One of my favorite moments in The Flowers of Passion documentary series comes at the beginning of each episode where CHiHiRO of MERRY BAD END sings a subdued, acapella version of their song, “Restart”, while the opening credits roll. It is a mesmerizing yet imperfect performance and the delicate smile she gives the camera at its conclusion epitomizes, in miniature, the portrait the series attempts to portray: that while underground idol lacks perfection, it comes from an earnest and genuine place.
CHiHiRO, for her part, is kind of the break-out star of the series. Aside from providing the series’ opening theme song, she is featured in most of the episodes providing valuable access and articulate insight into the backstage workings of the idol unit she created and leads. Episode four, entitled, “Idol Grind”, focuses on the daily scramble of idol life and the long hours required to put those acts on stage while taking care of the other responsibilities and priorities in their lives.
A good portion of the episode follows an exhausting day-in-the-life of Beni Usakura. The perspective in this section is largely fly-on-the-wall and we get to watch unobtrusively as Beni (member, choreographer and producer of avandoned) sneaks in lunch and some work on her laptop before a dance class with her other unit, APOKALIPPPS, before running off to a rehearsal with CHILDISH TONES, the band she fronts. In addition to these projects we learn that Beni is also working as a DJ, designing and producing merch, and (like CHiHIRO) attending College.
There are a number of exceptional moments in this section. I especially geeked out at the rehearsal footage with CHILDISH TONES. There is also an interesting conversation captured between Beni and the manager of APOKALIPPPS where they discuss how good some other unit is, but that they seemed to have the financial backing of an agency. Without a budget, Beni observes, “we’re standing on different ground.”
Limitations and imperfections are an appropriately recurring theme in The Flowers of Passion which is further explored in this episode by the members of LiLii Kaona . As they prepare for an upcoming one-man live, YUKA reflects on how different LiliKao is from the idols of her youth. She recounts how flawless groups like Morning Musume were, always slim and athletic in perfectly fitting costumes. Her partner KOYUKI takes things a step further saying, “I don’t think there is such a thing as perfection.” While they see perfection as out-of-reach, they still have big ambitions: KOYUKI speaks about their desire to create an entirely new genre, and their manager regularly mentions that their intention is to be world class. To reach this goal, however, they strive for continuous improvement, not perfection.
This segment again illustrates that unique aspect of the genre: underground idol is about progress not perfection. The idols work hard with a focus on just making each performance better than the last, while the fans are there to encourage and applaud the evolution.
Episode four concludes by returning to CHiHiRO for an intimate moment. I won’t share too many details here but to say that she relates an emotional story from her past that explains a lot of what motivates her to succeed both personally and for her family. CHiHiRO has a gift for radiating sincerity and vulnerability at the same time. Now knowing this piece of her past, we can see that it comes from an authentic place.
It is hard to say which episode of Flowers of Passion is my favorite so far, but this one certainly has it’s share of unforgettable moments. Like the other installments, it is a must-watch for any chika idol fan.
The Flowers of Passion is available at the Idol Underworld website or via streaming:
- Flowers of Passion: Episode 01
- Flowers of Passion: Episode 02
- Flowers of Passion: Episode 03
- Flowers of Passion: Episode 04
- Flowers of Passion: Episode 05