Big and fab
New plus-sized Japanese girl group Pottya are trying to make it big, literally.
The five-member act gained attention in the Japanese media and online when they held their inaugural press conference last month, with each girl tipping the scales at an average of 76kg.
More than 2,000 girls auditioned to be in this new idol group, but only Risa Oki, Maiko Indo, Mai Yokokawa, Emi Tsukada and Michiko Ohashi made the cut.
And Pottya's producer Takeo Kobiyashi has also set a strict criteria for them, saying they will be dropped if they do not maintain their current weight.
All out to defy traditional societal stereotypes, the quintet said at the event: "We can't be idols if we're not slim? In order to destroy those doubts, chubby girls (like us) came together and formed an idol unit.
"While aiming to become idols who can sing and dance, we want to give dreams to chubby girls.
"There are so many things that we want to do, such as holding live concerts, performing at food festivals and appearing in dramas. In order to do that, we want many people to know about us. Everyone, please support us!"
A two-minute music video of their debut single Po・Po・Po・Pocha Rinko has garnered 377,000 views on YouTube in two weeks.
It shows the girls grabbing desserts from a long table and dancing in synchronised steps alongside oversized confectionery to a catchy tune.
However, while the video is attracting eyeballs, it has also drawn flak from netizens.
YouTube user Leokumai wrote: "Uh... Eating theme for a chubby-themed idol group? Let's try to be more original next time!"
Another user, oil88, added: "Big is ok as long as they eat healthy and excercise, not eating sweets and junk food like this. They should have changed the dishes on the table!"
Pottya are not the first Japanese girl group to use the plus-sized gimmick.
Early last year, Chubbiness, consisting of 10 slightly chubby females, debuted to much fanfare.
They released a music video for their debut song Manmadieya last August, which depicted them feasting on sugary treats.
They also put up a new music video titled We Are Chubbiness last December on YouTube. But the group has not received much coverage in the media recently.
Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, managing director of record label and concert organiser Rock Records, said that a novelty act like Pottya will be noticed at first, but their longevity still depends on their music.
The 53-year-old told The New Paper: "They stand out as they are different from the usual idol girl groups. However, appearances can only capture the audience's attention for a short span of time. Whether they can last long in this industry will still depend on how good and catchy their songs are."
Local J-pop fans that The New Paper spoke to found the chubby concept interesting, but were unsure if they could make it in a competitive industry full of skinny beauties.
Student Isabelle Lim, who is a fan of popular Japanese idol girl group AKB48, said: "I admire them as it must have taken lots of courage and confidence to debut in an industry where looks and appearances are one of the more important factors."
The 17-year-old added: "Realistically, it will be hard for them, especially in Japan, where there are so many other idol groups out there trying to make a name for themselves. Given a choice between Pottya and another idol group consisting of skinny girls, more people would be attracted to (the latter). Pottya will gain people's attention, but gaining fans is a separate thing."
J-pop fan Goh Jia Jie, 22, said: "No doubt this is a marketing gimmick. The commercial reality is harsh and obviously this idea, although possibly (executed) with good intentions, is also out to get a share of the entertainment industry.
The undergraduate said: "The confidence and determination displayed so far by Pottya's members are what I like about them. However, their debut song is lacking in many ways and I find it average - nothing special."
Whether they can last long in this industry will still depend on how good and catchy their songs are.
- Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, managing director of record label and concert organiser Rock Records, on Pottya's prospects.
Other Asian novelty acts:
This trio of overweight singers debuted in Korea in 2011, standing out from the other K-pop girl groups due to their size and powerful vocals, but they garnered a mixed reaction from the public. A few months later, they unveiled a dramatic makeover, with each member losing up to half her original weight. The band then went silent and re-emerged in 2013 with a brand new lineup with no explanation given. Even though the replacements are skinny, the name Piggy Dolls has been retained by the record label.
ALICE WEINIANG GROUP
They boast 200 sexy, skinny members, but all of them are, in fact, male. The Wuhan, China-based, cross-dressing group was formed in 2009 and started with only 20 members. Over the past three years, it has grown rapidly in size and consists mainly of male college students. These days, Alice Weiniang Group perform at anime, comic and game conventions and cosplay festivals.
They are labelled the "ahjumma" (Korean for auntie) version of popular K-pop group Girls' Generation. The Korean quartet, consisting of married women aged between 29 and 37, debuted last March with the single Darling, Honey, I Love You, which is about the love a wife has for her husband.