AKB48

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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 List of AKB48 members
Past members List of former members of AKB48

AKB48 (read "A.K.B. Forty-eight") is a Japanese idol girl group. As of November 2013, the group has 89 members,[2] whose ages range from early teens to mid-20s.[3][4] AKB48 is named after Akihabara (Akiba for short), the area in Tokyo where the group's theater is located. The idea of AKB48's producer Yasushi Akimoto was to create a girl group that, unlike a regular pop group that gives occasional concerts and that is mostly seen on television, would have its own theater and perform there on a daily basis; the fans would always be able to go and see the girls live.[5] This "idols you can meet" concept includes the formation of different teams[6] that are able to rotate performances and to perform simultaneously in events at various locations,[7] as well as the organisation of "handshake" events, where fans can briefly interact with band members.[5] Akimoto has also expanded the AKB48 concept to several sister groups throughout Japan, and also in China and Indonesia.

The group is one of the highest-earning musical acts in Japan, with 2012 record sales of over US$226 million.[8] It has achieved such popularity in the country[9] that it has been characterized as a social phenomenon.[10] As of March 2014, the group has sold over 30 million records,[11] including over 25.83 million singles (as of December 2013),[12] which places it as the third highest musical act in Japan by number of singles sold,[13] and the most by a girl group.[14] The group's twenty two latest singles have topped the Oricon Weekly Singles Chart, with a record seventeen singles that have sold over a million copies.[11] Its 2013 single "Sayonara Crawl" sold over 1.87 million copies.[15] In 2010, "Beginner" and "Heavy Rotation" placed, respectively, first and second in the list of Japan's best selling singles for that year.[16] In 2011 and 2012, AKB48's singles occupied the top five spots of the Oricon Yearly Singles Chart[17][18] and in 2013, the top four.[19]

Concept[edit]

AKB48 Theater in Akihabara, Tokyo

AKB48 was founded based on the concept of "idols you can meet".[6] The group's chief producer Yasushi Akimoto once said that his aim was to create an idol group that is unlike any other ordinary idol groups which only give occasional concerts and mostly seen on TV; AKB48 would perform in its own theater regularly, and the fans would always be able to watch the girls performing live.[6][20][note 1] The AKB48 Theater is located in the Don Quijote store of Akihabara, Tokyo.[5]

The group is split into several teams, which allows the group to reduce its members' workload since the theater's daily performance is given by only one team. It also gives AKB48 opportunity to perform in several places and even countries simultaneously.[7] According to member Misaki Iwasa, each team has its own theme: Team A represents freedom, Team B is idol-like with cutesy costumes, while Team K has a strong and powerful image.[21] In an early press release, the group intended to have 16 members on each of three teams to make a total member count of 48,[6][22][23][24] but as the member count varied over time,[9] and had as many as 92,[25] new members are appointed as trainees (研究生 kenkyūsei?) that act as understudies for the main members,[note 2] while they'll also perform in the theater as a team occasionally. In addition to dancing and singing, members are also promoted throughout the Japanese mass media.[5] The group regularly holds "handshake events", where fans get a chance to shake hands with the group's members.[5]

AKB48 consists of girls whose age ranges from early teens to 20-plus.[3][4] They are selected from auditions that are held in Japan twice a year.[5][9] Members of the group are not allowed to date with men, and must be well-behaved.[26] If they misbehave, they may receive a punishment[27] or even be dismissed from the group.[28] The group has a graduation system, which allows members to "graduate" from the group when they get older, and are replaced by members promoted from the trainees. Monica Hesse of The Washington Post describes 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.[29] Of the 7,924 girls that applied, 24 girls were chosen to become the first generation members of the group.[29] On December 8, 20 members debuted as Team A in the AKB48 theater[30] performing PARTY ga Hajimaru yo (PARTYが始まるよ?)[31][better source needed] to an audience of seven, but soon snowballed in numbers.[32][33] In January 2006, AKB48 cafe waitress Mariko Shinoda joined Team A as a "1.5 generation" member after her popularity among AKB48 patrons prompted Akimoto to give her a special audition.[34][35]

The group's second audition was held in cooperation with telecommunications company NTT DoCoMo in February 2006, in which applicants sent audition videos via mobile phones.[36][37] Out of the 11,892 applicants, 19 were chosen, and 18 eventually joined AKB48 to form Team K in April 2006.[38] Team B would perform Party ga Hajimaru yo, while Team A moved to a new stage program called Aitakatta.[39][better source needed]

