AKB48 Photo Guide: Sister Groups

The self distributed photographs for SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48

20 May, 2013 by

In this part of the series we take a look at the AKB48 sister groups own take on theater distributed photographs. Unsurprisingly, the groups of SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48 derive their distribution formula from their Akihabara origin group but also add on to or modify their methods.

If you haven’t already, do take a look at the AKB48 Theater Photo Guide. Some knowledge of the AKB48 Theater Photos will help when understanding the differences between the AKB48 and sister groups’ theater distributed photographs. While HKT48 and to a certain extent SKE48 Random Photos mimic the AKB48 Theater Sets quite closely, NMB48 and SKE48 Individual sets are distributed in a different (possibly better) way.

SKE48 Random Photoset

Example of a SKE48 Random Theater Photo Set

SKE48 Random Photoset.

Release: Monthly
Quantity: Medium
Price: Medium

Where theater photos are concerned Sunshine Sakae’s branch of the 48 family differs slightly from the franchise’s formula. Rather than just one monthly theater set, SKE48 releases two types of photo sets each month; one random set that mimics the AKB48 theater photos and another to order set.

The SKE48 Random Photoset is SKE48 equivalent of AKB48 theaters. As the name suggests, just like AKB48 theater photos, the photos are sold once a month in random packs of 5 for 1,000 yen. Unlike the AKB48 theaters, there are only 3 photos to a complete SKE48 set.

The rest of the format is similar to AKB48 theaters, with the names, team and month being displayed on a bar at the bottom of each photo (though the random photoset bars are always white). Unfortunately, the quality of prints aren’t very good either, especially for the older sets. Instead of just performing costumes though, SKE48 random photoset photos occasionally feature the members in plain clothes.

SKE48 Random Photosets are not only released once a month at the SKE48 shop but also their online store. Like the AKB48 theater sets, one is limited to purchasing 5 sets at a time.

Despite having less photos per set, SKE48 random sets fetch about as much as their AKB48 counterparts on the secondary market, if not more for the popular members. This is largely due to the fact that the SKE48 can be considered rarer than their AKB48 counterpart and a rather large imbalance in the popularity of the individual members.

SKE48 Individual Photoset

SKE48 Theater Individual Photo Set

SKE48 Individual Photoset.

Release: Monthly
Quantity: Low-Medium
Price: Low-Medium

Apart from the random theater photos, SKE48 also introduced “Individual” member photosets to the 48 family. These will be familiar to those who are acquainted with the Hello! Project and Johnny’s Entertainment style of distributing collectible photographs. Each of these photosets consists of a set of 5 photographs of each member and come as fixed sets that can be purchased individually for 1,000 yen.

Like the theater sets, the individual photosets are sold each month at the SKE48 shop and online. However previews of all of the photos are provided and fans can choose to purchase the pictures of their member of choice, while stocks last.

SKE48 Individual Photosets are interesting in that they usually feature the members in non-performing costumes themed after the season or specific holidays. Within a series, the costumes will also vary slightly from member to member. The 5 photographs consist of a combination of medium, far and full body shots of the individual members. Like most 48 photos, they feature a standard horizontal bar complete with the member’s name, team and month of distribution, but also add a larger SKE48 logo.

Due to the nature of their distribution, there are few SKE48 Individual Photosets being traded on the secondary market. For the most part, people usually purchase the individual photosets for personal collection, though there may still be a demand for the more popular members due to limited sets.

As far as photos are concerned, it would seem SKE48 fans are more selective of their purchases. The popularity for any given SKE48 photoset varies widely depending on the month’s costume. More popular costumes sell out quicker, while photos featuring undesirable costume rarely sell out, even for the most popular of members.

The photographs for less popular members can be purchased long after their release online, thus negating any inflated value, so take note if intending to purchase them from third parties. Do note that the quantity for photosets are not fixed, and vary per month and on a per member basis. Less photographs are printed for the less popular members.

One observation is that in the past, the individual photosets rarely sold out, or did so rather slowly, while certain members now sell out slightly faster. Whether this is a direct result of SKE48 being more popular or a lower print count, can only be speculated.

SKE48 Travel Photos

SKE48 Travel Photo Set

SKE48 Travel Photos.

Release: Events
Quantity: Low-High
Price: Low-Medium

There’s no real name for these, but for the sake of identifying them we’ll just go with SKE48 Travel Photos.

SKE48 travel photos are not exactly an entirely different category by itself but rather a variation of the SKE48 random and individual photosets. Previously, SKE48 would release candid styled photographs in either one of the above formats.

These are usually related to special events in the SKE48 calendar, such as field trips or video shoots. Examples include random holiday photos from SKE48’s trip to Hawaii for Pareo wa Emerald, or individual photosets for their trip to Nara some time ago.

