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AKB48’s Uncensored “Beginner” PV June 13, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Jpop.
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You are now reading the blog of someone with a legitimate college degree. Yay! Just this last week I finally finished four long years of undergraduate education! Oh, and before anyone asks, no, that doesn’t mean the quality of my posts here will go up… 😀

What it does mean though, is that I should be able to get back into the regular routine of making at least one post per week. I start work next Monday, but that shouldn’t have any major impact on here, something I’m very glad of.

So, to start back off I wanted to take a look at something that finally surfaced about a month ago. The mysterious “too violent” original PV for AKB48’s “Beginner!”


Video credits: Tokyohive

Honestly, that seems like a neat idea that was horribly, horribly executed. The whole crazy matrix infused PSPs bringing the girls into a video game is a legitimately cool premise, but did we really need to see some of the girls get brutally killed? Personally I found it a bit much.

I would have to say that that was probably why this version was “banned” in the first place. Supposedly it was because it was “too violent,” but save for Kojima Haruna’s head literally being cut in half, I would say most of this really isn’t all that explicitly violent.

Actually, the worst part of this scene was how her limp body slumped down onto the floor. More than a little unsettling.

Really, though, who actually wants to see their favorite idols get smashed to death? Or multiply impaled? Or really, just hurt in anyway? I frankly just can’t see any appeal in this. I’m not even really a big fan of any of these girls and I don’t enjoy seeing this kind of stuff. It just comes across as truly bizarre.

People love their idols. Sometimes to a startling degree even. Which is why I have such a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that this PV would willingly show such harm befalling them. Who really thought it would be a good idea to show them getting killed?

Oh, don't worry about her. She just really doesn't like that flavor of gatorade.

I mean, I can kind of see what they were trying to do, but I think they really went far too overboard on the artistic side of things. These are idols for gosh sakes, they don’t have to be edgy. There’s no reason to push the envelope. Really, they didn’t have to stop the song in the middle so that Acchan could scream out in agony and bleed profusely.

0_o

And, frankly, I wished they hadn’t.

For me, idols should be about happiness. Now that doesn’t mean all-genki-all-the-time, as a nice ballad can still be soothing, or even a rockish number can cheer you up, but death and pain are two things I’d rather not associate with that term.

(I’ve noticed that I’ve tended to be a bit negative on AKB48. I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike the group or anything. I really don’t. Just as an outsider, so to speak, it’s easier to be taken by that which I find disagreeable. I’ll make an effort such that the next time I feature them it will be in a more positive fashion!)

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SKE48 – Bonzai Venus March 23, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Jpop.
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Up to this point I don’t think I’ve ever even mentioned SKE48, the AKB48 expansion from Nagoya, on my blog. This is primarily because nothing of theirs has really caught my attention.

That is, until now.

Their latest single “Bonzai Venus” went on sale earlier this month, and here is a snippet from its PV:

Now THAT is an awesome PV!

The huge mass of people in the background is a fantastic addition to a fun and upbeat song like “Bonzai Venus.” Usually in the PVs you only get to see the girls themselves having fun with the song. Here you see everyone. Ever. 😀 I really do think it is a fun addition, and definitely something I wouldn’t mind seeing again in more PVs!

What makes it all that much cooler though, is that the majority of those aren’t just run of the mill extras. Nope, they’re actual fans!  According to TokyoHive fans were allowed to register to be an extra online, and 1000 were actually used in the PV. How cool is that? I know the AKB48 style prides themselves on being closer with their fans, and in this case I really do think it’s neat that they get to play a role in something as big as a PV.

However, I do have one complaint to make. There are over 1000 people dancing in that shopping center, and they couldn’t put all of the SKE48 girls into the shot? Really? I believe the front girls are determined by fan votes (if I’m wrong correct me down in the comments sections), but I imagine the others could have been shoved in the back without doing much harm. Heck, its not like you can make out the girls dancing in the back row anyway.

The Unthinkable: Morning Musume and AKB48 Performing Side by Side August 28, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Hello! Project, Jpop, Morning Musume.
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That’s right, you just witnessed AKB48, Becky, Morisanchu, Morning Musume, Ohashi Nozomi and S/mileage all collaborate on Ghibli song medley for 24HOUR TV (a 24 hour charity program). A little crazy, no?

