Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

“We are Eye Witnesses” (of A6 finally premiering) (Team A 6th Stage ‘Mokugekisha’ text-only review)
July 31, 2010

A shorter-than-usual review from me…

M0 – Miniskirt no Yosei
M1 – Mougekisha
M2 – Zenjin Mitou
M3 – Ibitsu na Shinju
M4 – Akogare no Pop Star
M5 – Ude wo Kunde
M6 – Enjo Rosen
M7 – Itoshii no Akuseru
M8 – Hoshi no Mukougawa
M9 – Saboten to Gold Rush
M10 – Utsukushiki Mono
M11 – Ai wo Kure
M12 – Matenrou no Kyori
M13 – Inochi no Imi
M14 – I’m Crying
M15 – Zutto Zutto
M16 – Pioneer

M0 – Miniskirt no Yosei

Team A’s 6th Stage begins with the now-traditional RS unit performance.  Different from K6 and B5’s songs, Miniskirt is an actual unit used for promoting some video game or something.  I really have to wonder if they’ll rotate the RS like they do for the other Stages’ units.

The song isn’t half bad, and really echoes some of AKB’s ‘older’ discography.  I’m convinced that the instrumental is exactly the same as H1’s Idol Nante Yobanaide.  It’s obviously led by Takeuchi Miyu, which I think is silly, as I’ve still refused to accept the RS as actual Team members, and I don’t think RS should lead units.  Regardless of who else is in it.

I’m kind of disappointed that they kept the unit’s second costumes, too.  We’ve already seen them in magazine promos, and I wish they would keep them within the Stage so at least one thing is new and different in the Stage.

I also want to note that all of a sudden, the AKB theater has all kinds of new lights.  I noticed in the first few shots of the LOD that there were a bunch of random things hanging from the ceiling that I never noticed before, and once they were in use, I realized that they got two huge seven-light stadium fixtures, as well as about ten light strips.  On the LOD, I can’t really tell if the strips are supposed to put much light on the girls, or they’re just there to cover up all of the other lighting equipment, but the giant lights do a ton for the center of the stage.  I really can’t wait to see them in use for B5 and K6.

And now A6.

M1 – Mougekisha

The title song begins the Stage, albeit with a Berlin Wall news reel ahead of it.  I think that’s what it is at least… there’s a lot of protesting going on.

A crazy-good techno instrumental begins the first song with Team A lying on the floor in white jackets that are a cross between marching band costumes, mad scientist lab coats, and Nazi uniforms.  Oddly fitting?

The verses are generally full of the girls working on standing up or walking around, but the choruses have some interesting choreography.  The first chorus features the girls just standing strong with their legs spread a bit, while the stage moves down to give some movement.  The second chorus brings in actual dancing, but it’s still pretty understated.  It’s actually really fitting for the song’s powerful vocals.

The song ends with the girls forming a wall of white with their costumes, allowing the projector to show the news clips on thier bodies.  Kind of cool?

M2 – Zenjin Mitou

The second song of the setlist brings in a more conventional feel.  The girls wear a dress under their dresses, similar to B5.  I really don’t know what I think of these costumes: their kind of cool and flashy, but they also have the destructed look.  For some reason I feel like they’re kind of bland, despite how detailed they are.  They just don’t pop out for some reason.  I can’t tell colors very well on the LOD, but it certainly seems like there aren’t that many yellow/green costumes compared to the pink and blue costumes.  I kind of wonder if they’re an ode to the Nagai Hikari costume of A5, as they’re really similar, just with a second layer.  That also makes sense since the next costumes kind of match JK Nemurihime’s costumes… except sluttier.

Zenjin Mitou is kind of passable as a song, too.  It has a nice slow-ish beat, and kind of gets your head bobbing, but it’s not nearly as interesting as the previous song, and rather underwhelming as a whole.

M3 – Ibitsu na Shinju

A second costume change for the opening set brings in the plaid quota for the Stage.  I feel like these costumes are a mix of all of the bad parts of Iiwake Maybe and Locker Room Boy’s costumes… and maybe some Sonna Konna Wake de?  I just really don’t like them.  The pearls (which are there just because the song is about them) are nice, but otherwise they are not attractive.  Especially the ones that show lots of skin: they just don’t fit the sexy image for me.

Ibitsu na Shinju as a song is my favorite in the stage.  The choreography is nice, too.  The start brings in a quick bout of pointing, then into a bit of a dance break with Takamina and Mariko… though I’m not sure if Mariko remembered the moves.  Once the girls come back on stage, Haruna and Acchan get solo lines that both sound really good.  Later, Takamina and Mariko get them.  I love the music behind Acchan/Mariko’s lines: it contrasts well behind their weaker vocals.

The chorus really picks up the song and is broken up after the first phrases for a second repeat.  It sounds kind of jazz-y… but I’m not sure if that’s the right genre that I’m looking for.

The bridge begins with a super awesome sectioned-off dance break, then goes into the build-up lines of the verses, then has a few extra counts of a build-up before the final chorus kicks-in.  It’s like they wanted to throw in everything that makes a dramatic song… and it surprisingly worked.  The one thing I’d like different about this song, is if they were to sing the lyrics they sing at the end of every chorus at the very, very end of the song, instead of the chime-things.  I’d be awesome.

M4 – Akogare no Pop Star

The next song begins with a calming Acchan solo.  While her voice has been improving as of late, this didn’t really make it sound all too great.  The quiet music was the calming part.

Most of Pop Star is kind of forgettable, but the choruses are insanely catchy for me.  Especially because I could understand little bits and pieces.  Though it’s most certainly a generic song, it’s cute enough that I am really enjoying it and it’s a better filler than many songs from Team A’s previous Stage.  I can totally see this being performed in concerts.

On to the units!

M5 – Ude wo Kunde

After the world’s longest pause, we’re finally presented Acchan on one of the outcroppings on the stage.  Nakayan is on the piano, and Asuka is on stage left.  Acchan gets some lines, then Asuka gets one, then there’s an Acchan/Nakaya duet.  Acchan leads the chorus.  It’s obviously very Atsuko-centric, despite having very strong back-ups in this unit.  The second verse duets Asuka and Nakaya, and the two get lines in that chorus.

As for the performance, it’s nice that Acchan’s finally getting a ballad unit, as she’s been due for one for a while now.  Nakayan seems really pushed to the back… literally.  She doesn’t seem comfortable with her piano, and it doesn’t seem to work in this performance.  Asuka does well, and it often looks like it could just be a duet between her and the front girl for the entire song.  It might have worked better that way, anyway.

Mocchi’s costume isn’t attractive, though.  Like a cross between CANDY and Kioku no Dilemma.  And I think her shoes might actually be from that second unit.  Acchan wears something incredibly similar to her Team Dragon oufit, but dolled up to be cuter.  Nakayan gets a full-length dress.  I think AKS thinks that pianists must always wear long dresses, as Sakiko wore a maroon one at the recent Yoyogi concerts.

I have to say, I literally gasped when Acchan was walking on the ground.  That doesn’t happen often.  (Except I think something similar happens in Yuko’s unit for K6?)

M6 – Enjo Rosen

After a slightly shorter pause, Takajo and Sasshi pop out for their duet.  I honestly don’t know what to think of it.  It’s really, really idol-y and fierce at the same time.  This means I should really like it.  For some reason it doesn’t really click with me.  I think it might be how long the verses are: I like long verses, but the built up in this unit is so, so, long.  The choruses sound kind of like a commercial jingle, too.

I usually really like Sasshi, and I usually don’t really like Akicha, but here neither of them really stand out, despite how they’re getting a unit to themselves.  Maybe that’s why it the unit isn’t a favorite of mine?

I love the rising stage in the middle of the song.  It really reminds me of one of their larger concerts, and they could perform this on the catwalk or on outcroppings or a center stage or something.  It’d fit really well.

The costumes are fantastic.  Cute, but cool at the same time.

M7 – Itoshii no Akuseru

A dance between the previous duet (which reminds me of the dance before Itoshiki Natassha) brings in the first Team A solo in a Stage.  And it’s Takamina.  First off, I love that it’s a fast-paced solo, because we never get those in Stages, and I don’t like ballads.  Since it’s Takamina, it’s obviously much more energetic than others, and the costume matches.  She looks like some random character from an MMORPG, complete with this elf ear thing on her head.  Honestly, what is going on here?  And with a lightsaber.  I was giggling the entire time I watched this for the first time.

She finally takes out the sword in the bridge and flings it around.  So adorable.  So ridiculous.  And the end pose looks like a poster for an action movie or something similar.

The only girl who could sub this from Team A would have to be Haachan.  I can practically hear her in the build-up lines.  It’ll be great.

M8 – Hoshi no Mukougawa

Even after my first few listens, I didn’t really get this unit.  It’s a really quiet, ballad.  We don’t usually get those… but it sounds really nice.  I’m super-disappointed that only Haruna gets solo lines… especially since Chiichan has such a nice voice: she could really add to the song.

That said, this is essentially what I expected from Haruna’s PIGG unit, Girls-ING, to sing for their song.  Except this is a little slow.

I really feel like this song reminds me of Yuuhi wo Miteiru ka?, mostly because it’s fairly smooth, but has some hip-hop instrumentals in the background throughout the song.  It matches well.

Another of my big problems with this unit is the costumes: they’re so boring and could work with just about any song.  I wish they’d be more unit-specific.  And Acchan’s unit already did the whole pastel thing.  Why do we need it twice?

M9 – Saboten to Gold Rush

Since there was a solo and a duet in this Stage, we had to get a dump unit.  Why can’t dump units be fairer with lines and everything?  Skirt, Hirari’s single version had seven girls, yet everyone got a line and it was fantastic.  Why can’t they do that sort of thing in Stages?

Mariko’s unit is kind of punk-themed, and even features Union Jack-laden accessories.  The rock-heavy beat really pulls it all together.  I love the feathers in Mariko’s hair: they remind me of Sado of Majisuka Gakuen.  And the choreography with all of the stomping and fast upper-body units fits the whole unit’s image, too.

I’m disappointed with the lack of solo lines, as this makes even more girls miss getting one for an entire Stage.  And I really wanted one for Ami!  The song’s verses are made up of mostly duets between the girls, with Mariko getting the most lines.

