AKB48

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This article is about the Japanese girl group. For the drug, see APINACA.
AKB48
Ax10akb18.jpg
AKB48 performing at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California, July 2010
Background information
Origin Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan
Genres J-pop
Years active 2005–present
Labels AKS (Japan)
Defstar (Japan)
You, Be Cool! / King (Japan)
Gold Typhoon (Taiwan)
Maru Music (USA)[1]
Associated acts SKE48
NMB48
HKT48
JKT48
SNH48
no3b
Watarirouka Hashiritai
French Kiss
Not Yet
DiVA
Nogizaka46
Website www.akb48.co.jp
Members See List of AKB48 members
Past members See List of former members of AKB48

AKB48 (pronounced "A.K.B. forty-eight") is a Japanese idol girl group named after the Akihabara (Akiba for short) area of Tokyo, where the group's theater is located, and its original roster of 48 members. As of August 2014, the group has expanded to include 140 members[2] aged from their early teens to their mid-20s.[3][4] AKB48's producer, Yasushi Akimoto, wanted to form a girl group with its own theater (unlike pop groups performing occasional concerts and seen on television) and performing daily so fans could always see them live.[5] This "idols you can meet" concept includes teams[6] which can rotate performances and perform simultaneously at several events[7] and "handshake" events, where fans can meet group members.[5] Akimoto has expanded the AKB48 concept to several sister groups in Japan, China and Indonesia.

The group is one of the highest-earning musical performers in Japan, with 2013 sales of over $128 million,[8][9] and has been characterized as a social phenomenon.[10] As of March 2014 the group has sold over 30 million records,[11] including over 28.78 million singles as of May 2014,[12] the second-highest musical act in Japan in the number of singles sold[12] and the highest by a girl group.[13] AKB48's twenty-three latest singles have topped the Oricon Weekly Singles Chart, with a record eighteen singles selling over a million copies;[12] the 2013 single, "Sayonara Crawl", sold over 1.87 million.[14] In 2010 "Beginner" and "Heavy Rotation" placed first and second, respectively, on the list of Japan's best-selling singles for the year.[15] In 2011 and 2012, AKB48's singles occupied the top five spots of the Oricon Yearly Singles Chart[16][17] and the top four in 2013.[18]

Concept[edit]

Theater marquee at night
AKB48 Theater in Akihabara, Tokyo

AKB48 was founded as "idols you can meet".[6] The group's chief producer, Yasushi Akimoto, said that his goal was to create a unique idol group which, unlike other idol groups which perform occasional concerts and appear primarily on television, would perform regularly in its own theater.[6][19][note 1] The AKB48 Theater is in the Don Quijote store in Akihabara, Tokyo.[5]

The group is split into several teams, reducing its members' workload (since the theater's daily performance is by only one team) and enabling AKB48 to perform simultaneously in several places.[7] According to member Misaki Iwasa, each team has its own theme. Team A represents freedom; Team B is idol-like, with cute costumes, and Team K has a strong, powerful image.[20] According to an early press release the group was intended to have 16 members on each of three teams, for a total membership of 48;[6][21][22][23] its membership actually varied over time,[9] with a high of 92.[24] New members are trainees (研究生 kenkyūsei?) who are understudies for the group,[note 2] performing occasionally in the theater as a team. In addition to dancing and singing, members are promoted by the Japanese mass media.[5] AKB48 regularly hosts "handshake events", where fans can meet the group.[5]

The group members' ages range from their early teens to over 20,[3][4] and they are selected from auditions held in Japan twice a year.[5][9] Members are not allowed to date, and must be well-behaved;[25] infractions are punished,[26] possibly by expulsion from the group.[27] AKB48 has a system allowing members to "graduate" from the group when they are older and are replaced by trainees who are promoted. Monica Hesse of The Washington Post described the AKB48 audition process as "rolling American Idol-esque".[9]

History[edit]

2005–2006: Creation and independent releases[edit]

In July 2005, Yasushi Akimoto held an audition for a new theater-based idol girl group.[28] Of the 7,924 who auditioned, 24 were chosen as first-generation group members.[28] On December 8, 20 members debuted as Team A in the AKB48 Theater[29] performing PARTY ga Hajimaru yo (PARTYが始まるよ?)[30][better source needed] to an audience of seven; attendance quickly increased.[31][32] In January 2006, AKB48 cafe waitress Mariko Shinoda joined Team A as a "1.5 generation" member when her popularity with patrons prompted Akimoto to give her a special audition.[33][34]

The group's second audition was held in cooperation with telecommunications company NTT DoCoMo in February 2006, with applicants submitting audition videos on mobile phones.[35][36]

Overhead photo of group of girls onstage
AKB48 preparing for its debut on March 26, 2006

Of 11,892 applicants 19 were selected, and 18 joined AKB48 as Team K in April.[37] Team K performed Party ga Hajimaru yo and Team A moved to a new stage program, Aitakatta.[38][better source needed]

