Rational Dorama Reviews

The good and bad, plain and simple

A K Be evil–my journey down the rabbit hole that is AKB48

1No, I’m not crazy or delirious but I do believe I’ve been poisoned.

I’m pretty sure you’ve already decided you know what this post is about but WAIT!! This isn’t a fanboy post nor will it signify the conversion of rationaldoramareviews into irrationalakb48fandom. I’m just gonna talk about how I became aware of this phenomenon that is taking over/has taken over Japan, a rational discussion of their merits and why I’m continuing to watch the variety shows they produce.

Now WHAT IN THE WORLD is AKB48? Never heard of it? Well, that’s perfectly normal and understandable if you live where I do (down under) since there’s absolutely no public awareness about the many random generic pop groups that rise and fall in Japan. So lets slow walk through this and join me in my journey down the rabbit hole…

Prologue: Majisuka Gakuen – I don’t know how I can watch this crap

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I started watching Majisuka Gakuen for no other reason than that the premise sounded very gratuitous and I wanted a show I could turn off my brain in and laugh at the stupidity that should ensue. The first episode was fairly unremarkable and chock full of bad acting, randomness and at times I just didn’t know what was going on. The main thing that struck me was “why is the entire cast made up of unfamiliar faces?!” I’ve seen a fair share of doramas and there’s usually one or two actors and actresses that I would recognize in these types of shows but Majisuka Gakuen didn’t even have a single one. The next thing I did was have a look in the d-addicts wiki to see which other doramas these girls have been in before (I looked up Maeda Atsuko, the main character…at first) and found squat – they’ve all been in minor roles for obscure shows, if they had an entry at all. This was rather intriguing as I thought several of the girls were quite pretty so I continued watching this rather rubbish okay show.

itano-narrowEnter Itano Tomomi as “Shibuya”. This girl caught my eye later in the series with her distinctive facial features and baaaaadddd costume. For a moment I did think “hey I wouldn’t mind watching another dorama with her in it” since she did have a cute face but very importantly did not have the high pitched whiney voice or immensely fake cutesy mannerism that usually comes with it. Back to the d-addicts wiki (she doesn’t have an entry, don’t bother) and then to everyone’s best friend google I went. Back then, AKB48 hadn’t quite established itself in the english-speaking world in as n00b-friendly a manner as it has now so I resigned myself to never seeing this girl again and got on with moar doramas life.

Priming the System for Susceptibility to Poison: Variety Shows – LOLWhut

10sz6On my visits to Japan, there’s always a time when I’m at the hotel/hostel/cardboard box in the evening and there’s nothing to do so the TV gets turned on and a variety show or three will invariably be airing. Having only watched anime and doramas before (in terms of Japanese media), variety shows were a new thing to me. Here’s the lowdown for any of the unitiated: There are three types of variety shows. Regular talkshows, hangout shows hosted by celebrities, and something akin to reality TV. The latter two will usually have members of a pop group as hosts or subjects and occasionally there will be guests (comedians, actors/actresses, singers, sports stars etc) come in to liven up the show. What sets these apart from their western versions is that the producers put much more effort into creating hilarious situations to stick their hosts/subjects into every episode, plus I like the clean humour that’s used. More often than not, the hosts/subjects will be told to do something arduous but ultimately rewarding like climb mount Fuji.

The point is, after this first exposure to variety shows, I gained an appreciation for them and didn’t mind watching things like Cartoon KAT-TUN, Hanamaru Market and Himitsu no Arashi, especially when they had guests in that I know of. It’s interesting to find out that Horikita Maki can cook!

Blast from the Past: Japan’s Most Viewed Youtube Video 2010 – Huh she looks familiar o.O

Some time after New Years’ Day (1/1/11), I stumbled onto this website which indicated that the most watched youtube video in Japan for 2010 was Ponytail to Shushu by AKB48. Bored at the time, I decided to go see what all the fuss is about and why the most watched vid wasn’t some inane cat playing the piano. Here, why don’t you watch the MV too and fall into the pit with me.

