Archive for the ‘DVDs’ Category

Mirai Yosouzu II – Sato Natsuki (未来予想図II – 佐藤夏希)
February 27, 2011

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The first musical: AKB48 Kagekidan ‘Infinity’ (DVD review)
March 29, 2010

The DVD finally came out, and we get both performances, thank god.  It’s possible that this’ll be performed at G-Rosso again this year, but here’s my summary/review/thoughts for now!

Infinity

Act I
Aitakatta – senbatsu members
Infinity – Harusame Ruka, Takajima Maria
Tomo yo – Ai, Isako, Utako, Eri, (lower club members, maids)
Ame no Doubutsuen – Eri, Utako, (lower club members, maids)
Blue Rose – Harusame Ruka
Fushidara na Natsu – Utako, Eri, (lower club members)
Virgin Love – Ai, Isako, (lower club members); ((Utako acts))
Infinity – Harusame Ruka
Renai Kinshi Jourei – maids; ((Harusame Ruka acts))
109 – Takajima Maria, Ai, Isako, Utako, (Eri, lower club members)
Hizukehenkousen – Takajima Maria, Harusame Ruka; ((Ai, Isako, Utako, Eri, lower club members dance))

Act II
Honehone Waltz – maids; ((lower club members dance))
Mori e Ikou – Ai, Isako, Utako, Eri, lower club members
Kyuuketsuki Densetsu – Vampire Hunter James (Kn/N)ight; ((support actors dance))
Rio no Kakumei – Takajima Maria
MARIA – Harusame Ruka
Kimi wa Pegasus – Harusame Ruka; ((lower club members dance))
Naki Nagara Hohoende –  Takajima Maria; ((interlude: Infinity – Harusame Ruka))
Infinity – Harusame Ruka, Takajima Maria
Saishuu Beru ga Naru – Takajima Maria, Ai, Isako, Utako, Eri, (lower club members, maids)
Yakusoku yo – senbatsu members; ((Vampire Hunter James (Kn/N)ight, support actors dance))

Cast:
Harusame Ruka – Akimoto Sayaka or Miyazawa Sae
Takajima Maria – Takahashi Minami or Kashiwagi Yuki
Ai – Iwasa Misaki
Isako – Yonezawa Rumi
Utako – Sato Natsuki
Eri – Nakatsuka Tomomi
Lower Club Members – Nakata Chisato, Katayama Haruka, Nonaka Misato, Uchida Mayumi
Maids – Nakaya Sayaka, Tanabe Miku
Support Actors – Murai Akira, Takahashi Hikaru, Adachi Yuji
Vampire Hunter James (Kn/N)ight – Nakanishi Katsuyuki

Infinity

The lead couple are great and their parts are definitely custom-made just for them.  While Takamina and Sayaka stood out as the better pair to me character-wise, all four of the girls did excellent jobs.  From the first set, Takamina’s ‘Rio no Kakumei’ was outstanding.  I think it might be because she’s performed it so many times before, but she set the perfect mood for the song.  ‘Kimi wa Pegasus’ from Sayaka was incredible.  It’s always been a popular song to show off girls’ voices, but she really used it well.  As for the other two, I simply liked their rendition of ‘Infinity’ more.  I don’t know why, but I think the song was meant to be sung a bit calmer and less musical-esque (though it was made for these performances), and Kashiwagi and Sae did that for me.

If the leads were to be shuffled around within the AKB48 family, new couples (Maria/Ruka) that I’d love to see would be Kuramochi/Noro, Kasai/Masuda, Oshima/Minegishi, and Moeno/Miyazaki.  And if unpopular girls could lead, Umeda/Maeda (Ami).  I think those all would be really interesting.

The supporting cast in the musical is spectacular, at least to me.  Obviously, when I first found out Natsuki got in, I was over-joyed.  I’m not sure when, but the musical was first announced in early 2009; possibly at Shibuya AX or NHK Hall.  All we knew was that it was in the works, and I was rooting for Natsuki to be selected.  Luckily, she did get in, and a great position at that.

Of the four leads in the supporting cast, I’d rank them from best position to worst position: Ai, Isako, Utako, Eri.  While they all get a bunch of opportunities to shine, they each have different parts they get to play up.  Iwasa’s Ai is the captain of the dance team and gets long solos in ‘Tomo yo’ and ‘109.’  Rumi seems to be the brains behind the team and usually gets a central position in full team songs as Isako.  Natsuki really gets to play up her character as the mature and oftentimes flirty Utako in acting sequences, and the song choice ended up building her personality.  Eri, while the last on my ranking, still got a very good part with an out of context solo of ‘Fushidara na Natsu,’ though I didn’t think her character really developed all that much.  Admittedly, I guess I really can’t judge that sort of thing without understanding what they’re all saying.

The rest of the cast is full of great choices, too.  Nakaya and Tanabe were cast as maids and performed as dance team members when needed.  Though not all that important, both got a few solos each in ‘Renai Kinshi Jourei,’ and more speaking parts than I expected.  Their comedy routine starting Act II was also appreciated.  Katayama, Uchida, Nakata, and Nonaka made up the tail end of the cast as club members.  While only one girl (Katayama) got any lines, they performed in a ton of songs that I wasn’t ready for.  I was kind of disappointed by their lack of use, but I’m glad that they were included.

I’m sort of tempted to think that a large part of the casting was done at a B4 show.  If you think about who unders for who, this is very possible.  That performance could be: Nakatsuka, Nakata, and Uchida in ‘Zannen Shoujo;’ Iwasa, Nonaka, and Nakaya in ‘Kuchi Utsushi no Chocolate;’ Tanabe, Katayama, and Yonezawa in ‘Kataomoi no Taikakusen;’ pretty much anyone in ‘Tengoku Yarou’ along with Nakaya; and Katayama, Yonezawa, and Tanabe in ‘Itoshiki Natassha.’  If you look at that list, everyone is chosen for Infinity except the girls who only perform ‘Tengoku Yarou.’  The only girls missing are the leads and Natsuki.

The fact that seven of the eleven girls I support were senbatsu for Infinity makes me really happy.  (Next time, Suzuki Mariya for Nonaka, Chikano Rina for Iwasa, and Fujie Reina for Nakatsuka.  Maeda Ami is Ruka, remember?  If only I had a twelfth favorite for Maria…)

Another thing really special to me about this musical is the song choice for Natsuki.  Listed in the program, she led ‘Ame no Doubutsuen’ and ‘Fushidara na Natsu.’  What’s interesting about these?  They’re both from K2.  What’s cool about that?  Natsuki didn’t get a unit in the first original Stage from Team K.  After seeing this, she’s performed in three-fourths of the possible units from the Stage, only missing ‘Blue Rose.’ (She performed ‘Kinjirareta Futari’ with Noro Kayo on a radio show.  I posted a rip (along with their version of ‘Anata to Christmas Eve’) a while ago on W’sN?)  I’m considering this a sort of repentance for not giving her a unit in K2, even though I’m not sure exactly how much involvement Akimoto had with the musical.

At some point while the musical was rehearsed or performed, Natsuki strained her left thigh muscles, which made her end up missing a bunch of K5 shows at the Akihabara48 Theater, though she pushed herself to perform in her first musical.  Throughout the DVDs you can tell she’s not really going all out with her legs when dancing, so this is kind of her excuse.  That being said, she can often be out-danced by many of the senbatsu here, but that’s just because she’s gotten a bit lazy in that department (though I hope that the recent B5 rehearsals are making her kick it up a notch).

Aitakatta – senbatsu members

‘Aitakatta’ begins the first AKB48-affiliated play with a very generic concert atmosphere.  I guess they just wanted to introduce the girls to the audience or something to that effect.  All the girls perform this, regardless of their character in the actual play.  This means that Ruka and the maids don’t wear their wigs (or in Sayaka’s case, her white hair extension and uses a hat to cover the braided-in section.  The first chorus brings the girls from the main stage to the lower stage, and the main duo exit the stage to change costumes while the rest of the girls continue the song.  Nothing all that exciting here.

These school uniforms crack me up.  I love that they’re orange and all harvest-y, since that’s the season the musical was performed during, and since it started near Halloween, and vampires are most commonly referenced near that holiday, the orange is perfect.  The things I don’t like are the half vest, though it’s totally within AKB’s usual style (’10nen Zakura’ and SKE48’s ‘Dakedo…’ in KII1) and the fringe-outlined square on the front of the skirt.  I’m just confused with what exactly it is.  I do love the socks, though.  How match-y can we get?

Infinity – Harusame Ruka, Takajima Maria

A neat little set change (complete with thunder and ambulance sound effects) brings us from G-Rosso to a hospital, or at the very least a rather uncomfortable bedroom.   Ruka and Maria sing the musical-exclusive ‘Infinity.’  I’m really hoping that we’ll be able to vote for it for next year’s Top 100 concert (which may or may not happen because Shibuya AX is being torn down), since I guess it was released just a bit too late for last year’s vote.

I have to again stress that I don’t speak the same language that the musical is performed in, so I’m clueless as to any details pertaining to the plot, but I think I get the general idea.  This performance of ‘Infinity’ I think is supposed to be in the past… but I’m not quite sure: I thought ‘the past’ was supposed to be like 200 years ago, but we definitely just heard modern emergency vehicle sounds.

I don’t really get how Ruka is wearing the pretty white costume while Maria gets stuck with a modest nightgown.  She has a pretty white costume too, so why not throw that on?  Maybe this one fits under the school uniform?

Tomo yo – Ai, Isako, Utako, Eri, (lower club members, maids)

There’s a nice little black-out and we’re brought back to the present day in a school apparently during the summer.  ‘Tomo yo’ immediately begins with Iwasa taking the first set of vocals.  Rumi pops in for a line, then Natsuki joins, Iwasa gets another solo, and then the three add Nakatsuka to bring up the chorus.  The song is a brand new shortened version that only goes up to the end of the first chorus.

As far as the performance goes, it’s nice to see all of the girls doing little acting sequences that they don’t get to do in other shows.  A few of them are chatting, some are dancing a bit, and Natsuki gets to fiddle around with the contents of her bag.

I love the really traditional sailor suit-style uniforms they’ve got going on here.  It looks like everyone has pretty much the same thing, but some of the lead club members are a tad different.  Rumi gets a watch, Nakatsuka gets a bow, and Natsuki gets a scrunchie and a couple of bracelets.  Her skirt also looks shorter than the other girls’ but I think she just has longer legs.

The musical’s ‘acting’ finally starts, about ten minutes in.  I have no clue what’s going on.  My guess: Natsuki has a date set up and Iwasa’s freaking out because she won’t have time to rehearse for he dance contest.  Maybe it’s raining or something, so Nakatsuka recommends the zoo for Natsuki.

Ame no Doubutsuen – Eri, Utako, (lower club members, maids); ((Ai, Isako act))

Nakatsuka gets the majority of the opening chorus with Natsuki joining in to finish it off.  The lower club members and maids dance and sing a bit while the other two leads sulk on the bench.  Natsuki gets a handful of lines leading up to the chorus, Nakatsuka joins in, and mid-way through, Natsuki ‘Stop!”s the song.

I love that Natsuki got lines here.  It’s certainly not my favorite, but any song with Natsuki solo lines is a good song for me.  Especially since she gets more spotlight here than if she were to sing it in a shuffle concert or something similar due to the distribution and how they chose to sing the unit song for the musical.

Iwasa angrily dismisses their time-wasting (I don’t know why though, as they’re definitely dancing, and I think that should count towards their practice time), and Maria waltzes in late.  She may or may not have a fever.  And she may or may not had a dream… and a blue rose… but I don’t know.  Practice is dismissed and Natsuki goes off for her date… I think.

The next scene goes to what I’d assume is a street at night or something.  Maria is attacked by two men and Ruka saves the day.  ‘He’ (I’m unsure of whether I should refer to the cross-dressing AKB member’s character as a boy or girl…) is obviously already in love with Maria and proceeds to embrace her a few times with varying success.

Blue Rose – Harusame Ruka

Ruka gives a blue rose to Maria and then proceeds to tell us about it in song.  I guess that’s okay, since that’s kind of the sort of thing that musicals tend to feature.

Fushidara na Natsu – Utako, Eri, (lower club members)

Scene change to the beach (though it looks rather grey and un-inviting).

Nakatsuka and Natsuki are the first to come out in their relatively new Budokan costumes.  The four lower club members join in, each with either a beach ball or inflatable tube accompanying them.  Everybody wears a summery cover-up of some sort, while Natsuki gets to be all scantily-clad with lots of accessories.  I’m liking this Utako character.

Here, the verses are turned into solo lines up till the build up to the chorus where there are a few duet lines.  I don’t care if it’s pre-recorded: Natsuki sounds absolutely amazing.  I’m glad she got into this song.  They even used the second verse!

The music fades out for more acting.  Natsuki is working to raise money for the up-coming dance tournament, and sells yakisoba, complete with a ‘Bye bye!’ and a ‘Thank you!’  Katayama gets a speaking line (the only girl to get one of the lower club members), and a little bit later Nakatsuka gets what looks to be a pack of cigarettes before she goes into the chorus of ‘Fushidara na Natsu’ again before the scene is broken up by a random police man.

Some sort of announcement (by Katayama again, I think) is made while the scene changes and the girls are back to their uniforms at school.  It appears as though Natsuki is being scolded for something… again.  Maybe Iwasa and Rumi’s characters were sad they missed out on the beach episode?  That’d explain why they are so irritated.  Maria ends up running away for whatever reason and Nakatsuka follows her with the notebook/sketchbook she dropped.  Natsuki’s all dreamy for a moment before they start the next song.

Virgin Love – Ai, Isako, (lower club members); ((Utako acts))

I’m not quite sure what’s going on here.  The lyrics of ‘Virgin Love’ are about a girl who wants to seem more experienced in relationships than she is… but I thought Iwasa and Rumi’s characters don’t like that Natsuki has a date… I’m lost.  Maybe she doesn’t have a date and is just making it up to seem cooler or something.  Either way, it’s great that they’re kind of lecturing her and Natsuki gets to dance a little bit by the end before the school bell pulls them off stage.

I’m kind of disappointed that they only performed a shortened version, but I guess the lyrics don’t really match as well (depending on what they were going for), so that’s okay.  I just really would have enjoyed having Natsuki sing with them after she finally started dancing.

Infinity – Harusame Ruka

We switch back to the main plot with Maria going across the now-lit catwalk following her blue rose.  Nakatsuka follows her, confused.  (I had no clue that catwalk was usable… It totally wouldn’t fit in H2’s staging at G-Rosso, but wouldn’t it be interesting if it were used?  Maybe in ‘Rock da yo, Jinsei wa…” or ‘Ato 1cm’?)

Ruka appears on the lower stage to sing ‘Infinity’ again.  Apparenly this is like the ballad version or something, but it sounds pretty much completely different from the original.  And the lyrics have changed.  Maybe it’s the second verse?