I feel like this song is sounds like a mix of AKB and H!P styles for some reason.  It’s fun and kind of monotonous, but retains a high-energy feel throughout its entirety.

This one might be my favorite unit, but it doesn’t have that much competition, as none were all that strong in A6.

M10 – Utsukushiki Mono

This next set of song begins with a smattering of front girls crawling on to the stage while Acchan sensually walks out from the center opening.  It all sounds really creepy and vampire-like to me, so I immediately thought of K6’s Dokogumo.  And that comparison continues for a few more songs…

Four girls get solo lines per verse, and Akicha lucks out on getting one in the first, mostly because Mariko is still changing from her unit costume.  In the second verse Nakayan gets her second solo line of the stage, while Haachan and Nakagawa get their first.  Now there’s ‘only’ six girls who didn’t get any lines in the entire A6.  Boo.  I do love that Ami and Chiichan got to share a line, though.

I love that the verses and half of the instrumental are all sultry, but then the choruses have a really beat-heavy sound to them.  And the jumpy dance cracks me up.  It doesn’t match the image I had for the song.

During the chorus, one of the four front girls of the stage gets to do a speaking part.  It doesn’t work too well, just because the volume levels are about equal on the LOD.  I imagine that live or hopefully on the CD, it’ll be mixed better and less messy.  For a while I didn’t think that Acchan would get a solo talk, but lo and behold: they did a double chorus to finish out the song and she got to be worshiped by her Team mates, complete with her getting to dance all sultry-like while her stage section is lowered and the other girls continue their little ritual.

My favorite part of the song is easily the bridge.  It starts with some Egyptian-style walking on the back third of the stage, while the lower girls do a similarly silly dance. Once the synthesizer pops back in, dancing gets even more hip-hop-y and, while it looks fantastic, I can’t help but raise an eyebrow.  So random.

The costumes for this set are red flamenco dresses… that look like they were stolen from Morning Musume’s Iroppoi Jireta PV.  And the black boots were used at the start of the stage.  And they’re not even attractive.

M11 – Ai wo Kure

This one is perhaps the least interesting song of the stage, but due to its dance beat, I compare it to Okera.  The girls get groups of four for the whole song, and even have lines divided in the chorus.

Ai wo Kure just seems really bland to me.  It would probably sound a lot more interesting if the verses were made up of solo lines or something, as it seems to get really monotonous as it goes on.

The dance break here  seems to be pretty simple before they go into the built-up lines, and honestly I’m not hearing any kind of momentum.

Maybe the lyrics are really good?  (Oh, and Chiichan loses her top, if you somehow missed it.)

M12 – Matenrou no Kyori

The third song in this set begins with a louder, more powerful opening… completing my K6 comparison.  It’s just like White Day ni, until the song actually starts.

This opening section doesn’t really have much lighting, so we can’t really see all of the most likely intense dancing going on.

Once the song began, I immediately thought of  Oogoe Diamond and Iiwake Maybe: it fits with them really well.  I think it might just be guitars or something.  It’s certainly a lighter song than the others of this set, so I kind of wish it were used elsewhere in the Stage.  Maybe in the encore or something?

M13 – Inochi no Imi

Tonight’s ballad is actually kind cool sounding.  Before the chorus, I was thinking it may even trump Fan Letter, my favorite AKB ballad.  Alas, the chorus didn’t arouse such feelings, and now I just don’t like the song.  For some reason that first line of the chorus reminds me of 10nen Zakura.

Costumes for the ballads of this set of new Team Stages have ranged from super pretty (K6) to boring (B5) and these are somewhere in the middle.  They are all pretty much the same, and since they’re marine uniforms, they just look boring on stage.  White costumes always are pretty with the right lighting, but the standard blue just doesn’t do them justice.  On the whole, the cropped tops with the high-waisted trousers look really bad on most of the girls.  Ami and Asuka are the only ones who can pull it off since they’re so thin.  Mariko doesn’t have a feminine-enough shape to bring it together.  Ugly costumes.

Between the first chorus and the second verse, they do a cute little military dance… and I could only think of the Disney Channel original movie ‘Cadet Kelly.’

M14 – I’m Crying

On to the encore… the girls stomp out onto the stage acting like they’re in ‘Thriller’ (or ‘Bad Romance’)… to music that sounds like it could be from Backstreet Boys’s ‘Everybody.’  I’m so lost already.  The Stage already had a Halloween song, they need another?

The choruses bring a bit more of a dance able beat into the mix and the choreography matches with a flapper-esque dance using only their lower legs.  And then comes in more hip-hop style, which works with the rest of the Stage’s dancing.

I’m not a fan of the costumes.  They’re a cross between Dreamin’ Girls, ‘Takeuchi Senpai,’ and the newer gray costumes that premiered last Christmas but were used at Yokohama.  They’re all destroyed and the whole time I watched the performance for the first time, I was puzzled by what they would be wearing underneath them, as the skirts are enormous.

After every chorus, the girls sing ‘I’m crying,’ and by the end they sing ‘We’re crying.’  I think the wota should throw in a new chant ‘You’re crying’ a few counts after the girls through their roses to the audience.  It would totally fit.

M15 – Zutto Zutto

A complete shift of mood happens and it’s time for a song very similar to Matenrou no Kyori, except with a solo line by captain Takamina.

For some reason I’m getting a very New Team B vibe from this one.  Maybe it’s similar to Honest Man?

I find that the ‘Hitto, Hitto’ in place of the ‘Zutto, Zutto’ in the second verse is hilarious… mostly because they start the second verse of BINGO! with the same line.  Kind of like Sakura no Hanabiratachi and Sakura no Shiori.  So similar.

M16 – Pioneer

Such a cool, somehow descriptive title deserves a good song, and we kind of get it with Pioneer.  Finally, a Team A song that sings about Team A, not AKB48.

I love how the first girls to sing are all from the first generation (and Mariko…).  I guess it could also be because they’re the most popular in the Team, but whatever.

My big complaint is that they stole ‘We are the Team A’ from Korogaru Ishi ni Nare…. or more accurately, their version from the First Concert Aitakatta shuffle performance.  Also, a bunch of the choreography seems way to similar to the Team K song.  And you know, rock is kind of Team K’s thing.  These girls should have gotten a pretty up-beat balad or something, since Team B got a cutesy fun song.

Personally, the best part of Pioneer is the pirouette right before the last chorus.  Takamina and Acchan are right in front of the panels with lights on them… I hope future performances look that cool.

So… A6.

Favorite songs: Ibitsu no Shinju, Akogare no Pop Star, Itoshii no Akuseru
Least favorite songs: Ai wo Kure, Inochi no Imi
Favorite costumes: Mougekisha, Enjo Rosen
Least favorite costumes: Ude wo Kunde, Inochi no Imi, I’m Crying
Favorite dances: Utsukushiki Mono, Ibitsu no Shinju
Least favorite dances: Pioneer, Ai wo Kure
Favorite members: Maeda Ami, Nakata Chisato

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B5: The RSL Summary Post
May 24, 2010

Team B’s 5th Stage (and the New Team B’s first theater performance) was on Friday.  Let’s check out ‘Theater no Megami.’

00 Romance Kakurenbo (Zenza Girls: Shimada Haruka)
01 Yuuki no Hammer
02 Inseki no Kakuritsu
03 Ai no Stripper
04 Theater no Megami
05 Hatsukoi yo, Konnichiwa (Sato S., Watanabe, Oku)
06 Arashi no Yoru ni wa (Suzuki, Komori, Miyazaki,. Sato N.)
07 CANDY (Masuda, Kasai, Sato A.)
08 Locker Room Boy (Ishida, Kobayashi, Kitahara, Hirajima, Chikano)
09 Yokaze no Shiwaza (Kashiwagi)
10 100 Meter Conbini
11 Suki Suki Suki
12 Sayonara no Kanashibari
13 Shiokaze no Shoudaijou
14 Honest man
15 Team B Oshi
16 Bokutachi no Kami Hikouki

00 Romance Kakurenbo (Zenza Girls: Shimada Haruka)


Similar to K6 (and presumably A6), the Stage begins with a Research Student unit named the ‘Zenza Girls.’  While it’s a cute concept, it seems to just be a way to push already pushed RS to the non-RS-show-attending patrons.  Management has lately been really adamant that Team RS is pretty much an official Team like A, K, and B are, but since when did the Teams open for each other?  I just don’t get it.  And it’s not like Team RS isn’t performing: they just started doing A5.  Whatever.  (It’s worthwhile to note that RS aren’t involved in the rest of the newer crop of Stages.  That means no ‘Kenkyuusei Dance,’ backdancers, or microphone-grabbers.  Yay.)

It’s a solo song.  I don’t get it.  The vast majority of actual AKB48 members haven’t had a solo recorded, but they’re having trainees perform them?  Since when was that a good idea?  I seriously question whoever made this decision.  This is silly.  The one thing I’m wondering is if the Zenza Girl unit is supposed to match up with the Team Captain’s unit.  K6 had four girls in each, while B5 has one in each.  We’ll see what happens with Takamina’s unit in A6.  Regardless, Research Students don’t need/can’t handle/shouldn’t have a solo in an AKB Stage.

As for the song, it’s okay-ish.  Certainly not on par with ‘Lemon no Toshigoro’ from K6, but I do happen to love that song, so it’s kind of a high standard.  This ballad has a rather monotonous verse and a slightly-upbeat chorus… and live vocals.  Which don’t sound too hot from premier girl.  I like it enough to be one of those before-encore ballads, but it doesn’t work as a solo.  And the ‘choreography’ doesn’t really add anything, either.

The costume is cute.  Just a white school uniform with plaid.  Not interesting.  The center mid-drift panel seems to be the newest fad in AKB, as it’s all over this Stage as well as a couple older songs.  For some reason the beret just makes me think of Acchan in ‘Aitakatta’ for AKB’s first performance at Kouhaku.  It looks completely different, but I’m still seeing similarities.

Oh, and you can’t play hide-and-seek by yourself.  Duh.

01 Yuuki no Hammer


After the customary ‘Overture,’ we find out that they’re doing construction on the Akihabara48 Theater!  The girls all gather on stage acting as though they’re hammering/picking/making/destroying something using giant mallets and pickaxes.  While not very believable, it does get the point across.

