At a recent handshake event, two members of AKB48 were attacked and injured. I won’t go into the details too much here; there is plenty of coverage, with news HERE and HERE. I’ve covered my own thoughts on the incident HERE, if you’re interested in reading on that.
Before everything, I like to stress one thing: the thoughts of everyone, more than anything should be on Kawaei Rina, Iriyama Anna, the staffer who was injured, the other idols who were there, and the families of everyone involved. I’ve been following a lot of the discourse on this matter all day, and I think that’s something people haven’t been doing. Above all else, we should be thinking of the well-being of these two girls, both physical and mental. All the news I’ve seen indicates that the injuries weren’t too severe and that the girls involved didn’t have too much visible emotional stress, which is reassuring. Still, there is still recovery and a lot of emotional stress involved, so I hope for a speedy recovery for them.
That said, even if you do not follow AKB48, there are almost certainly going to be repercussions for idol fans. What this has done, beyond harming two AKB members, has made handshake and fan events seem less than safe. There have been other incidents that have happened in the past (Gaki shared with me this incident that happened with Alice Juban ) but AKB48 is a national idol group making the news. The fact that there were injuries also makes everything seem less safe. Even though this is only one event out of all the events from a 48 group, this is now going to make everyone consider how close idols and fans can get.
I don’t think that handshake events are going to stop, nor should they. Handshake and fan events have become such a major part of idol culture that I think it would be difficult for idol companies to want to stop them. However, much like Ray of Idolminded wrote, “I don’t think it would be hyperbolic to say that this is the worst thing to have happened to the Japanese idol community in its current era.” This event not only is hurting the members of AKB48, but it will cause all kinds of idol groups and management companies to reevaluate how close idols and fans are able to get. This will make idols, not just AKB but all idols, think about their safety at fan events. And this will make the public reevaluate idol culture.
I don’t want to sound pessimistic. The perpetrator has been caught, the girls are safe. But this is the type of thing that could potentially cast a dark cloud on the idol fandom, which I know is something that we don’t want.
What I’m hoping will happen is that security will be increased at idol events. There will be more bag checks, maybe metal detectors, maybe more security guards. It’s hard to say what AKB could have done differently; the two members were protected by the staffer there and the other members helped each other get backstage quickly. However, I can see this being something that idol groups have to think about and consider.
Ultimately, my thoughts still remain with the members, and my main concern is that idols and fans stay safe.