Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SMAP: An end of an era?

28th April 2009, Tuesday

The news that surely hogged the Japanese entertainment scene these days surely has to be Kusanagi Tsuyoshi's (草彅 剛 of SMAP) arrest for indecency exposure after a rampant drinking session.

Despite his earnest apology in a press conference, the damage has been done on his clean boy-next-door image the Japanese public has been so accustomed to seeing.
Japan Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, Hatoyama Kunio was especially crass in reprimanding Tsuyoshi's absurd behavior as he is the ongoing spokesperson for the transition of Japan's terrestrial TV to the digital format.

The whole affair see him losing plenty of endorsement and ad money which at such times will really be hard.
At his prime (around 2004-2006), Tsuyoshi is surely the A-list actor with popularity even upstaging fellow SMAP member, Kimura Takuya.
While his acting has been pretty one-dimensional, usually the Mr Nice Guy (even dark comedy like "Food Fight" cannot see him breaking through the mold), the uber-popular "Boku no Ikiru Michi (
僕の生きる道)" was the pinnacle of his dorama career which spawns 2 sequels, non coming as close in terms of viewership.
He also had appearance on the big screen with success in "Yomigaeri (
黃泉がえり)" and perhaps "Nihon Chinbotsu (日本沈没 )"
He even took the accolade of "Best Jean-Wearing Male Artist", once again upstaging Kimu-Taku (which resulted in the friction between the pair as speculated).
Tusyoshi has a strong fanbase in South Korea as well due to his fluent Korean, even released a single as his Korean alter ego Cho Nan Kan despite he possess the 2nd worst singing voice in SMAP.

While the elder statesmen like Kimura and Nakai Masahiro are noticeably crossed by Tsuyoshi's folly, he was backed by perhaps his best bud in the group, Shingo Katori.
The pair hosted in the famous 24 hour charity show (think in 2005) and made cameos in each other's dorama.
Little surprise when Shingo made an emotional apology on a live telecast SmaSTATION on Tsuyoshi's behalf:

Popularity of SMAP is waning despite they can still warrant massive crowd in various Domes for their annual concert tour.
"SMAPXSMAP", their Fuji TV prime time variety show which enjoyed such longevity of 14 years are facing the axe when viewership plunged in uncanny fashion.
They hadn't had a hit single for a while to rival that of "Sekai hitotsu dake no hana (
世界に一つだけの花)", the last 2 singles released in 2008 enjoyed lukewarm success.
While the various members are still oozing X Factor which see them immensely popular as individual or as an unit in the scene for 15 years or so now, the likes of Kimura and Tsuyoshi hadn't manage to recover that kind of popularity now that so many up and coming artistes are putting their positions in jeopardy.
Having uneasy relationship with their representative company, Johnny's Jimusho was further strained when they thought they are huge enough to break it out on their own.

A disband looks to be on the horizon for SMAP with Tsuyohi's arrest a strong catalyst.
The poor chap with bad drinking manners might not be able to recover from this fall from grace while the others might still be able to sprawl in this business.
Kimura with a new dorama in May still possess a star appeal which span the entire Asia though it's hard to break into Hollywood despite his appearance in "I come with the Rain".
Nakai is still a renowed variety show host and safely cement his position with constant hosting of kohaku of course.
Shingo who still possess that sunny boyish appeal took on more serious roles in acting these days such as in "Bara no nai Hanaya (
薔薇のない花屋)" and "Kurobe no Taiyo (黒部の太陽)", worlds' apart from his Shingo mama or Goku in "Saiyuki" days.
As for Inagaki Goro himself was caught up with law in a traffic altercation in 2001 was never the most outstanding one.
He does possess good looks but stagnant in image for the longest time we have seen him. He can sing well but not good enough. His acting also reach a threshold and no dorama series for a while indicates that.
The variety show "Goro's Bar" which he hosted is still quite popular, and of course he can look forward to his upcoming marriage with fellow actor, Kanno Miho.

Well Johnny's & associates has always been looking for predecessors for SMAP if ever they lose their prized assets.
SMAP, in fact, started off as back-up for Hikaru Genji (
光GENJI), their star boy band of the 1980s but went on to build on bigger things to a proportion that left their company in awe for sure.
Many groups were formed to build on SMAP's success with the likes of V6, Kinki Kids, Tokyo, Tackey & Tsubasa, NEWS, Kanjani 8, KAT-TUN, Hey Say Jump etc.
But the one group that might be the heir apparent in terms of their ability to transcend between music, tv drama, movies and commercials has to be Arashi.

Arashi, which made up of 5 members as well had a great 2008 in terms of acting and singles sale (finish top 2 in Oricon Top 100 chart of 2008).
For the past few seasons, you can see that their members are passing on baton to one another to be feature in at least one prime time tv series.
While singing might still be their forte (they do sound better than SMAP for sure), they can build on their popularity in all spectrum despite they are arguably not the best looking group around.
But like SMAP, they possess the X Factor...whether they can make it cut, we shall see...

Japanese word of the day: スキャンダル (Scandal) Don't forsee the lads in Arashi doing something as foolish as Tsuyoshi, well then Ohno sure is one little devil as well

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