First things first: Kago Ai tried to kill herself.
Old news, I guess.
That grossed me out to even type.
I went around and around with this post in the two or three days it took to write. Should I remain civil and neutral? Should I cover up what really has me reacting so strongly to this and pretend to be a concerned Kago Ai fan instead? (I like her well enough, but no.) Should I keep my thoughts brief out of respect for both her and myself?
It took a long time to decide and I came close to giving up on this draft at several points as I was writing it, but after talking it over with someone close to me, I realized I had a lot I needed to get off my chest on this topic. Maybe some will consider it appropriative of Kago’s circumstances, and I apologize if so. Some might even see it as combative due to how I’ve referenced other posts, but trust me, the last thing I’m interested in doing at a time like this is calling people out.
In any case, this is far from my usual. If all goes well, I will never speak of it on this blog again. For those who are interested in something a little weightier than Perfume fashion posts, however… keep reading.
I won’t waste time lamenting the Aibon from years ago because I feel this does a disservice to who Kago Ai is today. This isn’t because I think she’s “changed” as many people insist she has. Rather, I think it’s too easy for someone to become a caricature of their persona as distorted by time and memory, and this is something that’s plagued Kago for a long while; in a lot of people’s minds, she’s surely their picture of the quintessential tragic Japanese former child star.
Of course, people are never that simple.
Chiima from the blog Okay! Musume Time said this in her post on what happened:
…I am at the point of giving up on her — I do not admire people who try to commit suicide, and this has made me angry at Kago for trying to do this to herself.
“I’m just facing reality,” she wrote in conclusion of the post, but it’s a gentle reality she inhabits if that’s the case. It’s a luxury to be able to look at this and go, “Well, I don’t like all this suicide stuff, so I think I’m going to set Kago aside and look for a new, shiny idol to devote myself to now.” It’s a blessing that this isn’t a family member, your friend, someone you love. It’s a blessing that it’s not yourself. Maybe it takes that perspective to relate to what Kago’s facing right now, but this whole issue is so much more than measures as vague and unreliable as what is admirable and what is not.
Other bloggers aren’t much better. Greg of Selective Hearing, if I’m going to be blunt, is a particularly entitled wota who can’t let go of the Aibon he used to know… well, in the loosest sense of the word. More than Chiima, whose heart I strongly believe was in the right place throughout her post, he comes across as little more than cold. And, to be honest, I don’t care what his reasons are. I don’t believe in withholding something as basic as love and support from someone who’s done nothing to you but fail to live up to the standards you, much like the media that brought her to this point, arbitrarily set for her. There is nothing Kago Ai owes to a single fan, and no fan owes her anything in return, but turning your nose up at common human decency is a good way to make yourself look pretty deplorable.
Towards the end of his post, Greg paints a picture of the ideal Kago Ai from some other, happier universe, stuck in a dead-end career with the rest of Hello! Project’s Elder Club castaways and touring about five years past her own former duo W’s prime with the current generation clusterfuck that is S/mileage. How wonderful. Sarcasm or not (in this fandom, I can no longer tell), it says more than enough about the naïve expectations some fans have for idols to contain themselves in the neat, tidy little boxes their management makes of their lives. It gives us an even clearer look, too, at Kago’s desperation to break free from this and live on her own terms.
I commend Chiima, at least, for attempting to see more of Kago’s side. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make some of her comments any less hurtful or damaging.
“For me, you are now a lost cause,” she wrote of her verdict on the Kago Ai we’ve come to know today. For what I take to be a well-intentioned post, it’s a strange, even cruel thing to say. Though Chiima mantains she’s thankful despite her anger that Kago was able to get help, what, then, is the point in regurgitating all this emotionless “pray for Aibon” nonsense for someone she no longer seems to consider worth the time or energy? If she’s not sufficiently genki for some people anymore, fine. I respect fans’ decisions to step back from an idol they can’t support.
However, if there’s anything I’ve learned from going through this myself, it’s that no one is ever a lost cause. People who love you will be there for you. They’ll want to see you get better. There will be anger and hurt and misunderstandings much like what we’ve seen in the blogosphere since this incident. But the important ones, the people who are true to you — they’ll stay. Kago, like all of us in our own lives, will need to work hard to improve herself also. After all, no one can do that for anyone else. What I think people don’t realize, though, is that every day she went without harming herself before now was proof of that effort and that will to keep living.
Reading this news gave us all a glimpse into Kago Ai’s private reality. We caught sight of some inner part of her, and for one brief moment, we understood — on a very shallow level — what we might not have known was there before. The individual realities we returned to when we looked away, I think, might be one aspect that ultimately influenced what we saw in the end. Even if this is something you haven’t been through yourself, even if it’s something you’d ordinarily disagree with, please be kind. There is more at stake here than personal ideals and the shattered persona of an idol long gone. If there’s one thing you take away from this, please don’t forget about the flawed, imperfect human being struggling to live in Aibon’s shadow, and please don’t forget that she needs love just as much as any one of us.
To end this on a positive note, Verilian from Zombie Zombie, Danielle from Idol Love and Serenyty from Happy Disco all wrote posts on this I found thoughtful and liked a lot. Please check them out if you haven’t and keep Kago Ai in your thoughts. Thanks for reading.
P.S.: Thank you to yoshimi for everything.