Jun 07 2012
WARNING: THIS POST IS ABOUT AKB.
While there are still many things I dislike about AKB (the constant lipsyncing, the rumored poor treatment of the less popular members, the fact that there are just too darn many of them and their producer is too busy to write new stages, etc.), I do thoroughly approve of their annual election.
First, I was excited to see the amount of effort AKB put in to make the election accessible to their foreign fans. Setting up an English language google+ site and informative video, selecting foreign fan corespondents to attend the election, and even hiring translators to dub it into English in real time. It seems that AKB management is really sending the message that they acknowledge their foreign fans and appreciate their contribution. Now, H!P has made some small moves in that direction, but this is the furthest I’ve seen a major Jpop group go to appeal to the English-speaking fan community.
The other thing I like about the election is that it’s a chance for the fans to say, “You know that girl who you keep shoving in our faces? (Katou Reina, Shimada Haruka, Jo Eriko, Kodama Haruka) well, we’re not going to elect her. Instead, we’re going to vote for the girl who you always hide in the back corner or refuse to promote to an actual team (Nakata Chisato, Tano Yuka, Mutou Tomu, Matsumura Kaori) because we like her better.” It feels like once a year, there is justice. At least for the fans.
I’m especially excited for the girls who have been in all four elections but never gotten to stand on stage who broke the top 40 for the first time this year. So big congrats to Nakata Chisato, Nakaya Sayaka, Mukaida Manatsu, Iwasa Misaki, and Furukawa Airi. I’m also very happy for Umeda Ayaka, not only making senbatsu, but making senbatsu at an election where the cut off is top 16. How wonderful for her!
That said, there is one issue that I think the election makes pretty apparent, and that is the problem with there being just way too many girls in AKB. The thing is, management wants to promote certain newer girls and make them popular, but there just isn’t any room at the top right now. Very very rarely someone can sneak in there (Yokoyama Yui, Yamamoto Sayaka), but it’s super tough. The management has tried some strategies to combat this including having a bazillion girls in senbatsu for the last AKB single and having three separate dance formations for the undergirls with two different center members for each, but no matter what they do, there is still not enough spotlight to go around. I say this became apparent in the election because of the fact that 0 members from NMB’s Team M ranked, and only one member each ranked from the entirety of HKT and from SKE’s Team E (which has been around for over a year), and both girls were low on the list. Even last year, they at least got 2 NMB members into the top 40. If this year’s cut off had been the same, there would be zero members of Team E and zero members of HKT in the ranking.
Recently, AKB seems to have this theme of bringing in the “new generation”, but it’s just not working yet. This could change if Atsuko’s graduation represents the beginning of a large wave of graduations by the girl’s in their 20′s, but there really is very little incentive for the members at the top to leave. What “better opportunity” than AKB could they find right now? I just feel bad for the wave after wave of fresh kenkyuusei’s, new teams, and new groups that keep being brought in, because with each new generation, a girl’s odds of ever rising to the point where a casual fan even knows her name get slimmer and slimmer.