AKB48’s indies debut02 February, 2006 by Chad
Sakura no Hanabiratchi (桜の花びらたち) is AKB48’s first indies release. The title of the song translates as “Cherry Blossom Petals”, a ballad set to the bittersweet theme of graduation, despite being the group’s debut song.
Step back to Feburary 2006, where Japan’s “Otaku Boom” was in full swing. Producer Akimoto Yasushi had already begun riding the trend with Akihabara48, the world’s first pop idol group targeted towards otaku.
For the past two months the group had been performing daily at their theater in Akihabara. The shows attracted a small number of obsessive fans, who were won over by the idols who you could meet. Still in its infancy, the group carried out this concept to the fullest. Patrons could greet the girls at the cafe outside their theater, have meals together or even exchange video calls.
In Akimoto’s own words, AKB48’s concept was to create a classroom feel to the group, so that otaku could relive the feeling of their youth. Which is also why (again in AkiP’s words), not all the girls were chosen for their looks.
With this release, AKB48 aimed to spread word of their existence to the more normal public. Both Sakura no Hanabiratachi and it’s B-side Dear My Teacher appeared as theme songs for television programs, no doubt due to Akimoto’s connections.
Sakura no Hanabiratchi ended up selling 46,274 copies over a stretch of two months. An admirable number for a debut, especially considering that it was an indies release. Even years later it remains one of the group’s more popular songs and was voted the #1 song for the 2008 Request Hour Set List Best 100.
Everyone who was in AKB48 at this point of time participated in this single.
In addition to this regular version, a special box set of Sakura no Hanabiratachi was also sold in theaters. It consisted of 20 copies of the same CD, except that instead of the group picture you see above, these copies feature a picture of one of the 20 girls in a kissing action instead. This concept made a return 4 years later in the AKB48 Fashion Book.
These alternate covers were initially valued lower than the regular version as the boxes continued to sell at the theater even after the regular versions had sold out. The reverse is true now though as people struggle to purchase their Oshimen version.
Unlike their later singles, AKB48’s indie singles did not offer a DVD version with music videos. The truth is, their original PVs were probably encoded at only an analog resolution and someone must had replaced the Premiere files, because it wasn’t until the videos were re-edited that they were released 4 years later as part of AKB48’s Single Video Collection DVD in July 2010.
You can see that right from the start, AKB48 had the practice of including random bonus items in their merchandise. While we can almost always expect it from them now, back then it wasn’t the norm to include extras in normal releases. This coupled with the random element of surprise definitely helped to build a favorable impression.
I wouldn’t call these free though, since they are obviously included in the price. In fact, bonus items are now the main purpose of hardcore fans, who see the CD as the bonus.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.
Click here to search CDJapan for Sakura no Hanabiratachi and other related items.
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.