Giant AKB48 Team Shuffle Craziness

At the first day of the big AKB48 Tokyo Dome concert, it was announced that there was going to be another Team Shuffle. I’m not going to go through every change here (if you haven’t seen the list of the new teams, you can go ) But there are a lot of changes that I want to talk about.

First off, I can’t say I’m too surprised about the concept of the team shuffle. The various teams have been kind of stagnant lately, and each team hasn’t had a new stage in years. Occasionally a few members come and go, but the theater is kind of stagnant and I can see Aki-P not liking that feeling. Furthermore, I was pretty confident that with Maeda Atsuko leaving the group that there would be some big change. However, a lot of things happened in the group.

Team 4 Disbanded
A big thing of note of this change is that the teams are all much larger than 16 members (over 20, now!) and that there’s no more Team 4. It’s a shame, because I know there were definitely some big fans of the Team 4 girls and people liked the lineup. However, I’m not too surprised about this. Team 4 was originally a big promotion of kenkyuusei who didn’t have room in the teams as well as being a more theater-centric team. However, they performed quite a bit at he theater (since by and large the members weren’t the popular ones) and it was an unbalanced team in terms of popular members. Now the girls are on the main teams. All the teams are larger now to accommodate the fact that some girls won’t be at the theater show (because of a prior engagement). AKB’s been trying to make their popularity work with the theater, and I really think this is a pretty solid move.

Members shuffling around
When the 2009 shuffle happened, while there were some pretty big moves (Itano Tomomi to Team K, for example) for the most part the core members of each team stayed where they were and there was a lot of shuffling around for less popular girls. It was still a hard shuffle to wrap your head around, but at least the core bits of each group stayed where they were, at least in my opinion. This changes all of that. Watanabe Mayu’s switch to Team A is probably the biggest shocker for me (she’s been the Team B face for years!); I’ve seen the hypothesis that they’re going to push her as the new AKB48 ace, but we’ll see if that happens. Some of the moves around teams are pretty strange, so it’ll take a lot of getting used to. However, Team B is now basically the team with all my favorites (except one, who I’ll talk about in a minute): Natori Wakana, Watanabe Miyuki, Iwasa Misaki and Kashiwagi Yuki are all my top 48 girls (except one) so I’m really personally excited to see what happens with Team B.

New Captains
This shocked me more than most of the team moves. Now Takahashi Minami’s the overall “general manager” (assuming this means the overall AKB48 leader?) Shinoda Mariko’s the Team A captain, Oshima Yuko is the Team K captain and Umeda Ayaka is the Team B captain. While all of these are weird to me (not having Takamina as Team A captain will be a major switch, but at least she’s the overall group leader), Umeda Ayaka as Team B captain is the biggest shock. I know they wanted to move the leadership around and the other biggest member in Team B switched to Team A (Mayuyu), but Umechan has been a part of Team K since the beginning and has no experience with Team B. This to me really seems like they’re trying to emphasize how different these teams are going to be; I have a hard time imagining Umechan ON Team B, let alone as the captain. It makes me wonder if they’re trying for a new team image, but it still feels like they’re trying to have Team K have the cooler image and Team B have the cuter image (with the additions of Mitsumune Kaoru to K and members like Ichikawa Miori to team B). So we’ll see how this ends up.

Lovetan to HKT48
This hit really close to home with me, as I’ve been a huge fan of Lovetan’s for years, since she was on Team B (and I complained about her move to Team A being too big a deal). From what I’ve heard she requested the move, which really surprises me as she does have close friends in AKB48 (even though she is pretty close with Sasshi). I can only hope this is good for her career and it lets her stand out in HKT48 in a way she hasn’t been able to stand out in AKB48 for a while. The giant drop of Lovetan’s ranking shows that she really hasn’t been able to shine in AKB lately, which is a shame since she’s a great idol and a great girl. I’m really interested to see how things go in HKT48 for Lovetan but only time can tell of how this move will affect her.