The maids finally come into play in Ruka’s living room up on the main stage.  Nakaya and Tanabe look rediculous (in a good way) in their blonde wigs and matching costumes, but I guess it fits the rather predictable plot in a way.

Maria is still following her blue rose to Ruka as she enters the scene.  Ruka wakes her from her hypnotized state and they argue for a bit about how much they love one another.  The maids scamper off stage and Ruka plays ‘Infinity’ on the phonograph.  The leads’ talk climaxes in another near-kiss, but Maria runs off stage again… not that we couldn’t see it coming.

The maids come back, this time with a tea set, while Ruka sulks.  Somehow they decide that giving Ruka a cell phone is the perfect thing to do in this situation, and Nakaya takes one out of her handy-dandy cell phone pocket in her apron.

Renai Kinshi Jourei – maids; ((Harusame Ruka acts))

Tanabe and Nakaya get a bunch of solo lines each while explaining the rules of dating and the use of the cell phone.  They’re using choreography similar to the original A5 unit, but it seems to be a lot more pair-focused.  It’s cute and re-inforces their image of being a sort of comedy relief as this is so out-of-place.  These two get to sing both verses and choruses from the title unit, and only miss the bridge and that last chorus.

Ruka wanders off while the staff sings their unit song, and they decide to just keep on going, despite the lack of an on-stage audience.

109 – Takajima Maria, Ai, Isako, Utako, (Eri, lower club members)

A very neat smooth transitition brings us to another A5 song ‘109.’  The first few measures are taken up by the background panels being moved around in accordance with the music.  After seeing the original performance so many times, I must mention that they did a great job of matching these with the Akihabara48 Theater’s lighting for the top of this song.  Both are very similar.

Line distribution here involves Maria getting the first half of the verse (four girls’ worth of solos in A5), and Iwasa taking the build-up lines (two/three girls’ worth).  Maria gets the in-chorus lines, and then it switches around a bit for Rumi and Natsuki to split up those first lines and Maria gets the second half.  On stage in the second half, Katayama and then Nonaka are hit on by a few local men to act along to the lyrics.

The dance club’s eight normal members all help perform the song as random people who also may be near the 109 building.  Natsuki and Nakatsuka are the only ones in their school uniforms.  I’d guess it’s because Natsuki is in-character and is going out for her date or something, and then Nakatsuka is still searching for Maria with her book still in hand.  Iwasa and Rumi I’ll assume are at home or at school, still going over dance routines because they’re just so determined to do well, so they perform as random characters on the street.  While Iwasa goes all incognito in a red wig, Rumi gets to wear Tomo-chin’s dress from the ’10nen Zakura’ PV.  I knew I had seen that somewhere so I searched around to find it.  As for the lower club members, Uchida has a gal get-up going on, Nakata is a blue tartan lolita, Katayama is an old lady, and Nonaka is an office lady.  All of which are darn adorable.

The end of the song brings in Ruka with more thunder sound effects.  Here, someone acts as Ruka on the catwalk, with some sort of vocal recording when the real Ruka shows up upstage of the club members on the main stage.  ‘He’ walks down to Maria to again talk about their feelings or something.  Perhaps the relatively stormy weather, for all I know.

Hizukehenkousen – Takajima Maria, Harusame Ruka; ((Ai, Isako, Utako, Eri, lower club members dance))

The only AKB48 song used as a duet between the lead couple is another K2 song ‘Hizukehenkousen.’  Maria takes up the first lyrics while Ruka comes in near the chorus.  The song is about ‘love’s international date line,’ so I’d assume it’s pretty late by now.

Cut short by vampire hunters, the supporting cast runs off stage.  This confirms my theory of Natsuki and Nakatsuka being the only ones in-character, as Natsuki waits for her friend before running off, unlike the locals who just bolt away as soon as possible.

The vampire hunters introduce themselves and while Ruka defends Maria.  Ruka uses those weird supernatural movements to fend them off and put the lead couple alone together on stage.  They share a brief kiss as the ‘Infinity’ instrumental is played again. and exit to conclude the first act.

Honehone Waltz – maids; ((lower club members dance))

Act II begins with AKB’s possibly most random song ever: a waltz with lyrics about bones.  The maids perform the unit while the four lower club members dance in the original sub-group’s costumes for ‘Honehone Waltz.’  If you’ll notice (like I did) it looks like there was some sort of shoe shortage in AKB world.  Nakata and Katayama both get real shoes, while Nonaka and Uchida get ballet slippers.  Remember this for later…

They end the song after the first chorus and the Honehone Dancers get their own MC.  I call it an MC because it seems like it’s unscripted.  In the Sayaka/Takamina DVD, they all talk a bit about who knows what (I know who: anyone who speaks Japanese), while in the Sae/Kashiyuki DVD, they introduce themselves as the ‘Honehone Sentai Bone Rangers Shocking,’ with Katayama as Bone Red, Nonaka as Bone Pink, Uchida as Bone Blue, and Nakata as Bone Black.  These improv lines are the only ones Nonaka, Uchida, and Nakata get.  Sad.  Again in the Sae/Kashiyuki version, they dance off stage playfully singing the chorus to the previous unit… Katayama missing her bone.

Once their underlings are gone, the maids go through a two member comedy routine that’s simply adorable.  All I can tell is that they’re talking about the leads of Infinity, but I’m sure it’s very funny.  They leave the stage after a few rounds with arms linked and in tune with a ‘Honehone Waltz’ instrumental.

Mori e Ikou – Ai, Isako, Utako, Eri, lower club members

The curtains open up again with dance club (sans Maria) on stage for ‘Mori e Ikou.’  This is the first time the H2 song is performed without microphone stands, meaning there’s a whole lot of movement and new choreography going on.  Personally, I’m not a fan, but I do like how the lower club girls aren’t in the back the entire time, but rather mirror the lead four.

The girls sing the usual shortened version of the song, but stop the last chorus half-way through and the bridge instrumental is added at the end for a transition while they do a very ‘RIVER’-esque movement off stage and the supporting actors (now all vampire hunters) come on stage and find a petal from a blue rose.

Kyuuketsuki Densetsu – Vampire Hunter James (Kn/N)ight; ((support actors dance))

The men get their very own song now.  I’m assuming that this was made specifically for Infinity, but I could be wrong.  I wonder if Akimoto wrote the lyrics… (I know I have that sheet here somewhere….)  And I’m not sure of the title.  It could be ‘Kyuuketsuki Densetsu’ or ‘Kyuuketsuki to Ai no Shinjitsu.’

While the lead sings his little opera song, the other three do some sort of comedic dance/acting routine to entertain the audience.  From what I’ve read, their actions make up some sort of Japanese theatrical genre, but I’m too lazy to learn about that.  Once their song finishes, they leave the stage in search of their prey, Ruka.

Rio no Kakumei – Takajima Maria

Back to the leads, we are now in what I think is Ruka’s bedroom with Maria.  This is the only song of the entire production that features this pretty white costume for Maria…  Considering it was used in promotional media, I thought it’d be used a heck of a lot more.  Also, I don’t think Maria ever wears the matching shoes.  Yukirin might, but both the normal bedroom slippers and the white costumes’ shoes look really similar, so I don’t even know if they’re different.  Takamina’s Maria on the other hand, has furry white boots, which she definitely doesn’t put on.  And neither girl wears a lavish hair accessory like we had seen in earlier photos.  Boo.  I really liked those.

Making it’s first appearance since A2/B2/KII1/AX, ‘Rio no Kakumei!’  I love the song to pieces, so I was very happy they chose to use it.  I have no clue how its lyrics are supposed to match with the story.  The verse (which is one line shorter than usual in Infinity) has nothing to do with the plot and is set in Brazil during Carnival.  The chorus does match up with the story, but I’m still lost from earlier.  If they just used the second verse everything would make more sense.

MARIA – Harusame Ruka

Once Maria leaves the main stage, Ruka appears on lower stage all draped in her cape for her aptly-titled unit song.  She sings another shorter-than-short version and ends with speaking the last line of the chorus.

I don’t really have much to say here, as it’s pretty straight-forward: Ruka’s on the lower stage and emotionally sings the most fitting AKB song in Infinity.

The lead four from the dance club are still searching for their missing member, now with a ‘Mori e Ikou’ instrumental behind them.  They run into the vampire hunters and Natsuki recognizes one of them from their time at the beach.

The men introduce themselves and their intentions to the girls.  Eventually, the girls agree to help… or something.  Natsuki has a very central part in this section.  That means I’m happy.

Again the ‘Infinity’ instrumental sets the scene of Ruka’s living room.  Maria finally seems happy to be around Ruka.  Again, I’m at a loss as to the plot.  Soon, the club girls come to Maria’s rescue, but Maria doesn’t want to leave.  Ruka uses ‘his’ powers on the girls to make them stick to floor (wow: how dangerous…) and after more arguing between the main duo about how much they love one another, Ruka finally re-wins Maria over and the girls leave peacefully.

Alone, Ruka has a miniature break-down and goes into her next solo.

Kimi wa Pegasus – Harusame Ruka; ((lower club members dance))

The first word here is changed from ‘Kimi’ to ‘Boku,’ so I wonder how many songs have different lyrics for the musical.  On the lower stage, the lower club members perform what looks to be mostly the original choreography of the song.  I really like how there are four of them, since it echoes back to the unit.  Actually, I probably just like it because I’ve always wanted to see ‘Kimi wa Pegasus’ by the usual Team K girls, but wearing either the ‘Ai no Moufu’ or ‘Tanjoubi no Yoru’ (NHK07 version) dresses.  These four in white dresses match my dream pretty well.

(Back to my thoughts on shoes: Katayama now has ribbons over her ankles while the others have either shoes or slippers.  I’m betting that Katayama’s pair is also Maria’s pair, so she has to make do with a different set since Maria has to wear that pair in the next song.)

Once they leave, Ruka continues on to the second chorus and ends the song on the stairs with the mirrors facing outward.  I enjoy how the lighting means that basically, we just see the audience for the last notes.

Deja vu for a moment.  (No, not the song.) This next scene opens up just like the first performance of ‘Infinity’ with the hospital bed, thunder, and sirens.  At least this time there is some bird chirping.

Naki Nagara Hohoende –  Takajima Maria; ((interlude: Infinity – Harusame Ruka))

Maria’s second solo is Oshima Yuko’s solo song.  I love this because I’ve always paired Yuko with Takamina, and I love when Yukirin takes over Yuko’s songs (or vice versa… or with Mai).

Once midway through the chorus, Ruka interrupts with ‘Infinity’ (Maybe this one is the ballad version again?) for a little while.  When it’s Maria’s turn to sing her lines, she instead switches back to ‘Naki Nagara Hohende’ to finish up the song.

Ruka visits Maria on the main stage before she is brutally attacked by the vampire hunters and a silver stick/nail/stake.  I’m pretty sure she dies… but then she summons up the power to sing once more.

Infinity – Harusame Ruka, Takajima Maria

Essentially we have the same song and dance (except no dance) as their first duet, but this time they’re a bit more emotional and interesting to watch since we can use context clues as to their characters.  Near the end, I think Ruka turns Maria into a vampire, but ‘he’ could just be giving her a hickey for all I know.

If I knew the lyrics and the story, this could be really touching, but alas… shucks.

The scene ends with a short monologue by Maria and then we’re at the dance competition with one of the support actors.

Saishuu Beru ga Naru – Takajima Maria, Ai, Isako, Utako, Eri, (lower club members, maids)

Though they’re suppposed to be a dance club, their version of K4’s ‘Saishuu Beru ga Naru’ seems to be slightly less choreographed than the original.  Maria gets the first, third, and fourth sets of lines, while the lead four club members get the second set in the first verse.  As for the second verse, Maria starts, then Natsuki and Nakatsuka add on, Iwasa and Rumi get a few lines, then the five of them go up to the chorus.  I’m super glad that Natsuki was included in that last line since it was originally her duet line with Ohori Megumi.  Finally we get another full-length AKB48 song, the first in a while.

The girls are back to the same orange plaid costumes that they used in Aitakatta.  I vote that Aitakatta has nothing to do with the musical, so I’ll just pretend that this is the first time I saw these:  Oh, they’re kind of odd…

Yakusoku yo – senbatsu members; ((Vampire Hunter James (Kn/N)ight, support actors dance))

Using the instrumental of ‘Yakusoku yo,’ the cast goes through their first round of bows.  We even have the four support actors on stage, making an even sixteen people.  I was all excited that the musical didn’t feature Akimoto’s favorite number (16… I’m just assuming of course), but once everyone got on stage at the same time, I realized that ten supporting members, two leads, and four supporting actors did in fact add to the Mamiko Takai’s Onyanko Club member number.

After ‘Yakusoku yo,’ the girls go through their usual bows, introducing themselves as the senbatsu for AKB Kagekidan.  The Sayaka/Takamina version has a bit of an extended ending with the curtain opening a few extra times, Natsuki getting to say a few words, the Sae/Yukirin pair appearing in their pretty white costumes, Sayaka/Takamina appearing in their main costumes, and introductions of the girls.

Lastly we get a couple of kisses from the lead duos and streamers!

All in all, a very good musical, especially since it’s the very first one done by AKB.  Natsuki’s inclusion definitely swayed my thinking, but it’s still pretty impressive even when she isn’t on stage.  I love how predictable the plot was and how one can draw so many parallels to what I’d guess would be it’s main inspiration, the Twilight series.  (I totally just read the first book this week.  I had always been planning to never read them, but I re-decided in honor of AKB Kagekidan Infinity.)

Anyway, I approve.

(That took me 22 minutes to read/fake-proofread.)

I want to meet AND shuffle you! (First Concert Aitakatta) Part IA
March 20, 2010

Just click the thumbnails for my usual track-by-track review!

Screen-capture free version below…

(more…)

Alert! AKB Takes Over Japan! Part IV (AKB48 Budokan Concert 1 DVD Review)
December 5, 2009

Today I’m reviewing the first Budokan concert!  I’m going to take these one at a time and pick them apart a little bit.  Since there are a few repeat songs near the end, I may shorten my thoughts on them in the next couple reviews.

Please note that this review does not include any pictures.  That’s right, none whatsoever.  That means you can read it wherever you see fit and no one is going to make fun of you!  You could even print it out and act as though you’re reading some scholarly text, even when you’re just reading about Nacchi.

And I’m totally too lazy to tag this.

Budokan Tour Concert Series

Part I – Team K Concert in Osaka (with SKE48)

Part II – Team B Concert in Nagoya (with SKE48)

Part III – Team A Concert in Fukuoka

Part IV – AKB48 Shuffle Concert at Budokan (with SKE48 and SDN48) – THIS POST

Part V – AKB48 Graduation Concert at Budokan (with SKE48)

Part VI 0 AKB48 Televised Concert at Budokan (with SKE48)

(Note, I’m aware that the first three parts have yet to be posted.  I’m reviewing them in non-chronological order, but naming them in chronological order, if that makes sense.)

