Though it’s been making great strides, Japan is a little behind-the-curve when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Marriage equality isn’t legal there — and since there’s so little official education about queer issues, LGBTQ kids are learning about them from comics and TV. While there have been some great works that handle queerness in a mature way, there’s also plenty that simply fetishize it for a straight audience.
This year, right after Tokyo’s Rainbow Pride celebration, pop group Takoyaki Rainbow released their newest single, “RAINBOW ~Because I’m Me~” (“RAINBOW～私は私やねんから～“). Ostensibly a gay anthem, the song and video look more like an attempt, as the Japanese gay bloggers at Takurei’s Room point out, an attempt to cash in on the craze for all things rainbow “at a time when the nation is at peak gay.”
Let’s talk about the good first: The video’s well-made and the song is catchy in that pure sugar way that J-pop usually is. The label clearly spent some money on it, and the video comes off as a super-slick cousin to OK Go‘s one-shot videos, like a way-less-technically impressive version of “The Writing’s On The Wall,” minus all the optical illusions. And, not gonna lie, the stagehands in Kuroko-meets-Willy-Wonka-style white bodysuits are pretty great. And, finally, we love the drag queen who comes out of nowhere to save the day.
But honestly, the whole thing’s pretty clunky. The lyrics feel focus-group written with lines like:
7 billion people! Rainbow!
Men, women and girls too! Rainbow!
Both the gloomy and cheerful! Rainbow!
Both niche and popular! Rainbow!
Love comes in all colors! Rainbow!
And perhaps the worst couplet ever put to music: “It’s okay to have variety / In English it’s called ‘diversity!'” It feels like a line cut from a low-budget children’s show for being too obvious.
The video itself follows the problems of each of the band members. One’s an otaku (or a hardcore fan of comics and cartoons) who is bullied for it. One has a crush on her friend, but her friend is into boys instead! Another objects to having to wear school uniforms, and the last doesn’t want to do her homework.
On one hand, combining coming out with other, more trivial problems could be seen as trying to make coming out seem easier and less daunting — but it ends up trivializing it. Especially as, when each of the singers’ problems are solved, the crush ends up being requited after all … what?
And then you get into the hamfisted demonstration of diversity as the singers dance among cardboard cutouts straight out of a “It’s a Small World” knockoff called “Stereotypes of the World.”
Overall, while we appreciate the effort, the entire project comes off feeling like what straight people think queer people want to hear. Or, worse, like pandering to the community just because it seems like the new fad. If we had to give this a grade, we’d give it a D+; well-made and we love the drag queen, but executed so clumsily that it works as an illustration why it could help to, you know, actually involve some queer people in the process.