Idol Hands Vol. 1

Welcome to Idol Hands! You might already know me from my Twitter account @maiyanee, but in this column I’ll be analyzing and answering your questions about the goings-on of the 48 and 46 idol world. What are the chances of your oshi getting a push by management? Why did one idol get into the next single senbatsu instead of another idol? Why do people even like centers, anyway? All that and more can be answered in this column!


Do you think Aki-P would ever make a sister group for Nogizaka46 ie another 46 group?

I don’t think so. Nogizaka46 was specifically labeled with 46 and not 48 because they were supposed to be a “rival” idol group to AKB as opposed to a sister group. They are also under Sony’s jurisdiction, and don’t have the traditional 48 structure of teams, captains, stages, or a theater. Aki-P thought this was a good idea, until he realized that there was no way to properly implement and monetize a rivalry between two of his idol groups that can’t participate in events together.

He then decided to officially bring Nogizaka into the rest of the 48 system through the Matsui Rena and Ikoma Rina concurrencies. There are fans who oppose the groups’ interactions, but it’s not like Nogizaka has never performed AKB songs before, and Mayuzaka46 is also something that’s happened. If anything, I think the negative reaction to 46 joining 48 is because Nogizaka fans don’t want to have to put up with all the events and shuffles and senbatsu power struggles that have become common occurrences in the world of 48. Toyota Team 8 and the part-time AKB are, in a sense, spiritual successors to Nogizaka46, in that they’re probably going to be the closest you’ll ever get to a “separate” 48 group these days.

AKB48 sales from “Mae Shika Mukanee*” to “Kokoro no Placard”: 114,251 drop. SKE48 sales from “Mirai to wa” to “Bukiyou Taiyou”: 58,642 drop. Also the other sister groups are dropping too. Do you think the downfall of the 48G has begun and that 48g won’t stay on top forever? *”Labrador Retriever” not included because of sousenkyo.*

I wouldn’t call it the “Decline and Fall of the AKB48 Empire” just yet, but it is apparent that the whole enterprise is in a bit of a slump right now. If you look at the statistics for 48/46 sales over the past two years, they’re for the most part either plateauing or declining. This is due to a million different things, but I think the main problem is that AKB is a business that primarily runs on gimmicks and novelty, and some of that novelty is starting to wear off. They’ve reached the top, and have exhausted the breadth of their market. AKB is running out of new fans to draw in, because everyone knows who they are now.

AKB realizes they’re close to not being the “next big thing” anymore, and so they’re trying to evolve and reinvent themselves to try and keep the gimmicks going. The problem is, AKB only has so many tricks in their playbook. You can only burn through your life savings voting in the election so many times. It would be interesting to see the ratio of casual to hardcore fans in AKB’s revenue, but my guess is that the gimmicks that attracted casual fans are starting to run dry, and they’re losing interest.

I think AKB can manage to keep scraping up a million copies sold for each single for another year or so. It’s anyone’s guess what’s going to happen to SKE, and it probably depends on how much hype the 7th generation will be able to create. NMB48 appears to be going strong, and they’re probably the most solid 48 group right now. HKT48’s sales are very stable, but might see a rise soon with the introduction of a huge Miyawaki Sakura push and the long-awaited sequel to Kodama Haruka’s “struggle”. Nogizaka46 is also pretty well-off right now, and are currently the most successful sister group. Looking ahead, SPR48 (Sapporo) will probably become popular because the Hokkaido region hasn’t been mined by AKS yet. AKB is faltering, it’s true, but it could very well be just because they’ve hit their ceiling.

So, what do you think about the Murashige Anna situation?

She’ll be back. I don’t fault her for having a scandal, but being so brazen about it and getting caught like that comes off as a little unprofessional to me. Which is somewhat to be expected, since she’s only 16, but the idol industry isn’t the nicest of places. It seems like HKT and NMB management are being exceptionally hard on her, removing her from both single senbatsu, but she still has a lot of opportunities to bounce back, and her fanbase seems willing to forgive her. I think management is still wrestling with what the proper code of conduct should be when dealing with scandals. If it’s a popular member like Watanabe Miyuki or Minegishi Minami, they can’t afford to fully erase her from the media, but they don’t want less prolific members to think they can get off easy either.

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Do you think Kawaei Rina is going to drop out of senbatsu in the next sousenkyo because of her absence from handshake events?

It hurts to say this, but it’s an entirely possible outcome, even disregarding how many other senbatsu/under girls members will have graduated by next year. Handshake events are a vital part of maintaining exposure and cultivating a fanbase, and even though Kawaei will probably still have a strong push from management her rank might drop a few places. Although, not to be callous or anything, but I wouldn’t rule out a wota campaign resulting in “charity votes” of sorts. As real as the trauma of the situation is, AKB is still a business dealing in the media. The incident isn’t going to be something people will easily forget, and empathy is a powerful thing. Kawaei is a strong new generation idol, and is definitely still going to be an AKB senbatsu regular, but her decision might have cut off some of her momentum.

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Do you think the management gives Watanabe Mayu all of these “simple, bland, uncreative” songs because she couldn’t handle the choreography of “UZA”?

That’s definitely part of it. I actually prefer Mayuyu when she’s doing cool songs like “UZA” and “Beginner” than when she’s doing cutesy idol songs, I think she looks and sounds better in them. You also have to remember that there are a significant amount of AKB fans that don’t actually like cool/dance songs and hate things like “UZA”. The decision to load up on inoffensive idol tunes for A-sides could have as much to do with management wanting to play it safe as it does with having Mayuyu center. Even when Matsui Jurina got to be center for an A-side, they gave her one of the most plodding AKB singles ever. Mayuyu is probably just the idol that fits management’s agenda the best.

 
That’s just what I think about these topics. My ask.fm account is available for your questions, but I’ll elaborate more on them using this article series. Did I miss or overlook something important in these answers? Do you disagree with any of the points I brought up here? Let me know in the comments!

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