During the Spring Shuffle, not only was the senbatsu for the new single, “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai”, revealed, but members were shuffled, removed, or added to the already existing AKB48 lineups. In the midst of all these announcements, one member announced graduation that night. That member was Kawaei Rina. The official reason given for her graduation was her wish to pursue a career as an actress. However, it is hard not to see that this announcement came due to the stress and issues that arose from the “Iwate Incident”. Her graduation speaks volumes of something that AKB48 management has failed to do: that is take into account the psychological issues one faces on a daily basis.
Let us recap the Iwate incident. This was the incident I wrote about here where a man wielding a saw came to a handshake event and proceeded to slash both Kawaei Rina and Iriyama Anna. Security staff and others were attacked as well. All who suffered injuries eventually healed and the man wielding the saw is currently serving a prison sentence. What was not talked about were the psychological wounds that Kawaei and Iriyama faced that day, wounds that take much longer to heal than cuts on one’s hands.
Kawaei Rina announced graduation because of the newly reinforced fear that came with the Iwate incident. Fear is something that can be learned. The fear of this incident happening again is something that may have sparked in her mind. This is issue that must to be addressed with professional help or, at the very least, a strong support system. It is clear that she needed some sort of behavioral therapy to ease up the fear that came with the Iwate incident. It could be anything, from negative reinforcement to systematic desensitization. There are a myriad of things that could have helped her recover psychologically. Sadly, management did not care for her psychological issues and we have the current outcome.
Think of all the current and former AKB48 members who experienced psychological issues with ranged from depression to anxiety. Minegishi Minami. Sashihara Rino and Iriyama Anna to name a few. Even Maeda Atsuko experienced depression issues during her tenure with AKB48. None of them received any sort of professional help from the management and I am assuming Kawaei Rina was not given the help she needed either.
I mean, look at me as an example. I experience some anxiety issues during everyday things in my life. Whenever I go to work, I am always afraid of making mistakes, because not only do I suffer from feelings of indignity, but I get affected by work associates who tend to say things and talk trash if I am too slow at certain positions, or miss one, two, or thirty things. The anxiety becomes so bad that I spiral into depression and basically feel like I want to cry my eyes out for being such a horrible worker. The funny thing is the psychological issues I have are by no means as bad as what Kawaei Rina has. I may be struggling at my hospital job, but she escaped a near-death situation.
To end, I just want to say to Kawei Rina: Thank you Kawaei Rina for all you have done for AKB48. You made the sousenkyo senbatsu last year and your “baka” inspired character was hilarious and cute at the same time. It is pretty unfortunate that you will not face off against my Nogizaka46 oshi in Wada Maaya to determine who is the most “baka” of them all, but I wish you the best in your future endeavors and wish you the best in your journey to become an actress!
Also, try to get the therapeutic help you can if the resources are there. It is a shame that AKB48 management never considered psychological issues. But maybe this piece I am writing will send a message not just to AKB48 management, but to a lot of people who seem to brush it off:
Psychological issues are pretty damn important.
AKB48 shuffles their lineup…again.
This year we did not see the silly shuffles of past years such as “Nishino Nanase to Team A”, “Matsumura Kaori to Team H” or “Matsui Jurina to Nogizaka46”. Nothing like that happened this time around. Rather than repeat those questionable decisions, we instead see several members lose their concurrencies, gain new ones to AKB48, or get sent to other AKB48 teams.
Keep this in mind: This is more of an opinion piece on the shuffle and who has been affected. This piece may go over certain members who got moved and certain members who are no longer part of AKB48. It may read as a bit scattered and unorganized, but this is coming from someone who can only name like, half of the main AKB48 lineup, and that is not including Team 8 or Baito AKB members. Let me use what I know!
Let’s start with the kennin members. Several concurrencies ended with the spring shuffle, from Yagura Fuuko and Kotani Riho ending their tenures with AKB48, Takayanagi Akane and Kashiwagi Yuki ending their tenures with NMB48, to Tanaka Natsumi and Watanabe Miyuki ending their tenures with SKE48. That’s not all though, the concurrencies that caused the most controversy ended as well. Ikoma Rina is no longer a part of AKB48, and Matsui Rena is no longer a part of Nogizaka46. This one-year experiment came to a close, and now Nogizaka46 can continue their work without the connections to the 48 groups (though Kojima Haruna may have something to say about that).
