Idol Underworld is finally releasing their documentary about underground idols titled The Flowers Of Passion; here’s a review of the first episode!
If you follow even just a bit of the alternative idol scene, the name of Derek Vasconi will probably ring a bell: whether it’s for his previous and current collaboration with some groups or his idol-themed web store Idol Underworld
, it’s clear that he has been working in this world for a while. Last year, IdolOnChaos
did an interview with Derek
, in which he mentioned the documentary about the underground idol scene he was working at the time; finally, the documentary is being released and now I’m going to review the first of five episodes of The Flowers of Passion: Stories from the Underground Japanese Idol Scene
Let’s start by giving some context to this work: the underground idol scene is by definition a very niche world — at least for us in the West — meaning it’s something you probably discovered thanks to your deep interest in Japanese alternative and idol music; it’s like a niche scene born from two niche scenes, which makes it not really easy to find randomly. The Flowers of Passion takes for granted that you know more or less how the underground idol scene works and its target audience is people who already know this world and want to know even more; it’s not meant to explain the complete history of idols from the beginning to the modern days, it’s literally what its title says: stories from the scene, told by some of its protagonists.
Sure, there is a nice introduction about how the concept of idols was born and developed through the years in Japan, and it actually explains — although very quickly — how loud and alternative idols came to be in the last decade; but being so short, it’s clear that this is just to put some context on the main content of the documentary.
The Idol Stories
The first episode features a few groups and artists, some of which also appeared in the Know Your Idol interviews; however, instead of introducing them, the documentary goes more in depth about their experiences in the idol scene. I’m not going to spoil you everything of course, but let’s say that if you are interested in idols such as Mizuho Asakura (formerly in Bellring Shoujo Heart and now in SAKA-SAMA), NaNoMoRaL, Usakura Beni from Avandoned (now in FRUN FRIN FRIENDS) and MERRY BAD END, you’ll be glad to get a good amount of unique content about them.
All the artists involved prove that they indeed have their own stories to tell, and they all show the huge effort and the hardships that idols need to overcome; but, of course, there are also positive stories of actually overcoming these hardships. From the harshness of AQBI Records founder Koji Tanaka regarding Bellring Shoujo Heart to the difficult start Chihiro and MERRY BAD END had to deal with, passing through the deep artistic connection of the two NaNoMoRaL members and the interesting thoughts on the meaning of being an idol of Usakura Beni, the documentary delves into all the kinds of different experiences idols faced during their activities.
Interviews aside, you will also get to see very peculiar aspects of the idol life: not only small portions of live shows, but also idols chatting with fans during buppan and cheki sessions. This is something you probably would experience only by attending an actual show, so it’s a nice bonus for people who never had the chance to go in Japan.
I’ll be honest, I’m no big expert regarding audio and video quality, so I’m not going to pretend to be one. But let me point out a few things.
First, I was pleasantly surprised of the fairly good sound quality of the live shows and especially of the chatting with fans parts; it’s not something that obvious, and I’m glad that the quality allows us to get a very good taste on these aspects.
At the same time, I want to praise the fact the documentary does a good job at being visually interesting: the interviews are shot like you would expect them in a documentary and the switching between them and the live recordings are made to give you enough time to enjoy both of them.
All in all, judging from this first episode, The Flowers of Passion is an interesting documentary made for idol fans, and by who used to be just another fan and now works behind the scenes of this world. You can buy or rent The Flowers of Passion on Gumroad.