Along with their tools, they are wearing giant plastic jackets in either blue or pink with little tool belts that double as microphone holders.  Honestly, the jackets are disgusting, but I’d love to see them in more colors to give the costumes a sort of sentai feel.  On their heads they have those hard hats with lights on them that are generally used in mines.  Maybe they’re in a mine?  That would make the picks make sense… and I guess the theater is pretty dark.  Anyway, the usage of the hats gives me a CinDy in ‘Tengoku Yarou’ meets ‘AKB Sanjou’ feel.

‘Yuuki no Hammer’ begins with a very percussion-heavy opening along with a very, very deep chorus.  I have to wonder if the girls sang it and they just moved the pitch, or if they employed the usage of back-up singers.  Either way, a very interesting way to start a song/Stage.

The rest of the song gets a bit happier and much more fitting for their costumes.  During the first chorus, Miho and, gasp, Natsuki get to do a little deal in the middle, and afterwards, Kashiyuki joins them to walk a little circle.  Not a big deal at all, but Natsuki was included, so that’s pretty awesome.  Oh, and during the bridge, half of the girls do a miniature hand stand.  I’m not quite sure the reasoning behind it, but I wish they had included acrobatics in ‘Saka Agari’ to fit its title!

Oh, and I really like how the choreography for the chorus is so simple.  I feel like that can really get the audience into the performance right off the bat.  Or in this case, hammer.

02 Inseki no Kakuritsu


A sudden strip-change reveals a costume underneath the asymmetrical space coat.  Now the girls are all in cute red dresses with frills, lace, and ruffles galore.  I think they remind me of another idol group’s costume, but I’m not sure which one.  Possibly from H!P Kids or something.  Interestingly enough, all of the costumes seem different from one another… with varying levels of attractiveness.  Natsuki’s is relatively cute with a corset-like detail and a pleated skirt.  But she looks great in pretty much everything.

Music-wise, it’s a combination of a generic cute song with a generic fun song.  The verses seem very Team B in their shorter line approach, but the real fun is in the chorus.  I swear, the first line is the most addictive thing I’ve heard in a long time from AKB, and has been stuck in my head all day.  I also like half-way through the chorus when they repeat that set of lines since it speeds up from the slower half of the chorus.  Just so gosh darned catchy.  After a short dance break, a break down of the second chorus brings in the last reprise, which then goes into an extremely cute whispering section.  I love it.

03 Ai no Stripper


(A note about the name, when I first watched the Stage, I totally figured out the title was ‘Ai no Stripper.’  I don’t know much Japanese, but I automatically fake translated the katakana pronunciation with English and was so proud of myself.)

After ‘Inseki no Kakuritsu,’ an old school AKB-style instrumental pops on with some members in semi-provocative positions.  I’m seriously in love with this song, purely because it matches their older discography so well.  I love that pure 80s sound that AKB used a little while before King Records came in, and this is a great ode to that style.

From what I can tell, this is a duet song, but at the build-up before the chorus, more girls chime in.  At the end of the choruses, there may or may not be a solo line.  The first verse showed Kasai singing, but there definitely could have been more girls, while the second verse showed Kashiwagi, but it sounded like she was going solo and no one on screen was singing with her.  I’m not quite sure what’s going on with line distribution here.

I love that Natsuki got in the first verse (it’s sad that I’m excited about this sort of thing), and even better is that she was paired with Kasai, who she happens to be close with.  They also partner near the end of the song, which makes me really happy.

04 Theater no Megami


More new costumes!  I love lots of costume changes, and even better if some of my favorite members are involved.  This time the girls are in sailor-inspired tops and skirts in yellow, pink, and blue.  I’m not a huge fan of the ties, but school girls are one of AKB’s standard images, so I guess I’ll let it slide (especially since there aren’t any real school uniforms for Team B in this Stage).  Personally, I feel like the costumes scream Idoling!!!, as I’m sure I’ve seen some costumes that are pretty much exactly the same thing.  And the ruffled bloomers seal the deal, since I’m confident that I’ve seen Idoling!!! where those.

Still on the topic of costumes, I don’t really like Natsuki’s.  I like that it’s yellow, but I’d prefer a tube top like some of the girls have and a more symmetrical bottom half.  It looks kind of like the ‘Stand Up’ skirt to me… except you know, brighter.  And still on the topic of Natsuki, I really hate how she’s stuck in the back corners the entire time.

As this is the Stage’s title song, I expected a lot from it, but I don’t think it ended up being good enough for me.  It’s fun and the lyrics are very fitting, but composition-wise, I feel like it is a bit generic and lacking.

What really confuses me about the lines is that Mayu didn’t get a solo line in the first verse.  It would have made all the sense in the world to have the first half of the song be solos and the second half to be trios… but that didn’t happen.  I have to wonder if they’ll play with that sort of thing later on, like it seems they did to ‘End Roll’ in K5.

05 Hatsukoi yo, Konnichiwa (Sato S., Watanabe, Oku)


Unit song time!  First up is Mayuyu’s unit!  I think everyone had guessed that she’d have a three-girl song, since that tends to be what she gets.  She was set with Sumire and Oku, both are fairly popular/pushed Under Girls and have brighter-than-average futures (Sumire is signed with Hori Pro and Oku is Akimoto’s ace).  I had been guessing that Oku would be thrown into Mayu’s unit so she could perform in her unit in large-scale concerts, but I had thought Sumire would get a bit bigger of a push than this.

The top of the song is a piano intro that reminds me of a Sailor Moon opening theme (actually, the whole song does) with Mayu on the stage left platform.  As the song continues, Mayu gets a big set of solos with Sumire and Oku doing duets till the start of the second verse where they get one solo line each, and it goes back to Mayu.  While I understand that heaps and heaps more popular than them, I wish they could have a bit more time to shine… even though Mayu’s voice has gotten so much better.  After a bridge worth of spoken lines, the chorus returns with a second following it (which may have a brand new set of lyrics?), and the song closes after the girls singing with the melody.

On the dresses: I like parts of them, but none as a whole.  I like Mayu’s top and the other girls’ skirts.  I would like Mayuyu’s skirt, but the longer section would have to be in the back.  It’s made really oddly so that it’s just a layer underneath the regular skirt, and it looks just way too random on the side.  Personally, if I designed it, the longer section would go in the back and that layer would go on top of the others, so it’s less noticeable.  The ballad later on has costumes similar to what I’m imagining, so just check there.

06 Arashi no Yoru ni wa (Suzuki, Komori, Miyazaki,. Sato N.)


Next is AKB’s most club-worthy song to date!  Starting up with a high-energy chorus, the four girls are trapped behind the now-used blinds on the sides of the stage.  Those blinds were pretty much completely un-used from A1 through A5, so it’s nice to see them in a Team B Stage.  Lots to say about this song, so I’ll divide it up a bit.

First off, the song reminds me of 90s J-Pop.  Like Hamisaki Ayumi or Koda Kumi.  It has traces of electronic sounds matched with guitars and the like… and is just wonderful.  It’s the longest unit song in the Stage, and pretty much exactly as long as the longest Team song in the Stage, so that’s saying something.  It has four choruses, along with a broken-down version right before the last one, and has surprisingly long verses, too, despite having a shortened second one (I feel like this happens with a lot of AKB songs I like).  I think my favorite part is the instrumental right after the last chorus.  The tune is to die for, and then it goes into ‘Itoshisa no Defense’-style background vocals… which is perfect.  Seriously, this song’s only competition in its category is ‘Temodemo no Namida,’ and it’s already winning.

The line-distribution is surprisingly okay with me in this one.  I’m going to keep mentioning ‘Itoshisa no Defense,’ because that’s what it kind of reminds me of, especially since I was really hoping for a unit like that for Natsuki in B5, so that mission was kind of successful.  The first verse has duets by the leads, Miho and Komori, and then Natsuki and Mariya get an equal amount of time.  The first verse also gives its only four solo lines to Miho before a build-up sung by the four of them.  All four girls, pretty much in order of popularity, get a couple of solo lines each during the second verse in place of the duet lines.  Instead of going to Miho’s solo lines from the first verse, we’re treated to the build-up with a Miho and Komori duet and a shorter line by the other two.  The rest of the song is sung by all four girls.

I’m a huge supporter of lots of solo lines, but I feel like the members sharing lines with one another adds something to the music and makes it less about the performers and more about the performance.  Similar to ‘Itoshisa no Defense,’ it all sounds good when the girls sing together.  That said, I think the second verse is a great place for all the girls to really show off their individuality here.

I like the costumes, but they could be better.  I’m seeing a cross between ‘Kuroi Tenshi,’ ‘Renai Kinshi Jourei,’ and the original A4 ‘Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru.’  I love that they really went for a dark club-ish feel, though I personally think if they just went with each girl in a different colored sparkly tube mini-dress it would be better.  I really dislike the asymmetrical bottom halves, though I’m okay with the top: I think it has to do with the ruffled skirt not completely attaching to the a-line dress.  Miho and Komori share the two-toned leotard-looking top, while Natsuki and Mariya get surprisingly high-cut bras.  The open side of the dress alternates within each set of girls, so the costumes at least look a little bit different from each other.  Miho has different boots, since she leads.

A special appearance is a red chair thing that you might find in a booth at an youthful urban bar or something.  All of the girls take turns either sitting or standing on it, so it’s actually one of the few chairs in AKB world that is used for the duration of a song.  I’m kind of not liking how squishy it looks, since Miho seemed to shake a little when she was on it.

My only major complaint for this unit is how the non-leading duo leave the stage so early compared to the other two.  There’s a good twenty seconds when they’re off stage, Komori is stuck on the chair backstage, and Miho is dancing around.  It’d be super cool if Natsuki and Mariya were back behind the blinds again.

Oh, and Natsuki’s in this song, which is amazing since it’s my favorite unit in the Stage.  Singing-wise, she sounds really deep and sexy with Mariya’s voice, and later on… words can’t describe how great she sounds.  It’s really powerful and contrasts with the rest of the girls in the unit in a good way.  It’s amazing.

Also, I’m completely taken aback that she’s in a dance unit.  I want to call it a dance unit since it has the most intense dance and they’re wearing the attached microphones, but really it just seems like a talent unit, since the song is so vocal-dependent, too.  Recently I haven’t been seeing Natsuki dancing as well as I know she can, though I’ve seen her go all out many, many times before.  I’m sure that sometimes she just doesn’t want to put out that much energy.  Here, she really goes for it and makes me really proud of her.  She’s always been a great dancer and great performer, and now that she’s putting more effort into her movement, maybe more people will take notice.

