Wednesday, December 7, 2016

AKB48 Returned to Manila! My Ecstatic Report!

Twelve members of AKB48 Team 8 performed for two events at two separate locations in Manila within two days on their second official visit to the Philippines, and you can bet I was there for both of them!

Six members returned while six others were first time visitors of the Philippines; the six who were also here last year were Rin Okabe, Nanase Yoshikawa, Maria Shimizu, Yurina Gyoten, Rena Fukuchi, and of course, beloved english-speaker, Riona Hamamatsu, while the six first timers to join them are Hijiri Tanikawa, Nanami Sato, Kotone Hitomi, Karin Shimoaoki, Ayane Takahashi, and acting as center, Serika Nagano!

The first event was a private fan meet last December 3, 2016, Saturday, held in an exclusive diner/cafe. This was a paid event (unlike the second event which was free) which had stricter rules. For example, I saw a few fans, both Filipino and Japanese, who arrived at the event who were not allowed to purchase tickets, since all tickets had to be purchased online and the deadline had already past. Others also could not join due to schedule or financial restrictions. I estimate that there were over 300 fans who attended this event, which was just the right number since we were able to sit comfortably in the venue, and since the venue was not huge, it was just packed enough. The venue was positioned for performances, and had a stage at front, and a catwalk in the middle. And no, fans were prohibited from taking pictures.

We didn't expect them to perform, but Team 8 entered the stage after their Overture and performed Aitakatta, and the crowd went ballistic! Just hearing the Overture again here in the Philippines since last year made me ecstatic, but having them perform three songs, when I wasn't expecting any, was awesome! Aitakatta was so fitting as the first song, as since the first time they were here, I have wanted to see them again. I really wanted to tell them "Aitakatta!" ["I wanted to see you!"]

Here is the setlist of the first event:
1. Aitakatta
2. 47 no Suteki na Machi e
3. Oogoe Diamond
Encore: 47 no Suteki na Machi e

It was nice that they performed Aitakatta and Oogoe Diamond for us, especially considering they eventually wouldn't perform them on the second event, and that they performed these on their first visit last year. It is also always great to see Team 8 perform their first original song 47 no Suteki na Machi e. The girls were also surprised that after performing Oogoe Diamond, we would chant "Encore! Encore!" It seemed like they really weren't expecting it and that they didn't prepare for one, which made the whole thing even more awesome. Their manager would whisper to them (while they were still on stage) to perform 47 no Suteki na Machi e again, a message I watched passed on as they cutely whispered, passing along the message, one girl at a time, since they were still in line on stage. They didn't perform the choreography on the encore, but just had fun on stage waving at the fans, which was fun for us since they made good use of the catwalk in the middle, which they also used during their performances, meaning there were many times they were dancing just about three meters away from me! I'm surprised that the girls were not expecting us to ask for an encore. They should know by now that we will always want them to perform as many songs for us as possible.

Apart from a raffle where each girl gave a fan autographed merchandise (no handshakes allowed, otherwise the other fans would have gone mad!), a short question and answer, where Nanase Yoshikawa adorably proclaimed her love for the Filipino snack food "Halo-halo," and the official announcement of the opening of auditions for MNL48, the highly anticipated high-touch event would cap the afternoon.

At first, we were only allowed to purchase one ticket, meaning one high-touch for only half of the members there, but when it was announced that we could purchase another one, you bet I bought another one so I can high-touch all of them!

The first in line was Rinrin (Okabe Rin), which I was very happy to see back and very happy to thank. This is my second AKB high-touch event, and as usual, I was too shy to say much other than "Thank you".

I've liked Nanami Sato for some time now, but never thought of her as one of my favorites (and with Team 8, my list of favorites is quite a long list), at least not before. When she was at the catwalk in front of me, I was watching Serika besides her, which I think she noticed, since I saw her looking my way. I doubt she actually remembers that, but when it was my turn to high-touch her, she said "I love you," and I believe I was so surprised, I told her "I love you too," and you bet I was fished, hook, line and sinker! Reel me in, the master tsurishi caught me, and I was very eager to bite on her bait, and lie there like a victimized fish! Nanamin is truly one of the best fishermen in AKB, and she can take her place with Yukirin, Milky and Dasu. Yes, I know those words probably don't mean much, but my list of favorites just grew longer with the addition of Nanamin, as I will treasure those words nonetheless.

All of the girls were a pleasure to high-five, and I will treasure the fact that I got to high-touch them.

Serika Nagano was surprisingly warm, and I really enjoyed my short time with her even if the only thing I got to say to her was "Thank you so much," because I really appreciated her warmth.

Next to her was Riona Hamamatsu, which I was eager to thank by saying "Thank you so much for coming back," which she replied (to paraphrase) "I would love to come back again!" to which, I replied, "Please do!" I don't know if she means it, but I believe she does, and I want Team 8 to come back again, and when they do, Riona better be back with them! As the english-speaker of the group, it should be a no-brainer to bring her to any AKB event in the Philippines. Her winning the Nemousu TV survey in Hawaii which was based on pictures alone shows how much her beauty alone makes her stand out, add to that the fact that she's the member I can actually talk to comfortably since she is fluent in english means she should always be brought to any english-speaking event. Remember how SDN48's english-speaking Sayaka Kondo was brought to the US, even though the AKB event did not feature SDN at all? Riona should get the same deal. Also, if Hillary (Rina Hirata) is no longer doing Nogi Eigo (since she was absent in the most recent episode) since she has graduated from AKB, Riona should take her place! I want to see Riona more and I want to hear her talk more.

Last on the line of my high-touch was Hijiri Tanikawa. I've always thought of Hijiri as a beautiful girl and I've liked her ever since, but seeing her in person, she was gorgeous! It was hard for me to accept that she was only fifteen! She would steal my eyes every time I saw her! It was so cute how shy she seemed on stage! She was so adorable! When she is playing with fans on the stage (by communicating with them from a distance) she looks so cute, in a dorky way (similar to her beloved Maeda Atsuko). Her ponkotsu character suits her, as she pulls it off so adorably. Hijiri has been added to my list of favorites and I've been trying to dig up old videos of her from my collection to satiate my desire to see more of her. It's fortunate that the current episode of Nemousu TV features her along with Team 8 members such as Maria Shimizu and Nanase Yoshikawa, who were here in the Philippines with her, and that I have quite a number of Hijiri's Showroom videos as well. I still can't get over her! She actually said more things to me, none of which I truly remember because I was so taken aback by her beauty. I think she said "See you tomorrow."

The first event was very satisfying as seeing them, watching them perform, and getting a high-touch with them was definitely worth the price of admission! Fans were euphoric after the event!

The second event was held the day after, December 4, 2016, Sunday, as part of the 60 Years of Philippines-Japan Friendship Celebration, at the activity center of a large mall. AKB48 Team 8 served as the main event, with cosplay, anime, and seven-time visitor to the Philippines Starmarie acting as front acts. Team 8's part lasted a wonderful hour.

Here is the complete setlist of the second event:

1. 47 no Suteki na Machi e
2. Everyday Kachuusha
3. Heavy Rotation
- Self-introductions
4. Yume no Route
5. Kibouteki Refrain
6. Iiwake Maybe
- Short question and answer
7. Seifuku no Hane
8. 365 Nichi no Kamihikouki
- Advertisements regarding MNL48 auditions
9. High Tension
10. Koisuru Fortune Cookie
Encore: Aisatsu Kara Hajimeyou

It is always awesome to see them perform 47 no Suteki na Machi e, and it was cute how Hijiri almost forgot her turn to say "Akita" in the part where each girl says her prefecture. I was watching Hijiri at the time, and I guess she was fascinated with the fans, and almost missed her turn. She would cutely laugh about it with Rinrin who was beside her.

