A Comparative Study of Bikini Photography in Momoko Tsugunaga’s Photobooks

In a world where protecting the innocence of “the children” is more important than giving them a decent education or teaching them good health and eating habits, it is practically a rite of passage that when a school-age idol gets herself a photobook, half the fan community must throw themselves into an uproar about the inappropriateness of such a young girl posing for such licentious photos. (Meanwhile, the other half of the fan community is quietly going “YESSSSSS!! DO WANT!”) Part of this uproar, of course, involves counting how many times said idol is photographed wearing the common two-piece swimsuit, or “bikini,” which—if we are to believe these moralizing busybodies—is the universal symbol of societal and cultural decay.

It is spelled with 4 is for a reason.

It is spelled with 4 i's for a reason.

Those who have had the sweet, delectable pleasure of looking through Heir Long Peach Child Momoko Tsugunaga’s fourth photobook, Momochiiii, may have thought to themselves at some point, “Is it just me or are there a lot more bikini pics in this compared to her last one?” And it is not an isolated phenomenon, either—practically anytime you read an idol’s photobook, you’re probably keeping a mental tally of how many times she appears on the beach, or playing at the pool, or exploring the river bank, or lazing around the house and for some wacky reason all her clothes fell off. What we seek to prove today, is to determine whether or not Momo is actually showing off her peaches more often than usual.

Methodology

The number of photographs in a given photobook are counted.
Two running tallies are kept: (1) the total number of photographs; (2) the number of photographs involving a bikini.
For the purposes of this count, a photograph is defined as one complete camera image depicting the subject.

A double-page spread is counted as a single photo. This is to prevent an image from being credited twice.

Rough example of double-page spread. Yes, I realize it looks weird.

Rough example of double-page spread. Yes, I realize it looks weird. Why don't you try scanning a book without breaking the spine.

Similarly, a composite image of multiple photos on one page is counted as a single photo. For obvious reasons, a set of 4 quarter-sized photos on a single page does not have the same visual value as 4 pages of regularly-sized photos.

Example of composite image.

Example of composite image.

Counted photographs also include dust jacket, book cover, and inside cover images if any.
If there is a logo, but no photo of the subject (e.g. the covers of the 1st photobook Momo), it is not counted.

Various issues of contention arise as to what constitutes a “bikini photo”. One solid conclusion that can be made is that, since Tsugunaga never wears one-piece swimsuits in any of her photobooks, we can at least assume that all swimsuit photos are also bikini photos, and vice versa.
A bikini photo is defined as any photograph that shows the subject wearing a two-piece swimsuit, or a two-piece swimsuit and combination of overwear that reveals enough skin to be effectively identical to wearing a two-piece swimsuit.

The underlined portion of the definition is important because it marks a dividing line between cases such as the following:

Although it is later revealed that she is wearing a bikini underneath, this is <b>NOT</b> considered a bikini photo because the t-shirt is covering up enough area that she could, I dunno, go out shopping or something.

Although it is later revealed that she is wearing a bikini underneath, this is NOT considered a bikini photo because the t-shirt is covering up enough area that she could, I dunno, go out shopping or something.

Conversely, this image from <i>Momo</i> <b>IS</b> counted as a bikini photo, because even though she is wearing a jacket, it's not like there's a whole lot left to the imagination.

Conversely, this image from Momo IS counted as a bikini photo, because even though she is wearing a jacket, it's not like there's a whole lot left to the imagination.

This would also be considered a bikini photo, because even though she is wearing a tank top, it's pulled-up, sopping wet, and she appears to be about to take it off.

This image from 2nd photobook Momoiro would also be considered a bikini photo, because even though she is wearing a tank top, it's pulled-up, sopping wet, and she appears to be about to take it off.

In addition, if the subject is submerged in water but still wearing a swimsuit, it is considered a bikini photo, even if the rest of her body is difficult to see or cannot be seen due to water distortion, because hey, who am I to judge if someone else finds it totally sexy seeing just a girl’s head and shoulders above the surface of a swimming pool.

Yes, this counts.

Yes, this counts.

Photos that do not show the subject’s entire body, but still feature the subject wearing a swimsuit, are also counted, as this may be a form of “teasing.”

I hate to see her go but I love to watch her leave!

I hate to see her go but I love to watch her leave!

Results and Analysis

Percentage is plotted to the same axis as total numbers because I couldn't figure out how to make OpenOffice do 2-axis graphs.

Percentage is plotted on the same axis as total numbers because I couldn't figure out how to make OpenOffice do 2-axis graphs.

As the results of the above graph and table show, the number of bikini photos in Tsugunaga’s photobooks has slowly been on the rise. Her debut work, Momo, was the most “tame” at just 20 bikini photos and a relatively low 27% rate out of the entire book. Momoiro and Momo no Mi may be considered intermediate books that both clocked in at around 30%, although Momoiro‘s number may be mildly inflated due to the pink crop-top photos which technically counted as bikini shots even though they were not as salacious as the famous “FRIEND” segment of Momo no Mi. Lastly, Momochiiii shows a new level of maturity with the 35% bikini ratio, although again, that value (as well as the 30-photo count) may have been inflated by a small number of “headshot but technically she’s still wearing a bikini” photos.

Delicious peaches are delicious.

Delicious peaches are delicious.

What is more important to take away from this graph, however, is the realization that there is no sudden dramatic jump in Momoko wearing lots of bikinis. Although she has been getting more adventurous about it as she becomes more aware of her body and her visual appeal, she is still far from becoming some kind of gravure slut who does nothing but swimsuit and lingerie shoots.

Undressing shots, for example, should probably count for a little bit extra.

Undressing shots, for example, should probably count for a little bit extra.