AKB48 released its first independent-label single, "Sakura no Hanabiratachi", in February 2006. It entered Oricon's weekly Top 10 chart, with first-week sales of 22,011 (a rarity for an indie-label group).[39] On March 31, Yuki Usami became the first member to "graduate" from the group.[40] On June 7 AKB48 released its second independent single, "Skirt, Hirari",[41] which sold 13,349 copies on its first day.[42] The group made its first television appearance two days later,[37] and signed a contract with DefStar Records (a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment) in August.[43]

2006–2007: Set List: Greatest Songs 2006–2007[edit]

In October 2006 AKB48 announced auditions for Team B,[44] and 13 girls were chosen out of 12,828 applicants in December.[45] The group's first DefStar Records single, "Aitakatta", was recorded by 20 members of Teams A and K and released on October 25.[46] It debuted at number 12 on the Oricon weekly singles chart, selling 25,544 copies in its first six weeks,[47] and remained on the chart for a total of 65 weeks.[48] On November 3–4 AKB48 performed its first concert, "AKB48 First Concert: Aitakatta ~Hashira wa Nai ze!~" at Nippon Seinenkan in Shinjuku.[37] The group performed "Aitakatta" on the New Year's Eve TV program 58th NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen as a part of the "Nihon ga Hokoru Saisentan! Special Medley".[49][37] At 43 members, the group set a program record for the most people in one group onstage simultaneously.[37] AKB48 made its first lineup change in December, transferring Kazumi Urano, Shiho Watanabe and Natsumi Hirajima from Team A to Team B as supporting members.[37]

AKB48's second major-label single, "Seifuku ga Jama o Suru", was released on January 31, 2007[50] and debuted at number seven on the Oricon Top 10 chart.[51] Its music video and lyrics hinted at the subject of enjo kōsai (compensated dating), triggering controversy and negative reviews.[52] On March 18 AKB48 released "Keibetsu Shiteita Aijō"; debuting at number eight on the Oricon chart, it dropped to number 98 in its second week.[50] The group's second concert, "AKB48 Haru no Chotto dake Zenkoku Tour ~Madamada daze AKB48!~" on March 10,[53] had poor ticket sales.[54]

In April 2007 AKB48 posted its Team B roster on its website, with five fewer members than originally announced;[37] for the first time, its membership numbered 48. The group's fourth single, "Bingo!", was released on July 18.[55] AKB48's sixth single, "Yūhi o Miteiru ka?", was released on Halloween 2007 and sold 18,429 copies[56] (the least of all the group's singles).[54]

2008–2010: Kamikyokutachi[edit]

On New Year's Day 2008 AKB48 released its first album, Set List: Greatest Songs 2006–2007, a collection of the group's singles and live song lists. The group's seventh major-label single (its ninth overall), "Romance, Irane", was released on January 23[57] and reached number six on the Oricon Top 10 chart in its first week.[58]

On February 27 the group released its eighth major-label single, "Sakura no Hanabiratachi 2008", a reprise of its Team A debut single. This version featured ten members from Team A, six from Team K and five from Team B.[59] The single's CD included a poster, and a promotion was planned in which fans who collected all 44 posters would be invited to a special event. The promotion was later canceled by DefStar Records amid concerns about possible violations of antitrust laws.[60]

In June 2008 AKB48 announced plans to launch a sister group, SKE48, in Sakae, Nagoya.[61] In August, the group moved from DefStar Records to King Records.[citation needed] That month Ayaka Kikuchi was the first member to be fired from the group, for "immature behavior" involving a leaked purikura photo of her with a boyfriend.[62][63] Kikuchi returned to the group after a 2010 audition.[64]

On October 22 AKB48's tenth single, "Ōgoe Diamond", was released on King Records' You Be Cool label.[65] With 11-year-old SKE48 member Jurina Matsui the single's center and cover girl, it was the first single featuring a member of AKB48's sister group[66] and debuted at number three on the Oricon Top 10 weekly chart.[67]

The group released its 11th major-label single, "10nen Sakura", on March 4, 2009. Also reaching number three on the Oricon charts in its first week, it was the group's first single to sell over 100,000 copies.[68] The group's 12th major-label single, "Namida Surprise!", was released on June 24. Promotions included a handshaking-event ticket and a ballot for a member to headline its next single.[69] "Namida Surprise!" sold 104,180 copies in its first week on the Oricon charts.[70] AKB48's 13th single, "Iiwake Maybe", was released on August 26.[71] Outselling rival SMAP's single, it reached number one on the Oricon Daily Singles Chart[72] and number two on the Oricon Weekly Singles Chart.[73]

Girls in short skirts singing onstage
AKB48 at Japan Expo in Paris, 2009

AKB48's Team A was guest of honor at the Japan Expo in Paris from July 2–5, 2009, performing an English version of "Ōgoe Diamond".[74] The group made its U.S. debut with a show at Webster Hall in New York City on September 27.[75]