It is great that they got to perform more of their own songs this year. In addition to 47 no Suteki na Machi e and Seifuku no Hane, they also performed Yume no Route and Aisatsu Kara Hajimeyou which they performed for the first time in the Philippines. I really like Team 8's songs and I love it when they perform their originals. It was a treat to have them perform a favorite of mine, Iiwake Maybe, and the popular Heavy Rotation.

Rin Okabe was able to display her vocals when she lead singing the recent hit 365 Nichi no Kamihikouki which she sang surprisingly well, and Nanami Sato very well performed the center to AKB's latest single High Tension, which they also performed at the same noontime TV show they performed in last year. Trying to dance along with the girls in Koisuru Fortune Cookie was more difficult this time around because of how packed the venue was, but it was fun, especially when as a surprise, balloons and confetti were dropped at the middle of the song. It was funny how, at first, only two or so deflated balloons fell, and people who noticed it were kind of surprised, as I was wondering, "what is that?!" and the girls were a bit surprised as well, as I was watching Rinrin that time, who whispered "Yabbai!" ["oh my gosh!"] not knowing what it was either, but when the other balloons and confetti dropped, it turned out to be really fun. Of course, the fans were cheering for an encore even before the girls left the stage, and cheered "Team 8!" until the girls came back on stage to treat us to Aisatsu Kara Hajimeyou.

Their self-introductions were enjoyable as they did their Japanese self-introductions, and added Filipino phrases at the end. This is probably because last year, the fans showed we were really happy to hear them give their original Japanese introductions during the last performance, as opposed to a special Filipino introduction before then.

I am disappointed that Management didn't let Riona talk a lot. Since last year, I have been saying that they should let Riona host, especially considering I didn't think the actual hosts (for both events) did a particularly spectacular job. I could have done it better, that's how unimpressive it was. It wasn't terrible, but not really great either. They should let Riona host since she seems fluent in english, and we would absolutely love to see Riona talk to all of us. The only excuse I would accept is if Riona doesn't want to, because she is either shy or will be too tired to perform and host and act as translator for everyone. The translator was fine, but its embarrassing when the translator doesn't even know who Maeda Atsuko is. (In the first event, Hijiri Tanikawa was asked why she joined AKB, and she said it was because she watched Maeda Atsuko.) Also, couldn't they ask better questions? The questions seemed generic, other than that question to Hijiri. What I would have done was, I would have gotten questions from fans before the event, and chose the best ones, to be asked by the host, who should be Riona (or me!) during the event, but the girls can see the questions before coming on stage so they can prepare answers. I would even let the members of Team 8 choose which questions they would like to be asked before the event, so everything would be smooth. The hosts should be knowledgeable about AKB to make the event more personal, more enjoyable and more impactful, for both the fans, and the members of Team 8. Fans complain when we know more than the hosts do, making the hosting too generic and impersonal.

Also, although Management announced beforehand that Team 8 would perform again at the same TV show from last year, they announced it one hour before the TV show aired, which is far too late for any of us to get tickets to that show. When Team 8 comes to the Philippines, we don't just want to watch them on TV, we want to see them in person, and very importantly, we want to show them our support so we can show them and everyone watching how much we love them. Again, I can imagine, how less than warm the reception was performing for people who mostly didn't know them.

Speaking of which, I am proud of the fans who showed their support to the girls, and kept the girls safe and protected while in the Philippines. I am very glad that we showed a lot of love and passion to the girls during their performances. It's probably because of this why the six that came back from last time did come back, and why others were willing and able to join them. I hope they come back again!

If the event last year was probably Management testing the waters for the possibility of MNL48, this was probably mostly a way to push MNL48 and to officially launch their audition now that it has materialized. Speaking of which, I am not very happy with the current direction of MNL, at this point, which at this point, is mostly Management. I can't say I dislike MNL since they don't actually exist as a group yet, but it seems like MNL will not be tailored to satisfy current AKB fans, but rather will be catering to Filipino masses. This makes sense in a financial point of view, but of course, AKB fans won't be happy about it. I, for one, will hate it, if MNL becomes watered down. I will hate it if MNL becomes the same as the typical Filipino celebrity. There's a reason why I chose AKB48 over local entertainment, it's because I hate the typical Filipino entertainment. If I liked it, I wouldn't have drifted over to an entertainment group (AKB48) in a completely different country that was mostly non-present in the Philippines. And I share the concerns of some that if this does happen, I hope MNL protects the name of AKB. I do consider AKB as quality entertainment, and as I have said last year, I will dread Philippinized versions of AKB songs I love so dearly if the quality of the original will literally be lost in translation. For example, I have loved Utada Hikaru for a long time, and I of course love her classic "First Love," but if you have ever heard the supposed english version (that was not translated by Utada Hikaru herself) that was popularized in the Philippines literally years after the Japanese original version was released, then you would see that the quality of the lyrics were hugely watered down. I love the original version, but I absolutely hate the watered down english version that was popularized in the Philippines. I can bare MNL even if they won't be positioned to go after current AKB fans but instead the larger Filipino masses, but please do not let them tarnish the quality of AKB, most especially the songs, which I really do love. I dread the time when I have to put on my earphones because what is playing is a bad local version of my beloved AKB song, only to listen to the exact same song in my mp3 player but in its original version. It is possible that they could go after a niche market, and cater to us existing AKB fans instead, but I am concerned that as a niche, we may be too small for their liking. So based on signs of plans about MNL, it looks like they will go the route of typical Filipino celebrities and target Filipino masses, possibly ignoring AKB fans. Then again, as I said last year, if you want me to follow MNL, just add kennin / concurrent members. Hey, Riona said she would love to come back! HKT48's Emily Yamashita is half Filipina, SKE48's Rara Goto also speaks english, and maybe AKB48 graduate half-Filipina Sayaka Akimoto would like to add work in the Philippines. Heck, anyone in the whole AKB48 Group / family would be great! They don't even have to live here, they could just come here once in a while to perform! Riona, you could just keep visiting us every month or so! Of course, I may watch only when they are here, but adding kennins will at least appease some of us AKB fans. Considering JKT and SNH all got kennins at the beginning, I am hopeful that we will get a few as well. (I discussed other points in my report of Team 8's first visit last year here: )

I think that having two different events was a good thing. I think an exclusive paid event is a good idea, so they can generate more revenue (after all, they wouldn't come back if there was no money in this), and at the same time please a targeted audience. If anything, I believe there should be another exclusive for fans who are willing to pay more, for example, exclusive front row seats. I definitely would have gone for that and it would have been worth the money. But at the same time. I agree that they should have a free event as well such as the second event. AKB still has a lot of people to reach in the Philippines, and a free event at the middle of a mall is a necessity to reach out to these people who don't know them. Plus, not all AKB fans can afford the paid event, although I would encourage these fans to save money for such an event because the girls do need our support; they can't do this for long if we never pay for anything (I discuss this further here: ).

Speaking of which, here's another major complaint: Where were all of the licensed Team 8 merchandise for sale?! There were none! I assume it was because of the venue of the second event, which unlike last year, was not positioned to have any sales, and I suppose some arrangement about it was involved with the venue, so I guess they weren't allowed to sell so they didn't bring any, but I wanted to buy official Team 8 stuff in the first event! Buying stuff in the secondary market is fine, but buying them first-hand from the official seller is how the girls can earn from royalties.

Considering how limited my mobility was, I'm glad some of my shots turned out nice. The presence of so many people made it difficult for me to get good shots, but I did get a few, and I was able to get a relatively good video of the encore, up to their exit. Sorry about the shaky parts in the video, a lot of which is in the beginning, but I'm happy with how that video turned out. The video uploaded in YouTube is in HD, so HD is available in case you get a lower quality version because of a slower internet connection. The video is at the bottom of this post. All these shots are taken by me; if anyone will use them, please don't forget to credit me for them, and do ask permission from me first; I will give my permission if the use is ok.

