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.
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.