We’re only a couple of days out from the 48G “Dai Sokaku Matsuri” and for the most part I’ve been keeping my thoughts on the matter to myself and a couple other NSK staff members. Well since it’s topical and very current, I figured I’d put together a little post on my worries, concerns, hopes, fears, all that good stuff.
Check out what I have to say below.
I suppose I should start this controversially titled piece by saying I don’t actually want this shuffle/reformation/whatever to fail. I want it to happen and have a very positive and more importantly a very successful outcome. 48G doing well means the idol industry as a whole does well so I in no way wish failure on any 48 family group. What I want to happen and what actually is going to happen are two completely different things however, and I’m not so sure things will play out the way I hope they will.
In my ideal world, this event will happen and it will ultimately make things more interesting. It will hopefully sort out the problems that AKB and NMB have with their lead teams being wildly imbalanced compared to the rest. We’ll also see a lot more of the girls trapped in the middle who get very little exposure currently and overall things just won’t be as top heavy as they are right now. It would be a complete restructuring from top to bottom and this could all happen without any permanent or concurrent transfers even happening. Again, these are only my hopes and I have very little hope that it would actually go down this way.
What I can actually see happening is that they actually probably will do a fairly major shuffle of AKB48. Team K needs a lot of help right now that Yuko is leaving (among other reasons), Team A has all of the best girls and apart from Kashiwagi Yuki, Shimazaki Haruka and Watanabe Miyuki who even knows who is currently in Team B? Things need balanced out and I think management realizes this so if I was a betting man this would be an outcome I’d be fairly confident of putting the house on.
Why stop there though? Might as well get some new concurrent (or even maybe permanent) members in. Since AKB already has most of the more established young talent from its sister groups (Kodama Haruka, Matsui Jurina, Yagura Fuuko, etc), so it isn’t a stretch that they’ll go after some heavy hitters to shore up their line-up. There have been rumors of Matsui Rena and Yamamoto Sayaka being drafted in and at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me. I’m not sure what they’d bring to their respective new teams or stage performances that they would hardly ever be present for but it’ll add to AKB’s prestige and that’s probably more important to management than anything actually practical.
As far as the sister groups go, all bets are off (unless you’re NMB48, but more on that later). I genuinely believe that anything could happen and that they probably haven’t consulted much if at all with any of the girls that they’ll be shipping off to god only knows where. The attitude in SKE certainly doesn’t seem very positive right now, that’s for sure. Saito Makiko posted on her Google+ that “hey…if we’re not fine with it, we can just quit!” Hardly a reassuring or encouraging view of the situation from someone involved. You have to wonder what the fallout from the results of this event might be. Matsumoto Rina is already leaving to focus on her studies and the shuffle hasn’t even happened yet. How many more will join her if they don’t like the situation they end up in?
If I was a sister group I wouldn’t be expecting much coming their way in regards to new concurrent members from AKB48. It’s not like we’ll see Shimazaki Haruka in HKT48, Kojima Haruna in NMB48 or anything like that. Maybe Kato Rena will get farmed out to someone so they can finally bury her push once and for all but that’s probably the extent of what we’ll see. I’m not saying these members won’t bring anything to these groups but it’s hardly a fair trade (in terms of popularity anyway) when AKB gets Yagura Fuuko and NMB gets Ichikawa Miori.
We also have to consider the practical implications of any speculated shuffles (permanent or otherwise). The majority of HKT48 are simply too young to be sent anywhere full-time so that’s off the table for the most part. They’ve also just recently shuffled their teams so don’t expect too much on that front either. Then we have NMB48 who are owned by Yoshimoto and like to do things to the beat of their own drum. Maybe we’ll get the long asked for NMB group shuffle but management has been murmuring about only doing some more concurrent positions so let’s not expect anything too crazy there. Given how directionless SKE48 seems lately, maybe they’ll get stripped for parts for other groups. Maybe they’ll get some new members to bolster the ranks, I’m not sure. SKE is the biggest wildcard right now for me, anything can and probably will happen there.
I’m not really factoring in any of the overseas groups when I’m writing this. Maybe some concurrent positions will be cancelled (Miyazawa Sae for example) and new ones handed out but I just don’t know. Unless they want to go for a major shock factor I think this is a fairly inconsequential part of the overall shuffle discussion.
Okay so we have logistical issues, unhappy girls, unhappy fans and the unlikelihood of “fair” transfers, among other things that are going to doom this shuffle to failure or at least make it not as “grand” as a lot of people are expecting. That’s not even the biggest issue though, that issue my friends is chronic mismanagement of talent.
