NMB48 Live Impressions

Nothing beats the real Osakan experience

26 May, 2011 by

During the Supermerlion gang’s trip to Japan a couple months ago, I had this very rare opportunity to actually visit and watch NMB48’s first stage show at their Osaka based Namba theater. Now, after months of hold ups and dragging, I’ve finally gotten around to writing on the great experience that I had from watching the NMB48 girls perform live.

Disclaimers and preparation for the show

As much as I wanted to provide a detailed walk-though of how to catch a NMB48 stage live in Osaka, my limited knowledge of Japanese and understanding of protocols just couldn’t have allowed it. So, what you will be reading here will be a gaijin’s silly attempt to watch the show.

As we all know, the hardest part of catching any AKB, SKE or NMB shows is actually winning a ballot for tickets. Before leaving for Japan, I managed to win an enpou ticket after just 3 attempts. For comparison’s sake, Sho didn’t manage to win a single ballot even after about 15 attempts for enpou and normal tickets.

Locating the theater and purchasing the ticket

If you have the time, do take a look at this writeup on the day of the show itself. It covers our daunting task of searching for almost 2 hours for the theater-in-a-basement that is the NMB48 theater. Truthfully to speak, I panicked a little as the cutoff time for the purchasing of tickets drew near, knowing that if I were to miss this opportunity, not only will I not be able to have my chance at the show, I would also be back-listed for not turning up.

Fortunately, we eventually did manage to find the NMB48 Theater with a little time to spare. So off I went to get my tickets.

Its almost impossible to peer from a side street to find that red patch which states, NMB theater.

Unlike the usual Japanese way of showing the winning ballot on their phone, I actually printed out my ballot on a piece of paper prior to my trip to Japan. I’m pretty sure that the NMB48 staff that was guarding the entrance was rather surprised by the fact that some gaijin would actually go this far to watch a show. I speak almost zero Japanese, so Sho had to help me do some translating before the staff finally allowed me to go down to purchase my tickets, alone.

After several hand gestures and simple English-Japanese communication, I showed them my passport and handled over the 1000 yen. That was when they finally give me my much cherished enpou ticket for that night’s show. Just don’t forget to ask them to put on your gigaband too.

NMB ticket, enpou 06.

Things to do while waiting for the show

With more than an hour to spare, I was free to do other miscellaneous stuff while eagerly waiting for the show to start. Here I returned to the basement theater to take some pictures of the staff and the NMB48 girls’ portraits. The perk of being a gaijin was that the NMB48 staff were more forgiving to silly mistakes and restrictions that were normally enforced to the local Japanese people.

Usually photography is not allowed of theater staff, but this silly gaijin was given an exception.

After getting some directions from the staff, we spent the remaining time visiting the official NMB48 shop that is located just a corner away from the theater itself. With most of the popular items sold out, we settled for the photo sets that they were selling.

After the purchase, Sho and Wilson went on their own ways since there is no reason that they should waste any time waiting for me, the only solo ticket holder. So I went back to the NMB48 theater area alone and stood around waiting for the show to start.

NMB48 official shop.

The horrors of waiting for my show

With about half hour left before the show, the NMB48 staff started shouting out what I assumed to be instructions for the ticket holders. But of course with my almost zero Japanese, I had no idea what was going on. On a second thought, I had hoped that Sho was around to aid me with the translations. My only hope was that they were doing something similar to the AKB48 ticketing system so I could anticipate some of the things that were happening.

With about 10mins left before the show, an orderly line of people suddenly sprung out from a hidden door and that line was slowly guided down to the NMB48 theater basement. By this time I was already dumbfounded and confused on how a line could just appear without me noticing. The only thing left for me to do is to just consult the NMB48 staff for help.

Show them this, and they will help you.

Fortunately, I learned that enpou tickets are kind of like a golden ticket. I was quickly bumped to the front of the queue where all the other enpou ticket holders were similarly being held. After a simple check of my gigaband and tickets, I was quickly taken inside the theater itself together with the other enpou ticket holders.