Here are some of the new members announced to AKB48 as kennin members. Welcome back Watanabe Miyuki, as she is granted a second stint with Team B. Yabuki Nako is also a part of AKB48 now, which was a surprising choice given how neither Tanaka Miku nor Tashima Meru had their chance with AKB48. Nako gets the kennin first, and if her concurrency remains successful, perhaps Miku and Meru will have their chance too.
Team A gets Shiroma Miru as a kennin member. I had a bit of a feeling that she would get a kennin with AKB48 given how much gravure and media exposure she has had in the past year, and giving her a senbatsu spot on “Kibouteki Refrain” reinforced that thought. Unfortunately, she acts as a replacement to Yagura Fuuko’s spot on Team A. Miru is getting pushed tremendously and Fuuko is starting to lose some of her spotlight because of it. It is unfortunate to see that because I honestly feel really bad for Fuuko. She could have been sent to Team 4, but instead she lost her kennin altogether. Sadly, that is how management sees things.
As a Shiroma Miru oshi (given how Yamagishi Natsumi is long gone), I am really stoked for Miru and what she’ll do during her tenure with Team A. This may mean more gravure and perhaps an AKB48 single senbatsu spot or two. Also, this could mean that Miru may rank as high as undergirls this year for sousenkyo, but that’s a story for another day.
Kitagawa Ryoha gets a kennin with Team 4. After becoming center for “12-gatsu no Kangaroo” alongside Miyamae Ami, she gains a concurrency with Team 4. It is likely that she may be the next face of SKE48 should Matsui Rena graduate (and that has been hinted at; Rena is not participating in sousenkyo this year). Just like Tashima Meru and Tanaka Miku, perhaps Miyamae Ami may be a part of AKB48 someday.
There are other kennins that honestly make no sense. Nakano Ikumi, Yamada Nanami and Sakaguchi Nagisa are kennin members with Team K, Team A and Team B respectively. What makes no sense is that these three members are all part of AKB48’s Team 8. This sparks the idea that Team 8 seems more like a separate entity among AKB48, and is a sister group in the disguise of another team. If anything, sending all of Team 8 to Niigata would have been a better option, rather than making them seem more separated than they already are. Team 8 could very likely have been NGT48 in disguise! Speaking of Niigata…
Here are two members who have been revealed for NGT48. Kitahara Rie has been transferred from AKB48 to NGT48 and will serve as the captain of the franchise. Kashiwagi Yuki will now be a kennin member with NGT48 since her concurrency with NMB48 ended. Sending Kitarie up to Niigata will spark possibilities for her, since she has not make senbatsu since Labrador Retriever. She could take the Sashihara Rino route and become the face of the franchise along many up and coming members. As for Yukirin, giving her a kennin with NGT48 makes no sense. She won’t exactly be there all the time, but at least she’ll be there in the NGT48 senbatsu right? Yukirin does not need to have a kennin to keep her fans, her popularity, her senbatsu spots, and her sousenkyo votes; she’s done that with AKB48 for years now.
The only thing I can see with NGT48 would possibly be a somewhat older idol group, which hasn’t been done since SDN48 or the Ebisu Muscats. I have no idea what is in store for NGT48, but that is an educated guess given how Kitahara Rie and Kashiwagi Yuki turn 24 this year. Or, Kitarie and Yukirin may have to babysit a bunch of 12-14 year old Niigata idols like Sasshi did with HKT48 for a few years. Again, there’s no telling what will happen with this group. We can only sit back and relax.
Yokoyama Team A
Now let’s get to the newly shuffled teams. Team A remains largely unchained with a few welcome additions to help bolster the lineup, such as Miyazaki Miho, Owada Nana, Ogasawara Mayu and Hirata Rina. I always saw the Team A lineup as the most balanced, with a mix of up and coming members, early generation members, and a few kennin members. However, Team A just got a new captain.
Your newly appointed AKB48 General Manager, Yokoyama Yui, has become the captain of Team A. Team A now has both Yokoyama Yui and Shimazaki Haruka in the same lineup, so you 9th gen fans and/or YuiParu fans can now rejoice. Team A looks like it will be one of the strongest lineups among AKB48. That can’t be said for the next team, which didn’t solve the problem it had last year.
Minegishi Team K
Team K now has my AKB48 oshi in Minegishi Minami as captain to replace Yokoyama Yui. Muto Tomu joins Team K to bring her back with Tano Yuuka. Mukaichi Mion also joins Miichan from Team 4 to Team K. That’s all fine and dandy, but the same problem that affected Team K still affects it now, albeit worse than last year.