AKB48 preparing to make a major debut, on March 26, 2006

AKB48 debuted the independent single "Sakura no Hanabiratachi" in February 2006. The single entered Oricon's weekly Top-10 chart and sold 22,011 units in the first week, a rarity for a group on an indie label.[40] On March 31, Yuki Usami became the first member to "graduate" from the group.[41] On June 7, the group released its second independent single, "Skirt, Hirari",[42] but it sold only 13,349 on the first day.[43] The group made its first television appearance two days later,[38] and signed a major label contract with DefStar Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment in August.[44]

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

In October 2006, AKB48 announced auditions for the formation of Team B,[45] and 13 girls were chosen out of the 12,828 applicants in December 2006.[46]

AKB48's first single under DefStar Records, "Aitakatta", was released on October 25. The title song was recorded with 20 members selected from Team A and Team K.[47] It debuted at number 12 on the Oricon weekly single charts, selling a total of 25,544 copies in the first six weeks,[48] and stayed on the chart for a total of 65 weeks.[49] On November 3 and 4, AKB48 held its first concert named "AKB48 First Concert: Aitakatta ~Hashira wa Nai ze!~" at Nippon Seinenkan in Shinjuku.[38] 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".[50] AKB48 made its first ever lineup change in December: Kazumi Urano, Shiho Watanabe and Natsumi Hirajima were transferred from Team A to Team B as supporting members.[38]

AKB48's second major single "Seifuku ga Jama o Suru" was released on January 31, 2007.[51] It debuted at number seven on the Oricon TOP10 charts.[52] Its music video and lyrics have hinted at the subject of enjo kōsai (compensated dating), which led to controversies and received a number of negative reviews.[53] On March 18, AKB48 released "Keibetsu Shiteita Aijō", which reached number eight on Oricon, dropped to number 98 in the second week.[51] The group held a second concert tour, "AKB48 Haru no Chotto dake Zenkoku Tour ~Madamada daze AKB48!~", on March 10,[54] however, the ticket sales were unsatisfactory.[55][clarification needed]

In April, the AKB48 official website posted its roster for Team B, albeit with five fewer members than its original announcement.[38] The group's member count stood at 48, which was the first time it had reflected its name. The group's fourth single, "Bingo!", was released on July 18.[56] The sixth single "Yūhi o Miteiru ka?" was released on Halloween 2007, but sold only 18,429 copies in total,[57] the least among all their singles.[55] On December 31, AKB48 appeared on the 58th Kōhaku Uta Gassen television program for the first time as part of the Akihabara performance segment.[38] With 43 members, the group set the record for the largest number of people in a single group to be on stage at one time for the program.[38]

On New Year's Day of 2008, AKB48 released its first studio album, titled Set List: Greatest Songs 2006–2007. The album was a collection of the group's songs from previous singles and theater song lists. Its seventh major (ninth overall) single "Romance, Irane" was released on January 23[58] and reached number six on the Oricon TOP10 charts in the first week.[59]

2008–2010: Kamikyokutachi[edit]

On February 27, AKB48 released its 8th major single, "Sakura no Hanabiratachi 2008", a rendition of its debut single when there was only Team A in AKB48. It featured 10 members from Team A, 6 members from Team K and 5 members from Team B.[60] The single's CD included a poster, and a promotion was planned in which fans who had collected all 44 kinds of posters would be invited to a special event. However the promotion was called off by DefStar Records as it violated the antitrust law.[61]

In June 2008, AKB48 announced plans to launch a sister group SKE48 in Sakae, Nagoya.[62]

In August, AKB48 changed record labels from DefStar Records to King Records.[citation needed] In the same month, Ayaka Kikuchi became the first member to be fired from the group, because of "immature behavior" that involved a leaked purikura photo of her and a boyfriend.[63][64] Kikuchi later returned to the group in another audition held in 2010.[65]

On October 22, AKB48's 10th single "Ōgoe Diamond" was released under King Records' "You Be Cool" label.[66] It was the first single to feature a member from AKB48's sister group, where the 11-year-old SKE48 member Jurina Matsui performed as the single's center and cover girl.[67] It debuted at number three on the Oricon TOP10 weekly charts.[68]

AKB48 released its 11th major single, "10nen Sakura" on March 4, 2009. The single also reached number three on the Oricon charts in the first week, and eventually became the group's first single to sell over 100,000 copies.[69] The group's 12th major single, "Namida Surprise!", was released on June 24. It included a handshaking event ticket and a ballot for an election that would select a member to headline its next single.[70] "Namida Surprise!" sold 104,180 copies in its initial week on the Oricon charts.[71] The 13th single, "Iiwake Maybe", released on August 26,[72] outsold SMAP's single, to reach number one on the Oricon Daily Singles Chart;[73] it reached number two on the Oricon Weekly Singles Chart.[74]

