Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Order Sakura no Shiori!

We were preordering Sakura no Shiori on a website over a week ago when I was surprised to find out that one of the types was already sold out! I didn't even know this was possible! One of the two types of Sakura no Shiori was sold out on a website one month even before it gets released! We moved to another site where they were both available.

The song Sakura no Shiori has gotten bad reception from a lot of AKB fans so far, but personally, I still preordered it, regardless. When I first heard that the 17th single will be another graduation song, I was like, "Another one?" When I found out it had "Sakura" on the title again, I was like, "Again?" I guess Aki-P is quite fond of graduation songs and Sakuras and love to capitalize on graduation seasons. Why not, Sakura no Hanabiratachi was very good to them. Sakura no Shiori is a bit too choir-y, so I guess Aki-P is really targeting a song that graduates can actually sing on an event. Personally, I'm not quite fond of the song Sakura no Shiori either, but there are two other tracks that are better, not to forget to mention the videos on the DVD.

The second track is Majisuka Rock 'n Roll, the theme song for their cool, new, ongoing TV drama, Majisuka Gakuen. I like it so far and would like to hear the full version.

There will also be a third track, and that's where the two types come in. Type A contains Enkyori Poster, while Type B contains Choose Me! as the third track. Enkyori Poster is performed by Team PB (Team Playboy, composed of Yuki Kashiwagi, Sae Miyazawa, Miho Miyazaki, Aika Oota, Moeno Nito, Aki Takajo, and Ami Maeda) while Choose Me! is performed by Team YJ (Team Young Jump, composed of Tomomi Kasai, Rie Kitahara, Haruka Nakagawa, Minami Minegishi, Rino Sashihara, Asuka Kuramochi, and Ayaka Kikuchi). Playboy and Young Jump are weekly magazines in Japan. (I don't know if Japan's Playboy has any relationship with the Playboy of U.S., Japan's Playboy does not contain nudity [that I know of], and is tamer than the Philippines' FHM. It's possible that it's different if that existed before Japan ever heard of US' Playboy, so much like the Philippine brand Polo, it wouldn't be a trademark violation even if Ralph Lauren's Polo was more popular since the Philippines never heard of it before.)

Team YJ and Team PB are already featured in their respective magazines, and would be competing in terms of sales of the new single. Whoever's type sells more will be featured in both magazines. There was a report released by AKB management that stated Team PB's Enkyori Poster is leading, with over 23,000 preorders, while Team YJ's Choose Me! has over 19,000 preorders. This is one month even before the single is released!

Although Sakura no Shiori has had a lot of negative reception, it's interesting to see that it already has over 40,000 preorders; that's twice as many as any of the singles released during their Defstar days, and that's one month before it's even released. It's possible fans just really like the other tracks, or, just like me, they just wanna support the group regardless of the song. But I'm curious to see if it can continue the string of the previous four singles by selling more than 100,000 copies, or if it can match River's sales of 200,000 copies. Well, it has one month more to take in preorders, apart from those who'll buy it after its release. It should be interesting to see if River sold that well because River was such a great single, or, if Sakura no Shiori matches River, then it's proof that AKB's fanbase is increasing, at a good rate too, especially it's purchasing fanbase. Iiwake Maybe sold only about half as much as its successor, River, but since Iiwake Maybe was voted #1 by fans in the Best 100 2010, it's possible that River sold well also because Iiwake Maybe paved the way for it, and so, even if Sakura no Shiori is not the best single they have released, it's possible that it will sell more successfully than better, previously released AKB singles, because of it's precursors.

Personally, I preordered Type A, the one with Team PB's Enkyori Poster. I agree that there are parts that sound like Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara, but I like Kimi no, and I liked Enkyori Poster enough regardless. I liked Choose Me! too, I just liked Enkyori Poster more. Actually, even before I heard the songs, I already chose Team PB over Team YJ, so when I heard a lot of people liked Choose Me!, I thought I might be disappointed with Team PB's song, and when I heard Team PB's song the first time, I automatically assumed it was Choose Me! because I liked it a lot, but I was wrong, and I was actually listening to Enkyori Poster. I originally chose Team PB over Team YJ because of the girls that composed it, for example, my favorite among the 14 girls involved is Yukirin, and I'm quite fond of many of the other girls in PB as well, but that is not to say I don't like Team YJ, I really, really like many of the girls in Team YJ, for example, I'm really glad that Harugon is getting a push with this one. So, although I preordered Enkyori Poster, I encouraged a friend to preorder Choose Me! instead, so it all evens out.