I love Team 8, they are currently one of my top two favorite teams (that are still currently a team, along with HKT) and I am glad that as a group they are still growing strong. I was crying with them over the 2nd Grand Sportsmeet held earlier this year (and there better be a 3rd next year so I can cheer for them), and was miffed I couldn't cry more with them in the Team 8 dedicated camera for the DVD of the event because that part was cut (or never shot). I love watching their various performances and miniconcerts. I enjoy watching them perform stage unit songs, and I love seeing them on AKB's TV shows. I absolutely adore these girls. More power to Team 8 and may Team 8 stay strong!

Thank you again to Hallo-Hallo Alliance for bringing back Team 8 to us, and thank you to AKB48's Team 8 for visiting and performing for us! Please come back, I want to see you all again!!!

All pics are shot by me, please do not reuse without permission, I will give it if you ask if the use is ok. On top of this post is the Overture. Click the pictures to enlarge:

47 no Suteki na Machi e. Check out Nanamin's henna kao. [Making a weird face]

Everyday Kachuusha

Heavy Rotation

 Heavy Rotation ending

Jikoshoukai [Self-introductions]

Riona is cute

Yume no Route

Iiwake Maybe

Seifuku no Hane

JUMP SHOT!!! They are all floating in air!

Really proud to be able to capture such a dynamic shot

365 Nichi no Kamihikouki

Playing around with fans

High Tension

Koisuru Fortune Cookie

HD Video of the encore. 
If you are not downloading it in HD, 
look for the gear icon for settings on the lower right corner, 
and then adjust the quality to 1080 HD if your internet speed can handle it. 
Watch it in full screen (lower-rightmost icon on video) for maximum enjoyment! 
I shot this video, so please only share it by sharing this webpage!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Report on AKB48 Live in Manila and an Objective Look at Its Possible Implications

Twelve members of AKB48's Team 8 performed four times in two days in Manila, and I was there for the whole shebang!

The twelve members that performed live were Rin Okabe, Maria Shimizu, Momoka Onishi, Nanase Yoshikawa, Shiori Sato, Erina Oda, Yurina Gyoten, Nao Ota, Yuri Tani, Rena Fukuchi, Riona Hamamatsu, and acting as center, concurrent member of Team A, Nanami Yamada. They performed six songs, twice a day, for two days. They performed the same first two and last songs (not counting the encore), but changed the third, fourth and fifth song for the first and second performances. Here's an exhaustive list of the setlists:

Day 1, First show of the day, Nov. 7, Saturday
1. Aitakatta
2. Kibouteki Refrain
3. Iiwake Maybe
4. Ponytail to Shushu
5. Seifuku no Hane
6. Koisuru Fortune Cookie

Day 1, Second show of the day, Nov. 7, Saturday
1. Aitakatta
2. Kibouteki Refrain
3. Oogoe Diamond
4. Everyday Kachuusha
5. 47 no Suteki na Machi e
6. Koisuru Fortune Cookie

Day 2, First show of the day, Nov. 8, Sunday
1. Aitakatta
2. Kibouteki Refrain
3. Oogoe Diamond
4. Everyday Kachuusha
5. 47 no Suteki na Machi e
6. Koisuru Fortune Cookie

Day 2, Second show of the day, Nov. 8, Sunday
1. Aitakatta
2. Kibouteki Refrain
3. Iiwake Maybe
4. Ponytail to Shushu
5. Seifuku no Hane
6. Koisuru Fortune Cookie
7. (Encore) Oogoe Diamond

I'm really glad they performed their original Team 8 songs, 47 no Suteki na Machi e and Seifuku no Hane, and also some of my personal favorites, Iiwake Maybe and Oogoe Diamond. And all that time rehearsing the dance of Aitakatta and Koisuru Fortune Cookie has paid off!

Every after two songs, the MC of the event would come out with an interpreter to ask a question and let a few of the girls talk. They should have let Riona Hamamatsu talk more as she spoke excellent English, and it would have been better if they had rehearsed the questions beforehand. For example, on two different days they were asked what Filipino foods had they tried that they liked, and on the second day Riona talked about a Filipino cupcake, which the Filipino host asked if that could be "Bibinka", and I don't think Riona knew if it was "Bibinka", since I doubt that it was, since "Bibinka" doesn't look like cupcakes. I suspect it was "puto", or maybe "kutsinta", which looks more like cupcakes. If the Q&A was rehearsed, it would have been so much cuter to see Riona say "puto" or "kutsinta". Riona was also talking about a Filipino milkshake on the first day, maybe it was "Mais con yelo" or something similar, as the other members were talking about "Halo-halo". Again, they should have let Riona talk more! Heck, she could have hosted the thing, and maybe acted as translator for the group, if she was as fluent as she seemed. Yeah, basically I just wanted to hear Riona talk more so they should have let her.

The AKB show lasted 30-60 minutes per show, each one starting with their overture, and it was an awesome dream come true to hear AKB's overture being played in the Philippines, with AKB actually coming on stage!!! Literally, a dream come true. It was exciting and the crowd was electric. Much of the crowd that watched the "Cool Japan Festival" show was there for AKB.

For the first three shows, each member introduced themselves in Filipino, and they memorized their simple introductions well, with, I think, no one reading from their hands. They said "Ako po si [their name] representative ng [their prefecture]." and a few more Filipino words such as "Mahal ko ang Philippines". For the fourth show, Riona said they would introduce themselves in Japanese using their regular catch phrases, and the crowd went wild!!! The host would later comment that we were more responsive with their actual Japanese catchphrases, but them doing both introductions during the two days was very excellent. Every after the MC portion, they would start performing the next song by saying "Ang awit na ito ay para sa inyo" [This song is for all of you], with Nanami Yamada saying it before the third song and Nao Ota saying it before the fifth. Nanami Yamada's cute "surprised" introduction during their first performance when a boom (probably mic feedback or speaker problem) interrupted her was adorable.

The performances were excellent, as I can see why, as a theater enthusiast, I love watching AKB performances. Their dancing is a joy to watch, their performance level was brilliant, up to their facial expressions, but what was most amazing about AKB is their ability to connect with fans. Even fans who were standing on the balcony-like second floor was able to play around with some of the members on stage. Personally, and I don't know if they were actually addressing me or someone behind me, but apart from the various smiles and waves from the various members, Rin Okabe and Nanami Yamada was able to connect with me the most. For example, during the MC portion where somebody else was speaking, on their last setlist, I was looking at Nanami and it seemed that she was looking at me. I had been at all their performances, I was at the VIP section, and wearing a Team 8 shirt, and draped myself with a Team 8 towel, plus I did much of the chants and some of the dancing (Aitakatta and Koisuru Fortune Cookie), while mouthing some of the lyrics, so I presume I was already recognizable at that time, as I usually sat at the middle (well, standing when AKB was on). I was not unhappy at that time, far from it, this was one of the best experiences I've ever had, with this memory of Nanami being one of its highlights, but I was probably showing my typical straight-face and maybe not smiling (as it was the MC portion), when it seemed like Nanami was looking at my direction and gave me a cute sad-face, making me smile at her, and giving me a smile back. I'm sure Nanami made the sad-face and that she smiled after I did, what I don't know is if she was actually communicating with me or someone behind me, but since this isn't a life or death situation or matter of great consequence, I will choose to believe that that's what happened and it makes me very happy!!! Oh, if only I was living in Japan, I would go to see these girls as often as I can (which is what I am already doing). I understand why so many Japanese fans support these girls so much, and I can easily see myself doing the same. Nanami is one of my personal favorites, which is why I kept looking at her, and this just made me love her more. It's surprising how such simple acts could bring so much happiness to people (reminds me of the AKB song Dareka no Tame ni). I should try doing the same, although I'm not sure anyone would be happy if I suddenly smiled at them. Regardless, AKB's ability to connect with fans is amazing.

