In recent Japanese popular culture, virtual idols attract young people growing up in the digital era. Male anime characters and actors who play a role of them in 2.5- dimensional (2.5-D) theater have particularly drawn much public attention due to their female fans’ enthusiasm. The King of Prism series (2016–ongoing), anime movies depicting aspiring male idols, are typical in their inspiration of female fans’ fanaticism. The series introduced ōenjōei (the “cheering-a-long” version of anime movie screening) and was adapted into 2.5-D theater (theatrical adaptations of anime, manga, and videogames), offering sites for fans to cheer for their favorite virtual idols. Such fans often deify and worship their favorite characters (oshi) as god-like existences. Female fans’ discourses on- and offline overflow with religious terms: propagation (fukyō) to mean the missionary work of inviting more people into the fold, donation (ofuse) to mean purchase merchandising, and altar (saidan) to mean an altar-like display consisting of novelty goods related to their favorite characters and expressing their dedication to characters by calling them “precious” (tōtoi). This chapter demonstrates how idolatry of virtual idols is constructed among female fans of the King of Prism series by practicing rituals collectively and sharing experiences in physical space (movie theaters and theaters) and cyber space (social media). It also analyzes the cross-referential consumption between fantasy and reality, and the use of virtual idols to connect fans themselves to other fans to form a community of preferences.
This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI, Grant Number 17K18459.
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Nico Nico (formerly named Nico Nico dōga) is one of the most well-known Japanese video-sharing services launched by Dwango in 2006. Comment is overlaid onto the video clips, which enable viewers to participate in online communication.
Mixi is a Japanese social networking service launched by Mixi Co. Ltd. in 2004.
Pixiv is probably the most popular illustration-based social networking service launched by Pixiv Co. Ltd. in 2007.
Although the ODS-style screening is paid one, it differs from anime films to the extent that the screening duration is very limited, for instance, within two weeks. If the ODS-style screening is successful, the ODS are modified into TV series.
Translation is mine. Hereafter, all the translation from Japanese scholarship is mine.
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Filmography and Teleography
King of Prism by Pretty Rhythm, animation film, directed by Hishida Masakazu. Japan: Tatsunoko Pro., 2016.
King of Prism: Pride the Hero, animation film, directed by Hishida Masakazu. Japan: Tatsunoko Pro., 2017.
King of Prism: Shiny Seven Stars, animation film and TV animation series, directed by Hishida Masakazu. Japan: Tatsunoko Pro., 2019.
Pretty Rhythm: Rainbow Live, TV animation series, directed by Hishida Masakazu. Japan: Tatsunoko Pro. and Dongwoo Animation, 2013–2014.
Yes! Pre Cure 5, TV animation series, directed by Komura Toshiaki. Japan: Toei Animation Co. Ltd., 2007–2008.
Yes! Pre Cure 5: Miracle Adventure in the Mirror Land!, DVD, directed by Nagamine Tatsuya. Japan: Toei Animation Co. Ltd., 2008.
Editors and Affiliations
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Sugawa-Shimada, A. (2021). “He Is My Precious:” The Cross-Referential Consumption and Use of “2.5-D” Idols in the King of Prism “Ōenjōei” Screening Series. In: Hiroshi, A., Galbraith, P.W., Kovacic, M. (eds) Idology in Transcultural Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-82677-2_9
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-030-82676-5
Online ISBN: 978-3-030-82677-2