In conclusion, go buy Sakura no Shiori!

Cover for Type A (with Enkyori Poster), Atsuko Maeda solo

Cover for Type B (with Choose Me!), features Minami Takahashi, Atsuko Maeda and Jurina Matsui

Cover for the exclusive theater version (can only be purchased at their theater), which contains both Enkyori Poster and Choose Me!, but no DVD. (Features Tomomi Itano, Haruna Kojima and Sae Miyazawa on the cover.)

A promo picture, featuring Miho Mayazaki, Tomomi Itano, Atsuko Maeda, Mariko Shinoda, Jurina Matsui, Yuki Kashiwagi, Haruna Kojima, Minami Takahashi, Mayu Watanabe, Yuko Oshima, Sae Miyazawa and Rie Kitahara, presumably, the Senbatsus for Sakura no Shiori. I'm not sure if this is all of them as some usual Senbatsus are missing, like Minami Minegishi, Erena Ono, and Tomomi Kasai.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Iiwake Maybe #1 Request Hour Setlist Best 100 2010

Iiwake Maybe is my second favorite AKB song so far (second to Yuuhi wo Miteiruka?), and it has been for quite some time now, so I'm very happy it got #1 in the Request Hour Setlist Best 100 on the year of its release. When I saw that it sold less copies than Namida Surprise, I thought people didn't like it as much, considering it was released after Namida Surprise, but I'm glad that people actually liked it a lot. I agree that it is the best song released in 2009.

Apparently, there were little surprises in this year's Best 100. I'll likely talk about the Best 100 more once the DVD is released and I get a copy of the video, as I have very little to add from what other bloggers have already mentioned, so if you wanna see the list of the top 100, just click on over to a few of the websites linked on my blogroll on my sidebar at the right.

I'm really excited to watch the concert myself on video, so I hope they release it really, really soon!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Majisuka Gakuen Episode 1 English Summary

I thought Majisuka Gakuen (“Are you serious? Academy”) would be a comedy-drama, much like Ikemendol, but there hasn’t been too much humor in the first episode; it was intense! I can’t stop raving about it so I’m giving you the summary of the first episode (episode one: In this World, It’s All About Being Serious, aired January 8, 2010). One interesting point is that we are already made aware of the cast that features many of the AKB girls, but we don’t see many of them on the first episode. I thought some of them would end up like extras, but there were dozens of extras, something I didn’t expect, which means the AKB girls’ roles would actually be important roles, and they would have cool debuts on the show.

The episode starts with very horrid scenes of a school run by yankees, a term used in Japan for delinquents. The all-girl school is beset with gangs, fighting, and bullying, and although I know bullying is a real huge problem in Japan, these scenes are extreme. Complete anarchy.

Next scene is a math class where the teacher has absolutely no control. Here, we get our first glimpse of the first relevant gang to the story, Team Hormone, who often chats while barbecuing, in this case, inside the classroom.

Team Hormone, a group of sophomores, is lead by Sasshi (as Wota), with Akicha, Kitarie (as Unagi), Moeno (as Bungee), and Komori (as Mukuchi). Apparently, most of the girls are using their real names (for example, when the teacher calls Sasshi, she is called Sashihara-san), but they have nicknames, most of which actually are related to them in the real world (or at least in the AKB universe). Wota refers to Sasshi’s popular Wotagei dance which came from wotas, or superfans, Kitarie got the name Unagi Inu (Eel Dog) in a mic performance at an episode of AKBegas from Yukirin at AKBingo’s April 22, 2009 episode, Bungee refers to Moeno least hesitating to jump off the bungee challenge at Shukan’s Sept. 25, 2009 episode, while Akicha is just using her regular nickname.