Yamamoto Sayaka and Matsui Jurina are still the faces of this team.
Don’t get me wrong; I love Sayanee and Jurina. But they are the faces of NMB48 and SKE48 respectively. They become the faces of Team K simply because they are kennin members, which means AKB48-based members of this team lose senbatsu spots, especially if the senbatsu is the traditional 16 members.
The four faces of Team K who aren’t kennin members are Miichan, Mion, Tanochan and Tomu. They all made senbatsu for the upcoming “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai” single, so there’s hope for non-kennin Team K members. But ask yourself this: for the upcoming election, do any of these four have a shot to crack the Top 16? It pains me to say that because this team has my oshi (she ranked pretty high last year at Undergirls and looks like a dark horse for senbatsu this year). But there was only one AKB48-based Team K member who cracked the Top 16 during the sousenkyo last year. She’s with Team A now.
Kizaki Team B
Gone are the days of Kuramochi Asuka as captain of Team B. Straight out of Team 4, Kizaki Yuria has been appointed as the new Team B captain. New members of Team B also include Iwasa Misaki, Tatsuya Makiho and Kato Rena, among others. The team overall feels relatively the same, with Watanabe Mayu and Kashiwagi Yuki still as the faces of the team. The new kennin members seem like great additions as well.
However, maybe this was me, but I somewhat got used to Ikoma Rina on the AKB48 lineup, especially on Team B where she blossomed. As a Nogizaka46 fan, yes I was surprised with the shuffle to send her there. I got used to seeing her in AKB48, seeing her make the sousenkyo senbatsu and seeing her team up with Watanabe Mayu during some concert performances. It is going to be different without her, and I know that she learned an awful lot during her year on Team B.
She’ll make senbatsu on Nogizaka46 and that’ll be a lock unless she graduates, but gone are the days of Ikoma Rina at center, especially when Nishino Nanase, Ikuta Erika, Shiraishi Mai, and maybe Hashimoto Nanami look primed to be the upcoming centers for singles.
I think this is me saying thank you Ikoma Rina for everything you did on Team B. Keep rocking the Nogizaka46 lineup!
Takahashi Team 4
Let me say this about Team 4 before I get on with the new additions. I always saw this team as a farm system for AKB48. In sports like baseball and basketball, a farm system is a team that is meant to give experience to younger members so that they could move on to higher levels. The kenkyuusei system technically does this, but that’s supposed to train members to be regular members of AKB48. Team 4 trained members to become the next faces of the entire AKB48 franchise. Think of the members who were a part of Team 4 before the spring shuffle. Kizaki Yuria. Mukaichi Mion. Kato Rena. Think of the members who were and still are a part of the team. Komiyama Haruka. Nishino Miki. Okada Nana. At least one of them will be the next face of the franchise come 2017 or later.
With Minegishi Minami as the leader, it seems like she was the senior member the younger members could look up to for guidance on how to navigate AKB48. This made for one of the most powerful lineups on AKB48, with up and coming idols, a motherly 1st gen leader, and the fan support to back them up. Heck, Team 4’s “Seijun Philosophy” was also the #1 track during Request Hour 2014!
This time around, Minegishi Minami has moved to Team K and the lineup is now led by Takahashi Juri. I’m going to be honest, but I have absolutely no idea how this lineup will turn out. I don’t know that much about Takahashi Juri, but I do know that she has fan support and I’m guessing her fans will love seeing her lead at captain. I have no idea what her leadership qualities are like, but she has a year to prove herself. Perhaps this lineup will surprise a lot of people this year?
Also, Team 4 may be missing an idol to represent the entire team. Team A has Yokoyama Yui, Shimazaki Haruka, Takahashi Minami and Kojima Haruna. Team K has Yamamoto Sayaka and Matsui Jurina. Team B has Watanabe Mayu and Kashiwagi Yuki. Heck, Team 8 has Nakano Ikumi. With Team 4, the face of the franchise looks like someone transferred from another team. This looks like it can be Kojima Mako’s team when all is said and done, since she too is an upcoming member who will represent the entire franchise in the near future. Maybe the same can be said for Kawamoto Saya, who made senbatsu for both “Kibouteki Refrain” and “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai”. Perhaps she can be the next face of the team if she plays her cards right. Who knows?
There you have it for the new teams. Again, this was meant to be an opinion piece on the members who got switched out. What were your thoughts on the shuffle? Did your favorite member get shuffled to another team? Let us know in the comments below.
