In Japan, there are idols for everything, whether it be trains, personal computers or, of course, video games. They have one thing in common: they're all smiley and cute. But what about an idol that never showed her face?
Last summer, a blog went live featuring a young model named Imao with a doe-eyed anime "mask" photoshopped on. The mask was reminiscent of the drawn faces in manga, anime or even computer dating sims.
On her blog, there were photos of her having coffee, eating noodles and posing in a bikini — all while covered in her anime mask. And when she wasn't mugging for the camera, she showed prizes she won from arcade crane games. The result of all this was every dating game brought to life. Well, almost.
The blog's summer slow burn was a build up to Imao's late November DVD release. The world of pin-up idols is incredibly competitive and filled with a glut of DVD releases of young women in skimpy outfits on sandy beaches.
In hopes of standing out, some idols try carving out a niche for themselves, hence the range of seemingly "odd" cheesecake idols. Teasing just how cute she was, the DVD promised to show Imao's face for the first time, showing how cleverly this was built up over months.
There are those who are attracted to anime and game characters. But these individuals are never attracted to all characters. Rather, they are attracted to well illustrated ones, just as people are attracted to beautifully painted portraits.
But the anime mask Imao wore was not attractive, and one would be hard pressed to find someone who found the juxtaposition of a real woman's body and a poorly drawn face attractive. Even in real life, it looked cheap. Imao pranced about in a teeny bikini, while wearing a paper mask. Photoshop can go only so far.
What was attractive was that it left Imao's true appearance to the imagination. There was intrigue, and she suddenly became more than your typical pin-up. She became "interesting". If you wanted to see her face, buy her video, a marked change from the more typical promises of nudity. This was a stunt, sure, but a clever one.
Days before Christmas the reality set in. Imao did an in-store appearance to sign copies of her DVD and did so sans mask. The ban on showing her real face was lifted. Fans who hadn't yet seen her face, remarked that she looked heavily made-up, and somewhat average for a pin-up model.
On Imao's blog, she began posting photos of herself with the mask. She made quite a stir during those summer months with her air of mystery, but that air of mystery has now evaporated. One video in, and she's just another idol.
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