Nagoya’s own 48 girl group

18 June, 2010 by

The insane success of pop idol group AKB48 has sparked the interest and envy of many. For the past few years, founder Yasushi Akimoto has been receiving offers from other countries vying for a piece of the action. It was reported this January that the list of countries hoping to license the rights to the concept included Italy, China, Thailand and (gasp) Singapore. It will probably take years before we see the emergence of SGP48 or PRC48 but the title of first AKB48 spin-off has already gone to the Nagoya based SKE48.

Sakae 48 or SKE48, is the second rendition of the 48 idol concept. They are located in Nagoya, 300 km from Tokyo. Here they perform from their theater at the Sunshine Sakae entertainment mall, from which they derive their name. When compared with the older Don Quijote building in Akihabara, the futuristic Sunshine Sakae building is certainly a step up.

Unlike AKB48 that is run by AKS, a company created solely to manage the group, SKE48 is owned by Pythagoras Promotion Inc, a subsidiary of the Kyoraku Sakae Development Company that owns Sunshine Sakae. Pythagora’s main business is the creation and distribution of Pachinko machines throughout Japan.

They've got a ferris wheel attached to the building. How do you beat that?

SKE debuted with their Team S in October 2008. The creation of the group was worked around the renovation of the Sunshine Sakae building. Like their sister group, SKE48 holds live shows known as “Stages”, regularly from their own theater. Tickets are priced the same at 3000 yen. In the same manner as Teams K, the group began by performing a season of Team A’s first Stage, “PARTY ga Hajimaru yo” (Let’s start the party). The Team is now on to their second original collection of songs.

To promote the formation of the group, SKE48 cover girl Matsui Jurina was inserted into AKB48’s 11th single, Oogoe Diamond. Her sole visage was engraved into all covers for the single and she even featured at the center of the music video replacing AKB48’s Maeda Atsuko. The decision received mixed reactions from fans but she has since been featured prominently in all the AKB singles as well.

Matsui Jurina.

It will come as a surprise that despite her mature appearance and unofficial cover girl status, Jurina is actually the youngest member of both SKE and AKB48. She turned 13 this March.

SKE48’s other prominent member is the Aragaki Yui lookalike Rena, who shares the same last name as Jurina. Matsui Rena was first marketed in AKB’s 12th and 13th singles but was later put into the B-side team. Thanks to her talent though her popularity has since risen substantially over the past year. She played a significant role in the late night Majisuka Gakuen drama.

Matsui Rena.

Despite Akimoto’s prior comment that the group would only collaborate in AKB singles, SKE48 released their first single last August with the Lantis label, a subsidiary of Bandai that specializes in anime songs. The single “Tsuyoko Mono yo” was used as the theme song for the new Mazinger Z anime. The song featured all the founding members of SKE’s Team S. It is a raw sounding tune as expected from a first release but it isn’t nearly as catchy as AKB’s Sakura no Habiratachi but Tsuyoko Mono yo found moderate sales that exceeded all of AKB’s original singles.

Thanks to the SKE48 management, videos for all their PVs are easily available for viewing through their official Youtube channel.

SKE48 returned this March with the more prestigious Crown Records. Their 2nd single “Aozora Kataomoi”, is performed by swat team made from 7 of their most focal members, with the two Matsuis taking center stage

Members of the group’s second team, which was named Team KII (to avoid confusion with AKB’s Team K) were included in this single. Team KII was formed in the middle of last year prior to the release of the group’s first single but were not included in their debut.

Aozora Kataomoi is a good second attempt from the group, the lack of vocal range is still apparent and the dance shows the girls flailing about madly but the new song is certainly a much catchier tune. Sales of the single have done reasonably well for the new artists, with more than 50,000 copies sold to date.

The release of the single coincided with the AKB48 concert at Yokohama on the 24th of March. The girls sat at reception that afternoon to personally sell the single and later appeared on stage to perform the new song. Aozora Kataomoi charted at #3 on the Oricon during its first week.

The proximity of Nagoya to Tokyo seems to put SKE48 at quite the disadvantage when it comes to recruiting. Surely, many potential candidates will be more inclined to aim for the more established Akihabara group. This is apparent when some of SKE’s current members are in fact rejected research students from AKB48.

As such, SKE48 cannot testify to matching the vocal capability of some of AKB48’s powerhouses or the unexplainable allure of their front girls. Fortunately, following in AKB’s footsteps means that they already have a tested business model to follow. The ongoing evolution of their sister group only helps to perfect a formula for which they can repeat.

The principal members of SKE48.

Already, SKE48 is seeing a promising future with decent CD sales. While no where as prominent as AKB48, SKE has been seeing an increasing amount of coverage. The popularity of the original group also serves to provide additional publicity through association.

Idol groups rarely start out at full strength. With more experience and perhaps some filtering of its talents, the SKE48 will see greater success.

The management is making full use of the positive momentum. The group’s 3rd single, Gomen ne Summer is scheduled for early next month. The promo video for their upcoming single was only just released. Check it out below.

Photograph of the Sunshine Sakae building is courtesy of Emrank.

Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.
Click here to search CDJapan for SKE48 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.