In October, three AKB48 singles ("10nen Sakura", "Namida Surprise!" and "Iiwake Maybe") were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of Japan.[76] Its 14th single, "River" (released on October 21),[77] debuted atop the Oricon Top 10 weekly chart and was the group's first number one.[77]

AKB48 released its 15th major-label single, "Sakura no Shiori", on February 17, 2010. In its first week the single topped the Oricon chart with over 300,000 copies sold, the most by a Japanese female artist in seven years.[78] This was the group's last single until the release of their first King Records album, Kamikyokutachi, which would top the Oricon album chart[79][80] and be certified double platinum by the RIAJ for sales of over 500,000 copies.[81]

2010–2011: Koko ni Ita Koto[edit]

AKB48's 16th single, "Ponytail to Chouchou", was released on May 26, 2010. Its sales exceeded those of the previous single, with over 400,000 copies sold on its first day and over 513,000 in its first week.[82] On April 27 Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the United States, announced that AKB48 would be a guest of honor and the group performed on July 1 at the Nokia Theatre.[83]

On October 23 AKB48 represented Japan at the seventh Asia Song Festival, organized by the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange, at Seoul Olympic Stadium.[84] Four days later the group released its 18th single, "Beginner". It sold 826,989 copies in its first week, the highest first-week sales for a female idol group single.[85] AKB48 member Mayu Watanabe appeared on the cover of the December issue of the idol magazine UP to boy with Airi Suzuki from the Japanese girl group Cute, the first gravure collaboration between Hello! Project and AKB48.[86]

Smiling girls gesturing onstage
AKB48 on Cool Japan Night, as part of the November 2010 Anime Festival Asia X in Singapore

In November 2010, AKB48 participated in several events outside Japan. On November 20, 12 members of the group performed at the Japanese Pop Culture Festival in Moscow.[87] AKB48 performed at the Cool Japan forum in Singapore as part of Anime Festival Asia X, and at the Singapore Toy, Games and Comics Convention.[88][89] Group graduates in 2010 included second-generation member Erena Ono, who left on September 27 to pursue an acting career overseas.[90][91]

The group's first 2011 single, "Sakura no Ki ni Narō", was released on February 16. It sold 655,000 copies on its first day, surpassing "Beginner's" first-day sales of 568,000.[92] By the end of its first week the single sold 942,479 copies, the group's best and the fastest sales in Japan since 2000.[93]

On February 21 AKB48 announced its third album, Koko ni Ita Koto (ここにいたこと?), which would include 11 new tracks and was scheduled for an April 6 release.[94] Due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the group stopped its AKB48 Theater performances and canceled some of its public events.[note 3] AKB48 began the "Dareka no Tame ni" (誰かのために lit. "For someone's sake"?) project, collecting donations for earthquake and tsunami relief. One of its concert venues, the Yokohama Arena, was used for a two-day charity event beginning on March 26 and 12 AKB48 members attended the Okinawa International Movie Festival that day for the same purpose. On March 15, AKB48 announced that ¥500 million would be donated by the group, its sister groups SKE48, SDN48 and NMB48 and associates of AKS, its management company.[95] Koko ni Ita Koto '​s release was postponed until June 8, with part of the album's proceeds donated to disaster victims.[96] On April 1 the group released the charity single "Dareka no Tame ni (What can I do for someone?)" (誰かのために -What can I do for someone?-?) on the Recochoku website as a digital download, with all proceeds earmarked for earthquake and tsunami relief.[97]

2011–2012: 1830m[edit]

Store in a shopping mall, with two customers inside
AKB48 shop in Singapore, 2011

On May 1 AKB48 announced a new sister group: HKT48, based in Fukuoka, Kyushu, with its theater in the Hawks Town Mall of Fukuoka’s Chuo ward.[98] On May 3, The Straits Times reported the opening of AKB48's first overseas theater in Singapore.[99] The theater, in *scape Youth Park, would host 16 members from AKB48 and its sister groups for two shows a day two days a month.[99] It had an adjacent AKB48 shop for merchandise and an AKB48 Cafe, serving Japanese fusion cuisine and desserts.[99]

AKB48 released its 21st major-label single, "Everyday, Kachūsha", on May 25. An "election single", it contained ballots for determining who would headline the group's next single[96][100] and set Japanese records for first-day (942,475 copies)[100] and first-week sales (1,333,969 copies).[101] On June 22, Oricon reported that for the first half of 2011 AKB48 topped the album sales charts and had the best- and second-best-selling singles ("Everyday, Kachūsha" and "Sakura no Ki ni Narō"). The group amassed ¥6.66 billion in merchandise sales.[102]

