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!