Since its conception, AKB fans seem to be specially conditioned for radical changes. Every year brought on more surprises than the last, to the point where fans just learned to go with the flow and adapt accordingly, not unlike seemingly jaded New Yorkers.
As most of you know, Saitama Super Arena was the most recent concert venue for AKB48 which took place from March 23rd to the 25th, and as our previous training has taught us, we expected big announcements— but with a good amount of confidence. After all, we’ve endured a wealth of wacky and controversial announcements in the past. What could surprise us now? We had done our preparation: We dug the trenches, we set up our barricades. I was fairly confident that I could take anything this concert could throw at me. But now, as most of us know, it clearly wasn’t enough. Let’s chronicle the large announcements by day.
DAY ONE: Tokyo Dome
Tokyo Dome, one of the largest and most revered venues in Japan where only two female idol groups have performed in— is now primed for AKB48. The phrase, “Aiming for Tokyo Dome!” has been on the banner of the official AKB48 ameblo blog since the beginning, serving as a constant reminder and incentive. Going from thinking it was an extremely idealistic goal to knowing it was just a matter of time in the span of one or two years is a monumental feat all on its own. But upon hearing this announcement, something felt different. One of AKB’s best-held goals is now fulfilled; what now? Is the group going to end? Crazy graduations? But people have been speculating that at nearly every concert: those speculations slid off me like fashion sense on Miyazawa Sae. Signs of what to come were planted with this announcement, but I promptly brushed off the obvious foreshadowing.
DAY TWO: Expansions and Transfusions
Firstly, AKB48’s next single will be due in May 26th, called ‘Manatsu no Sounds Good’. An odd title, but I think most fans are just wiping their brows in relief that it’s not about yet another hair accessory.
Though not necessarily news, There has been official word that Team 8 is to be created. It was really just a matter of time; you didn’t think it’d end at team 4 did you? Speaking of Team 4, they finally filled the team out proper with five additional members, bringing the total count up to a full sixteen. Congratulations to Kato Rena, Kawaei Rina, Iwata Karen, Tano Yuka, and Takahashi Juri! The remaining reservoir of Research Students waiting to be promoted finally have somewhere to go with Team 8 in construction, and with plenty of strong members left, I hope to see it formed sooner rather than later.
This other bit of news is the first hard-hitting announcement: Matsui Jurina of SKE48 and Watanabe Miyuki of NMB48 will be temporarily moved to Team K and Team B, respectively. The lack of information is probably what’s driving people nuts, primarily the concern of the girls having to pull double-duty by doing both team’s theater performances and work, but I really doubt that is the case. The other question is how long this ‘temporary loan’ is supposed to be. The reasoning also wasn’t explained, which caused more speculation and confusion. As for me, I’m pretty excited about this. It’s not a whole lot different than what’s been happening in singles; having group representatives perform with AKB.
DAY THREE: The Bomb, Volcano, or Whatever
It has always been a large and threatening presence, the inevitable ticking time bomb: Maeda Atsuko’s graduation announcement. While the simmering volcano looked over the quiet town of AKB, the townspeople knew it was a fact of life. They just had to live with it and face the consequences should it erupt in their lifetime. Fans were always aware of Maeda Atsuko leaving, but easily shelved it to the back of their minds, as worrying about it all the time served no purpose. Then it exploded.
Hope you have your Graduation Emergency Kits ’cause you’re gonna need ’em. She announced that she would be graduating, but made it clear that she would be performing at the Tokyo Dome concert, meaning she is likely to be leaving AKB by this fall. I’ve always held my belief that Maeda Atsuko’s graduation would be the ultimate test for AKB and their fans, as whatever happens immediately afterward would start the dreaded decline or defy all expectations and keep steady.
So overall, the announcements have been juicy, shocking, and controversial; perhaps more than they’ve ever been. While being surprised and confused is pretty much expected, this is a mile stone in mind-fuckery shenanigans. It did a great job setting the tone of what’s to come, and letting us know that the landscape of AKB is going to forever change. Are you going to tag along for the ride?