Pop Idol Culture

Japanese Pop Idol Culture and its Significance in Final Fantasy X-2

While FFX-2 reaches the international market, we must remember that it the Final Fantasy series is, at the heart of it, a product of the Japanese market. Thus, understanding themes in Final Fantasy requires that we always take into consideration how FF elements work in Japanese cultural context. Lenne's role in FFX-2 is very much influenced by Japan's unique pop idol culture.

Let's take a fun dive into pop culture knowledge with a look at a different class of celebrities called J-pop idols, often young females in media entertainment who have large fan bases of both men and women, and an emphasis on cuteness.

The Ero-Kawaii Twist

(L to R) Ayumi Hamasaki, Namie Amuro, Kumi Koda

In general, Japanese culture has a strong appreciation of youth. It's not emasculating or childish, it's just cute. I would love to see more cultures embrace the cute motifs we enjoy as children but are forced to shun as adults as proof of maturity. The old caricature of a j-pop idol is cute girl in pink and ruffles. However, there has been a change in fashion trends where J-pop singers are gaining more notoriety for playing up their feminine sensuality. This has been coined by Koda Kumi, as ero-kawaii, which translates to erotic-cute. Oddly, even when singers are becoming sexier, they do so with a connection to cuteness. Another impact of a notable singer's style is Namie Amuro's creation of the ganguro trend. This is the extreme version of Amuro's general physical style (in the 1990s) of having very tan skin, lightened hair, miniskirts, and platform boots.

Lenne's visual design is a direct result of Amuro's Amuraa style and Koda's ero-kawaii fashion.

Look To Animation

J-pop culture influences many entertainment fields in Japan. I present to you these examples of J-pop idols in animation, another entertainment medium as popular as video games.

Full Moon wo Sagashite
Full Moon wo Sagashite
Genre: Romance/Comedy
An aspiring idol is inflicted with a disease that prevents her from singing. Shinigami magically make her dream a reality.

Macross Frontier
Any Macross Series
Genre: Scifi Action
Humans and aliens battle in outer space using sophisticated weaponry, fighter mecha, and large military campaigns. Love & music saves the world.

Perfect Blue
Perfect Blue
Genre: Horror/Thriller
J-pop girl group member leaves her group to pursue a career in acting. Fans don't like it, and she winds up in serial murder mystery.

Cool Devices
Cool Devices
Genre: Adult
Popular singer is blackmailed into becoming an adult video actress. Fans react violently; the singer goes insane.

Wow, did you see the variety there? Japanese idol culture is so normalized in their culture that it seeps into all parts of the entertainment spectrum, from youth-oriented to hardcore adult. The J-pop elements of FFX-2 are a normal reflection of their pop culture.

Significance for Spira

One reviewer of FFX-2 said, "Final Fantasy X opens with the destruction of an entire city, whereas Final Fantasy X-2 begins with...a pop concert" with negative connotation. He's missing the point.

FFX-2's Pop Concert Intro Yes, FFX-2 is light-hearted and not nearly as epic as any of the main games, but it's meant to be that way. FFX had a grand, dramatic storyline that earned the devotion of both new and old FF fans. There didn't need to be a serious sequel. If it was, it would either undermine the impact of Final Fantasy X, or (if done poorly) it would be a melodramatic and boring attempt to milk the consumers for more profits. By being a light-hearted feature, FFX-2 accomplishes what it needs to by showing us the good (but not perfect) aftermath of our heroes' efforts, and giving hardcore fans a happy ending.

Seeing a pop concert in FFX-2 is evidence that the world is now stable enough to enjoy lasting, carefree entertainment. I doubt Spira citizens could have such things when SIN was constantly destroying their villages. It also tells us that Zanarkand, 1000 years ago, was prosperous enough to support recreational industries. Now, thanks to the victories of Tidus & company, the present Spira is getting back to that point.