I sometimes wonder about what really goes on in Watanabe’s head. The person he portrays is a callous, free-wheeling imp who functions largely through a Hegelian series of resolutions of superego and id, but I think it’s pretty clear that the Watanabe who traps girls on islands and makes people go on morning fun runs just to prove their mettle, who forces idol icons to sleep in a car and eat nothing but rice, is in many ways an idol himself; Watanabe (just like Homicidol Maniac!) is a persona more than a person, and so the very essence of what he puts on is not in fact the rotten-egg target posing as manager of BiS and BiSH and EMPiRE and GANG PARADE, but at the very least a calculating, deliberate mind*. Anybody who’s ever read or seen Hamlet knows that playing the fool frees one to expose so many more truths, after all.
Now, I don’t think that Watanabe is quite up to Shakespearean standards, but he is a performance artist in his own right, with human emotion and maybe even an entire industry** as his media. The thing about artists, though, is that they still need to get paid, and getting paid can get complicated, so you wind up with situations like BiSH’s song to promote something called KIRIN LEMON:
There of course can be discussion around whether the SCRAMBLES sound, or the WACK approach in general, has in fact entered freely into the mainstream, and how it obviates the very notion of the “alt” edifice that they largely created, but that’s not this moment. No, right now it’s about the various things that BiSH in particular is doing to make some lucre.
That’s not their only commercial, right? They did the bowling thing, too:
And the ongoing process of giving Aina solo work continues unabated:
— BiSHオフィシャル (@BiSHidol) April 9, 2018
Which then does require this discussion: Is BiSH that mainstream? That marketable? I’m sure that they aren’t so big yet as to be individually merchandised beyond the boundaries of their own wotadom, but Aina’s got to be close to getting past that point. Atsuko did/does have that glasses deal. Hell, even before they were that well-known, Hug Me was writing lifestyle columns for a porno mag. Like, give Watanabe credit for finding ways to elevate the presence of his products, and then take advantage of every opportunity. One could even make an argument that their (appropriate relative to the title of this post!) radio presence alone is a neat intersection between being and producing a product, and shilling while being shilled.
But Is BiSH that mainstream? Like, yes, obviously, if they’re getting (and, frankly, seeking) these kinds of jobs, they’re getting them because their name and look and sound have value to advertisers, so yes, they have at least some mainstream appeal. This should also be obvious given their status (on a major label) and sales (which are relatively robust). Also yes, obviously, it’s not exactly revolutionary for an advertiser to take advantage of a reputation or notoriety vs. actual popularity — being a personality is, in all things as well as idol, often at least as valuable as being productive.
If that has bigger meaning for idol, our idol, post-chika idol, whatever, I don’t want to delve into it yet. Suffice it to say for now that BiSH has clearly become A Thing, and as A Thing will probably only continue to find leverage to / be leveraged as a presence within media in a way that (hopefully) makes money for everybody.
*For instance, MOMOLAND’s apparent AWOL-going, despite potentially being serious business, is so out there that I’m waiting for more confirmation because yes, this is a stunt that Watanabe would pull
**That’s probably giving the dude more than a little too much credit