

    I think it balances on whatever line can be drawn between “practical joke” and “consciously cynical stab at the lowest common denominator”. As I understand it, “Yuyake Nyan-Nyan” was really an attempt to recapture the ratings magic of “All Night Fuji”, in which real, live, “amateur” female college student did embarrassing things on-air. When the joshidaisei boom grew stale, it was a pretty obvious next step to move down the age scale to joshikosei and make them do even more embarrassing things on an all-new show. Whether viewers were thinking “Ha, I can’t believe they’re getting away with this!” or “Ha, look at how embarrassed that 17-year-old is!” is kind of a moot point: the ratings were what they were.

    (In any case it’s hard to believe that anyone would watch the show more than once if they weren’t motivated at least in part by pure voyeurism, however they justified it to themselves. Yeah, I guess all of us in this thread included.)

    I guess the onyanko club went so far down, though, that there wasn’t anything left to do, and that’s why that trend more or less ended with them. Innuendo can keep an audience tantalized forever, but “I’m tired of being a virgin” and “Don’t make me undress, teacher” is only entertaining once per generation.

  4. skchai Says:

    The host was not just shady-looking, it was Tashiro Masashi! And the Japanese women in the audience are actually Onyanko Club graduates revisiting the show as guests – not something I am necessary proud of recognizing. But in response to the apparent consensus of the staff, while there may have attempts by Akimoto to foist off a practical joke of apparently ingenuous teenagers singing dirty lyrics, he gave up after a few deservedly notorious songs. By the height of the group’s popularity – collectively greater than that of any other pop music act in Japanese history – they had a very large female fanbase, and the lyrics were more typical idol genre. The way that the Onyanko phenomenon ended up becoming a celebration of amateurishness arguably had a far longer-lasting influence on Japanese music and arts than anything else about them.

  5. skchai Says:

    I’m slightly hurt that nobody asked me to identify the “Japanese women” Onyanko graduates in the audience. I realize this will not increase my social status (even in the wota reference group), but at any rate:

    1:26: Nagoya Mika

    1:42: Tatsumi Rika and Kokusho Sayuri

    1:47: Kawai Sonoko

  6. DanielD Says:

    I am glad skchai said something, I was about to point out the previous members that were in attendance for the final episode of Yuuyake Nyan Nyan