When Team 8 started, fans such as myself thought it was just a gimmick that would last only as long as its advertiser, Toyota, would support it (similar to what happened with Baito AKB), but around two years within the existence of Team 8, it seems that the group is still growing strong, with many fans still supporting its individual members, and the group as a whole, and with three members getting concurrent memberships with Teams A, K and B, Oda Erina winning the recent AKBingo Karaoke / Diva Championships and surprising us with her pro-level voice, and Team 8 still getting featured heavily in AKB TV shows such as the recent episodes of Nemousu TV, plus success in the recent AKB Grand Sports Meet, I am one of many fans that say that Team 8 is surprisingly a huge success story, and I am very glad that AKB has continued to maintain the existence of the Team, and I hope that Team 8 remains a permanent fixture in AKB. I love Team 8, its members, and the group as a whole, and I love watching specials featuring them. I was thrilled to find out they were coming to the Philippines and hope they really do come back.

During the live, many of us fans were also noticing AKB management, prominently Aoki-san, with fans acknowledging that we know him. It seemed like Aoki-san was scouting how hardcore fans in the Philippines were, how receptive we would be, taking pictures or videos of the fans, and I am very proud of how us fans in the Philippines conducted ourselves in the mini-concert. We were ecstatic, we were participative, and I think the members (and management) were able to see and feel that. I am thrilled that we were able to successfully convey that not only were they welcome, but we absolutely love them! For example, one of the things that irked me in the Singapore AKB live I went to was that I was the only who was chanting "encore!" after the concert (granted, house management was quick to point out the transition of the event and was quick to setup for it), but here in the Philippines, we were very quick to chant it, and awesomeness of awesomeness, Team 8 had a prepared encore for us, an unexpected, but absolutely delightful treat! Also, on the first day of the event, fans were trying to sing "Happy birthday" to Rin Okabe, who was celebrating her birthday on that very day, unfortunately we were quickly hushed by people in the event, who couldn't understand what we were chanting and did not know it was Rinrin's birthday, but I thought it was so nice of the fans to do that for Rinrin, so, sorry Rinrin, we couldn't pull it off successfully, but we tried.

Because of this, I believe the fans were able to express to AKB and its management how much we love them and support them, with so many fans carrying both fan-made and purchased licensed products, apart from all the wild cheering and audience participation going on. The area reserved for the event could only hold two hundred people, but fans made good use of the second and third floor balcony-like areas of the venue outside the walls of the event to watch and show their love to AKB as well. I believe AKB management was able to see that the fanbase of AKB in the Philippines is a healthy one, and because of which, I hope this bodes well for us AKB fans! At the minimum, I hope we get a deal similar to what Singapore had a while back, where, not only did they get an official AKB shop, but various members of AKB would be sent to Singapore around every month to perform miniconcerts. Please give us that!!! I would definitely watch, and expect a lot of us will too. Even if you sent us the same girls over and over again, I would still go! Although we would like to see other members as well, I feel like I will miss Team 8 if they don't come back. Heck, I miss them already. I hope the experience was pleasant and fun enough for the members to really want to come back, but based on what we saw, it seemed like they genuinely enjoyed performing for us, as they, along with their fans, definitely brought the house down!

Of course, it's possible that there were less enjoyable experiences that they had outside of that concert. For example, when I found out they performed for around two minutes in a noon-time Filipino TV show (a show that is battling an extremely popular segment from its rival), I could only imagine how less than awesome the audience were to them since they didn't know them. Of course, us fans weren't aware that they were appearing on that show, as we were all on the venue of their mini-live, but had we known their exact schedule, many of us would have headed down there to support them. In short, if we had clear, exact knowledge of their schedule, us fans would have been better able to show our support, and thus Filipinos who don't know them can see how much loved they are by their Filipino fans. Of course, it's possible AKB Management doesn't want us to know their schedules so we can't follow them around everywhere, but I believe all media appearances should have been communicated to us fans ahead of time so our beloved members get the support they need. AKB Management, please use this blog to communicate with fans!

While I'm on the same subject, I believe AKB fans in the Philippines would be thrilled at what I mentioned earlier, the thought that AKB would send us a few members every month to do a mini-live, and that could be one reason why AKB Management could be scouting us or testing the waters, but the idea of creating MNL48 has popped up several times, from the mouth of head AKB producer Akimoto Yasushi himself. There are some fans who are not in favor of the creation of MNL48, as they want to see AKB, not a local version composed of Filipinos. Some say that Filipino fans reactions to AKB cannot be compared to how we would respond to an MNL48, but rather we should look at how Filipino fans react to local acts, such as Japanese-inspired local group (who performed in the event as well), Kawaii5. I think Filipino AKB fans don't realize how many fans Kawaii5 actually has. They have a lot. I'm not saying they are a ton, but I would wager they are as many as us. I've seen them. They are as crazy about Kawaii5 as we are with AKB. I think Filipino AKB fans don't realize how popular they are because we look for Kawaii5 fans among AKB fans. No, AKB fans aren't the same fans who would like Kawaii5, but they have their own fanbase. Remember Sexbomb in their heyday? I do. I was a Sexbomb fan (you can check out my post here if you want to read more about it: , there's a question there that gets answered in this post). I know how Filipino fans can get crazy over local acts, I've experienced the queues, I've experienced crazy live events, I've experienced a ton of fans shoulder-deep in humanity not willing to leave the venue just so we can catch a glimpse of the Sexbomb girls leaving the venue (and hanging around for a long time in such a crowd just to discover they were escorted through a secret exit). So yes, if MNL48 would be created, they can get a fanbase. Will it be the same people as the fans of AKB? Not necessarily. It could be a totally different set of people. So, why are some AKB fans negative about the idea of an MNL48? Because they want their wants to be catered to, and they don't really care about the wants of others. What we want is AKB, and a local version of AKB is still not AKB themselves. But this doesn't mean other people won't like it. And what concerns us as well is that if MNL48 is created to suit the taste of Filipinos (not the taste of current Filipino AKB fans), it might not be similar at all to AKB, and these MNL48 fans might get the wrong impression of what AKB is and this might dilute the image Filipinos have of AKB, gathering a different set of people, a fandom of people that Filipino AKB fans don't necessarily approve of. I understand the resistance to MNL48, for example, although I am ok with Kawaii5 as their performance was certainly at an energy level and a performance level that I would like, I dread the idea that whoever writes the lyrics of their songs would be the translator of AKB songs to MNL. Please don't do that! I would be enraged if the lyrics to Kioku no Dilemma or Yuuhi wo Miteiruka? would be watered down to lyrics that contain the word "jeje". However, our fears are all based on speculation. If MNL48 would materialize, we don't know if they will contain 20+ year old members to appeal to a mature crowd or they will all be 12 and 13 year old members emphasizing the cute image of AKB. Personally, I am reserving my judgement on MNL48 until I see it. I may follow them, I may not, it depends on how they turn out. But I won't judge them until I see them.