Overture

As usual, the concert begins with their overture.  Since (luckily) there wasn’t that casual walking of the girls onto the stage, I’ll just talk about the set-up.  This is their first arena concert that I know of, and so the big new addition is the catwalk and center stage jutting into the floor section.  I try to watch or at least skim through as many J-pop and idol concerts that I can, and I’ve found that I very rarely like stages that use these components: they almost always kill any sort of dramatics that are used throughout the concert.  Let me explain the negative aspects of AKB’s rendition of these pieces:

The audience is too far away.  For whatever reason in this concert, they decided to keep the audience about ten feet from the stage.  Now, this makes sense, as there are so many cameras, but this ten feet is kept throughout the entire perimeter of the stage.  Making matters worse, the catwalk, which is thinner than the rest of the stage, is even farther from the audience than the stage.  The catwalk and the center stage concepts were made to allow fans to feel closer to the performer and make the performer more life-like.  Here, this doesn’t work out since the girls are so far away.  It just doesn’t give off the same effect.  Besides, the fans can feel and actually be closer to the girls at the theater, so why use these if they’re not up to (my) standards?

The stage is of a lazy design.  From what I can tell, it’s just about the same size as the stage at the theater (if anyone can tell me those measurements, I’d be delighted), but it lacks the moving platforms, so it doesn’t really even live up to their daily shows.  At least it has pretty lights around it.  That counts for something, but now I just wish that the AKB48 Theater had those lights.  Also, I dislike the fact that the stage is a rectangle.  Instead of changing up choreography and the placement of the girls for the new stage, this means that they can do exactly the same thing as they would if they were performing it on any given day, albeit shortened.  Stages are rectangular so the audience can see more performers closer than they would if the stage were deeper than the width.  If you put this rectangular stage in the middle of the audience, no one is going to complain about not seeing the girl in the back.  Why not change it up a bit with an always-cool circular stage, a square, or even tilt a square to make a diamond.

The catwalk is too thick.  The connecting branch of the stages should be thin, again, so the audience can be closer to the performers.  Also, this allows more seats closer to the center.  Here it basically works out to be another (rectangular) stage rotated ninety degrees that the girls just use to run back and forth.  In concerts by different groups, I’ve seen the catwalk work as an effective way to energize a crowd, but here it sees to be mostly for transportation.  A thinner catwalk would make sense even if they weren’t going to change anything and just use it for the girls to run back and forth on.

Lastly, let me rant about the actual stage for a bit.  While I do like how they made it extra wide, so it has those out-croppings like those in the theater (Japanese word, please?) the majority of the stage is way too flat.  The semi-circle of risers looks kind of tacked-on, and plain.  With most of AKB’s concerts, we see rather elaborate and complete staircases (Aitakatta, NHK07, NHK08/JCB08), or multiple stages (NHK09).  Here, it’s mostly a plain stage with a few steps in the back, which approaches the ‘novelty concert’ standards (Natsumatsuri, AX08, AX09).  While there are a few hidden features of the stage, which I’ll mention later, it’s pretty bland.

Nagisa no CHERRY

‘Nagisa no CHERRY’ with Mariko?  Is this some sort of hand-off from the original most popular member to the current one?  (I use Mixi ratings when I think of popularity.  Also, Kojiharu has definitely topped the rankings before.)  For a moment I was thinking, ‘Wow.  It’s kind of funny that Mariko has short hair.  It makes it kind of like Acchan in the Aitakatta concert.  Then I realized that short hair for the yellow girl really isn’t a big thing: the lead position has been performed half-and-half by short- (Atsuko, Mayu, CinDy, Mariko) and long-haired (Erena, Reina, Jurina, Manatsu (?)) girls.  As far as the blue girls go, they seem to be getting into it.  Ohori seems to be making fun of the choreography and being overly cute, Nonti is doing the same, but in a more obvious fashion, and Sayaka is having the time of her life.  She just really loves being sweet.

The dance break begins as usual with the standard choreography.  The backing girls seem to go all out and give off their Team K-rocking roots.  Just before the build-up before the final chorus, these three pose… weirdly?  I’m not quite sure what they’re going for.  Sayaka flexes, Noro is silly, and Meetan acts as though she forgot to use the restroom backstage… or something.

When I first heard that this was the opening performance I was kind of angry.  They already did a comedic performance of this at the beginning of the second day of NHK09.  Why re-use it?  As the song continued, I decided that it was kind of a ‘bleh’ performance, with the only interesting part being Mariko’s voice.  All the while I was hoping that a certain something was done differently to achieve a hilarious effect.  And you know what?  My hopes were answered.

The magic happens near the end of that last chorus.  All of a sudden, mid-way through, the lights lower, the remaining lights turn red and violent, and the blue girls sing the nostalgic line of ‘CHERRY CHERRY BOY, CHERRY CHERRY GIRL’ in their raw lower registers.  Next, Mariko sings her next solo line in her husky voice so often used when telling a joke.  Perfect.  My eyes widened the first time I saw/heard all of this, as I was so glad they did something so revolutionary for AKB.  Very, very rarely do songs in AKB48’s large catalog get changed from their original form.  The only exceptions to this rule I can think of are ‘Medley,’ ‘Team K 2nd Stage Medley,’ the medley in NHK07, ‘Aozora no Soba ni Ite’ in NHK08, and, soon, ‘Aitakatta’ later on in the Budokan concerts.

To top it all off, the final pose was of the four flexing their non-existent arm muscles.  (Except for Sayaka.  She was flexing her existent arm muscles.)

Blue Rose

Unfortunately I don’t have much to say about this performance.  I’ve never really been a huge fan of the song, and now it just seems like they want to cycle all of the possible front girls into it.  This, I believe, is its third time in a shuffle concert, and now 4/6 of the ‘Acchans’ have performed it.  For completion, I’ll mention each girl in comparison to the original.  Jurina might dance pretty well for a tween, but I’d still say that even K2 Sayaka could win in a dance-off.  I won’t mention vocals.  Takamina is often a great dancer, and may trump Yuka, but I think Yuka’s voice is much better suited for ‘Blue Rose.’  Mayu constantly impresses me with her focused energy, while Erena… doesn’t, so I guess Team K’s Meshibe and Genking win this round.  Wow, I really do make sure to consider performances a game, don’t I?

Ame no Doubutsuen

I love how the audience erupts in excitement when they see Acchan is on stage.  Considering the cast here (Maeda, Kojima, Minegishi, Itano, Kasai, Sato Y, Kashiwagi, Miyazaki) this is just a big old senbatsu performance.  I think they were lazy and just thought, ”Ame no Doubutsuen’ is a classic.  And we can put eight girls in.  Doesn’t matter if it’s interesting, let’s just lump all of the rest of the popular girls in to get them on stage for an MC.  Oh, and let’s put Yukari in because we’re kicking her out.’  Yup, I’m sure that’s what was going on in the boardroom.

Miichan and Itano have even already performed this one.  Minegishi kept the penguin, while Itano dropped from co-leading the unit to the lion costume.  Miho got stuck with Imai’s mute-till-the-chorus camel, too.  Sucks for all of them.  On the bright side, Harunyan’s legs look mighty nice in her costume, and after this performance, Kashiwagi and Kasai can say that they’ve performed all of K2’s units (‘Blue Rose,’ ‘Kinjirareta Futari,’ ‘Ame no Doubutsuen,’ and ‘Fushidara na Natsu.’)

Anyway, it was fairly uninteresting.  And then they did an MC.

Mushi no Ballad

Something we’ve all been waiting for, a Takamina-version of a solo song.  Sure, now that Infinity happened, we’ll get more, but this happened first.  We’ve all heard ‘Mushi no Ballad,’ some of us have heard ‘Yuka no Ballad,’ and I’m still waiting for ‘N no Ballad.’  Anytime now…

Complete with a brand new costume for her very non-Sayaka body, Takahashi gets to christen the use of the center stage.  We’re treated to an amazing performance that really shows off this girls’ vocals.  Some girls only have voices that sound good in songs made for them, but Takamina’s is very versatile and usable in most situations without getting too awkward.  And that’s why she should be the main vocalist of AKB48 again.  I mean, she was the lead in all of the singles (barring ‘Sakura no Hanabiratachi’ and ‘Aitakatta’) up till ‘BINGO!’  Then, she got pushed back in favor of Haruna till King Records took charge.  In ‘Oogoe Diamond,’ she kind of tied with Haruna, but her lines were mostly solo, while Haruna’s were paired with Acchan’s to make Atsuko sound less like… whatever you want to think she sounds like.  Takahashi was a main component in ’10 nen Zakura’ and Kojiharu the same in ‘Namida Surprise!,’ but they both got pushed down in favor of Acchan solo lines only in ‘Iiwake Maybe’ and ‘RIVER.’  So, basically: more Takamina, please.

On the topic of her actual performance, the theatrics really picked up at the last chorus.  She kicks down the microphone stand and falls to her knees.  This is especially breathtaking when the camera angle is from the back, so you can see her nearly-weeping body, smoke-y floor, and thousands of fans waving their glowsticks to the beat of the music in that well-wishing manner.  She leaves the stage from a staircase off the center stage into the catwalk’s foundation with only a glance and a sorrowful smirk at the fans.  Great ‘TakaMushi no Ballad.’

Heart Gata Virus

Out from the main stage pops three Team K members with their own microphone stands.  Super-cool for them, most likely because it’s Yuko’s unit, is that they get to use the brand new elevators.  From what I can tell, there are possibly five of them in all, and I absolutely adore them.  In tonight’s performance of ‘N Gata Virus,’ Oshima Y takes up Oshima M’s role, Sae grabs Haruna’s, and Natsuki gets Nozofisu’s.  Costume-wise, Yuko and Nacchi switch and Sae keeps the one meant for her position.  I have always felt that Yuko could fill Mai’s spots and vice versa, so this was one unit that I thought was just waiting to happen.  Now it’ll be interesting if Yuko ever gets cast in ‘Temodemo no Namida,’ as Mai took Kashiyuki’s spot in NHK08.

Considering the other two girls shuffled into this unit, I wouldn’t be surprised if Natsuki is actually subbing in for another girl, namely Asuka.  Mocchi was out with the (swine?) flu, along with a bunch of other AKB48 members and RS, and she’s definitely popular enough to get in a unit like this.  I have no evidence to state anything either way, but I’m pretty positive that this was originally, Asuka’s shuffle unit.  I’m glad that Natsuki got in here, though.  Did you hear her voice in her first solo line?  That sounds way amazing.  And almost like sophisticated or something.  I don’t know, but it sounded great.

Each girl sounds as though she’s really enjoying herself performing this song.  As mentioned, Natsuki sounds incredible.  I love her even more.  Yuko sounds pretty good with her ‘new’ voice since the surgery in April.  I think these are her first solo lines recorded since then.  Lastly, Sae sounds much better than usual.  Just listen to the end of her second line.  Similar to Nacchi’s, it sounds really complex.  I’m impressed.  This is one of my favorite newer units, and I think that many AKB members might enjoy it because it is so idol-like, yet retains a very mature young woman’s image.  It’s like a Maimai party, I’d say.

Kimi wa Pegasus

Speaking of ‘very mature young women,’ this next song does not feature them.  It features ‘Rena and the Lolis.’  (Oh my god.  New sub-unit name.  Now.)  Now, with custom-made costumes, they perform ‘Kimi wa Pegasus’… eight octaves higher.

Rena does not sound at all like Sayaka, but that’s okay since she’s not really supposed to.  I feel like she should have had Nonti’s spot, as when you’re listening to those lines, you don’t expect a voice that was meant to be the powerhouse.  Sayuki’s lines were rather innocent sounding, and while again, that’s all fine and good, I prefer it to sound a bit more direct.  (One thing I’m glad about is that her costume doesn’t feature that brooch on the neck that Nacchi’s does.)  Kumi was actually a great pick for Sae’s position.  They have similar voices and kind-of-sort-of matching personalities.  She also has short-ish hair like Sae, which, of course, means a lot when I think about shuffles.  I actually don’t think they could have found someone without resorting to SKE48 to get such as close match for Sae’s voice.  Tsukina does not go in this unit.  I think they just wanted the whole ‘Wimbledon’ unit to be placed here (along with Rena), since their song is being used next.

Oh, cool pattern I noticed about the unit order.  Much of the time in this concert, the girls featured in a shuffle unit have their original (or shuffle) unit right after the one they perform.  This works for ‘Blue Rose’ – (Erena, Mayu, Matsui (NHK08)) – ‘Ame no Doubutsuen;’ ‘Heart Gata Virus’ – (Miyazaki, Natsuki) – ‘Kimi wa Pegasus’ (Kumi, Takai, Mori) – ‘Wimbledon he Tsureteitte (Ono, Miyazaki, Fujie (G-Rosso)) – ‘Tonari no Banana’ (Sasshi) – ‘Itoshiki Natassha;’ ‘End Roll’ (Itano) – ‘Tsundere!’ (Watanabe, Nakatsuka) – ‘Zannen Shoujo’ (Maeda, Takajo) – ‘Kuroi Tenshi’ (Kashiwagi) – ‘Kuchi Utsushi no Chocolate.’  It also works in reverse for ‘Ame no Doubutsuen’ (Kojima (Aitakatta), Minegishi (Aitakatta), Maeda (Aitakatta), Kashiwagi (Natsumatsuri), Kasai (JCB08)) – ‘Blue Rose’ (Ono (Aitakatta), Watanabe, Matsui (NHK08)).  If anyone understood that, you get massive points.  For a hint, the format is: ‘Tonight’s shuffle unit song name’ (tonight’s shuffle unit participants’) – ‘those participants’ (/ that participant’s) original unit song that was performed next.’

Pretty cool, huh?

Wimbledon he Tsureteitte

Aww… Fujie went down the stairs too early!  It took me forever to figure out exactly what happened.  I doubted that she was supposed to be on the lower riser when the other two were up top, but I wasn’t sure if maybe Erena just forgot to go down.  Since Erena walks down the stairs a few counts later with music backing her up, I think it must be Fujie that is wrong here.  I don’t care though, still cute.

As far as voices go, this shuffle sounds better than the original.  Ono seems to be using the vocal skills she learned when doing ‘FIRST LOVE,’ as she sounds more consistent than she used to.  Reinyan sounds lovely.  I love her slightly lower voice that still is able to pull off being cute.  I’m so used to seeing her in ‘Kuroi Tenshi’ that I forgot how she gained popularity as a Kenkyuusei using her power of being so adorable.  Miho sounds fine, too.  Well, the little of her that we get to hear in this weirdly-distributed song of solo lines, anyway.

I still love how all three of these costumes are different, yet so similar.  It’s a shame that Miho doesn’t really fit hers.  Why doesn’t she get a brand new costume like the ‘Pegasus’ girls got?

Tonari no Banana

This next unit starts out with a mystery: Who are the two banana girls?  They use the out-croppings on either side to read their little newspapers and the camera angle really shows how odd of a stage their on.  They have railings and everything to get under the stage.  I know that this is an arena concert, but that seems a little too out of place.  Just put the backdrop over those areas, please.

The duo performing turns out to be Nito and Sasshi… who are like always paired up together.  The funny part is that they really aren’t; it’s just me who thinks they are.  I still group them with Kithara Rie since they were promoted at about the same time and at the time, they looked just about the same as each other.  Now they don’t, but I haven’t stopped thinking of that trio as the same girl.

‘Tonari no Banana’ prides itself in being one of the cutest AKB48 songs.  I however am not a big fan of it and reserve that place for ‘Tenshi no Shippo,’ which has yet to be truly shuffled.  That one also has three slightly different costumes, which as I said about ‘Wimbledon’ is great.  Here, the only difference in the girls’ costumes is that one has her purse over her top and the other has it under.  I’ve yet to figure out the reasoning behind that, but I think it’s present in every show.

During the bridge, the two make fun of each other’s supposed stupidity, concluding with a rising Mix.  I feel like Sasshi does that a bit too often now… she’s turning into a one-trick pony.  Come on, Sasshi!  You’re great at MCs: just stick with talking.  Chanting is for perverted old men.  (And RSL.)

Itoshiki Natasha

Another Team K unit.  Yay!  And another Team K unit with Natsuki!  Super yay!  (Also, it’s kind of fun to watch Sasshi do the dance that leads into her own unit.)

Similar to ‘Heart Gata Virus,’ I think that maybe Natsuki is taking another girl’s position.  This time, I’m pretty sure it would be Yuka.  Sure, that’d make Chikano really out of place, but hey, Fujie’s in two units (gasp, I just thought about it, and now I think that maybe Aika was supposed to be in ‘Wimbledon’) and so she needed to be in at least one, too.  Regardless, Natsuki’s in this one, and that’s what matters, doesn’t it?  Oh, and Sayaka’s leading.

From the pictures I’d seen and everything, I was prepared for Natsuki to take Tanamin’s position with one solo line, as she was wearing that costume.  While I was excited to hear this, I kind of totally forgot about it and put finding out what spot Nacchi got in ‘Virus’ as first priority.  This means that I didn’t even preview the song before watching the concert, so it was a complete surprise when I heard her totally take over Haachan’s spot.  Again, this was one of my gasping moments.  I used to think gasping was one of those fake things people do, but thanks to N, I’ve found I do it, too.

Sayaka sounds like Sayaka, which I know sounds mean, but that’s what she sounds like.  I’ve never really been a fan of her voice, as it’s a little too powerful for my taste.  Sometimes she seems to put a little too much effort into singing, and I like a bit of relaxation.  Chikano sounds good, though.  This is great promotion for her as she’s usually stuck at the bottom of rankings, so maybe she earned some more fans?  She deserves them.

Back to my favorite:  She totally took Haachan’s lines, and totally embellished them.  I mean, she drew them out and added her own spin on them.  And that look with her eyes was just fantastic.  The world needs more units like this with Natsuki in them.  And can you see how good those fur shorts look on her?  She needs to wear short shorts throughout the entirety of B5.  Seriously.  (And hey, she gets to in K5 for half of her costumes, so why stop there?)

Sayaka totally lost her hat mid-way through the song.  I don’t think she noticed, though, as she definitely would have picked it up due to her character… and the fact that the next song was done on the center stage, so the main stage was blacked out.  They should have done the usual after-unit song MC where the ‘Itoshiki’ girls run around picking up all of the dropped accessories.  And that way there’d be even more Nacchi to go around!

Endroll

Here we have the two girls who are switching to Team K and two of the best dancers in SKE48’s Team S performing the K5 dance unit on the center stage.  Itano and Miichan have always been renowned for their dancing and I for one have always wanted them to share a unit that shows off their skills, so I guess this kind of counts.

I’m glad that they put Jurina in here rather than a unit would make her sing solo lines.  So far, her vocals really don’t impress me and I’d rather listen to just about anyone else instead of her.  While her dancing is very, very good, especially for her age, her singing could take some work.  Also, by using ‘End Roll,’ she isn’t the only girl in center, as Itano gets some screen time in Umechan’s place.  But still, lots of Jurina.  At least it’s focused on something she’s good at.  Also, I’m happy Kuwabara is being used.  As much as I don’t like SKE48 getting placed into AKB48’s everything, it’s good that they’re using talented girls.

Tsundere

And the super random assortment of Team B girls appears on the main stage.  I really don’t like the line-up here.  Mayuyu should have been shuffled into a different unit, and CinDy is too old and too out of place to be paired with Chris.  I think Mayu might fit ‘Renai Kinshi Jourei’ more than ‘Tsundere!’  I know what you’re thinking: she can’t sing well!  Don’t worry, she’d fit right in given the correct back-up girls.  For instance, CinDy and Rumi.  Besides, Watanabe was often placed in Takamina’s positions during Team B’s run of A2, so it would match prior choices.  True, she might not have the same vocal abilities as Takahashi, but similar to Amina, she can often have a powerful voice.  Oh, and Mayu is totally wearing heels.  I didn’t think they would let her.  Usually the heels are for Itano only and anyone who subs for her wears boots.

On Sato Amina’s solo lines, CinDy did a good job trying to hit the same notes as the original did, but her voice just isn’t nearly as bouncy.  I use the word bouncy because I can’t say that Amina has a larger range of notes, she tends to just kind of tries to get as many as possible at a time, and so she hits one at least close to the one she was aiming for.  But I still like her voice when it’s in the right songs.  And yes, CinDy sounded good, too.  I kind of miss how when they build up their voices one by one there isn’t that high pitched squeak at the end that I’m so used to.

Nakatsuka is fine for her part, even though I’m not a big fan of her at all.  Since Rie is singing in Heart Gata Virus so often, I’m used to Uchida (who I adore) performing her place, so really, any deeper voice is fine here.

This is one of those random units that I want shuffled specifically.  Kasai subs in for Amina, Miichan subs in for Itano, and Natsuki subs in for Rie.  I think it would sound splendid.

Zannen Shoujo

Before I watched B4 for the very first time, I did something that has become one of my favorite things to do: an AKB48 Black-Out.  (I know, my favorite thing is to stop doing anything involving AKB… how ironic.)  B4 was my first trial of it and K5 was my second.  I really recommend trying it sometime.  What usually happens is you just stop checking anything AKB-related the moment the new Stage starts (generally 18:00 Japan time), and don’t check anything again until you finish watching the entire Stage in one sitting.  For B4, I relied on people e-mailing me links straight to whatever download service was used, and for K5, I set up a Facebook event for the festivities.  Anyway, the whole fun of this concept is that you get to see the Stage without any kind of spoilers whatsoever.  This means that the whole show is new and exciting.  For B4, that meant confusion when a marching band was on stage after the lights rose, a gasp at the strip change, and so on.  For K5, that included confused looks during the opening skit, excitement when you realized that there were two units left and only four girls (one of which is your favorite), and joy when you saw the ballad’s costume.  Anyway, I enjoy the fun an AKB Black-Out brings.  Try it.

On the topic of unfortunate girls, when I first saw B4, I immediately thought that this unit was completely made so Acchan could be shuffled into it.  I still feel that way, and now I feel like I was right.  Tonight, Acchan brings to the song something I feel like Mayu will never do: a care-free attitude.  No, I don’t mean that she’s just going to skip around and whistle whilst playing with butterflies; she’s going to perform her own way in whatever lacadazical fashion she wants.  The thing about Acchan is that yes, she’s not a great singer, yes, she’s not a great dancer, and yes, she’s not all that interesting, but she uses her problem areas to create a ‘girl next door’ vibe.  That’s why she’s the center of AKB48.  She’s gorgeous and light-hearted, but doesn’t have that determination or will power that other idols have.  That’s why she could probably never get into Hello! Project.  She just isn’t ‘shiny’ enough, but she’s perfect for an idol group that’s supposed to be a nearly realistic classroom of teenage (and pre-teens… and 20-somethings… and children) girls.  She’s not there to competitions on talent, she’s there to get famous, most young peoples’ dream.

And that’s it for my Acchan monologue.  Lastly for her, she had a pretty darn awesome solo line at the very end of the song.  She nailed it (in the studio) perfectly.

As for the girls on the sides, it seems like they stuck with the idea of keeping one girl on the side who in the center girl’s original unit, as Takajo is performing along with Acchan.  Rie is on the other side and so the trio rounds out to be a group of increasingly popular members with one in each tier of popularity: upper senbatsu, lower senbatsu, and near-senbatsu.  I never really figured out when they started pushing Rie, but I guess that since she subs for Mai, she got lots of time to promote herself.  Takajo has been pushed since about the time of Natsumatsuri Hibiyayaon.  Good performance by those girls.

Oh, and notice the lack of microphone stands?  I’m not sure, but I think I may like it better this way, although that thought might just be because it’s different.

Kuroi Tenshi

Okay, I don’t really understand this: ‘Kuroi Tenshi’ has never ever been performed in a shortened format.  Does Akimoto just not have the rights for it, or is he just super proud of it?

In this performance we have a group of older Team B girls, Kashiwagi, Haachan, and Nakayan.  All three have great voices, but I think that if popularity weren’t an issue, they should be shuffled around.  Haachan could sing the Acchan part with a low voice similar to Fujie, Nakayan could take Fujie’s usual place and sing like Chiichan does when she subs in, and Kashiwagi can take Takajo’s place and sing however she feels fit.

My one irk is that Nakayan’s line doesn’t sound too hot.  I’m guessing that she was going for the Ishida route and tried to hit all of those notes, but similar to CinDy in ‘Tsundere!’ just couldn’t.  She could have went the Takajo route and basically just whispered, but I’d prefer she stick with one where you could tell that she was actually trying.

I feel like this collection of leading girl shuffles really shows how AKB’s current set of Stages is lacking in the diversity department.  Maybe the next three will be a bit more random?  At the moment it seems like they’re determined to just not make another cute song ever again.

Kuchi Utsushi no Chocolate

Taking the center of K5’s sexy unit and putting her into B4’s sexy unit makes a lot of (predictable) sense, but I’m unhappy with this shuffle.  Kasai does much better than I expected with the oodles and oodles of solo lines included for her here.  This is the opposite of her current unit where she gets just one more duet line than the others in her unit.  So, she does fine, and in all reality, this is a great shuffle for her considering they perform the shortened version.

My problem lies in the other two, Nonti and Ohori.  It seems as though they were just picked because they are in SDN48 (and then gave them new costumes).  They totally could have put them in better units to show off their skills for one last shuffle.  I almost want to think that this is another comedic shuffle routine like they started the concert out with.  If they have as talented girls as Kayo and as specialized girls as Ohori, they should use them.

What makes matters worse is that while Ohori was totally into her performance (which is generally pretty consistent), Nonti seemed almost bored: something I’ve seen very, very rarely from any performance I’ve seen featuring her (and I’ve seen quite a few LODs).

I really want to see/hear Natsuki sub for Kashiwagi for this unit.  I say ‘sub’ because if it’s during a shuffle concert, we won’t hear her sing the second verse’s lines, which would sound incredible coming from her.

Wagamama na Nagareboshi

I love this.  It seems like Mariko always gets into the super-duper awesome shuffle units that get new costumes.  ‘Temodemo no Namida’ and ‘Wagamama na Nagareboshi’ are two of my favorite units, and Mariko has gotten in both shuffles.

Paired with Haruna, a member who she often is grouped with for lines in verses, the song sounds phenomenal.  I like it with younger girls/voices since the lyrics are about hoping, wishing, and dreaming for the future, but it gives off a slightly different aura with older girls that I might like more.

The MC typically at the end of the song usually features Erena and Kana remarking on what they wish for.  In this version, the two seem to be talking in a manner almost like they would be if they had just gotten off stage.  Mariko says something about the dresses making them look young,  Haruna says something about SDN48, and Mariko jokes that she’s not graduating for quite a while.  Unlike Acchan, these two are ‘shiny,’ that quality that Hello! Project members have.  They’re ambitious and not as humble as others.  They’re special and they know it, and that works well for this unit.

Oh, and yeah, the stage: incredible.  I have to admit that I previewed this on YouTube (along with ‘Heart Gata Virus’) and then stopped watching any Budokan vidoes after getting a few seconds in because I wanted to quit spoiling the surprises.  I don’t like the fact that the parts of the stage that elevate are rectangular (for my reasoning, see my thoughts on the center stage), but still it’s pretty gosh darn cool.  And it was so surprising since I was thinking that the elevators were the only moving addition to the stage.

Oshibe to Meshibe to Yoru no Chouchou

One of the big surprises of the night: Maimai came back!  I really woudn’t think this was alright, but the reasoning makes it okay for me.  If an AKB48 member graduates from AKB48, does it make sense to have her come back to perform songs that weren’t ever performed by her?  I don’t know, but I think this is kind of cheating: Mai only performs in a single song for the whole show and it’s pretty much all about how awesome she is.  I feel like every one of the girls would prefer that lifestyle.  I guess I’m just old school and prefer when they just come back for Shibuya AX.

The cute part of this performance is that it’s using one of AKB’s many real life relationships.  Mai was an older sister figure for Fujie, who plays Kasai’s part tonight, and after leaving the group, she comes back to visit Fujie.  Cue swooning here.

The MC during the bridge is terrible.  Fujie says ‘Aitakatta,’ which is funny because it represents her past wish, and is also the title to one of AKB’s more famous singles.  Then they talk a bit and Fujie reveals that the reason she likes Mai so much is because Mai doesn’t just act like an idiot, she really is one.  I think Fujie was just really nervous for this concert because she screwed up earlier and then was really awkward in this song.  Or at least in the talking part.  The rest was great.

Cute performance overall, I think I’m just reading into it a bit much.

Tobenai Agehachou

‘Iiwake Maybe”s coupling song is debuted in concert for the first time on the center stage.  These girls all ‘earned’ (read: bought) their positions from the thirteenth single selected member cabinet election.  The only girl missing is Masuda Yuka who was out with swine flu, and so Kashiyuki took her place… and her screen time.

As common with many B-Sides, the entirety of the song was sung instead of a shortened version.  I liked this especially because we could get a better look at the Rumi-centered choreography.  Also, it looks like they changed-up some of the placement of the girls so they could entertain the whole audience while on the center stage.

At some point, I want to take note of all of the girls’ costumes so I can tell how many different versions or parts there are.  I love when AKB’s costumes seem random… but then I’m disappointed when they aren’t.  (Good examples of randomness are the ‘Romance, Irane!’ costume sets and the H2 encore costumes.)

After the song ended, I was freaking out trying to figure out who would perform next since each Team had at least one girl on stage.  For a moment, I was thinking KII would sing ‘Aitakatta’ or something, since they were all missing, but then I remembered that they were stuck in Nagoya at the time doing their version of A2.  Moments later, Nachu took the stage and I realized who was next.

Black Boy

(Splendid MC before this, by the way.  I love how Mai is completely lost and has this ‘What has AKB come to since I’ve been gone?’ look on her face the entire time.)

