AKB48’s second singing competition is a resounding success05 April, 2013 by Mus
The Kouhaku Utagassen should be familiar to most people interested in Japan. A yearly occurrence, it is a singing contest where red and white teams battle it out on the last day of the year. The AKB48 Kouhaku is AKB48’s version of this famous competition. Occurring near the end of the year as well, the Kouhaku is a glorified shuffle concert with an extra bit of competition mixed in. AKB48’s second try of this format however, turns out very well.
Set in the relatively cozy Tokyo Dome City Hall, the event has a rather lackluster start. The red and white teams each perform their own version of Team B Oshi and Wasshoi B! respectively. While in theory it sounds great, both these songs have lost much of their attraction after the many reiterations and it just sounds very tired. Thankfully however, they were pretty much the only non-passable songs in the whole concert, and the rest of it was more than bearable.
This installment of Kouhaku saw some old songs popping up; besides the perennial favourites like Heart Gata Virus, the audience also got to see songs like Takeuchi Senpai. Team A stage classic Koike was given a hilarious twist, with the monologue being changed to take a dig at resident judge, Kiyohara Kazuhiro. A personal favourite was Tonari no Banana, where the duo from Kansai turned the monologue into a short skit of manzai.
Sister group JKT48 also got their time in the spotlight. While their time on stage last year was a little awkward (mostly due to them not having a clue about what was going on), this time the girls rocked the stage with a great rendition of NMB48 single Kitagawa Kenji (in Bahasa Indonesia, no less), aided by an appearance from the man himself.
There were also some pleasant surprises for this year’s Kouhaku, as some girls were given the chance to showcase their talents on the big stage. Ooya Shizuka got to be part of a group that did Oogoe Diamond acapella, while Matsui Sakiko accompanied Kojima Haruna and Yamamoto Sayaka in their version of Anata to Christmas Eve. Itano Tomomi and Matsui Jurina performed UZA, having been changed to add a dance break, making it more danceable and even more generic sounding.
Celebrity appearances were also rampant in this edition, with Dachou Club and Takeuchi Riki making appearances, amongst others. In terms of star power though, nothing beat the day’s performance of Give Me Five!, which saw a superband of big names Japanese rock accompanying Oshima Yuko as she fronted the band solo.
Team leaders Takahashi Minami and Shinoda Mariko also took their turn on stage. While Minami was good as always, Shinoda Mariko definitely stole the show, appearing in a kimono and armed with an umbrella as she busted out a cover of Iwasa Misaki’s Mujin Eki. For someone who has a reputation of being a dreadful singer, it was really good.
All in all, it was a great show. Aside from the main concert however, there’s also extra content including footage from a camera trained on the girls on the benches, which can sometimes be more interesting than what’s happening on stage. The second disc also contains the non-shuffled single performances, should you be so inclined to want to watch those.
HD lovers should rejoice as well, the concert is also available on Blu-ray, and the quality is marvelous. It’s only the first quarter of the year, but I’m already looking forward to the next one.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.