In September, Japan's freewheeling pop culture linked up with the grim realities of Japan's economy in a most unusual way — by forming a unique idol group. In addition to the usual qualifications of good looks, cheery personality and a small measure of performing ability, these women were chosen for their personal indebtedness.

The nine young women forming The Margarines, as they are called, are going to try to sing and dance their way out of a combined debt of ¥127.7 million. That goal is going to be tough in a competitive entertainment industry already filled with many female idol groups.

Obviously the group will draw a crowd, but it will also turn their economic situation and that of their families into entertainment. As with other groups, fans will line up to take the young women's photos in revealing outfits, vote on their popularity and hoard keepsakes.