At the same time, these findings also point to new opportunities for increased precision and accuracy in the study of idol photobooks. The act of counting swimsuit photos versus total photos is merely a first approximation, failing to compensate for differing levels of modesty—some of which were alluded to above, such as the subject being submerged in water, or if the photo fails to show the subject’s entire body. In addition, the scope of this study also has great potential for being widened—how do photobooks compare between Suzuki and Sugaya, for example? What about Morning Musume photobooks versus Berryz and °C-ute photobooks? And then what about photobooks of other music performers, such as members of AKB48 and Idoling!!!, and how might that compare against TV and movie actresses, “standard” gravure idols, U-15 idols, and others? By collecting enough data points we may even be able to arrive  at a grand unified theory of swimsuit photography in idol photobooks.

Addendum (Random-ass facts)

  • Momo’s first 3 photobooks all read in the standard Japanese direction (right-to-left); Momochiiii is the only one that reads left-to-right.
  • Momoiro is the only photobook to be published by Kids Net, the publishing arm of the Up-Front group; for that reason it is also the only softcover book.
  • Momo no Mi is the only photobook to use a bikini photo for its front cover.
  • Momochiiii is the only photobook to use a bikini photo for its back cover.
  • Where the hell is Miyabi’s 2nd?
  • About these ads

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

12 Responses to “A Comparative Study of Bikini Photography in Momoko Tsugunaga’s Photobooks”

  1. Vee Says:

    I think I might love you for this. Not only do you bring me delicious cake, you bring me quantitative theory. A+++ Would Read Again.

  2. Hanachan Says:

    That picture above with Momo in the rainbow bikini made me go, “Woah, Momo has breasts, not just pinpricks?!” xD

    Your post inspired me to go look at the small collection of photobooks I have on my HD, and looking at Momoiro versus a Kaori Iida photobook from 2002 and a Yuko Nakazawa one from 2001, I was shocked that the Momo one had bikini shots while the other two didn’t, as Momo was much younger (sixteen versus twenty-one and twenty-eight…okay, twenty-eight is old in idol years , I can kinda understand that, but twenty-one? Takitty is twenty-two and takes sexy, youthful pictures!). This makes me wonder if the number/percentage of bikini shots in an H!P photobook have gone up by year, or if the older H!P members just always had less bikini shots than the younger ones?

    • Pata Says:

      That’s actually a rly good question. XD

      I believe every member has some freedom as to what kind of shots she’s willing to do for a photobook, depending on her modesty level, the theme of the book, and the attitudes of the time. As far as Kaori and Yuko go, if they didn’t do any bikini shots, maybe they just didn’t want to do any bikini shots. Yet, around that same era, you already had the younger Maki Goto doing plenty of that. Meanwhile, Natsumi Abe, a contemporary of Iida and Nakazawa, started out pretty modest but eventually got into doing swimsuits by about 2005.

      I think that, aside from the earliest PBs (Sayaka???), the H!P Bikini Rule has always been around 20-30% — you could take a cross-section of PBs like, say, golden-age Maki, Yaguchi after her first, mid-decade Aichan, Reina, Koharu, Airi, and arrive at similar numbers. And then there will always be outliers; would any of today’s H!P n00bs believe me if I said that Kago’s FIRST first solo photobook had zero bikinis in it? XD

      • Hanachan Says:

        I didn’t know the idols had some say in their PBs…cool. It’s interesting how the youngers girls (as in U15) agree to do bikini shoots. I’m sure they are aware of their fanbase. I wonder if the more popular girls are pressured into doing bikini pictures? Or maybe they don’t care about what their audience does with the pictures. I guess accepting that is part of being an idol.

        I think Kago’s kinda made up for that first bikini-less PB with her most recent one xD

        And yes on 2nd Miya PB!

      • Pata Says:

        You’re starting to ask questions that have nothing to do with numbers and everything to do with being a moralizing busybody.

        As such, it is no longer my place to respond to them.

      • Hanachan Says:

        I’m sorry…I wasn’t trying to come off as “eww, I think old men looking at little girls is gross!” (as long as you don’t do anything illegal I could care less what someone’s fantasies were) I was thinking of things like when Charmy made those comments backstage at an H!P concert. If I were an idol, I would care less about what my fanbase does (I’m in my older teens, btw, like many of the idols), but I know some people do and I find it interesting that U15 girls are that self-assure that they don’t care…I know at that age I’d be like “eww!” I did get off of the topic of numbers though, and I’m sorry about that.

  3. Vee Says:

    >>>>>Where the hell is Miyabi’s 2nd?

    WORD.

  4. Arbitrary Greay Says:

    I absolutely love how you paralleled standard science journal article format. Especially use of the all-encompassing “By collecting enough data points we may even be able to arrive at a grand unified theory of ________.” significance statement.

    And Karen Girls FTW, may I burn in hell.

  5. thejuggernaut Says:

    Excellent analysis! Hmm, the data will still be incomplete because there are still members among the H!P Kids who have yet to get PBs, so trying to compare by groups would reach an inconclusive end… or is that a sufficient statement?

  6. Delicious Cake Project! has Delicious Peach Flavored Cake « International Wota Says:

    [...] A Comparative Study of Bikini Photography in Momoko Tsugunaga’s Photobooks (Delicious Cake Project!) [...]

  7. Meyouu Says:

    Excellent study, a bit short in fact.

    The other girls don’t care, they are H!P kids after all, and do what the H!P parents tell them, that’s what they have been exposed since wotas-know-when (they might even have no idea of what is this and that). Unlike in the beginning (yeah, in the beginning).

  8. sheena Says:

    momoko tsugunaga is so kawaii

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 294 other followers

%d bloggers like this: