Janken + More (Pic Spam)
October 3, 2010

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A Late Summer Pic Spam
September 10, 2010

Pic Spam Alert! 55 Shots
July 24, 2010

Where’s Natsuki? Certainly not in ‘French Kiss.’
June 28, 2010

Watanabe Entertainment is now coming out with their first AKB48 sub-group!  They’re calling it ‘French Kiss‘ (フレ ンチ・キス), and their first single will come out this fall and is titled ‘Zutto Mae Kara.’  Included in the sub-group are members Kuramochi Asuka, Kashiwagi Yuki, and Takajo Aki.  Seeing as it was announced by Kashiwagi, and of course noting her popularity, it’s fair to assume she’ll be leading the unit.

Their first single will be the ending theme of the baseball anime ‘Major‘ and its TV version will be premiered on July 3rd, this Saturday.

On the topic of Natsuki, I’m really unhappy with this unit.  Since the only two girls left (besides Nacchu) are Natsuki and Shizuka, I highly doubt they’ll be getting into units any time soon.  One of my big reasons for being excited for Natsuki getting into such a highly-prized agency was that she might get into some sort of unit.  With ‘French Kiss’ in the way,  I don’t think that is going to happen.

This all sounds selfish, I know, but I hope this unit ends after their ending theme, so the girls are back into Watanabe’s pool of AKB girls and another unit can spring up.  Natsuki would be perfect next to Mocchi in a Kashiwagi-led unit, and she’d be equally great aside Shiichan in a Takajo-centered one.  If only this could happen.

Well, you know, I’m totally still hoping for a solo career from Natsuki.

Just a Few Pictures of N…
April 13, 2010

N + Agency!?
March 26, 2010

The past few days’ Yokohama Arena concerts have brought a few great performances such as Natsuki performing in her most popular unit ‘Kimi wa Pegasus,’ and Natsuki also took part in the New Team B’s ‘Wasshoi B!,’ ‘Shounichi,’ and ‘Shiroi Shirts.’ While this is new and exciting, the last concert’s last MC was the most important.

Kuramochi, Oya, Sato, Takajo, Kashiwagi

Watanabe Entertainment expressed interest in Natsuki!  So far, she has yet to sign with the agency, but I’m hoping that she will in the near future and we’ll see a blog (among other things) from her.  This is huge news, as she hasn’t had a non-AKS agency since mid-2007, when she was with Office48 with Noro Kayo for their Nacchinon unit.

While now all current AKB48 members are connected with agencies, Watanabe Pro houses five girls: Kashiwagi Yuki and Sato Natsuki (new) of the New Team B, and Takajo Aki, Oya Shizuka (new),and Kuramochi Asuka (new) of the New Team A.

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

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

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

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

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

Full-length text-only review below…

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

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

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

RSL GO TIME!

Concert 1 (Day 1)

Honehone Waltz

Honehone Waltz

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

Korogaru Ishi ni Nare

Korogaru Ishi ni Nare 1

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

Korogaru Ishi ni Nare 2

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

Tadaima Renaichuu

Tadaima Renaichuu 1

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

Tadaima Renaichuu 2

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

Wasshoi B!

Wasshoi B 1

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

Wasshoi B 2

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

Te wo Tsunagi Nagara

Te wo Tsunagi Nagara

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

Chaimu wa Love Song

Chaimu wa LOVE SONG

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

SKE48

SKE48

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

Kuroi Tenshi

Kuroi Tenshi 1

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

Kuroi Tenshi 2

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

Tenshi no Shippo

Tenshi no Shippo 1

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

Tenshi no Shippo 2

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

Wimbledon ni Tsuretette

Wimbledon ni Tsuretette

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

Ame no Doubutsuen

Ame no Doubutsuen 1

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

Ame no Doubutsuen 2

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

Tane

Tane

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

Hatsukoi Dash

Hatsukoi Dash

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

Yaruki Hanabi

Yaruki Hanabi

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

Kaiyuugyo no Capacity

Kaiyuugyo no Capacity 1

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

Kaiyuugyo no Capacity 2

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

Joshikou-sei wa Yamerarenai

Joshikou-sei wa Yamerarenai

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

JK Nemurihime

JK Nemurihime

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

Sakura no Hanabiratachi

Sakura no Hanabiratachi

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

Skirt, Hirari

Skirt, Hirari

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

Aitakatta

Aitakatta 1

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

Aitakatta 2

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

Aitakatta 3

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

Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru

Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru 1

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

Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru 2

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

Keitbetsu Shiteita Aijou

Keitbetsu Shiteita Aijou 1

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

Keitbetsu Shiteita Aijou 2

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

Keitbetsu Shiteita Aijou 3

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

BINGO!

BINGO! 1

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

BINGO! 2

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