New AKB48 single brings election vote tickets, and a lot of speculation15 May, 2012 by Mus
As the AKB48 4th Senbatsu Election looms near, the single picked to carry the voting tickets is Manatsu no Sounds Good. The group’s 26th major single, it is a summer-themed single; this means a cheery song, the beach, and of course, bikinis. While many did not expect much from Manatsu no Sounds Good, it brings a few surprises.
The first is the ridiculously inflated number of girls in the lineup. While past singles have generally hovered around the magical number of sixteen girls, Manatsu no Sounds Good has a whopping thirty-six girls in its lineup. With a majority of the girls from the new Team 4, it’s clear who the management wants to showcase this time.
It does however, seem a little counter-intuitive. At least one girl represents Namba, Sakae and Hakata. With this move, much of the magic and recognition that comes from being in the single senbatsu is lost. While the sheer number is impressive to say the least, it does nothing to help distinguish each girl from the rest. With no time to devote to every girl, the aural and visual focus ends up falling on the usual suspects, with the addition of one or two special ones.
In what is becoming a disturbing trend, Manatsu no Sounds Good is mediocre. A commenter on the Internet said the ‘only good parts of Manatsu … are the intro and the hook’. And for the most part, I would have to agree. With a guitar lead into a synth brass intro, the song has a grand entrance, only to falter with a less-than-stellar verse. The song has no tension, and only when the chorus hits does the listener remember what they were listening to.
At this point, much of AKB48’s releases seem to follow this formula of stringing hooks together and hoping no one notices that the rest of the song isn’t very good. What does result however, are very good insert songs. And this single is no different, Manatsu is used to good effect in the AKB48 x Haruyama Cool Biz campaign. The calm verses make for easy listening and ensure viewers don’t tune out, the hook makes sure the song never leaves your head.
Also included in Type B of the single is Gugutasu no Sora. The song itself is nothing of note, other than the fact that it is sung by the Google+ senbatsu, a crop of girls picked from the members who were most active in AKB48’s venture into social networking.
Of note in the Google+ senbatsu is Matsumura Kaori. The SKE48 research student is quite certainly self-made, getting into the spotlight by doing her own web-show on Google+.
While many were surprised by lineup changes, the promotional video garnered even more discussion amongst fans. The video is directed by Higuchi Shinji, who is most known for Nihon Chinbotsu (Japan Sinks) and his skill in utilizing special effects. Despite what many expected (it is a summer theme, after all) his propensity for apocalyptic themes was not diminished with Manatsu.
In the video, viewers are taken on a surreal journey involving extra-terrestrials, death and the necessary, dancing on the beach in bikinis. Shinji accomplishes this through extensive use of CGI and clever manipulation of filters. What he ends up with is a 5-minute long mini-film chock full of (apparent) foreshadowing; much of this is never shown in any of the other promotional materials for the singles.
The PV begins with Watanabe Mayu attempting to resuscitate Maeda Atsuko. It is soon discovered that the old guard, comprised of the earlier generations of AKB48 are extra-terrestrial, coming down to Earth for reasons unknown.
The schoolgirls (made up of the newer generations of AKB48) that attempt to save them all die of mysterious, tuberculosis-like symptoms. As Mayuyu pedals down the road with Acchan, she gets transported into what looks like another world, one with dancing and singing girls.
Whether or not this is diegetic is up to the viewer; the video shifts between these two ‘worlds’, with a curious shot of Iwata Karen standing in the midst of corpses. As Watanabe assists the weakened Maeda at the end of the sequence, one cannot help but wonder the point of such a confusing video. Intentional or not, the video carries many messages and assures one thing: many will talk about it.
Personally, the A-side of Manatsu no Sounds Good is too weak to justify a purchase on its own merit. However, the fact that it could be the last single that ever features Maeda Atsuko, and the inclusion of a voting ticket is something else. And of course, this is something that management is banking on themselves.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.
Click here to search CDJapan for Manatsu no Sounds Good and other related items.
Writer who also doubles as the photographer during event coverage. Mus' interests in Japan lie in the language, literature, popular culture and underground rock bands. Having an academic background in Japan, Mus is also particularly interested in the study of Nihonjinron.