(Oh, and I’m still trying to figure out if Nachu’s outfit is hers or if it was supplied to her.  And is that purse from ‘Tonari no Banana?’  Did she steal it?)

Now it’s time to be racist!  I just love the song title.  I really want to read the lyrics just to see if they say something that might not be politically correct in the US.  SDN48’s ‘Black Boy’ seems to be their ‘single’ of sorts, kind of like how SKE48 had a few songs they pimped out before coming out with their first single.  On the topic of SDN48 and singles, I really hope they get one.  I think I’d even be okay with SDN members being in an AKB48 single even though I hate SKE48 members in AKB48 singles, just because they perform in the same theater and it seems like they will stay with only one Team.

The song starts with the women sauntering on to the center stage with some industrial background sounds.  I don’t remember hearing this intro from the fan recordings I’ve heard, but I might have just forgotten that section.  Once the actual song starts up, we’re treated with some smoke while the seventeenth and eighteenth members do a bit of intense dancing while wearing (gasp) pants.

I don’t want to summarize the whole performance, so I’ll just say that I loved it.  The group brings fresh energy that is substantially different from what AKB provides.  I don’t know many of their names, so it was kind of enjoyable to see the camera give lots of them close-ups and not just focus on a few of them.  In general, the only ones I can tell apart are the AKB48 members and Kondo Sayaka, but I also know which ones are Chinese.  As usual I refuse to memorize names without lots of media… and that might end up taking a while.  (LOD please!  I will show you my driver’s license for proof that I’m over eighteen!)

Another thing I love about SDN48 is that they’re too old for school uniforms, which is an aspect of AKB that I don’t really like.  I mean, once you’re out of school, you can’t really relate with the songs unless you’re looking back at them as memories.  Sadly, the on-going school theme is one of AKB’s main draws, so I doubt it’ll go away… but maybe someday.  (Also, I don’t like it when songs make lots of references to the season, since those have similar not-everyday lyrics.  That means you ‘Manatsu no Christmas Rose’ and the majority of H1!)

Lastly, I have to note that it’s weird for the most popular member of the group to have so little screen time.  The other AKB48-to-SDN48 members had more.  And on that topic, Yukari seemed to be really enjoying this song.  I wonder if she feels like SDN’s a better fit for her now because there’s much less of a shadow over her like there always has been in Team A.  Nonti on the other hand seemed to be back to her usual amazing performing after her so-so units earlier.  And CinDy was CinDy.

So yeah, more SDN48, please.  And bring your sparkly costumes.  Or the mini-kimonos.

Tsuyokimonoyo

Now it’s time for Team S to perform their single.  For whatever reason they chose to wear the SKE48 first concert costumes, which I’m kind of disappointed in.  I love those costumes, but I wish they would wear the costumes made for the song.

I’m so glad that I know all of their names now.  When they were at the AKB theater in June they kept on wearing similar hair styles, but here I was able to recognize each of them.

The lighting and the camera people made the performance look ridiculously epic, which really shouldn’t be all that hard, but they did a great job regardless.  (Again, for completion, I’ll note that they performed the full song… but that’s okay because it’s a single.)

Chime wa Love Song

I’ve recently read the lyrics to this song and they weren’t exactly what I was hoping for them to be, so naturally I don’t like this song as much as I did.  I had always been hoping that it was more singing about how the chimes in love songs meant something and the lyrics were literally about chimes in love songs, which I think would fit with how Akimoto often writes his lyrics.  Sadly, it’s more about love songs.  Boo.

At the break down in the middle of the song, the girls go from the main stage to the catwalk and split up half-and-half to sing to the audience on either side.  If the seats were closer and/or the catwalk was slimmer, this would be nice, but with this set-up, it feels like half the girls disappeared.  And the catwalk was too short so some of the girls got stuck on the center stage.  Lame.  They finish by clapping around, and then the focus goes to the main stage.

Shounichi

Team B shuffles onto the Stage for their prayer, and guess what?  They sing ‘Shounichi’ like they do at every concert.  Oh well…

This time is a little bit different, though, since their wearing the new Team B costumes.  I’m not a fan of them at all, but truth be told: they look like a collection of every AKB48 costume made.  Maybe they would look better if there were more variations?  Right now there are only two.  Also, it’s kind of weird to see that these were used as the end of the old Team’s last costumes and are the new Team’s first costumes.  Not cool.

I think they should have performed this song on the raised section in the back of the stage, because while on the main section, the choreography looks rather stunted as it was originally made to be done on the risers at the theater.

Two Years Later

I don’t get why they keep using this song.  They used it at the JCB Hall concert, too.  I mean, it’s an okay song, but it never fits with songs other than the ones it was placed with in B3.  I understand that they like to have two songs from each Team that are very different from each other, but why don’t they just use ‘Inochi no Tsukaimichi’ for once?  It’s way better than this one.  They could even use Mikachi since there isn’t all that much moving around.

‘Two Years Later’ just doesn’t seem to really fit in if Team B is only going to perform two songs.  Maybe Akimoto really likes this one or something?  And the costume is way too bright.

Regardless of how much I didn’t like the song represented here, it otherwise was nice.  The red and light lighting used mid-way through the song was a pleasant edition and the width of the stage proved to look nice.

Ki ni Naru Tenkousei

Next is a super awesome performance of a true Team K song!  I love Team K when they’re cool, but I love them even more when they actually have a fun song.  Luckily, we’re given more of these songs in K5, so I don’t have to worry about running out anytime soon.

Another great thing about this song is that N is featured within the first verse!  That’s always important because that way she not only gets to sing more, but also get a heck of a lot more close-ups.  In this song she’s paired up with her good friend Sae and they’re opposite Kana and Erena, who seem to be eternally stuck together in Akimoto’s mind.  At one point before the chorus, the
‘Ame no Doubutsuen’/’Tonari no Banana’/’Wagamama na Nagareboshi’ duo are on stage left looking kind of bored, while Sae and Nacchi are having a blast on stage left.  Oh, the differences.

Team K also is wearing new costumes, but theirs are actually attractive.  There are four different versions which vary by color (blue or yellow) and whether or not the vest is opened or closed.  Personally, I think that none of them can be considered the best option, but instead I think they should shuffle around the skirts so instead of it being the vest and skirt match and the tie is different, it would be the tie and skirt match and the vest is different.  I think they’d look much better that way.

Saishuu Bell ga Naru

Whenever people think of Team K, they think of it as the Team that can really rock out.  In reality, they are the Team that’s capable of such versatile performances.  Before ‘Korogaru Ishi ni Nare,’ there was always ‘Seishun Girls,’ and like tonight, before ‘Saishuu Bell ga Naru,’ there was always ‘Ki ni Naru Tenkousei.’

(I know, I’m just so clever.)

This is a great (first verse only) performance of the title K4 song.  It has such a good tune and choreography, and the lyrics match it’s mood.  It’s kind of like ‘Shounichi’ but just a little rougher around the edges.  I wonder if the words are specific to any of the members’ journeys to Team K.  Not much else to say about this one other than I liked it and there was some nice subbing done by RS.

JK Nemurihime

See what I mean about lyrics about schools?  They’re singing about how they want to wear their school uniform forever, but their wearing marching band costumes!  What’s with that? (At least it’s not the ‘Romance, Irane!’ costumes they wore for the song in the Team A concert in Fukuoka, though.)

This is a good song to show off voices in as there are so many duet lines, but it seems as though Team A is kind of lacking in the vocal department right now, so it can’t show off too much.

One nice looking thing done here is how they split the Team into two to walk down the catwalk in two single file lines with the most popular two in front.  Then, they got to use the catwalks in a similar manner to Team S, but this time it feels a little more normal since it matches the original choreography of making parallel straight lines.  Afterwards, instead of having half the Team to face the back wall with the mirror side out, they just walk onto the center stage to finish the song and pose.  Kind of anti-climatic, but at least they’re using all of the components of the stage now.

Seishun no Inazuma

Team A continues their domination of any and all Himawari-gumi songs with ‘Seishun no Inazuma.’  It’s interesting to see Nacchinon’s places taken by Shihori and Nonaka since they now get to be in the front during the chorus, even though they’re not even Team A members.  Another notable RS performance was Sakiko who got to share her line with Haruna.  I heard a lot of Haruna in that line, but it sounded fine, so it’s not like her voice stuck out badly or anything.

On the topic of costumes, Team A’s marching band attire seems to have two main differences, one’s more masculine and the other more feminine, and the girlier one seems to have three possibilities of of sleeves on its bolero: puffy short sleeves, fringe, or bare.  Who designed these costumes?  They need to go away.  Also, please note the shoes.  Those are totally used in the next costumes, too.  There didn’t used to be so much boot re-using, but recently there has been a ton.  The silver ‘Stand Up’ and black ‘Tenohira’ boots have been used so often it’s scary.  Maybe since they’re always so expensive they’ve started to try and save money?

I’m so used to hearing the next song from H2 pop on next that I was excited because it would finally be a song that would match their costumes… but no.

Next is an MC, and then a non-senbatsu performance of my favorite single!

Romance, Irane!

Walking out on stage in brand new costumes are a bunch of less popular members… and Mariko.  When I first saw this, I was confused why they did this, but then I realized that it was so they didn’t have to set anything differently for the last performance in their Budokan series.  It’ll make more sense later.

I love these costumes.  In reality, they’re actually pretty cheap looking, but at the same time, they’re well thought out.  Everyone shares the same materials: the white fabric with ‘AKB’ printed in rainbow colors and multi-color tulle accents.  These combined with a hair accessory, brooch, and single-color ruffled shorts makes each costume look kind of unique.  They’re all summery, enough for now, but they could look kind of winter-y if you thought about them hard enough, and they are uniform yet individual.  Great thinking, costume designer.

‘Romance’ uses the H2R substitute system for its performance, so we get a pretty random set of girls performing on the main stage.  Also, now they get to spread out a little bit more, so visually it looks a lot cleaner.  If you watch during the break between the first chorus and the second verse, Nacchi is totally in the center and looks amazing rolling her neck.  During the bridge, the double set of lines looked nice with the back one on the risers behind the group of girls who sang the verses.

BINGO!

The senbatsu come back to perform the second full song in a row.  This is getting to seem like a kind of long concert, isn’t it?  We’re not even at the encore yet.  And to think, the Natsumatsuri only had like thirty songs total.

Judging by some of the accessories these girls have on, it looks like the senbatsu election even allowed them to get an extra frill on their head piece or, in Acchan’s place, a completely different, feathery bouquet of prettiness as well as a second brooch.  Her costume seems to be the most complete.

Here they sing their summer hit, ‘BINGO!’ as the first song with all (or at least most of) AKB48 on stage.  I find it kind of funny how rare it is to have the full group doing the same thing at the same time.  In AKB48’s first concerts, Team A and Team K would perform tons of songs together, regardless of who’s song it was originally, but now it seems like AKB is only allowed to sing singles, ballads, and old songs as a full group.

Of course, when they are performing in their entirety, nowadays not everyone gets to sing during the verses.  Again, luckily for me, Natsuki was in Team 1 during the Himawari Stages, so she always gets to sing her lines in the verse along with Sae and Sayaka.  Granted, now there are other girls singing along with them… and now Sae is super tan and wearing the same thing as Nacchi, so she looks kind bland.  But that doesn’t mean I want her to tan.  Skin cancer is bad.

Oogoe Diamond

And now we start the medley of King Records singles.  At some point during the last song, Jurina jumped up to the front and center and it really irritates me that I can’t find when that happened.  I enjoy knowing when things like that happen.

Now that ‘everybody’ is on stage, I feel like it’s an encore.  That is not a feeling that should be happening.  See, this is what not getting all of AKB together at the same time does to me!  In terms of the performance, it seems to be much like any other version we’ve seen of the single, shortened and in pretty new costumes.  The lighting seems to have been especially amped up, but that’s pretty much the only difference.

One big gripe of mine about ‘Oogoe’ is that it signaled the true dropping of Nacchi from near-popularity.  ‘Romance, Irane!’ was a time period when she was so, so close to being senbatsu for her second single, as she even was in the PV for it… sort of.  Next, in ‘Sakura no Hanabiratachi 2008,’ she wasn’t senbatsu, but she was part of the group of girls who were featured a bunch running around and the like.  She did however get to be selected for the B-Side, ‘Saigo no Seifuku.’  Then came ‘Baby! Baby! Baby!’ and moved Kashiyuki into senbatsu, brought back Rina, re-introduced Meetan just for fun, and Umechan came back so they through her in, too.  Since then, RS-to-Team members have suddenly gained control of all of the new spots and the un-popular old girls have been stuck waiting outside.  Boo.

10nen Zakura

I feel sorry for this single.  This is the second concert it’s been in, yet neither time was it performed in an appropriate outfit.  In NHK09, the girls wore their NHK08 party dresses, and here they’re wearing what looks to be swim wear cover-ups.  ’10nen’ needs school uniforms or something to make sense.  I’m not a big fan of the single, but my dream performance of it includes having all of AKB48 wear different school uniforms.  They almost have enough that each girl could wear a different one… which is kind of scary if you think about it.  (New blog post idea: favorite costumes)  Maybe after these New Team Stages and the new TV show come out they’ll have enough.

The lighting in the stairwell looks really nice here.  They made a moving rainbow of colors throughout the performance and I think I finally figured out what’s going on with the open-ness of those steps:  The idea was that they could make that entire piece turn a specific color.  I don’t think it ended up working out too well, but it’s fine as it is.  Now, I much prefer the NHK09 set…

Namida Surprise!

Again, this is the second time this single has been performed, and again, this is the second time the girls aren’t wearing school uniforms.  This is a school-themed song and deserves real costumes that fit with it.  (Actually, it’s not a very good song, so I wouldn’t say that it ‘deserves’ anything.)

At least the costumes look like something birthday-related: cake!  Vanilla with sprinkles, maybe.  When I showed the ‘Romance, Irane!’ PV to a friend of mine, she mentioned how they all looked like cupcakes.  Ever since then, I’ve found that if a costume looks like a baked dessert, I like it.  Especially if food coloring was used.

I like how they integrated the non-senbatsu members in this performance.  There’s much less of a divide compared to just minutes ago when the girls who weren’t selected for the single were stuck dancing about the whole time.

The bridge would have been ten times better if Acchan’s feathered headpiece suddenly turned into a giant candle like a birthday cake.

Actually, they should have put Acchan in the very back on the highest riser and just had her twirl around while the rest of the girls were on the lower ones.  It would be reminiscent of that newspaper commercial or even the PV.

And you know how I mentioned that I liked how the non-senbatsu got to kind of merge with the senbatsu, by the end of the song, the senbatsu got to go to the center stage.

To the encore!

