It has been a while since I have attended a major AKB48 event. If you don’t count TDC Hall, the last major concert I saw live was…Yokohama Arena? Wow, that was three years ago! But it isn’t really a big deal to me. Major venue concerts are not what AKB48 is about as far as I’m concerned.
Back in 2007 when I first started getting into the group, it was the “idols you can meet” and “theater experience” concepts that I bought into. So when I plan my trips over to Tokyo, I make these experiences a priority. There is nothing more fulfilling to me than spending the day shaking hands with and talking to Wasamin. Nothing makes me happier than to win a theater show and watching one of AKB’s teams performing up close. That is the AKB I know and love. It is the perceived intimacy that makes AKB so special. With huge arenas you lose that completely. In fact I would say the biggest thing that makes shows like that worth it are the chance that Togasaki might come out and make a surprise announcement…
But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t go to a major venue event if given the chance. It just so happened that not one, but two major venue concerts fell into my trip window. Luckily, I won tickets for both of them! The first one I got was sort of “poetic justice”. Those of you who know me might remember that I won Google Plus’ Oshimen support contest last year, which included a trip to Tokyo to see the 2012 Senbatsu Sousenkyo at Budokan. Unfortunately I was in the middle of escrow on my house and couldn’t afford to leave the country for the trip. As much as it hurt, I had to pass up the prize. But the world works in mysterious ways…
AKB48 Festival + Senbatsu Sousenkyo @ Nissan Stadium 13/06/08
Almost exactly one year later I won a ticket to the event I so reluctantly missed before. Wow, Nissan Stadium. I have been there before, the place is huge! I sure hope I get a good seat…
I picked up my ticket from the conbini the day after I got to Tokyo. Most of my friends had gotten tickets in the lower stands. I didn’t know anyone with arena/floor seats. But for me, I was in section E26. Oh jeez, that is the Upper Deck! In fact I was nine rows from the top of the Upper Deck. Better bring my binoculars eh? But at least I was going to be in the venue.
The morning of the show arrived, and I had already received word from a friend that the lines for goods were unbelievably huge at Nissan. Before I gave up on getting souvenirs for the show I decided to try the group’s alternate goods venue in Tokyo, which happened to be the AKB48 Cafe. I got there around 30 minutes before opening and was about 50th in line. This was more like it. The show didn’t start for another five hours. There was no reason for me to hoof it out to Yokohama so early, especially for the planned concert/Sousenkyo 6-hour marathon. The Cafe-Shop had most of the goods being offered, only missing the t-shirts of the sister-units. So I was good to go, and still had a couple hours to rest before I headed out.
I got to Shin-Yokohama around 1 pm, and made the trek over to the stadium. Found a couple people selling binoculars, but they were ridiculously expensive AND amazingly ineffective. So I passed. BTW, all of the area restaurants were advertising “AKB48 Special Menu”, which I thought was kinda funny. Upon arrival I was surprised by the mass of food stalls and trucks stationed all around the venue. Jeez, they had everything! Even AKB48 got into the spirit with their own bento boxes. I decided to go lite and grabbed a quick snack and some tea. I spent the next hour people=watching and searching for some of my friends who were also there. But the place was so huge, I didn’t end up finding anyone. I decided to head in…
After grabbing lunch inside (Yes, even the concessions were open!) I climbed up to the top floor and found my seat. Sure I was high, but since Nissan has a curved-in roof I was in the shade. This was a blessing since it was a sunny and humid day AND I was already sunburned. Since it was daytime, they gave us little pink flags (along with the promised Rain Poncho) to wave instead of lightsticks.
Finally the show started, and I immediately realized two things. First, I was really far away. The girls looked so tiny on stage that I pretty much resigned myself to watching on the monitors. Next, the sound system was AWFUL! I’m not sure how it sounded in the rest of the place, but up where I was sitting was really bad. Echo, totally out of sync with the video monitors. I tried to find Wasamin a few times, only being successful once with the monitor’s help. But that was okay with me. I was there mainly to see the Sousenkyo.
The setlist seemed very pedestrian, including the top members (and interestingly Tomu Mutou and Meru Tashima) performing in the units. But I had a great view of the coming action. Why were the next group of girls coming in under a tarp?
I guess it was to hide Kawaei Rina, along with Haste and Waste performing BKA48′s new song. Actually, that is my favorite song and PV on the Sayonara Crawl Single! Other highlights included Tomochin performing 1% and NMB’s new single Bokura no Eureka, which I REALLY like! Happily, the concert portion came to an end so I bailed to the bathroom before the line got long….
