Japan all-girl group ad 'encourages homosexuality'

A commercial showing members of wildly popular all-girl band AKB48 passing bite-sized candies seductively from mouth-to-mouth is under fire in Japan for encouraging homosexuality.

The advertisement, which aired in March, shows the school uniform-clad young women -- all in their late teens or early 20s -- intimately exchanging the sweet, with the close-up footage slowing as their lips near.

A broadcasting standards watchdog said Thursday the majority of the 116 complaints it had received in March about commercials concerning young people related to this advert.

"The commercial may encourage homosexuality," one of the complaints said, adding "oral flora" was also a concern, according to the Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organisation.

"I don't want to see commercials like this," said another correspondent, who also complained of a music video by the group "in which girls, including teens, hug each other in their underwear.... It is very distasteful".

AKB48, one of the world's highest grossing acts with more than $200 million in CD and DVD sales last year, have become a phenomenon in Japan and other parts of Asia over recent years.

With a total of around 90 all-female performers, ranging in age from early teens to mid-20s, their bubblegum pop and synchronised dancing has proved a huge hit with pre-pubescent girls.

Running the gamut from girl-next-door to sultry temptress, the band also has a substantial male following -- many of whom are older -- who support a vast merchandising industry.

A spokesman for UHA Mikakuto Co. which makes the sweets, said the reaction to the TV ad, which aired for 10 days to March 25, had been mixed.

"We received complaints about the ad, but there are many people who enjoyed it," said the spokesman, who declined to be named, adding a survey of viewers had ranked it the fourth most popular commercial at the time.

The commercial and a "making of" video, can be seen on the UHA Mikakuto's website at www.akb48cho.jp/cm/index.html

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