They express concern about a new transferee who will come to the school today, a feared, legendary yankee who can beat the crapola out of anyone, no matter how many they are.

Just to emphasize to the viewers that it’s the yankees that run this school, when the teacher dares to ask Sasshi if she would like to try to answer the math problem, she burns him with the meat and says she’s in the middle of eating, as the teacher apologizes.

Something catches the eye of Team Hormone, as well as the rest of the school.

New transfer student arrives, Nacchu (of SDN48), as Daruma Onizuka.

She makes a statement and catches everyone’s attention by destroying a volleyball with one punch.

The second gang, Rappappa, is introduced, whose freshmen members are Tanamin (as Jumbo), Yonechan (as Rice), Haachan (as Showa), and Nakayan (as Anime).

Nakayan, the only girl I couldn’t recognize because she looks so different, watches the new girl outside.

Rappappa’s great four, all juniors, are introduced, Tomochin (as Shibuya), Yukirin (as Black), Rena (as Gekikara), and Kojiharu (as Torigoya). (Yukirin is humorously referred to as Black Yukirin and Black Marimokori in AKBingo, in the mic performances, to suggest she has an evil side counter to her cute, very appealing image, Gekikara refers to the spicy food Rena conquered in a series of challenges on Shukan, while Shibuya may pertain to the April 8, 2009 AKBingo episode where Tomochin was voted by young men in Shibuya as the girl they would most want to have as a girlfriend among four choices.) Rena is only represented by a picture on the wall, not only because she was absent, but because this is factored in the story on a later episode. Shinoda is also introduced, as Rappappa’s subleader (as Sado).

Rappappa is considered the top gang in the school.

Gold Eyebrow Association (just a bunch of extras, no AKB members), a freshman gang, decides to take on Nacchu first, to show her who’s boss.

Nacchu’s first hit sends the watching girls reeling.

The rest of Gold Eyebrow Association eventually does nothing.

Maeda Atsuko enters the scene, minding her own business. She’s another transfer student.

Nacchu and Maeda are introduced by the math teacher to the class as the new transfer students. Nacchu gives the class the finger, to which they all react angrily to, while Maeda bows respectfully. Nacchu evicts a student from her seat to take it, while Maeda takes the one given by the teacher.

The Principal reveals to the math teacher that one of the two transfer students is a bad, bad, bad girl, but her father was her former lover, and that’s why she’s here.

Annoyed, Team Hormone challenges Nacchu by asking her to pick one of them, but she declines by saying she’s after someone upstairs.

Nacchu heads upstairs to Rappappa’s headquarters, and confidently says she wants to be a member, and when she is told they are full, she confidently says one of them has to leave.

As Maeda tries to enter the library, a sign says it’s in use, to which we are greeted with this horrid scene.

Team Hormone enters the scene, and as Maeda tries to walk away, they block her. They offer her to pick one of them, and when she doesn’t speak, they make fun of her book, which they drop, push her down and then take her money. Maeda just walks away without a word. Team Hormone concludes they have a new subordinate.

As Maeda walks along, she finds a bunch of girls over Nacchu, who was beaten up and thrown down the stairs by Rappappa.

Nacchu says the fight ain’t over, but unable to stand on her own, as Maeda tries to walk on by, Nacchu grabs her ankle.

Maeda helps Nacchu to the clinic while Nacchu keeps blubbering about how she didn’t lose the fight, and that she wants to be the top dog of the school, and that beating Rappappa was the way to do it. Nacchu says only the strong survive. When Nacchu asked why Maeda was even in a school like this, it triggers a memory, and we’re presented with one of the first mysteries of the show, the mysterious bracelet.

Without saying a word, as soon as Maeda recalls the bracelet, she drops Nacchu to the entrance of the clinic, literally, where we are introduced to the pervert doctor who has his eyes set on the new girl, Maeda. He also has a hidden camera setup in the clinic’s dressing room. I already hate the guy.

