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

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

Infinity

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

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

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

Infinity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aitakatta – senbatsu members

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

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

Infinity – Harusame Ruka, Takajima Maria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Rose – Harusame Ruka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infinity – Harusame Ruka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rio no Kakumei – Takajima Maria

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

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

MARIA – Harusame Ruka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infinity – Harusame Ruka, Takajima Maria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I approve.

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

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…)

After a Month of Inactivity
March 5, 2010

So… I didn’t update for an entire month, and so I’m just posting oodles and oodles of low-quality pictures.  And guess what is coming soon?  A review of AKB Kagekidan Musical Infinity!  The DVD(s) come out tomorrow.  Get excited.

Below you will find a completely un-organized collection of pictures.

  • BLTs
  • Theater Photos
  • Umeda Erika
  • Q-Sama!!
  • Aoki
  • Pakyura!
  • Musical Infinity
  • Majisuka Gakuen
  • Team K Senshuuraku
  • 2 Shots
  • Sakura no Shiori

You haven’t forgotten how gorgeous Natsuki is, have you?
January 31, 2010

I’ve amassed a whole bunch of N for this post!  Featured:

  • Photocards
  • Q-Sama
  • Shibuya AX
  • Get-Togethers
  • Behind-the-Scenes
  • Stage Shows
  • Random Stuff

Oh, and a super-pretty picture of Natsuki and her hairdresser right after she got her hair cut and colored for Kouhaku Uta Gassen.  (I am a hardcore stalker.)

AKB48 Member of the Year 2009 Poll Results Announced!
January 17, 2010

Today, the outcome of the member ranking poll has been posted!  The two previous years have been hosted by Stage48 administrator Kyobu, but this time forum member Naomi graciously decided to put on the annual festivities.

Full Results on Stage48!

Each participant was granted ten votes to vote positively towards their favorites, with each of those ten votes assigned a different point value.  Also, each participant was given five votes to vote negatively towards their least favorites in order to more successfully gage the general consensus of each member.  All members of AKB48, SKE48, and SDN48, as well as all of their Research Students, Unders, and graduated members were on the ballots, with the only rule that they must have been in their group in 2009, which means anyone who graduated before last year wasn’t allowed to be voted for.

The full ranking posted is out of 107 girls, with the girls who didn’t have any votes for or against them not included.  I posted some interesting numbers below.

Top 10 in the ranking:

10. Ohori Megumi (+170/-2) 168
09. Minegishi Minami (+173/-1) 172
08. Sashihara Rino (+182/-5) 177
07. Itano Tomomi (+207/-18) 189
06. Miyazawa Sae (+201/-8) 193
05. Kasai Tomomi (+218/-14) 204
04. Kashiwagi Yuki (+237/-15) 222
03. Takahashi Minami (+297/-3) 294
02. Akimoto Sayaka (+340/-23) 317
01. Oshima Yuko (+340/-10) 330

‘RIVER’ senbatsu members

39. Matsui Jurina (+101/-66) 3
36. Shinoda Mariko (+61/-22) 39
23. Kitahara Rie (+91/-15) 76
19. Watanabe Mayu (+120/-34) 86
18. Maeda Atsuko (+171/-83) 88
17. Ono Erena (+106/-13) 92
16. Miyazaki Miho (+121/-18) 103
12. Kojima Haruna (+152/-26) 126
09. Minegishi Minami (+173/-1) 172
07. Itano Tomomi (+207/-18) 189
06. Miyazawa Sae (+201/-8) 193
05. Kasai Tomomi (+218/-14) 204
04. Kashiwagi Yuki (+237/-15) 222
03. Takahashi Minami (+297/-3) 294
02. Akimoto Sayaka (+340/-23) 317
01. Oshima Yuko (+340/-10) 330

Sato Natsuki (2007 – 10) (2008 – 25) (2009 – 39)

39. Sato Natsuki (+40/-5) 35

Not terrible if you ask me!  Maybe she’ll do better next year!

For the past three years, Stage48.net has been hosting a ranking based on the members of AKB48 and its sister groups.  Last year the Nihongogo forum was also invited to participate, giving a broader range of opinions.  Now that Hello! Online has made an AKB48 forum, maybe it will be included in the 2010 ranking?

Nacchi Celebrates the New Year!
January 3, 2010

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).