48G Grand Reformation: The Fallout

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Well the day of reckoning has been and gone (in Japan at least). How did it all turn out? Let’s analyze some of the more interesting outcomes as well as the implications going forward.
 

First off though before we begin, pretty spiffy header image right? Over nine thousand hours in MS Paint, etc. Not the worst effort ever for someone who hardly uses Photoshop, right?

Anyway, the 48G Dai Sokaku Matsuri happened as we all know. There were a lot of tears, a lot of shocks and some fairly…passionate fan reactions to say the least. What does it all mean though? Well hopefully I can provide a perspective from someone who is slightly removed from the situation. I’m not going to cover every line-up change because I’d be here for a month or more but I’ll try to hit on all of the major and more interesting points.

Okay, so can we all say that I was right with one of my predictions? The one where I said AKB would be plucking established talent from all of its sister groups? I mean, I guess I got the Matsui Rena thing wrong (more on her later) but I think overall I was pretty much on the money there. It wasn’t even that crazy of a prediction because everyone knew AKB needed help. Of course they were going to pick up your Miyawaki Sakuras, Yamamoto Sayakas, Tomonaga Mios, Shibuya Nagisas and all the rest. I would have been more shocked if they hadn’t.

Sadly it doesn’t really go both ways does it? The quality of AKB members getting placed into sister group teams is…a bit lacking to say the least. I mean AKB didn’t completely scrape the bottom of their massive barrel but they didn’t exactly give up anyone they couldn’t afford to lose either. I’m not really sure what Yamauchi Suzuran, Takashima Yurina, Sato Sumire, Fujie Reina, et al are going to bring to their respective new teams but probably not as much in the way of promotion and handshake numbers as the members going in the opposite direction.

It would be hard to argue that AKB didn’t come out on top after the shuffle and it’s exactly what I expected. They grabbed a bunch of sister group girls that they think might be worth marketing and then just pile shuffled the leftovers together a little. I’m not really sure how that’s going to play out to be honest with you.

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We could just end it there really but there are a few other points I want to get to before you can all start saying I’m “anti-AKB48” for the millionth time.

I mean, I’m pretty curious why a lot of people I see talking on Twitter, forums, etc think that concurrent positions are somehow the best thing ever now. I don’t think that many of them really worked out in the past besides a couple of exceptions, no? Take Kashiwagi Yuki for example, she’s concurrent with NMB now. How many times do you think she’ll actually make it out there for a theater show? I suppose the same can be said for a lot of the concurrent members that AKB picked up but I doubt many of them were selected with a raft of theater performances in mind. You do have to wonder how much each group is going to get out of their new guests.

That’s not to say that there’s no reason for these concurrencies to happen. It is mostly to do with selling singles, but you kinda have to imagine for a minute what the girls who are currently in these groups think of all of this. I mean, in some cases we’re talking of the potential of losing multiple senbatsu spots to people who haven’t been in the group for more than five minutes. We might even have instances of some girls being in three or more group senbatsu at the same time. I’m not sure that creates a very positive work environment, especially when we hear the old chestnut “your hard work will be rewarded” all the time.

Speaking of being rewarded for doing nothing, Jo Eriko is back and she’s in Team M now. I wish I was able to quit a job, go goof off for a year and then come back like nothing really happened. Sure she was only allowed back as a kenkyuusei at first but she got a special “audition” and it’s not like she’s been busting her ass to prove herself since her return. I guess all of those NMB kenkyuusei just learned a very valuable life lesson. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put in or how good you are. If you don’t have connections then you’re not going to go anywhere very fast.

Having said that a lot of kenkyuusei in other groups did get promoted which is nice to see. I mean it’d be great if they worked on what they already had a bit more first but I guess that’s just the nature of the business. Also kinda surprising but not really to see a good number of draftees get the nod and be placed into teams. That has to be fairly quick as far as promotions are concerned. Hopefully any kenkyuusei who didn’t get promoted don’t have too many hard feelings over that.

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Oh, how could I forget? All of the teams now have new(ish) captains and vice-captains. I never really bought into the whole captain thing so this isn’t much of a talking point for me. In the past a lot of the captains were hardly ever around anyway so the role seemed kinda silly if you really thought about it. Making a super popular member captain of a team, while great for marketing didn’t really serve the practical purpose that they were trying to imply.

