Sunday, 10 July 2011

What I Like (and Dislike) about AKB48.

What I Like (and Dislike) about AKB48.


I am not going to write the entire history of AKB48 here. If you are reading this entry you are probably interested in them anyway so go check out their history on wikipedia or, or get some info from their official website, which is partially in English. (Here)

I really like the fact that they have worked their way up. Being a fan since their inception in 2006. They started as energetic theatre girls, under an indpendent record label, and under the King of Idols, Yasushi Akimoto (who also produced massive 80's girl group Onyanko Club, who are also very worth a listen) . Now, Akimoto was not stalling, he was in a sense, training them, for bigger things, that he KNEW he could get. He was also waiting and biding his time for when there was a dip in the market. As sales of Hello! Project declined, AKB48 EXPLODED onto the scene.

More idols than anyone had ever seen in one go run onto the stage, smiles, dancing, radiant, these idols were fresh faces and new heights of wota-ism were about to be seen. Akimoto markets these girls like Tsunku never could, they appear in every magazine, every commercial, every billboard, photobooks streamed onto the market. He may have started out slowly, but by 2009, AKB48 were the biggest girl group in the country, and arguably, the world.

Not just the girls make the group, the songs and dances are professional and slick, and the production is second to none. The video clips are breathtaking, and even people who do not understand one word of Japanese can get the incredible feeling put into these videos. The girls are not only very talented at singing and dancing, and have worked VERY hard to be famous, they are also fabulous actresses and convey emotion with what seems like effortless calm.

Akimoto doesn't just stop at one group, under the AKB48 blanket, is SKE48 from Sakae (of which Jurina Matsui is frequently seen in AKB48 videos, and her sister Rena Matsui is also very popular) , NMB48 from Namba and SDN48, an adult entertainment group that stands for SaturDayNight 48. In SDN48 is several former AKB48 members including Megumi Ohori, Kayo Noro and recently announced Hana Tojima, among others. I find it quite endearing that people have graduated, then decided to come back, and he seems to have no problem with that. This is something Tsunku has trouble with. Once someone has graduated, now, not like before 2009 (Elder Club Graduation) , we barely see them anymore. Which is a shame.

Hello! Project has become very formulaic and kind of boring, whereas AKB48 and the other groups are unpredictable, and new releases, groups, subgroups and solo projects are always being announced. AKB48 are on the up and up, and considering how many sales they are already making, this is a grand thing.


These girls are being used as objects of lust. Yes, it sells records to millions and millions of male fans, but the over-the-top sexuality is sometimes a bit in-your-face for female fans. While AKB48 still endear to many females, the way they are marketed is very male-centric. The boyfriend rule is something I will never agree with, but all idol groups use this, so this is not an AKB48-only thing. Idol groups and soloists have been doing it for many years, but it still a primitive and ridiculous way of treating women (and men to a lesser extent, as male idol groups have a girlfriend rule also).

Also, they lipsynch. A LOT. I think I've heard them sing live only once. Their voices all sound fine. So I don't see what the big appeal is to not actually performing live. Performing live would give them an edge that Hello! Project still has.

The monopoly on the idol music industry is something I am a bit ambivalent about. I'd like to see them have competitors. FIERCE ones, not lukewarm ones. Akimoto is currently auditioning for his own competitive group called Nogizuka46. Hello! Project will never, ever have AKB's sales. That is something Tsunku just can't seem to grasp. He has modelled himself after Akimoto, but he just couldn't quite cinch it sales-wise. Hello! Project's golden age is over, and we are currently IN AKB48's golden age. It may get better, it may get worse, but if we continue to support them through the years, there will be many more exciting things to come!

What do you like or dislike about AKB48? Or about the Idol/Jpop world in general?


  1. I dislike about AKB how the thousands of hours of fun I have hearing their songs, watching them perform or doing tons of things (from TV shows to write their thoughts multiple times a day) gets reduced to this slut-shamming, or that is a show for salarymen to see teenagers’ underwear, or that the last senbatsu election was like what women do on nightclubs to attract clients (except that nobody seems to be able to explain why they do that metaphor if it doesn’t have anything to do with it) or that they are just treated as (silent) “objects of lust” while not asking them, their fans or the people that design their image their opinions about it. How everything that could be empowering about them (be it little or not) gets reduced to the same stereotypes, the same bullshit and the same thing as always.

    For me it is something strange, as if people that have heard so many strange things about Japan are trying to project everything over them as if it was the ultimate thing. Sexuality? Have people ever watched the latest Sowelu PV, or Maki Goto, or Koda Kumi, or Idoling!!! or Sexy All Sisters or Ebisu Muscats (that are already pornstars)? Why people should conform to that in a country with so much pornography and erotism? Lolicon? And they use women on their 20s on underwear instead of TGS doing a visual crescendo about showing their asses on “Love Like Candy Floss” (or for that matter, Sweets). Or for that matter, one of the first idols in Japan (Momoe Yamaguchi), on the 70s being 13 years old singing about the “age of consent” or “forbidden pleasure”.

  2. ^ Yep yep yep. I don't know what Japan's obsession with innocent, virginal, pure, untouched girls is. It's weird and creepy. They had a song very early on called 'Virgin Love' which was a bit..>.>

    What worries me is the fact that just out of statistics, some of these girls would be too naive to actually understand what was going on. The older members who joined in their late teens probably do and can't be fooled, but some of the younger ones have probably been quite sheltered.

  3. One thing I will never understand: if a lyric talks about sex it always implies that is a song to lure their fans? I remember quite a lot of songs in AKB that talk about sex and is not sex as fantasy but escapism from (a grim) reality, and not even good at it.

