Japanese Idol Group “Tacoyaki Rainbow” Sing LGBT Diversity; Progress or Pandering?

“7 billion people, rainbow!”

“Male and female, rainbow!”

“Gloomy and cheerful, rainbow!”

“Niche and major, rainbow!”

“Love comes in all colors, Rainbow!”

So begins RAINBOW~Because I’m Me~ (RAINBOW~私は私やねんから〜), released on May 10th by Japanese idol group Tacoyaki Rainbow.

The group, which made its indie debut under the label Stardust Records in 2012, was picked up by major label Avex in January of 2016. RAINBOW~Because I’m Me~ marks the group’s third single under Avex.

The track, which was written and composed by Maeyamada Kenichi, was clearly written to be a ‘gay anthem’ but falls very short of becoming the next Born This Way. 

I mean, at one point, one member sings,

“It’s okay to have variety”
“In English it’s called diversity

Cue groan and facepalm.

The track goes on to appeal for people to accept other people’s differences and assures those who are ‘othered’ that there will “definitely come a day where they can smile”. Okay, so that part isn’t so bad.

But that’s not all. The group also released a promotional video for the single, which not only sends a confusing message of ‘diversity’ but also manages to proudly display racial stereotypes. 

Let’s take a look.

“I’m an otaku!”
“…But everyone makes fun of me”
“I really like her!”
“…But now she’s talking to guys!”
“My classmates are making me conform…”
“Studying is hard!”
“…But I want to be an idol!”

I made a few observations at this point. The otaku situation makes sense, but the same-sex crush situation is less about the not being accepted for being gay but simply about longing for someone, as we see that the two are obviously quite close.

Using the school uniform to symbolize conformity was also a head-scratcher because Japanese students are compelled to wear them by school administrators because they are, wait for it, students. It’s not really a case of your peers forcing you to become someone you’re not. No one is stopping her from wearing frills on her own time.

Then came the scene where the studying girl dreams of being an idol. I think it was meant to represent following your own path in order to attain your dream, but all I could see was young girl wanting to give up her education in order to become an entertainer. Which brings me to the irony of the song and PV: The whole message of RAINBOW~Because I’m Me~ falls flat specifically because it’s sung by underage female idols, who choose to conform to certain standards set by their talent agency and fans in order to sell an image of virginal purity. But I digress.

Bring in the dancing racial stereotypes!

Because nothing screams diversity louder than stereotypical caricatures!
It’s like they jumped right out of an English textbook!

I will admit however, I did enjoy the random drag queen snatching sailor uniforms and rescuing one of the girls from a life of conformity.

But even that couldn’t save this ill-executed PV.

To add insult to injury, it’s no coincidence that the single was released only three days after Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2017, at a time where the nation is at peak gay and searches for keywords such as ‘rainbow’ were probably through the roof. (I would know, I had a huge uptick of visitors during that time.)

Which really makes me wonder. Are Japanese companies actually trying to make people’s lives better, or are they just riding the trends and doing whatever they need to get good PR?

For example, major companies Dentsu and Panasonic were recognized last autumn as being among the most progressive companies in their treatment of LGBT employees and customers. Yet Dentsu faced a huge scandal in late 2015 when a 25-year-old female employee committed suicide after facing long-term verbal and mental abuse and being compelled to do 105 hours of overtime in a month.

Just last week, the Japanese labor ministry released a list of companies that are putting their employees at risk, and both Dentsu and Panasonic were named among the so-called “black companies”, which number over 300. What good is putting a few rainbow flags around the office when your employees are at risk of health complications or taking their own lives due to their work environment?

As English-language news organizations spread select stories about Japanese companies and their efforts to promote diversity and media companies produce more content that seems to be representative of LGBT, I would argue that we should also take a step back and try to see the whole picture.

Will these ‘LGBT-friendly’ companies practice what they preach, or are they just enjoying some good press? Is that anime, comic, or song being written by someone who actually cares about the LGBT community, or are they just trying to make a quick buck off the latest trends?

As recession-prone Japan continues to struggle economically, it’s tough to tell. But these days, it seems like everyone’s searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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