Avex’s new attempt at engineered happiness might just work

07 November, 2011 by

SUPER☆GiRLS (スーパーガールズ) look like they have everything it takes for success. This new large group of young, attractive members sing infectiously catchy pop tunes filled with Japanese English, all while decked out in cute plaid dresses that scream of innocence and youth. Sounds familiar?

Well, if Tokyo Girl’s Style were to be likened a revival on what Avex fans have grown to love, then SUPER☆GiRLS (which is often abridged to スパガ or “Supaga”) is a blatant effort by Avex Trax to cash in on the current idol fever sweeping across Japan. Watch out AKB48, here comes a new challenger.


In direct competition to AKB48, SUPER☆GiRLS marks a big sidestep from the Avex norm. For starters, it’s the first time in the company’s history that it has launched an audition based girl group. SUPER☆GiRLS’ cute, pop idol image concept seems like almost a step backwards from the innovations they have made to the genre in the past.

But the similarities do not stop just there. SUPER☆GiRLS’ familiarity extends more than just visually. The group bears a sound almost indistinguishable from those churned out by Japan’s most popular act now. Taking a nod from AKB48, SUPER☆GiRLS’ pop tunes are backed heavily by rock instrumentals fitting for their life performances.

One of their selling points, is that they sing live.

In fact, Avex’s new idols take it a step further, incorporating big band and orchestral sounds into their tunes too. This is most appropriate since SUPER☆GiRLS boast live vocals at all of their performances.

While the girls do not have a permanent base to call home, fans have ample opportunities to meet them at different concerts on a monthly basis. A fair pace. And ticketing isn’t that much of a problem yet with the group’s relative popularity.

SUPER☆GiRLS debuted in August last year. I’ve only been following them on and off since their appearance at the Tokyo Idol Festival later in 2010 but must admit, their progress so far has been impressive.

High energy performances.

The group has released 3 singles so far this year, Ganbatte Seishun (がんばって 青春), MAX! Otome Gokoro (MAX!乙女心) and their most recent Joshiryoku←Paradise (女子力←パラダイス) last month. Sales have been steadily picking up with each release, while it’s nowhere near the millions sold by AKB48, SUPER☆GiRLS first three singles peaked at number 4, 4th and 2nd on the Oricon Charts respectively, a huge advantage from when AKB48 first started.

It’s no surprise how fast SUPER☆GiRLS is catching on in popularity though. The group has the full backing of one of Japan’s largest and most experienced record labels, and this is seen clearly in the quality of their music and strong production values.

This is most apparent in their music videos, which display a quality for idol PVs that is only rivaled by their immediate competition. In fact SUPER☆GiRLS’ clean and graphic music videos bear a remarkable resemblance to those by AKB48 from during the 2008-2009 era (i.e. arguably some of their best).

It might be for these reasons that SUPER☆GiRLS are fast finding an audience in wota (idol fans) in Japan, who have been jaded by the side effects of AKB48’s popularity.

As a stellar opposite to the currently popular format, SUPER☆GiRLS features a 12 member lineup. The number hits a sweet spot reminiscent of the previously atypical large girl groups. You won’t have to worry about your favorite member being absent from singles here. Morning Musume fans should feel right at home.

Japanese fans have enough exposure to start picking their favorites. Thankfully, this isn’t something enforced as much. Avex Trax had released a short episodic reality style show featuring the SUPER☆GiRLS members right from the start and the girls also have plenty of television coverage, sometimes together with AKB48 members.

Both groups have been playing it safe and keeping relations friendly. It would seem that even otaku comedian Yamachan, who had been an avid supporter of AKB48 and SKE48 in the past has been quick to pledge his support to SUPER☆GiRLS. Various SUPER☆GiRLS members also admit to being fans of AKB48.

But even with all of the polish, it’s hard not to notice some of the group’s shortcomings. Many of the group’s 12 members still appear camera shy, interacting awkwardly when on the air. This stiffness even extends to their personal closeups in their videos, a problem I had previously brought up when mentioning Sea A.

Hopefully, all of this can be attributed to the girls’ inexperience and will be something remedied in the future. Then again, this might be an attraction for some fans. Especially, now that down to earth idols are the norm.

What do you think? Does Avex Trax latest attempt to conquer the idol market have what it takes to stand with the best?

Images by Avex Trax and

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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.