Following Skirt, Hirari AKB48 got their break when they signed up with Sony Music Entertainment’s DefStar Records. And in October 2006, the group released their first major single, Aitakatta (会いたかった/I wanted to meet you).
A total of 21 girls were chosen for the single, consisting of both founding members, as well as new faces from the newly formed Team K. Most of the original Sukahira Seven stand at the forefront of Aitakatta but despite the previous concept of keeping a core team of leads, Narita Risa and Nakanishi Rina were pushed back in favor of Shinoda Mariko and Oshima Yuko.
The girls took a trip down to Tateyama, Chiba to film the song’s PV. Scenery from around the town are featured heavily in the video, with the main dance scenes set at the cliff of the Sunosaki Lighthouse. The climax of the video was filmed at the old Nakofunakata Station, before it was refurbished in 2007.
With support from DefStar Records, Aitakatta boasted improved production values over their previous singles. And it was at this time that the public began to take notice of AKB48.
Aitakatta sold 25,544 copies, during the 6 weeks that it charted on Oricon. Though hardly an impressive sales figure, the catchy pop song remains as AKB48’s most recognizable tune among the public, as AKB48 would come to perform this song the following year at the 58th Kouhaku Uta Gassen. Aitakatta is also used as the opening theme to AKBINGO!, AKB48’s weekly late night show.
Aitakatta is also AKB48’s first release to feature two different versions, a limited CD+DVD edition and a regular CD release.
Apart from being AKB48’s first single to include a DVD of their music video and behind the scenes footage. Aitakatta also pioneered a new trading card format to the bonus pictures included in each single.
AKB48’s shift to DefStar Records also marked the start of the various outrageous marketing antics. More of that in the upcoming posts.
One month after the single release, AKB48 also began their collaboration with B.L.T. (Beautiful Lady and Television) to provide AKB48 exclusive covers. More importantly, the company also became the exclusive distributor for their official member photos.
These photos were given randomly in the limited AKB48 versions of the magazine. Those who purchased the magazine were also eligible to meet their favorite girls in a handshake event with the release of each issue. This lead to the now legendary B.L.T. queues that circled around the venue and left the streets littered with copies of the TV guide.