So yeah, best unit.

07 CANDY (Masuda, Kasai, Sato A.)


A complete change of pace brings in a literally sugary-sweet unit.

‘CANDY’ is Kasai’s new B5 unit.  Generally speaking, she is one of the few members of AKB who get good units in every single Stage.  While this is certainly not my style of song, it really fits her: cute and beautiful.  Her support singers for this song are Amina and Yuka, and I’m not really too happy about that.  I feel like Amina is too popular/important to play back-up to Kasai, and Yuka is too useful to do the same.  This is a great unit song for all three of them, but I just wish the lines were more equal so there was less of a feel like Tomomi was completely in charge.

Personally, I love the three of them together.  Kasai has a really high singing voice, Amina higher, and Yuka has a really low one, but she’s impressively versitile, so she ends up fitting.  Kasai’s last unit, ‘Dakishimeraretara’ with Mocchi and Natsuki, was one that, though it demanded a great voice, didn’t rely on her as much as it could have.  She obviously led the unit, but the other two had plenty of moments to show off.  Here, it feels like she’s the only integral member of the song, which I don’t think fits the image they’re trying to give off.  The other two are talented and have well-sized fanbases.  For me, Yuka is a good example of the perfect voice for an idol in a group like AKB: she has a distinct sound and style, but if the song doesn’t fit her usual tone, she can work with it to fit the situation.  Amina is pretty much the polar opposite, but I actually like her voice.  It’s usually on pitch, but that pitch just happens to be higher than everyone else’s.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a big fan of the song.  It’s just a bit too cute for what I generally like to listen to.  It has en excellent melody and is kind of addictive, but it might end up being one of those songs that I will want out of my head right away.

The costumes are similar in that department.  The trio looks like a basket of faded Easter decorations, complete with fancy microphone stands.  One of the many things I dislike on idol costumes are tiers.  And that’s basically all the three of them are wearing.  Kasai’s two piece attire is kind of cute for her, but that garter doesn’t match… and I am a huge fan of garters.  Amina’s reminds me of ‘Choco to Yukue’ in a bad way.  Whichever student designed this needs to be held back a year.  Yuka’s dress, while disagreeable with me, isn’t all that bad.  In fact it reminds me of the ‘Romance, Irane!’ costume that Natsuki/Atsuko/Mayu wears.

At the end of the song, the girls start licking their suckers that were in the baskets on the stands.  I was half-expecting them to throw them into the audience.

08 Locker Room Boy (Ishida, Kobayashi, Kitahara, Hirajima, Chikano)


Kitarie gets to lead the big unit of the Stage.  I’ve never understood why AKB’s larger units always have to have a big focus on the lead and the rest of the members don’t get anything.  I totally get that Kitahara is way more popular than the rest, but they should get at least a little spotlight!  I honestly can’t tell what’s going on with the line distribution thanks to the hands-free microphones and this LODs camera angles, but it looks like only Rie gets solo lines, along with possibly Chikano and Kana?  I’m completely unsure of what all happened there.  There’s too much movement and individual stuff for me to tell with just this video.

‘Locker Room Boy’ is oddly generic in its composition and is easily forgettable.  While the choruses sound pretty good, the verses are just kind of boring.  Luckily, they used props (lacrosse sticks) to add a bit of interest to the piece.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much they used them and how they didn’t look too random in the theater.

I’m getting tired of all of the red plaids AKB’s been using over the years, as it all kind of looks too similar, but these costumes look nice, with each girl getting something a little bit different.  I’m just glad they didn’t go the ‘Boku no YELL’ route and give the girls actual uniforms.  That’d look even worse than the construction worker boots their wearing.

09 Yokaze no Shiwaza (Kashiwagi)

Look, Kashiwagi gets a solo song.  Who would have thought?

I don’t like ballads.  Pretty much ever.  That means I don’t like this song.  On the other hand, I’d say it’s better than the two previous solo songs within AKB’s Stage discography.  It’s a tad faster and more soothing than the others.  While I don’t like the song all that much, I think this is right up Natsuki’s alley.  She loves slower, more natural songs, and has used a few of them in karaoke tournaments over the years.  With the current unit set-up, the only songs Natsuki can sub for are ‘Locker Room Boy,’ and this one, so maybe she’ll eventually get to sing this.  I’d love to get a solo from her… and if she doesn’t get a single or something, than this sort of thing may be the only way to get that solo.  Granted, the only girl to have subbed for the solo songs in Stages is Masuda Yuka, and this is one of the two units in B5 that she can technically perform without an extra MC… so maybe Natsuki won’t get that chance.  If that’s the case, I just hope both Kashiwagi and Yuka are out on the same day, and maybe a Natsuki solo may happen.

When I was trying to predict units for B5, one possibility was a Kashiwagi solo.  I had thought that they wouldn’t do this, because Matsui Rena of SKE48’s Team S just got a solo, and she’s basically the same person as Kashiwagi.  Apparently I was wrong, and Kashiwagi did get a solo.  She should throw on a vest sometime and perform Rena’s unit since their costumes are so similar, too.

10 100 Meter Conbini


I’m not quite sure how to describe this song, but I’ve been hearing the term ‘eurobeat’ tossed around, and I guess that’s what I’ll consider it, though I don’t think that’s the right genre.

The entirety of the song is super addictive with lots of different disco-like elements playing at the same time.  I really like how there’s so much going on in the verses alone.  First, it’s a quiet instrumental, when the next girls start singing, a heavy bass comes into play, later a destructive sound effect brings in the next set, with a build-up for the chorus.  I’d really like to know what that instrument thing is that plays between sections of the song.  It’s in any 70s-style song from AKB, like ‘Romance, Irane!’ and ‘Kaiyuugyo no Capacity.’

My only problem with the composition is how long the instrumental runs after the last chorus.  It could totally have ended with the last phrase, but they kept it going forever and then repeated the end of the chorus.

I love the costumes used for this set in the Stage.  While they really do look like rip-offs of Otome-gumi’s outfits, I think they’re brilliant.  Each girl gets a slightly different dress with a huge variety of accessories.  Natsuki’s costume is superb.  I’m a bit jealous of Mayu, though, since she’s the only one with a random garter.

11 Suki Suki Suki

Straight out of singing about convenience stores comes B5’s only cutesy filler song.  For some reason the entirety of the song reminds me of K6’s ‘White Day ni wa’ and I can’t help but compare the two.

The verse begins just as you’d expect from a song like this: adorable, though a tad boring.  Then comes a weird choppy section right before the build-up for the chorus.  I wonder if this was added later on to spice up the song…

The chorus is yet another addictive one, though not as memorable as some of the others from this Stage.  It seems to be kind of a call-and-response chorus with half of the girls singing at a time.  The end of the chorus features a couple girls re-iterating a section of the chorus with quieter background music.  After the second chorus, the bridge’s choreography is fantastic.  They all crouch over and run in a counter-clockwise formation and then kind of stumble like mechanical dolls before going into a broken-down chorus.  I love it.  They remind me of hamsters or something.  In a good way of course.

12 Sayonara no Kanashibari


The last song of this set is a sexier one with quartet lines.  Similar to ‘Ai no Stripper,’ it sounds a lot like an older AKB song.  The formations somehow remind me of ‘Yume wo Shinaseru Wake ni Ikenai.’

I love the chorus for this one.  It’s set at a slower pace than the verses and has the girls kiind of take turns singing different words while the rest fall.  The first chorus shows the girls kind of randomly moving, while the second has the girls in specific groups.  Both look interesting, but I prefer the first.  The final one puts them into lines so the cannon approach is super-obvious.  This is one of the Team songs that I feel like would benefit from having solo lines.

The end of the song puts the girls into a ‘B’ formation, with Natsuki as the connection of the right side’s semi-circles.  This does not fit with the song, nor the theme of this part of the Stage.  I don’t get it.  We don’t need this here.

13 Shiokaze no Shoudaijou

Ballads usually are put at the end of the Stage before the encore, and this is no exception.  I wish they would switch it up somtime, as it’s been like this for a little while.

‘Shiokaze no Shoudaijou’ has relatively cute costuems: light green or yellow plaid dresses with lots of white lace trims and blue corsets.  They fit all of the girls really well, which is something that seems to have been missing in the Stage thus far.  My only problem is they’re all so similar to one another.  I’d prefer it to be yet another song where each girl has something different.  Accessorising the outfits are a plethora of staw hats, flower pins, and random leather purses.

I’m not a huge fan of the song, mostly because it’s a ballad.  Luckily it actually is rather pretty, and certainly ranks well about Kashiwagi’s solo.  My one big problem is with how they only have half of the Team sing during the first verse, which is fairly common, but then still don’t use the other half for the bridge section.  That means a bunch of the girls will only get to sing the choruses if this were somehow performed in concert.

14 Honest man

Encore time!  The girls come running onto the stage from either side to start the song.  It’s not nearly as dramatic as many of the other encore enterances that have been used lately, but I guess it’s somewhat different, while boring, so at least there’s a variety going on.

The verses remind me a lot of ‘Yuuki no Hammer’ in how rythmic they are, but here itall sounds a bit more melodic.  The choruses are fantastic and remind me of a newer Tegomass song for whatever reason.  Great song, but there’s one big problem.

These costumes are disgusting.  Maybe I’ll warm up to them, but I just am not a fan.  There’s a possibility that I’d like them if they had plainer skirts/shorts, but still, they look too grunge-inspired like Sae’s new unit in K6.  They’re a bit too fitting for a magician rather than an idol.  And some of those hats are hilariously gross.  I do like Tomomi-chan’s hair tie, though.

The end of the song puts them in their own poses, which switch to tough-looking stances with their arms crossed by the time the next song begins.

15 Team B Oshi


Oh my god!  It’s ’10nen Zakura!’  Not really, but I’ll need to start yelling ’48!’ whenever this comes on.

