Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Brit teen targets bright lights of Tokyo
Mention the Isle of Man to somebody from Britain and they might be able to tell you it’s the venue for a famous motorbike race. Utter the name of the place to some Japanese people and there’s a reasonable chance they’ll know it as the home of 14-year-old schoolgirl cum entertainer Beckii Cruel.
Musicians ranging from dour European indie bands to obscure free jazz artists have long been able to boast of dedicated fans in Japan, but most can only dream of the popularity that this teenager from the UK has – rather bizarrely – started to generate for herself here in the last year.
Videos of Cruel dancing in her bedroom to the theme tunes of famous manga programmes, while dressed as their lead characters originally struck a chord with some of Japan’s “otaku”, a word often translated as “geek”, when they were picked up from YouTube by a popular Japanese website.
But Cruel’s success is now becoming more mainstream – she regularly features on entertainment news pages – and this week’s release of her latest single (a cover version of an old J-pop favourite) looks set to propel her firmly beyond the streets of the otaku Mecca, Tokyo’s Akihabara district.
Tokuma Japan Communications, the record label that signed the teenager and which is also the home of audio releases connected to animated films made by the feted Studio Ghibli, is marketing Cruel as what it terms a “Next Generation Idol”.
Indeed, Cruel’s act seems to be tailor-made to slot into the culture of cuteness, or “kawaii”, that tends to dominate parts of contemporary life in Japan – and which most visitors typically find either endearing or highly irritating.
Tokuma has even enlisted two other western teenagers, dubbed “Cruel Angels”, to make up a pom pom-adorned backing group for the schoolgirl.
But Cruel sensibly isn’t banking on a long-term music career. “This boom (in my success) will last only about two or three years,” she said in an interview with a Japanese website. “(After that) I want to be a school teacher or work in an art-related job.”
And as for that name? Yes, it is a stage moniker – the teen’ s pals and teachers know her as plain old Rebecca Flint.
Photo credit: Beckii Cruel flanked by her backing group on the cover of her latest single, courtesy of Tokuma Japan Communications