AKB48 has recently released their newest single titled “Green Flash”. With every single comes a boat load of songs that come based on what version you buy. For example, the Type-A version could have a song with a specific unit, while the Type-B version could have an exclusive song by SKE48. It all depends on which version you ultimately decide to pick up.
Each type of “Green Flash” single gives you two exclusive songs in addition to the title track. There are five versions of the single available: Type-A, Type-S, Type-N, Type-H, and the Theater Edition. If you catch on quick you'll notice that there is an exclusive song by SKE48 in the Type-S version, an exclusive song by HKT48 in the Type-H version, and so on.
But which songs out of this single are the best? Let me give my two cents. I won’t give any scores for each song, but rather just what comes to my mind when I play them.
AKB48 – “Green Flash”
Yes, the lead track has your favorite AKB48 senbatsu members rapping. They may not be as good as NERDHEAD or m.flo, but at least they’re trying right? Regarding the video, for a song that was supposed to center Kashiwagi Yuki and Kojima Haruna, you really don’t see them that much, compared to other members such as Matsui Jurina or Shimazaki Haruka.
Overall the song is pretty good. I get this half J-Pop vibe and half R&B vibe which has not been done too often with AKB48. The lyrics also give a very positive message of never giving up when times are tough, and never giving in to anxiety when it seems like the world is on your shoulders. Maybe I need to play this song a lot more. I have anxiety issues from things like work and graduate school applications, so yes this song does help me overcome anxiety issues.
AKB48 – “Majisuka Fight”
Okay, so maybe I got into the AKB48 scene a little late, and never took a look at the Majisuka Gakuen series. We are nearing the end of the 4th season, and yes, this is the opening song for Majisuka Gakuen 4. Does it fit the series as an opening song? It does its job.
To me, this sounds more like an opening for a detective drama than a drama where a 16-year-old idol beats the living hell out of the student hierarchy. This song may or may not wow you, but all in all it does its part as an opening theme.
You should also take a look at Majisuka Gakuen 4 if you never got the chance. Miyawaki Sakura does her best Christian Bale-like Batman impression throughout the whole series.
AKB48 – “Yankee Rock”
This is more like it. This song serves as the ending theme of Majisuka Gakuen 4, and is a lot more intense than its opening counterpart. The emphasis on electric guitar definitely gives this song a lot more adrenaline than “Majisuka Fight”. Heck, doesn’t this song make you feel like weight training at the gym or starting a fist fight outside a school?
This song could have served as both the opening and closing theme of Majisuka Gakuen 4, and I honestly wouldn’t be complaining.
AKB48 – “Haru no Hikari Chikadzuita Natsu”
Before I say anything about the song, have you noticed the lineup? This is an AKB48-only senbatsu that has no kennin members or members from different groups. No Yamamoto Sayaka, no Matsui Rena, no Miyawaki Sakura. Only AKB48 based members. This is kind of a big deal because this has not been done for a long time.
Overall, this is a bright, bubbly, synthesizer-oriented J-Pop song with Watanabe Mayu at center. You may mimic the dance choreography for giggles, but to me, it’s good to see Kitahara Rie and Minegishi Minami back in a 16-girl senbatsu lineup.
The strength of the song oddly does not come from the song, but rather the lineup. You have the up-an-coming members (Mukaichi Mion, Kawamoto Saya, Owada Nana, etc.), the faces of the franchise (Watanabe Mayu, Kashiwagi Yuki, Shimazaki Haruka, etc.), and the early gen favorites mentioned earlier with Kitahara Rie and Minegishi Minami. This may not be the song that stands out, but the senbatsu lineup for the song sure does.
NMB48 – “Punkish”
Yamamoto Sayaka is a badass.
Yes, this is a Yamamoto Sayaka-centered NMB48 coupling song, and there’s a punk rock vibe that goes with it. It was kind of easy to figure that out with the song title “Punkish”, but the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I play this song is a mosh pit where everyone is pushing each other. Or maybe riots in the streets after a concert or something.
Usually some of the coupling songs can make it as full-fledged singles. SKE48 had theirs with “Escape”, since that was a coupling song with the “Kimi wo Hohoemi wo Yume ni Miru” janken single. NMB48’s “Punkish” is good enough to be its own single. This song is fun to play, it gives you a rush of energy, and it showcases how Yamamoto Sayaka is a badass.
The video looks like a punk rock-based version of “Kokoro no Placard”. At least, that’s the vibe I’m getting. But basically, if you love Yamamoto Sayaka, you will love this song.