The most amusing event of that night was that they actually had to allocate a personal staff member to take care of me till I was properly seated inside the theater. But I guess that is what I was getting for showing a clueless face and making a small ruckus to the staff. I could even hear several chuckles from the NMB48 staff talking at the back, with words like “Singapore” and “gaijin” mentioned. Ah the sadness.

This gigaband will be the most important item for spending your night with the NMB girls.

Moments before the show

To give everyone a general idea, Enpou ticket holders are given seats on the 7th row. Those who had the impression that enpou tickets holders were the first to be ushered in to get front row seats will be sorely disappointed. After enpou ticket holders, family/females/children were then subsequently shown to their respective 4th/5th/6th rows before all the normal ticket holders finally got to snatch for the best seats.

In comparison, NMB48’s theater is a much bigger than AKB48’s. It doesn’t have any standing room though, just a total of 233 seats so that all the audience can comfortably enjoy the next 2 hours seated. Seats are positioned inclined, meaning that the priviledge of eye contact and direct interaction with the performing girls is only limited to maybe the first 3 rows of fans. This wasn’t much of a hindrance to me, since I preferred to enjoy their performance from a much wider perspective. Even seated at the 7th row, I was still only about 10 meters away from the stage.

Also, when compared to the AKB48 theater’s performing stage, the NMB48 theater had a much bigger stage, so the girls could have ample space to do their dance moves.

NMB48 board. Will be seeing them in the flesh very soon.

The show proper

Just in case anyone might not know, NMB48’s Team N was performing their first stage, Dareka no Tame ni, which also happened to be AKB48’s Team A third stage setlist.

Prior to winning the ballot for the NMB48 stage show, my knowledge of the song list and the NMB48 girls themselves were very limited. I will not claim that I was able to identify all the different members that were performing on that day.

I did know that the two main stars to watch out for would be Yamamoto Sayaka and Watanabe Miyuki. Personally, I had also taken a liking for both Ogasawara Mayu and Yoshida Akari while researching on the NMB48 girls, while Sho had specifically asked me to keep a lookout for Yamada Nana. Those were the 5 girls to watch out for in the show that is.

Watchlist No.1, Yamamoto Sayaka.

As the overture started, all the hardcore fans immediately brandished their NMB48 lightsticks, including this duo of young girls whom were wearing a similar costume of leopard stripped dresses and beige uniforms worn by the members themselves. But they only accounted for about 50% of the crowd, as I believe there were also a large bunch of people who came to watch the show out of curiosity (or perhaps were dragged by their grandsons/granddaughters). I wasn’t able to get hold of any NMB lightsticks and came ill prepared without any other glowsticks either, so the best I could do that night was to just clap as loud as I could.

Like a ritual, able bodied fans started off the night enthusiastically chanting the “MIX” towards the overture. From that point on, I could clearly see that the hardcore fans were split into 2 groups seated at two distinct places. One large group positioned themselves right at the last 3 rows, while the other group was clustered at the 3rd, 4th, 5th rows. Probably a mutual agreement to gather the hardcore fans in one area to have more focused, organized cheers.

Like all theater performances in Japan, everyone at the NMB48 theater cheer and shouts while seated, a rule that is enforced throughout all 48 theaters. But the rule allows everyone to have a crystal clear view of the NMB48 girls performing, even if other fans are waving lightsticks wildly.

Sho mentioned to me prior to the show, that A3 stage was a very good show to test out the mettle of the NM48B girls. Since there’s a couple of songs that require a good amount of coordination and skill to pull through. It will justify if the girls have poured in all their blood, sweat and tears into making this performance a success.

Watchlist No.2, Watanabe Miyuki.

Finally, the girls appeared and started performing their first song, “Tsukimisou (月見草)”. From that point onwards, the roars of Yamamoto Sayaka overwhelmed the whole theater. I almost believed myself to I have joined a stage show that exclusively consisted of Sayaka fans.

00. Overture
01. Tsukimisou
02. Warning
03. Tanjoubi no Yoru

And I was totally blown away by just their first song. From watching online videos of the original AKB A3 stage, Tsukimisou requires very precise movements and vibe into the song to make it look fantastic. If first impressions would be an indication of how well the girls were to fare that night, the first song had already scored 100 points from me. I was awestruck.