In the next scene, Maeda has dinner with who is apparently her father. She is quiet for the most part as it is revealed to us that Maeda’s mother is also a yankee and so far has not been in a fight in her new job, as a trucker. We are also shown that her father has quite the opposite personality, as he is the nice, cheerful fellow, who tries to make a serious Maeda happy.

As her father talks about her mother and asks about her new school, Maeda removes and wipes her fogged up glasses, showing also that she is wearing the mysterious bracelet. She wears two, one pink, one blue.

Up on the school’s roof, Team Hormone talks about the beating Nacchu got, and how apparently the legend was an urban myth, and they decide to finish her off.

Maeda sits on a terrace-like part of the school to read, when Team Hormone enters the scene, dragging a beaten up Nacchu.

As Maeda tries to leave the scene, as they continue to beat on Nacchu, Team Hormone tells Nacchu to admit defeat, otherwise they’ll beat her to death, to which Nacchu says she’d rather risk her life than admit defeat. Nacchu emphasizes she’s serious. Team Hormone makes it clearer that they will beat her to death.

Continuing the insults and the beating, Sasshi asks, “Majisuka?” (Are you serious?)

It is Maeda who replies, “I assure you, I’m serious.”

Sasshi asks, “What did you say?”

Maeda turns to face them and says, “In this world, it’s all about being serious.”

After a flurry of blurred shots, Maeda comes back inside the school, where she walks past Shinoda. Shinoda notices Maeda.

The door opens where one of the members of Team Hormone stumbles in. There was no else in sight.

Shinoda decides to inspect the outside, where she finds all the members of Team Hormone on the ground, writhing in pain.

Shinoda also finds Nacchu, sitting on a corner, in disbelief. Apparently, the legend was true. They just had the wrong transfer student in mind.

As if to tease us for the upcoming episodes, Maeda walks past two girls who are not yet introduced, Kuramochi and Kasai.

Shinoda reports the carnage that occurred to Team Hormone to Rappappa’s big boss, who is none other than…

Yuko Oshima.


Majisuka Gakuen is better than I expected, and I’m very excited to see all the episodes, but since the weekly show just started January 8, I’d have to wait for the weekly airing just like the rest of the fans, but I would so love to watch all 12 episodes in just one sitting. The girls did great acting, especially Maeda Atsuko. The girls’ portray characters very different from what we normally see them in, very little cheery personalities, as we’re shown much more serious scenes. Some of the fight scenes are a little more violent than what I had thought, not necessarily because of the girls, but because the shots were great and postproduction also did a great job, so the casual fan might squirm a little (but they’re not very gruesome).

We can expect the Nacchu-Maeda friendship to last the whole story, as I guess Nacchu would become Maeda’s sidekick, and it’s interesting to see if the school gets cleaned up at the end of the show by Maeda, or will we have a more gripping, surprise ending. Maeda's father seems to be an interesting character, especially since as it turns out that he is the one who had the steamy romance with the principal before Maeda was born, so how does a bright and nice fellow end up with such unusually headstrong female partners? And remember, we still have dozens of AKB girls who will still debut on the show, so each episode should be an interesting one! Now, I kinda hoped they didn’t release a list of who would play what, just to keep us fans guessing. But either way, I’m loving this show! Now that you know what the first episode is about, go watch the rest of the series!

(ADDENDUM: If you would like to see my discussion on the first half of the series [episode 2-6], see here: http://filipinoakbfan.blogspot.com/2010/02/look-at-some-interesting-and-amusing.html )

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Team B Success Story (The Shibuya AX Request Hour Setlist Best 100 2009 Story)

AKB48 started with the Team that would later be known as Team A, which debuted on December 2005. They would form the second team, Team K, after 4 months. Auditions for the third team, Team B, started 8 months after Team K debuted, and Team B debuted 4 months after their auditions.

I understand why Team B wasn't included on AKB's second concert (first concert tour), it was held a few days before they even debuted. (Their auditions weren't even held yet when AKB had their first concert.) I can even understand why Team B was left out of Himawari-gumi; Himawari's first stage started three months after Team B debuted, while the second stage started five months thereafter. Team B was new and was inexperienced compared to their seniors. But one thing I'm not very, very happy about is that they kept getting very little representation in the singles.