Just wait though, it get’s better, here’s Morning Musume, AKB48 and S/mileage all performing together on a rendition of Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru:


AKB48 singing a Morning Musume song, along with Morning Musume and S/mileage? I really would have thought that kind of idea would be nothing short of crazy talk if anyone would have even suggested it. Now to be fair, there has been a rendition of Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru performed every year (examples here and here) so it really wasn’t too much of a surprise to see it performed again this year and AKB48 just happened to be serving as hosts for this year’s event. Still crazy stuff.

Over on dreamtiny’s blog I had mentioned how I thought that just the two groups appearing together on the Music Japan Idol Special would be the closest they would ever get to doing a collaboration. What a way to eat one’s own words, huh? Still, if this can somehow promote a better relationship between the two fan groups, then heck, eating my words isn’t so bad after all. 😀

AKB48’s Heavy Rotation PV: Is there such a thing as too much fan service? August 1, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Jpop.
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Now, as an idol fan I’m no stranger to fan service. For example GAM’s Melodies comes immediately to mind. Even AKB48’s last PV for Ponytail to Chouchou laid on the fan service pretty thick with their bikinis (and opening scene), but Heavy Rotation takes it quite a bit farther…

(Triple Edit: Replaced embedded video as AKB48 now as an official Youtube channel with PV’s.) I have taken the liberty of capping what I thought to be some of the most offending scenes in my opinion:

So, we start off the PV with you, the viewer, playing the role of a peeping tom watching her undress. Classy.

From which we segue into a lingerie pillow fight. A little better.

This cap isn’t that significant save for the fact that you have a fantastic shot of the girl who you were just peeping on’s derriere.

Classic up-skirt shot. Nothing too shocking here.

Blurry cap is blurry. >< The other "provocative" outfit the girls wear in this PV is sort of a mix between a maid's uniform and a cat suit. Where in the lingerie the theme seemed to center around the bedroom, the catsuits seem to be connected with a dining room sort of setting.

That must be really good. I’ll take whatever she’s having.

I mean, really? With all the sales that this group gets you think the management could spring to buy enough cupcakes for all the girls? What cheapskates!

Maybe it is time that AKB48 repeal their “no boyfriend” rule, just look what it is making these poor girls do!

Wow, okay, maybe I could understand that the reason their management didn’t buy a whole bunch of cupcakes was because they didn’t want the girls to gorge themselves on them. That seems reasonable. But not supplying enough bathtubs? That’s some seriously greedy penny pinching!

Okay, I take it back, let the “no boyfriend” rule stand… =D

Now, honestly, I don’t have much of a problem with all the examples that I’ve provided above. While I think it’s a little much that they all can be found in a single PV, they can all be pretty much labeled as done in good fun. The next example, not so much.

Very briefly around 2:41 you get to see who I believe to be Tomomi Itano with a little bit of whip cream on her face. Observe:

Now, I know that is whip cream on her face, but that is certainly not what it looks like to me. Now, it might just be that I have a perverse mind, but when that little shot of her is shown during the PV it doesn’t make me think, “Oh silly girl! You are oh so messy when you eat cupcakes!,” but rather how she makes a mess during other activities. You never get to see her take a big bite out of a cupcake or cookie or what-have-you. No, you just she her there, on her hands and knees giving you a mischievous smile with white stuff all over her face.

Now, this whole thing could just be my imagination, but that sure as heck doesn’t mean I have to like what it could be implying. I understand that idols are a big sex symbol, I mean the whole Alo-Hello! series is nothing more than a thinly veiled facade to watch your favorite Hello! Project idol running around Hawaiian beaches in a skimpy bikini, but there is a difference, and that difference is restraint. The Alo-Hello! series, and even the bikini frolicking of Ponytail to Chouchou, are all done with a healthy does a playfulness that leaves quite a bit to the imagination. Honestly, this is one of the main reasons that I enjoy Japanese idols. While I wouldn’t call it any less sexual than the popular music and personalities we have here in the United States, it certainly is a different type of sexuality.

Now, I honestly hope that what I believe that scene looks like wasn’t intentional by the director, and that I am horribly off base in my ranting. I really truly do, because if it really was intentional, then I must say I’m rather disgusted. For idols who are so prized on their pureness to be displayed in such a manner is almost insulting. I’m moderately upset about this, and the only thing I know about that girl is that she announced her 19th birthday at AX. If this were Aya, or Risa, or Ai, I couldn’t even imagine how upset I would feel. Then again, I might just be a perverted minded Puritan.

