A short session with AKB48 at the STGCC14 December, 2010 by Chad
Last Friday afternoon, the crew from Supermerlion had the opportunity to join a short media session with the girls from AKB48 after their initial stage performance at the STGCC. Here’s a full run through the interview, I’m sure many fans were looking forward to it.
Initially, the AKB48 management did not want to hold any interviews at all, so we were quite unprepared for this. Special thanks to the STGCC management who managed to fit us in at the final moment. This is in no way an exclusive interview as various other sources were there such as Aliman, Kenneth and Grace representing jphip and Richard from the Philippines Fan Forums.
First up, a brief history. AKB48 or Akihabara48 is a music idol group from Japan. The group was created in 2005 by Akimoto Yasushi, a veteran lyricist and a much respected music producer in Japan. His credits goes back 30 years and covers half the artists you’d see at the year end Kouhaku Uta Gassen. AKB48, is his second large girl group, after pioneering the concept in the 80s. As the name suggests, AKB48 has 48 members, plus or minus a few at any period of time.
AKB48’s concept, is an idol group in which fans could meet with personally. Instead of choosing its members based off looks, the girls are picked for a variety of reasons, some are good at dancing, some at singing but others are picked because they can speak well or simply have interesting personalities.
It all started from a daily stage show at their small theater in Akihabara. Akimoto Yasushi, as an otaku himself wanted to create a group that would appeal to other otaku, which by definition means anyone with an overly invested interest, though particularly to animation, comics and video games. As such, AKB48 members are involved in lots of similar activities such as creating their own manga or voice acting in animations. While the group produces its own music, AKB48 is treated like a marketing platform for the individual girls and individual members are encouraged to pursue their own careers outside of the group.
Three members from AKB48, made an appearance on the public stage on the 10th of December at the STGCC to generally positive public response. The girls Nakatsuka Tomomi (17), Uchida Mayumi (17) and Ishida Haruka (17) are among the group’s newest members, having only officially joined the group last year. The 3 of them were among the 16 members chosen to perform their latest single, Chance no Junban, after winning a whimsical Jankenpon (rock-paper-scissors) Tournament a few months ago.
Uchida Mayumi was the center for their latest single, after beating all the other girls in the competition. She lead most of the answers in the interview, handling them in a rather diplomatic manner. Uchida and Ishida seemed to get along well, as they continued to whisper to each other in between questions.
Nakatsuka was pretty drained, but continued to throw in her two cents for all the questions. The girls had just flew in to Singapore in the morning and were clearly exhausted from the earlier performance and the past hour of continuous interviews from the other media. Still they held up their image well, answering even the silliest of questions politely. A full run through the of questions posed below.
I’ve taken minimal liberties with the transcript except to change questions to the first person. The rest is translated from voice recordings in the hall. Special thanks to Aliman for helping to cross check the contents. Some words are in brackets, because in the Japanese language, the subject is often hinted at but ignored.
The first question had to be asked 4 times, due to the way the interviewer was phrasing the question in English, it didn’t translate well into Japanese. It also made no sense to someone unfamiliar with the content. For the longest time the staff had to explain that it was the player that got to choose who they wanted to date in the game. The manager has to step in to explain things
Interviewer (Eriol): There is a game called AKB1/48. Who would the girls choose to date in the game?
Manager: On the 23rd of December there is a PSP dating game where 48 of them will appear as their own character. The person who buys this will have to choose who they want to date. They cannot choose, the person buying this game will choose them.
(This repeated multiple times. Ishida Haruka tried to explain the game mechanics in Japanese).
Ishida Haruka: When you first play the game, you will see recent phone calls from the 48 members. When you are with one (of them), the player will have 3 answers to each question. For example, in reaction to (the girl’s question) “I want to be with you forever”. The player can answer “Well…” or “Let’s be a couple from now on”.
(Eventually they finally got the question).
Translator: Ahh…he meant if they were to buy the game themselves, who would they chose from the 48 members.
Uchida Mayumi: Minami Takahashi
Nakatsuka Tomomi: Tomomi Kasai
Ishida Haruka: Erena Ono
(The girls answered the names in English format).
Interviewer (Richard): Hi. I’m from the Philippines. (He was wearing a Polo with the words Philippine Wota 48 printed on it).
Everyone: (Surprised exclamations from everyone and they waved to greet him) Amazing.
Interviewer (Richard): If they couldn’t had joined AKB48, what would had been their profession?
