Back in 2008, a group was formed that was meant to be a parody-style idol group of Akimoto Yasushi’s Onyanko Club back in the 80s. This group had a bit of a catch: they consisted of idols who worked heavily in the gravure and adult video industry.
This was the Ebisu Muscats. And they were much more than just a group of gravure and AV idols.
First off, some of their songs did have a bit of a sexual undertone. Their biggest hit, “Banana Mango High School” was released in 2010 and, if you were to understand Japanese or read the English translation, you can kind of see what they were talking about. I will not exactly explain the song lyrics right in front of you, but the song itself was just as sexual as a few of Onyanko Club’s hits.
At least the video itself was not as perverted as the song:
As for their other songs, some of their sugar coated hits involve spring holidays, chocolate, and a honey trap.
Rather than just talk about songs, the lineup of the Ebisu Muscats was also a major strength. Yes, you have a lineup of adult video idols, some of which were the biggest in the business (Yoshizawa Akiho, Asami Yuma, Aoi Sora, etc.), but when you watched them perform through music videos, and even through their late-night variety show in "Onedari Muscats!!", you saw a different side of the girls rather than what you would see on a video found in the red light district. They had personality, they were funny, and they broke the stereotypes one may have when you talk about a group with adult video actresses.
Like other idol groups, the Ebisu Muscats had a captain that was shuffled throughout the group’s lifetime. The first captain was Aoi Sora from 2008-2010, Asami Yuma from 2010-2012, and Kishi Aino from 2012-2013. As for the members, some members stayed for the entire duration of the Muscats’ tenure, such as Rio, Andou Aika and Hatsune Minori, while others stayed for a very brief period of time, such as Mizuki Uruha, Ohashi Sayoko and Ozawa Maria.
Also like other groups, there were one or two sub units who performed their own songs. One of them was the Purukawa sub unit (based pretty heavily on the PreCure magical girl anime), featuring my Ebisu Muscats oshi, Rukawa Rina.
The Muscats also had other appearances with other groups and artists. There was even a time where they starred in a special showcasing other idol groups, such as Berryz Koubou and SDN48. Here they are starring with DJ OZMA, with a few shots at AKB48 here and there:
The Ebisu Muscats grew in popularity, especially in the early 2010s, with singles that sold fairly well and concert tours here and there (including one in Singapore). Unfortunately, in 2013, at the height of their popularity, the entire group announced graduation and was disbanded. Some of the other former Muscats can be found doing other lines of J-Pop based work, such as Kuriyama Mui of Through Skills and Sakuragi Rin of innuendo-named J-Pop duo, P * cherry.
Will we ever see a mature J-Pop group like the Ebisu Muscats again, where their gravure and adult video careers were put on the side for the sake of J-Pop and variety shows? Only time will tell.
This group, however, holds something really dear to me, and that is because this was the gateway I had to J-Pop and the idol industry. I was curious to the idea of a bunch of adult video actresses in a J-Pop group, and then “Banana Mango High School” grew on me. I listened to this song so many times that I even learned the dance. Eventually Rukawa Rina caught my eye as being the kawaii anime otaku in the group (and the closest one to my age, given that most of the Muscats were 3-8 years older than I was). Eventually it was not just “Banana Mango High School”, but I listened to almost all of their songs wherever I went: at the gym, driving to college, etc.
I would get excited to see new episodes of their variety show and new releases of songs. This group also introduced me to other J-Pop acts, such as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Perfume, DJ OZMA, and even AKB48. They were the biggest reason why I love J-Pop so much.
When they announced graduation and disbanded, the final episode of their variety show struck a chord, since I now had to find a new J-Pop group to follow. I still follow up on whatever non-AV based J-Pop things some of the former Muscats are doing today, but it is definitely not the same. I had to find another group that I could follow up with, who I could like as much as the Muscats.
But then I ran into a gravure photo of an attractive girl on a Tumblr page. The girl on that photo was named Shiraishi Mai.
And the rest is history...
◆ Rin Rigoni