Alright, done? My reaction to the vid went like this:
1. WHAT IS THIS, I DON’T EVEN
2. It’s a bunch of skinny, figureless, young girls prancing around in swimsuits. Typical Japanese…what’s the deal?
3. Hey get this song out of my head PLEASE. I hate you for making me watch this.
4. Waaaaaaaiiiittttt…aren’t most of these girls from Majisuka Gakuen?!

Yep I recognized Maeda Atsuko and Itano Tomomi really quickly and then I realized most of the girls seemed vaguely familiar. My interest piqued (the song was extremely catchy and the singing was bearable…kinda like how I feel towards Lady Gaga songs), I clicked on some of the related videos and decided I kinda liked a few songs and the dance routines were strangely simple yet captivating.

In Too Deep: Blogsurfing – OMG there’s so many of them

akb48_1

I felt the itch to find out more about this AKB48, mostly due to boredom and umm eyecandy? Anyway I stumbled onto this post and this post on Super Merlion and read way too much information. I can put up a post explaining it all from my perspective if anyone asks for it but in the meantime, go read the ones I linked. There are people out there in the english-speaking community who REALLY love AKB48.

Super Merlion talks about various AKB48 members as if he/she/they knew how the girls acted outside of their performances which puzzled me at first then I thought “hmmm…could it be possible that the popular AKB48 members have been on lots of variety shows?” so I jumped onto google yet again (it’s my best friend, what can I say) to do a rough search. I found a bunch of episodes of AKBingo and AKB Nemousu TV on various streaming websites and thoroughly enjoyed the members’ antics even though there were no subs.

POISONED: AKB Nemousu S1-4 – Zen zen wakarimasen, demo omoshiroi!

AKB48-Nemousu-TV-Vol.1-(080713-640x480).avi_snapshot_03.28_[2011.02.10_23.37.32]

Having watched a rather interesting episode of AKB Nemousu TV on a streaming website where a few of the girls had to cook a dish relying only on spoken English instructions, I then decided to see what the rest of the episodes were like. Lets just say I got my hands on the first 4 seasons and watched them slowly over a month as ‘light entertainment’. Sadly there aren’t any subs for these that are readily available but I started to understand how you can really start to get to know these girls (or their on-camera facades at least) by watching the AKB48 variety shows. It seems like every girl has a ‘character’ or ‘persona’ that they adhere and add to with their own personalities. I’m not 100% sure whether or not it’s all one big act but after seeing the really horrendous acting in Majisuka Gakuen, I’m more inclined to say that the girls are being themselves and the personas are things they came up with to easily describe each other.

What keeps it all refreshing is that each episode will have a different set of girls falling into unfortunate situations (okay not all are unfortunate, but the funny ones usually are) so there’s different interactions and different personalities all the time. It also means that the girls each have their turns in the spotlight. Fun times!

That takes us pretty much up to where I’m at right now – watching the variety shows and putting one or two AKB songs in my media player. I don’t intend to go crazy and start saying things like “MAI WAIFU” or buy overpriced merchandise.

In Summary

Reasons to bother with AKB48:
1. Catchy songs
2. Ever-interesting variety shows
3. Very varied personalities amongst the girls
4. Eye candy

Reasons to stay away from AKB48
1. Catchy songs
2. You don’t like girls
3. Pop songs are not your thing
4. Bad acting
5. They’re too young
6. They’re becoming rather commercialised and you have a problem with adding to Akimoto’s (their producer) many pools of money

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5 responses to “A K Be evil–my journey down the rabbit hole that is AKB48

  1. zooey March 24, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Interesting post. I actually tried doing something like this on my blog although for my part, it was a trip down the rabbit hole with the boys from JE. Haven’t really recovered from the shock of taking a dip in the idol pool so I find it funny that you went through the same thing with this girl group. Totally agree with your observation on how variety shows are designed to ease people into the idea of liking/following a group. When all’s said and done, you might not really end up as a fan but you end up being fascinated by them—it really is a crazy culture. Props to you for keeping your head, will hope that you get to watch yourself and go through detox. Lol, now make sure you don’t reach the point where you start ordering “overpriced merchandise”.

