NSK trainee Quiana gives you the rundown on how she thought each of the AKS groups performed over the last month.
|(=)||Still at the top, AKB48 holds its position for yet another month with a wide range of activities helping the cause. Though this month’s haul is definitely more interesting than June’s. The highlight of this month was the first performance and detail reveal of AKB’s 37th single, “Kokoro no Placard”. The tracklist contains songs by the top 80 ranked members of the Senbatsu Sousenkyo as well as three songs by ""Sailor Zombie" idol unit Milk Planet, the 47-member Team 8, and the Otona AKB unit with Tsukamoto Mariko. Sadly, Tsukamoto Mariko won’t stay long after “Kokoro no Placard” releases as she ‘announced’ her graduation in a Glico commercial, though fans already knew that her contract with AKB48 ended at the end of August anyway. However, AKB48’s campaign with part-time job search company Baitoru is bringing along another semi-member (or part-timer), Hirai Megumi. She was revealed on the radio show All Night Nippon to have been scouted by Watanabe Mayu and Kashiwagi Yuki on the new AKB48 x Baitoru TV show, “AKB de Arubaito!” from a pool of five hand-picked girls. Sadly, no further details have been announced about her, so whether she will continue to work with AKB is still a mystery. But mysteries are good, for they keep the talk going on about AKB, and keep AKB high up as a hot topic.
Another campaign, "AKB48 x ANA Airlines", has been going on for over a year now but an event combining all 48 groups was announced for July 29th and members from each 48 group met in Shanghai for a fan meet-and-greet. Members Takahashi Juri and Kitahara Rie were sent from AKB48 and each other Japanese 48 group as well as JKT48 also sent one member, SNH48 sent four members.
Yet another campaign, this time with educational material company UCAN (titled “AKB Challenge UCAN!”) brought to light the comeback of Kawaei Rina, as she passed a medical cooking exam in a promotion similar to the pharmacy office assistant exam Yokoyama Yui took back in 2013. The handshake event slashing incident back in May caused Kawaei and fellow member Iriyama Anna to take a break from activities and Iriyama has not made her major comeback yet, though she appeared briefly in a Team A theater stage in July.
In talk of subunits, French Kiss announced their new single this month, titled “Omoidasenai Hana”. The song was announced last month as the ending theme to French Kiss member Takajo Aki’s new drama, but was only named as the title song to the new single in July. French Kiss is the first subunit to announce activities in a while after Not Yet’s album release a while ago, and will hopefully spark the fire for more subunit activity for the rest of 2014.
Finally, some unexpected news: First, an “AKB49 ~Ren’ai Kinshi Jourei~” (AKB48’s own manga series) stage musical was announced, casting ex-AKB48-turned-SKE48/SNH48’s Miyazawa Sae as the male protagonist (Urayama Minoru), AKB48’s Owada Nana and Kojima Mako as the female protagonist (Yoshinaga Hiroko), SKE48’s Suda Akari as a fellow Kenkyuusei (Okabe Ai), and SKE48 members Matsumura Kaori and Tani Marika as yet-to-be-revealed characters. In relation to the theater stage, Ishida Haruka and Fujie Reina (ex-AKB48 turned NMB48) were cast in the “Danganronpa” stage play as Fujisaki Chihiro and Asahina Aoi, respectively. Another surprise was Uchiyama Natsuki’s publishing of her book on the Japanese constitution, titled "Constitutionalism". The book was jointly written with Minamono Shigeru, who gave Uchiyama a two-day lesson on the Japanese constitution before she wrote the book. Interestingly, the book contains orthodox topics as well as somewhat pop culture-related topics, such as “Is the no-dating ban in AKB48 constitutional?”. Lastly, Team 8 announced theater shows at the AKB48, SKE48, and HKT48 theaters. The theater shows will span through mid-August, and the stage performed will be “Party ga Hajimaru yo”.
