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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
Results and Analysis
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.
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.
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?