Let me reiterate: Yamamoto Sayaka is a badass.
HKT48 – “Otona Ressha”
There seems to be a consistent trend with HKT48’s songs. It’s not that they all sound the same because no I’m not saying that. What I can say is this: this is your throwback idol group with most, if not all, of their songs sounding bright, bubbly, an easy to hear synthesizer and a guitar solo.
This song does not change this trend. Is the song bad? Absolutely not. This is what HKT48 does best. Maybe it is just me, but I am getting vibes of a brighter and bubblier “Hatsukoi Butterfly”. It’s fun and upbeat, and that’s really all I can say about it.
I am still waiting on HKT48 to get their own version of a single or coupling song like “UZA”, “Kamonegix”, “Seifuku no Mannequin”, or “Escape”, mind you.
SKE48 – “Sekai ga Naiteru Nara”
Whoa…what is going on?
I think the strength of this song comes from how twisted, dark and confusing the video is. Because the first thing that comes to mind when I’m playing the song is…a haunted house. I have no idea if this is just me, but if this song did not have a video, then that would be the first thing that comes to mind.
But there is a video, and yes it’s even creepier than a haunted house. You may have to watch the full video a few times to understand it, because it’s twisted, intense, and fun to watch.
This is one of the fast paced coupling songs and is pretty enjoyable in its own right. It isn’t the best song SKE48 has to offer (because “Escape” takes that title and it shouldn’t even be close), but it’s still a pretty good song.
AKB48 – “Hakimono to Kasa no Monogatari”
Here’s your piano ballad. It is a pretty soothing sounding song. Will you cry when you play it? Not exactly. The video however, might make you cry. The preview video is only over a minute long and I was almost tearing up.
We have heard our fair share of piano ballads and they seem to round out a set list of coupling songs. With the hard hitting “Punkish” and “Yankee Rock”, and the bubbly “Otona Ressha” and “Haru no Hikari Chikadzuita Natsu”, this song stays smack in the middle as a powerful ballad. This song is relaxing and tells a story.
This was also the theme song for NHK’s “Minna no Uta” program for a few months.
AKB48 Team 8 – “Aisatsu kara Hajimeyou”
The entire video takes place on a YouTube spinoff. This was a clever idea and gives you a vibe that shows the Team 8 idols are people too, who hang out with their friends and seem to do dorky things now and then.
The song itself is not terrible but it seems to be the weakest of all the other coupling songs. Again, this song is not bad, but it sounds a tad generic and doesn’t exactly stand out. Much like Team 8 themselves.
Probably the biggest reason why this song is a tad bland is because I can’t tie it in with anything else the few times I do listen to it. With the other coupling songs, it’s pretty easy to do that with or without a video. But if you are a Team 8 fan, you may find it pretty enjoyable.
That just about does it for “Green Flash” and its coupling songs. I am missing one song, “Hatsukoi no Oshibe”, but I don’t exactly have the song on me and the song doesn’t have a video attached to it. Also I don’t know a lot about Tentoumu Chu! or Kabutomu Chu!, but if hope that someone I know has the Theater Edition so I can play it one day.
Which song was your favorite? Which song did you dislike? Let us know in the comments below.
…but wait. Wait a minute.
Someone else had a release in March you know! She may not be classified as an “idol”, but she is a major staple in the J-Pop industry. Maybe she may not be as massive of a staple as AKB48, but still pretty powerful in her own right.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – “Mondai Girl”
Yes, I had to review Pamyu’s new single. I couldn’t pass this up, even if she isn’t tied with AKB48.
Let’s start with the song. There’s more of an 80s new wave vibe compared to some of her other hits. This is by no means a “PONPONPON” or an “Invader Invader”, but it’s still fun to listen to. Honestly, this song could very well fit in the 80s if Kyary were born in 1963.
As for the video, it’s just as wild as her other works. It does seem like Kyary is maturing, as she is no longer that weird, childish girl when we first saw her in “PONPONPON”. There’s honestly a bit more risqué things here and there, such as censoring what seems to be a nude Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
I wish Kyary had more songs like this, with the 80s style new wave vibe. This seems to be a staple that can work for her, and she can be like Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons or something. Kyary certainly can pull that off, with her own kawaii grotesque spin on things.
March has a boatload of new songs released, not only from AKB48 and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, but also from Nogizaka46 and SKE48 as well.
There’s a lot to look forward to!