    But even so, there are things (no underage girls sings “Innocence” on SKE48), people are not forced to do gravure if is not the image they are looking for, etc. But let’s say, how is that different from the new generation of Morning Musume girls singing “Love Generation”?

  4. ^ Do you mean Love Revolution? That wasn't really overtly sexual. They aren't forced to do gravure? Surprising. I bet it is very much encouraged though. >.>

  5. Gosh, search for it and then don’t change it:

    I don’t know, I suppose this is a serious conversation and around here is 1:00 AM, but “I bet it is very much encouraged though”.

    When the girls were told how the “Heavy Rotation” PV was going to be, they were against it because that wasn’t the image that they wanted to project about themselves. The obvious question would be then: what image if they already have that one? But their gravure shoots are mainly for promotion, there is a extense market in men magazines, and again their shoots are usually quite tame with the rest of the magazine. The latest Young Animal has Maeda Atsuko on the cover, disguised as her character on the dorama. Then there is Serina from SDN48, who was already a gravure model before joining the group, with some more explicit. And then there are a shoot with Yuuri Morishita and Nana Nanaumi, with the last one entirely naked and including shoots were the camera man is shooting her from the space between her open legs. Latest Weekly Playboy: Not Yet on cover, they do some bikini shoots (as in wearing bikinis), then you skip some pages and you get Kawamura Yukie almost naked, Shinozaki Ai doing sideboobs shoots and then Yoshii Rei naked. They have done almost since the beginning shoots for girls magazines (both Tomomis, Mariko, Haruna is right now a model for one of them) but you hardly will see those, because people tend to focus on the most “spectacular” ones. The good thing about that filtering is that you also wouldn’t see other magazines specialized on shooting idol crotches on live shows (Momoiro Clover, H!P or AKB; it’s the same). There are specialized magazines (say TV, radio or music ones, and they also shoot for them…). I don’t know, but I see Ai-chan, Mano and other girls popping on those magazines with pictures from their PBs, and they usually are also bikini shoots. Again, they are doing promotion, they are tarentos, they are idols, nobody take them as serious people.

    The other thing is that they would sing songs about sex, but again, they are performers, is not them.

  6. I've enjoyed most of what AKB has released so
    far, but 'Heavy Rotation' really threw me off. It was just...too much. It's creepy hearing that cheerful innocent sounding song, and then mixing it with images of young girls in really suggestive lingerie. It's not even subtle, just in your face borderline soft core lesbian porn. O__O It surprises me that this sort of thing is accepted in Japan as normal, but it's all over the place. All I can say is that if they showed this in the US there would be so much backlash and media attention surrounding it. It's sad but it obviously is a huge selling aspect, just wish they tried doing it with a bit more class? There doesn't seem a lot out-spoken feminists in Japan either :/ It's interesting though because I've heard that they have a lot of female fans.

    On the other hand I really love 'Beginner' The original PV is really epic and is the main reason I started getting into them. I just love when idol groups do songs/pv's that are really different and out of the blue :D It's such a huge contrast to Heavy Rotation, because it's a very empowering song and the PV really shows that as well. I'll be disappointed if they REALLY push the sexual/pedo image, otherwise I like what they are putting out with their music & creative videos.

    I'm kind of glad that they are outselling H!P. They have been playing it safe for so long now, making low budget pvs using the same stupid formula in almost everything they do. I find that the people behind AKB are always coming up with new ideas and putting money an effort into the whole project. I eventually stopped buying albums and singles by Morning Musume because I simply can't support anything that is half assed and mass produced. Even the music seems predictable and rushed nowadays. During the golden era there were so many unique groups, and the pv's were always original and fresh, which is what got me hooked in the first place. The girls seemed to have more chemistry and personality as well. I think that era ended when they added Koharu Kusumi. I really liked JunJun & LinLin but they ended up becoming background dancers/singers. They seem to be wasting talent and then putting the not-so-talented girls like Koharu in the spotlight :P They need to pick some interesting girls this year if they want to have that same magic during the 'Love Machine' era, it's been so long since they sold a million copies!

    I hope they try taking notes from AKB or try going back to their original roots, but again, UFA likes to play it safe and cater mainly to the loyal wota fan base >_< It's a shame because the current girls have a lot of potential to be really successful! Tsunku is still writing good songs, but the promotional aspect is really weak and gimmicky. I agree that this is AKB's golden era, H!P used have the same creativity back in the day.

    Wow I really went on a long ramble there! Sorry! XD

  7. ^ No no don't be sorry! I totally agree! The lingerie was one thing but the whole 'fake cumshot' on Tomomi was just....WHAT. Because that's basically what it was. That unsettled me. It's really over-pushing the sex aspect. I LOVED Beginner too. Don't get me wrong I totally love AKB but sometimes they seem to put me off (and I am sure a lot of other female fans too) as they are so blatantly marketed towards pervy dudes.

  8. Yeah, it's kinda sad that a the girls have to deal with that sort of marketing because I am sure it must make some of them uncomable

  9. It's about AKB,but why you bashed Hello! Project in here? =_________________=

  10. im totally agree that akb48 worked really hard i love their song beginner sayonara crawl

  11. i really dislike about akb48... they always show their marurity before they ages and also lipsync.. i dunno but jkt48 always lipsyncs and hello project forbid their member to lipsync. most of all i really love hello project

  12. i really dislike about akb48... they always show their marurity before they ages and also lipsync.. i dunno but jkt48 always lipsyncs and hello project forbid their member to lipsync. most of all i really love hello project