NSK trainee Quiana gives you the rundown on how she thought each of the AKS groups performed over the last month.
|(=)||If you were hoping that a sister group would finally take #1 in the power rankings...well, this isn’t your month. AKB48 once again maintains their solid spot as August brings a multitude of new releases, announcements and activities. The highlight of this month was the release of the group’s annual sousenkyo single, “Kokoro no Placard”, which topped the charts and sold around 870,000 copies on the first day. That sales number is quite a drop from the last single, "Labrador Retriever", which sold about 600,000 more copies on its first day. Though the first day sales aren’t as desirable as a higher number would be, many are listening in on the sales numbers to see if AKB can hit that million mark in the first week; a dip like this is exactly what the group needs to keep its large presence up and about.
Besides "Kokoro no Placard", there’s also been quite a lot going on. After the Iwate slashing incident, AKB48 decided to seemingly (there was no official comment that it was a replacement) substitute a national handshake event with the AKB48 Group Natsu Matsuri. The event contained a variety of events, including solo member mini-concerts, fashion shows, talk segments and more. As a somewhat substitute for a national handshake, the Natsu Matsuri was pulled off well and had a great response from fans and attendees — management truly did well in maintaining the concept of “idols you can meet” while keeping security high enough so that the girls were able to participate safely.
In relation to events, August also saw the “Suru na yo? Suru na yo? Zettai Sotsugyou Happyou Suru na yo?” AKB48 Group Tokyo Dome Concert take place at, well, Tokyo Dome. Though the AKB group has held concerts at Tokyo Dome for the past two years, the difference this year was that AKB48 themselves had one day for an AKB-only concert in the venue of their dreams. Another interesting part of this concert was that though the title of the concert (which roughly translates to “You won’t? You won’t? You definitely won’t announce graduation, right?”) possibly hinted that a member would announce their graduation, but nobody announced their graduation. That was certainly good news in the eyes of the fans, but many were disappointed that there wasn’t an announcement that stood out at the concert.
As a continuation from the AKB x Baitoru campaign, AKB48 announced this past month that the group was looking for one part-time member to apply and participate within the group until February 2015 (with a possible 3-month contract extension after that). The winner would be paid 1000 yen (about $10) per hour for their work, but they must be at least a junior high school student or older. No other details have been announced since then, but since the campaign detail was revealed quite a while ago, it is safe to assume that the audition winner will be announced sometime in the next month or two.
The annual Janken Tournament, which was announced this month to be scheduled for September 17th has a twist this year: instead of the winner being center of the last single of the year, this time she gets to release her own solo single. If the winner has already released a solo single, then she will get to hold a solo concert; additionally, the 15 runner-ups will sing the coupling song for the member’s solo single. This twist on an AKB tradition is doing great for the group, but the part to pay attention to in the future is the response of the fans to the execution of the winner’s prize: positive or negative?
In the subunit department, there were two major announcements. One was that DIVA, which has changed their name from DiVA to DIVA, will release a single and an album before disbanding at the end of this year. The second was that AKB48 Team SURPRISE began a campaign to allow fans to “build a song”: through a website, fans will be able to choose the melody, lyrics and cover art of a future Team SURPRISE song. No further details have been released about the DIVA single and album or the Team SURPRISE event, though we can expect to hear more later this year.
Finally, in miscellaneous news: though they have not been made available to overseas users, the AKB x LINE Sticker campaign has finally bore some fruit — that is, in the form of LINE stickers. Members that ranked in the top 16 received LINE stickers with their faces as emotions as well as little catchphrases alongside them. Additionally, AKB’s producer Akimoto Yasushi as well as member Watanabe Mayu took part in the new social media trend, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. This is a move somewhat unusual to the ordinary AKB activities, as fans rarely see Akimoto himself in activities with AKB members besides the occasional appearance on All Night Nippon. Thanks to this, AKB’s social horizons have somewhat expanded, and are still a frequent topic not to be displaced in the next few months.
|(+3)||HKT48 makes a stunning comeback this month with a truckload of new activities — well, a truckload is somewhat overstating it. But the group has definitely picked themselves up, as this month the 4th single was announced, with the title and details being revealed on the 31st of August. The single, titled “Hikaeme I love you!” and set to release on September 24th, has had a slight lineup change: instead of the usual Tashima Meru or Meru x Tomonaga Mio centers, “Hikaeme I love you!” will have 1st generation member Kodama Haruka as the center. For Kodama, this is a great leap, as she has constantly expressed her feelings about having the center position once belonging to her being taken away so quickly. This also gives the many Haruppi fans (who helped her rank 21st in the sousenkyo this year) a long-awaited appeasement, and serves to bring HKT back to the front of the idol scene.
“Hikaeme I love you!” is not the only plus side of this past month: earlier, HKT held an overseas visit to the AKB48 Taiwan Official Shop. Not only that, but the group announced four more concert dates for their nationwide tour as well as two concerts in Taiwan and Hong Kong. For HKT, this is a big leap, as these are their first international concerts, and will do well to boost the young group’s popularity.
|(-1)||Nogizaka46 rises back up to its once-held 3rd place position with much on its back this month. The group’s 10th single, titled “Nandome no Aozora ka?” was announced, with center Ikuta Erika being revealed as the center, along with the release date of October 8th. Since Ikuta has taken a break from Nogizaka in order to focus on her studies, a comeback like this has been quite the talk recently, and is exactly the reason for Nogizaka’s jump to 3rd place.
Even though it’s just the beginning of Ikuta’s return to the group, another bout of publicity has been bestowed onto the group’s new center: Ikuta, along with fellow members Akimoto Manatsu and Hashimoto Nanami will star in a movie titled “Chounouryoku Kenkyubu no 3 Nin”, which held its auditions within Nogizaka46 back when “Kimi no Na wa Kibou” was released. Ikuta and Nogizaka46 are back on the rise, and their path is being cleared quickly with their rising popularity.
A downside to this month was the announcement that member Hashimoto Nanami was being hospitalized due to anaphylaxis. Nanamin has shown symptoms for a while and has been repeatedly hospitalized; hopefully Nanamin will recover and be able to return to her daily life in the near future.
|(-2)||SKE48 sadly falls back a few places this month, with both good news and sad news. Kenkyuusei Inuzuka Asana and Noguchi Yume were both promoted to Team S this month. Since Inuzuka has been a kenkyuusei since 2010, this is a great jump for her as well as Noguchi. However, another pair of SKE members announced their graduation this month: Kinoshita Yukiko and Kato Tomoko of Team KII both announced their graduation. Kinoshita decided to graduate in November, while Kato is planning for September.
Other than these four members, SKE has not had any large announcements lately, but as the end of the year comes closer, more can be expected from the sunny Sakae group to entertain and wow their audiences.
|(-2)||Likewise to SKE, NMB48 falls back two places this month due to lack of activity. The bright side (and somewhat the only side) of this month was the release of the group’s second album, “Sekai no Chuushin wa Osaka ya ~Namba Jichiku~” on August 13th. The album had favorable sales, topping the weekly Oricon album charts with around 325,000 copies sold. This number is just slightly less than the last album, “Teppen Tottande”, which sold about 328,000 in its first week but shows stability for NMB as the group grows larger. Sadly, this is the only activity for NMB this month; like the other groups, let’s hope that the remainder of the year brings more to fruition for the Namba-based group.|
How would you rank all of the AKS groups over the past month? Leave a comment and let us know!