The first single they could reasonably be included was Bingo!, and they had ample representation there with Mayuyu, Nacchan and Yukirin taking part in the recording. Three was reasonable because they were the new team. But come Boku no Taiyou, that number shrunk to one, with my favorite, Mayuyu, being the lone representation. It was understandable that only Mayuyu represented again in Yuuhi wo Miteiruka? since the song only has ten singers, but come Romance Irane, only Ayarin was added with Mayuyu. Sakura no Hanabiratachi 2008 saw Lovetan, Yukirin, and Nacchan join Ayarin and Mayuyu, but Baby! Baby! Baby! had only Mayuyu, Yukirin, and Ayarin. Oogoe Diamond and 10nen Zakura had Mayuyu, Yukirin and Sasshi, and Moechin would join them by Namida Surprise. After that was already the Iiwake Maybe Senbatsu elections.

Single representation may be reasonable, since the older faces were more recognizable, and it may not be great for the whole group to keep changing faces for their singles, or adding too many new faces, but there were other instances where I feel Team B was too underrepresented, and maybe even snubbed. For example, in the PV for Sakura no Hanabiratachi 2008, you can hardly see any of the Team B girls, not even in the choir singing part. They had like two seconds of exposure.

Apart from the 13 girls that qualified via the auditions for Team B, three girls from the original team was transferred to Team B upon its creation, CinDy, Nacchan and Shiho, after three stages with Team A. Note that CinDy, Nacchan and Shiho's transfer to Team B was by no means any form of punishment. Unless I read more concrete proof, we can only speculate as to why they were transferred. It's possible that AKB management foresaw the problem that a startup group may encounter; Team K received harsh and unfair criticisms when they first came out, as they kept getting compared to Team A which relatively already had a fanbase, so expectedly, something similar may happen to a third team which took even longer to start (4 months difference between A and K, and 8 months difference between K and B, plus an additional 4 months before Team B actually debuted). Thus, bringing girls with existing fans to a new team may help draw fans to that new team. (Same idea applies with SDN.) CinDy, Nacchan and Shiho were not necessarily the least popular members of the original Team A, and they were by no means not necessarily going along well with their old teammates (CinDy seems to have a good relationship with Mai Oshima, Nacchan seems to have a good relationship with Minami Minegishi), but the trio were not the most popular members of Team A, so in a sense, they were expendable to the team; Team A could lose them and not lose too many fans in the process, but the three have enough fans that their influx to the new team would be significant to the new team. So, sacrificing working with their old friends and teammates and no longer being part of the original team, they did good work, and although Shiho graduated after the first stage of B, CinDy and Nacchan stayed. CinDy may have also been transferred because maybe her potential for leadership had already been seen, and since Minami Takahashi is more popular than her, and Takamina's leadership with Team A was quite established and recognized, CinDy may be fully maximized leading a new team. So, in a time when I think captains weren't decisively chosen by AKB management, CinDy took the helm and would become the leader figure of B. But I can imagine that the trio must have felt a sense of exile being sent to the new team, and maybe even a sense of underappreciation, considering they were founding members of AKB.

For their first two stages, Team B revived a stage of K and A each, which was reasonable, all things considered. But come third stage, they got an original stage, and it has been the best stage I have seen so far.

By the second installment of the Shibuya AX Request Hour Setlist Best 100 held January 2009, except for one song, Gokigen na Naname na Mermaid, all of their songs in their only original stage made it in the Best 100, as voted on by the fans, with all five original stage subunits making it to the top 50, with three of them making it to the top 10, and Temo Demo no Namida being the highest ranked stage subunit of AKB by making it to #3. As if that was not enough, apparently the girls were not informed of the ranking of the highest ranked songs as the girls seemed to expect Oogoe Diamond, their last released single before that concert, would take the top spot, but when it was revealed live on stage that it was only #2, the girls started to wonder, what in the world made #1, and surprise, surprise, the opening song to Team B's first original stage, Shounichi, made it to #1. A few fans speculated that the Team B fans may have gotten together, but if that was true, all the other Team B songs would have suffered, but as I pointed out, except for one, all of them not only got in, but many ranked high.