On June 7, before its nationwide concert tour, AKB48 announced the creation of Team 4.[103] The 16-member team[103] would be captained by Mina Ōba,[104] and the word "team" was dropped from "Team Kenkyuusei" for the group's alternates. Four days later the group announced at a handshake event that Aimi Eguchi, who supposedly auditioned for NMB48, would join AKB48 as a trainee. It later became known that Eguchi was not a real person, but a composite of AKB48 members' facial features created to promote Glico's Ice no Mi.[105] On June 28, AKB48 producer Yasushi Akimoto announced plans to create another group as AKB48's "official rival". Nogizaka46 (乃木坂46?) would debut with about 20 members, and Akimoto would join Sony Music Japan to produce the new group.[106]

AKB48 released its 22nd single, "Flying Get" (フライングゲット Furaingugetto?), on August 24.[107] It sold 1,025,952 copies on its first day,[108] and became the group's fourth single to sell over a million copies (1.354 million) in its first week.[107] On September 20, AKB48 held its second rock-paper-scissors tournament to determine the lineup for the group's 24th single.[109][110] The group's 23rd single, "Kaze wa Fuiteiru", was released on October 26 and sold 1,045,937 copies on its first day.[111] The next single, "Ue kara Mariko" (released on December 7), sold 1.199 million copies in its first week.[112]

At the end of 2011, AKB48 topped seven of 16 Oricon rankings:[16] total sales by an artist, copies sold for a single, total sales for a single, total sales by an artist (for singles), copies sold for a music Blu-ray disc, total sales for a music Blu-ray disc and total Blu-ray sales by an artist.[16] The group set records for the most million-selling singles in a year, best-selling single by a female group and highest-earning female group.[16] AKB48 won the Grand Prix in the 53rd Japan Record Awards for "Flying Get".[113]

Store with customers
AKB48 Shop in Akihabara selling "Everyday, Kachūsha" and "Give Me Five!" merchandise in March 2012

Oricon announced on January 6, 2012 that AKB48 had sold 11,787,000 copies of its CD singles, surpassing girl group Morning Musume's Japanese record for a female group of 11,774,000.[13] On January 22 (the final day of its "AKB48 Request Hour Set List Best 100 2012" concert series at Tokyo Dome City Hall) AKB48 members performed the new "Give Me Five!" as Baby Blossom, playing guitars, keyboards, percussion and horns.[16][114] The Baby Blossom members had spent five months learning to play musical instruments, and some had little (or no) previous experience.[16][114] "Give Me Five!" was released on February 15.[16]

AKB48's second documentary film, Documentary of AKB48: Show Must Go On Shōjo-tachi wa Kizutsuki Nagara, Yume wo Miru, opened on January 27[115] in seventh place[116] at the box office and grossed nearly $4 million by February 19.[117] An anime series, AKB0048, was developed by Satelight[118] and aired from April 29 to July 22. It was directed by Yoshimasa Hiraike, with group producer Akimoto aiding with planning and supervision.[118] Nine members of AKB48 and its sister groups voiced the main characters, singing its opening and closing themes[119][120] as No Name.[121]

After photographs with their boyfriends surfaced, Natsumi Hirajima and Rumi Yonezawa resigned from the group[27] and were replaced by Jurina Matsui of SKE48 and Miyuki Watanabe of NMB48.[27][122] On March 24 AKB48 announced that five trainees would be promoted to Team 4, expanding its roster to 16.[122] It was also announced that the group would perform at the Tokyo Dome stadium, one of AKB48's main goals since it was founded.[27][123]

On March 25, longtime headliner Atsuko Maeda announced her graduation from the group.[124] Widely reported in the Japanese media, the news spawned a rumor (later found false) that a University of Tokyo student committed suicide over the announcement.[125] AKB48 announced that Maeda would graduate after the Tokyo Dome concerts;[118] her final performance (and graduation ceremony) took place in the AKB48 theater on August 27,[126] and was streamed live on YouTube.[127]

On March 26 AKB48 announced an election for the lineup for the group's 27th major-label single, "Gingham Check". The candidates were 243 members of AKB48, SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48,[128] and ballots were included with the group's 26th single ("Manatsu no Sounds Good!").[129] The election was held June 6 at Nippon Budokan, with the results telecast live.[130] Yuko Oshima finished first, followed by Mayu Watanabe and Yuki Kashiwagi.[129]

On April 23 AKB48 announced the creation of its third overseas sister group, SNH48, based in Shanghai.[131] It was announced on June 17 that Rino Sashihara would be transferred to HKT48 in July as a "restart" because of an alleged scandal involving her ex-boyfriend.[132] On June 24 AKB48 announced the promotion of six trainees from the 10th and 11th generations[133] and its third rock-paper-scissors tournament (scheduled for September 18) to determine the lineup for the group's 29th single, "Eien Pressure".[133]

