High Court hands down ruling in three-year legal dispute stemming from different attitudes between hard-core idol singer fans.
Personal opinion on their overall quality aside, you have to admit that Japanese idol singers put a lot of thought into their choreography. And actually, if you look over the crowd at an idol concert, you’re likely to see a lot of coordinated dancing too, a phenomenon that’s been dubbed otagei, or “otaku dancing.”
Making extensive use of glow sticks, wildly flailing arm motions, and precisely timed shouts and cheers, otagei is an exuberant way for idol fans to show their passionate support for their favorite performers. Groups of fans will often band together and synchronize their moves, as some did during a January 2014 concert in Kobe by local idol unit KOBerrieS.
As a highly esoteric form of dance, otagei doesn’t really enjoy mainstream popularity in Japan. But it turns out that otagei isn’t universally loved among otaku, even, as one man at the concert became so upset about the noisy otagei dancers at the venue that he decided to sue KOBerrieS itself, as well as concert sponsor Radio Kansai.
The unnamed plaintiff asserted that the otagei dancers made such a racket that he couldn’t hear the KOBerrieS’ singing, and that the event organizers were negligent in not removing the otagei enthusiasts from the venue. In his lawsuit, he asked for one million yen (approximately US$9,000) in damages or, alternatively, for KOBerrieS to perform another concert, a ticket to which he would ostensibly be provided with (but with some then-members of KOBerrieS having since left the group, an exact recreation of the concert would no longer be possible).
While one million yen may sound like a staggering amount of financial compensation, it’s worth noting that some idol fans spend huge sums of money purchasing their favorite group’s CD and merchandise in order to win concert tickets that aren’t directly offered for purchase, although it’s unclear whether or not that was the case with KOBerrieS January 2014 performance.
The lawsuit was initially dismissed by the local court, but the plaintiff then filed an appeal with the Osaka High Court. However, on April 27, more than three years after the concert took place, the High Court has rejected the appeal. In his official statement, presiding judge Atsushi Tanaka decreed “There are many ways of appreciating music, including the one displayed by those who think that shouting or cheering creates an exciting, joyous atmosphere,” and that therefore the concert organizers were under no obligation to remove the otagei dancers, as the event rules made no mention of such actions being prohibited.
And with that, there’s now legal precedent that, in Japan, idol music isn’t just about the music.