Last year I said that the 2008 Shibuya AX DVD was the jewel in my J-pop collection. It is an amazing collection of four concerts, a photobook, bonus photos. It was well worth every penny I spent on it. Especially since the fourth night also happened to be the first time I had ever seen AKB48 in person. So ever since the 2009 concert was announced I had been anticipating the release of the DVD set. And as luck would have it…
The box set came out a few days before I got to Japan, which meant I wouldn’t have to jump through a bunch of proverbial hoops to get my hands on it. I could merely walk into the theater and buy my own copy. It was my first priority when I arrived in Tokyo…
1) Prove to the Japanese medical team that I didn’t have the swine flu
2) Get through customs
3) Check into my hotel
4) Jump on the JR to Akihabara and buy the Shibuya AX box set.
Luckily my plan went without a hitch. I stuck around for a little bit to watch K5 on the monitors, and got a little giggle out of the other fans spying my set! And what an amazing box set it is. Five DVD’s instead of four. So each night has it’s own seperate disc, and the “Making Of” disc is much longer. The photobook is much bigger, and nicer. And let’s not forget the concerts themselves…
I am going to format this review the same way I did last years’. There is no way in hell I am going to do a track-by-track of this monster. Just my top five faves of each night.
First Night, 100-76
Looking at the setlist, it is evident that AKB48 has hit the “next level” popularity-wise. What I mean is that the fans, even the casual ones are getting to know this group beyond the major singles. Last year most of their old hits were at the top of the list. But this year saw many of those songs much further down. What a surprise to see Boku to Taiyou (#7 last year) not breaking the Top 80. Yes, the fans are noticing that the real gems are hidden inside the theater and stage DVD’s.
It was great to see Michiru return with MaiMai to sing Haru ga Kuru Made (#94). It seems like ages ago that Michiru left Team A. My top 5 from the first night…
5) Kiss Shite Son Shichatta (#88, from B3) We lead off with an edgy song from Team B. Even if the music has a little bit of a “Ricky Martin” feel, I still love the chorus. As a whole, I still think that B are the best dancers. And I love that little Mayuyu scream (squeal).
4) Ki ni Naru Tenkousei (#84, From K3) This is an old favorite of mine. I love the Jan & Dean surf rock sound. Tomomi-chan is adorable on the first verse. And they all look so cute in the red tartan skirts.
3) Rider (#91, from A3) It is such a cheery song, sometimes it is hard to believe it was written in tribute to a fallen AKB48 fan. And it is a great plus to see Watanabe Shiho and Komatani Hitomi performing. And their white w/rainbow trim versions of the costumes are the best!
2) Return Match (#90, from K4) The funny thing is I didn’t like this song when I saw K4 in person. And I didn’t like it when I saw the “LOD” either. But I think the girls “rocked it” at AX. Sayaka is obviously fierce, and Nonti ain’t too shabby either. I just love AKB’s metelesque anthems…
1) Saigo no Seifuku (#77, B-side to Sakura no Hanabiratachi 2008) This is one of the most beautiful ballads I have ever heard AKB48 do. The guitar work is very pretty, and I swear it sounds like it was written by Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. It is right up there with “Aozora no Sora ni Ite” as the best AKB48 songs to bring a tear to your eye. I am still captivated by this song whenever I hear it.
Second Night, 75-51
Speaking of songs dropping on the setlist. How about the songs that didn’t make this years’ list at all? With all of the new stages, there were bound to be some good songs left out. I was disappointed that some of my favorites like Doku Ringo wo Tabesasete, Rio no Kakumei and Seishun Girls didn’t make it. But the biggest surprise may have been Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru. Isn’t that a trademark song? The second night also saw Aitakatta (#73) and Dear My Teacher (#68) fall far down from their Top 5 placings last year. But that is the great thing about AKB48 and their huge catalog. Even in the bottom half of the Top 100, there are awesome songs and performances to see.
By the way, the opening intro segment of the DVD with Kasai saying “Discu Chyuu” is one of the cutest things I have ever seen!
5) Erai Hito Naritakunai (#54, from K4) It was a tough call between this and Team B’s Futarinori no Jitensha for the final spot. But “Naritakunai” is part of that awesome opening set from K4. Once again, rock style usually wins for me. It has great hand gestures and fist pumps in the dance which are awesome for audience participation. Oh, and the camouflage skirts are hawt!
4) Two Years Later (#53, from B3) Once again I am impressed with the great choreography and “edgy” sounding songs from Team B. But what the heck was Mayuyu doing with her hand during her first verse solo? That was kinda trippy! I am quickly falling in love with a bunch of Team B’ers. Haachan and Moeno really impress me, as they are both a perfect mix of sexy and cute!
3) Mori e Ikou (#72, from H2) This is such an amazing song. So haunting and dramatic. I can’t think of another AKB48 song that is anything like it. And I love watching Takamina, she is so intense during this song!
2) Run Run Run (#51, from H1) This song was one of my favorite performances at last years’ AX shows. And I thought it was superb here too. It is just a great rock song, and the guitar riffs are very cool. I love the Himawari-gumi stages…
1) 16nin Shimai no Uta (#59, from K4) Not only is this my favorite song of the night, it is my favorite song of the entire setlist. It was genius to have the entire Team K act out their parts instead of using cardboard cutouts. And Meetan in the gold bikini is the “win of all wins”. They were all great!
