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Warera ga AKB: The Japanese idols taking the world by storm.

Now that I’ve pushed through my writers block, I feel able to just keep writing and writing. One of the subjects I’ll definitely keep analysing and reviewing is the Japanese pop group, AKB48, a band that carries over forty-eight girls and performs in Akihabara, Tokyo, almost every day in their own theatre. However, it’s nonsensical of me to write about them if nobody knows who they are! For those too lazy or who hate me, please see the link I’ve embedded at the bottom. For others, let me introduce you to the theatre goddesses.

Having debuted in 2005 under Akimoto Yasushi’s creative mind – the man behind classic idols of the 80s Onyanko Club – the first team, Team A, opened with the stage ‘Sakura no Hanabiratachi.’ AKB48 only had sixteen members in the beginning, and their first team. They now have Team K and Team B, along with ‘Team Kenkyusei’ or ‘Research Students’, who serve as fillers for missing members at the theatre and also perform other teams’ stages when other teams are lacking the member count to perform by themselves. AKB48 has the concept ‘Idols we can meet’, and back in the day, after a stage was performed (a stage is essentially a set list of songs. Each team has their own special set list, and a new one is created every few months or so, ideally), fans could hang around at the theatre and talk to their oshimen/favourite idol! Nowadays, that doesn’t happen, but after every show there is a ‘high touch’, which is essentially exchanging a greeting and high fiving all the members on the way out. During certain events like Halloween, they’ll even hand out sweets!

Also back in the day, AKB48 didn’t even have a label. Up until third single, Aitakatta, the girls would hang around the nerd district of Tokyo and hand out the CDs themselves, then return to a theatre they didn’t even fill to the brim. Aitakatta, or ‘I Wanted to See You’, was their first record label song and the very one which earned them attention. But it wasn’t until 2009, with three teams, a new record label and ‘Oogoe Diamond’, that they really earned a name for themselves. Now in 2011, these girls can break a million in sales in one day, an incredible feat for a Japanese group, and this is excluding downloads, when CD sales are apparently declining.

However, that’s not all there is to this huge team.AKB48 is known for the fact that it ‘trolls’ its fans to high heaven, and to outsiders, this is both an eye catcher and sometimes a turn off. But with over forty-eight members to choose from, how does one choose which members enter singles? A single by AKB normally contains sixteen members, the coveted ‘senbatsu’, and tend to be the same every time. But why not shake things up with an election? Why not have the fans by a CD with a voting ticket, and put the power in their hands? They have, thrice now, and it’s an event so big that fans can go to cinemas in Japan to watch it all unfold live. But the results of these elections are usually predictable, with few differences to the line-up ever being made. So why not hold a Janken tournament or rock-paper-scissors tournament instead? Akimoto did that for the first time in 2010, with unknown Team K member Uchida Mayumi landing the coveted centre position. Every year, a three-day concert is held where fans vote for their favourite song and the Top 100 make the line-up. I could go on with the mad and interesting events of AKB48, but that could take forever!

And so, after all this rambling, why should you like AKB48? Well, there are over forty-eight girls to pick from, so it should be easy to find a one you like, right? And with the four teams hosting different images: the Team A divas, the hardcore family of Team K, traditional cutesey image of Team B and the hardworking dreamers of the Research Students, it’s hard not to find something satisfying. Is the language barrier a problem? Well, fan communities ‘Aidol’, ‘Stage48’ and ‘Nihongogo’ can provide up to date gossip and subtitles for all sorts of works. And if you don’t like the music, watch their dramas ‘Majisuka Gakuen’ or ‘Sakura no Tegami’, or their silly variety shows ‘AKBingo’, ‘Shuukan AKB’, ‘600 Seconds’ and others to see them crossdressing as guys, playing dodgeball with punishment games or even secretly follow their daily lives.

With this written, I can finally go on a fan rant about one of my favourite groups. But keep in mind that AKB48 isn’t the only one. SKE48 is a sister-group located in Nagoya, NMB48 has recently formed in Osaka and SDN48 dominates Akihabara’s theatre on weekend evenings with their sexy, over-eighteen serenades. Will I write about those, too? Well, with the rate SKE and NMB are trolling my fandom, most definitely. But I’m sure this has blown your minds for now. So go out, find your oshimen and get back to me.

And hands off Akimoto Sayaka. Or I will have you.

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