Miyazawa Sae and Suzuki Mariya to SNH48, Takajo Aki and Nakagawa Haruka to JKT48
This is the biggest shocker to me, that Sae and Mariyannu are going to the Chinese group and Akicha and Harugon are going to the Indonesian group. While I have nothing against JKT48, it’s always felt a bit separate from the other 48 groups; sure you have Melody performing in an Undergirls PV and you have some occasional crossover, it felt like a cover group. I guess this is trying to cement that these groups are part of the 48 family? However, so many questions are coming because of this. What about work visas? Language barrier? It just feels weird, but to me it also feels like this is trying to emphasize that AKB48 is trying to go global, for better or worse.

Tokyo Idol Festival Part 10

TIF is THIS WEEKEND! Excuse me while I cry and wish desperately about wanting to be in Tokyo. Also more acts were added. So now the list is 111 idol-related acts at TIF. Wow.

Saotome Yuka

While idol soloists certainly had their time of popularity (Matsuda Seiko STILL releases stuff even though IMO she peaked with Akai Sweet Pea and Natsu no Tobira), they are possibly the rarest act at TIF. While there’s cute girl groups, three member dance and vocal groups, and possibly anything you can think of, indie idol soloists are a bit rare.

Saotome Yuka is a soloist, indies and things seem to be going pretty good for her. She has a pretty popular Nico channel and a good amount of followers on Twitter. She’s an MC on a Nico show, is a regular on some internet radio shows, and is a regular net idol. However, her biggest break is doing the ending theme to the new anime ‘+tic Elder Sister” (that is, Plastic Elder Sister) “Watashi to Watashi ga Shitai Koto” which is her major debut (on Lantis). Getting a major debut is pretty huge, so that definitely puts her ahead of a lot of TIF acts in terms of career popularity.

Her voice is pretty typical in that it’s very high pitched and anime sounding. However, judging mostly by the PV, Yuka is VERY charismatic, energetic and has a real presence on camera. I honestly think that because of her skill in appearing on camera, her presence and her existing fanbase Yuka could become known, in the Anison world at least. Just from this short PV I really like her a lot, and I hope her career flourishes!

SCOOP!?
Idol group names are great. My personal favorite one is choice? (with that question mark, it’s like the group name is trying to be a philosophical question). However, SCOOP!? is certainly up there as a group name I love.

So remember Sanspo Idol Reporter being about, well, reporting on idols? SCOOP!? comes from 6 sports newspapers to further the interests of sports… through idols. SCOOP!? is a pretty new 6 member unit that has had its CD debut recently with “Kono Hi no Tame Ni,” which is a theme song for the London Olympics going on right now. So while I’m personally not a sports fan, this might be of interest to some of you who are following the Olympics more closely.

Interestingly enough the members of this group all seem to be older; the youngest was born in July of 1990, making her 22. However this makes a bit more sense as the PV for Kono Hi no Tame Ni is one of the stranger idol videos I’ve seen.
The song is really nice and a couple of the girls have really beautiful voices. The PV seems to start out fairly normally, as the setting is a press conference. It’s a pretty cute gimmick and allows for a cheap PV that fits the theme somewhat well.

However, during the bridge of the song, the manager (? someone running the conference) gets a dog to rip the front off from the table, revealing all their legs, which is a bit revealing since they are all wearing short skirts. The manager then convinces them all to spread their legs wide, giving the press an eyeful. I honestly have no idea if this is supposed to be humorous (a ‘yeah we get it’ from the tabloids themselves) or if it’s supposed to be controversial, but it’s a surprise to have this fanservice be a focus so late in the PV. It’s kind of strange, so I’d recommend you watch the PV, though perhaps maybe not the group.

Sexy All Sisters

This is basically #1 most memorable group I learned from TIF last year. So. Do you like fanservice? If you answered ‘yes’ to that question (no shame in that!) do you like over the top fanservice being the theme of your idol group, regardless of the quality of the group in any other areas?

If you answered yes to that as well, Sexy All Sisters might be perfect for you. In a weird way. Sexy All Sisters is a fanservice idol collective focusing on fanservice and just that. All the groups have some sort of gimmick and seem to be fairly disconnected from the rest of the group.