Third Night, 50-26
Last year I thought 50-26 was the weakest part of the setlist. But this year it was just the opposite. It is filled with awesome songs. So much that I had the hardest time picking a Top 5. In fact, some of the songs I left our are among my favorites. Tsundere (#28) and Blue Rose (#50) are both kickass songs. Aozora no Soba ni Ite (#47) is one of my favorite AKB48 ballads. And I even left off my precious Meetan’s Amai Kokansetsu (#40)!!! Yes, the third night was amazing…
5) (Tie) Ai ni Ikou (#37, from K4) and Shiroi Shirt (#43, from B3) See, I told you I was having a hard time picking a top 5! And these two songs remind me of one another. Both of them are patented heartwarming end of the stage songs, complete with the girls waving to the audience. And “Shiroi Shirt” is where Team B came out with that homemade message (what the hell did it say?) on the back of their costumes. Actually, I like “Shirt” a little more, mainly because the rap interlude in the middle of the Team K song is sort of annoying.
4) 7ji12fun no Hatsukoi (#38, from A4) There was no way I was going to leave out Oh-yay’s Shibuya AX debut. I was so sad I didn’t get to see her perform there in 2008. Before I loved Meetan I adored Oh-yay! Tomomi is sooooo cute. I just love her awkward little way of dancing and singing. She is the former member I miss the most, and I am so sorry that I never got to see her perform in person.
3) Himawari (#39, from H1) I am beginning to notice that I love just about every song Sayaka and Nonti are involved in. You’d think they were my favorite members. Well, Team K IS my favorite team. Himawari is fun and intense. Sayaka pwns it!
2) Confession (#42, from H2) Another selection from AKB48’s “Kickass Rock song” collection. And they all usually feature Sayaka in the lead vocal. This is the second coming to “Blue Rose”, and hadn’t been matched until B4’s Itoshi no Natasha…
1) Kagami no Naka no Jean da Arc (#33, from B3) Another hard rock song. Anyone noticing a pattern? Well, I was a pretty big Iron Maiden fan as a kid. The staging and theme of this song reminds me a lot of Maiden. Running around the stage with a flag is a total Bruce Dickinson move! And “Jean da Arc” does have Tanamin in it. Although she is younger, she has the same rock n’ roll attitude possessed by Sayaka and Meetan. Miku needs to be utilized more. She is so great! (FYI, the audio commentary in the video is by Sayaka, Sae and Nacchi)
Fourth Night, 25-1
It is Team B ownage time! Who would have thought that Team B would dominate the final night of the Shibuya AX concerts? I don’t necessarily agree that Shonichi should have been the #1 song. But I still think it was pretty cool that it was. If for no other reason that it made for a great and memorable moment with the entire team (plus Takamina) crying tears of joy at the announcement. And it made me wonder how they coordinated the end of the show if the girls really didn’t know what the final order was. Obviously Kana didn’t really think that Kurukurupaa was the top song, that had to have been a joke. After all she was the only one dressed in the costume. (Hehe)
But when all was said and done, all of the Top 25 songs were great, and totally deserving to be there. There were so many I was sad not to include, including Maria (#7), Temo Demo no Namida (#3) and the uber-cute Tenshi no Shippo (#18). Awww, Gussan! And by the way, my fave song of the night was a Team B song…
5) Wasshoi B (#23, from B3) This is one of the most fun songs ever done by AKB48. I love singing along to this! And it shows off how cute Team B is…WASSHOI!!!!!!!!!!
4) Aishita wa Aishita no Kimi ga Umareru (#8, from Chocolove) Rinatin is just adorable! Although I like this song a lot more accompanied by the PV. It was still great to see it performed at Shibuya AX. I would have liked for them to do the full song. It is too bad they cut out the MC after the performance. I remember reading that it was really good.
3) Oshibe to Meshibe to Yoru no Chouchou (#11, from K4) I soooo wanted to make this #1. And I thought I would when I started. I love both Meetan and Kasai. And Oshi/Meshi might be my all time favorite AKB48 song. It is Meetan’s tour de force. The look on Ohori’s face during the speaking part is priceless. But as great as it was, it wasn’t my all-time favorite performance of this song. (I loved the NHK hall version) And I thought my top 2 selections were both amazing. But the kiss at the end? Unbelievable!!!
2) Saishuu Bell ga Naru (#5, from K4) Once again, a kickass song from the first set of K4. I cannot wait for that Stage to come out on DVD. Team K was on fire for this. All of them do a great job with their individual lines, and the dance is great. That is a perfect example of why I love Team K…
1) Junjou Shugi (#9, from B3) This is all about Haachan, and how unbelievably great she is. Actually, I adore Moeno and Matsuyuki too. This is such a great song, and such a sexy performance. That red dress Haachan wore was very hawt. I have always said my favorite team is K. And K4 is my favorite stage. But there is a lot to love about B. They are great performers, and Akimoto-san writes them some great material. Haruka has been rising on my favorite member chart for a while now. And I am now declaring her my favorite Team B member! She is a perfect mix of sexy and cute. And I love her nose! (hahaha)
Finally done. (Sigh!) This is why I don’t do a full review of every track. First of all, I think it would bore the reader. Second, it took me over four hours to write this. And that didn’t include all of the time spent watching the DVD’s. But that’s okay, it is a pleasure to watch over and over. I would love to go back to Japan for a Shibuya AX show. They are amazing. The only thing missing is the “theater experience” that makes AKB48 so unique. This DVD set is the most expensive J-pop item I have ever purchased. But it is totally worth it. And I love owning a copy! If you have the means, I highly suggest adding it to your collection.
I have loved AKB48 for a couple years now. But it was the 2008 AX box that made them my favorite group. And the 2009 version is even better. Please watch it if you want to be blown away!
CK in California