On August 15 the group released its fourth album, 1830m, and on August 24 (the first day of its Tokyo Dome concert series) AKB48 announced a reorganization of its teams. Team 4 was dissolved, with its members transferred to the other three teams. Aika Ōta was transferred to HKT48, Aki Takajō and Haruka Nakagawa to Jakarta-based JKT48 and Sae Miyazawa and Mariya Suzuki to SNH48.[134] Minami Takahashi became general manager of AKB48, with Mariko Shinoda replacing her as Team A captain. Yuko Oshima became Team K captain, and Ayaka Umeda captain of Team B.[135][136]

2012–present: Tsugi no Ashiato[edit]

AKB48 recorded "Sugar Rush" for the 2012 Disney animated film, Wreck-It Ralph,[137] and the group set a Guinness World Record for the most pop singers in a video game (its dating simulation game, AKB1/149 Ren'ai Sōsenkyo).[138] It won a second consecutive Japan Record Award, for "Manatsu no Sounds Good!". The AKB0048 anime series was renewed for a second season, AKB0048 Next Stage, and aired from January 5 to March 30, 2013.

In January 2013 AKB48 played its Request Hour Set List Best 100 concert at Tokyo Dome City Hall, announcing future shows at Nippon Budokan[139] and Nissan Stadium (the first show by a female artist at the latter).[140] On February 1, the film Documentary of AKB48: No Flower Without Rain: Shōjo Tachi wa Namida no Ato ni Nani o Miru?.[141] opened in tenth place at the box office,[142] and grossed $2.2 million by February 17.[143] During a meet-and-greet event for the film, first-generation member Tomomi Itano announced that she was leaving the group.[144] On April 28, after a Nippon Budokan concert, AKB48's general manager announced another reorganization of the teams (including the girls who were also members of its sister groups).[145] Nito Moeno and Tomomi Kasai also made their final appearances with the group.[not in citation given]

AKB48 released its 31st single, "Sayonara Crawl" (an election single), on May 22.[146] It sold more than 1.9 million copies in its first month,[147] breaking Speed's White Love 1997 record for the highest single sales by a female group.[148] The election candidates were 246 girls from AKB48, its sister groups and former members.[149] On June 8 the results were broadcast on Fuji TV and streamed live on YouTube, the latter with Japanese and English commentary.[150][151] The winner was HKT48 member Rino Sashihara, a former member of AKB48.[149][152] During the event, Team A captain Mariko Shinoda (who placed fifth) announced that she would leave the group in July.[153] On July 31, during AKB48's summer concert series at the Sapporo Dome, guest and former group headliner Atsuko Maeda sang her new solo single ("Time Machine Nante Iranai").[154]

On August 21 the group released its 32nd single, "Koisuru Fortune Cookie". Its music video had 3,800 extras,[155] the most for any AKB48- and sister group-related video.[156] On August 24 the group announced the restoration of Team 4, with Minami Minegishi as captain and members promoted from the 13th and 14th generation of trainees.[157]

On September 18 AKB48 held its annual rock-paper-scissors tournament at Nippon Budokan to determine the lineup for its 34th single,[158] with Jurina Matsui the winner.[159] After the event the group announced the lineup and performed its 33rd single, "Heart Electric", which was released in October.[160] Its music video was directed by Shusuke Kaneko, known for the Heisei Gamera trilogy Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack and the live-action film version of Death Note.[161] On December 11 the group released its 34th single, "Suzukake no Ki no Michi de 'Kimi no Hohoemi o Yume ni Miru' to Itte Shimattara Bokutachi no Kankei wa Dō Kawatte Shimau no ka, Bokunari ni Nan-nichi ka Kangaeta Ue de no Yaya Kihazukashii Ketsuron no Yō na Mono",[162] and on December 31 longtime member Yuko Oshima announced on Kohaku Uta Gassen that she was leaving the group.[163]

On January 22, 2014, AKB48 released the album Tsugi no Ashiato. It reached number one on the weekly Oricon Albums Chart, selling 962,000 copies.[164] The group's 35th single, "Mae shika Mukanee", was released on February 26 and sold 970,413 copies on its first day.[165][166]

AKB48 announced plans for a fifth team, Team 8, with one member from each of Japan's 47 prefectures.[167] On February 24, during the group's Grand Reformation Festival event at Zepp DiverCity Tokyo, the group announced a team reorganization. This included a captain and co-captain of each team, promotion of AKB48 trainees to regular membership (with assignment to the four teams) and the transfer of members between AKB48 and its sister groups.[168] On April 3 AKB48 introduced its 47-member Team 8[169] as "the idols who come to you".[170][note 4] Akimoto announced auditions for an Otona adult member over 30 years old,[171] to participate in events and be the centerpiece of a Glico Papico commercial. On April 16, AKB48 announced the Otona member: Mariko Tsukamoto, a 37-year-old housewife and mother of two.[172]