Days 2 and 3 of AX: AKB48 Panel and Reflections July 7, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Anime Expo, Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina.
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The only idol related thing of note to happen on Day 2 of Anime Expo was the AKB48 panel. Since this thing started at around 11AM me and the friend that I was going with were actually able to get some sleep that morning which was quite welcome.

We actually got into the convention center at around 10:45 or so and she went off to the Nabeshin panel while I headed off for AKB48.

Figuring that it would be ran like last year I took a seat near the back of the panel that was currently running waiting to move forward when it finished. Not so. It turned out that they now empty the rooms between panels and there was a already a line outside for the AKB48 panel. A long line. A line that went all the way outside nearly to the end of the building, I would say roughly 250 people in front of me, and by the time we started to move in, about 80 people behind me. While waiting in line I met a guy in front of me that got into idols through Kayo Aiko and became a big fan of Koharu, really nice guy.

Once we actually got into the hall I was really surprised by the fact that I was able to get a decent seat. The Q&A was set up in Petree Hall, the same place as Morning Musume’s panel last year, but reversed, as in the guests now sat at the opposite end of the hall. I ended up about 6 or 7 rows back on the right side of the table for the guests. All in all I would say about 20 to 25 feet away from the members.

As for the overall turnout off attendees and audience energy I found them both to be much lower than for Morning Musume’s panel for last year. I came nearly an hour before their panel and got a horrible seat where I could hardly see any of the girls, this time though, I came only 15 or so minutes before hand and I got a pretty decent seat. As for the audience energy I would classify it as “appropriate” rather than insane as for last year. A nice benefit of that was that I could clearly hear both the girl’s answer’s and their translations. =D

Once the panel started they played a VTR explaining what AKB48 was and gave a short history of the group and then pretty much went straight into questions. Most of the questions were pretty generic so I’m not going to try and summarize them all but I would like to touch a bit on the first and last people to ask questions. The first guy was a slightly older (maybe early 50’s or late 40’s) Western wota who gave the AKB48 girls a warm welcome, which really was quite nice. Then he spent the better part of a minute brown-nosing about all the times that he has seen them live at their theatre and about how they’re the greatest performers on the face of the planet all before he even got to his question. I know all fans want to express their gratitude to their favorite idols, but in a situation like this you really need to try and be short and succinct in your praise. I would put the limit at a sentence or so, even if you have to make it a long sentence, but anything much more than that just seems slightly inappropriate for the setting. The other person whose question I would like to bring up was the last person, who asked the girl’s if they liked any k-pop girl’s group. Now, I dunno about the girls of AKB48 (their manager answered the question, and I have no idea what he was answering, certainly not the question asked), but I’m pretty sure he did. The question just annoyed me because he seemed to be looking for answer he already wanted rather than simply trying to find out more about the girls themselves. Meh.

On day 3 of AX there were no idol related events scheduled but I actually managed to meet up with Charles, the fearless leader of Group 1 from AX ’09 (I’m going to have to flesh this out in the future =D), and his two friends named Aaron, both of which I actually recognized from the Mano event earlier. We hung out a bit around the HelloStoreUSA booth, and it’s always good time to talk idols with people. Fun stuff =D

So, what were my overall thoughts on Manoeri? I must say, I was really impressed. Her acting in Kai-Ki: Tales of Terror from Tokyo was not only far better than I had expected, but she also seems to just exude this great charisma in person. I’ve never really paid too much attention to her in the past, but I’m definitely going to keep my eye on her now.

This picture was actually taken by my friend right next to me at her movie screening. You can really get an idea of how close we all were to the stage, plus she looks pretty cute =P

As for AKB48? While I must say I really enjoyed their concert, something had been bothering me slightly about it, and it wasn’t until after their Q&A panel that it hit me. It all seemed slightly sterile. While their choreography and MC were all quite excellent, the actual performances seemed to lack personality, like I could have watched them perform the same setlist in Japan and it would have been the exact same show. I believe that the fact that they don’t actually use live vocals contributes greatly to this, but the performance itself didn’t seem to have any interactions or spontaneity between the girls. Now, I know why the producers would want to stamp such things out in a group as large as AKB48, but I couldn’t help but find it slightly disappointing.

Now, don’t let this discourage any of you from ever going to see them live as they do put an a fantastic show, just know that it is a different type of performance from what you would expect from a Hello!Project group.

So, that wraps up my coverage of Anime Expo 2010 and Mano Erina’s movie premier at Club Nokia. Really, a fantastic idol-filled couple of days. I really do feel lucky that in the span of a year I was able to see three of Japan’s major idol acts all within 30 miles of my humble abode. Los Angeles truly is a lucky city!

