NMB48 Members: Choose Your Favorite!

October 9, 2010

AKB48, SKE48, and SDN48 have a new ’48 group’ joining them: NMB48.  It was all surreal and full of  uncertainty when it was announced, but it’s become all the more concrete with television coverage of NMB48 auditions and the announcements of names who made the cut.

The NMB48 site has put up a members page with everyone, so you know the drill; time to pick your potential favorites and memorizing their names and nicknames!  The image below provides the members with their info, with the members I have hopes for circled in red:


The Twilight Zone

October 7, 2010

After hearing about everything Atron and David experienced in Japan, it definitely sounds like a surreal experience.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like visiting Japan ever since I’ve grown to like their media, specifically when I witnessed Japan’s girl group AKB48 skyrocket in terms of popularity.

A place where AKB48 posters are regularly hung on the sides of buildings and singles can be bought in any music establishment?  A place that has an official store where I can buy goods directly without an expensive middle-man?  Where their magazines and photobooks are casually lain about in a 7-11?  It’s definitely not the world I live in.  Even throw-away fliers for various merchandise baring the sacred ‘AKB48’ logo feel like they have some sort of value simply because they don’t exist outside of Japan.

While I have to scour and look for whatever media my favorite idols appear in through the internet, all I would need to do in Japan is turn on the television.

Such thoughts were even more punctuated when I came across this Japanese commercial for the XBox 360’s ‘Kinect’.

It’s a pretty funny commercial, parodying old ads from the 70’s and 80’s, complete with antiqued audio, questionable dubbing and a grainy-bleached aesthetic; but the casual inclusion of SKE48’s Matsui Jurina and Matsui Rena had me doing a double-take.  Was that really them?  In a ‘Kinect’ ad?  I bet the general public didn’t think much of it, but that’s what’s so funny; how the ordinary becomes extraordinary just because I live across the ocean.

It All Comes Back to ‘AKB48’.

October 2, 2010

The past is always more fondly looked upon than the present.  The most enjoyable part of any fandom is usually at the beginning.

Everything is fresh and interesting; every new tidbit learned about your new hobby is like opening a present wrapped in the shiniest, most attractive gift wrap.  It really is unfortunate that years down the line, or maybe even sooner, it’s easy to become jaded and find yourself indifferent to a lot of news or events that would otherwise be exciting.

The most fun I’ve had in my AKB48 fandom was learning about individual members and listening to their immense library of songs for the first time; catching what I can on Youtube and any streaming sites, reading blogs, watching unsubtitled AKB variety shows trying to understand everything through context and demeanor, and grabbing hold of every precious subtitled material available.  I discovered this group in the fall, and the following winter vacation consisted of nonstop, looping marathons of this stuff and stuck with me ever since.

AKB48 is currently the largest and most successful female idol group.  It’s absolutely absurd how swiftly they became popular.  Selling a modest 20k copies on average for the first eight or so singles, it had jumped to an astounding 90k with the release of ‘Oogoe Diamond’.  With the sales climbing with each single, selling on average 130k copies, there was nothing else we could have asked for.  But just four singles later, ‘RIVER’ was released, doubling their previous sales with 246k sold.  A ridiculous number of singles have been selling ever since, doubling again and again until finally seeming to plateau comfortably at 650k, and carving themselves a place in Japan’s music history.

Having followed 4-5 years of material from AKB, it’s easy to lose sight of their humble beginnings.  We fans complain about petty things and are quick to criticize, like we know how AKB should be run and know what’s best for the members.  In these times of consistent success, we grow complacent and are harder to impress, even taking things for granted.  Being a group with many girls, there are fan disputes, displays of blatant favoritism and even belligerent attitudes towards some members of AKB, signs that they’re losing sight of how they came to like AKB48 in the first place.  The next song or stage is no longer “awesome!” and becomes  “typical”, “too different” or “doesn’t feature my favorite member enough”.

With all that, and AKB48 currently saturating the japanese market, having tons of news to sort through and media to keep up with makes it easier than ever for me to potentially burn out and have my enthusiam dwindle; but luckily I have a secret weapon.

There’s one particular song that instantly brings back all the emotions, excitement, and unparalleled bliss that I felt when I first discovered AKB48, and that song is:

Yes, the song is named ‘AKB48’, an encore song from Team A’s first stage from 2005.  This is the first song I’ve heard from their theater album, and instantly became THE song I associated with AKB48; constantly playing on loop, and the first song I put on my(now enormous) AKB playlist.

The energy, melody, chanting, and overall ambiance of the performance somehow embody everything I loved, and still love about them.   All I need to do is play this song and the rare, euphoric feelings of discovery and nostalgia come flooding back, reminding me of what made me a fan in the first place and how it’s still there, if not stronger than ever.  This song is amazing.

‘Beginner’ CM reveals a few clips

September 29, 2010

I just pre-ordered two versions of AKB48’s upcoming single, ‘Beginner’, and coincidentally came across this little video giving me a preview of what to expect from the PV.  It gets curiouser and curiouser…

Three Hour Base Ball Bear Concert on Ustream? I’m In.

