Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Great Budokan Teams Shuffle of 2009

Being an AKB fan is like watching a reality show (I love Amazing Race and Survivor too) where the episodes are their many TV shows, blogs, concerts, performances, news and anything else about them. And just like a reality show, Aki-P and the AKB management throws in a lot of surprises that throws off the members and the fans, to keep things really interesting, giving us several memorable moments. One of the best examples of this is the great Budokan Teams shuffle of 2009. On August 2009, at the end of one of the biggest performances in the 3-4 year career of AKB48 at one of the biggest concert stages in Japan, the members were uninformed that the three main teams, A, K and B, would be shuffled. In case there's absolutely no way you have access to the video, here's what happened, the whole teams shuffle in 150 pictures (I had a hard time limiting this to 150 screen captures):

At one moment, Minami Minegishi is talking...

and then...

lights go out!

A guy comes from behind

It's the same guy who hosted the senbatsu election results for Iiwake Maybe

Shuffle announcement surprises members

New captains to be announced leaves questions in Takamina's mind

Team placards brought in

First good news of the shuffle: Minami Takahashi still Team A captain

Tearful Takamina takes Team A placard

New Team K captain Sayaka Akimoto

Surprised Yuki Kashiwagi is new Team B captain

SDN48 new captain Kayo Noro

Team B's Haruka Katayama first to be transferred (to Team A)

Member's line up with their new teams as Hacchan joins Takamina

Second noncaptain called: Reina Fujie of A transferred to K

Fujie, not knowing what this means

Third noncaptain to be called: Rie Kitahara from A to B

Yukari Sato, from A to SDN48

Absent Asuka Kuramochi transferred from K to A

Former K teammates sad to see Kuramochi go

Confused Moeno Nito transferred from B to K

Miho Miyazaki transferred from A to B

Former Team B leader Kazumi Urano putting on a brave face, transferred to SDN48

Absent Aika Oota transferred from B to A leaves a crying Mayuyu

As the seriousness of the shuffle hits the members, the first noncaptain retained is announced, Erena Ono stays in Team K...

... and provides the best laugh in the shuffle by joining Team B's line...

... and then runs past Team K...

... to join team A...

... where she has to be chased by her new captain Sayaka

A taste of Sayaka's new duties

Kana Kobayashi from K to B

Megumi Ohori transferred from K to SDN48

Meetan: Brave Face

Natsumi Matsubara from K to A

Senbatsus not spared: Minami Minegishi from A to K

Another Senbatsu: Tomomi Kasai from K to B

Rino Sashihara from B to A

Miku Tanabe from B to K

Besides Yukirin, second retention of B, Natsumi Hirajima

Besides Takamina, second retention for A, Haruna Kojima

Senbatsu throughout her career, Tomomi Itano from A to K

Absent Yuka Masuda from K to B

Sayaka Nakaya from B to A

Rumi Yonezawa from B to K

Absent Manami Oku from K to B

Mariko Shinoda retained at A

Sae Miyazawa stays with Sayaka by being retained at K

First of a team's topstar to be retained, Mayu Watanabe stays in B

Many of her friends have been transferred from B

Haruka Nakagawa from B to A

Harugon chumming with Shinoda

Absent Haruka Kohara from B to K

Rina Chikano from K to B

Team A topstar Atsuko Maeda retained at A

Ayaka Umeda retained at K

Natsuki Sato from K to B

Team A newbie Chisato Nakata retained

Last of the main team topstars to be called, Yuko Oshima stays with K

Amina Sato from A to B

Aki Takajo retained at A

Tomomi Nakatsuka from B to K

Finally, good news, a research student will be promoted

Research student Mika Komori, finally elevated to team B

Other research students are happy for her

Second Kenkyuusei promoted of the night: Oya Shizuka to Team A

Congratulated by former Kenkyuusei Aki Takajo

Formerly fired because of a 'scandal', Ayaka Kikuchi brought back to the main roster at K

Absent Kenkyuusei Sumire Sato to B

Absent Kenkyuusei Ami Maeda to A

Kenkyuusei Misato Nonaka to K

Absent Kenkyuusei Haruka Ishida to B, while SKE watches the hullaballo

Kenkyuusei Misaki Iwasa to A

Kenkyuusei Sakiko Matsui to K

Kenkyuusei Shihori Suzuki to B

Kenkyuusei Mariya Suzuki to A

Kenkyuusei Mayumi Uchida to K

Aftermath: shuffle announcement ends

Although already members of SDN48, once the shuffles take effect, these foursome will be completely transferred to SDN48 along with those who passed SDN48 auditions

