Most people in Japan associate the surname Amuro with the retiring 40-year-old queen of J-pop of the same name, who gave a series of farewell concerts in June that attracted 800,000 people.
Namie Amuro’s official exit from stardom will take place in September but fans are still buying her merchandise.
As famous as Amuro is, her popularity is beginning to face some stiff competition from a male anime character who shares her surname.
Toru Amuro is a stunningly handsome, mysterious chap who juggles several identities in the “Detective Conan” manga series written and illustrated by Gosho Aoyama.
In one episode, Amuro displays his culinary flair by making the “Amuro Sandwich.” The recipe went viral and the sandwich was served at 10 Detective Conan cafes that opened in pop-up locations across Japan to celebrate the release of the new Conan movie, “Zero The Enforcer.”
Amuro plays a central role in “Zero The Enforcer,” which is shattering box-office records having earned a whopping ¥8.3 billion to date.
Lest you think Amuro is simply a handsome guy with an eye for cooking — let’s face it, there are plenty of those around — it’s just one of his guises. Amuro is actually an agent at the Keishicho Koanbu (Public Security Bureau, the Japanese version of the FBI), where he’s known as Rei Furuya.
A spike in the sales of hanko (seals) of the same name was put down to women who were purchasing them in droves, confessing on social media networks that they carried theirs around like a talisman.
And that’s not all. Amuro goes by the code name “Bourbon” when he’s undercover and this has spurred a recent rise in bourbon sales.
Amuro also drives a souped-up Mazda RX-7, with some of the more hard-core fans either renting a model or buying one outright in an attempt to emulate their idol.
Naturally, Amuro figurines continue to fly off the shelves.
Women form the bulk of Amuro’s fanbase, with many calling themselves “Amuro’s woman.”
Many of these women are office employees who see Amuro as an ideal — albeit unattainable — boyfriend, according to an article in the Nikkei Shimbun.
Another article in the same newspaper quoted one woman who had seen the movie 18 times and even took herself to a theater in Tachikawa where the sound system is best suited to listening to the slight smack of Amuro’s tongue. The voice actor who plays Amuro is named Toru Furuya, a combination of Amuro’s two identities, and he is doing his part to uphold the Amuro legend, appearing at cosplay events and pop-up Conan cafes.
So why exactly is Amuro so popular?
Apart from his to-die-for looks, platinum blonde hair and wide-ranging skills in everything from cooking to boxing, Amuro is a patriot. He thinks of Japan the way some people think about lovers, and says as much in the movie.
During one action-packed, life-or-death sequence in the film, Conan asks Amuro whether or not he has a girlfriend, to which our hero replies: “Yes, I do. My girlfriend is … Japan.”
The line went viral on Twitter and spawned comments about wanting to “become Japan in order to sleep with Amuro.”
Nikkei.com believes that Namie Amuro and the character in the “Conan” series have benefited from the “parent and child” consumer phenomenon, meaning that their brand of popularity defies the generation gap.
Namie Amuro made her debut as a solo artist in 1995 and the “Conan” series first aired on Japanese TV in 1996, which means people now in their 20s have grown up with both the J-pop star and the manga. What’s more, 30-somethings are also passing their enthusiasm on to their children.
With both Amuros appealing to the young and middle-aged, single working women are now joining the chorus.
Now, if only the world was to fall for Amuro Ray, a fictional character in the anime series “Mobile Suit Gundam,” we’d have the perfect trifecta of Amuros to carry us through to the 22nd century.