AKB48 at Japan Expo in Paris, 2009

AKB48's Team A was a guest of honor for the Japan Expo held from July 2–5 in Paris and performed an English version of their previous song Ogoe Diamond.[75] AKB48 made its American debut with a concert at Webster Hall in New York City on September 27.[76]

In October, three AKB48 singles, "10nen Sakura", "Namida Surprise!" and "Iiwake Maybe", were certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of Japan.[77] Its 14th single, "River", released on October 21,[78] became the group's first number-one and first debut number-one hit on the Oricon TOP10 weekly charts.[78]

AKB48 released their 15th major 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 of any Japanese female artist in the past seven years.[79] This was the last single until the release of their first studio album Kamikyokutachi, which would go on to be number 1 on the Oricon album charts[80][81] and certified Double Platinum by the RIAJ after selling over 500,000 records.[82]

2010–2011: Koko ni Ita Koto[edit]

Their 16th single, "Ponytail to Chouchou", released on May 26, exceeded the previous single in sales with over 400,000 copies sold the first day, and over 513,000 copies in its first week.[83] On April 27, Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the United States, announced AKB48 as an official guest of honor. The group performed there on July 1 at the Nokia Theatre.[84]

On October 23, AKB48 represented Japan at the 7th Asia Song Festival, organized by Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange, at the Seoul Olympic Stadium.[85] On October 27, AKB48's released its 18th single "Beginner". In its first week, the single sold 826,989 copies, which made it the highest first week sales for a female idol group single.[86] AKB48 member Mayu Watanabe was also announced to be on the cover of the December issue of the idol magazine UP to boy with Airi Suzuki from the Japanese girl group Cute. That was the first gravure collaboration between Hello! Project and AKB48.[87]

AKB48 performing in the Cool Japan Night in Singapore as part of the Anime Festival Asia X, in November 2010.

In November, AKB48 participated in several events outside Japan. On November 20, AKB48 sent 12 members to perform at the Japanese Pop Culture Festival in Moscow.[88] AKB48 performed at the Cool Japan forum in Singapore as part of Anime Festival Asia X, and also at the Singapore Toy Games & Comics Convention.[89][90]

The AKB48 graduates in 2010 included a 2nd-gen member Erena Ono, who graduated on September 27 to pursue acting overseas.[91][92]

AKB48's first single of 2011, "Sakura no Ki ni Narō", was released on February 16. It sold 655,000 copies on its first day, beating the group's previous top record of 568,000 copies ("Beginner").[93] By the end of its first week, the single sold 942,479 copies, the group's personal best, as well as the best in Japan since 2000.[94]

On February 21, AKB48 announced its third studio album, Koko ni Ita Koto (ここにいたこと?), which would include 11 new unreleased tracks. It was scheduled for release on April 6.[95]

Due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, AKB48 halted performances at the AKB48 Theater and cancelled some of its public events.[note 3] The group started the "Dareka no Tame ni" (誰かのために lit. "For someone's sake"?) project, and gathered donations for earthquake and tsunami relief. One of the group's concert venues Yokohama Arena was used for a 2-day charity event starting March 26. 12 AKB48 members attended the Okinawa International Movie Festival on the same day for the same purpose. On March 15, AKB48 announced that ¥500 million would be donated by the members of the group and its sister groups SKE48, SDN48 and NMB48, along with others associated with their managing company AKS.[96] The release date of the Koko ni Ita Koto album was delayed to June 8, but that part of the proceeds of the album would be donated to the disaster victims.[97] 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?-?) through the Recochoku website as a digital download, with all profits donated for earthquake and tsunami relief.[98]

2011–2012: 1830m[edit]

On May 1, AKB48 announced a new sister group HKT48, based in Fukuoka in Kyushu; its theater would be established in the Hawks Town Mall of Fukuoka’s Chuo ward.[99]

AKB48 Official Shop in Singapore, 2011

On May 3, The Straits Times reported the opening of AKB48's first overseas theater in Singapore.[100] The theater is based in *scape Youth Park, where 16 members from AKB48 and its sister groups would perform there two days a month with two concerts per day.[100] The venue includes an adjacent AKB48 Official Shop for merchandise and the world's first AKB48 Cafe which serves Japanese fusion food and dessert.[100]

AKB48 released its 21st major single, "Everyday, Kachūsha", on May 25. As an "election single", it contained ballots for determining who would headline the next single.[97][101] Its release shattered the first day sales record in Japan, with 942,475 copies,[101] and the first week sales record in Japan, with 1,333,969 copies.[102] On June 22, Oricon reported that for the first half of 2011, AKB48 topped the album sales rankings and had the best and second-best selling singles ("Everyday, Kachūsha" and "Sakura no Ki ni Narō"). The group had also garnered ¥6.66 billion in total merchandise sales.[103]

