Tuesday, January 5, 2010

AKB48 2009 Super Summary and Let's Speculate: AKB48 2010

2009 was a great and eventful year for AKB48. The girls released four very successful singles; for the first time they broke the 100,000 singles sold barrier with their first single this year, 10nen Zakura, which they continued with their next singles, Namida Surprise and Iiwake Maybe, and for their last of the year, they broke 200,000 with River, debuting at #1 in the weekly Oricon charts for the first time. For the first time, the second track of a single had its own PV in Tobenai Agehachou (for Iiwake Maybe) and for River, it was for not just one, but for the two additional tracks, Kimi no Koto ga Sukidakara, and Hikuoki Gumo.

The girls had big concerts in Shibuya AX (January 2009), NHK Hall (April 2009) and Budokan (August 2009), apart from countless smaller concerts. They also debuted in Paris and New York this year, and they were reinvited to Kouhaku, apart from getting countless honors and awards.

That year, for the first time, the fans got to vote for who would do the recording for a single, Iiwake Maybe, resulting in the Senbatsu elections. The AKB world was also rocked with the surprise Teams Shuffle anncounced at their Budokan concert. Announced to take effect on October, and then moved to December, the shuffle seems to not have taken effect this year other than the River PV.

That year, we also saw the debut of many AKB TV shows, like Shukan AKB, Suiensaa, and SKE Gakuen. Two subunits debuted, with Watarirouka Hashiritai (Mayu Watanabe, Natsumi Hirajima, Aika Oota and Haruka Nakagawa) releasing three successful singles, Hatsukoi Dash, Yaruki Hanabi, and Kanpeki Gu-no Ne, and Nattou Angels (Tomomi Itano, Tomomi Kasai and Miho Miyazaki) releasing their self-titled single. Formerly called No3b, No Sleeves (Minami Takahashi, Haruna Kojima, and Minami Minegishi) successfully released their second and third single, Tane, and Kiss no Ryusei. AKB also had their first whole stage-play, Infinity, lead by Minami Takahashi, Sayaka Akimoto, Yuki Kashiwagi and Sae Miyazawa.

For 2010, fans eagerly await their new TV comedy-drama Majisuka Gakuen, debuting on January 8, and the third annual Request Hour Setlist Best 100, to be held on January 21-24, at Shibuya AX, where fans got to vote again for their favorite performances, and their 17th single to be released on February 17, where for the first time, there would be two different third tracks from two competing teams competing with sales, Team YJ and Team PB.

What more can we expect from AKB in 2010? Apart from their singles, shows, concerts and merchandise to be a smash,  SKE's Team E may be a safe guess, along with SKE48's second single. SDN48 may just release it's first single too, but I doubt there'd be a Team S2 and Team D nor N, since they only perform in the theater once a week anyway. I would like to see Watarirouka Hashiritai and No Sleeves release more singles, and Nattou Angels release an even better song, apart from more subunits coming out. Another sports meet where not just teams, A, K and B would compete, but SKE teams, Kenkyuusei teams and SDN48 competing would be fun, especially when the new teams in AKB are formed. Another TV show before the year ends besides Majisuka Gakuen, and how about AKB48 live at Tokyo Dome...

Apart from the Budokan Teams Shuffle taking effect in 2010, I think another Senbatsu election would be stressful for the girls. Maeda may get depressed if she doesn't get #1, and it's too predictable if she does, so maybe we shouldn't have one for another few years when there are already a lot of new girls in the roster, or until Acchan graduates, which, although I am not a big Maeda Atsuko fan, is not something I'm looking forward too either. If I was to predict who would graduate next, barring injuries and other unexpected stuff, much to my own chagrin, I'm thinking CinDy might go next, NOT THAT I WANT HER TOO! CinDy is one of my favorites, but once she gets fully transferred to SDN, I think she has very little left to prove. She lead an upstart team to have the #1 performance in the Shibuya Best 100 2009, as voted on by fans; she has become Senbatsu for the first time, again through fan votes... I'm thinking CinDy may have already had a conversation with Aki-P regarding her graduation, which is why she wasn't named captain of SDN anymore (Aki-P may have just told her to wait 'til the end of Team B's 4th stage). It's also possible CinDy just deserves a rest from leadership, and it would be harder for her to lead girls her age in SDN, but I also SPECULATE that CinDy may already have a boyfriend (as I believe many of them do, they just keep it a secret, of course), and CinDy may be getting married soon. Note that I do not want any of these to happen, these are just rather wild guesses. Apart from CinDy, I'm also thinking Yukari Sato (if her gravure career or other businesses are faring well) or Natsumi Hirajima (NO!!!) if she's fed up with the whole shuffle thing, and would like to take a break. That also messes up Watarirouka Hashiritai though, so while they are successful, I don't think she should go as she seems to be enjoying the time with Mayuyu, Rabutan and Harugon. Although the oldest left in AKB, I doubt Mariko Shinoda is graduating; she's too popular, and unless Megumi Ohori will be doing something else, I don't think Meetan will go, as SDN fits her character very well. Apart from CinDy, Yukarin, and Nacchan, my fourth guess to be the first to leave would be Natsuki Sato (again, no!!!). Nacchi is another one of my favorites, but if she wants to excel in her studies as I think she wants to, she might just give up AKB. Note that I am not psychotic... I mean psychic (why correct me, they mean the same thing), I just want the ability to say, "hey, I said that!" in case any of the things I thought of came true.

It also seems Aki-P is franchising the 48 brand outside Japan. I saw him talking with Endemol, probably to copyright the 48 format, and other potential, foreign franchisers. Although I doubt we'll see Paris48 or NewYork48 this year, who knows, maybe in a couple of years? I agree with the comment that the appeal of the 48 franchise is highly linked with the Japanese flavor, and any 48 outside Japan would have to be customized to the local flavor, which may not be too appealing for me. I like the Japanese flavor. Then again, who knows, I don't like the idea now, but once we see the first 48 outside Japan, I might end up liking it. I did like the SKE franchise, although they're just in Nagoya. But if the first 48 outside Japan comes out, I think it would just be in a neighboring country, like Hong Kong. HKG48?