Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Top 10 Favorite Request Hour Set List Best 100 2011 Performances

OK, so I had the chance to follow the Best 100 2011 results online real time, but it just wasn’t as much fun as watching the results on video for the very first time, so after the first few songs, I stopped following. So as I always had done, I learned the ranking the first time I watched the video. The first time I learned that Heavy Rotation ranked #1 was when I saw the video.

AKB’s fourth annual Request Hour Set List Best 100 was held for four days, from January 20 to 23, 2011, and the official DVD was released a few weeks ago. I wanted to limit myself to a small number so I’m just gonna give my top 10 favorite performances, although a lot more were notable. It was great to see many classics stay in, great to see great new songs make it, and sad to see many favorites drop out. One of the things I love about the Best 100 is bringing back graduates, and this had plenty of graduates. Sure, there were a lot of other graduates I wanted to see back too, but maybe next year. Another great thing about this year’s Best 100 is that this is the first Best 100 after the great Budokan Shuffle took effect, so it was really, really great to see the old teams reunited to perform their old songs. It was great to see NMB48 come out and perform Aitakatta, it was great to see a 9th and 10th Gen version of Bingo! (no, it wasn’t an all Kenkyuusei version since the remaining 9th Gen were technically promoted members by then), it was interesting to see the cute Miniskirt no Yousei, the “Kenkyuusei” (well, actually 9th Gen) song reach all the way up to #40, it was nice to see the subunits alive and kicking with No Sleeves and Watarirouka Hashiritai with new unit French Kiss whose two eligible tracks made it in at #93 and #27, I was very happy that Yuuhi wo Miteiruka?, one of the songs I voted for, stay in at #64, and I was very happy at the solos making it, such as Itoshisa no Accel, Yokaze no Shiwaza, Nakinagara Hohoende, Kareha no Station, Mushi no Ballad and Mayu no Tameni. I was a bit disappointed that another song I voted for, Mayuyu’s solo Yasashiku Sasete, didn’t make it in. Mayu no Tameni is just a very cute song, but I really wanted Mayu to give us at least just one performance of my favorite Mayuyu solo. Interesting also to point out was that none of my oshimen’s stage unit songs made it in; I wasn’t surprised Hatsukoi yo Konnichiwa didn’t make it in, wouldn’t have been too surprised that Pajama Drive wouldn’t make it either, but I would have thought at least Zannen Shoujo would. Mayuyu fans were all over the place, after all, it’s not like we’re voting for a girl, we’re supposed to be voting for a song, so while some fans voted for Team B Oshi, some voted for Shonichi, some voted for Watarirouka Hashiritai songs, while I voted for Yasashiku Sasete, so many of Mayuyu’s songs ended up not get enough votes, considering she has so many. Interestingly, Itoshiki Natasha turns up as the highest ranked stage unit song this year. Not necessarily the definitive Sashihara song, but if you wanted to vote for a Sasshi unit, it seems to be her best unit so far. I’m also a bit disappointed that only Gagaga made it in for SDN48. Then again, it’s hard to vote for stage songs when majority of the fans have never even seen SDN’s stage songs since their stage’s videos are never released. I found it hard to fathom that Heavy Rotation beat Beginner for the number one spot. I guess it does go to show that considering Iiwake Maybe was last year’s #1 that maybe the fans are sending a message that they love the senbatsu elections. I did love the encore version of Heavy Rotation, the one where each of them were wearing whatever last costume they wore before the encore, making it a great, interesting, colorful mixture of AKB goodness! Also, if I could have attended only one day of this series, if I knew the setlists, I would have went at day 1. The day 1 concert is so good, if a non-AKB fan wanted me to show them one concert that would exhibit how good AKB is, without considering how big or grandiose the stage is, I would show them this, as the variety was so good, it was a great showcase of the different kinds of songs AKB performs, plus considering how interesting the fact of how the Best 100 is put together, by fan votes, that is. This was a great sampling; they featured a lot of girls from graduates to Kenkyuuseis. Oh, and with the MC parts, Wota 4 (Mayuyu, Lovetan, Nakayan, Tanamin), the Sato’s (Natsuki, Amina, Sumire) and the Natsu’s (Sato, Hirajima, Mukaida, Matsubara) were a big hit with me. Heavy Rotation ranking #1 also breaks CinDy’s streak as being the only AKB girl to be part of the original performers of all songs that have ranked #1 in the Best 100 (CinDy was in the first three, Sakura no Hanabiratachi, Shonichi, and Iiwake Maybe).