You might be saying the whole Sexbomb thing is incomparable to MNL. How about I compare Sexbomb with Akishibu instead? As a former fan of Sexbomb, I can say the performance level of Sexbomb is at par with Akishubu, and I can imagine a lot of people disagreeing with me, but being familiar with a majority of Sexbomb songs, sure they have their own shallow, novelty songs, but the lyrics were original and as such, when coupled with catchy tunes, is quite alternative, you know, kinda like some AKB songs. Although a lot of fans go to Sexbomb events just to watch them, others like me go grab copies of their cd's which suddenly sell like hot potatoes because it's an autograph signing as well. Akishibu Project is a new Japanese girl group (that Alodia Gosiengfiao also performed with) that performed each time before the AKB mini-lives, where, at the first day, they were kind of unknown to the fans, but at the second day, fans were cheering wildly for. Akishibu won the hearts of many fans there, and Akishibu felt our love and I could see how much they appreciated us, up to the fans' "encore!" chants which they totally weren't expecting and they weren't able to do because they didn't prepare for it. But guess what, despite all this, how many of us actually bought their CD's? There were still a lot of CD's on sale, despite how much we loved Akishibu. But, after the AKB performance, when it was announced Akishibu (perhaps to comfort our request for an encore) would be signing autographs to those who would buy CD's, guess what happened? Sold out! The CD's suddenly sold like hot potatoes. Sound familiar, maybe like a story I told on this very same paragraph? We may love them for different reasons, but there are some things in our fandoms that are similar, at least enough reason for investors to go through with the project. I don't know if handshake events and 2-shots will work in the Philippines, but apparently autograph signings do. And maybe other things as well.

I will tell you a sure-fire way that will get me to follow MNL48, and perhaps this applies to other AKB fans as well. Not just preserving the AKB quality, but also concurrent memberships! Make some members of AKB concurrent members of MNL48 and I will certainly follow them. The concurrent members don't even have to be here all the time, they can just be here once a month or so, and I will still go to see them. Granted, it is possible I will only see them when a concurrent member is here, but I don't know since they don't exist yet. I have this illusion (maybe delusion) that one of the reasons HKT48's half-Filipina Emily Yamashita is being pushed so much recently (apart from being so cute, adorable and talented) is that it's in preparation of making her a concurrent member of MNL. I would certainly go see Emily (yeah, I know, she prefers Emiri, but I like Emily). I would like any HKT member to be a concurrent member of MNL, or any member from the AKBGroup (family) for that matter. I would certainly accept full transfers as well, if any are inclined to do so. So yes, if executed correctly, I would follow MNL, and even if I don't, I'm guessing a lot of other fans will.

I would like to thank AKB Management for sending Team 8 here, and the twelve members of Team 8 for going here. I would also like to thank Hallohallo Alliance for creating the Cool Japan Festival, and bringing AKB48 Team 8 to the Philippines and giving us such an excellent opportunity to watch them perform four times, and with no less than six songs each time, with a minimum of 30 minutes each. This was so much awesomeness. Yes, the other stuff there was awesome as well (Taiko Tokoro seemed like the manliest of manly music) but what we got from Team 8 far exceeded my expectations. Please bring us another Cool Japan Festival next year, and make sure to invite AKB48 again. Sure there, were some downsides, such as the unexpectedly long queue, and having to wait for people to leave before others are let in (and by the time performances were on, it seemed like people weren't willing to leave) was quite a problem. I don't think the process was excellent, but I can't think of a better way of doing it either. I know the host caught a lot of flack from us fans, but having had to sit there for all four shows even when AKB wasn't on, she was actually a very good host, as she knew how to talk to the audience and was not prissy getting in there with people, although it was obvious that she was not knowledgeable with AKB, botched a few things, and was not very good with the Japanese language at all. A host that was knowledgeable in AKB would have been great at least even just for their segment... you know, someone like me... although I think I would be the only one who would be happy about that. Actually, I'm thinking Riona Hamamatsu should have just hosted their segment, and should have just been an all AKB thing, that is, if Riona would be up to the challenge of hosting, translating for the rest of the members, and probably not getting any chance to catch her breath in between performances. I love her and would love to talk her as she seems so fluent in English.

I love Team 8 so much! I love the members of Team 8 so much! Please do come back to the Philippines! I want to see you again! I miss you already! And the rest of the AKBGroup, come here as well!

Bottom screencap (added Nov. 18, 2015): Team 8's visit to the Philippines was featured on the Nov. 17, 2015 episode of AKBingo! (for about 10 seconds), unfortunately no fan is recognizable, but it shows their visit was significant

Sunday, June 8, 2014

6th Senbatsu Election Results: Mayuyu Finally Wins #1!!!

It's been a long journey. It was for the 2nd elections when she launched what she called the CG Revolution, and instead, she ranked one rank lower than the 1st elections, from #4 to #5, where she would remain for the 3rd. She would finally get to #2 by the 4th elections after Acchan bowed out of the elections, but what many expected to be a Mayu vs Yuko fight on last year's elections was spoiled by Sasshi as Mayu ranked #3.

Mayu got replaced with Jurina from cocentering Uza with Yuko after she had difficulty with the steps, and some say that management may have given up on the thought of making Mayu the new center of AKB after Acchan and Yuko, especially as she was returned to Team B. And, eventhough the preliminary results haven't often been very telling of the final results, some of us have fairly given up on the idea that Mayu can beat Sasshi this year. To be honest, I was all set on making this writeup about how Sasshi is the first to top the elections for two straight years. Then, they announced ranked #2... is from HKT! Oh my gosh, MAYUYU IS #1!!! Even though she kept her composure for most of the night, just before the announcer announced her name for #1, when the crowd started chanting "Mayuyu!", she started crying. Mayu received around a 50% vote increase this year from last year, from 101,210 to 159,854. I guess us Mayuyu supporters finally woke up and realized if we want Mayuyu to rank #1 this year, we have to do something now.

Mayu Watanabe has been the long-time ace of original Team B, and since Maeda Atsuko, the long-time ace of original Team A, and Yuko Oshima, the long-time ace of original Team K, have taken turns battling it out for the #1 position, it is only fitting that Mayuyu takes her turn at being the face of the new AKB, upon the graduation of Acchan and Yuko.

Ironically, Rino Sashihara was a teammate of Mayuyu in original Team B, joining the Team by their 3rd stage. Don't get me wrong, I love Sasshi. I liked her way back since ori-B, and I like her now that she's in HKT. I like her despite the dumb things she's done with her life, and I did not believe she should have been fired for them, and that her transfer to HKT was enough. I really love HKT and I love what she does for the group and her hosting is one of the biggest reasons I think Hakata Hyakkaten is one of the best AKB shows there has been despite looking relatively low-budget. I think she is very cute, very attractive and is one of the best entertainers in the entire AKB family. Despite all of this I felt that she may not have been the best person to be the face of AKB. I was shocked when she ranked #1 last year, and I wasn't sure why she was voted by the fans as such. I understand that fans may have wanted to show their support to her, that despite her bad decisions, it was the right move to keep her with the family, but so much as to make her #1? Even in HKT48 Tonkotsu Mahou Shoujo Gakuin (episode 3), when asked why she thinks she ranked #1, Sasshi admits that it was probably because of how caring the fans are that they gave her support. Considering her votes this year was less than 8,000 that of last year (which is still a lot since she got 141,954), maybe some of those kind of support votes were no longer cast, although despite this, her hardcore fans were still able to push her as high #2. I can imagine that Sasshi is probably a bit disappointed since many signs suggested that she would still rank #1 this year, cementing her claim to that spot, but #1 last year and #2 this year for someone, who people hardly gave a chance at winning #1 ever and her being the #1 was just the butt of the joke of the very first episode of AKB's Bimyo (Sept. 29, 2011 episode), is already an amazing feat. Continue to do good work, Sasshi!

#3 is Yuki Kashiwagi, in reality a contender to the #1 spot, but would also be considered by many as an amazing feat for her if she could pull it off. Oh, she's also a member of original Team B. (So is it time for my Team B to take over?) I believe all three of Mayuyu, Sasshi and Yukirin are good personal friends. Heck, Sasshi wouldn't dare make fun of them on camera if she wasn't comfortable with them, and many are familiar with how loving the Mayuki combi is.