Note: So, I just realized that all the events that I’ve talked about so far actually took place on day 1, and not day 2 lol. I’ve updated the titles but I left the permalinks alone.

Day 1 of AX and Club Nokia: AKB48 (Part 2) July 4, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Anime Expo, Jpop.
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Okay, so let’s talk about the second big event of Day 2: The AKB48 concert!

So, after Mano’s movie screening I went to go meet up with my friend that worked at AX’s ticketing booth. Now, he had told me beforehand that these were “Premium” tickets but he never really expanded on it any more than that. Turns out these things were second row. SECOND ROW. Now, they weren’t center (more like on the far right side of the stage), but they were second row, and they were amazing.

With my tickets secured I killed some time in the AX exhibit hall with a couple of friends I had made in line waiting for Mano’s event. Since we all had assigned seating there really was no rush to get over to the Nokia Theatre and line up early. It was actually nice to be able to go somewhere without worrying about a line! I think it was the first time something like that has ever happened to me at Anime Expo!

The interior of the Nokia Theatre itself really is pretty grand, a proper concert venue even. It completely trumped the stage that was set up for Momusu last year. The sound and lighting were really far better. Really, the only negative thing I could say about the Nokia Theatre is that my 6th row seats for Momusu’s performance last year were about the same distance from the stage that I was for AKB48’s concert due to the much larger gap between the seating and the stage.

There seemed to be some sort of delay before the start of the concert, as it began about 30 minutes after it was supposed to start.

As for the concert itself? Here’s the setlist from makistar via SacredCultivator:
SetList:
1 – River
2 – Aitakatta
3 – Iiwake Maybe
Intro
4 – Kuroi Tenshi
5 – Seifuku Resistance
6 – Bird – Takamina, Rie (Mariko), Sasshi (Maimai)
7 – Heart Gata Virus – Haruna, Ami (Nozomi) , Mocchi (Maimai)
8 – Blue rose – Sayaka, Sae, Yuko, Miichan
MC
9 – Boku no Taiyo
10 – BINGO! (English version)
11 – Oogoe Diamond (English version)
MC
12 – Sakura no Shiori

ENCORE
13 – Namida surprise!
14 – Ponytail to Shushu
15 – Hikouki Gumo

To be honest I only recognized three of the songs: River, Ponytail to Shushu and Sakura no Shiori. I actually kind of enjoyed their live performance of River, which is odd because I really don’t like that song. It just grates on me. As for everything else? Pretty solid. Except for Sayaka, Sae, Yuko, and Miichan’s performance of Blue Rose nothing really stood out to me. I really liked not only the song Blue Rose, but the performance that went along with it was pretty good as well. I can’t say that the costumes didn’t help, as I was close enough to make out the definition on Akimoto’s abs without the help of the video displays =D

Something else that really surprised me was how well the girls had practiced their English for the concert. Each girl introduced themselves entirely in English, and you could actually understand most of their cute engrish to boot. Another pretty impressive thing was the MC after Blue Rose was entirely in English, and actually very entertaining. The same girls that performed Blue Rose discussed what tourist spots they’d like to visit and mimed various scenes from popular movies for the audience to guess. It really went over fantastically well.

As for the not so great parts of the concert? The lip syncing. You could actually distinctly tell when their microphones were turned up for their self introductions after Iiwake Maybe because their suddenly was feedback >< Also, Sakura no Shiori is very boring live because of this as well, as they just stood around their microphone stands essentially. For someone like myself hearing these songs for the first time I really can't comment on how they "should" have sounded, but I can't help but think that it was just a bit stale. Understand though, that I'm used to watching Matsuura Aya and Morning Musume concerts where everything is live.

Something else that I found a little disappointing had nothing to do with AKB48's performance, but with my section of the audience. Last year at Momusu's concert I was smack dab in the middle of all the other fans and the energy was intense. This time I was surrounded by Anime Expo volunteers who really didn't care about the concert and most likely came just because they got free tickets. To really get the most out of an idol concert you just need to let yourself go and enjoy it. Clap and shout along. Not to say that nobody in my vicinity was as into it as myself, but really, the only part of the crowd that really seemed to embrace the concert was the front center. Their encore chants really were impressive, not that I didn’t help!