‘Team B Oshi’ is another one of those member introduction songs, like ’16nin Shimai no Uta’ and ‘Wasshoi B.’  The girls are introduced in alphabetical order with the verses divided up similarly.  Like the other songs of it’s type, this is a fun energetic one.  The verses have bunches of little things going on, but the choruses are just drop dead adorable.  The fifteen girls not being introduced sing a repeating chorus line saying who the audience should pick, while the girl being named does a cute little phrase or pose or something.  Notably, Kana does a bridge, Mariya does a jig, Chikarina leap frogs, and Mayu does her famous ‘Let’s Go!’ line from ‘Hatsukoi Dash.’  Natsuki throws in her catchphrase for good measure, and I, while not surprised, love it.  I can’t wait for her birthday show for this one.

The whole song is full of great little hijinks, so I’m hoping this’ll be one that’s fun to watch in each performance.  I don’t like it when songs are self-referential, but if it’s completely obvious, then I guess it’s kind of okay.  If only they would stop making ‘A K B’ signs like SKE does in S3.

16 Bokutachi no Kami Hikouki


To finish off the Stage we have a feel good song about paper airplanes.  I am really enjoying this one, even though it doesn’t totally fit my preferences.  In this first LOD, it looks like Natsuki even gets a mini solo line, but I’m guessing that it’s a duet line and they just hid the other girl.  No group song solo lines for Natsuki in this Stage… sad.

The second verse brings in the title’s props and the choreography changes for the better.  Apparently each plane has a personal message from its original holder, so when they eventually do throw them, I’m a bit jealous.  And that’s impressive that they can find their signed plane in the box while still on stage.  I’d expect them to have to dig for a while.  They’re prepared, apparently.

So, over all, pretty good Stage.  In terms of Natsuki, it’s not as good as K5, but I feel like some of these songs fit her more than some K5 songs did, despite not showing her off as much.

(Side note: in the ‘Arigatou Gozaimasu’ at the end of the Stage, you can hear Natsuki start talking first.)

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…)

Team K 6th Stage – Opening Day
March 15, 2010

K6 premiered on Friday, so here are my opinions on each of the songs!

— Lemon no Toshigoro (RS)
01 RESET
02 Sentaku Monotachi
03 Kanojo ni Naremasu ka
04 UHHOUHOHO
05 Seifuku no Resistance (Ono, Itano, Nito)
06 Kiseki wa ma ni Awanai (Yonezawa, Miyazawa, Nonaka)
07 Gyukuten Oujisama (Uchida, Minegishi, Nakatsuka)
08. Ashita no Tame ni Kiss wo (Tanabe, Akimoto, Kikuchi, Matsui S)
09. Kokoro no Hashi no Sofa (Fujie, Oshima, Umeda)
10. Dokugomo
11. Okera
12. White Day ni wa
13. Jigsaw Puzzle 48
14. Hoshizora no Mistake
15. Yume no Kane
16. Hikkoshimashita

(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!

My Thoughts on the Team Shuffle
November 13, 2009

I was thinking about the New Teams the other day, and I have a few theories that I’m using to summarize my thoughts on the shuffles.

Team A

Front Girl Theory:
Maeda Atsuko, Shinoda Mariko, Kojima Haruna, Takahashi Minami

The new Teams have an obvious pattern within their line-ups.  One is that the most popular girls stay on their own Teams.  Four Team A girls stayed for various reasons.  First off, Acchan is Team A.  They can’t change that.  Mariko is often more popular than Acchan, and she was petitioned into Team A.  Again, if some girls are going to stay on the Team, she’s one of them.  Harunyan was the voice of AKB for a short time, but now she’s just super popular and a major part of Team A’s history, and lastly Takamina is the captain of the New Team A and all of AKB48.  She’s a natural choice for leadership positions and another big component of the original Team.  These girls have all cemented themselves in senbatsu line-ups and won’t change for the world.

Pushed Girl Theory:
Takajo Aki

The second part of my Front Girl Theory include girls AKS is pushing constantly.  Aki was the only one who managed to remain on her first Team.  I believe that they must have given up on putting Fujie in as the new Acchan and now they’re working on Takajo as she has had a much better reception from fans.

New Team Theme Theory:
Nakata Chisato

The second half of my New Team Theory involves the general concept of the Team.  From the looks of which girls were selected for Team A, they’re continuing the tradition of Team A representing the classic idol group.  In this way, the feel of the New Team A is built around Chiichan.  She’s lovely and beautiful with a nice voice and figure to match.  She’s in many ways the perfect idol, albeit a tad quiet.  I think this new Team will have similar characteristics.

Lower Senbatsu Theme Shuffle:
Kuramochi Asuka, Katayama Haruka

The only somewhat popular girls that were moved to Team A are Mocchi and Haachan.  Both have wonderful, deep voices and along with Takamina, Mariko, and Sasshi, these two will probably be the power behind the lines that all the girls sing.  To fit my theory, these two match Chiichan’s image, and my idea of the new Team A: pretty in every sense of the word.

Correct Team Shuffle:
Matsubara Natsumi, Nakaya Sayaka, Oya Shizuka, Maeda Ami

The filler girls: Natsumi, Nakayan, Shiichan, and Ami also fit the new image.  Natsumi and Nakayan are just like the Chiichan model.  Shiichan doesn’t fit well with the other girls, but I feel this is the right Team for her since she’s been stuck as an RS forever and Team A has always been the most famous third of AKB.  Ishida and Uchida are also old RS, but they’ve had a bit more opportunity in my opinion.  On the other hand, this is the perfect fit for Ami, as she’s being pushed almost as much as Aki at some points.  On a Team with so many major members, girls that get pushed are very lucky.

Wrong Team:
Sashihara Rino, Oota Aika, Nakagawa Haruka, Iwasa Misaki

Some choices are just weird.  Sasshi does not fit with the other girls at all.  She’s totally Team K.  She could easily fill up Natsuki’s position as a strong member in songs and an important part of MCs.  Aika should have stayed in Team B.  She was beginning to get extra popularity there, and I’m sure if she was left there she’d get more spots to shine.  She would also fit my perception of Team B pretty well.  Harugon could be stuck back on Team B or on Team K.  Like Sasshi, she just doesn’t mix with the others well.  And Iwasa is too fierce for Team A.  She needs Team K.  Quickly.

Team K

Front Girl Theory:
Oshima Yuko, Ono Erena, Miyazawa Sae, Akimoto Sayaka

These four are from the two sides of Team K.  Since it’s conception, Team K has always been split between cute songs and cool songs.  Korin doesn’t completely subscribe to either of these genres, but she’s kind of the most popular member from the Team, so in this theory, she has to stay.  If she were to be shuffled, she’d definitely be Team A, as she’s the perfect mirror for Takamina.  Erena represents the adorable side of the old Team K.  She’s also really popular, so she’s stuck here, even though she might not fit the image quite right.  If one were to pick out the members are the epitomy of the original Team K, Erena would be the cute side, Sayaka would be the cool side, and Sae would be the versitile one.  Sayaka is hardcore and unbelievably talented, though she’s been shafted when it comes to senbatsu in the past.  Sae brings the energy and spirit of Team K.  While she doesn’t embody the core characteristics of the Team, as she seems more Team B-like, the other members work as a foil for her and she fits in quite well.

New Team Theme Theory:
Umeda Ayaka

Continuing my idea that the only unpopular girl that gets to stay in her original Team is the one that sets the mood of the New Team, Umeda gives off the fierce part of Team K’s aura.  Though she could fit pretty well with the new Team A, her dancing keeps her in her first Team.  In my theory, this means that the new Team K will focus much less on vocals, but put more attention into their dancing and presence: two things that Umeda is good at.

Lower Senbatsu Theme Shuffle:
Itano Tomomi, Minegishi Minami

Despite the fact that the front girls stayed in their original Teams, these two were moved.  Yes, they fit the new dance-y Team K perfectly, but their popularity, especially Itano’s, would make me think that they wouldn’t be shuffled.  Miichan, though, I’m aware has definitely lost some popularity over the years.  Anyway, these two work into the possible fierce image of the new Team K perfectly.

Correct Team Shuffle:
Yonezawa Rumi, Kikuchi Ayaka, Fujie Reina, Tanabe Miku, Matsui Sakiko, Uchida Mayumi

These girls all are great choices for the New Team.  Rumi’s always been a great dancer and vocalist.  She could fit the New Team A, but is fine here, too.  Kikuchi’s first unit was hardcore, and from fan recordings, she definitely rocked it, so this is good for her.  I’ve seen more of Fujie in her cooler roles, despite her rise to (short-lived) fame due to her cuteness as Mayu’s under, so Team K is a good decision.  Tanamin is… Tanamin.  And Tanamin is fierce.  So… yeah.  Got that one right.  Sakiko and Uchi are both very versitile, but I like them more in cool songs, so I feel they’ll do well in this coming Stage, even though they’ll probably just be in the background for most of it.

Wrong Team:
Nito Moeno, Nakatsuka Tomomi, Nonaka Misato

Moeno is obviously Team A.  She just isn’t in-your-face enough for this New Team K.  She’s perfect for the New Team A, though.  I still haven’t cared about Chris enough to have feelings about where she should have been placed.  I think either of the other Teams would be better than the power-house of this New Team.  And Nonaka is supposed to be Team A.  She should have been placed in Team A a long time ago since she’s been fairly regularly performing an RS position in a unit for so long.

Team B

Front Girl Theory:
Watanabe Mayu, Kashiwagi Yuki

Team B has always had very few representatives in senbatsu.  Mayu’s always been there, and Kikuchi was important for a while, too.  When she left, Kashiwagi took over.  In the beginning of Team B, I believe that the leaders were these two, Kikuchi, and CinDy, but these two are the current important members.  And they’re still on Team B, unlike those other two.

New Team Theme Theory:
Hirajima Natsumi

Nacchan was on Team A for a while, then transfered to Team B when it started up.  As said by nearly everyone, Nacchan is crack.  She is energetic and fun and entertaining.  She is essentially what I think they were aiming for originally for Team B.  Now that they are honing in on specific themes, I think that’s what the New Team B will be like.  Get ready.

Lower Senbatsu Theme Shuffle:
Kasai Tomomi, Miyazaki Miho, Sato Amina

Tomomi-chan getting thrown off Team K is crazy.  She’s popular enough that it shouldn’t have been an issue, so she’s almost sort of proof as to why I think they’re going for certain Team-by-Team images.  She’s too cute for the New Team K.  Miho and Amina, I think, are too energetic for the New Team A.  Here, I think they can prosper under a similarly interesting enviroment.  This also frees them from the shadows of the ever-popular original Team A front girls, as none of them transfered to Team B.