AKB48 has expanded in recent years. They have sister groups to the west of Japan in Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and an upcoming sister group in Niigata. But Yasushi Akimoto decided to change things a little and bring a group billed as a “rival group” to expand the 48G brand. Enter Nogizaka46: the first rival group of AKB48 that does things a little more differently than AKB48 and their sister groups.
Nogizaka46 got their name from the SME Nogizaka building which is what houses Sony Music Japan’s office. The number “46” was a direct challenge against AKB48 and their sister groups, because the number signifies that even with fewer members than AKB48, they will not lose. Their logo is of a triangle which measures 46 degrees. Nogizaka46 is also known for having more conservative gravure photos that are not too revealing, as opposed to AKB48 who often favor bikini gravure. There are instances where this trend is broken (such as in Nogizaka46’s first photobook, Nogizaka Ha) but overall the gravure stays conservative.
When the first members were announced, some of them had an intended rival member from AKB48 to continue the “official rival” trend of the group. Hashimoto Nanami’s rival was Sashihara Rino, Ichiki Rena’s rival was Maeda Atsuko, Akimoto Manatsu’s rival was Kojima Haruna, and so on. The first generation had a total of 36 members making a debut, and a senbatsu that included members such as Ikoma Rina, Hoshino Minami, Ikuta Erika, Shiraishi Mai, and so on.
Their first single, “Guru Guru Curtain” was released in February with Ikoma Rina at center. She would represent the center position for a number of singles, including “Hashire! Bicycle”, “Seifuku no Mannequin”, “Oide Shampoo”, and “Kimi no Na wa Kibou”. It was not until the 6th single in “Girl’s Rule” where management decided to switch Ikoma Rina out of the center spot and offer it to other members of the group, such as Shiraishi Mai, who became the center of “Girl’s Rule”. Since then, other members, such as Ikuta Erika, Nishino Nanase, and Hori Miona, have been selected at center.
Speaking of Hori Miona, she, along with 13 other members, made their debut with the group in May 2013 as the 2nd generation “kenkyuusei”. Miona was the first to get promoted to a regular member, with other members (such as Kitano Hinako and Shinuchi Mai) promoted along the way. It was not until the 3rd Anniversary Live where all of the 2nd generation members were promoted to regular member status.
Regarding the concerts, Nogizaka46 had their first tour in August of 2012, with their first duo of concerts in Osaka and Nagoya. It was at the Nagoya show where they announced the arrival of 16nin no Principal, a musical consisting of all members. In February 2013, Nogizaka46 threw a concert for their first anniversary. It was held at Makuhari Messe. Their second tour expanded not just to Namba and Nagoya, but also in places such as Hokkaido, Tokyo and Fukuoka. Nogizaka46 also had a Christmas-themed concert at the Nippon Budokan titled the “Nogizaka46 Merry X’mas Show”. Outside of these, Nogizaka46 also has mini lives, which at times may only have undergirl members who do not make senbatsu.
Nogizaka46 has always separated itself between AKB48 and their sister groups, always clearly establishing themselves as the “rival” group. But in February 2014, a couple of announcements changed the face of the group. During the AKB48 Group Daisokaku Matsuri, it was announced that SKE48’s very own Matsui Rena would be the first member to receive a concurrency (kennin) with Nogizaka46. Likewise, Ikoma Rina was also selected to have a kennin with AKB48 on Team B. This not only devastated the other members once the announcement was made, but it changed the face of the group forever, as the term “rival group” was all the more questionable. But it all worked out for Ikomachan, as she and her fellow Nogizaka46 teammates helped her out at the time of the 2014 AKB48 Sousenkyo election, where Ikoma Rina made senbatsu at 14th place. Likewise, Ikoma Rina has never missed an AKB48 senbatsu lineup since her kennin has been announced, and Matsui Rena has never missed a Nogizaka46 senbatsu lineup since she became a member of the group.
The announcement of the concurrent members in Rena and Ikomachan was one of the most controversial moments of Nogizaka46. The group itself is not without its other controversies. For starters, the video for “Oide Shampoo” was frowned upon for a section of choreography where the idols can be seen lifting their skirts so as to reveal their petticoats. Likewise, the choreography as a whole was considered too sexually suggestive for an idol group.