Or so I thought. “Chotto Matte!” CinDy’s voice rang throughout the stadium as the graduated members came out to perform one last song. Unfortunately I was in a sea of people moving toward the exit so I walked as slow as possible so I could watch Meetan do her performance. Yes, that was the highlight of the concert of me!
The break was very short, maybe about 20 minutes before the Sousenkyo started. I made it back to my seat in time to watch the girls make their way onto the stage. Obviously management had planned in case of rain, as the girls’ seats were sheltered on the stage. Oh, and for those of you who watched the event online, the announcers did indeed get totally out of sync with the members coming out. I believe they were two teams behind at one point. I waited in anticipation, as the was only one thing I cared about at this moment…
When would Wasamin’s name be called? Where would she rank???
Once again, the speakers echoed badly up where I was. I swear I thought I heard the name Urano Kazumi at #62, it was only when I saw Nacchan on the screen that I realized who got called. However, the speakers were loud and clear when I heard who ranked at #56…
Much like Wasamin, the gamut of emotions ran through me when her name was called. I first felt excited, and admittedly relieved. After her preliminary ran at #62, there was no guarantee that she would rank at all. Although when I heard the lower ranked girls coming in at around 12K votes, I felt good about her chances. I know #56 is quite a drop from her previous rank of #33. But the competition was a lot rougher this year. There were a lot of newer members heavily promoted in ALL of the groups. Wasamin has had a quiet year when compared to her breakout solo effort in 2012. So frankly I wasn’t surprised that we dropped. That said, I am concerned about next year. Hopefully Wasamin will have some exciting goings-on to help her climb back up the ranks.
With that out of the way, I was free to enjoy the rest of the rankings. Hopefully there would be some awesome surprises along the way. Oh yeah, there certainly were…
I was rooting for a few more things to happen. I seriously doubted Meetan would actually rank, and I was okay with it. Would HKT48′s Marika Tani rank? I think we are a year away from that happening. What I really wanted was a shake up of the Senbatsu. Kaotan was so close to the Top 16 in the prelims, could she jump into Senbatsu? I seriously hoped so. I wanted to see WMatsui move up in rank. I wanted Milky and Sayanee. And most of all, I wanted to see someone OTHER THAN Yuko or Mayu at the top!
I wanted to see Sasshi rank #1 in the worst way!!!
It’s not that I am a huge Sasshi fan, but like a lot of fans I am tired of seeing the same 10 members constantly in front of this group. I am ready for the change that will take AKB into their next phase. To me, newer members like Paru, Milky, Kawaei and the like are much more interesting right now. So as girls like Mocchi, Kitarie and Umechan ranked lower, I held a glimmer of hope that the Senbatsu of the future could be coming. Not to mention the fact that I cannot stand antis. I think they are ridiculously immature, and a cancer in the fandom.
Once we got to the Top 16, it was clear who would be there. But in what order? The first breathe of fresh air was Suda Akari at #16. I can’t think of a more perfect girl to make her Senbatsu debut. She is awesome on stage, she is great with her fans. She is just a super-idol, and I am so happy for her.
After watching the NMB girls come in, Sae’s great speech, and who can forget Paruru’s lolzworthy speech at #12? Once again, it’s not that I am a big Paru fan, but I think her antis are a bunch of idiots. I have no expectations of her. So when she stands there with a blank expression I merely giggle. But now there was an interesting dynamic happening in the crowd. Even before the girls’ names were announced, some of the crowd would cheer when they would hear “AKB48 Team…” because they knew Jurina, Rena and Sasshi were even higher. You could see a lot of fans bowing down in prayer, and then pumping their fists. It was awesome, all the way down to #2 And when Yuko was called, you could hear a combined mix of ecstatic cheers and exasperated jeers. It was awesome, even the guy next to me gave me a big High-Five! I have never had so much fun watching the Top 5 ever before. I think quite a few people felt the same way.
And this is why having Sasshi win Senbatsu is so great. Here it is a week later and the conversation about the Sousenkyo is still going strong. I highly doubt we would still be talking about it if “the usual suspects” ranked at the top. This is a great shot in the arm for AKB, and hopefully next year will see even more drastic changes. The fans seem to be embracing the new generation, and that is going to keep the AKB-family going strong for years to come.
Anyway, I jammed out of the stadium as Sasshi started her lap around the infield, and caught the Shinkansen back to Tokyo in record time. It was a good night. Wasamin ranked, Sasshi won, and I completely avoided the massive crowd trying to jam themselves into the JR Yokohama Line. I couldn’t wait to read the shitstorm that would await me on the message boards.
More to come!
CK in California