On June 7, AKB48 announced the creation of "Team 4" ahead of its nationwide concert tour.[104] The team was built up to 16 members.[104] The new team would be captained by Mina Ōba.[105] AKB48 also dropped "Team" from "Team Kenkyuusei" for the alternates in the group. On June 11, AKB48 announced at a handshake event that Aimi Eguchi, a girl who had supposedly auditioned for NMB48, would be joining AKB48 as a trainee. It was later revealed that Eguchi was not a real person, but a composite of AKB48 members' facial features that was created to promote the Glico product Ice no Mi.[106] On June 28, AKB48's producer Yasushi Akimoto announced plans to create a group to become AKB48's "official rival". The group would be called Nogizaka46 (乃木坂46?) and debut with approximately 20 members. Akimoto teamed up with Sony Music Japan to produce the new group.[107]

AKB48 released its 22nd single, "Flying Get" (フライングゲット Furaingugetto?), on August 24.[108] It sold 1,025,952 copies on its first day,[109] and became its fourth single to sell over a million in its first week, with 1.354 million copies.[108] On September 20, AKB48 held its second rock-paper-scissors tournament to determine the lineup for its 24th single.[110][111] AKB48 released its 23rd single, "Kaze wa Fuiteiru" on October 26, which sold 1,045,937 copies on its first day.[112] The next single, "Ue kara Mariko", released on December 7, sold 1.199 million in its first week.[113]

For the year end, AKB48 topped seven of 16 Oricon rankings.[17] The rankings include: 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 sales by an artist (for Blu-rays discs).[17] The group broke the all-time records for the most singles selling over one million copies in a year, the best-selling single by a female group and the highest-earning female group.[17] AKB48 won the Grand Prix award in the 53rd Japan Record Awards for its song "Flying Get".[114]

On January 6, 2012, Oricon announced that AKB48 had sold 11,787,000 units of its CD singles, which surpassed girl group Morning Musume's record of 11,774,000, and which set a new record for most singles sold in Japan by a female group.[14]

AKB48 Shop in Akihabara sales official goods of "Everyday, Kachūsha" and "Give Me Five!", in March 2012

On January 22, the final day of its "AKB48 Request Hour Set List Best 100 2012" concert event at Tokyo Dome City Hall, AKB48 performed a new song, "Give Me Five!" where members had formed a band "Baby Blossom" with guitars, keyboards, drums, even percussion and horns.[17][115] The participants in Baby Blossom had spent the past five months learning to play instruments, some members had little to no previous experience.[17][115] "Give Me Five!" was released on February 15.[17]

Their second documentary theatrical feature film, Documentary of AKB48: Show Must Go On Shōjo-tachi wa Kizutsuki Nagara, Yume wo Miru, premiered on January 27,[116] opening in seventh place[117] and grossing almost US$4 million by February 19.[118]

An anime series titled AKB0048 was developed by Satelight[119] and aired from April 29 to July 22. It was directed by Yoshimasa Hiraike; AKB48 producer Akimoto provided planning and supervision input.[119] Nine members from AKB48 and its sister groups were selected to voice the main characters and to sing its opening and closing theme songs[120][121] as the subunit "No Name".[122]

Following scandals where they were photographed with their boyfriends, Natsumi Hirajima and Rumi Yonezawa resigned from AKB48.[28] In replacing Hirajima and Yonezawa, Jurina Matsui of SKE48 and Miyuki Watanabe of NMB48 joined AKB48 as concurrent members.[28][123] On March 24, AKB48 announced that five trainees would be promoted to Team 4 to bring the team's member count to 16.[123] In the same announcement, it was revealed that AKB48 would perform at the Tokyo Dome stadium, which was one of the group's main goals since its founding.[28][124]

On March 25, long-time headliner Atsuko Maeda announced she would be graduating from the group.[125] This caused a large buzz in the Japanese news, and spawned a rumor (later proven false) that a student from University of Tokyo had committed suicide over the announcement.[126] AKB48 later announced that Maeda would graduate after the Tokyo Dome concerts;[119] her final performance and graduation ceremony took place in the AKB48 theatre on August 27;[127] the event was streamed live on YouTube.[128]

On March 26, AKB48 announced it would be holding an election to determine the lineup for its 27th major single, "Gingham Check". The field of candidates consisted of 243 members from AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, and HKT48,[129] and the ballots were available in the group's 26th single, "Manatsu no Sounds Good!"[130] The elections were held on June 6 at Nippon Budokan and results were broadcast live on TV for the first time.[131] Yuko Oshima came first, followed by Mayu Watanabe and Yuki Kashiwagi.[130]

On April 23, AKB48 announced the creation of its third overseas sister group, SNH48, based in Shanghai.[132]