#4 is also a top contender for the #1 spot as she has been positioned in that spot ever since she debuted, SKE48's Jurina Matsui. I foresee a good fight between Mayu, Sasshi, Yukirin and Jurina next year. The vote difference between the top 4 against everyone else is really high. Jurina is over 90,000, while #5 is less than 70,000. Although votes of #1 and #2 are significantly higher than #3 and #4, that gap can be bridged in one year's time.

#5 is the other Matsui in W Matsui, Rena Matsui, cementing the SKE duo's spot in the Kami 7, being their second straight year in it.

#6 is Sayaka Yamamoto, finally entering Kami 7 as being the first (nonformer-AKB) NMB member to be voted in Kami 7. My only surprise here is why it took her so long as she has the face, the body, the voice, the talent, and the personality to be one of the top girls in AKB.

#7, and last member of Kami 7, locking in her position as one of AKB's top girls is 9th Gen Haruka Shimazaki. Paruru entering Kami 7 should be as remarkable as when Sasshi first entered Kami 7 two years ago, but with the amount of push Paruru has received since she was a Kenkyuusei and the support that is given to her to this day, it was rather expectable that she should rank this high after the graduation of Kami 7 members Acchan, Yuko, Mariko and even her beloved Tomochin. I love Paruru despite her being ponkotsu and (people say) saltiness, so more power to her.

#8 is Kojima Haruna, the first of the last three original AKB members still in AKB. I, as well as most of those who watched it, loved Kojiharu's trollish speech, when she pretty much said, "I, Kojima Haruna, announce my graduation... not!!!" I could certainly understand why Kojima would want to graduate at this point, but I feel AKB still needs their last three original members for a few more years, so you stay right there NyanNyan! Speeches like that are what make Haruna so popular to this day. Of course there are her looks and talent.

Minami Takahashi, AKB's general manager and second of the last three original AKB members still with AKB is holding strong at #9.

#10 is Suda Akari, my pick for breakout star last year. (My pick the year before that was Rino Sashihara, and the year before that was Rena Matsui.) Despite not having as much push as many of the other members, she was able to propel herself into Senbatsu through fan support, and this year she goes as high as #10. One of the top three fishermen of the AKB family (Yukirin and Milky the other two), Dasu gained popularity as someone who can fish your heart once you get to talk to her. Relatively not even one of SKE's top Senbatsus before last year, she has pretty much become a mainstay of AKB Senbatsu starting last year, and her visibility has increased way more as a result. Deservedly so.

#11 is Sakura Miyawaki, my pick for breakout star this year, and is the first nonformer-AKB, HKT48 member to make into Senbatsu. She started out two years ago as the only HKT girl to get elected, and then last year, she was the highest ranking (nonformer-AKB) HKT member when she moved up from Next Girls to Undergirls, and now, she moves a group higher again as she moves to Senbatsu. She has been chosen for AKB Senbatsu before in singles like Uza, Sayonara Crawl and Labrador Retriever, and I am excited at the thought that we will get a mainstay (nonformer-AKB) HKT member in AKB Senbatsu. (Well, she should now be a mainstay.) Sakuratan is my third favorite HKT member, and since she has beaten all current (nonformer-AKB) HKT members for three straight years, I am willing to concede the center position of HKT to her. And her speech about an unnamed rival was epic, particularly when she revealed that the rival she was talking about was Sasshi. (And Sasshi brought her usual awsum humor with a "bring-it-on" face.) Sakura wasn't the first pick to be HKT's center, but now I believe she has earned that spot, and a spot on AKB's mainstay Senbatsu. Sakura is adorable and is so lovable.

#12 is Sae Miyazawa, a familiar face and always voted in as Senbatsu, an original member of Team K and transferee to SNH (yes, concurrent member of SKE, just like Rena is concurrent with Nogizaka, and Sayane and Sakuratan with AKB and Yukirin with NMB... so yeah, lot's of dual memberships, so I'll just mention their first teams.) I am very happy that Sae is reliably still voted in as Senbatsu.

#13 is Yui Yokoyama, another 9th Gen mainstay of Senbatsu as this is her fourth straight year to be elected in Senbatsu, Yuihan has grown from a shy, talented performer to becoming a more "guigui" Team K captain. I believe she is one of the most talented girls in AKB and she deserves to be in Senbatsu.

#14 is Rina Ikoma, the first Nogizaka46 girl to have concurrent membership with AKB. Her first election puts her straight into Senbatsu. What might be interesting is how would the results have been if all members of Nogizaka46 were eligible for the elections.

#15 is Aya Shibata, SKE's rising star, an original member of SKE's Team E; she has also propelled herself from being unranked two years ago, to center of undergirls (#17) last year, into Senbatsu this year. She would have been my pick for breakout star this year or last year if Dasu or Sakuratan hadn't been around.

#16, the last member of Senbatsu is Rina Kawaei, another fresher face who has been pushed by management into the limelight, and has now proven that she deserved that push. She was impressive in one-shot group BKA48, and she certainly is adorable.

One of the highlights of the night was, first, when Anna Iriyama phoned in to give her speech as she ranked at #20 in Undergirls. She was understandably absent as she had been the victim of an attack by an idiot in an official fan event just a week ago, where she incurred some injuries, as believed by some, to protect Rina Kawaei, who was the attacker's target, who stood beside her. Then, when Kawaei ranked #16, people like me expected Ricchan would just phone her speech in as well, as she sustained injuries as well, but she was actually there to the surprise of most to give her speech in person. This is her first time to be elected in Senbatsu so I'm guessing she was told of her rank beforehand and was probably given the choice to attend in person or not, and given that it is such a big moment, even more so with everything that has transpired, she probably opted to receive it in person.

Another big moment was when forever Kenkyuusei Kaori Matsumura ranked in at #17 to become center of Undergirls. There was a chance she could have ended up in Senbatsu but fell a little over 1000 votes, but despite this, perennial underdog making it to center of Undergirls is amazing. Kaotan was my favorite SKE Kenkyuusei before Ryoha Kitagawa came along, so I have been a fan of BBQ for quite some time.

The biggest drop in terms of surprise-factor was probably that of Miyuki Watanabe. After Milky tasted Senbatsu the first time last year at #15, she dropped back to Undergirls this year to #18. What people had hoped that the top two of NMB (again, when I say these things, I avoid including concurrent members or former members of AKB) would become mainstays of AKB Senbatsu may have become less certain. Just when we thought fishermen do well, Dasu even outranks her. This solidifies Sayane's lead on her, but what does this say about NMB now?

It might not be fair to compare NMB with SKE but even if we can compare NMB with HKT, HKT has more or less the same number of girls rank as NMB (depending on whether you count concurrent members or former AKB members or members who have been fully transferred away from their group like Maachun), even though HKT is around one year younger than them (in terms of the existence of the group) and has about half the number of members that NMB has. I feel NMB has the worst promotion among the AKB groups, maybe they aren't terrible, but they aren't as good (again I'm talking about how they are promoted, the group itself is very good), things like they get the worst TV shows (Geinin was excellent though), and though they hadn't had an original stage for so long, HKT still doesn't have one at all. I am happy that my NMB oshi is still NMB's #3, Nana Yamada is at #29, and with other popular girls Fuuko Yagura (#41), Miru Shiroma (#43), Kei Jonishi (#58), Shu Yabushita (#59), Riho Kotani (#61) and Akari Yoshida (#72), but NMB has a lot more darlings that haven't ranked including the likes of Rina Kondo, Jo Eriko, Yuka Kato, and a personal favorite of mine Sae Murase.