Correct Team Shuffle:
Kobayashi Kana, Chikano Rina, Masuda Yuka, Oku Manami, Sato Natsuki

These Team K girls are generally very adaptable when it comes to performances.  Kana was at one point a real front girl, and now that this shuffle has taken place, she may take a similar position again where instead of just leading unit songs (which she has in many Team K Stages), she may help lead the Team.  Rina was brand new to Team K when she was switched over to the New Team B, but she, similar to Fujie, can carry out any type of song.  Now, I think she’ll focus more on her cute side.  It might not seem like Yuka could fit here, but I think it makes sense.  She’s always been used when a deeper voice is needed, so she’s usually in hardcore songs.  In Team K songs that have a cuter twist, you can tell that she’s versitile enough to pull them off, too.  I think they want to start pushing her again, but this time show off how good her voice is in any song they put her in, not just the ones that were made for her.  Like Chris, I can’t say much about Oku.  She isn’t really energetic enough to be in Team B, but she doesn’t fit the others either, so I think they just threw her in the New Team B.  Finally, much like Yuka, Natsuki does well in most any song, and while they aren’t really taking a chance on her push-wise, since she’s been in a whole range of songs since her popularity peaked two years ago, I think they’re going to use her fun side to their advantage.  And the fact that they need someone to talk a lot in MCs and that she’s good at that helps, too.

Wrong Team:
Kitahara Rie, Ishida Haruka, Komori Mika, Sato Sumire

I don’t pay enough attention to Kitarie to really give thought to her, but keeping her on Team A or switching her to the New Team K makes more sense than putting her here.  Her ownly original unit points to Team B, but I don’t think it showcases her all that well.  Similar to anyone that should be on Team K, Ishida is just too fierce to not be on the New Team K.  I don’t care that she’s cute and energetic: she’s needed where she’s needed.  Komori doesn’t have enough fun to be on this Team.  She would fit with Ami on Team A.  And Sumire is too pretty for the New Team B.  She’s also supposed to be on the New Team A.  I’m not saying that no one on this Team is as pretty as her, but I’m saying that’s her only definable quality, and that’s part of the Chiichan model.

 

So yeah, those are my feelings on this new arrangement.  I’m excited for the new Stages, and I hope they start a little earlier than their currently expected to (K6 in December, A6 and B5 next year).

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

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…

(more…)

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.

Kimi wa Pegasus 5

I wish they would re-record the vocals for this song.

Kimi wa Pegasus 6

I mean, the girls had amazing voices back when this was done, but I think that by now, their voices should be off the charts.

Kimi wa Pegasus 7

Natsuki looks spectacular in this performance.

Kimi wa Pegasus 8

Also, I really wish they would have performed this at Natsumatsuri Hibiyaon just because it was raining.

Kimi wa Pegasus 9

It would be just so climactic it would be incredible.

Kimi wa Pegasus 10

Oh, and random: my dream is for these girls perform ‘Kimi wa Pegasus’ in ball gowns or even the ‘Ai no Moufu’ dresses so they can be princesses once and not just princes/pirates/quakers.

Kimi wa Pegasus 12

I think that would be super neat.

Kimi wa Pegasus 11

Don’t you?

Kimi wa Pegasus 13

Yay for Natsuki!  Go!  Go!

Tsundere!

Tsundere! 1

I’m a huge fan of this unit.  Tomo-chin had been getting three sexy/strong units in a row, and finally she got one that fit her personality perfectly.  Not really cute, but not really sexy, not really cool, but not really kiddish.  It’s just so Tomo-chin.  The costumes are crazy puked-up neon collections of accessories and gal clothing.  Tomo-chin’s heels add a touch of her attitude compared to the other girls’ boots.  I’ll also say that no one who subs in for her gets to wear her heels and is stuck with boots.  I think it’s interesting how with the line distribution, Tomo-chin’s longer solo line in the second verse isn’t performed at these large scale concerts, but only Amina’s in the first and Rie’s in the build-up.

Tsundere! 2

Rie and Amina make great supports, too.  Rie has a very consistent and confident voice, and Amina… sings, too.  She sings in her very own special way.  I’m in the camp that likes her voice, as it’s very, very pitchy, but at the same time it seems controlled.  I love how before the first chorus in the section when Rie sings, then Itano adds on, and finally Amina pops in there, Amina’s voice totally throws off the expected sound and you can hear way higher than the other two.  It’s just so cute.  It’s these little things like Amina’s voice (and I’m sure her wota-ness as well as rich fans) that can catapult a girl in the election to a better spot.


Junai no Crescendo

Junai no CRESCENDO

I love the costumes used in this song.  They’re pretty midnight blue bodices with pink skirts and an overlay of blue tulle.  The details like the pink straps I think really make the outfit.  I don’t really know what they were designed to look like, but they look kind of witch-like to me.  Anyway, the performance was pretty good.  I was disappointed that Kasai was in this again, as she’s already been shuffled in here.  Nito sounded good and Sasshi did a great job to boot.  Sadly, that last solo line in the dead space before the second chorus was not nearly as good as Kashiwagi’s from the NHK08 concert.  But that one was pure gold and I don’t really expect anyone to live up to it.  I want to note that I still don’t understand how Moeno and Sasshi are paired up so often.  And usually Rie is in there, too.  That trio is resembles each other so much it astounds me and still gives me trouble figuring out who’s who when watching them.  Thank goodness Moeno dyed her hair!

Ame no Pianist

Ame no Pianist 1

I really need to watch an S2 LOD again… (I may or may not have a clue what two of their names are… but I know that I used to.) Anyway, great song.  Again, it feels very not-AKB.  Similar to ‘Glory Days.’  Luckily, though, it isn’t AKB, but SKE.  I can’t wait to see shuffles of some of these unit songs.  I’ve found that I love ‘Ame no Pianist’ due to… the girl on the right’s voice… and the fact that they mention “Chopin.”  I have very little understanding of who “Chopin” is, but I know he was a famous pianist or composer or something.  The point is that I actually heard the mangled name of the European musician within the lyrics.  I was proud.

Ame no Pianist 2

One thing I like is the bridge.  The girls go all mad-scientist-meets-an-organ with their dancing.  It’s very all-out like the robot dance in ‘Glory Days.’  One thing I don’t like are the costumes.  They just look really unbalanced or something.  I’m not sure.  Rena’s is definitely the best, though.  Maybe they all need corsets?  I don’t know.  And the long skirts are really off-putting.  And the awesome boots of the two that aren’t the Matsui don’t match the costume at all.  Oh, and the lighting was all off.  The S2 LOD in the AKB Theater had really nice lighting, but this was completely generic.  Boo.   I like how I didn’t really talk about the performance.  (It was fine.)

Glass no I LOVE YOU

Glass no I LOVE YOU

Bah.  Bad casting.  Acchan shouldn’t be in this.  This is the non-Acchan song.  I’ve always thought of this as the every-front-girl-but-Acchan song, as it really used to be that way.  But they ruined it.  Erena’s perfect here, as she fits the bill for a non-Acchan member and she hasn’t performed in it.  I think Miho performed this at Natsumatsuri Hibiyaon… but I’m not sure.  I hate it when bloggers don’t do their research when writing something, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes too long to find the DVD and check.  So we’ll assume she was in it.  That means that I don’t like her in it here because I hate repeat shuffles.  Kashiwagi’s new… I think.  So that means she’s fine. So yeah, bad group here.  Only half get the okay from me.  Anyway, it seems like all of the girls from AKB love this song, even though very few foreign fans like it.  Usually their enjoyment of the song is derived from the obnoxiously pink and fur-trimmed costumes.  I guess that’s a valid reason then.  Also, please note that Acchan doesn’t get her usual lead position.  She gets Rina’s, which makes sense since they always tended to share lines.  (And that makes me wonder if Rina had stayed for longer if she would have subbed for Acchan in ‘Kuroi Tenshi’ in a shuffle concert.)  Anyway, the girls do perfectly fine, despite my dislike of the cast choices.  I like how this is definitely more of a “Let’s have RSL talk about AKB songs and who’s in them” instead of a review.  My excuse is that most people know a lot of these songs anyway.

(Insert No Sleeves and Watarirouka Hashiritai)

Squall no Aida ni

Squall no Aida ni 1

Yay!  Another good song!  Even though there aren’t any umbrellas here, the girls put on a great show.  The lyrics about a boat house and a sudden summer rain are oh so cute and really fit with the un-official Team A image of being cute and pretty.  In this performance, I love the entrance of half the Team from the middle opening just casually walking forward.  That way, it seems to be much more exciting when they start dancing.  And when I say dancing, I mean when they start walking around with stylized arms and shoulders and sporadically hopping around.  It’s just cute.

Squall no Aida ni 2

Strut it Chiichan (and Mariko)!  I’m so glad they changed the choreography from the original.  This is so much more exciting.

Squall no Aida ni 3

The sparkle meter is off the charts.  The combination of the sequined dresses and the rain drop-inspired lights blow my mind.

Shamu Neko

Shamu Neko 1

My favorite K4 song strikes again!  (And I wish that position above made it to the DVD cover.  It is perfect.)  I love how this song seems to be addressed to and lead by Erena, but the lead vocals are by some of the best singers in Team K: Nonti, Ayaka, Natsuki, and Asuka.  The song started out fine, with the ‘Tenohira’ outfits.  I loved when they used the senbatsu costumes from Kohaku in the JCB Hall concert (mostly because Natsuki’s body was /is ravishing), but these seem like they’re nice and updated school uniforms from the K4 encore ones, so I like these two.

Shamu Neko 2

Anyway, after Nonti sang, I was ready for Ayaka to sing, but alas, some weird girl with a nicely proportioned body and a circular head started singing.  At first I was all “Where’s Umechan!?” but then I realized she was absent due to her other job.  Then I was like “Who’s she, then!?”  And then I realized that it was in fact Sumire.  And I calmed down.

Shamu Neko 3

I wish they would have done both verses so Natsuki could sing her amazing solo line (and you know, Asuka, too).