On May 21 the group released its 36th single, "Labrador Retriever", which sold over 1,462,000 copies on its first day.[173] At a May 25 handshake event at the Iwate Industry Culture and Convention Center in Takizawa, Iwate, group members Rina Kawaei, Anna Iriyama and a staff member were attacked by a 24-year-old man with a handsaw. The suspect was arrested for attempted murder, and the three were treated at a hospital for fractures and cuts.[174][175][176][177][178] AKB48 canceled its theater performances through the end of May,[179] and handshake and photo-shoot fan events in May and June were postponed.[180] In response to security concerns,[181] the Manseibashi Police Station of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department asked AKS to conduct security checks of audience members at the theater entrance.[179] Although sister groups SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48 did not suspend their theater performances, they introduced security measures: metal detectors, not using the theaters' front rows, suspending post-performance "high-five" events and increasing the number of security guards.[182] On May 30 AKB48 resumed its television appearances,[183] and on June 2 the group resumed theater performances with security measures similar to those of its sister groups.[184] Security and bag checks were added at the general-election-results event and Yuko Oshima's graduation concert.[185][186]

On June 7, 2014, AKB48 and its related groups announced the results of the annual election to determine the lineup for its 37th single. The winner was Mayu Watanabe with 159,854 votes, and Rino Sashihara was runner-up with 141,954 votes. The top eighty candidates were ranked in five groups of sixteen.[187]

Musical style[edit]

The group's style has been characterized as "bubblegum pop and synchronised dancing", appealing to prepubescent girls and older males who purchase the group's merchandise.[188] Mari Yamaguchi of the Associated Press wrote that the "performances can seem orchestrated. As the girls sing and dance in unison, fans follow a cheering formula", comparing fan response to a Kabuki audience.[189] Monica Hesse of The Washington Post described the group's style: "It is as if Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and the entire cast of Twilight were placed into a saucepan and simmered on a low boil until nothing remained but the sweet, cloying essence of fame, and if that fame were then poured into pleated tartan skirts and given pigtails."[9]

Andrew Joyce and Kenneth Maxwell of The Wall Street Journal described the music as "sugar-sweet pop tunes and sometimes-suggestive lyrics". During AKB48 performances, "members perform a revue of simply choreographed routines in front of a roughly 95-percent-male audience. The music is typical Japanese pop: fast-paced numbers with high-pitched, singalong choruses."[24]

Promotion and media[edit]

AKB48 and its sister groups boost their record sales by a variety of marketing strategies. The singles and albums are released in different editions and types with alternate album-cover pictures, B-side tracks, video DVDs, collectible member pictures, event tickets and voting codes for several annual popularity polls. Alan Swarts of MTV Japan has noted that collectors purchasing multiple copies of AKB48 CDs have inflated the market, and is one of the reasons Japan's music industry has been booming.[190]

The group has publicized special events to choose the promotional and recording lineups for some of its singles.[191] In 2009, the concept of sōsenkyo (総選挙?, "general elections") was introduced.[19] To obtain a ballot, voters must purchase the group's latest "election single."[192] Members who receive the most votes will participate in the recording of AKB48's next single[19] and are heavily promoted,[5] with the top vote-getter the centerpiece of the group's live performances.[191][192] Votes in the 2011 election exceeded one million, and the single "Everyday, Katyusha" (which contained a ballot for the election) set a Japanese record for weekly sales of a CD single.[193] The 2012 election had nearly 1.4 million votes,[191] and the 2013 election had 2.6 million votes.[194] Fans have reportedly bought hundreds (or thousands) of copies of singles to vote for their favorite members.[24][192][195][196][197][198][199]

Another selection method, AKB48's rock-paper-scissors tournaments, was introduced in 2010 for the group's 19th single ("Chance no Junban").[200] Members of AKB48 and its sister groups compete in the knockout tournament to be part of the recording and promotional lineup for the group's next single,[201] with participants wearing a variety of costumes.[159] In 2014 the winner would debut as a soloist or, if she was already a soloist, would perform a solo concert.[202] AKB48's producers have developed several television shows to promote the group. AKBingo!, Shūkan AKB and Nemōsu TV are variety shows, and the Majisuka Gakuen series and Sakura Karano Tegami feature group members in dramatic roles.

Four AKB48 documentaries have been released in theaters since 2011. The first, Documentary of AKB48 -- To Be Continued, was released in Japan on January 22, 2011[203] and on DVD in North America on December 1.[204] The second, Documentary of AKB48: Show Must Go On Shōjo-tachi wa Kizutsuki Nagara, Yume wo Miru, was released on January 27, 2012[115] and earned $3,984,152 at the Japanese box office.[205] The third, Documentary of AKB48: No Flower Without Rain: Shōjo Tachi wa Namida no Ato ni Nani o Miru?, was released on February 2, 2013[206] and earned $2,269,118 at the Japanese box office.[207] The fourth, Documentary of AKB48 The Time has come Shōjo-tachi wa, Ima, Sono Senaka ni Nani wo Omou?, was released on July 4, 2014[208] and (as of July 13, 2014) grossed $984,757 at the Japanese box office.[209] Each film chronicled events and issues encountered by the group during the previous year.[116]

The manga AKB49: Ren'ai Kinshi Jōrei revolves around AKB48, featuring group members in the story as supporting characters.[210] The 2012 anime series AKB0048 is a science-fiction series based on the group, with production supervised by Yasushi Akimoto.[211] Nine characters in the anime are voiced by members of AKB48 and its sister groups.[211] First airing in Japan in the spring of 2012,[211] a second season was broadcast in 2013.