Speaking of HKT, my HKT oshi, Haruka Kodama may not have reached Senbatsu (which she said on her blog was her target), but she ranked #21 at Undergirls which is already quite impressive. She is the second highest ranking HKT member (I will not count Sasshi when I say this). Since this is the second straight year she has ranked HKT's second, I hope she gets to center her team again.

Surprisingly, Moriyasu Madoka ranked #25. Her reserved nature was thought to distance herself from fans, but this solidifies that she has her fans's support. Mio Tomonaga outranks her friend Meru Tashima, as dual centers of HKT from their second gen are showing their popularity. The adorable Mio is at Undergirls at #27 while Meru is at Next Girls at #38. Although I love Meru, and I agree that she is like the second coming of Jurina, she is becoming similar to Manatsu Mukaida, although positioned at center and may have all it takes to keep it, is outshined by even older girls. I love Meru though, she is very beautiful and her personality is very entertaining. Ponkotsu and very lovable Team H captain Chihiro Anai ranks at #39, very adorable and excellent dancer Aoi Motomura is at #48 and Natsumi Matsuoka debuts in the ranking along with them at #64.

Aika Ota, original member of Team B, ranked in Senbatsu at the first election, and had slipped to centering Undergirls the next year, to member of Undergirls at #25, to member of Future Girls at #52 by the 4th elections. Her voluntary move to HKT has effectively revitalized her career as she moved to Next Girls at #43 last year to #42 this year. A more mature, but still very cute and entertaining Aika Ota is a treat to watch as Captain of New Team K4.

My second favorite HKT member Anna Murashige finally ranks in at #67, and you know I did "mentaiko" along with her in her speech. Fail "guigui" character works when you're cute.

So many HKT cuties were not ranked including Haruka Wakatabe, Kanna Okada, and personal favorite, half-Filipino Emily Yamashita. Surprising though were lesser pushed Hiroka Komada making it to #79, and Riko Sakaguchi ranking as high as #60, surpassing even Anyan and Nacchan.

Speaking of surprises, this was the first time SKE's Yukiko Kinoshita ever ranked, and she ranked well at Next Girls at #40. Yukko was promoted to Team S along with Suda Akari, and seemed to receive more push than Dasu, but the pair seemed to be in good terms, and Dasu was so happy when Yukko's name was called out. Yukko is a very beautiful half-European girl and is one of the best dancers in SKE. Newly promoted Haruka Futamura also made it as far as #34 to debut in the rankings and lesser pushed Tsugumi Iwanaga debuted at #46 and Mizuho Yamada at #54. SKE old-timer Riho Abiru also debuts at #74 while Miki Yakata makes a comeback, after not ranking last year, at #73

I still love SKE and I am concerned about the ranking about some of the SKE girls. Although still with Undergirls, personal favorite Akane Takayanagi slips from #23 to #31 this year, while her partner Airi Furukawa, after two straight years as Undergirl, slips to Next Girls at #37. The adorable Oya Masana is a perenial Undergirl as she has always been voted in as Undergirl except the first elections, despite not enough push from AKB management. She ranks in at #30. A top favorite of mine, the very cute Kanon Kimoto, slips back to Future Girls at #50 after being Undergirl last year. Another favorite of mine, Madoka Umemoto, after debuting at #39 at Next Girls last year drops down to #68 of Upcoming Girls, along with Saito Makiko, from #42 of Next Girls to #75 of Upcoming Girls, and the very pretty Ami Kobayashi, from #47 of Next Girls to #77 of Upcoming Girls. These ranks aren't so bad though, considering they have over 200 members.

On the other hand, one of my SKE favorites, the adorable Kyoka Isohara, climbs up from debuting at Future Girls last year at #58 to #44 at Next Girls. The very pretty, new girl Nao Furuhata also debuts at #55.

Unfortunately still unranked are so many of my SKE favorites, headlined by one of my top favorites Anna Ishida, and newbie and almost instant favorite Ryoha Kitagawa.

How are the transfers doing, though? Yuria Kizaki is still voted in at Undergirls at #23 after being transferred fully from SKE to AKB, despite the possibility that she could break through to Senbatsu. Aki Takajo, who is back at AKB after her stint at JKT is still at Undergirls at #26. Reina Fujie, a personal favorite, still holding strong all these years, is this year's center of Next Girls at #33, after her transfer from AKB to NMB. Ayaka Umeda, after centering Undergirls during the third elections and reaching Senbatsu the fourth, is down to Next Girls at #35 after captaining Team B and being transferred to NMB. Former AKB now NMB Miori Ichikawa is at #53 Future Girls, rising from #57 last year and #58 the year before that (although #39 her debut year the year before). Mina Oba is at #56 at Future Girls now that she's at SKE from AKB, from #48 Next Girls last year but #57 Future Girls the year before. Now SKE from AKB, Suzuran Yamauchi is at #69 Upcoming Girls, from #61 Future Girls last year and #54 Future Girls before that. My biggest concern regarding the transferees is Mayu Ogasawara, moved from NMB to AKB, who ranked #54 at Future Girls last year while at NMB, but is now at #76 Upcoming Girls. Maachun is my second-favorite NMB oshi (I still call her that even if she's not in NMB anymore) and I was concerned she won't get pushed in crowded AKB unlike in NMB where she was in a very good position. I know AKB probably had good plans for her, but they need to start pushing her soon. Of course, there are transfers who still have not ranked such as the highly entertaining Chiyori Nakanishi from HKT to AKB, who is pretty much in the same boat as Maachun. Sumire Sato, who had always ranked the last four elections while in AKB, is now unranked in her first year with SKE. It could also be argued though that some of those who ranked may not have ranked at all had they not been transferred.

Of course, in AKB themselves, some more success stories include the strikingly beautiful Tomu Muto who was #45 Next Girls last year, and center of Future Girls at #49 the year before that, but now is at Undergirls at #24. Another is a personal favorite, Juri Takahashi who ranks for the very first time at a very high #28 at Undergirls. Quite frankly, when I didn't hear their names get called early, I thought they wouldn't be in the ranking this year, so I was pleasantly surprised when they did get called, hopefully solidifying their slot at Undergirls. Also surprisingly ranking only for the first time is the very beautiful Rena Kato, another personal favorite, at #32 in Undergirls. The three musketeers also make it in the rankings their first year, Mako Kojima is at #36 Next Girls, Nana Okada at #51 Future Girls and Miki Nishino at #62 Future Girls. Yukari Sasaki, the girl that played the fictitious Aimi Eguchi in live events, debuts in the ranking at #47 Next Girls. Saho Iwatate, my current favorite Team 4 member, debuts in the ranking at #66 Upcoming Girls. The young cutie Ryoka Oshima also debuts in the ranking as the last member of the the Upcoming Girls at #80.

Then there are the reliables, Rie Kitahara is still at Undergirls at #19, so is Minami Minegishi, the third of the remaining three originals, at #22. The very cute Yuka Tano solidifies her popularity as she has been with Next Girls for three straight years, first at #45, then at #38, and now back at #45. Misaki Iwasa, former center of Next Girls two elections ago (#33), this time centers Future Girls at #49, after ranking #56, last year.

Asuka Kuramochi drops down to #52 Future Girls this year, from #36 Next Girls last year, from Undergirl the year before that, Senbatsu the year before that, and Undergirl the two years before then. Haruka Ishida joins her at #57 Future Girls, from #46 Next Girls last year, and #50 Future Girls the year before that. Mariya Nagao will be centering an original song for the first time as she centers the new Upcoming Girls, at #65. She was #35 Next Girls last year and #39 Next Girls the year before that. Ami Maeda is at #70 Upcoming Girls, from #53 Future Girls last year, #42 Next Girls the year before that, and #37 Undergirls the year before that. Miho Miyazaki returns to the rankings at #78 Upcoming Girls, after dropping out of the rankings the last year, #38 Next Girls the year before that, #27 Undergirls the year before that, and Senbatsu during the second elections.