Suifu wa Arashi ni Yume wo Miru

Suifu wa Arashi ni Yume wo Miru

“Ah!  Magical fairies of destruction!  Whatever shall we do?”  Seriously, who picked these costumes for this song?  Their hands must be slapped.  I wonder if they feel ridiculous, or they think they’re part of Milky Way.  Probably the latter… because they might as well me.  The costumes may confuse me, but the performance is great, especially the section where they come into the rank pyramid.  I still think that my favorite version of the song would be the one from the last NHK Hall concert with the ‘Two Years Later’ costumes.  It seemed more appropriate.  Now, if only they had sailor costumes to fit the song. (Oh wait!  They could just use the new Team A concert costumes!)

(Insert AKB48 Continuous Single Collection)

Nante Suteki na Sekai ni Umareta no Darou

Nante Suteki na Sekai ni Umareta no Darou 1

One of my favorite AKB ballads of all time.  Probably my favorite right behind ‘FAN LETTER.’  It has some of the most calming music and lyrics and it’s such a great song in so many ways.  It’s a shame A4 might never be released.  I’m kind of disappointed by this one, to be honest.  I pictured there to be much more room for the girls to wander around, probably onto the stairs or something.  They’re all so compact here.  Also, I’d prefer they wear a simple outfit like the RS.  These are just too much.  Also, I’d prefer that Team A didn’t lead.  How about giving everyone else a chance?

Nante Suteki na Sekai ni Umareta no Darou 2

Bubble power!

(Insert Encore)

(Note lack of encore performance of ‘BINGO!’)

Concert 3 (Day 2)

Amai Kokansetsu

Amai Kokansetsu 1

The third concert opens up with Ohori’s solo single song, now a fan favorite.  Just as she turns around, it is revealed that it is Maimai, not Ohori in the cowboy-inspired get-up.  I was thrilled when I heard that she who had previously been the “sexy bunny” of Team A got this solo, as she really hadn’t been in many sexy songs in her career in AKB.  Just Kiss wa Dame yo, and that’s really not too inappropriate.  I think it kind of sucks for Ohori with her solo being used to help celebrate someone else’s graduation, but she seems to be proud of Mai and is happy for her to perform it.  Now this makes me wonder if this opens up other sub-units to shuffling (Chocolove, No Sleeves).

Amai Kokansetsu 2

I have to say that I’ve always loved Mai’s voice.  It’s a really nice balance between being mature and light, and she can work with it in so many ways to fit many situations.  Her performance here was outstanding, and I think all of her fans were proud.

Saishuu Bell ga Naru

Saishuu Bell ga Naru 1

I guess they tried saving some of the best recent songs for the end.  K4’s title song brings in Team K and a certain amazing Kenkyuusei Suzuki Mariya!  I love how this is not only a very energetic song, but it also has a great melody going for it: something I must hear before liking a song.  Unrelated, but I didn’t notice how much screen time Sae had in this performance till now.  I guess with Yuko gone, she gets her camera time.  Because, you know, it works that way.

Saishuu Bell ga Naru 2

I’m kind of sad that they didn’t perform both verses, but it certainly would make this last show go over time (more so than it did.)  This way, Natsuki didn’t get to sing her duet line with Meetan.  Oh well.

Shiroi Shirts

Shiroi Shirts 1

Bleh.  This is not the song to continue with.  Just about anything would fit better.  They should have saved Shounichi for this concert.  Dislike of the song aside, I can’t get over how they wore the least attractive Team B costumes to date.  I mean, I understand that yes, they do have white shirts on, but it does not fit.  It’ be cute if they just wore any random Team B costume with the ‘Shiroi Shirts’ white shirts over them.

Shiroi Shirts 2

I like how the dancing and fierceness of the previous song contrasts so much against this one, as they seem to just clap, wave, and pose the majority of the song.  Seriously, I don’t know what AKS was thinking here.  The bow at the end seriously cemented my thought that this should not be at the start of a concert.

Dear My Teacher

Dear My Teacher 1

And after that foul selection comes one of AKB’s best songs period!  (Natsuki says this is her favorite song, but that’s probably just because she has a cheer set up in the second verse just for her!)  This really is the quintessential Team A song.  Not ‘Sakura no Hanabiratachi,’ not ‘Skirt, Hirari,’ but instead the one about teachers and students… getting along really, really well.  Also, it fits well with Mai’s graduation as she has so many lines in this shortened version.  Interesting to note: they didn’t use any RS, even though the other performances used them to fill up empty spots in Teams.

Dear My Teacher 2

I don’t want to rant about how Rie got Rina’s part, so I’ll make it quick.  Rie is great.  I’m glad she’s getting pushed so much, but I’d prefer Chiichan gets Rina’s lines.  Seeing that Chiichan gets Ohe’s lines is great, so instead, how about Reina?  Her voice would fit pretty well.  Or, another idea, just give them to Mariko, since she missed out getting lines when they originally did A1.

Dear My Teacher 3

Oh, and Nozofisu pops out for the MC.  I’m pretty sure this was a surprise.  She had written a few blog entries or some of the other girls did about her participation in rehearsals, but there was no official announcement that she would be there that I know of.  I was under the impression that she had her graduation at the AKB Theater and that she was done a while ago, but I guess not.

Blue Rose

Blue Rose 1

They continue with more fan favorites, this time with the most popular Team K rock unit.  The quartet seems to be doing their usual thing, which tends to get the fans really excited in their cheering.  The only difference being that that night, all of the girls wore their jackets done up.  I had not thought that was possible with these, as I thought they were made to be always very much open, but I guess not.  So they kept on singing and dancing their little hearts out till the bridge when…. (To kill the suspense, I’ll ask a simple question that I’m unsure of: During Meetan and Sae’s lines, do they chant for Sae for the first line and then for Ohori in the next ones?)

Blue Rose 2

Sayaka’s wearing a tiger-print bikini!  The other girls are wearing the normal tube tops and shorts or a skirt.  In other performances, it would be Ohori taking off her jacket to reveal her famous gold bikini, so I guess that they needed something new this time since Meetan’s done her thing in two different concerts that I know of by that time.  I kind of want Yuka to be next.  She can strip off her jacket to reveal something funny… like a big gown or something, you know folded up into the jacket for the surprise.  That’d be neat.

Temodemo no Namida

Temodemo no Namida 1

In my mind, this unit was built to show off how great Kashiwagi is.  Maybe even to show Hello! Project what they’re missing out on, as this has been an incredibly well received unit by AKB fans.  I believe that Mika was added to show how a talented RS-turned-member can sort of challenge the soon-to-be second most popular Team B girl (after the Ayarin scandal).  Though it’s easy to see how Kashiwagi leads and in some ways, owns, the unit with her extra solo lines, I’ve decided that this won’t be the unit Kashiwagi is known for, but instead it will be un-officially labeled as Mikachii’s song.  Already, it’s been performed with her as the main feature of the song.  She has possibly performed this song the most out of any Team B songs besides maybe ‘Shounichi,’ as she couldn’t dance for many Team B shows or AKB concerts.

Temodemo no Namida 2

Here, Mika performs the almost-legendary unit with the help of a stool.  I’m quite positive that she doesn’t really need this, but instead it represents that she can’t really dance like she used to due to chronic knee problems.  This way, I’m okay with them giving her a sort of handicap and they even changed a little choreography to work with it.

(Insert ‘Glory Days’)

Heart Gata no Virus

Heart Gata Virus 1

I guess they had to give the popular Team A girls a unit in this show since they didn’t get to perform in the first number.  Acchan takes Mai’s position, Mariko takes Haruna’s, and Itano takes Nozofisu’s.  I think there kind of is a weird, but in a good way, line distribution in this song.  In the first verse, all three girls get two lines, except one who gets two and then a couple extra before the other two members sing their duet lines right before the chorus.  Those remaining two’s lines include one slightly longer solo.  In the next verse, the same thing happens, but with the roles rotated.  This way, there is a lead for the first verse and a different lead for the second verse.  The third girl gets a longer line in both verses and doesn’t get any sort of lead.  With this line pattern, Usually the most popular member of the unit gets less lines than the second most popular girl in the group, but gets to be in the center just as much.  I don’t know… I just find that really interesting.

Heart Gata Virus 2

Acchan gets the speaking part in the bridge, and she says something about how she can’t believe Mai is graduating that night.  Apparently backstage, Nozofisu is talking to Yukari and upon hearing this, she asks why she isn’t included there.  (Natsuki note: Our favorite member got to perform this unit as well as ‘Itoshiki Natassha’ in the recent concert tour during the same concert.  Most likely, she performed these units because two Team K members, Mocchi and Yuka, respectively, were unable to perform due to a possible swine flu scare.  I’m not sure which position she got in either song, but I’m assuming that she takes the Nozofisu position in ‘Heart,’ even though she gets to wear Mai’s costume, and she probably takes Tanamin’s part in ‘Itoshiki,’ as she wears that costume.  We’ll see, though.  Those are the worst parts she could have gotten in both songs, but hey, this way she at least gets in a unit (or in this case two)!)

(Insert ‘Ame no Pianist,’ No Sleeves, and Watarirouka Hashiritai)

Sougen no Kiseki

Sougen no Kiseki 1

Yay!  A K3 song!  I think AKB gets too hung up on Team K being the “cool” and “powerful” Team, so I love when they go back to being fun like in their K2 and K3 days.  Luckily, I think K5 has a nice balance of the two types, and it’s nice to hear both in the same Stage.  ‘Sougen no Kiseki’ is performed in the ‘FAN LETTER’ costumes, which I absolutely adore.  I love that they’re all different and most say something about the member wearing the costume.  My favorite is Natsuki’s, but I’m not sure if that’s just because I’m biased or not.  Although they’re not used here, often times the Nacchinon duo will wear matching glasses in these costumes.  Back on the subject of who gets lines, this is another song that I don’t like the distribution in.  Sayaka begins by singing the chorus, then half the Team sings the first verse.  Since this is a big concert, we don’t get to see the second verse, and thus miss out on the other half of the Team singing.  There’s a new break-down of members in the bridge.

Sougen no Kiseki 2

First is the ‘End Roll’ unit with Natsumi and Nonti.  Yuko is still recovering and Umeda is at her other job, so the ‘Mushi no BALLAD’ unit fills in… with Sayaka being the only one in that unit.

Sougen no Kiseki 3

Next up is the ‘Wagamama na Nagareboshi’ unit with Erena and Kana.

Sougen no Kiseki 4

Third is Chikano, Meetan, Sae, Naruse, Yuka, and Oku for ‘Ai no Iro.’  This is the first and only time that Naruse is sort-of, kind-of officially acknowledged as being part of ‘Ai no Iro.’