After the first song, I took the liberty to pick out the girls 1 by 1, to see if I would really be able to differentiate them. After all, I had spent the night before reading up on all the NMB48 girls. But don’t get me wrong, the girls did a great job in performing the next 2 songs before the MC. I was just having more fun in trying to recognizing their faces before they do their official introductions during the MCs.

As typical for the first MC, each of the girls split into a row and took turns introducing themselves before running off backstage. If you’ve been watching some of the short NMB48 clips available online, you’ll know that most of the girls have thought up some rather interesting/funny introduction lines. This is especially true for Yamamoto Sayaka’s tongue twister introduction.

The introduction MC also serves as an indication of which of the girls were well most received by the hardcore fans. Without a doubt, the roars and cheers for Yamamoto Sayaka during her introduction were overwhelming. This quickly made it known to even non-fans and first timers that her number one place in NMB48 was firmly secured.

Watchlist No.3, Yamada Nana.

Even so, that didn’t mean that the rest of the girls were totally overshadowed by the blinding cheers for Yamamoto Sayaka. Each of them did have tons of cheers given during their introduction lines, just not as loud as Sayaka.

It gave me a way to see which of the girls were most popular. Judging from the cheers, Watanabe Miyuki, Yamada Nana, Ogasawara Mayu and Yoshida Akari had some of the loudest cheers besides Yamamoto Sayaka. The same 5 girls I had picked out to be on the watch for that night. Coincidence? Maybe.

04. Bird
05. Nage Kissu de Ichi Otose!
06. Shinkirou
07. Rider
08. Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru

Ah, unit songs. The only time where the girls are not performing in their 16 girls formation and also the time for the featured girl to shine in their individually assigned songs. Obvious indication? Yamamoto Sayaka taking the center role for the song “Bird”, which is usually a role reserved for the strongest vocals in the group. This holds true even during the times during AKB48 team A’s A3 performance, where Takahashi Minami was the center role for the same song.

The unit songs were nice in their own right but I’d give special attention to the last song “Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru”. Not exactly a unit song but rather a controversial single that was also part of the A3 era. If there was just one song I would like to hear for the night, this was it.

Unlike the other unit songs, Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru featured 8 members performing, which I believe were chosen for this song as potential “push” girls. This of course includes Yamamoto Sayka, Watanabe Miyuki, Yamada Nana, Yoshida Akari, Ogasawara Mayu and Rina Kondo, Kishino Rika. Just a pity that I never really caught hold of the last girl…

Watchlist No.4, Ogasawara Mayu.

09. Natsu ga Icchatta
10. Koike
11. Tsuki no Katachi

Continuing with their 16 girls formation after the unit songs and MCs. Among the next trio of songs it was “Koike” that would leave me the most impression. Originally lead by Shinoda Mariko for the main spoken parts and covered by Masuda Yuka during AKB48’s shuffle performance, Yamada Nana was chosen to take over their spoken parts in the NMB48 version.

As the song Koike reflected upon the feelings of a young adult, Yamada Nana would have been the most fitting choice for the role since she’s one of the oldest members in the NMB48 group and also the most mature looking out of the rest. Just like why Shinoda Mariko was chosen for the role during her time.

While it would haven been thought that NMB48’s rendition would be similar to the kansai-ben version did by Masuda Yuka, it actually wasn’t. Rather, Nana did a more Osakan variant of the song, without much of the slang that is usually associated with Osaka/Kansai-ben.

11. Dareka no Tame ni ~What can I do for someone?~

I’m pretty sure anyone who is even the slightest fan of AKB48 will now know about “Dareka no Tame ni ~What can I do for someone?~”, as it was the featured song for the charity campaign to help the victims when Japan’s greatest earthquake had struck during March. But this was already top material even before being featured as the song for the earthquake charity campaign. Reason? Out of all the songs I’ve listened to that night, there were only 3 songs that gave me goosebumps that night. Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru and Dareka no Tame ni being the first two. The third? Just continue reading.

Watchlist No.5, Yoshida Akari.