Apart from the difference in photography style, the travel and other special one off SKE48 photographs differer in that they display a smaller bar with only the copyright information of the company. Like the other SKE48 “theater” photos, these are released in sets of 5 for 1,000 yen.

SKE48 Team Photos

SKE48 Team Holiday Message Photos

SKE48 Team Photos.

Release: Events
Quantity: Low-High
Price: Low-Medium

The last type of photo released at the SKE48 theater shop and online store. These can also be identified as SKE48 Holiday or Message photos.

Like the individual photosets, these photos were non-random photographs. The difference being that they were sold as an entire team’s worth of photographs, for between 2,500 to 3,000 yen. The price varied depending on how many members were present in the team at the time.

The SKE48 Team Photos were mostly released seasonally during specific holiday events, to compliment or in place of the individual photosets. For each photo, there is also a pre-printed handwritten message from the respective member.

As fans would obtain an entire team of members with each purchase, like the other fixed sets, the availability of popular member photos are scarce. Less, or unpopular member photos tend to be traded around quite easily or sometimes even discarded. Loose copies of the unpopular members photos can be commonly found at shops reselling SKE48 namashashin.

NMB48 Individual Photoset

NMB48 Individual Theater Photos

NMB48 Individual Photoset.

Release: Monthly
Quantity: High
Price: Low

NMB48 takes SKE48’s Individual Photoset idea and one ups it by making the individual photosets their default theater distributed photos.

Like the SKE48 photos, NMB48’s Individual Photosets are sold in fixed sets of 5 for 1,000 yen. New sets are released monthly and sold at the Official NMB48 Shop located a couple of street corners away from the NMB48 theater.

Visually, the NMB48 sets follow the SKE48 ones quite similarly. Apart from performing costumes, the photos also feature the girls in other seasonal clothing on ocassion. The older sets only display the NMB48 logo, but newer sets now include a bottom bar with the member information.

The NMB48 sets are also listed on their online store but unlike SKE48 who seem to set aside a certain number of sets for online sales, priority for the NMB48 photos seem to go toward physical sales.

Whether it’s because of a lower print count, or higher demand the NMB48 individual sets also sell out rather quickly and completely, even for the less popular members. When NMB48 was first formed, we noticed a phenomenon where the some of the more hardcore of NMB48 fans would purchase multiple copies of each member’s photo set.

We’re not sure whether this was done out of obsessiveness or a conscious effort to to deny other fans access to the photos. But regardless of the reason, this has the result of making NMB48 Individual Photosets quite a bit more uncommon. And like the SKE48 sets, since fans can choose which member’s photographs to purchase, the sets rarely change hands.

NMB48 Random Photo

Release: Monthly
Quantity: Low
Price: Medium-High

NMB48 do sell their own random photographs however, and this is where it gets interesting. Apart from the fixed 5 pieced set of each member, the NMB48 Official Shop also sells a 6th photograph to complete the set by random format.

Each month, these photos are sold in packs of 5 random photographs for 1,000 yen. These photographs are meant to “complete” the individual sets, with the members being shown in the same costumes as the rest of their photographs, in a 6th unique pose.

Apart from its distribution, the NMB48 random photos are virtually identical in format to the individual sets’, with the exception that the NMB48 leopard print logo on the picture is displayed in purple rather than yellow.

Like other random sets, fans are limited to purchasing 5 packs at a time. However the NMB48 random photos have a very low print run and sell out quickly. The actual number of random photographs available in comparison to the sets of 5 appear to be far fewer, making the 6th photograph far more expensive in value, especially for older sets.

HKT48 Theater Photos

Example of a HKT48 Theater Photo Set

HKT48 Theater Photos.

Release: Monthly
Quantity: Medium
Price: Medium

There’s not much to be said about HKT48 Theater Photos since it’s the one sister group to take the AKB48 photo format and use it wholesale.

The photos are released in sets of 4 and feature the HKT48 members in different manner of performing costumes each month. Just like in the AKB48 photographs, the HKT theaters feature a static bar with the information of the member and released month displayed. The color of the bar is changed liberally to match the month’s costume.

Whether it be because of a low availability, popularity of members or comparative newness of this group, HKT48 theater photos work out to be some of the most scarcely available on the secondary market and also some of the most expensive. Pictures for the more popular members can fetch a good 1,000 or more yen each, sometimes more. Even the least popular members tend to price at around the undergirls level of other groups.

It is clear that the standard format is also one of the most successful.

Unfortunately we’re missing a picture of the NMB48 Randoms. If anyone would like to contribute one do let us know!

Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.

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Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.