On June 17, AKB48 announced that Rino Sashihara would be transferred to HKT48 in July as a "restart" because of an alleged scandal that involved her ex-boyfriend.[133] On June 24, AKB48 announced the promotion of its six trainees from the 10th and 11th generation,[134] and that its third rock-paper-scissors tournament would take place on September 18 to determine which members would take part in its 29th single, "Eien Pressure".[134]

On August 15, the group released its fourth album titled 1830m. On August 24, the first day of its Tokyo Dome concert series, AKB48 announced a reorganization of its teams. Team 4 was dissolved and its members were 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.[135] Minami Takahashi became the general manager of AKB48, while Mariko Shinoda replaced her as captain of Team A. Yuko Oshima became the captain of Team K, and Ayaka Umeda became Team B's captain.[136][137]

2012–present: Tsugi no Ashiato[edit]

AKB48 recorded the track "Sugar Rush" for the 2012 Disney animated movie Wreck-It Ralph.[138] AKB48 was awarded the Guinness World Record for the most number of pop singers featured in a video game for their dating simulation game AKB1/149 Ren'ai Sōsenkyo.[139] AKB48 won the Japan Record Award for the second year in a row for its song "Manatsu no Sounds Good!". The AKB0048 anime series was given a second season, AKB0048 next stage, which aired in 2013 from January 5 to March 30.

In January 2013, AKB48 held its Request Hour Set List Best 100 concert at Tokyo Dome City Hall, where it announced upcoming concerts at Nippon Budokan[140] and Nissan Stadium, the latter of which would be the first time a female artist would hold a solo live concert at that venue.[141] On February 1, AKB48 released the documentary theatrical feature film Documentary of AKB48: No Flower Without Rain: Shōjo Tachi wa Namida no Ato ni Nani o Miru?.[142] It opened in the tenth position[143] and grossed US$2.2 million by February 17.[144] During a stage-greeting event for the film, first-generation member Tomomi Itano announced she would be leaving the group.[145] On April 28, following a concert at Nippon Budokan, the AKB48 general manager announced another reorganization of the teams, including the status of girls who were concurrent members with its sister groups.[146] Also, Nito Moeno and Tomomi Kasai had their last concerts with the group.[not in citation given]

AKB48 released its 31st single, "Sayonara Crawl", as an election single on May 22.[147] and more than 1.9 million copies were sold in a month.[148] It also broke the record of highest female group single sales previously held by Speed's White Love in 1997.[149] The election field consisted of 246 girls from AKB48, its sister groups, and some of its former members.[150] On June 8, the results were broadcast on Fuji TV and streamed live on YouTube; the latter broadcast included both Japanese and English commentators.[151][152] The winner was HKT48 member Rino Sashihara, who was formerly with AKB48.[150][153] During the event, Team A captain Mariko Shinoda, who placed fifth, announced she would leave the group in July.[154] During the group's summer concert series at the Sapporo Dome on July 31, AKB48 had a guest appearance by former headliner Atsuko Maeda, who performed a new solo single, "Time Machine Nante Iranai".[155]

On August 21, the group released its 32nd single, "Koisuru Fortune Cookie" The single's music video involved 3,800 extras,[156] the most for any AKB48 and sister group-related video.[157] On August 24, AKB48 announced the reinstatement of Team 4, with Minami Minegishi as the captain, and the members promoted from the 13th and 14th generation of trainees.[158]

On September 18, AKB48 held its annual rock-paper-scissors tournament at Nippon Budokan to determine the lineup for its 34th single.[159] The winner was Jurina Matsui.[160] Following the event, AKB48 announced the lineup for and performed the group's 33rd single, "Heart Electric", which was released in October.[161] Its music video was directed by Shusuke Kaneko who is known for the Heisei Gamera trilogy, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, and the live-action film adaptation of Death Note.[162]

On December 11, AKB48 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"[163] On December 31, long-time member Yuko Oshima announced on Kohaku Uta Gassen that she was leaving the group.[164]

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.[165] The group's 35th single "Mae shika Mukanee" was released on February 26, selling 970,413 copies on its first day of release.[166][167] The group also announced plans to create a fifth team, "Team 8", where candidates from each of Japan's 47 prefectures would be given an opportunity to audition.[168] On February 24, during the group's Grand Reformation Festival event at Zepp DiverCity Tokyo, AKB48 announced a major team reorganization, including assignment of a captain and a co-captain in each team, promotion of all AKB48 trainees to the regular member status and assigning to the four teams, as well as transfers and concurrent assignments of members from other sister groups to AKB48 and vice versa.[169]