#10 Original members of AKB48 perform Dear My Teacher

That’s First Gen for you, yeah! I love it when the graduates come back, and to have all the graduated original members of AKB48 come back, and to have the original members that are now in SDN and those that have been scattered to various teams all gathered to perform such a classic is a rare treat! Yeah, even if they did do it last year! The fact that they can still be completed is great! Fine, Rina Nakanishi wasn’t there, it would have raised eyebrows if she was, considering her current career choice. Mariko Shinoda was probably her official sub since technically Mariko is Generation 1.5. This song ranked #86, so I have doubts if it will still make the Best 100 next year, but I hope they keep reuniting the original members of AKB48 for whichever of their classics!

#9 SKE48 is living long and prospering!

Not necessarily a whole lot of SKE, but enough to satisfy SKE lovers. Their current stage Seifuku no Me contains a lot of great songs and performances, and although only one team song from that stage made it in, I was glad it was the fun Koi wa Kataru Shijin ni Narenakute that’s really enjoyable to watch that made it. Although the unit songs for that stage were great as well, we would at least be treated to three of them in the Best 100, expectedly the powerful songs Kareha no Station and Omoide Ijou and the very cute Okami to Pride. Since Okami to Pride is becoming really popular and is replacing Wimbledon he Tsureteitte as the Kumi Yagami song, it’s just too bad that we’ll probably never see Wimbledon he Tsureteitte performed again with Sayuki Mori and Tsukina Takai… unless they do it at SKE’s Request Hour. This also wipes out all the songs from their second stage Te wo Tsunaginagara, which is one of the best stages in AKB altogether, from the Best 100. SKE’s single songs did ok though. Another thing that I loved about SKE’s performances from this concert is that this was not just Team S, they were sprinkled with a select bunch of Team KII cuties!

Koi wo Kataru Shijin ni Narenakute. I love SKE, I love this song, and I love this performance!

I’m pleasantly surprised at how well received Okami to Pride is. It is a very cute song.

We can never have too much Kumi.

#8 Tengoku Yarou

This year’s Kurukurupaa, CinDy’s hope from last year’s Best 100 materializes with the first original unit she centers ranking a good #57. I would have ranked this much higher, if CinDy was the one who did the monologue. I don’t understand why it was Korisu who did it when this is the CinDy unit, especially considering she isn’t even really a part of this unit, she took Nakayan’s place. (Nothing against the pretty Korisu though.) CinDy seemed happy that this made an appearance at the Best 100 anyway. This fun song is my favorite unit song from Team B’s fourth stage. Harugon seemed to have a lot of fun going crazy, while Kyururun looked so fine.

#7 Shonichi

Though dethroned as the top team song, the upset #1 song from 2 years ago ranks well at #21. This year also marks the disappearance of all the other team songs from preshuffle Team B. My favorite preshuffle team is Team B, so for them to be able to reunite for only one song was kinda sad, unlike with Team A and Team K which had a lot more preshuffle team songs make it in, giving them more chances to reunite. At least it was nice to see that Team B still be able to reunite with this song. At least their preshuffle unit songs are still ranking and the greatness of old Team B lives on with Shonichi. It kinda miffs me though that they still don’t bring back the Team B graduates for this song. I want the Team B graduates too! Instead, unofficial members Komorin and Ucchi are there (they were Kenkyuuseis for Team B in the past) and Korisu and Kyururun, who actually became members of Team B for their fourth stage (Shonichi is from third stage).

When they started out with new captain Yukirin calling out the Team, my first concern was, “Where is CinDy?! Don’t tell me you’re not bringing out CinDy for this?!” And then someone started the Team B chant. “Wait, is that CinDy’s voice?! That sounds like CinDy?!” And yes, it was still CinDy leading the Team B chant! It would not have been the same otherwise. And check out darling CinDy’s glamorized hair style.

#6 Team Ogi Matsuri!

OK, not really, but it started to seem like it. Not that I’m complaining, since I loved Ogi Matsuri! (I hope they do another one! OgiPro is probably my favorite agency!) #97 featured No Sleeves Kiss No Ryusei, #96 followed with Watarirouka Hashiritai’s Seishun no Flag, #95 went back to No Sleeves with Seishun no Komorebi, and #94 came back to Watarirouka Hashiritai with Shiroi Tulip. For those that don’t understand what I’m talking about, Ogi Matsuri is the concert by talents within Ogi Production, the agency that handles No Sleeves, Watarirouka Hashiritai and all its members.

Lie was the only No Sleeves lead track that didn’t make it to the top 100 (as I would have expected) while Kimi shika’s additional track made it in, the aforementioned Seishun no Komorebi, while although the very simple but very cute Shiroi Tulip stayed in the Top 100 this year, its lead track Yaruki Hanabi was nowhere to be found. Other No Sleeves and Watarirouka Hashiritai songs appeared, better spread out in the Best 100. No Sleeves’ alter ego from Mendol, Persona was back with 3 Seconds too.

I love these serious, no-smile performances. I’m not sure, but this could be the first time Seishun no Komorebi has been performed, and although it is an additional track to Kimi shika, just to make the series of performances continuous, a costume change was eliminated and they performed it wearing the Kiss no Ryusei outfits.