Some members have also had their fair share of controversies. Matsumura Sayuri was caught up in a scandal that involved dates with a married man. There is a strict “no dating” policy that Nogizaka46 holds, and Sayuringo essentially broke this policy. This was the first time Nogizaka46 faced such controversy, but Sayuringo apologized on a radio show and most of her actions were forgiven. The only real punishment she received was an appearance at the back row of senbatsu for the upcoming 11th single. Her controversy however, was not the worst the group had to endure. Yamato Rina was also caught in a scandal with a man, also breaking the “no dating” policy. It was made worse when she had another scandal where she was caught drinking under the legal age in Japan. The consequences of her actions went as follows: she had her group birthday celebration cancelled (all members of Nogizaka46 get some sort of birthday celebration during handshakes or similar events), she was not allowed to participate in concerts (such as the Merry X’Mas Show 2014), and the day after her 20th birthday, her contract was terminated and she was essentially fired from the group. It was Yamato Rina’s actions that arguably caused Nogizaka46 to get snubbed out of the NHK Kouhaku lineup.
But amidst all the turmoil that hit Nogizaka46 late in 2014, this group is still holding strong. They have experienced nothing but increases in sales from the 1st single to the 10th single. Two members already have solo photobooks out with one of them a model for the fashion magazine Ray since 2013. One member is a piano virtuoso who even represented Tokyo in a national competition. Several members were even members of other J-Pop groups before joining Nogizaka46, such as CHIMO, SPLASH and Seishun Joshi Gakuen. Basically, there is plenty to love about Nogizaka46. Whether it is their style of doing things that rivals that of AKB48, whether it is the mix of powerful ballads for singles (such as “Kidzuitara Kataomoi” or “Nandome no Aozora Ka?”), or whether it is a certain member that sparkles in the spotlight, Nogizaka46 is a fantastic J-Pop group that everyone will enjoy. I should know, since they are my primary J-Pop group as of now.
I heard about this group because I ran into photos of a very attractive lady named Shiraishi Mai on Tumblr. I wanted to find a little bit more about her, and then I found out that she was a part of the group Nogizaka46. Because the other group I followed was about to disband (Ebisu Muscats), I needed another J-Pop group around that could succeed the Muscats. Keep in mind that I was anti-AKB48 at the time (most of the pure Ebisu Muscats fans were), and when I found out that Nogizaka46 was the “rival group” of AKB48, I got hooked. I then found out about the various members and their list of songs to give a listen to. While the first Nogizaka46 song I listened to was “Oide Shampoo” because of the controversy surrounding it, that song was not my all-time favorite Nogizaka46 song. This was, because it makes me want to go running for some reason.
Eventually I found a favorite member. After soul searching and some difficult decisions, it was clear to me that Wada Maaya had to be my Nogizaka46 oshimen. I selected her because she was…different from the rest of the Nogizaka46 members. She had that little sister vibe, she was courageous on her journey to become an idol, and she has a funny side that was found on Nogizaka46’s TV Show, “Nogizakatte, Doko?”
She is by no means as popular as a Shiraishi Mai or an Ikuta Erika, but she has a niche of fans that like her fair share of antics. Remember that episode of NogiDoko where she became the #1 Baka member of Nogizaka46? If you haven’t seen that episode you should check it out, because Wada Maaya will make you laugh at least once! That’s something to be proud of. That girl always makes me smile whenever she has the spotlight. Since it’s so rare for her to get the spotlight, it makes those moments easy to treasure.
One thing I want to bring up is the idea of the “rival group”. Ever since the big shuffle that sent Ikoma Rina to AKB48 and Matsui Rena to Nogizaka46 both as kennin members, the line has been blurred to determine whether or not this is another sister group or still a rival group. Honestly, I see it as both a sister group and rival group. I see it more like an intercity rival that you can interact with through member transfers and concurrencies. The best example I can give you is the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox: two intercity rivals that can still make trades for players should the opportunity rise. That is essentially how I see Nogizaka46. They can compete against AKB48, but if someone from AKB48 or a sister group would transfer to Nogizaka46, it would not be as surprising as it was a year ago. Besides, Nogizaka46 just had another interaction with AKB48. There is this subunit of AKB48’s Kojima Haruna and some Nogizaka46 members, such as Ikoma Rina, Saito Yuuri and Nagashima Seira. Try to guess who I was excited to see in this video:
But I still love Nogizaka46 and still love how they were able to succeed the Ebisu Muscats as my favorite J-Pop group. Their CD came out not too long ago and there are some amazing non-single tracks to give a listen to (such as Ikuta Erika’s solo piano ballad). Their new single, “Inochi wa Utsukushii” is a very powerful sounding single that puts piano scales at the right moments. This group is still holding strong and look poised to take NHK Kouhaku 2015 by storm. I am excited for what the future holds for this group of amazing idols!