Iiwake Maybe

This is the first concert performance of ‘Iiwake Maybe’  I hate how the stage seems so bland for its premier.  Remember in the Aitakatta concert for ‘Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru”s performance how it looked so nice?  Or all of the fog for ‘Keitbetsu Shiteita Aijou’ in the NHK07 performance?  Much trendier.  (Now that I think about it, I have to wonder if the Aitakatta concert was filmed at NHK Hall.  It would be handy if I could just call it ‘NHK06.’

I love how the camera keeps trying to spot Jurina but continuously fails.  She got a really low spot in the election, so she got a pretty bad position for the dance formation, yet the camera people know that she’s important.  I wonder if the camera people know all of the members of AKB.  That could prove to be an interesting job.

Anyway, cute performance.

Aitakatta

All of a sudden, the rest of AKB48 and SKE48 stream on to the stage to sing the trademark AKB48 single.  I feel sorry for SDN48, they must feel un-invited.  I see no reason for them not to get in on the encore.

I’m always at a loss on what my opinion an encore costume should be.  There’s either the traditional t-shirt, like the one used here, or there’s always the possibility of some ridiculously elaborate costume.  I think that of the AKB48 Stages, K2 and A3 have the best idea: start basic, and then get specific.  I wish the current Stages would have more costume changes like those did.  Of the AKB concerts, the Aitakatta one wins as they start with the ‘Mirror’ (backwards) t-shirts, and then wear the ‘Aitakatta’ and ‘Seishun Girls’ costumes.

I really like how for this performance, they really split everybody up instead of put each Team in a different spot.  It’s nice seeing everyone all shuffled together.

They do the full song in this concert and Nacchi gets to be on the center stage for the second verse.  I feel sorry for all of the girls stuck on the risers in the back.  You can really tell how much they want off them.  Once the bridge starts, they finally are relieved of their stair-standing duties and spread out along with the now-arriving senbatsu.  Finally, the entire stage is used, including the out-croppings on the sides.  Also, the big balloons of balloons similar to the ones in the Aitakatta concert are unleashed.  Yay.

And you know what’s really cool?  They extended the bridge.  Instead of going straight into the chorus, they added a section that just had the voice track and a minimal amount of percussion!  I was so happy they did this, as it’s one of those little things that really add to the song and performance.  The camera switching to the beat of the drums was a nice touch by those crafty video editors, too.

Looking back on it, that new section is only twenty seconds long, but it’s definitely one of the highlights of the concert for me.

Hikoukigumo

And to finish of the concert we have one of the pushed songs from A5 and one of the the B-Sides of ‘RIVER,’ ‘Hikouki Gumo.’

As with the usual line distribution, each Team gets a set of lines, but this time Team S is included, too.  They seem to be really getting lots of attention now.

Another thing I find interesting is that they’re using those concert towels as rags again.  They’re really complementing other idol groups with the use of their commercially-available concert pieces.  I kind of wish AKB would just release new rags for fun… that look nicer than towels.

And the first night of Budokan is complete!

Itoshiki Natsuki
November 9, 2009

From Budokan… (YouTube will probably take this down. Credit to the uploader.)

The Airstream Passes by Natsuki! (‘Hikouki Gumo’ PV Captures)
November 3, 2009

A Summer Festival Reviewed a Few Seasons Late…
October 26, 2009

Today I’ll be looking at the Natsumatsuri Hibiyayaon concert.  It’s a favorite of mine, so I don’t have all that many bad things to say about it.

Click the pictures for the review, or you can read it all below!

(more…)

Let’s Keep on Reviewing! Onward to JCB Hall 2008!
October 23, 2009

In preparation for the next set of DVDs, I’ve decided to go through a few older concerts, this time it’s JCB Hall from December 21st, 2008.

Full-length text-only review below…

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NHK Hall 2009 Concert Series – ‘Why watch when you can read?’
October 2, 2009

I really hadn’t planned to review this, but I felt the urge to write an actual post for the blog again, so: NHK09.

So, my last large-scale AKB48 concert review was their previous show at NHK Hall in 2008.  That was just one performance.  This reviews three (slightly cut-up) concerts put on within two days in April this year.  That said:

RSL GO TIME!

Concert 1 (Day 1)

Honehone Waltz

Honehone Waltz

Akimoto and company decided to start off this first-of-its-kind concert series with a not very popular, anti-climatic unit song.  Mariko, Mai, Acchan, and Kojiharu are used to bring Honegumi’s only A-side a sort of ‘mature’ appeal.  Usually performed by some of the youngest in AKB, four of the most popular members of Team A, and AKB48 for that matter, don the bone-adorned tutus and full-body coverings in an attempt for comedy.  Personally, I think the quartet did a perfectly fine job and I’m sure that their fans enjoyed seeing them in such an unexpected shuffle.  However, I do wonder about who is wearing whose costume.  Did they get new ones?  None of the girls look like they could fill out Maachan’s old costume, and Mariko is notorious for getting new costumes made due to her long torso.  Then again, AKB’s costumes always tend to include an abnormal amount of elasticity so the majority of the group can somehow fit in a single size.  Regardless, according to the backstage footage included on the third disc of the set, it seems like the girls had enormous troubles learning the choreography to ‘Honehone Waltz.’  I’m not sure if it’s because they weren’t taught it by their usual choreographer and they had only Erena, Oku, (and possibly Tomo-chin) to learn it from, or if they weren’t given time to perfect the steps.  Either way, they seemed rather frightened by what looks to be some of the least complex choreography the group has ever used.

Korogaru Ishi ni Nare

Korogaru Ishi ni Nare 1

Next up is Team K’s trademark song with oodles of ‘We are the Team K’s.  I wish that they would phase this out or something.  I understand that it’s a huge part of Team K’s identity, but I’ve never really liked the song, and it’s been in EVERY concert so far.  Team K has so many great full-Team songs to choose from that I feel could be more exciting to watch.  I am glad that they’re using the K5 encore costumes, though.  They match the anthem well.

Korogaru Ishi ni Nare 2

Oh, and there was like NO Natsuki in this performance.  Really.  That’s another thing about ‘Korogaru’: the girls don’t switch positions much, so you only get to see the girls in the front row.

Tadaima Renaichuu

Tadaima Renaichuu 1

With another mainstay of AKB, Team A starts with their A5 opener.  It’s such a great song, and such a great way to keep the energy going but continuing Team A’s ‘image.’  The lack of a full Team doesn’t hurt the performance as the song does a good job of not showcasing any members (aside from Maeda) and allowing all the girls a little chance to shine.  While they might want to change up the costumes at some point (to just about anything, really) the performance seemed pretty fresh with the new stage elements for this concert.  On that note, let me mention that I love the set up: two tiers of performance-able stage space, stairs abound, and entrances/exits in the back.  It’s so ideal for a group like AKB that can efficiently be used for a single girl’s performance or the whole lot of AKB48, SKE48, and their respective RSs.  Also, the pretty lights on the steps do a great job with their effects.

Tadaima Renaichuu 2

At first I was all “Who is that beautiful girl?” and then I was all “Oops.  It’s Chiichan.  I knew there was a reason why she’s immediately after Natsuki.

Wasshoi B!

Wasshoi B 1

Wow, they really went all out and included another Team-specific song.  That’s all right, though, since I, along with everyone else on Earth, love ‘Wasshoi B!’  The sparkly ‘Anataboshi’ costumes do not go with the song whatsoever, but it’s nice to have such pretty costumes on such as pretty stage with such pretty girls.  It all matches.  Except the song.  It’s not pretty: it’s in-your-face.  Also, I feel like it’d be nice if Team B could perform a different song immediately after this so they could carry the energy they just brought out into something other than an MC.

Wasshoi B 2

Favorite part of the song.  So cute, yet so innovative for AKB.

Te wo Tsunagi Nagara

Te wo Tsunagi Nagara

Onto SKE48.  First off, pretty lights.  Anyway, SKE continues to perform really well and impress me.  This seems to be their big promotional song before they got their debut single, and it obviously sounds very AKB and flows with the rest of the concert.  The girls all seem really excited to get to perform their own songs in their own uniforms for once, and I’m glad they’re not singing ‘Party ga Hajimaru yo’ again like they always used to do.  (As a side note, has anyone else ever wondered if the girls got to pick their partners for the song?  I’m just imagining two girls who really dislike each other getting paired up.)

Chaimu wa Love Song

Chaimu wa LOVE SONG

I love this song so much.  It’s so cute and, though I’ve yet to read the lyrics, seems so odd.  I mean, I’m guessing that they’re singing about the chimes in a love song… while singing a love song with chimes in it.  If my lyrical guess is correct, it would fit the Akimoto-mentality of songs about things idols don’t usually sing about.  Like how they’re not idols, for example.  So, the song’s great, the line distribution is questionable, and the bubbles are perfect.  Yay.  Oh, and I really wish they would switch to their costumes that I presume are underneath their school uniforms.  I mean, they have the time and the resources.  Why not?

SKE48

SKE48

And we’re back to ‘SKE48.’  Akimoto just seems to be so proud of himself that he was able to re-write this one song that now he has the girls perform it all the time.  While yes, it is pretty clever that he matched up new lyrics so well, the song does get boring after a while.  At first when Team KII and the RS showed up, I was wowed by their number, but then I realized that it was probably just under 30-ish girls, and I’m used to that many by now.  But they do seem to take up quite a bit of the stage.  Also, I love how the non-Team S girls’ costumes are conservative almost-plausible school uniforms while Team S has those pretty, obviously stylized variations on uniforms.  And when I say ‘love,’ I actually mean that I think it’s silly.

Kuroi Tenshi

Kuroi Tenshi 1

Naturally, Acchan’s unit gets to perform both verses of their song.  The second verse is much more climactic than the first, so I guess that makes sense, but why can’t more songs have both verses sung?  (I’m looking at you ‘Shamu Neko’ and ‘Dakishimeraretara.’)  The girls here do an excellent job and the expensive lighting really helps fill up the stage.  Personally, my favorite parts of the lighting are when the step lights are randomly white, blue, and red, almost resembling the ‘sea of headlights’ that Akicha’s solo line describes.  Also, I think it’s pretty funny when they grab Acchan by the wrists and pin her to… nothing, since there isn’t a wall in the center.

Kuroi Tenshi 2

Oh, and Fujie’s performance of this song is just magical.  You can really tell that they put her in Acchan’s unit because she’s being pushed so much.  In my opinion, she does much better in darker units rather than lighter fluffy ones like ‘Hajimete no Jelly Beans.’

Tenshi no Shippo

Tenshi no Shippo 1

A song from black angels to a song with white angels.  Aww.  Okay, this is by far the cutest unit song AKB has put out… ever.  I love how it’s so simple and doesn’t have any underlying thoughts: it’s just plain adorable.  I’m glad that Aika got the chance to perform her unit in a larger concert like this, even though it can’t possibly be all that popular.  And Yukirin is a good substitute for Gussan’s position.  I guess that since she’s one of AKB’s famed selected members now, she gets priority over other girls for filling in sometimes.  I would kind of expect Haachan to get it though, since she’s filled in a few times before.  But oh well.  Anyway, did anyone notice the lack of balloons?  This would be an excellent time to get out huge, monstrous balloons for the girls to carry before setting it afloat.  Better yet, a few stage hands could hide backstage or something and help the girls hoist one of those huge balloons they use at parades.  Maybe of a tail to match the song.  That would be creative, wouldn’t it?

Tenshi no Shippo 2

Nakayan really does get a great position in the song as it’s a three-tier unit ala ‘Hatsukoi Dorobou’ with one girl getting half the lines, then the second getting a little bit more than the third girl.  Her beautiful voice really fits with the 80s-like instrumental that pops on during her solo.  Go Nakayan!

Wimbledon ni Tsuretette

Wimbledon ni Tsuretette

First off, the line distribution in this song really perplexes me.  The lead gets next to no lines, while the other two get multiple lines during the verse.  I forget if the second verse is different, but I remember that it was odd the last time I saw an S2 LOD.  And it’s not like Tsukina has a bad voice or something.  I mean, some AKB unit songs are similar (‘Faint.’ to some extent ‘Tsundere!’ as Tomo-chin’s lines are in the often un-preformed second verse… basically Tomo-chin doesn’t get many lines), but this one completely throws me off.  It almost feels like Kumi or Sayuki lead the unit while Takai back-dances.  Weird.  Oh, and did everyone notice how different the costumes were?  Basically, it looks like the girls are all princesses of different places or something.  This is kind of similar to ‘Tenshi no Shippo.,’ as they use the same colors and both have varying costume details.  So there’s another clever transition.

Ame no Doubutsuen

Ame no Doubutsuen 1

I never noticed that the camel, currently played by Chikano instead of Imai, never got any lines in the verse and was lumped with the two leads, Erena and Kana.  That kind of makes me angry… but again, I can’t change anything, can I?  This is yet another cutesy unit making it a four-song streak that melts all of the wotas’ hearts.  I find it a bit funny that Nonti is so ‘old,’ yet she’s always in the song when Team K performs it.  Notably, during the recent Team-only tour in August, Noro performed ‘Ame’ and gave up her spot, complete with amazing solo lines, in ‘Kimi wa Pegasus’ to either Mocchi or Yuko.  I don’t know if that’s her choice or management’s, but it still happened.  Back to the song, though, I remember showing AKB to a friend of mine this summer, and when we got to this song (from the Natsumatsuri Hibiyaon concert), she had me stop to watch it and she was amazed by just how adorable they can be.  At this point she even went to one of the four Japanese girls that were in the room and told her that she should try out for AKB and wear the penguin costume.  (The Japanese girl quickly said she would never do such a thing and laughed along with her friends at the absurdity of being a member of such a group.)

Ame no Doubutsuen 2

The Nonti-ness of this performance is wonderful, especially the part when she looses her hood and she’s just as beautiful as usual despite being in an oversized panda-themed dress.  I just wish there were more Chikano here.

Tane

Tane

I’ve never been fond of this song, but this performance really saved it for me.  The combination of the club-like spot lights and colorful dresses really made me enjoy it.  As with most idol music, it’s usually better to see performed rather than just listening to it.  Also, the performance gave a really nice sensation of the music mounting and mounting during the chorus when Haruna, Takamina, and Miichan sing their respective lines.  I hadn’t noticed that during my infrequent listens to the song.  They should probably perform a different song, though.  Maybe ‘3 Seconds’?  That would be too good.

Hatsukoi Dash

Hatsukoi Dash

WOW.  They totally shortened the song!  That was impressive.  I’m pretty darn sure that AKB hasn’t ever had one of their songs shortened to JUST the first verse and chorus.  Usually they’re way too restrictive with that sort of thing, unlike the other leading idol group who will turn singles into solos and has more medleys than you can shake a stick at.  Anyway, their mini performance is just as much fun as you might think it would be, which means that if you like Watarirouka Hashiritai, then you’ll like the song, but if you don’t, you won’t like the performance.