Sougen no Kiseki 5

The last of the unit lines is ‘Dakishimeraretara’ with Kasai, Asuka, and Natsuki.  The two on the outside hug their lead.  But wait, isn’t there one last girl on stage?

Sougen no Kiseki 6

Oh yeah!  Kaoru, who got a ‘FAN LETTER’ costume just for this performance, doesn’t have a unit for K5 as she is graduating!  She gets to twirl around and bow for the rest of the music leading up to the chorus.  I can not tell you how amazing this section was with Kaoru finally getting all kinds of attention.  She was doing just as she should, shining.  The audience’s call for her were intense and literally brought tears to my eyes.  I never would have thought that this would have made such an amazing performance in this concert.  This was just spectacular.

Minasan mo Go Issho ni

Minasan mo Go Issho ni 1

Putting this song directly after such a classy pre-graduation song has it’s share of pros and cons.  On the good side, it continues the idea of being happy and having fun and forgetting about anything negative.  On the flip side, it conveys a completely different message from the previous song.  Instead of singing about a nostalgic spring-ish day, they’re singing about how you should forget about the economy and just enjoy the AKB girls.  In a way though, I guess it fits.  Nevertheless, it was performed and so I’ll write about it.  Ever since I had read the set list for this concert the first time, I knew this would be an epic performance, even before I knew about the surprise in the bridge.  The colorful costumes with the fun and exciting choreography and the sparkle and lighting of NHK Hall really makes his a nice light-hearted performance that is great for the song.  Now you’re wondering, what surprise?

Minasan mo Go Issho ni 2

There’s a Saeki in my B4!  That’s right, the only Team B member to not perform in a B4 song!  Yes, she gets wheeled out on a blinged-out chair by CinDy to do the MC section.  And she does an incredible job complete with some sort of echo/fade-out sound-mixing technique at the end.  I had heard about this before seeing the DVD, but regardless, it was such a surprise to watch.  I love it.

Only Today

Only Today 1

I’m pretty sure that Mai has stated that this is her favorite song (or at least something about the lyrics), so this is a nice addition for a soon-to-be graduate.  It’s one of the newer Team A-only songs that is used often in concerts, similar to Team K’s ‘Saishuu Bell ga Naru.’  I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of kick-lining used here.  It’s great that they did their own little kicks and hops, but I want full-fledged crazy-swiching like in the NHK07 concert.  I mean, that was epic.  This is kind of very bland… at least comparatively speaking.

Only Today 2

I’ve always loved this song.  It reminds me of my first month or two when I was an off-and-on AKB fan.  I remember my first favorite song was ‘Nagisa no Cherry’ and then it changed to be ‘Only Today.’  As you can see, I started out as an Acchan fan.  I just love how bittersweet the lyrics are and how the contrast with the up-beat melody and the overpowering wota chants.

(Insert AKB48 Continuous Single Collection)

Aozora no Soba ni Ite

Aozora no Soba ni Ite 1

I wish they would have used a different ballad for the last night.  I was hoping that they sort of would ‘retire’ this one after the last NHK Hall concert with the five Team A graduates.  But, I guess not.  In my head, the song with the elongated instrumental would be to commemorate those five, or maybe even just Team A.  I mean, they’ve never lengthened a song like that before.  (I like how I have to talk about assumed AKB ethics rather than the emotions around them.)  While yes, the song is just as much Mai and Nozomi’s as it was Rina, Hana, Ohe, Hiichan, and Risa’s, (I wouldn’t count Kaoru, just because she performed it after those seven), but it would be nice if they reserved the song a little.  You know?  It certainly doesn’t have to be the new graduation-only song or something.  That all being said, I’m not a huge fan of the song in general.

Aozora no Soba ni Ite 2

In the last capture, did you notice how the SKE48 girls stayed on stage?  Did you like how they were separated?  I did.  I’m glad that was done.  Except then they’re integrated during the last chorus.  Boo.

Aozora no Soba ni Ite 3

Oh!  Poor Fujie!  She’s losing her mentor!  You have to wonder what’s going on in her head right now.  And to think, she didn’t know that Mai was planning on graduating until it was announced on stage at the AKB Theater, while the original (plus Mariko, probably) members looked as though they had known about it for a little while.

(Insert Encore)

Namida Surprise!

Namida Surprise!

Technically, this performance wasn’t done until after the graduation ceremony, but on the DVD, it’s out of order, so we’ll just stick with that.  This is the first showing of ‘Namida Surprise!’ and also the first time the fans got to hear it.  I can’t imagine how awesome that would be, as the single hadn’t even been announced yet.  Apparently beforehand there was a video played about the girls who don’t get senbatsu often/ever, and how they wanted it.  If my memory serves me correctly, Nonti, CinDy, and Ohori were the three that were interviewed.  I guess CinDy made a big deal about her working so hard and leading Team B and being the only original Team A member to never to get into senbatsu.  Also, there was a video counting down which girls would be in ‘Namida Surprise!’ (and then performing it that night) and it showed Komori Mika, which I guess everyone was surprised about, since she’s so far the only RS to make it into senbatsu.  Having seen the PV and everything by now, it’s kind of fun to watch the closest thing to dance shot we’ll ever see for the single.  It looks like it requires a lot of stamina, but not much in terms of actual dancing abilities.  Singing abilities seem like they might be optional as well.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I only like singles that are from their indie days, or singles that have Sayaka in them.  Seriously.  That’s what it works out to be for me.  The Sayaka-less performance here was cute, but it’s certainly not one of my favorites.  Oh well, there’s always the next single (‘Iiwake Maybe’ is wonderful).

(Oshima M, Kawasaki, and Hayano Graduation Ceremony)

Hayano Kaoru

Hayano Karou.  (There’s so much going on in this graduation that I can barely figure out what to say.  So, I’ll divide it up into three sections with one screen capture each.)  They decided to order the girls from least popular to most popular.  You know, do the whole “save the best for last” idea.  This bites them in the end.  Kaoru’s graduation is simple.  Sayaka will read a letter she wrote, put it in a box, and then each member of Team K will give Kaoru a flower.  This plan is perfectly fine and reasonable considering she’s already had a great graduation at the AKB48 Theater.  Somehow, someone important screws up.  Sayaka, who’s letter does not fit in the box that was specially made by Team K for it to go in, calls Hayano “the fourteenth sister” ala ’16nin Shimai no Uta.’  This is all fine and dandy, but she isn’t the fourteenth oldest member.  She’s like the thirteenth or something, I forget.  Regardless, Sayaka is incorrect.  After Sayaka’s speech, Kaoru corrects her.  As the flowers get passed to her, the other girls reveal that they are either the actual fourteenth sister, the new fourteenth sister, or even say that they are the thirteenth member.  Really, this ceremony is completely chaotic by the end of it.  While yes, there are tons of tears involved, I’m sure that this graduation has earned the position of being the funniest, and most likely trumped the amount of laughter in the just-for-giggles performances of ‘Honehone Waltz’ and ‘Nagisa no CHERRY’ in the other two performances. Personally, my favorite part is probably either when Nonti says that she’s the fourteenth sister, or when Erena randomly has four flowers and doesn’t know how to get them to their rightful owners… or maybe when Naruse admits being the fourteenth sister and Yuko scolds Erena for not being able to count.  Eventually she graduates.  Really, you have to watch this.

Kawasaki Nozomi

Kawasaki Nozomi.  Next is the random graduation.  I guess they decided that since Kaoru would get a big deal graduation, Nozofisu should get one, too.  Instead of the un-official Team leader, Yukari comes out with a letter to read to Nozomi.  She enters on stage right and says something to the effect of “Tonight’s graduation of Kawasaki Nozomi is…” pause “canceled.”  Everyone is confused, and Yukari tells the the auditorium that they have time constrictions and they had to cut someone’s graduation out, so they chose Yukari since they had plans for Maimai.  At some point, Nozofisu mentions that that means that they’ll have to take her to France.  So far, she has yet to go to France and she has yet to have that delayed graduation.  Nozomi comes down, and at some point Fujie goes and tells the friends to hurry up, since next is Maimai’s event of the evening.

Oshima Mai

Oshima Mai.  Immediately after Takahashi announces that Mai will be graduating, she calls out Hoshino Michiru and Orii Ayumi to sing ‘Yuukan no Bokura’ to Mai.  Mai is a big fan of ballads and she was visibly shaken during the performance just for her.  I’m sure I would enjoy this a lot more, but I’m just not really attached to any of the girls involved in this one.  It’s great that Mai got a graduation gift like this, though.  She certainly deserved it.

Happy End

Eventually, the graduating girls leave the stage, since a few of the under-aged girls need to get out as soon as possible in accordance with Japanese child labor laws.  That, along with paying for a certain amount of time for the use of NHK Hall and its crew, led AKS to quicken the ceremonies.  I believe that they still ended up having to pay lots of fines.  Later on in the night I guess Team A, Nacchan and CinDy, and Ayumi and Chiru all got together for one last MC to share their feelings and the like.

And that was NHK09.  I hope you enjoyed it!  I’m thinking about possibly “reviewing” the AKB concerts that I’ve missed (there’s like five, since I refuse to do Shibuya AX 2008 or 2009), so if you’d like to read those, please comment and say which one(s).  I know these aren’t really that deep or interesting, and it just turns into me talking about costumes, Natsuki, and lines, along with a bunch of blurry screen shots, but I do enjoy writing these, and it gives me some more text-heavy content to put up on the blog.  It’s kind of odd for me to just want to do concert reviews instead of Stage reviews (unless it’s a brand new Stage) since Stage performances are really what AKB fandom should focus on, but I just like to see how they are presented as an entire group, however rare that may be.  Along with my possible concert reviews planned, I’m determined to do some sort of review for each of the new Stages coming out in December with the new Teams.  I plan on writing these as I watch them for the first time, right after an AKB-black-out, which is when I shut myself away from the idol community and download/watch a LOD of the new Stage without seeing or reading anything about it previously.  I recommend it.  Anyway, I’m planning on doing that and I’d love for any input as to what you’d like to see on my blog here.  I’d like to gain a larger reader base and eventually I’d like to help convert fans of other idols or music groups into AKB fans.  And of course I’m going to continue waving my Natsuki flag.