Interestingly enough, Shounichi was a descriptive song for everything that occurred to Team B up to the point they got that #1 spot. The lyrics were so appropriate. I put the lyrics' english translation below (from studio48). No wonder the girls were crying when they sung it at the Best 100. They finally were able to prove their worth to AKB.

Pictures of that #1 performance are below, with a few more comments. Here's the lyrics:

Shounichi ([english: Opening Day] as performed by AKB48's Team B)

I’m standing
On the stage I longed for
Amidst the loud cheers, applause, and enthusiasm
With strict lessons,
I go beyond my own limits
Today, I was accepted as a member
The seeds of chance open

While I’m not dancing all by myself,
There were days where I’d cry along the road home
While I’m singing without thinking,
There were days where I lost my confidence
Always, my rivals
Looked like they were sparkling

The dream is amidst the sweat
It’s a flower that blooms bit by bit
That effort
By no means will let me down
The dream is amidst the sweat
I’m always waiting for it to spout out
Until one day, for sure,
The wish comes true

The spotlight,
Like all of this, is so dazzling
Just like the long nights turning to dawn with the morning sun
I absolutely don’t want to
Lose to my seniors
We wanted to make our own show

When I was on leave due to injury,
There were painful days when I cried
There were also days
When I lost my balance of school and lessons
However, the encore
I could hear no matter where

The dream is just ahead of the tears
A flower from the smile after the tears stop
The bud that did its best will bloom before long
The dream is just ahead of the tears
Without losing to the driving rain, I’m believing
Until my prayer reaches the sky that cleared up

Let’s dance
Until we drop dead!
Let’s sing
Until we drop dead!
Without forgetting
Our original goal,
We’ll give everything we’ve got!

The dream is amidst the sweat
It’s a flower that blooms bit by bit
That effort
By no means will let me down
The dream is amidst the sweat
I’m always waiting for it to spout out
Until one day, for sure,
The wish comes true

The girls find out for the first time what got #1

Team B could not hide their joy that Shounichi was voted #1

Lining up to address the fans before they perform

The girls could not successfully hide their feelings

Nacchan, trying to control her sobbing

Unable to contain herself, Nacchan asks, "Team B's Shounichi is really number one, huh?"

CinDy's feelings of joy and disbelief must have been indescribable

CinDy addresses the crowd to give thanks, but has to keep pausing to stop herself from crying

In their normal opening chant for Shounichi, CinDy gives a lot of encouraging words to B to ensure that they still perform it properly, but their voices start shaking around the middle of the chant as they start to tear up again

Even the other team members are happy for them. Takamina starts tearing up even when they just started performing

And Team B themselves continue to tear up during the performance

The song finishes with the song's final pose from Team B, still holding their tears

Crowds chant for B

CinDy did a good job leading this team

This victory is especially sweet for Nacchan and CinDy, founding members of the original AKB48, who would be transferred from that team, Team A, to Team B upon Team B's creation

In the final address of the concert, even Takamina couldn't hide her tears. She had to keep pausing to stop from crying. This is why Takamina can stand and say she is not only the leader of Team A, but the whole of AKB48

After two stage revivals, and two original stages, being together for at least three years, this Team B will cease to exist, as will Team A and Team K, as around February 2010 the Team Shuffle announced in Budokan takes effect. Their success story will stay and we still have their old videos to enjoy the fun times. Count in all the graduates and promoted Kenkyuuseis within their four stages, this Team B was my favorite team. And they have countless more stories in the three years of their existence.

Here's to Shiho, Naruppe, Ayarin, Matsuyuki, Gussan, Mikipomu, Mikachi, Kyururu, Tomomichan, Sasshi, Moechin, Tanamin, Nakayan, Hacchan, Harugon, Yonechan, Lovetan, Yukirin, Mayuyu, Nacchan, and CinDy! You girls did a great job!