Yaruki Hanabi

Yaruki Hanabi

Their second half-song is their second single.  It’s just as bouncy as usual and keeps the flow from their last song going.  I’m glad that this one has a bit better line distribution than ‘Hatsukoi Dash,’ but it’s still very Mayu-centric with a hint of Aika, Nacchan, and almost no Harugon.  The one thing that makes me a little bit upset in this performance is that Aika doesn’t get to sing her solo lines in the lead-up to the last chorus.  That was my favorite part, but it wasn’t done in the concert here.  Bummer.

Kaiyuugyo no Capacity

Kaiyuugyo no Capacity 1

The second set of Team songs starts with the after-unit-section closer song from K4.  I’ve never been a huge fan of it for reasons unknown to me.  It’s very powerful and flashy, while at the same time allowing the girls’ vocals to be heard, all things that I enjoy.  Maybe this is due to the fact that I love the two songs preceeding it, and so this pales in comparison.  The performance here in a large event hall seems to add much more energy and excitement.  I like how there aren’t many opportunities to lead in the song and it tends to be a free-for-all for attention, so the girls go all out.  And the sparkly costumes help gather any attention needed.

Kaiyuugyo no Capacity 2

Natsuki got a bunch of shots here and it made me proud to be her fan.  In her quartet lines with Sae, Kana, and Ohori, you can really hear her voice, as expected.  I very, very rarely hear her sing with Kana, but with Sae, she usually stands out as they tend to harmonize weirdly, and with Ohori, Meetan’s voice generally adds a more sensual after-taste.

Joshikou-sei wa Yamerarenai

Joshikou-sei wa Yamerarenai

I think that an interesting thing here was how they brought in the ‘Itoshiki Natasha’ unit.  In a usual Stage performance, Miku, Sasshi, and Haachan don’t come onstage till the second verse since they were busy changing costumes after their MC.  Here, they kept them on stage the whole time, but just threw them in the back for most of the first verse and chorus.  I would have thought that they would sing with their groups from the second verse, but I guess not.  Also, please note how they didn’t do their little tournament at the end of the song.  I’m kind of glad this did happen, as it shortens their stage time, making room for more songs, and also means that Mayu doesn’t get yet another chance to shine, as I’m sure they would ‘rig’ who won to showcase the star of Team B.

JK Nemurihime

JK Nemurihime

I actually prefer the performance of ‘JK’ at the theater instead of this.  Here, there seems to be a lack of controlled spotlights and the entire stage is filled with white light.  It kills the coolness that the intro suggests.  I do, however, like how they took the first formation and somehow doubled it to fit onto the two Team-sized stages.  Also, I’m glad that they turned around the girls who usually face the mirrors in the theater.  It might be interesting if they kept the girls facing back, but had the monitor use the cameras from backstage to show their faces while singing.  Either way, they aren’t completely hidden as I was afraid they would be.  Anyway,  I liked this more during the Stage performances, and I think the lighting really affected the mood of the song and turned it into a really boring show.

Sakura no Hanabiratachi

Sakura no Hanabiratachi

The continuous AKB48 single collection starts with their debut indie single, ‘Sakura no Hanabiratachi.’  This performance is with the AKB48 RS and led by the five SKE48 girls that had performed their unit songs during the third concert.  Of course, they are missing Jurina, but she pops up later.  I loved watching the performance because it was full of girls that I was just a little bit unsure of their identities, and so the whole time I was excited when I figured out who was who and where they were positioned in the song.  A few short-comings that I disliked were how they weren’t wearing the costumes Team S wore during their run of S1, and there weren’t any fake cherry blossoms falling down during the last chorus.  I also just realized how weird the fact that the color purple is used to signify the song, but the costumes are in blue hues, and sakura are pink…  Whoever chose the lighting in A1 was an odd one.

Skirt, Hirari

Skirt, Hirari

Next is AKB’s famous song with up-skirts.  Performing that night were the most popular seven of the current time.  I’m guessing that if Yuko were there, she’d replace Takamina like in the JCB Hall concert from December.  My big complaint here is that they switch up this line-up so much and the original girls don’t get their place to shine.  I mean, these Team A girls are the ones that made AKB famous.  They should get their original spots.  Takamina getting no lines makes no sense whatsoever.  Also, they could have given Erena and Takamina Rina and Tomo-chin’s lines if they’re going to do it this way.  I know that in the ‘Skirt, Hirari’ single, all seven girls get solo lines, and I know that in the Stage version (pre-shuffle) all five girls get lines.  Now, when they did shuffle A1, Rina and Itano joined the original five ala the single.  Did they get their solo lines, or was it presented just like this?  There isn’t any video from those performances, so I don’t know if I’ll ever know.  Regardless, it’s stupid to leave two girls with no solo lines when it’s totally precedented that they can if they were to want them to have them.

Aitakatta

Aitakatta 1

As their first single with a major label, ‘Aitakatta’ comes next.  Awesomely enough, they made more of the original A2 costumes, and now all of the Teams have gotten to wear them!  This makes me think that Erena and Aki may have been the only ones who never got to perform in that costume… but whatever.  They all look splendid in it.  It’s interesting to see that the performance was done by mostly less popular members.  From what I can tell, Sae is the lead girl with Sayaka, CinDy, and Kashiwagi as the other ‘leads’ if you could call them that.  Kashiwagi even gets to do the shouting part in the last chorus.

Aitakatta 2

I love how all of the girls seem just completely excited to perform this one.  It’s certainly not my favorite single, but I’ve found that it’s the one original that I love sheerly due to it’s nostalgia.  I always think back to the performance of Kohaku with all kinds of Natsuki  screen time.  Ah, those were the days when Natsuki and partner-in-crime at the time Noro Kayo were very, very close possibilities to become senbatsu.

Aitakatta 3

But yeah, super-duper energetic performance by the girls here.  It’s fun to see them run around and have a good time!

Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru

Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru 1

Finally!  Another performance of ‘Seifuku!’  They hadn’t performed it since Shibuya AX 2008.  Yeah, so almost a year and a half, and such an important single in AKB history.  It was the one that really set AKB48 apart from the other idol groups.  They weren’t afraid to take chances.  A huge reason why I’m glad they did this single collection is that this is a good way to bring new fans up-to-date.  Casual AKB fans who maybe just buy the occasional CD, maybe ’10nen Zakura’ for instance, given the time this concert was held, might not know about some of these songs that AKB can and will perform.  Especially if a fan doesn’t go to Stage performances at the AKB48 theater, they won’t know what they’re missing.

Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru 2

Oh, and they brought out the flames again.  That’s just one more thing I love about ‘Seifuku.’  Now, let me add a little rant in here.  Why on earth did Takajo Aki get Rina’s spot.  Rina has always been up there in my ranking.  Specifically, she’s so far been Natsuki’s only rival in stealing my number one postion.  This means that I generally don’t like anyone who substitutes in for her for any song whatsoever.  Examples include Yukari in what should have been Rina’s position in ‘Kioku no Dilemma,’ had she not been away from performing at the time, and Asuka in ‘Mail no Namida.’ Takamina in ‘Kikyou,’ and Miho in ‘Shinkirou’ at the Shibuya AX 2009 performance.  Now, I’m just now getting over Yukari taking Rina’s H1 and H2 positions because, after all, she is her under, and literally just within the past few days I’ve realized that Asuka was a perfectly fine substitute because if they had to choose someone, it was going to be a girl that they pushed a lot, and one with a soft, good voice.  Asuka’s one of the only ones who fits that bill (and I’ve decided that she’s destined to become on of the next front girls), so I’ve let that go.  Takamina is a great choice as she has a similarly great, though completely different voice, and Miho’s performance was pretty good, but it was saved by the fact that Chiichan subbed in for Haruna.  Anyway, I think it’d be neat if they would have chosen Mai to take Rina’s spot, as she was graduating in this concert series, and I’ve always loved her and Rina together in whatever song possible ala ‘Dear My Teacher.’  This could all be fueled by my dislike that Aki somehow got on the fast track for senbatsu-ism… Back to the concert!

Keitbetsu Shiteita Aijou

Keitbetsu Shiteita Aijou 1

First fire, now smoke?  I love reoccurring extras!  The second of the dark singles, brings Natsuki back to the stage!  I’ve always had some sort of respect for the song, but it’s never been one of my favorites.  Sure, the lyrics are good, the PV is wonderful, the music is interesting, and the cast is superb, but it’s just never clicked with me, similar to how I never paid attention to Yuko till relatively recently.  (On the topic of Yuko, it looks like Asuka got to sub again.)

Keitbetsu Shiteita Aijou 2

Natsuki got a fairly okay amount of screen time here compared to previous performances.  In the PV she was never focused on at all, and was only shown in the background in the dance shot, usually behind the less popular senbatsu, and a few times in the story scenes, notably with Rina, Yuka, and a cell phone.

Keitbetsu Shiteita Aijou 3

She even got to be the first girl shown on the last ‘dareka.’  That actually means something to me.  How sad.  But, that makes me remember a review of a single song from a Hello! Project Wonderful Hearts concert where they actually counted close-ups of members. That sounds like it might be fun…

BINGO!

BINGO! 1

Comes out to cheer the gloomy corner of AKB48 single history, this time with pretty much the original cast of the first Kenkyuusei shows.  I think that because I happen to love a ton of the girls that are part of this generation, I enjoyed this performance fully.  I just wish that Asuka could have performed here to make it as perfect as possible.  I’m not sure who else would need to be present to make it a full Team, but I have a feeling that Deguchi Aki would have to be here, and then cut a few of the newer girls, but I don’t know who.  The addition of ex-RS, now Team S member Nakanishi Yuuka was an excellent choice since I never saw her perform with the other girls.  In this performance the girls get to wear the PV dresses and I couldn’t be happier about this.  It would be completely possible to do a complete A4R-Kenkyuusei show and just use the ugly casual outfits that they use in the Stage performance, but here they were able to wear my favorite of the BINGO! costumes (the others being the NHK07 costumes and the H1 costumes) in all their colorful glory.

BINGO! 2

Fujie looks incredible and shares her lines in the verse with one of the RS graduates of the night, Uriya.

BINGO! 3

Chiichan takes Mariko’s position.

BINGO! 4

And Chikano just looks darn adorable.  I really want to go study who took who’s spots during the days this was performed.  I know there is a thread at Stage48 which I think I made that has all of this information in it (I didn’t come up with it all, someone (Jasey?) gave it to me.)

Boku no Taiyou

Boku no Taiyou 1

New party dresses!?  That’s right, a few of the dresses were used in the ‘Boku no Taiyou’ PV, but a bunch are new!  I’ve always wanted to see AKB perform the song in those dresses, so this was a great performance for me.  Even better: there’s Natsuki!  This line-up features only one senbatsu of the single, Sayaka.  The other seventeen girls seem to be the non-ex-RS and non-senbatsu of ‘Yuuhi.’  I’m not a big fan of the H1 line distribution, though, as it seems like twelve-ish of the girls sing, while the others just dance until the chorus.  I’d prefer that all of them get spots in the chorus to sing, or half or less of them.

Boku no Taiyou 2

The three solo lines are sung by Aika, Harugon, and Nacchan.  The thing I love about this is that these three are the non-Mayu parts of Watarirouka Hashiritai.  Mayu might have gotten way more lines in those two singles they performed earlier, but now these girls are leading another single.  It just made me feel happy for them, as despite being selected for a sub-group, they are still always overshadowed.

Boku no Taiyou 3

Natsuki’s performance was great.  I’m not sure, but is her dress Mariko’s PV dress, or is it a new one?  The back looks extra-weird.  Either way, I’m glad that she performed in the song, despite me not thinking that she would get to.

Yuuhi wo Miteiru ka?

Yuuhi wo Miteiru ka?

The third single in a row with the PV’s original costumes is ‘Yuuhi’ with nearly all the senbatsu members.  Yuko was getting over surgery at the time, so she only participated in MCs at the concert series.  Kashiwagi replaced her for this song.  One thing I love about ‘Yuuhi’ is how calm and easy it is, yet it still has a danceable beat and is interesting to listen and watch.  The school-girl-meets-gogo-dancer-meets-plaid costumes are a great little touch with their boots that apparently leave skid marks.  I honestly can’t say much about this performance as it’s rather typical, even though they haven’t performed it in concert like this before.  It’s a nice moment of rest during the medley.

Romance, Irane!

Romance, Irane! 1

‘Romance, Irane!’ was the first single I was really around for as an AKB fan.  Technically, I think ‘Yuuhi’ was released after I learned of AKB and joined Stage48, but over that entire month I wasn’t really paying attention to the group and I would just listen to their music and some of their PVs, similar to all the other artists I liked at the time.  AKB48 was the first musical interest that actually evolved into a fandom for me.  I remember when information was slowly leaking out about ‘Romance.’  First we found out the title and that it was the first song from H2.  A Stage48 forum member told us that it was “like Seifuku on steroids.” Then we received rips from the theater and the radio.  I listened to the song non-stop for a while, keeping it on loop while I did my nightly crunches.  I wasn’t a big fan of the song to start with, but I slowly ended up liking it more and more.  Its disco-like vibes, powerful choruses, and harmonic verses are one of my favorites, with me eventually learning some of the choreography and most of the lyrics, studying the costume distribution (Acchan’s has a row of flowers across the bust, Itano and Nozofisu’s has a silver belt, and Hana has extra ruffles on her gold costume; there are six different kinds of costume sets; and there are three possibilities of what the girls wear under their boots: white socks, purple stockings, and nothing visible), and learning about the lyrical structure of AKB songs.  I love how dramatic it is and how lavishly ‘Romance, Irane!’ is presented.  This concert’s performance was nothing to laugh at: perhaps my favorite of the shows it’s been in.

Romance, Irane! 2

From all the concert reports I read, everywhere said it was Maimai with Team 2.  This is definitely not the most complete information, as it’s actually Maimai, Mariko, Yukari, and Sayaka from the senbatsu, Natsuki, Nonti, and Yuka from Team 1, and then whoever is left from Team 2 and the vast majority of Team B.  Although, yes, I do love that Natsuki gets to sing in a trio due to the H2 set-up of lines, I do wish that they would break from this format and add in Team B in the future so they aren’t just stuck dancing in the back.  Maybe since Team B has participated in the G-Rosso shows, they’ll change this in future performances.

Romance, Irane! 3
I loved the different girls singing taking the senbatsu lines.  Notably Asuka and Meetan taking Acchan and Kojiharu’s lines.

Romance, Irane! 4
One idea that I personally think would be cool for concerts with ‘Romance’ directly before ‘Baby!’ would be to have the girls wear the costumes for ‘Romance, Irane!’ with their costumes for ‘Let’s get Ato 1cm’ underneath like they do in H2, and do a quick change between songs.  The golden two-pieces would match ‘Baby!’ perfectly!  But, these NHK08 party dresses are also pretty gosh-darn awesome.  Also a great choice for the songs.

Baby! Baby! Baby!

Baby! Baby! Baby! 1

AKB’s second completely summer-inspired single appears next.  Guess what, I have another story.  I gave one of my dance teachers a CD of various songs, and this one happened to be on it.  She ended up liking it, and when one of the jazz classes she taught needed a song for our spring recital, the students voted and ‘Baby! Baby! Baby!’ was declared as the winner.  That’s right, AKB can appeal to tween girls.  Who knew?

