The wide reach of the MELOS no Michi crew comes in handy yet again, as they cover in-person two events outside of Japan. Melos himself attended the SKE48 event at the Singapore AKB48 cafe and reports back what he could from the question and answer sessions. It was an extra special event since the day was also Matsumoto Rina’s birthday, and the SKE48 girls seemed to make an extra effort to interact with their fans. Ying covered the AKB48 documentary at the Jpop Summit in San Francisco – the same one covered by CK, I assume – and had a… well, a less enjoyable time than Melos, let’s say. The criticisms leveled against the viewing all strike me as fair and reasonable, though I think it wouldn’t have completely spoiled the experience for an AKB fan hungry for any kind of event on their home turf.
While the events seem to be of mixed quality, what I find especially striking is that these events take place in very different parts of the world, illustrating just how wide a reach the AKB franchises are aiming for. Other groups may talk of world domination, but the 48’s actually have the manpower and reach to achieve this.
And in the case of the Singapore event, the sheer size of the AKB franchises – the number of idols for each 48, the number of distinct groups being formed – now become an obvious asset in terms of global marketing. With just about any other group, sending a sizable contingent overseas would be a disruption to regular idol activities. When you have as many idols as each of the 48s have, sending ambassadors to the far-flung reaches of wotadom is just a relatively minor logistical challenge. What the hell, AKB can just send SKE in their place! And even then, SKE can also fall back on the local act, the cafe girls of SCG48. It’s like Aki-P has all the angles covered.
With all this in mind, it will be interesting to see how the continued expansion goes. There’s Jakarta and Taiwan, and hopefully more events in America – and with any luck, ambassador idols making appearances as they did in Singapore. At the very least, touring the biggest anime cons strikes me as a wise use of resources.
And who knows? AKB may outlast the idol cycle in Japan by focusing on overseas as domestic interests wane (which they inevitably will). That could make for very exciting times indeed.