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 stage48.net, 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?