Before I begin, let me explain a bit of terminology. Amongst AKB48, their sister groups and idols in general, “oshimen” is used to describe the member you want to support the most out of the whole group. You want this member to get a push from the management, and everything this member does puts a smile on your face, whether it be from their blog or Google Plus posts or seeing them during a live concert. Another term is “oshihen”, which is when you switch your original oshimen out for somebody else for a variety of reasons. This is generally frowned upon in the 48G community.
When your oshimen announces graduation, it is a very sinking feeling. That one member you have supported for quite some time and that one member you cheer for whenever she is on screen, suddenly announces graduation and will leave her group in a matter of time. I wrote earlier on how there were a slew of graduations announced with some of the biggest names leaving their respective groups, such as Yamada Nana and Furukawa Airi. But that is not why I am writing this.
As you may have guessed from the title, Yamagishi Natsumi has just announced graduation and will have her graduation concert March 12th. If you don’t know who Yamagishi Natsumi is, she’s a member of NMB48’s Team N. She is known for being the strawberry girl, akin to Ichikawa Miori’s love for lemons, albeit not to that degree. Natsumin has made senbatsu only once during her tenure at NMB48 for the “Oh My God!” single. Her closest friends among NMB48 are Jonishi Kei and Kawakami Rena. But she’s graduating from NMB48 to pursue a career as a magazine model.
I know a lot about Yamagishi Natsumi as she was one of my favorite members among NMB48. She was not exactly as popular as Yamamoto Sayaka or Watanabe Miyuki, but she had her fair share of fans and Twitter/Google Plus followers. She was an amazing idol to follow if you ever got the chance to. However…that is not why her graduation announcement hurts more than it should.
Let me tell you a story. Throughout the latter half of 2014, I will admit that I was kind of growing bored with whatever Natsumin was up to. The only times I did get to see her were on her Google Plus page or if NMB48 had posted a video of Natsumin and other members doing something, like translating a word or what not. Simply put, it was kind of hard to have her around as an oshimen, since she did not get the recognition that other members had. Someone did, and this someone caught my eye.
There was this girl in NMB48 who got pushed by management. She had gravure photos left, right and center and she even made AKB48’s senbatsu for their single, “Kibouteki Refrain”. NMB48 Management even made her the center alongside Yagura Fuuko for their single, “Rashikunai”. This girl caught my attention and I didn’t even know why at the time, other than that she’s beautiful, flirtatious, and her birthday was one day before mine. She also drank ketchup out of a bottle! Who does that?
Simply put, this new girl I started to like somewhat made me forget about what Natsumin was doing. I was thinking about this new girl literally every time I played something by NMB48, and she was easy to follow due to her push from management. Don’t get me wrong; I paid attention to whatever Natsumin was up to scrolling down Google Plus or what now. But I was slowly losing sight on what she was doing because of the new girl and her antics. It became to the point where I smacked the “oshihen” button and moved Natsumin out of the way for this new girl.
Then the announcement came. No one really saw it coming and now Natsumin is out of NMB48 by next week. Simply put, I feel bad that I oshihened from Natsumin to the new girl. I feel bad that I never paid that much attention to Natsumin in the latter half of 2014, and I feel bad that I essentially took her for granted. I don’t know if a whole lot of fans will miss Natsumin, but I know I will.
The only thing I can do now is support her down the line in her modeling career and future goals. Maybe I may see her again on the cover of Larme Magazine with Triendl Reina or something. But for now, I have to support her in NMB48, at least until the 12th.
I’m basically writing this to say that I’m sorry for oshihening. It’s almost a proverbial sin among the 48G to do it, and when the idol you oshihened from announces graduation, it hits you like a slap in the face. I still like that new girl I mentioned and still have her as my NMB48 oshimen. I’ll still support what the new girl does given how the she is going to be the face of the NMB48 franchise should Yamamoto Sayaka or Watanabe Miyuki announce graduation. But this post is not about the new girl; this post is about Natsumin.
The lesson learned here today is that you probably shouldn’t oshihen. You should support a member through thick and thin and not bandwagon to somebody else, just because they seem to be more popular. The temptation is there with management pushing certain members with gravure and senbatsu selections. But lead yourself not into temptation, because you never know when a graduation announcement will happen.
If I wanted to leave one last message to Yamagishi Natsumi, it would be that I’m sorry for oshihening. I enjoyed everything you did to help NMB48, I enjoyed your Google Plus posts, and I wish you the very best in the future!
◆ Rin Rigoni