What do I mean by that? Well if you’re part of a 48 family group, you either have to be a known quantity or the hot new model on the market. Known quantities have a track record of being marketable and able to bring in money while the new kids on the block can be hyped to the moon and marketed like that for a year or so until it either works out or doesn’t work out. If you’re neither of these you’re practically irrelevant to anyone who isn’t the most hardcore of fans. My buddy Drako touched on this in his article the other day but I really want to drive this point home because it’s so important.
You can transfer the entire AKB48 roster to Nagoya and you could send SKE48 in the opposite direction, it doesn’t matter if you’re mismanaging your talent. They can go as crazy as they want with these shuffles but if they don’t fundamentally change how these groups are managed it’s not going to mean much in a week’s time.
What’s happening right now is that a lot of the established top talent is moving on to other activities. That’s fair enough but the problem is that there isn’t anyone who can actually step up to replace them right away. This is because, especially in AKB the middle of the roster has been left rotting for the past however many years. You’re statistically better off being a kenkyuusei in AKB48 than a member who has been there for 3, 4, 5 years which is insane. They’re going to reach a point eventually where there aren’t going to be enough popular members left to be able to take a year to push through “the next Maeda Atsuko” or “the next Oshima Yuko”. You can’t just have a really strong top 15-20 girls and a bunch of projects, you need a strong core too.
SKE48 suffer from the same problem in that a lot of their popular members are hitting their mid-20s and aren’t going to be around forever either. However, their teams are pretty solid after that shuffle they had a while back so there isn’t a huge issue on that front right now (unless they decide to shuffle again). No, SKE suffer from a much bigger problem and that problem is “who even knows that many SKE48 members?” Just think about it for a second. Outside of Jurina, Rena and maybe one or two others, what casual fan can actually name any SKE members? They’re not on television that much, their endorsement game is seriously lacking and it’s usually the same faces that get the magazine shoots all the time. It’s quite frankly a miracle that they manage to sell 400-500k singles every outing. They’re probably the best example of terrible management on the part of AKS right now.
NMB48 have amazing marketing, they’re on television in Osaka a lot, tons of promotions, work with famous people, the list goes on. That’s what happens when you’re with an agency like Yoshimoto I guess. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though because unless you’re in Team N or are fortunate enough to be one of the handful of non-Team N girls who get some spotlight, you’re not going anywhere fast. How many of you reading this can name a member of Team BII who isn’t called Yabushita Shu or Kusaka Konomi? Not many I’d wager and that there is the problem that NMB48 have. They’ve got pretty much everything else covered but promoting their lesser known girls seems to be a huge problem for them for some reason. That really needs to change or they’re going to be in some trouble in a couple of years.
HKT48 are interesting in that the group seems to actually be working quite well. They recently shuffled things around and made a new Team N and a Team KIV who both seem pretty strong on the face of it. They get a lot of television and product deals and heck, they’re even promoting a lot of the less well known talent. I don’t know if this is due to Sashihara’s influence or just the fact that they’re still a young group and mistakes of the past have been learnt or maybe they just haven’t had enough time to make too many major mistakes. In any case they’re doing pretty good right now and are probably the best example of good management in the 48 family. Man, that’s a really weird thing to say.
Okay so we’ve established that there are a ton of problems that need to be figured in the 48G, none of which a shuffle is going to solve. You can try to be hopeful that this will be some kind of fresh start and things will be better now but there’s a track record and it’s not great. You also can’t get away from the fact that what they’re doing right now is making a ton of money so why would they even feel the need to change things?
They don’t even have to deliver on commitments anymore. In the past year or two, AKS has made a rather bad habit of announcing stuff and then not doing it. Pennant races, school systems, new stages, we’ve pretty much heard it all at this point. There’ll be an announcement of some awesome thing that’s being planned but when you think about it the details are always sketchy, the dates changed at the last minute or complications arise and it gets shelved, never to be spoken of again. It’s pretty hard to have any shred of faith in the management following through these days.
Do I think something similar will happen with this shuffle? Well no, not really because as far as we know the event is actually happening. Will it be exactly as advertised? Maybe, maybe not. You can’t really say until it happens. Will it be good for all of the groups in the long run? Like I said in the beginning, I want to believe it will but I’m sure the reality won’t deliver quite as positive an outcome.
Ultimately though, the results of this shuffle event don’t matter, at least to AKS. This is really just another in a long line of exercises in creating a buzz around the group in the media, online, wherever. As long as they get some decent exposure from this and it keeps people interested in the groups, it’ll be considered a success. Even if it only lasts a week, that’s enough time to get them to the next batch of single releases and the buzz can be built up all over again.
Will the fans see it as a success? I guess only time will tell on that one.
Do you have any thoughts or predictions on the outcome of the shuffle? Leave a comment and let us know!