Thursday, January 21, 2010

AKB48: They're Not the Coming Thing-- They're Now!

I don't really know a whole lot about these girls, but they're one of the hottest things going right now here in Japan. So hot, the Asahi Weekly English-language weekly tabloid made them the cover feature over New Year's.

Forgive me if my facts are a little hazy, but here's what I've gathered by a sort of psychic osmosis: AKB48 is an electrically energetic singing/dancing idol group that regularly performs sold-out shows in their own theater in Akihabara. There are approximately one thousand members of AKB48; 800 members and 200 "interns." Their plan is to assault the world with high-energy cuteness, conquer international pop culture and then reign supreme from a solid gold palace located directly atop the South Pole from which they'll broadcast messages of peace and moe.

On a no more serious but hopefully more accurate note, there are actually 51 members in the group's current line-up, in three teams-- A, K and B. Their producer and mastermind, Akimoto Yasushi, has written lyrics for Nakashima Mika and Exile, a couple of evergreen musical acts. Nakashima played Nana in the movie adaptation of the popular shojo manga of the same name. Yasushi began AKB48 in 2005 and they've really hit it big. And it's looking more and more as if 2010 will be their most triumphant year yet.

Because as I learned today, AKB48 is so popular with young people here in Japan several high schools in Hamamatsu now feature teams of girls who have assigned each other AKB48 roles and peform spirited imitations of the group during breaks between classes and at lunch. I learned this from some amused witnesses to the AKB48 phenomenon, which seems to have erupted here almost overnight. One guy told me some girls at his school begged him to write an AKB48-style song for them to sing. Since he's a man of musical integrity, he refused.

He did admit, however, he'd write one for the real AKB48 if they asked. I wanted to know why.

"Because I could write a better song than the ones they have now," he replied. I haven't heard any of his songs, but I agree completely. He also feels while all the AKB48 girls are cute, there are just too darned many of them.

The girls I talked to said they enjoy their friends' AKB48 imitations, but they themselves have no interest in participating. They also said they have no intention of ever auditioning for the real AKB48.

"It's not my kind of thing," one told me. The other is starting to get into Ozzy Osbourne, so I'm guessing she feels the same way.

Anyway, if you're a Japanophile, you're going to be hearing a lot about AKB48. You probably have already!


RichardTheBrave said...

i haven't just heard, i'm into them already!

AKB48 fan here. thanks for the write-up! ^_^

Joel Bryan said...

Hey, thanks for the comment and I'm glad you enjoyed it. When people ask me what I like about living in Japan, I tell them I like fun fphenomena like this-- and their enthusiastic fans.

Valerie said...

Oh-I was the one that posted your blog on a forum. I'm sorry for that!
But it's just that we don't really have first-hand testimonies about the popularity of AKB in Japan.
As much as internet and YouTube make it easier to get a hold on Japanese entertaintment, it's hard for people to understand the cultural differences without actually living there. And yes, they're trying to advance into foreign countries. Last year, they gave a couple of concerts in France and New York.


Joel Bryan said...

Valerie- Yeah, I totally understand. I read on the forum that one person really expected the AKB48 theater to be full of older businessmen but was happily surprised to see the audience was full of girls. I would've thought the same thing, too, if not for my students and your forum!

So thank you for linking it there. I really enjoyed reading the forum and people's responses to it, and also learning about AKB48. And if you come across any postings from me that you think would be of interest to AKB48 fans, feel free to link them anytime.