Nogizaka46 Finally Arrive!

Nogizaka46 makes it’s first appearance – MELOS no Michi
Nogizaka46 chooses first 36 members, concerts to begin this year – Tokyograph
AKB48 Official Rivals – Nogizaka 46 Members Announced – IXA Ready
Nogizaka46 Is Born – Pure Idol Heart
SDN48 Don’t Want To Lose To Nogizaka 46 – IXA Ready

The first thirty-six members of Aki-P’s promised rival group for AKB have been introduced to the public, along with more details of the group’s activities. Aki-P has pulled out all the stops, just about. First, this announcement was made just as the newest AKB single is being released – stealing some of the older’s group thunder as a result. The average age of sixteen seems to emphasize younger, more loli idols – not a bad move as far as I’m concerned. Along with the already-announced television show for October, they will be performing concerts by the end of this year. Further, they are promising what amounts to a senbatsu election at the halftime of every concert, as attendees can vote for who they want to see perform in the second half.

And in a move that strikes me as ballsy to the point of suicidal, specific rivals to popular AKB members have already been determined! It’s like the Super Friends versus the Legion of Doom, with each hero having their own counterpart villain to face off against! And while the vote of confidence Aki-P is giving each of these new girls is striking, it may also be setting them up for a fall since they’re contending with top AKB girls, who would of course have the strongest fan bases. The five AKB idols being given official rivals are Itano Tomomi (who gets the Nogizaka46 center, fourteen-year old Yoshimoto Ayaka), Atusko Maeda, Kojima Haruna, Sashihara Rino, and… Eguchi Aimi? Seriously? Glicostein’s Monster deserves her own flesh-and-blood rival?

For some reason, this one-on-one rivalry pairing is what makes me most suspicious of some kind of marketing shenanigans going on. It can’t just be overconfidence at work here, can it? And Aki-P must realize he’s setting up some girls for humiliation, whether on the Nogizaka or AKB side, just by pairing them up and forcing people to take sides.

Personally, I couldn’t be more excited. Part of it is because I never really got to figure out who’s who in the AKB-verse and the franchises just kept multiplying and growing until I had no hope of catching up. Here, I can maybe start from scratch and place all the names to faces without being overwhelmed. I’ll admit that a lot of these initial profile photos (found on the MELOS post) aren’t as… attractive… as they could be. Actually, some of the girls look positively fug, like they thought they were join Sadako 48 and being asked to climb down the well. However, it’s just a matter of some warpaint and a good hairdresser and any of these girls could look idol-esque enough. PIH’s Gaki lists the Nogizaka members who have been in previous idol units, including an ex-member of Momoiro Clover and someone from H!P Kansai – so I wouldn’t exactly call them ringers, but there’s some seasoned idols in the mix, which should help.

And already, a 48 franchise has responded to the threat of this new group. I didn’t expect the first such call-out to be from SDN48, but there you have it: SDN’s Serina told reporters that their two years of experience will keep Nogizaka 46 from surpassing them. As IXA Ready points out, this is especially risible given the marketing firepower of Sony will bring to this. Add extra chuckles if you consider the stagnating sales of various AKB subunits and SDN themselves, whose latest single hasn’t lived up to expectations.

And while there’s a bit of a delicious irony in Aki-P setting up rivals for AKB just when they’re at the height of their popularity, I have to wonder about the inevitable fallout from the way the rivalry is being framed. Feelings will be hurt, there will be a sense of betrayal for some… And who’s to say this mad scheme will work in the first place? If it’s an aleborate joke or simply fizzle out over time, who can tell what fan reactions will do for both Nogiazaka46 or the AKB franchises. And perhaps in trying to anticipate ALB’s eventual loss of popularity and a downward cycle in idols, Aki-P has actually sped up the process by going one idol collective too far.

There’s so much that could go wrong. But that’s the risk one takes when one’s a pop idol mogul, I guess. In the meanwhile, we should just enjoy the theatrics for what it is… whatever it is.