I suppose that’s why they’re doing vice-captains now also. It makes the girls (in pretty much all cases fairly popular and busy) who are captains look a little less bad when they can’t be around all of the time to do whatever it is that they’re supposed to be doing. Those pep talks and…other things aren’t going to give themselves right? All of the vice captains are fairly middling in popularity too so they should have plenty of time to carry out their roles.

Some of the captaincies do raise a few eyebrows though. Parachuting Miyazawa Sae into SKE as Team S captain seems like a really strange move to me. As far as I understand she’s also still concurrent with SNH too? I’m not sure how she’s going to find the time for that while she’s off in China doing…whatever it is she’s supposed to have been doing for the past few years. That’s assuming she even takes the position in the first place.

That’s the thing you see, all of the girls have a couple of days to…appeal their new position? Voice their concerns? I don’t know what term you want to use for it but they can talk to management and…I don’t really know. Get told to go along with it or there’s the door? I guess we won’t know until it happens. It would rather undermine the whole event if a lot of girls were like “Yeah…naaah”.

Back to the subject at hand, I guess the other two interesting picks here are Kizaki Yuria (Team 4) and Umeda Ayaka (Team BII). Both permanently transferred from their original groups, into teams where they’re being given the role of vice-captain. What an interesting situation for all involved on those teams. I’m curious to see how the already established members of these teams react to their new overlords.

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There’s a fairly large elephant in the room that I’ve avoided talking about so far. That elephant would be Nogizaka46 who apparently were taking part in this shuffle even though they’re not supposed to be related to 48G at all. What a strange decision to make.

You know, considering the whole rival thing that was supposed to be going on between them and AKB? Well I guess that facade is well and truly dead now. They might as well just add a couple more girls and call it Nogizaka48 for all the difference there appears to be now.

Why is it dead I hear you ask (because apparently you haven’t been following anything to do with the shuffle). Well it’s dead because for one, Ikoma Rina just landed herself with a concurrent position in Team B. I suppose it’s great for her because I seem to recall her saying something about wanting to be in AKB somewhere back in the mists of time. It doesn’t really do much for any shred of legitimacy that the so-called rivalry had left though.

Things go two ways in most cases and Nogizaka have somehow managed to acquire the talents of one Matsui Rena from SKE. I guess she fits their overall image but this one is rather perplexing. Not that Ikoma Rina in AKB isn’t. Seems like there’s a lot of potential for backlash on both sides of the fence here. That’s if either girl even gets to do much in the way of activities with either group.

I can kinda see why they did it though, especially if they make Ikoma Rina (heck, just make it all of Nogizaka) eligible to participate in the upcoming general election. That’s sure to shift some copies because I guess it’s a given that Nogizaka fans will power vote her instead of their 48G oshimen? Hey, wouldn’t it be a hoot if they all voted for Rena instead?

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Now I’m going to try to tie this back into the article I posted the other day, before all of this upheaval happened and times were a lot simpler.

At this point I suppose I have to try to answer my previous question which was “will this shuffle actually solve all of the problems?” It is rather early to make any kind of definitive call either way but my gut feeling right now is, not really. It’s one of those “treat the symptoms but not the cause” situations I fear. All of the groups get a “boost” from the shuffle but a lot of it is coming from already known quantities or in some cases failed projects. I’m still struggling to see where the growth is going to come from.

I’m willing to be wrong though, maybe I’m just being overly pessimistic about things. Maybe I’m just being “anti-AKB” like you all like to say I am. Who knows, only time will tell really. This could be exactly what 48G needs to breath some new life into the project. People might even start taking interest in sister groups that they haven’t bothered with up until now. That would be pretty cool in my book.

What I do know is that this is another great exercise in marketing on the part of management. Everyone is taking about the shuffle and I’m obviously writing this article about it. Not that that means much in the grand scheme of things. I’m sure it’s going to be all over the news in Japan this morning too. Will we still be talking about it in a week? Probably not so much, but I’m sure there’ll be something else to bump gums about by then. There always is with AKS.

I think I hit on all of the really significant developments coming out of the shuffle. A lot of stuff happened so if you really want me to talk about something that I didn’t mention (or I missed something super significant), just let me know and I’ll ninja edit it in.

 
What are your thoughts on the outcome of the shuffle? Leave a comment and let us know!

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New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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