Takamina addresses at the end

Mayuyu and Nacchi


Yukirin and Kitarie





CinDy trying to bring back smiles

Takamina trying hard to MC

Yuko Oshima takes over and tries to end the night with a smile




Mayuyu holding close friend's Lovetan's placard transferred to team A


CinDy, leader 'til the end

Acchan and Mii

Last to leave the stage: CinDy consoling Mayuyu still raising Lovetan's placard

The members had no idea that that night would change their group so much; they learned of the shuffle the same time the fans did. Fans hated AKB management because they didn't even inform the girls beforehand and that they made the girls cry; the members had difficulty because they would become separated from their closest friends whom they have worked with for a few years now. But if the teams shuffle was inevitable, what more rocking way to do it than to include the fans in the emotion this would involve. AKB, after all, is a group where the fans are almost like close friends (and/or the other way around). So if this had to happen, doing it this way would create a huge buzz... and an event the AKB family and fandom will not easily forget.

But why did it have to happen? Why not leave the girls alone, happy? The formula seems to work. Unfortunately, this shuffle may be for the inevitable best. Hardcore fans like me would recognize that the members were being spread out, to sort of balance the teams.

I think the Iiwake Maybe Senbatsu elections were a smart and nasty trick Aki-P and the AKB management pulled to know who really are the most popular girls, and what the girls' rankings would be. (This was where fans got to vote who would do the recording for their latest single that time, Iiwake Maybe, and essentially, fans would be voting for their favorites.) One thing that the election proved was that Team A had the most of the most popular members (something the management had suspected even before the elections, that's why they kept choosing more A members to do the recording for singles), and that Team B (my favorite team), had the least. Thus, to spread out the most popular members, to even out the Teams, some of the most popular members had to be transferred to other teams, and at the same time, less popular members be given the chance to shine in other teams. It was sort of odd that Tomomi Kasai, second most popular Team K member (based on the Iiwake Maybe Senbatsu election), had to be transferred to B, but if this had to be done to accommodate Senbatsus Tomomi Itano and Minami Minegishi's transfer to K, then this was a fair deal. Besides, Kasai's appeal can stand up to super Senbatsu Mayu Watanabe, much like Yuki Kashiwagi and Natsumi Hirajima (which I guess is one reason they stayed in B), but unfortunately for most of Team B, no matter how adorable they actually are, they're no match for Mayuyu, nor Yukirin or Nacchan. So, they needed to move away from Mayuyu's shadow, to be given the opportunity to stand out more (as they haven't done so in the few years of Team B's existence, resulting in the decimation of the former Team B, leaving only three of their original members). So, even if it meant separating Aika Oota from her beloved Mayuyu, it is ultimately for Lovetan's good to be separated from Mayuyu so she can stand out even more. And this is true for the majority of the other non-senbatsus; to be with their teams and be in the shadows of their Senbatsu teammates for so long was already to their detriment (as can be seen in the graduation of many beloved members, especially original members of teams who rarely, if ever, reach Senbatsu status). Thus, the shuffle, though uncomfortable even to me, was somewhat necessary. Unfortunately, this also means that the teams will have to establish new characteristics as the character they have built throughout the years because of their composition is gone, but it should be fun to see how these new teams will evolve.

The girls are actually handling the whole thing quite well. The Budokan concert was three months ago, and the shuffle is set to take effect next month, and until now, no one has left the group (except for one promoted Kenkyuusei, I think), so the girls are handling it like professionals and are putting their game faces on. Change is hard, and so is sacrificing their comfort zones, but it should be fun to see what new friendships build up.

Well, my favorite team is still Team B, as fortunately the three that were left were three of my top four favorites (expecting Tomochin to be transferred to B would have been too much, I guess). Like other fans, I hope fans don't get turned off by this event as, if anything, the girls need our support now. It would be sad if AKB falls apart because of a bad management decision. But, if I recall, wasn't the Team Lilies and Team Roses thing (another shuffle) scrapped awhile back? Maybe if the new teams don't work out, we'll see a reunification of the old teams. Whatever happens, it should be fun to watch. I do love cool reality shows. And the people featured in this one are so easy to love.