Is there more to the AKB48 rival group?12 October, 2011 by Chad
Some months ago, the formation of a new idol group Nogizaka46 (乃木坂46) was announced. The latest project by producer Akimoto Yasushi, Nogizaka46 is billed as the official rivals to the popular pop act, AKB48. Thus far, the starting lineup of members have been established and only last week, the group have begun appearing in their own television program titled “Nogizakatte, Doko?” (Where is Nogizaka). But is there more to this group than meets the eye?
Up until now, Nogizaka bears a number of similarities to AKB48. Like Akimoto’s previous ventures, it’s a large group of young faces decked out in school girl uniforms. But little information have been released about what exactly the group will do.
It wouldn’t be prudent to presume that Nogizaka46 will eventually follow their other idol counterparts as music artists. This would seem only natural with Nogizaka46 being already signed up to the Sony Music Entertainment label. However, the group has yet to show any interest in such a foray.
It has been announced that Nogizaka46 will have their own theater equivalent at the Sony Music Entertainment Nogizaka Building. Though not as globally known as Tokyo’s otaku heaven, locals will immediately recognize Nogizaka for another niche culture. As part of the outer Roppongi district, the area which the group takes is name after is best known for being home to many of the city’s Kyabakura (Cabaret/Hostess Clubs).
Perhaps it is purely coincidental. But AKB48’s recent experiments with F&B in Singapore and Japan, coupled with the timely number of Kyabakura themed videos by SDN48 and NMB48 do look slightly suspicious.
It has been personally stated by producer Akimoto Yasushi that Nogizaka46’s concept will differ from that of AKB48s. Of particular interest is the declaration that “Nogizaka46 will be doing things even AKB48 cannot do”. A hint of things to come?
Perhaps we’re over thinking things but even if the concept is not embraced directly, elements of the kyabakura culture do seem to have infiltrated the group.
For starters, the competition within Nogizaka46 will be much fiercer. While AKB48 holds a yearly senbatsu election, members selected for all Nogizaka46 activities will be determined by fan votes at every instance.
There’s also an increased importance being placed on having fans support a singular member of the new group (much in the same way patrons designate a regular hostess).
Even before anything else, Nogizaka46 made their first public appearance last month in Tokyo for a “member selection event” where visitors were urged to select a member of choice. They would then earn a “fan no akashi” (proof of fandom) for that individual member.
I would presume these act as sort of a loyalty/rewards program for fans to continue supporting their chosen member. Once again, the similarities are frightening.
What do you think the future holds for this ambitious group?
Ultimately, as much as Nogizaka46 looks to be inspired by the place it takes is name after, it also looks to be a refinement of the concept that was already introduced by AKB48, Akihabara clubs and the maid cafes before them.
But with iteration comes progress. If idols happen to be your thing and history any indication, the best time to start your Nogizaka46 fandom would be now.
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