On April 3, 2014, AKB48's newest team Team 8 (sponsored by Toyota) debuted.[170] The idea of the new team was to have a member from each prefecture of Japan as 'the Idols that come to meet you',[171] making the team the largest in all of AKB48's and her sister group's history with 47 members. This is also the first time AKB48 has had an idol from the Ishikawa, Tottori, Toyama, Tokushima, Yamagata, Okayama, Kōchi, and Okinawa prefectures. In addition to the new Team 8, AKB48 producer Akimoto Yasushi announced the audition for a new member who was over the age of 30.[172] The new member will participate in handshake events, stages and rehearsals for a temporary amount of time and she will also be the center of a new Glico Papico commercial, to be released on May 14, 2014. The winner was announced on April 16, 2014, as Mariko Tsukamoto, a 37-year-old housewife and mother of two.[173] Over 5,000 women auditioned for the new Otona AKB48 member, including the comedienne Kintalo, the voice actress Mikako Takahashi, and former Morning Musume member Sayaka Ichii.[174]

Musical style[edit]

The group's style is loosely characterized as "bubblegum pop and synchronised dancing" that appeals to pre-pubescent girls as well as older males who support the group's merchandise.[175] Mari Yamaguchi of Associated Press wrote that the "performances can seem orchestrated. As the girls sing and dance in unison, fans follow a cheering formula" and likened the fan responses to a Kabuki audience.[176] 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 the AKB48 performances, "members perform a revue of simply choreographed routines in front of a roughly 95% male audience. The music is typical Japanese pop: fast-paced numbers with high-pitched, singalong choruses."[25]

Promotion and media[edit]

AKB48 and its sister groups significantly boost their record sales by multiple marketing schemes. The singles and albums are released with different editions (labelled as "types") which contain alternate album cover pictures and B-side tracks as well as extras such as video DVDs, collectible member pictures and handshake tickets.

The group has publicized special events for choosing the promotional and recording lineup for some of its singles.[177] In 2009, the concept of sōsenkyo (総選挙?, "general elections") was introduced.[20] To obtain a ballot, voters have to buy the group's latest "election single."[178] The members who receive the most votes will get to participate in the recording of AKB48's next single,[20] and are heavily promoted.[5] The top vote getter earns the right to be the center performer during the group's live performances.[177][178] Votes cast for the 2011 election exceeded 1 million, and the single "Everyday, Katyusha", that contained a voting ticket for the election, set a new Japanese all-time record for weekly sales of a CD single.[179] The 2012 election had almost 1.4 million votes,[177] and the 2013 election had 2.6 million votes.[180] There have been several reports that individual fans buy up hundreds and in some cases even thousands of copies of these singles to vote for their favorite members.[25][178][181][182][183][184][185]

Another selection method, AKB48's rock-paper-scissors tournaments, was introduced in 2010 for the group's 19th single "Chance no Junban".[186] Members of AKB48 and its sister groups compete against each other in the knockout tournament in order to be part of the recording and promotional lineup for AKB48's next single.[187] The participants dress up in various costumes.[160]

The producers for AKB48 have developed several television shows to promote AKB48. AKBingo!, Shūkan AKB and Nemōsu TV are variety shows, while the Majisuka Gakuen series and Sakura Karano Tegami feature AKB48 members in drama roles.

Three documentaries about the group have been released in theatres since 2011. The first, titled Documentary of AKB48 -- To Be Continued, was released in Japan on January 22, 2011[188] and on DVD in North America on December 1.[189] The second, titled Documentary of AKB48: Show Must Go On Shōjo-tachi wa Kizutsuki Nagara, Yume wo Miru, was released on January 27, 2012[116] and the third, Documentary of AKB48: No Flower Without Rain: Shōjo Tachi wa Namida no Ato ni Nani o Miru?, on February 2, 2013.[190] The films chronicle events and issues encountered by the group during the previous year.[117]

The manga AKB49: Ren'ai Kinshi Jōrei revolves around AKB48, and it features real-life AKB48 members in the story as supporting characters.[191] The 2012 anime series AKB0048 is a science fiction series based on the group, with production supervision by Yasushi Akimoto.[192] Nine of the characters in this anime are voiced by members of AKB48 and its sister groups.[192] The anime aired in Japan in the spring of 2012,[192] and a second season aired in 2013.