Baby! Baby! Baby! 2

As per usual with all-AKB performances of this single, all of the girls stay on one section of the stage and there are tons of traffic jams and just general closeness happening on stage.  Maybe they’ll re-work this?  I happen to love the end of this performance with Jurina completely stealing the camera away from Takamina.  It’s like my favorite front girl is replaced with an eleven-year old girl.  Oh wait, that’s not an over-statement or anything.

Oogoe Diamond

Oogoe Diamond

‘Oogoe’ is another cornerstone in the new AKB48 discography.  It’s the first single with their current label, King Records.  When it was first announced, there was much speculation on whether or not this would be a darker or more powerful single.  As it turns out, it ended up being more energetic and stronger than we expected, and it also featured a few things I felt would be essential to a new first single.  A) It would be timeless.  Songs with too much of an emphasis on one topic tend to get old very quickly.  B) It would reflect the current AKB.  ‘Oogoe’ features an all-new front-girl, a much more compex-sounding instrumental, more intricate choreography, and more interesting line distribution.  C) It would be the new ‘Aitakatta.’  While it has yet to replace this fan-favorite, it has all the fundamental workings of the famous single: a repetitive word “Aitakatta/Daisuki.” lyrics about confessions of love, a mode of transportation is referred to, and trademark choreography.  I think it was a rather successful release.  This concert’s performance is great.  Besides the fact that the girls in back get to do next to nothing as usual, the performance is fun to watch.  My only question is, “What on earth are the Kenkyuusei wearing!?”  That’s literally what I was thinking the entire time I first watched the DVD.  During that viewing, I paused it multiple times to try and guess which costume they could possibly have on: “‘Wagamama na Nagareboshi’?  ‘Tanjoubi no Yoru’?  No, they’re only white.  ‘Virgin Love’?  No, they’re tiered.  ‘Daisuki’? No, they’re simpler.”  Seriously, I was completely perplexed as to where these costumes came from.  I gave up and decided that they were new.  (Actually come to think of it, are these from the Natsumatsuri Hibiyaon concert?  I seem to remember the Moeno wearing something similar…)

10nen Zakura

10nen Zakura 1

Both verses of ’10nen Zakura’ are performed, presumably because they had yet to have been done in a big concert before.  For those taking score, ‘Aitakatta,’ ‘BINGO!.’ ‘Romance, Irane!,’ and ’10nen Zakura’ were the only singles in the continuous single collection to have both verses performed.  Again, the song is done in a three-tier performance with senbatsu and substitutes on the lower layer, other members on the middle layer, and RS at the top.  At least this way they aren’t squished.  One thing I hope for in a future concert is for ‘Oogoe’ and ‘Zakura’ to be done in school uniforms for the first time.  I mean, they are school-themed, not princess party dress-themed.

10nen Zakura 2

Natsuki was given a semi-close-up approximately once.  I felt the need to include a capture of her, despite her looking less-than-excited.  Yui behind her looks poised to eat her.  Watch out.

10nen Zakura 3

Oh no!  There’s a Nacchan down!  I repeat, a Nacchan down!

Dareka no Tame ni – What Can I Do For Someone? –

Dareka no Tame ni 1

For the first time in a multi-Team concert, AKB performs A3’s ballad.  I like the white costumes used during the Stage performances, but this is okay too.  I’m glad they’re finally getting to use these songs, as every AKB Stage has had at least one ballad.  I’m hoping that ‘Dakedo….’ is used at some point.  I have to wonder if they’re saving that for a super special graduation, though.  Not that this series doesn’t have a super special graduation or anything…  Now, I’m one of those people who usually don’t like ballads, so while this one is very nice and the performance is beautiful, I really can’t say it strikes me as that amazing.

Dareka no Tame ni 2

Now, I’m trying to figure out if the audience is singing along during the chorus, or if it’s just the recording.  A concert hall-filling choir of wota gives me a rather cute picture in my head.


(Encore)


AKB Sanjou!

AKB Sanjou! 1

After AKB left their original major music label, a bunch of songs were made that in my opinion seem to mirror previous fan favorites.  As previously stated, there are the similarities between ‘Aitakatta’ and ‘Oogoe Diamond.’  More of the songs that I feel could almost seem like re-made versions are ‘Sakura no Hanabiratachi’/’10 nen Zakura,’ ‘Tanjoubi no Yoru’/’Namida Surprise!,’ ‘Aozora ni Soba ni Ite’/’Sakura Iro no Sora no Shitade,’ ‘BINGO!’/’Baby! Baby! Baby!,’ and ‘Wasshoi B!’/’B Stars.’  Two songs that I think will be released later are new versions of ‘Dear My Teacher’ and ‘Virgin Love.’ Here, I feel like ‘AKB Sanjou!’ was created to replace the A1 encore song ‘AKB48.’  Obviously the fact that they both have the group’s name in their names helps, but the over-riding theme of AKB being awesome is present in both, as well as the fact that they don’t perform ‘AKB48’ in their concerts anymore, but they do perform this new version.  Lyrically, the songs help generate an overview of where AKB is in its career.  ‘AKB48’ presents the girls as new and wanting to bring in and keep audiences while ‘AKB Sanjou’ depicts the girls as powerful and able to work through anything.  Both are acceptable summaries of the girls in the respective eras of AKB’s history.

AKB Sanjou! 2

The scrim was a nice touch to begin the song.  Similar to the blinds at the AKB Theater, the diffused light looks much better and adds to the performance.  It’s also much more climactic.  Yay for good decisions by AKS!

AKB Sanjou! 3

Oh no.  The girls are split up incorrectly again.  I don’t like when the majority of the group is in front and then a few are in back.  I’d prefer it to be split in half, or more people in back.  I don’t like it when the chances of being in front are better than being in back because then it would just suck to be one of the few chosen to be in the back.  I think I talk about this philosophy too much…

AKB Sanjou! 4

The kanji says “kamisama” or “god” if you hadn’t heard yet.

Hikouki Gumo

Hikouki Gumo 1

AKB’s new flag song introduced in the last NHK concert fits right in here.  The lines are split up by Team in an even-is manner.  More specifically, A/A/A K/K/K B/B B/B A/K/B/A.  Please note that Team B gets an extra set of lines than what is the case in Team A concerts, and Team A gets an extra line in the break-down.  By the time the chorus hits, the RS and SKE48 members are back on the stage for the encore.

Hikouki Gumo 2

I’m anxious to see Natsuki in the Hikouki Gumo PV coming out with the release of ‘RIVER.’

(Uriya and Saotome Graduation Ceremony)

RS Graduation 1

Originally I wasn’t going to do little summaries of these MC-like sections, but now I broke down and I’ll do really, really short ones.  The first concert of the trio features Research Student Uriya Akane and Team-B-member-turned-Research-Student Saotome Miki’s graduations.  First, Uriya Akane announces her graduation.  I don’t know how many of the other girls knew this happened, but I think most of the RS knew this was coming since there were many pictures of her with another RS or two on the AKB RS FC blog.  There were theories outside of AKB, but they were of course just rumors.

RS Graduation 2

Next, Uriya runs back on stage to say that she’s graduating, too, but everyone knew that already, so it’s more of a surprise appearance similar to what Nozofisu does in the third show.  It’s interesting to note that these are the first two RS to get such nice graduations.  It kind of makes sense though, as Uriya was a first generation RS, and Saotome belonged to Team B in the good old days.

RS Graduation 3

Uriya gets some flowers via Sae.

RS Graduation 4

Saotome (a Sato Natsuki fan, she even yelled “Sato” and “Natsuki” once when it was her turn for the shout in ‘Kiss Shite son Shichatta’ in one performance) gets her flowers from her former unofficial Team captain, CinDy.  Their relationship is so cute here.  It’s so respectable and heart-warming at the same time.

RS Graduation 5

While the two RS graduates talk, Sayaka runs backstage and arranges for the instrumental of ‘Aitakatta’ to be put on so they don’t leave with a sour note.  The graduates get to announce it.

Aitakatta (Encore Ver.)

Aitakatta Encore Ver 1

This uplanned ‘Aitakatta’ is a fun one to watch, as none of the girls are quite sure what to do.  Team B members all rush to Saotome at different times to wish her farewell, while everyone who had worked with Uriya before visited with her, including ex-RS Nakanishi Yuka.  The graduates of course got the speaking part in the chorus.  Not that that was really planned.

Aitakatta Encore Ver 2

This was such a cute impromptu performance of AKB’s famous up-beat debut single.  I’m glad that they had enough time that first night to do something like this… (And that right there is called foreshadowing.)

Concert 2 (Day 2)

Nagisa no CHERRY

Nagisa no CHERRY 1

For the first time ever, ‘Nagisa no CHERRY,’ the first unit Acchan led, and the unit that is used to promote each Team’s most popular member, is used for comedic purposes.  At the time CinDy was the only original Team A member to not be a selected member in a PV.  While she finally has ala ‘Iiwake Maybe,’ during her stay in AKB48, she was always hoping for a position within the senbatsu.  Here, she actually takes Acchan’s position, and even better: you get to see Acchan and her substitutes getting stuck with some of the worst positions in a unit ever.  I kind of wish that they would have included Mayu, but after the next song, I’m glad they didn’t.  Also, if they were to include Mayu, I’d hope they would include Reina, too, since she has filled in for Mayu when Mayu was busy during B2.  That way they could have all of the Teams represented, A, K, B, S, ex-RS.  Team KII hadn’t started their first Stage yet.

Nagisa no CHERRY 2
It’s cute how CinDy really goes all out here.  You can tell that she’s just awe-struck to be leading such a famous unit.  The fact that now the front girls are stuck behind her rather than the opposite way arround just adds to it.  If you didn’t notice, Jurina took the back position, which means she gets the center during the bridge.  This position is usually given to the best dancer of the blue girls.  Jurina obviously deserves that position.

Nagisa no CHERRY 3

After the song ends, CinDy stays on stage and laps up all of the attention.  Suddenly, the rest of Team B comes out with their costumes for ‘Shounichi’ on.  CinDy is wearing the wrong outfit!  Wait… could this be yet another first-ish for AKB:  A girl wearing the wrong costume in a song?

Shounichi

Shounichi

Other than CinDy’s costume, Team B’s most popular song is done just about exactly like it does any other time it is performed.  I’m glad that they’re back to the original costumes rather than the A5 opener costumes they wore at JCB.  These just fit much, much better.  Also, I’m glad to see Uchida take up a spot, as she’s had the RS position in B4 since the Stage began.  All of the pretty, colorful lights help the song almost seem like it’s at the AKB48 Theater as they fill up the stage.  One great thing about ‘Shounichi’ is that it really pumps up the crowd.  There are spots for mixes and chants and everything galore.  Even the simple dance is a great one to get the audience excited and moving.  And I love the lyrics.  They’re so touching and heart-warming and fun and perfect for Team B.  Sadly, the lyrics depicting the girls working hard to be as awesome as their seniors is still true today as Team B is least revered.

RUN RUN RUN

RUN RUN RUN

I’ve decided that Team A has ownership of the Himawari Stages.  Here, they perform a song from H1, and in the August Team A concert, they performed a few from H2.  Regardless, here they did what must be a fairly popular, as I think it probably got a good spot at one of the Shibuya AX concerts, and it was performed at the Natsumatsuri Hibiyaon concert last summer with a smattering of random Team A and Team K girls.  Personally, the shiny winter-themed costumes and lack of pretty lights really brings this down a notch.  On the H1 DVD, I always love watching it because while it may not be the most interesting song, it’s a fun one to watch being performed and it has a nice melody.  If I remember correctly, Rui of Stage48 was one of the women picked to be in the audience of the ‘Oogoe Diamond’ PV, and when she described the song, as no one had heard it yet, she said it was something like ‘RUN RUN RUN.’  Most of the time after that when we had gotten a leaked version of ‘Oogoe Diamond,’ I compared it to ‘RUN RUN RUN’ and liked the H1 song more.  But now I like ‘Oogoe’ more… so…

Melos no Michi

Melos no Michi 1

Next up is Team K’s powerful K4 song, ‘Melos no Michi.’  I have to confess that I’m not that big of a fan of the song.  The only things I really like about it are that Nonti gets to have a fight with Sae in the very beginning and that Natsuki’s voice is really easy to pick out from her group.  In general, though, I think it’s a bit generic.  I mean, it’s super powerful and high energy and has great vocals, but it doesn’t have a defining factor like other songs have.  It just kind of seems bland to me.

Melos no Michi 2

They used the ‘Hitei no Requiem’ costumes!  Although I don’t like how the red fabric doesn’t go onto the back of the costumes, I love these.  They’re so shiny and skimpy. Oddly enough, those are some excellent qualities of a costume in my opinion.

Melos no Michi 3

Natsuki is just fierce.  Period.

Melos no Michi 4

As usual, Natsuki looks gorgeous here.  You can really tell that she’s lost some weight since the K4 days.  She might even be near Sae-sized, as the measurements currently released say she should actually be skinnier than Miyazawa.

Melos no Michi 5

Oh, and Yuko, who’s re-covering from surgery, joins Team K for the MC with Aika’s ‘Tenshi no Shippo’ costume!

Glory Days

Glory Days 1

Jurina gets to show off her unit along with Kuwabara and Nakanishi.  This one is totally dance-based, and I really think that the composition is very much different from AKB48’s music.  SKE’s too, I guess.  I love the yellow-ness of the costumes and how flamboyant they are.  The lighting throws in even more yellow at the beginning of the chorus with the entire stage being engulfed in yellow spotlights.

Glory Days 2

My favorite part has to be the bridge with its robot dance-break.  It’s so random and fits the music.  The girls do a good job with it, and give it a slightly better ranking in my mind than Kuwabara’s turns at the end.  But, you know, she has the best of the three’s solo dances.

Pajama Drive

Pajama Drive 1

Moving right along from one front girl to another, ‘Pajama Drive’ is one of my favorite units, except for the lines distribution in the second verse, because it blends cute voices with strong music.  Kind of similar to Kasai in ‘Maria.’  Though we got Acchan, Kana, and Ayaka in the last NHK Hall concert, now we get the un-shuffled cast of girls.  Here, the over-the-top music and lighting help set a great tone for the song.

Pajama Drive 2

I love Harugon’s costume.  I would totally wear it.  Seriously.  Buy one for me.  Good choice from the wardrobe of pajamas used in B3 for the song.

Kimi wa Pegasus

Kimi wa Pegasus 14

I kind of forgot how amazing ‘Kimi wa Pegasus’ is before doing screen captures.

Kimi wa Pegasus 1

It’s intense.

Kimi wa Pegasus 2

Like woah.

Kimi wa Pegasus 3

I guess I just don’t have words to describe it.

Kimi wa Pegasus 4

And Natsuki’s in it… and it’s one of the two amazing units that she’s been selected to participate in.