Is There a “Right Way” to Disband an Idol Act?

A friend of mine posed that question to me yesterday morning.  It’s a good question.  All things must come to an end eventually, right?  When it comes to SDN48, is this “graduation” a premature move by AkiP?  Or is this precisely the right time.  Would it have been better to say they are graduating tomorrow?  Or is the 6 month farewell a more fitting ending?

I suppose the proverbial “writing on the wall” was there, but most of us didn’t see it.  And why would we?  The mass-graduation of an entire unit is an unprecedented event in the world of XXX48, even if it isn’t unprecedented in the history of AkiP.  But here we are, and the announcement has been made.  In less than six months the SDN48 unit that I love enough to call my favorite of all the “48” acts will be no more.

Or will they?

There have been tons cryptic comments coming from management, and the girls themselves.  We have seen phrases like “The members will be embarking on “A New Stage” in their careers.  New Stage, eh?  Even a casual AKB fan can see the double-meaning in that statement.  We have also been told that the details will be explained on the upcoming episode of Suppon no Onnatachi 2.  Details?  The initial announcement was pretty clear.  So I can’t imagine what details could make this announcement any easier to swallow.  Could it be that management is effing with us???

Lord knows, but I am sure all will be revealed in time.  Once again, this is just part of being an idol fan.  So how do I feel about this recent turn of events?  I have probably seen SDN48 live more than any other Western fan, and my love of Ohori Megumi has been well documented on this blog.  Despite all that, I am not sure how I feel about it.

On one hand, I am sad.  Of course I am!  I am sad because I always looked forward to seeing SDN during my many trips to Japan.  With AKB48’s growing popularity, there was always a good chance I would win at least of couple of SDN shows, even if I got shut out on the core teams.  In a way SDN48 was a sanctuary from all the AKB-craziness.

Not to mention the camaraderie I had developed with my fellow SDN fans.  We knew from the start that ours was an underdog team.  And while the masses pushed and shoved their way into every Team A, K and B show on the schedule, we knew we were experiencing the “best kept secret” at the theater.  We were not obsessed with the loli factor.  We had abandoned the illusion of idol chastity.  Not that it was all about the “sex” factor.  We related to these women on a more equal level because they were our peers.  We saw them for what they really were, adults.  Psychologically it freed the girls up to be themselves onstage.  At least I feel it did.  As a result every SDN show felt more like a party where everyone was involved and having fun.  The fans and the idols alike.  We were all partying together.

What about the girls?  Especially my favorite members?  Will this be the last time I get to say hello to Meetan?  Shake hands with Chaki?  Tell my favorite members how much I support them and am cheering them on?  I don’t know.  Maybe, maybe not.  But I will miss the opportunity I had to do that because it is an important part of the AKB experience.  I know on some level it sounds silly.  They are idols, and I am just one of many fans.  But when it comes to SDN, they have always been underdogs, and I think they really did appreciate the fans who came to see them.  I have been to many AKB-related events, and have shaken hands with many idols.  There is no better feeling than when you feel your support is being truly appreciated and even reciprocated.  Most of my favorite idols hold that position because I got that they appreciated me as much as I appreciated them.

So yeah, I am going to miss all that.  I am worried too.  Worried about what the future might hold for these girls…

Let’s face it, most of the members of SDN have turned the corner when it comes to being an idol.  In fact, that was part of the graduation announcement.  It is time for these women to begin realizing their dreams.  As far as AkiP is concerned, if that dream was merely to be in SDN it just wasn’t good enough.  He wants them to dream bigger, reach higher, go for the brass ring (and any other “ganbatte” phrase)

As for Meetan, she is much closer to 30 than 20.  I also realize that she is MUCH more talented as an actress than a singer.  AKB gave her a wonderful foundation.  Now it is time for her to fully spread her acting wings.  So far she has been doing a pretty good job.  She has acted in multiple stage productions, and she has appeared regularly on television.  She also has a damn good talent agency behind her in Horipro.  In a sense you could argue that being in SDN is holding her back.  The silver lining when it comes to “My Precious Tan”?  I feel confident she has the tools to have a fruitful post-AKB career.

When it comes to Chaki, I am not sure since I honestly don’t know what her future goals are.  She was a young gravure idol who sang in a small group pre-SDN.  She is a very good singer, and an even better dancer.  But is that the direction she wants to go in life?  I guess we will find out in due time.  I absolutely adore Chaki, and will truly miss her if I can’t see her anymore.

My guess is that we will see some of the girls acting, modeling, singing and “laughing it up” on variety shows (Hello Nachu!)  But sadly, for many of the members this will probably be the end of the line for them in show business.

So is this the “right time” to be graduating SDN?  I don’t know that I am qualified to make that call.  In the five years I have been an idol fan I have always said “trust the process”.  I don’t see this turn of events as being any different, even if it does involve a group I hold dear to my heart.  AkiP has chosen this moment for a reason.  Only he and the people close to him know what that reason is.  Although I doubt it was merely because “he doesn’t have time for SDN” as many have speculated.  This guy farts out idol units and concepts.  So it isn’t about time  And it isn’t about a lack of success either.  A failure???  Really?

To nobody’s surprise, this announcement brings out the self-titled experts who have deemed SDN to be a huge failure.  Per usual, most of these experts have never been within 5000 miles of the Donki.  They have never seen a show.  They have never met the girls.  They certainly have never been behind the scenes.  So how are they a failure?  Did AkiP call them that?  I don’t remember that blog post.  Was there an expectation that wasn’t met?  How do you know?  I don’t care how smart you think you are.  Unless you are part of AKB’s think-tank, you don’t know shit.  So thank you for your two-penny opinion.  Now stop talking out of your ass!

From where I am standing, the girls did exactly what they were asked to do when it came to SDN.  They worked hard, they put on a great show 2-3 nights a week at the AKB48 Theater.  They sold out every show, not to mention the fact that their tickets became harder and harder to win as time passed.   They put up respectable sales numbers for their singles.  They connected with their fans in a major way.  AND…they never had any scandals.  I fail to see the failure in that.  If there was some sort of goal that wasn’t being met, we as fans weren’t made aware of it.

There is obviously a lot more to be told in this story, and SDN’s management will reveal it in time.  We can all speculate about the future of the current members and the future of SDN48 as a brand.  But at the end of the day we are all just guessing.  In the meantime I plan on enjoying the group for at least another 5 1/2 months.  After that, we’ll see.

I will be heading to Tokyo next month for AKB48’s big handshake event, and I have plenty of Meetan, Chaki, Chen, Nachu and Akiko tickets.  So I will get to tell them how I feel in person.  Not to mention this farewell concert being planned.  I am definitely putting that on my calendar.

CK in California

2 thoughts on “Is There a “Right Way” to Disband an Idol Act?

  1. 100% agree, but I just wished I’d been able to see them perform before they disbanded 🙁

    On a different note, I think your twitter may be hacked. :s

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