It's no secret that Aimi Eguchi is beautiful and talented. But human? Not exactly.
She made headlines in the blogosphere after she was introduced earlier this month as the newest addition to the popular Japanese singing group AKB48.
This week, however, her true identity was revealed when Glico, a Japanese candy company that had featured her in an ad, posted a video on its website showing how Eguchi had been created using the eyebrows, nose, lips and mouth of other girls.
Her face was molded from the features of six AKB48 members; a seventh girl provided Eguchi's voice.
AKB48 even went so far as to create a profile for Eguchi on their website, which says she was born in 1995 and is from Saitama, near Tokyo.
There are currently 77 members in the "idol group," each featured on the AKB48 website with a saccharine smile. Nearly every day AKB48 performs in the group's theater in Tokyo, and they star in several TV programs, including "AKBINGO!" and "Naruhodo High School."
Eguchi was introduced by the group this month as a AKB48 "trainee." In the video, although her facial features move as she sings, her eyes remain expressionless. In still pictures, however, the composite could have fooled anyone.
The group's producer and founder, Yasushi Akimoto, reportedly raved about Eguchi, saying she would be "the heroine of the new age."
Fans began speculating about her last week when the mysterious new pop star suddenly appeared on the cover of the Japanese magazine Weekly Playboy.
TokyoHive, a Japanese culture blog, reported that "everyone" was eager to check out the pictures "in order to find out all the secrets behind her beauty."
But some bloggers noted Eguchi resembled other members of the group. And fans' suspicions grew after Eguchi was also chosen to star in a Glico ad for a candy called Aisu no Mi, and TokyoHive also reported AKB48 singer Oshima Yuko posted a picture on her blog with black dots on her face, the same ones it turns out, that were used to create the Eguchi image. "The shoot has finished," Yuko wrote on her blog. "It took a long time, but I was by myself so I was able to stay nonchalant. And in the end I turned out looking like this."
Typically, new AKB48 members don't get that kind of publicity. And that was exactly the point.
As people speculated about Eguchi's sudden rise to fame and her unusually good looks, Glico stayed in the press, and so did AKB48.
The Japanese have fallen in love with virtual pop stars in the past, such as Hatsune Miku, a girl with aqua pigtails created in 2007. Her holographic image will appear at the Anime Expo in Los Angeles, Calif., next week, where music software will enable her to "sing."
But when it comes to Aimi Eguchi, fans have yet to decide if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.