Video games have been developed involving AKB48, and the group has its own visual novel-dating sim series. In the first installment, AKB1/48: Idol to Koishitara... (released December 23, 2010), the player engages in a relationship with one of the members. The second installment, AKB1/48: Idol to Guam de Koishitara... (released October 10, 2011, with a similar storyline) is set in Guam. The third installment, AKB1/149 Ren'ai Sōsenkyo (released December 20, 2012), expands the scenarios to AKB48 sister groups SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48. The three games were released for PlayStation Portable, with Ren'ai Sousenkyo also released for PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3.[citation needed] In 2014 Namco Bandai developed Sailor Zombie: AKB48 Arcade Edition, an arcade game in which the player uses a light gun to shoot vaccine bullets at zombified AKB48 members. The game includes a rhythm game in which the zombie idols dance.[212]

Reception[edit]

Tower Records Japan CEO Ikuo Minewaki described AKB48 as a popular act,[213] and the group has been characterized as a social phenomenon in Japan.[10] In 2012 AKB48 had record sales in Japan of over $226 million,[214] and in 2013 it had total sales of over $128 million.[8] According to Oricon, as of January 6, 2012 AKB48 sold a total of 11,787,000 singles, setting a record for "the most singles sold in Japan by a female group".[13] The group's last 21 singles have topped the weekly Oricon Singles Chart. In 2010 "Beginner" and "Heavy Rotation" placed first and second, respectively, on the list of Japan's bestselling singles of the year;[15] in 2011 and 2012 AKB48 occupied the top five positions on the Oricon Yearly Singles Chart,[16] and the top four in 2013.[18] As of December 2013 the group had sold over 25.83 million singles, and is the third-bestselling musical act in Japan in single sales.[215][8] As of March 2014, the group had sold over 30 million records.[11]

AKB48 holds several Guinness World Records, including being recognized on December 1, 2010 as the "largest pop group" when it numbered 48 members.[21][216] It set a record for "most number of same-product television endorsements within 24 hours" on February 28, 2012, after 90 group members appeared in 90 different commercials aired in the Kanto, Kansai and Tokai regions of Japan.[217] Japanese ambassador to the United States Ichirō Fujisaki, on meeting the group during its visit to Washington, D.C., said that "AKB" stood for "adorable, kind and beautiful".[9] On February 1, 2012, Japan Post issued a stamp commemorating the group.[218]

Controversy[edit]

AKB48 has been criticized for sexually-suggestive lyrics considered unsuitable for its young members. When asked about this by CNN's Anna Coren, AKB48 founder Yasushi Akimoto (who writes the group's lyrics) said that his lyrics "depict[ed] reality" and were meant to prompt the consideration of difficult issues.[125][219][220]

The group's risqué music videos have also been controversial. "Heavy Rotation"'s video was criticized for showing AKB48 members in lingerie, hugging,[188] kissing and sharing a bath. Its director, Mika Ninagawa, said that she wanted to appeal to men and women with a creative, fun video because of the group's increasing popularity among girls.[221] In an interview, she accepted responsibility for its content: "Mr. Akimoto left everything to me. He did not give me any tips at all ... I tried to show how AKB48 is in real life, in the video. In the dressing room, they seemed very close to each other. Then I came up with the concept [of a] girls' high school."[222]

A television commercial for Puccho candy which debuted on March 15, 2012 featured AKB48 members in schoolgirl uniforms passing a candy from mouth to mouth. Although the girls held the candy between their teeth, some viewers called it "encouraging homosexuality", "unhygienic" and a "bad example to children".[188][223][224][225]

In January 2013, the group was criticized when a photo from Tomomi Kasai's Shukan Young Magazine photo shoot became public; Kasai was topless, her breasts covered by a young child's hands. The photo was pulled from the magazine and from Kasai's upcoming photo-book (where it would have appeared on the cover), and the magazine's publication was postponed from January 12 to January 21.[226][227][228]

In February 2013 group member Minami Minegishi, her head shaved, appeared in a YouTube video to apologize after it was reported by a tabloid that she had spent the night with a man in violation of her contract; she was demoted to the status of trainee. Her shaved head was seen as an overreaction, attracting criticism of how the situation was handled.[229] Labor expert and Japan Times writer Hifumi Okunuki said that a no-dating clause in a labor contract was a violation of Japanese labor laws.[230]