    Ooh, I hope you don’t mind, I’ll be placing you on my blogroll. It’s kinda nice to read feedback on jdramas from a guy’s point of view. And you know, even though most of the blogs or sites out there are run by fangirls, I’m sure there’s also a number of them who keep raving at a minimum. 🙂

    • mshaydown March 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Thanks for the comments! I’ve got absolutely no problems with being on your blogroll and I’ll definitely have a browse through your blog soon. There is one snag though…due to real life commitments to study and whatnot, I won’t be updating rationaldoramareviews very often (since I won’t be watching many doramas either).
      Yeah Japan’s got a pretty crazy culture and it’s pretty evident in the way they’re dealing with their recent earthquake and tsunamis – the whole nation’s pretty much banded together in an organized fashion to do what they can to get through it. Conversely, if it were a westernised country that this happened to, you’d be seeing mass crime and mayhem on the streets with people smashing windows to steal stuff from shops and cars etc.
      I much prefer the way Japan has variety shows as a way to get their reality TV fix rather than what we’ve got in the English speaking world (survivor, amazing race etc) but I wonder if eventually I’ll get tired of it. Variety shows do tend to get repetitive after a while especially when the directors get lazy.
      Hahah I wonder if I will keep my head! My wallet sure hopes so =P However, I’m definitely going to apply for tickets to the AKB theatre the next time I’m in Japan. Alright, time to get back to work! I’ll probably add you to my blogroll when I next get a chance!

      • zooey March 24, 2011 at 11:36 pm

        No worries, dude. Will probably just check in once in a while for updates, I know how “real life commitments” come first. I’ve been blogging for less than a year now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that blogging can be quite a chore and that I totally suck at it. It’s actually more fun to surf and read what others came up with anyway, instead of working on my own entries.

        If anything, I’ll look forward to more of your AKB-related adventures/confessions. LOL x) It’ll be something like a social experiment of sorts, like an anatomy of a fanboy or at least the makings thereof, depending on how well you cope with it. All I can say for now is best of luck to your wallet.

        Japanese variety shows are entertaining I think because of their novelty but I’m guessing that you will get tired of them eventually, assuming that you do manage to break away from the “idol spell”. I’ve seen some of the shows featuring Arashi but I for one am too lazy to hunt them down on the net on a regular basis and even though I do like to check out their dramas, I don’t think I can muster the strength to join any communities, least of all write an essay about why I like them enough to gain entry to STORMY’s LJ to get fansubbed videos.

        Yeah Japan’s got a pretty crazy culture and it’s pretty evident in the way they’re dealing with their recent earthquake and tsunamis – the whole nation’s pretty much banded together in an organized fashion to do what they can to get through it. Conversely, if it were a westernised country that this happened to, you’d be seeing mass crime and mayhem on the streets with people smashing windows to steal stuff from shops and cars etc.

        So true. I guess there really are pros and cons to every culture.

  2. Tenkun April 30, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Great post, really enjoyed reading it.

    Similar thing happened to me, though I was much more aware of the group rather than the individuals. I decided to apply for theater tickets, and between and the constant exposure I had to them on the variety shows over the holidays – my casual affection for their hits has turned into a full-on obsession. You can read a bit about the experience in my blog. My AKB 48 Experience

    Based on your Aki Matsuri entry, you’ve fallen even deeper down the AKB48 rabbit hole too 😀

    • mshaydown May 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      In my opinion it’s the variety shows that makes the key difference since you start to get to know the members (despite how numerous they are). In a sense it’s also a real advantage that there’s so many girls with vibrant personalities or “personalities” and it keeps the shows from becoming boring and/or repetitive. Also, another big factor to my falling down this rabbit hole is the very long drought of live action doramas this past year or so leading to me finding other venues to get my live action fix (I do enjoy anime but atm 3d>2d for me).

      Aki Matsuri’s special 😛 I’ve always liked listening to ppl doing cover songs or joke karaoke (lucky star?).

      Btw I’ll prob add you to the blogroll if that’s alright once my internet gets fixed (rawr government owned infrastructure)

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