Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Introduction to AKB48

AKB48 is a theater group (a song and dance group, but they're really more than just song and dance) produced by Yasushi Akimoto. (In Japan, they call them an idol group, although they have a different definition for the term "idol", which I'll have to define some other time.) Yasushi Akimoto is a lyricist and also the producer of the popular '80's group Onyanko Club, which also was an "idol" group.

Aki-P, as he is sometimes called by the members, started AKB48 by auditioning thousands of girls on July 2005. 20 of these girls would make the cut and would debut on December 2005 at their own theater in Akihabara (which the group still performs in everyday, more than once during weekends; an intimate theater that can accommodate an audience of only 250). Shortly thereafter, a new audition was called, where 18 new members were added to the group by April 2006, just 4 months after the debut of the first group. The first group would then be referred to as Team A, while the new group would become Team K. 6 months after the auditions for Team K, new auditions were announced (October 2006), and by December 2006, 13 new members qualified, and would become members of Team B. The Akihabara theater rotates the teams performing.

Attempting to expand nationally, Aki-P started with the first group outside Tokyo by holding auditions at Nagoya, forming SKE48 (named after their theater, at Sunshine Sakae) on October 2008. Months after, a second group was formed; thereby making the first group Team S, while the new group Team KII (K2). By the end of 2010, Team E was created, completing SKE. A newer expansion is NMB48, based in Namba, Hatch.

By August, 2009, a new group debuted: SDN48. SDN48 was to be a more mature group (with members at least 20 years old, unlike AKB and SKE members who are mostly teenagers, sometimes younger), and only those 20 years old and above can watch. SDN48 performs every Saturday Night (thus, the name) at the same Akihabara Theater AKB performs in.

Apart from the main roster, AKB would keep what they called research students, whom they would train and would fill in for members whenever they cannot perform (like when they're sick). These students would be elevated to the main roster, usually when a member chooses to leave or graduate from the group. They would eventually be referred to as a team themselves, Team Kenkyuusei (Research Students Team), all in all, totalling nine teams in the AKB family (ten, if the SKE Kenkyuusei's are considered a differrent team from AKB's). As of their Budokan concert of August 2009, they were composed of a total of 104 members.

Starting out as a theater group dancing to and performing original songs in their theater in Akihabara, AKB48 would release their first single, Sakura no Hanabiratachi, on an independent label, on Feb. 1, 2006 (2 months after their debut), surprising many by ranking #10 at the Oricon charts (the most respected ranking agency in Japan), which was impressive for a debuting group on an independent label. They continued to make waves with their second single, Skirt, Hirari (translation: Skirt Flutters), after which they would be picked up by a major label (Defstar) for their third single, Aitakatta. Selling around 20,000 copies per single, they would move to another record label (King Records) around middle of 2008, after which they released their 12th single (10th, if you don't count their 2 independent singles, which they normally don't), Oogoe Diamond (Diamond Shout), which would sell more than double their best single that time, after which, all their singles would sell over 100,000 copies each (impressive for their genre), and their 16th single (14th without the indies), RIVER, would debut at #1 at the Oricon charts when it was released October 2009, selling around 200,000 copies.

AKB48 also has subunits (smaller groups who are members of the bigger teams) which release singles in other record labels; for example, those that have released more than one single are Chocolove from AKB48, No Sleeves (also spelled No3b), Watarirouka Hashiritai, and French Kiss, which has sold successfully on their own.

AKB48 has performed in the biggest theaters / concert halls in Japan (like JCB, NHK, Shibuya, Budokan), and oustide of Japan (Paris, New York). Apart from their singles, they also sell DVD's of their performances at their Akihabara theater (called stage performances) apart from many other merchandise, such as photobooks, calendars and shirts. The members also have their own individual endeavors such as TV shows and movies.

Fans can further adore them with their weekly TV shows (like AKBingo, Shukan AKB and AKB Nemousu TV) and public blogs, apart from their various appearances in other TV shows, radio shows, events, magazines, the web and anything else Aki-P and their agencies can send them at.

Well, this is quite long already, so let me end there, and I'll just talk about other stuff about them in my next posts.


[Last Updated: Jan. 5, 2011]