In January 2014 a group of Osaka Sangyo University students was found to have used stolen credit-card numbers to purchase over 490 copies of an AKB48 single (identified as "Sayonara Crawl" in television coverage) online, spending nearly ¥490,000 (approx. US$4,800, GB£2,900, €3,500). The suspects sold the CDs on the secondary market, with one illegally dumping several hundred unsold copies.[231][232][233][234][235][236]

Philanthropy[edit]

Several days after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the AKB48 blog reported a donation of more than ¥617 million to the Japanese Red Cross Society.[237] On April 1 the group released a digital charity single, "Dareka no Tame ni (What Can I Do for Someone?)", with its proceeds donated to earthquake and tsunami relief.[238] AKB48's 23rd single, "Kaze wa Fuiteiru", was dedicated to the 2011 tsunami victims; its lyrics were intended to console the disaster victims.[239][240] In February 2012 AKB48 announced another ¥580 million donation to the Japanese Red Cross, and it was reported that to date the group had raised a total of over ¥1.25 billion for earthquake and tsunami relief.[241] On March 8, 2013 the group released "Tenohira ga Kataru Koto", another song dedicated to the March 2011 disaster victims, on its website for free digital download.[242] On the second anniversary of the disaster AKB48 and its sister groups visited the affected areas, performing at schools and the AKB48, SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48 theaters with proceeds aiding the ongoing recovery.[243]

Members[edit]

As of June 9, 2014, following the introduction of a fifth team AKB48 consisted of 139 members divided into several teams: Team A with 23 members, Team K with 21, Team B with 23, Team 4 with 23, Team 8 with 47 and two kenkyūsei (研究生?, trainees).[2][19][note 2] Two AKB48 members have been transferred to overseas sister groups,[2] and one honorary "Otona AKB" (大人AKB?, "Adult AKB") member was chosen from a national audition for an advertising campaign.[172] Some members belong concurrently to AKB48's sister groups,[2] and Minami Takahashi is general manager of AKB48 and its sister groups.

Discography[edit]

Main article: AKB48 discography
Studio albums

Filmography[edit]

Awards[edit]

The most important awards received by the group

Year Ceremony Award Nominated work Result
2009 11th Mnet Asian Music Awards Asia Recommended Award (Japan) Won
2010 Billboard Japan Music Awards[244] Top Pop Artists Won
2011 Billboard Japan Music Awards[245] Artist of the Year Won
Top Pop Artists Won
Hot 100 of the Year "Everyday, Katyusha"[246] Won
Hot 100 Single Sales of the Year "Everyday, Katyusha"[246] Won
53rd Japan Record Awards Grand Prix "Flying Get"[113] Won
2012 Billboard Japan Music Awards[247] Artist of the Year Won
Top Pop Artists Won
Hot 100 of the Year "Manatsu no Sounds Good!" Won
Hot 100 Single Sales of the Year "Manatsu no Sounds Good!" Won
14th Mnet Asian Music Awards Best Asian Artist Japan "Uza" Won
54th Japan Record Awards[248] Grand Prix "Manatsu no Sounds Good!" Won
2013 Billboard Japan Music Awards[249][250] Artist of the Year Won
Top Pop Artists Won
Hot 100 of the Year Won
Hot 100 Single Sales of the Year Won
55th Japan Record Awards Gold Award "Koi Suru Fortune Cookie" Won
Grand Prix Nominated

Records set[edit]

The group and its songs have set the following records:

Sister groups[edit]

AKB48 producer Yasushi Akimoto has created AKB48 sister groups based on the "idols you can meet" concept. Each sister group has a home theater in Japan or elsewhere in Asia, and releases its own singles; sister-group members also occasionally perform with AKB48.[123][257] Jurina Matsui and Miyuki Watanabe, members of AKB48 sister groups, have also been temporary members of AKB48.[122]

AKB48's first sister group, SKE48, was formed in 2008 with its theater in Sakae, Nagoya.[61][258] SDN48 ("Saturday Night"), NMB48[259] ("Namba") and HKT48[260] ("Hakata") were later formed. In 2011 AKB48's first sister group outside Japan, JKT48,[261] was announced; the group is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. JKT48 was followed by another overseas AKB48 sister group: SNH48,[262] based in Shanghai, China. In addition to the sister groups AKB48 has an "official rival", Nogizaka46.[263]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Although AKB48 performs at the theater daily, tickets are distributed via a lottery only due to the high demand. (The theater offers 145 seats and 105 standing)
  2. ^ a b "What is AKB48?". AKB48 official website. 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ On March 14, 2011, AKB48 canceled its concert Takamina ni tsuite ikimasu (たかみなについて行きます?, lit. "(We) will follow Takamina"), scheduled to be held on March 25–27 at Yokohama Arena, but later refashioned it into a charity event to support victims of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
  4. ^ The debut of Team 8 was the first time the group has featured an idol from the Ishikawa, Tottori, Toyama, Tokushima, Yamagata, Okayama, Kōchi, and Okinawa prefectures.

References[edit]

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