What is a Japan related blog, if there is no entry about AKB48? I mean, AKB48 has officially managed to become one of Japans most popular and adored idols – together with Arashi. To be honest, I used to be a huge fan of idols – whether it was Morning Musume (or anything Hello! Project), Johnny’s (especially NEWS) and of course AKB48 as well. Because of my big passion for girl groups back then, I was also one of the first to become a fan of AKB48, back in 2006, when they only had one team and around 16 members. Yes, there was such a time.
I bought their indie singles “Sakura Hanabira Tachi” and “Skirt, Hirari” for around 10 USD each. Singles that are now out of press and costs 30+ USD on actions. I watched team K debut and later on team B as well, I saw them grow from 16 members to 48 + members – and I knew all the names. Back then there was no Watanabe Mayu or even Oshima Yuko. At that time the front girls were the “Skirt, Hirari elite”, the 7 most popular members from their second single.
Kojima Haruna, Narita Risa, Asuko Maeda, Takahashi Minami, Itano Tomomi, Nakanishi Rina and Oshima Mai. Four of these girls still managed to stay front girls through all of the years, Nakanishi Rina and Narita Risa saw their popularity fail and they were pushed in the back when the Team K members started to make themselves more known. Later on they graduated. Oshima Mai did that as well, though she was still considered a top member. The addition of Team K, meant more names to remember and more members to cheer for. Though of course some members seemed easier to remember than others and new front girls was discovered.
Which included Shinoda Mariko, who was added to Team A just before Team K was announced, Oshima Yuko – the member who last year even managed to beat Maeda Asuko. Ono Erena who later graduated while still on top and the popular duo Akimoto Sayaka and Miyazawa Sae. Other Team K members also got to enjoy a brief peak of popularity before they were once again forgotten – some faster than others. Like; Kasai Tomomi, Umeda Ayaka and Tojima Hana.
Their 4th single “Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru” gave us a darker AKB48 – the edginess we know associate with RIVER and Beginner. They sang about sex and a school uniform getting in the way, making people remember the group Onyanko Club – the group AKB48’s creator Akimoto Yasushi created back in the 80’s, who had their hit song “Seifuku wo Nugasanaide” (Don’t take off my school uniform. AKB48 stayed in the dark side for a bit longer when they released “Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou” a single that had school bullying as a theme and the music video showed very well that certain human cruelty and the suicide of Oshima Yuko in the end. After that fans hailed the group to be the ones who forced people to realize the harsh reality of the Japanese modern society. (Teenage prostitution, bullying and suicide.) That was quickly turned around though when Team B and the single BINGO! Followed and showed all the characteristics of an idol group.
With Team B new front girls made their debut, the most memorable is of course Wantanabe Mayu and Kashiwagi Yuki who are still, today, among the top girls. After that a long streak of happy singles followed, like Boku no Taiyo, Yuuhi wo Miteiru Ka?, Sakura Hanabiratachi 2008, Oogoe Diamond, 10 nen Zakura, Namida Surprise and Iiwake Maybe. Romance, Irane was of course also released during that time span, that single tried to bring the more “cool and egdy” AKB48 back, but it wasn’t really the same. It was around Oogoe Diamond that AKB48 started to climb the ranks of various charts and their name started to become common knowledge, it was here my own fandom was failing though. My interest in idol music was going down – also when it came to Hello! Project and Johnny’s. AKB48 was “in” and a popularity wave struck and it suddenly seemed like everyone loved them. It felt like too many people worshipped every step they took, every song they released and performance they gave. I felt like a small drop in a huge ocean and I didn’t like it. RIVER was then released.
That song showed an attitude in AKB48 I hadn’t seen for a long time and I liked it, but overall it was too late. Members graduated and members were added and I started to lose track and suddenly there was a lot of unfamiliar faces.
What AKB48 has become today is amazing, they are everywhere and people love them. I still listen to their songs, but I don’t buy their CDs anymore and I have given up learning the new names – I’ve become a casual listener. The first time I went to Japan in 2008, I also managed to see all 3 teams live in the AKB48 theatre. It was an amazing experience seeing the girls in real life, being in the same small room as them and feeling them so close. I have respect for all of the girls, they are hard workers since most of them are still in school and they have so face many things. Not just dance lessons, performances and media appearances. They also have to face grim reality when popularity suddenly gets a number in the “Senbatsu elections” and the fact that one may be popular one day and forgotten the next. There are a lot of individual feelings, which are not allowed to be either heard or seen.
My favourite member? When AKB48 first debuted it was Takahashi Minami. When Team B was added Takahashi Minami unfortunately become second, since I then got my eye on Kashiwagi Yuki. Takahashi Minami moved a step further down when Sato Amina was added to Team A and I saw her live. For some reason the girl mesmerized me and made me forget about Takahashi. So that is my top 3: Kashiwagi Yuki, Sato Amina and Takahashi Minami.
So will this post include any rants? Maybe one. I don’t like how it seems like we’re forced to like some girls. Lately I’ve been annoyed with how forced Itano Tomomi media appearence have seemed. She got on an 8th spot in the senbatsu election, but always get a lot more screen time than f.ex Kashiwagi Yuki, who became 3rd. Itano has a solo career, but it didn’t help her from falling out of the top 5. They need to start giving the screen time after how they actually place in the elections instead.
Last off, my collection (up until RIVER)
The Oogoe Diamond single had covers with individual members and I managed to trade to get my hands on the Kashiwagi Yuki one. The DVD & Photobook also shows that I was a big fan of Team B.