September 28, 2010

David loves this band.  I’ve probably heard a number of songs from them in the past, but don’t remember a single one.  Ayrton and David both were able to see Base Ball Bear perform live in Japan, while I sat in the darkness with only the glow of my laptop screen to soothe me.  Even though I wasn’t familiar with Base Ball Bear, you’ll bet envy was coursing through my veins.

Tokyo Hive has informed me that Base Ball Bear have heard my struggles and decided to throw me a bone.  To celebrate the simultaneous release of two brand new albums, “CYPRESS GIRLS” and “DETECTIVE BOYS”, they are doing a promotional three hour concert at 7:30pm to 10:30pm on the 29th (which is about 6:30am-8:30am eastern time), and it’s supposedly going to be streamed LIVE on Ustream at EMI MUSIC LIVE.  Sure, a live internet stream isn’t going to be at all excellent quality, but it’s pretty neat and I’m going to check it out.

Again, they will be live HERE at  7:30-10:30pm Japan time, 6:30-8:30am Eastern American time.

Make it if you can!

AKB48 on Seoul’s 2010 Asia Song Festival

September 28, 2010

Asia Song Festival is a special international event held in Seoul that hosts a smorgasbord of artists representing their countries.  It feels like a non-competitive Olympic event of sorts, having different countries send their best pop stars to represent them and have a chance to show what they’re made of.

This year South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia will be participating, presenting their top performers: Rain, KARA and 2AM from South Korea, AKB48 from Japan, Joe Cheng from Taiwan, Jane Zhang from China, FILM from Thailand, and Michael Wong from Malaysia. The event will be held on October 23rd.

Past performers at this event from Japan include Ayumi Hamasaki, Goto Maki, Arashi, Berryz Koubou, Koda Kumi, and Gackt.

I am proud of Korea’s strong talents, and especially look forward to seeing KARA perform, but I feel a bit anxious about AKB48 performing at the Song Festival.  It’s a great honor certainly, but Korea’s reaction towards AKB48 last year at the MNET Asia Music Awards had me feeling uncomfortable.

AKB48 had won an “recommended/honorable mention” at the ceremonies, and performed ‘RIVER’ for the event.  I could tell this wasn’t going to be ideal from the beginning.  AKB’s loud, energetic self-introductions came off as childish compared to the graceful, calm demeanor of the awards show.  The stage the girls had to dance in was a tiny, cramped platform; the girls in the back row were literally having their heels bump into the back wall, the entire group having visible troubles doing the routine.  As they performed, the looks on the surveyors were for the most part, dumbstruck.  While some of the viewers looked on with blank faces, others seemed downright smug.  The reception was less than ideal to say the least.

Just this past month or so, SKE48 had done a live performance of ‘Aozora Kataomoi’ in Korea, with a similarly lukewarm reception, with comments on the internet calling their performance sophomoric in comparison to Korean groups.

What I have a problem with is something I notice all the time living in a relatively large Korean community: quick judgments and a severely critical eye that is given to anything not-korean.  Even among Korean-Americans, I’ve seen ignorant displays of nationalistic pride when it comes to their entertainment; to say that Korea perhaps doesn’t make the best dramas, or the best music would be asking for a downpour of netizen hate.  But I’m not even saying AKB48 would give Korean pop a run for its money.  I’m simply asking for respect instead of a condescending eye.  To at least try to understand where they’re coming from and why they are as popular as they are.

Personally, I think AKB’s latest single ‘Beginner’ would be their best bet at getting a somewhat positive reception, and I hope that’s the single they perform at the upcoming Music Festival.  It’s easily their most accessible song, almost specifically tailored towards those who are not familiar with japanese idol music; but chances are AKB48 will be performing Heavy Rotation instead.

Of course, I wish Korea could see them perform any of their great songs like Namida Surprise or Oogoe Diamond, but they simply won’t respond to it because their sound is not internationally mainstream.  It’s a trend I’ve noticed time and time again.

All my concerns aside, here’s to hoping for a good reception at the 2010 Asia Song Festival.

SCANDAL Dances in with Their Next Single

September 27, 2010

Scandal’s latest, ‘Nanka Buttobase’, has a PV out and I recently gave it a listen.

SCANDAL’s been on and off my radar since I’ve heard about them.  I was captivated by songs like ‘Space Ranger’ and ‘Doll’, but also felt bored or unsure about some of their other singles.  Their image also felt like it was in a constant flux, feeling down to earth and gritty initially, and then sporting a sterilized corporate look with their more recent PVs.

I’m not sure how I feel about ‘Nanka Buttobase’.  The rock attitude seems to be there, and the technical ability is there; but like many of their other songs, I don’t find myself loving their sound.  Many of their singles sound safe and restrained, like a baby-proofed room. I found myself loving some parts of the song, but turning completely off at the rest.

This PV shows something I haven’t seen from SCANDAL; synchronized dancing with their guitars.  I don’t recall them doing this before, and the result is something that almost feels more ‘idol-ish’ than a rock group.  The video shows SCANDAL performing in what looks like a vacant warehouse with a large group of men in the background engaging in some sort of face-off for the entire PV.  Like the song, the entire video shows a lot of shaking and movement while feeling completely static.

Are they a band meant to be heard live?  Am I missing something?  I’m just not feeling it.