Oh, and another of the biggest moments of the night, was when Miku Tanabe made it into the rankings! She ranked at #71 Upcoming Girls. Miku Tanabe is the last original member of either Team A, K or B remaining with AKB that has not yet ranked and I have been imploring her fans to support her for years. I was so happy to hear her name called out.

Again, remember that there are over 200 members currently, so even ranking #80 is a big deal. With so many members, and so many favorites, it's easy to understand that not all of them can rank.

Over 2,000,000 votes cast (from paying fans, like official members, subscribers, cd buyers), this now highly anticipated event has concluded and the question has now been answered, will Sasshi retain the title, will Mayuyu finally beat her, or will there be another surprise dark horse to take the title. In the end, Mayuyu is now the Queen of AKB (well, it said so on the cape they gave her), and I must say, as a Mayuyu oshi, it didn't just feel like Mayuyu is #1, it felt like Mayuyu and all of us fans of her were #1.

By the way, here are links to my post on my news blog about the results, and my thoughts on the previous elections:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

HKT48 Shuffled This Early!!! (My Thoughts)

Just two years and two singles after they debuted, HKT48 gets a team shuffle, even before NMB48 ever got a shuffle, eventhough NMB is over a year older than them. AKB48 fans are pretty used to team shuffles, having experienced already their second, and many of us already understand why this is done, mostly to balance out the teams, so when SKE48 got their own team shuffle after many of their members, even the popular ones, graduated, it was already acceptable, to again balance the teams. But the HKT48 shuffle is surprising because it was done so early in their career. I imagine some of NMB finding this whole thing interesting, considering the closest they have gotten to a shuffle is the transfer of my NMB oshi Nana Yamada from Team N to Team M. (In case you don't know what a shuffle is, it's transferring members of teams to other teams. This is usually done to ensure one team has as much star-power as the others, and to give members a different opportunity in another team.)

I love HKT48 and I have been anticipating the creation of their second team, Team K4. (In case you don't know, AKB48 has Team K, SKE48 has Team KII and JKT48 has Team K3.) I was thinking Team K4 being composed of former Kenkyuuseis would be enough as they have the likes of Meru Tashima, Mio Tomonaga, Yuka Akiyoshi, Marika Tani, Kanna Okada and Izumi Goto, among many others, so I did not think a shuffle would even be necessary. Then again, although 2nd and 3rd Gen HKT Kenkyuuseis could stand on their own, I must admit, if you're a fan of HKT shows such as Hakata Hyakkaten and Tonkotsu Mahou Shoujo Gakuin as I am, you would recognize that Team H is actually quite a powerhouse. Even the lesser popular Haruka Wakatabe and Yuki Shimono are pretty awsum, so it's very easy to say that over half the team is front girl or HKT Senbatsu material. So I guess management wanted to be extra proactive and shuffled them upon the creation of the second team. I think it's acceptable; it was just disheartening to see them crying after their concert. Knowing how AKB and their sister groups are, I'm confident they'll be back to their cheery little selves in no time, so go ahead and give your teammates hugs and kisses for the meantime.

I'm glad the very lovable Anai Chihiro stays on as captain (of Team H). Although I believe 2nd and 3rd Gen HKT Kenkyuuseis have leader-types, I believe their leader-types may lack enough star power, something Aika Oota could very much provide, so Lovetan being transferred to Team K4 as its captain seems like a very good decision, especially as she is considered the Big Sis of the group. Funny though, who would have thought that little ol' Rabutan of AKB would ever Captain anything this important. But if you've been watching HKT shows, you would know that Rabutan has matured greatly from when she started with AKB six years ago, and with my favorite subunit Watarirouka Hashiritai disbanded, I think it was a brilliant move for Rabutan to transfer to HKT (and Harugon to JKT for that matter). Oh, and have Sasshi and Rabutan left Sashiharassment back at AKB or is it too old now? Rabutan is also THE senpai (senior member) of the group, being senior of even Sasshi herself, as Rabutan is 3rd Gen AKB, so her being captain simply makes sense.

I'm glad my HKT oshi Haruka Kodama stays at Team H. I'm kind of disappointed that she got separated from my second HKT favorite Anna Murashige who got transferred to Team K4. I get the impression that the two are rather close, and as much as Haruppi would like to be as funny as Anna is, I think she doesn't have as much courage or as much material as Anna, so I usually only get to see her be crazy when she is taking part in one of Anna's gags, but now they are separated...

I'm disappointed that Meru Tashima and Yuka Akiyoshi got promoted to Team H, I would have thought that they would have been the flagbearers of Team K4 along with Mio Tomonaga. I believe Meru should be centering her own team and not cocentering (and I won't be happy if Haruppi won't be center!). I would have left Anna Murashige and Sakura Miyawaki at Team H instead, then again, these two are heavy hitters and was probably one of the main reasons for the shuffle at all.

I'm also disappointed that Marika Tani didn't get promoted to the same team as Chiyori Nakanishi. The two real-life high school friends make a great comedy duo. Management might be avoiding this specifically, maybe so the two can play off the other girls. Separating Chori with Anna Murashige is a good idea though as the two were occupying similar roles. I would have moved Chori to Team K4 instead of Anna.

Aoi Motomura was a good transfer (to Team K4) as she brings a lot to the table but I feel is moveable, so she would be a great addition to a new team. The transfer of Moriyasu Madoka is also pretty good, I don't know whether Natsumi Matsuoka should have transferred with her as well.

Since I don't get to see the theater anyway and most of my HKT injection is from TV shows, I probably won't notice much of a difference as when they are on their TV shows, it's not really noticeable who is on what team since they pretty much act as just one group. I am really excited to follow this group and hope they get more shows!

Ganbarre HKT! I love HKT48!

(Details of the shuffle here:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lists of Current Members of AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, HKT48, JKT48 and SNH48

In case you can't maneuver through the official website or don't know where the official lists are, here are the links to the lists of official members of AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, HKT48, JKT48 and SNH48, the current, official, still existing 48 franchise groups, from their official websites themselves. Note that sometimes it takes a while for the lists to get updated, so graduated members and shuffled members sometimes are still there. In case you're not aware, yes, there are hundreds of members in the entire 48 franchise, not even counting the graduates.







Each group has its own theater where they perform their stages depending on where they are based on. AKB48 is based in Akihabara, Tokyo and is divided into four teams, Team A, Team K, Team B and Team 4, along with a group of Kenkyuuseis (which are research students or trainees), which each group also has (The word Kenkyuusei is written as 研究生 [in Kanji], so you know what it means or in what team certain girls are when you see it on their website. AKB also writes the generation [or batch number] of the Kenkyuusei, so 15期 means 15th generation or 15th batch). SKE48 is based in Sakae, Nagoya, and is divided into three teams, Team S, Team KII, and Team E (plus their Kenkyuuseis). NMB48 is based in Namba, Osaka, and is divided into three teams, Team N, Team M and Team BII (plus their Kenkyuuseis). HKT48 so far only has Team H (along with their Kenkyuuseis) and is the newest Japanese 48 franchise. JKT48 is based in Jakarta, Indonesia, and is the first non-Japanese 48 franchise, where most of the members are, of course, Indonesian. SNH48 is based in Shanghai, China, and is the second non-Japanese 48 franchise, this time with mostly Chinese members. JKT and SNH perform translations of the 48 franchise Japanese songs in their own language.

[This links list has been last updated January 1, 2014]