So, overall I really did enjoy the concert, a lot more than I had even expected to. Heck, I didn’t even mind River! At a deep level I really do love idol pop, and AKB48 is definitely a good idol pop group. While I can’t say I’m a convert or anything, they’ve certainly piqued my interest.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up with my impressions on AKB48’s Q&A session and a general review of everything that’s happened over the last couple of days. It has certainly been a busy week!

I want to apologize for the lack of photos in this post. I was so excited after being able to meet Mano earlier in the day that it kind of slipped my mind, sorry!

Exhaustion July 2, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Anime Expo, Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina.
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So, Day 1 of Anime Expo and the Mano Erina Event at Club Nokia have come to a close, and I have far, far too much to write about those events to do so now as I am completely and utterly exhausted. So, I’ll leave you guys with just a couple reflections on the day:

  • I really wished Mano would have performed more than two songs at her event.
  • She is actually very, very cute in person and has almost unbelievably soft hands
  • I really enjoyed the AKB48 concert, actually a good deal more than I expected
  • Akimoto Sayaka has a-mazing abs

I really want to write about everything that happened in detail, but I’m just too tired.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to update on both today’s and that day’s events.  As for now, sleep!

Oh, and I also managed to acquire these... =D

Anime Expo Day 0: Let’s Queue! July 1, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Anime Expo, Jpop.
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So, for those that don’t know, Day 0 of Anime Expo has nothing happening but the collection of your attendance badges and concert tickets. Nothing else. And I was there from about 10:00am to 5:00pm. AWESOME! Lets get to some pictures!


Here are the number of people ahead of me in line to get their badges. Those green doors way up there are the front of the line.


Here are all the people behind me at about 11:30, or a half hour after I took the other picture (when I was in the back myself). It looks like a giant mob of people because they already had the line snaking back and forth to prevent it from being too physically long.


Same shot, a little better angle, and a little later in the day.


A little later still. Notice the increase of the queue’s density, and the growth in its width.


Here’s a picture after the line had already started to move at 3:00pm. Notice how the “snaking” of the line continued so far up.

So, after I picked up my badges I get sent into the MAIN EVENTS TICKETING LINE. Yay. I love queuing.


Here’s the main events ticketing queue at about 3:30. This line took a PAINFULLY long time to start moving. We all knew that the line for the badges wouldn’t move anywhere until 3:00, but apparently the tickets were all “mixed up,” or something or another and we waited for almost two hours to get inside (where there was a another small line in front of the booth)

Inside I picked up my tickets no problem, and even tried my luck into getting into the exclusive AKB48 meet and greet that was taking place that afternoon. Apparently, they placed 500 tickets into a box with 32 winners, and only those winners would be allowed to go to the meet and greet later that day. While I was still in line for the tickets themselves, one AKB48 wota told me he would pay me $60 for my winning ticket if I were so lucky. About 25 or so dejected AKB48 wota were gathered around the raffle box when I tried my luck, and a female one even made sure that I was a fan before my attempt. Can’t say that that I didn’t feel really bad for them.

After I picked up my tickets and badges I headed down to LA Live to check out where Club Nokia was for Mano Erina the next day. I didn’t take any pictures of it because I forgot to, lol. Expect a couple for the next days entry =P

And in a sadistic turn of events one of my good friends got a job as an AX volunteer working in ticketing. A couple of hours after I got home he called me up to tell me he hooked me up with some premium seats for every single event at AX. Now this is both awesome, and totally disheartening. Awesome because I am getting some crazy close seats, but also cripplingly depressing because all the waiting that I did today trying to get a good concert ticket for AKB48 was for naught. Yay.

So tomorrow I plan to get to Club Nokia at about 8:00am to see Mano Erina, which means I have to get up around 6:30 to battle traffic and get there. Supposedly there will be some sort of red carpet event or something at 10:30, I have no idea what that entails, but it should be interesting at the least.

Tomorrow has both Mano Erina and AKB48. It’s going to be crazy. =D

Off to Anime Expo 2010! June 29, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in AKB48, Anime Expo, Hello! Project, Jpop, Mano Erina.
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So, tomorrow morning I’ll be heading off to the Los Angeles Convention Center for Day 0 of Anime Expo. I’ll be leaving at 9PM with one of my good friends with the express hopes of getting a decent seat to see AKB48. I’ll also scout out the location of Club Nokia so I can find out where to wait for Thursday after I get my badge and concert tickets. I’ll document each day of Anime Expo and Club Nokia for you guys, so expect plenty of images of queuing tomorrow!