Japanese talent agency Johnny & Associates to review juniors when they are 22

Lim Yian Lu
·3 min read
Naniwa Danshi, a Johnny's Jr. boy band under Johnny & Associates.
Naniwa Danshi, a Johnny's Jr. boy band under Johnny & Associates.

On 16 January, Japanese talent agency Johnny & Associates announced that they will be revising the system for their junior talents, otherwise known as Johnny’s Jr. When these young talents hit the age of 22, they will undergo a review by the agency. By the next 31 March, if the agency has not agreed on continuing the talent’s activities, he will be dismissed from the agency. If an agreement is reached, he will resume his duties as a junior. This new policy is effective from 31 March 2023.

Johnny & Associates has been known for producing top male idol groups like the disbanded SMAP and Arashi, who is now on hiatus. These groups also began from training as juniors in the agency, often starting as early as at the age of 13. Usually, these junior talents debut as a group before they reach 20 years old.

Essentially, what this new policy entails is that if the junior has not debuted by the age of 22, he will most likely be sacked. This is due to the fact that Johnny’s Jr. are usually under the age of 30, and have increasingly lower chances of debut as they grow older.

Regarding this “performance review” at the age of 22, Johnny & Associates cited the reason that it is the crossroads of life, and the new policy helps juniors figure out the direction they want to take in life. As for the junior talents who are above the age of 22 by 31 March 2023, the agency has confirmed they will resume their roles as juniors.

On the surface, this new policy seems like company restructuring. But according to insiders in the Japan entertainment industry, the revision came after a series of recent scandals by Johnny’s Jr. — of which a former member, who was then 28 years old and jobless after being let go from the agency, had robbed a woman in her sixties of 140,000 yen (about S$1,790) in cash and several cash cards last August.

A review at 22 — the age of most Japanese university graduates, when they transition into the working life — as compared to years later, seems more appropriate for and beneficial to the future of these juniors. In addition, the review is said to stir up competition among the junior talents, and to weed out the ones who are getting too comfortable and complacent in their roles. This move is necessary in order to achieve the world-class entertainment organisation that the late founder Johnny Kitagawa had aimed for.

Regardless of the reasons, this revision will not only impact about 200 of the current junior talents, it will also affect the future groups the agency produces.

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