Nakatsuka Tomomi: I would be a normal student.
Uchida Mayumi: Student too, but a music student. Because I like music.
Ishida Haruka: Since I like anime. Something related to anime.
Interviewer: AKB48 just had its 5th year anniversary, where do you see AKB 5 years later?
Nakatsuka Tomomi: More members.
Uchida Mayumi: Our dreams would have come true. As solo artists or actresses e.t.c.
Ishida Haruka: Now there is a SKE, SDN and NMB but 5 years later there will be a lot more 48 groups. I think there will be a KIDS48.
Interviewer: If they could be a super hero what kind of power would they want to have?
Uchida Mayumi: A super hero that can make everyone in the world happy.
Nakatsuka Tomomi: To be able to do everything easily.
Ishida Haruka: To have a pocket like Doraemon.
Interviewer (Supermerlion): When they are creating their songs or their dances are they involved in the creative process or does Akimoto-san consult with them.
Uchida Mayumi: The songs are by Akimoto-san. As for dances, sensei (dance instructor) and members create it together.
(Uchida answered the question very seriously. Nakatsuka who was seated next to the translator, repeated the answer).
Interviewer: This is their first time in Singapore. What do you think is interesting here?
(Translator heard that first sentence as a question).
Uchida Mayumi:Yes. It is our first time in Singapore. Singapore is beautiful, very beautiful.
Nakatsuka Tomomi: I wish I could go to the Night Safari.
Interviewer (Aliman): What did you think of the fan reception when you arrived in the morning?
Uchida Mayumi: Amazing. We were not expecting so many fans, so we were really glad.
Interviewer (Richard): This is your first time as a senbatsu member (Senbatsu members are those that appear in singles). Did you find it hard to adjust to be a senbatsu member?
Uchida Mayumi: Yes. We were suddenly moved to the front, it was difficult and I was very nervous.
(The rest agreed).
Interviewer (Eriol): What are your plans for Christmas?
Nakatsuka Tomomi: I want to perform at the theater on Christmas.
Uchida Mayumi: To have a party at home with beautiful Christmas decorations with the people I love.
Ishida Haruka: Though I have not planned yet, I’d like to perform too.
Interviewer: When you were young, did you have many friends?
Uchida Mayumi: I had many friends.
Nakatsuka Tomomi: I was popular with my friend’s parents.
Ishida Haruka: I was not that popular. (Everybody laughs).
Interviewer: When you were young did you have any hero?
Uchida Mayumi: Hmm…Sailor Moon.
Nakatsuka Tomomi: Cutie Honey.
Ishida Haruka: Sailor Moon.
Interviewer: The Merlion, have you visited it?
Uchida Mayumi and Ishida Haruka: Yes. We heard about it. We’d love to visit the Merlion.
Manager: There is no time!
(Poor girls but the way the manager cut them off was amusing).
Interviewer (Richard): Which other Asian country do you want to visit to perform?
(Uchida asks the translator what other Asian countries are there. The translator lists out a few examples for her to agree with).
Translator: She want to go to Vietnam because the quality of food is very good.
Nakatsuka Tomomi: Philippines.
Ishida Haruka: Somewhere with good fruits.
Interviewer (Richard): Philippines has good fruits.
Uchida Mayumi: Bananas?
Interviewer (Richard): Yes we have bananas too.
Uchida Mayumi: Ah!
Interviewer: AKB48 have been to many other countries like Russia and Hong Kong. Where do you want to go next?
Uchida Mayumi: New York!
As a last question. One of the interviewers asked if she could play Janken with Uchida. They agreed! Ishida volunteered to demonstrate on how to play and after which she had a match with the Janken Queen Uchida Mayumi.
Overall, it was a really fun interview that ended on a happy note. And even the serious looking manager managed a smile by the end of the session.
I was alerted by some of the other media sources present at the interview about some really disappointing news regarding the first interviewer.
Because he was clearly an AKB48 fan, it was probably the fault of nerves that he took up a large part of the interview time when he refused to speak up and couldn’t form two cohesive sentences together, or the fact that despite his expensive auto focusing DSLR (you can see his Canon 5DM2 in the frame below), the only photo he uploaded from the interview was out of focus (he somehow managed to sneak in by claiming to be some photographer).
Instead, my only bone to pick with this “Eriol Ng” is for fabricating some of the questions and answers in his account of the interview. So unprofessional!Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.