I’m just going to put this out there: I love Zukki. It’s true that I feel strongly about her now because I had the opportunity to go to New York and see her perform and shake her hand. We had a moment and I still squee thinking about that. The thing is I had a lot of affection for her before any of that. This had nothing to do with my own weight, or with some feeling of pity for her and everything to do with the fact that from the start Zukki hasn’t been anything like any other member.
(fabulous gif from OtsukaKannon on tumblr)
Zukki has always been a hard character to pin down. She has been genki, but also oddly bashful, vulnerable and yet fearless (especially on variety). She began as a strange and funny character, doing impressions of bugs and such. Then it was like something changed and, yes, she gained some weight.
For a while it was hard to get her to talk, let alone be onscreen during appearances. She doesn’t get many singing lines and her dancing, despite improving, is hard to see when she’s always in the background. When she did get to talk she did some funny faces (that the agency asked her to do) and not much else, despite her variety talent. She did generally seem delighted with the other girls, like she was happy they were getting attention and didn’t want to get in the way of that.
She used to be a bit smaller, but she’s never been skinny the way that Iikubo or Ayumin are skinny and yet I’ve never heard her speak of dieting the way Konno or Ogawa used to. In Japan all they ever have to say to her is, “why so fat?” and yet when she came to New York, before she could even introduce herself, we all cheered so loud for her that we drowned out her mic.
Japan was absurdly shocked about this and the only explanation that they could come up with was, “she’s American-sized”. Zukki herself said this line also, because almost every post-NY interviewer asked her, “Why do they love you overseas?” like they couldn’t figure it out. It feels like a company line.
I’m going to have to talk about this, aren’t I?
I am so gonna get flamed…
I want to say that I don’t understand why there needs to be a Zukki debate, but I do. Liking chubby girls requires an explanation, unless said girl is a comedian and her weight is the main joke. I don’t think she’s obese (although I admit I can’t judge by Japanese standards), but I acknowledge that she is chubby.
What I have never understood is why people seem offended that she isn`t skinny.
“She’s doing this on purpose! Why isn’t she skinny?! What do you mean you like her!??”
“It’s just some soba, dudes. Relax.”
I can name five Momusu members off the top of my head that were chubby and they always dealt with it one of two ways: the girl was pushed to the back until she got skinnier or the girl was infantilized in some way (because it`s ok for a child to be pudgy).
Kago is the one that sticks out to me. She is one of the most beloved former members and her weight never seemed to be an issue with anyone. Maybe it was and I just wasn’t aware, so correct me if I’m wrong here. Was this because of the way they marketed her and Tsuji as trouble-making children? I’m not saying Kago wasn’t talented, but I am saying that her talent wasn’t ignored because she wasn’t skinny.
I`ve seen threads about Zukki where people start ranting angrily about how it`s Zukki`s job to be skinny and how dare people say she doesn`t need to change. If she wants fans she better damn well put down that cake!
Let me correct you as politely as I can: it`s not her job to be skinny, or to have the same body all the other members, it`s her job to appeal herself to her fans, whatever it is those fans appreciate about her. It’s her job to sing and dance and contribute positively to the legacy that is Momusu. Yes, the agency probably wants her to be skinnier, but her weight doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have any fans.
Not every idol is liked for her body alone. You can correct me on this, but I won’t agree – idols are supposed to be attractive, but there are many ways to be attractive. It depends on how you appeal yourself. One of the greatest things about H!P idols is the way that normal looking girls, with strange faces, can become these shimmering, awesome women who grow into their careers despite even the rockiest starts.
Being an idol, as a young teenager no less, has got to be incredibly stressful and stress-eating could be part of why, despite all this intense dancing, Zukki still seems bigger than the other girls. I also acknowledge that Japanese standards of what constitutes “fat” are very different. I`m not saying losing some body fat wouldn`t help her get some more Japanese fans; unfortunately, there is no doubt in my mind that it would. I`m just saying that NY should have shown that maybe there is something Japan is missing about her. It feels lazy of people to dislike her based solely on her weight.
And yes, maybe some people do like Zukki because she’s chubby. Maybe they feel an affinity with her. There is nothing wrong with that, but to say that is the only explanation why anyone would like her is condescending and stupid.
During the NY concert, I watched everyone at first. I honestly didn’t know who was going to keep my attention because there isn’t anyone in Momusu right now (or in October) that I dislike, nor was there anyone who I liked more than others. I was in the far left of the theatre and Ayumin caught my eye during dance breaks but Zukki held my attention more times than I can recount.
There is something so affecting about her smile and seeing them all dance together without camera cuts made me realize that her dancing is really good. I honestly didn’t think she was that good of a dancer, because I just barely ever see her. I remembered how much she struggled in the beginning with dancing and it made me feel a sort of awe, like, “She works this hard and it’s so difficult to see it.” That smile was really something though.
When I shook hands with them, Zukki and Riho were the most warm, the most approachable, and the ones who made me feel like they were genuinely glad I was there. It wasn’t their job to make me feel like that, but they did. Zukki even made the effort to speak English to me, even though it made her shy. She is prettier and sweeter than they will ever be able to convey on camera and that makes me ache inside.
The way I feel about Zukki has nothing to do with her weight at all and yet I feel like I have to explain it.
In one of the recent H!P concerts (pre-Shige grad), they finally gave Zukki a center position with some real lines and not only does she nail it, but she looks like she is having a blast. Not a trace of hesitation.
Thank you Jayde for alerting me to this pwn-age.
You can point out that the song is about dieting and laugh to yourself, or you can realize the genius of putting her in the center. The song is pointing out that everybody is obsessed with dieting when all they really want is to “love”. The lyrics speak of “everyone” being on a diet, not just girls. Maybe it was Tsunku’s way to saying that people should calm down about it.
I also think that Zukki might have just decided to embrace and use the fact that no one can stop talking about her weight. She’s toting the company line about being “American sized” like it’s an inside-joke she can smirk at and on a recent show (Hamachan ga) she got to sample lots of nabe and treat us to her yummy-face. Why shouldn’t she use this crap to her advantage? I would love a show that has a Suzuki Cooking Corner. Remember Konno Asami’s yummy-face, before she lost her cheeks?
More than anything else, it’s just so refreshing to see someone who isn’t Oda or Ace in the center position for once. This has nothing to do with hating those two, but the novelty of seeing one of the back-up members get to sing and be noticed. It is so rare nowadays that it is a novel thing.
Her singing isn’t as strong as Oda’s, for example, but it’s good. She doesn’t have the attitude of BOSS or the weird appeal of Iikubo and Eri-pon, but she has something. She can keep up with the dancing, she can MC like a boss and she’s always been great with variety. She just needs to take that ego-boost from NY and run with it. She’s already taken over Sayu’s old radio show, which is quite the responsibility.
She is da Zuk and she shouldn’t be underestimated.
I can’t wait to see where her confidence takes her next year.
This gif of an epic funny-face between my two favourites from WonderMusume on tumblr.