Same with Watairouka Hashiritai, although we have seen the custom-made costumes specifically for Shiroi Tulip from last year’s Best 100, Watarirouka performed it this time wearing their Seishun no Flag uniforms to eliminate costume changes.

#5 Kioku no Dilemma

This is one of my most favorite AKB songs so to see this performed by its original performers most probably for the last time was kinda sad. It was nice to see graduate Mai Oshima back for this (and nice that this fell on the day where the graduates were on) and it was nice to see Yukari Sato and Kayo Noro, who have already been transferred to SDN, rejoin Yuka Masuda. The original version is just a joy to watch and listen to so to see the original four, though already scattered, reunite to perform this is such a nice treat. Since it ranked #100 this year, it will most likely drop out next year, pushed out by newer songs, and it is highly unlikely that the original four will reunite to perform this on any other concert, but at least we got to enjoy it again even if it may be the last time. This was a great opener for the whole concert series.

#4 Temo Demo no Namida

They actually brought a Team B graduate back! And what’s most interesting about this is that even though French Kiss already has their own version of the song recorded in their first single, with Akicha even already performing this duet last year even before the French Kiss unit was announced, this year Yukirin is rejoined by her original partner Mikachi! Fans really wanted to see the original version, and bringing back Mika Saeki was just a good idea by Management. This song is still ranking well at #30. Now that they finally brought Mikachi back, I wonder how well the song will fare next year. I bet it will be higher, but with new songs in the competition, who knows.

#3 Tonari no Banana

Now that Erena Ono has graduated, and since her graduation was too recent to bring her back, who would take her place as Tomomi Kasai’s partner in a performance of this rather old song? Ichikawa Miori, the very popular 10th Gen Kenkyuusei! I have to say this was a genius decision. This is probably the first time Miorin performed on a big stage with the spotlight on her, and she made a very good impression, pairing off with someone like Kasai, no less. The performance suits her too, although I think Erepyon’s bag wasn’t a perfect fit for her. Her catch phrase “Fresh Lemon ni naritai no!” (I want fresh lemons!) is indeed a winner and is just so adorable no wonder it catches so many hearts. This was such a great idea, having her perform such a fitting song where she can properly do her catch phrase! If you’ve never seen Miorin do her catch her phrase, this is a great watch. Just look out for your heart as you’ll probably soon be going “Awww!” Her voice is so cute! It’s kinda hard to imagine that someone like Kasai would end up as if she was taking a back seat to a Kenkyuusei on her own song. But Kasai is cute too! What am I saying, Kasai is a beauty.

#2 Sakura no Hanabiratachi, graduates version

An all graduate version of Sakura no Hanabiratachi! Now that’s a treat! Sakura no Hanabiratachi is the first single AKB released and they have been performing it since their first stage, so graduates performing this classic is such a great idea. This song was also the #1 song of the first Best 100. Graduates from Team A and Team K who performed earlier in the night in various songs converged for the night’s last song (not counting the encore) as this ranked #76. The interview at the end by some of the remaining original members was pretty funny too.

The graduates are still looking good. I hope we get to see more of them.

Takamina: “Kaorin is really pretty isn’t she?!”

Kaorin: “Really?”

Hana (talking to Takamina): “You sound like an old woman.”

Acchan shows Shiho much love.

Kayano Masuyama is pretty taller than most of the girls now. She was AKB’s original little girl, but now if anyone will have that title among the original members, maybe it will go to beloved Takamina.

Takamina (to Kayano): “Who are you?!”

MaiMai (to Takamina): “You’re wearing your high heels, right?”

Acchan (to Kayano): “You used to be this tall, right?”

#1 Team B Oshi

I haven’t noticed the girls this excited to rank so well since Shonichi ranked #1 two years ago. I guess ranking as the top stage song of the year has that effect. The modern day Wasshoi B! ranked very high at #5, beaten only by singles’ lead tracks. I have to admit, that among corny songs, this would be my favorite. Yes, I think the song is corny, but I would be lying if I denied that I love this! Some people could classify this as a novelty song, but the performance is such a winner, it exemplifies what I’m talking about when I say AKB is more than just a song and dance group, they are a theater group, and in this case, very theatrical indeed! And with the extra excitement of top ranking stage songs, I think this is the best performance of this song that I have ever seen! The girls had a lot fun and it was really fun to watch! No gimmicks on this one, I think new Team B’s joy that this could be a sign that they could be the number one Team just made it extra special. And the theme of Team B Oshi, the same way the theme of Shonichi when it ranked #1, just fits the situation. Too bad only three from original Team B remain with Team B, but I’m glad Mayuyu, Yukirin and Nacchan get to have that again. Team B favorite!