Video games have been developed that involve AKB48. The group has its own visual novel/dating sim series. In the first installment, AKB1/48: Idol to Koishitara..., the player engages in a relationship with one of the members; it was released on December 23, 2010. The second installment, AKB1/48: Idol to Guam de Koishitara..., released on October 10, 2011, has a similar storyline but is situated in Guam. The third installment AKB1/149 Ren'ai Sōsenkyo, released on December 20, 2012, expands the scenarios to AKB48's sister groups SKE48, NMB48, and HKT48. The three games were released for the PlayStation Portable, but Ren'ai Sousenkyo was also released for the PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation 3.[citation needed] In 2014, Namco Bandai developed Sailor Zombie: AKB48 Arcade Edition, an arcade game where the player uses a light gun to shoot vaccine bullets at zombified AKB48 members. Part of the game includes a rhythm game where the zombie idols dance.[193]

Reception[edit]

Tower Records Japan’s CEO Ikuo Minewaki describes AKB48 as a wildly popular act [194] and it has been characterized as a social phenomenon in Japan.[10] In 2011, the group had record sales in Japan of over $200 million.[8] According to Oricon, AKB48 had sold a total of 11,787,000 singles as of January 6, 2012, breaking the record of "the most singles sold in Japan by a female group".[14] Its latest twenty one singles have topped the Weekly Oricon Singles Chart. In 2010, "Beginner" and "Heavy Rotation" placed, respectively, first and second in the list of Japan's best selling singles for the year,[16] while in 2011 and 2012 AKB48 occupied the top five positions on the Oricon Yearly Singles Chart[17] and in 2013, the top four.[19] As of December 2013, the group has sold over 25.83 million singles; it is the third musical act in Japan by number of singles sold.[13][195] As of March 2014, the group has 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 consisted of 48 members.[22][196] It set the record for "Most Number of Same Product Television Endorsement within 24 Hours" on February 28, 2012, after 90 of its group members appeared in 90 different commercials that were aired in the Kanto, Kansai and Tokai regions of Japan.[197]

Japanese ambassador to the United States, Ichirō Fujisaki, on meeting the group on its visit to Washington, D.C., stated that “AKB” stood for Adorable, Kind and Beautiful.[9]

On February 1, 2012, Japan Post issued a postage stamp in honor of the group.[198]

Controversies[edit]

Over the years, AKB48 has received criticism for sexually suggestive lyrics, which some felt were unsuitable for its young members. When asked about it by CNN's Anna Coren, AKB48 founder Yasushi Akimoto, who also writes all of AKB48's song lyrics, said that his works were a way of "depicting reality" and were meant to provoke in listeners thought about difficult issues.[126][199][200]

The band's risqué music videos have also been a focal point for controversy. In the promotional video for Heavy Rotation some members of the public expressed outrage over the depictions of the AKB48 members in lingerie, hugging,[175] kissing, and sharing a bath. "Heavy Rotation" music video director Mika Ninagawa explained she wanted to appeal to both men and women by creating a creative and fun video, due to the group's rising popularity among girls.[201] In her interview she took full responsibility for the content and was quoted "Mr. Akimoto left everything to me. He did not give me any tips at all." she continued "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, girl’s high school."[202]

In a TV commercial for the candy brand Puccho, which aired from 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 were offended, and called it "encouraging homosexuality", apart from being simply "unhygienic" and a "bad example to children".[175][203][204][205]

In the second week of January 2013, the group came under fire when an image that showed a boy's hands covering a topless Tomomi Kasai's breasts was intended to be published in Shukan Young Magazine. The image was subsequently pulled from the magazine and from Kasai's upcoming photobook, where it would have been the cover picture. The sale of the magazine was postponed from January 12 to January 21.[206][207][208]

In February 2013, member Minami Minegishi appeared in a YouTube video with a shaved head to apologize after it was reported by a tabloid that she had spent a night with a man in violation of her contract, and had been consequently demoted to trainee status. The act of shaving her hair was seen as extreme and drew criticism on how the situation was handled.[209] Labor expert and writer for The Japan Times Hifumi Okunuki argued that a no-dating clause in a labor contract would be in violation of Japanese labor laws.[210]

In January 2014, AKB48 made headlines in Japan when it was discovered a group of students from Osaka Sangyo University used credit card numbers stolen from one of the students' part-time jobs to purchase over 490 copies of one of the band's singles (identified as "Sayonara Crawl" in television coverage) online, costing nearly ¥490,000 (approx. US$4,800, GB£2,900, €3,500). The suspects were discovered to have been selling these CDs on the secondary market and one suspect was seen illegally dumping several hundred more that went unsold.[211][212][213][214][215][216]

Philanthropy[edit]