There’s a lot for AKB48 this month as well, and the group doesn’t seem to be budging from their first place spot. There is variety, however, so there’s a plus there for AKB. Hopefully things will continue going strong in the months ahead.
|(+2)||SKE48 makes a daring comeback this month for both favorable and unfavorable reasons. This month, 7th generation auditions were announced in cooperation with karaoke machine company DAMTomo. Auditions will be held at karaoke places and will be shown to the public, who can vote on their favorite girls to make it into the group.
SKE also got two new TV shows this month: “SKE Ebi-Show!”, which is a continuation of 2013’s “SKE48 no Ebi Friday” and is a parallel/crossover show with NMB48’s “Geinin 3”. “SKE no Kayou Arubaito Geikijou” also started airing, which is another AKB48 x Baitoru TV show about part time work (though SKE doesn’t scout members in this show).
Those pieces of news were both great for SKE, but what heightens the talk are the less positive updates from July. Two graduations were announced this month, for members Goto Mayuko and Owaki Arisa. Even more, SKE48’s newest single, “Bukiyou Taiyou”, only sold around 67,000 copies on its first day on sale and then around 87,000 copies on the second day. Compared to sales from 2013 and earlier 2014, there is almost a 400,000 copy drop from the height of SKE48’s first-day sales. This may have been due to the Avex label delaying shipments of theater version copies, but that large decline in sales is still a very worrying development in regards to the future of SKE48. If this pattern continues, the other sister groups may overtake SKE48’s position as “the second most successful 48 group”, and SKE’s dream of beating AKB48 may not be realized as soon as they hope.
|(-1)||The one-rank drop for recent powerhouse NMB48 doesn’t mean much this month, for there aren’t as many negative announcements as SKE48 had. This month, NMB received two new TV shows, similarly to SKE. “NMB48 Geinin!!! 3”, a continuation of the ever-popular Geinin series, kicked off this month; following closely was “NMB no Meccha Baito”, which is NMB’s new show in campaign with Baitoru.
July also brought about the beginning of NMB48’s national tour, which began on July 9th in Tokyo. The concert will wrap up in September at the Pacifico Yokohama venue.
Draft member Suto Ririka, who was set to perform with Team N during the tour, had to drop out due to retinal detachment and is now taking a break from activities. Kenkyuusei Takayama Riko, however, announced her graduation from NMB48, citing studies as her reason. These dark spots on NMB’s bright light can’t be ignored, but will likely be outshined later in 2014, with NMB’s album release coming up and more activities hopefully being announced.
|(-1)||Nogizaka46 seems to have quieted down in July when compared to the past few months. A high point was the release of “Natsu no Free and Easy” early in the month, which topped the charts and sold over 420,000 copies in its first week. The single sales of Nogizaka are a growing trend and add more to the group’s theme of “AKB48’s official rival”; if Nogizaka keeps on going like this, it may pose a bigger threat to AKB48 soon.
Ikuta Erika, a top member who took a break from Nogizaka to focus on her studies, announced her comeback to the stage with, interestingly enough, a musical titled “Rainbow Prelude”. Additionally, she will have a solid spot in the group’s 10th single senbatsu, which will be announced in August.
Other than that, Nogizaka doesn’t have much more to report on this month, but as the preparations for the group’s 10th single begins, much can be expected from the Nogizaka rising stars in the future. August will hopefully bring about more activity, and with it a rise in popularity.
|(=)||Hopes were high that HKT48 had brought themselves back to their former glory in July, but current activities show that the group is still in a slump of low exposure. The only major news that brought a little light to the young group was yet another AKB48 x Baitoru TV show; HKT’s version is titled “HKT48 Shakariki 48!”. The show is about the same as the other sister groups’ shows and focuses on HKT48 members working part-time jobs.
All in all, HKT had a disappointing last few months, and all that can be hoped for are new announcements to come in the next half of 2014. It’s a shame to see this group go from talk of the day to an occasional mention status.
How would you rank all of the AKS groups over the past month? Leave a comment and let us know!