Bikyaku Sentai Slender: Bikyaku Sentai Slender is the group for girls who are, as assumed, slender and have beautiful legs (the name literally means “Beautiful Legs Squadron Slender”). Originally a 5 member unit (who released one single, Panty Stocking) they added four girls to be Bikyaku Sentai Slender DX, and released a DVD under this name. They wear cheerleading uniforms.

Bakunyuu Sangokushi/Bakunyuu Yankee: Apparently while these are separate groups on the Sexy All Sisters site, the members are all the same. It’s three members who all have large chests (which, since both of their group names are “big chest _____” that makes sense. The first group is kind of a sengoku-era “this would be racist if it was done by another country” group, and Bakunyuu Yankee is yankee themed. Japanese wiki claims that Mao (the member in blue) is a new half (trans* mtf) or a newhalf graduate, but I have no idea if that’s true. Anyone with better Japanese knowledge than me?

Anyways, Bra wo Sagashite is probably one of my favorite completely insane PVs.

D-Rive : Car themed fanservice with two members. Um, don’t know what else to say. They also have released one single.

Mune no Tanima ni Umore Tai X Sexy All Sisters have complicated group names, but this one refers to a tie in the valley of breasts. So yep, another chest themed group, this one is featuring waitresses! Like the others they’ve released one fanservice single (all these songs, btw, are written by a guy named “Stinky’O”. Classiest stuff).

Bakunyuu Koushien This is a group for members with big breasts (again, containing members of the other ‘bakunyuu’ groups) and their gimmick is baseball themed.

Pai Ranger Basically a sentai group. And there are boobs. Notable because their songs aren’t written by Stinky’O.

Shiri Girls: Shiri, more commonly used as “oshiri”, means “butt” so that’s what they’re obviously focusing on. Their profile pictures indicate they’re kind of a Girls Generation type group with a bit of a KPop image.

Only two girls are on the TIF page, and they seem to be from Shiri Girls, so who knows how many Sexy All Sisters girls will show up to TIF; also of note is that they’re really only performing with the late night groups that also features Ayaman Japan, KNU and so on. So basically, if any of these gimmicks appeal to you in some fashion and you really just want to look at big breasts, I guess you could find something you like with Sexy All Sisters. But if you care about anything else at all, you’d probably best find it elsewhere.

Takokusekigun

After the weirdness of Sexy All Sisters, Takokusekigun is pretty normal. It’s currently a three member group (it seems to have started with five members and whittled down to three) and the concept is they want to give the people of the world love with song. They’re also a group of half-Japanese, half-another nationality, which does make them stand out, at least physically, from other idol groups at TIF. It’s also worth noting that Takokusekigun literally means “Allied Forces” so that reinforces the international concept of the group.

So far they’ve released three singles, all with the word “Love” in the title. While their first single seems cuter (both songs, Love World and Love & Pop), their more recent things seem like they’re going for a more mature/cooler image than in the past. They’re OK at performing live, but nothing really extraordinary; their voices are good but not necessarily great. I like their second single, LoveSpirit, best, but none of their songs are IMO anything to write home about. I personally can’t really connect to this group (despite their pretty good concept) but if you like half-Japanese idols then this group might fit your interests!

W∞Anna

Is it just me, or are two member idol groups kind of rare? You have H!P’s GAM (and now Peaberry), you have YuiKaori, Circadian Rhythm and now W∞Anna. Even the blurb for the group on the TIF site says that the fact that there are two of them is unique!

The group is two girls named Anna (hence W Anna) and so far they’ve only released two singles (though they were recently included on an idol compilation album). They’ve actually been active as gravure idols, working together since 2008, but 2011 is when they debuted their first single. So they have experience working in magazines and TV but are new as singer idols.

Their first single, Joy to Ride, is incredibly autotuned which is a bit offputting. Since they’re also primarily a gravure unit it’s a bit hard to find something to hear if their singing is better. However, they seem really cute and fun in videos that aren’t PVs, and both Annas have a lot of personality and charm. So if you don’t care about music so much and you just want cute girls who have a lot of personality and also pose for gravure, you might like W-Anna