A few days after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, AKB48's official blog reported that a sum of more than 617 million yen had been donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society.[217] On April 1, the group issued a digital charity single titled "Dareka no Tame ni (What Can I Do for Someone?)", all profit from which was donated to a 2011 earthquake and tsunami relief fund.[218] AKB48's 23rd single "Kaze wa Fuiteiru" was also dedicated to the 2011 tsunami victims, its title song's lyrics having been written with the intention of cheering up the Japanese people who were affected by the March 11 disaster.[219][220] In February 2012, the group announced another donation to the Japanese Red Cross, of over 580 million yen. It was reported that to date AKB48 had raised a total of over 1.25 billion yen for the earthquake and tsunami relief.[221] On March 8, 2013, AKB48 released "Tenohira ga Kataru Koto", another song dedicated to the March 2011 disaster victims, for free digital distribution on their website.[222] On the anniversary of the disaster, AKB48 and sister group members simultaneously visited the disaster regions to hold performances at children schools, as well as special concerts at AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, and HKT48 theaters where the profits from theater tickets were used to further help the recovery process.[223]

Members[edit]

As of April 16, 2014, with the introduction of the fifth team, AKB48 consists of 143 members divided into several teams: Team A with 21 members, Team K with 22, Team B with 24, Team 4 with 16, Team 8 with 47, one "Otona AKB", and 12 kenkyūsei (研究生?, trainees).[2][20][note 2] There are 2 AKB48 members who have been transferred to overseas sister groups.[2] Some members hold concurrent positions with AKB48's sister groups.[2]

Minami Takahashi is called the leader, or "general manager", of AKB48 and all of its sister groups.

Discography[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Awards[edit]

The most important awards received by the group

Year Ceremony Award Nominated work Result
2010 Billboard Japan Music Awards[224] Top Pop Artists Won
2011 Billboard Japan Music Awards[225] Artist of the Year Won
Top Pop Artists Won
Hot 100 of the Year "Everyday, Katyusha"[226] Won
Hot 100 Single Sales of the Year "Everyday, Katyusha"[226] Won
53rd Japan Record Awards Grand Prix "Flying Get"[114] Won
2012 Billboard Japan Music Awards[227] 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[228] Grand Prix "Manatsu no Sounds Good!" Won
2013 Billboard Japan Music Awards[229][230] 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 attained[edit]

The group and its songs have attained the following records:

  • Guinness World Record for Largest Pop Group - In November 2010, Guinness named AKB48 as the largest pop group.[22][196]
  • Guinness World Record for Most Number of Pop Singers Featured in a Video Game - In December 2012, AKB48's dating simulation game AKB1/149 Ren'ai Sōsenkyo featured 149 members of the group.[139]
  • Guinness World Record for broadcasting the Most Number of Same Product Television Endorsement within 24 Hours - In February 2012, AKB48 broadcast 90 solo member’s CMs for Asahi’s ‘Wonda Coffee Morning Shot’ and defeated the previous Guinness World Record for broadcasting 60 commercials in 24 hours.[231]
  • Most singles sold by a female artist in Japan - In May 2013 after the release of the group's 31st single "Sayonara Crawl", the combined sales figures of all AKB48’s singles have reached 21.852 million since the group’s debut in 2006, exceeding the previous best record of 21.416 million held by J-pop icon Ayumi Hamasaki.[232]
  • Highest sales of female group single in Japan - In June 2013, the 31st single of the group, "Sayonara Crawl"'s cumulative sales number reached 1,872,000 copies, exceeding the previous best record for a female group's single sales (1,845,000 copies) which SPEED had kept for over 15 years with their 1997 single "White Love".[233] The total cumulative sales of "Sayonara Crawl" marked at 1,955,800.[234]
  • Highest number of consecutive million-selling single sold in Japan - In October 2013, the group's 33rd single "Heart Electric" sold 1,021,000 copies on the first day of release, becoming the 14th consecutive million-selling single of the group and beat the previous record of 13 by B'z.[235]
  • Most million-selling singles sold in Japan - In December 2013, the group's 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" sold 1,033,000 copies during the first week, scoring their 16th million-selling single and surpassed the record of 15 which B'z had kept for 13 years and 9 months.[236]

Sister groups[edit]

AKB48 producer Yasushi Akimoto has also created AKB48 sister groups that are based on the same "idols you can meet" concept. Each such sister group has a home theater based in Japan or elsewhere in Asia and releases its own singles. Sister group members also occasionally perform with AKB48.[124][237] Jurina Matsui and Miyuki Watanabe, members of AKB48 sister groups, have also been temporary members of AKB48, as well.[123]

AKB48's first sister group, SKE48, was formed in 2008, and their theater is based in Sakae, Nagoya.[62][238] Subsequently, SDN48 ("Saturday Night"), NMB48,[239] ("Namba"), and HKT48[240] ("Hakata") were formed. In 2011, the first sister group outside of Japan, JKT48,[241] was announced. The group is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. JKT48 was followed by another overseas AKB48 sister group: SNH48[242] based in Shanghai, China.

Apart from sister groups, AKB48 also has an "official rival" named Nogizaka46.[243]

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.

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