As usual, after performing their “final song”, the girls bowed and waved goodbye to the spectators. Seasoned players, will just patiently wait for the start of the encore cheer. Interestingly, there were also some clueless uncles and aunties who promptly stood up and prepared to go off, before getting pulled back to their seats by their younger, more experienced companions.

12. Medley
13. Sakura no Ki ni Narou
14. NMB48

In their alternate NMB48 uniforms, the girls returned to the stage to perform the “medley”. This time they performed a combination of current popular singles, which included songs like Beginner, Chance no Juban, Ponytail to Shushu and Heavy Rotation. Truly a great combination of the singles that even newer fans of the AKB/SKE/NMB48 would appreciate.

Also, as a staple of all stage shows, the girls performed their most recent single release. But as NMB48 does not have any singles to call their own for now, they performed the newest AKB48 single “Sakura no Ki ni Narou“. Personally I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of slow songs, but it helped raise the anticipation for the next upcoming song, which was “NMB48”.

Before Aitakatta, this was the theme song for AKB48. SKE48 also had their own version, so naturally, NMB48 does have their own derivation of the song named “NMB48”. This song drew the loudest cheers from the crowd, most probably because it was the most energetic song out of the whole show, but also the one song which fans could have the most interaction with.

Watchlist No.6, Kondo Rina.

15. Namida uri no Shoujo

After a very brief MC and a couple minutes for the girls to get dressed, the girls came back to the stage to perform the final encore song for the night, “Namida uri no Shoujo”. As mentioned, there were 3 songs that gave me goosebumps for that night and this last song was the 3rd. I’m pretty sure that those who have listened to Namida uri no Shoujo would have the same sentimental feelings as me. Pretty much the same effects as Dareka no Tame ni, just in a slightly different, chilling manner.

After the song, the girls did their final wave bow, and I slowly realized that my happiest 2 hours of the day was drawing to a close. The girls waved and bid us goodbye before disappearing into the backstage and I, waved back sadly.

Watchlist no.7, Shinohara Kanna.

After The show

Some of the uncles and aunties tried to leave their seats again, knowing that they ought to had seen the final performance for the night. They were promptly stopped by the NMB48 staff this time. Amused by their actions, they were probably not informed that the next part of the show will be the hi-touch session with all the NMB48 girls. To the hardcore fans, this was probably the main highlight event of the night. Knowing that you can meet the girls face to face, clap their hands and briefly talk to them will probably bring some fans to cloud nine.

Same as how we were ushered in first, the enpou group got to leave first to start the hi-touch session going.

I was dizzy from the thought of meeting face to face with the girls who were giving such a spectacular performance for the past 2 but I did tried hard to keep a clear mind and say thanks to each and everyone of them. Cheekily, I said “Thank You” instead of the usual “Arigatou” which rewarded me with some stunned looking faces from the girls.

When it was my turn to clap hands with Ogasawara Mayu, the theater staff shouted something and I was promptly turned around by Mayu and rewarded with a comforting shoulder massage. So much for trying to be the one to be giving surprises. NMB48 eventually gave me the biggest surprise of the day. I guess that the lucky fan who got to be massaged by Sayaka might had been sent to nirvana that night.

As for me? My two favorite girls in NMB48 so far were exactly Ogasawara Mayu and Yoshida Akari, so being massaged by one of them promptly brought me to cloud nine.

Still all good things has to come to an end. After ending the hi-touch event, I promptly went to retrieve my deposited bag and headed up the staircase of reality where Sho and Wilson were patiently waiting for me.

Back to the streets of Osaka, but my heart and soul is still somewhere inside NMB theater.


Will I ever tell anyone to give NMB48 theater performance a miss? Never. While many still consider that they are riding on the popularity of AKB48, the Namba girls have given their all in training and have worked hard in their performances. They had been performing this same song list for a daily basis since their theater performance began at the start of this year, yet I could still feel their passion, vigor and eagerness in performing their best throughout the show. The only problem? Trying your best to secure a ticket for the show.

Addicted to film, Yan shoots with a black Nikon Fm3a. For special occasions, Yan shoots with a Mamiya Sekor TLR.