JUMPing on board the SUPERGiRLS bandwagon19 January, 2012 by Chad
First up, I would like to apologize for today’s lack of quality and quantity of photos. Today we made our way down to Shinjuku BLAZE for the awaited SUPERGiRLS concert. Most of the day would be spent indoors and I didn’t want the trouble of carrying such heavy shooting equipment or figuring out how to store it away during the show. Before the concert though it was first to Harajuku, where we had an appointment with the AKB48 Official Shop Harajuku.
While it seems counterproductive to the whole purpose of selling stuff, for some reason, AKB48 shop at Harajuku requires you to book in advance to simply enter the store. This would make sense if the shop was crowded more often, but I’ve heard reports that it is rarely packed outside of the current holiday season.
Booked our visit a few days ago online at their website. Thankfully it’s goes by a purely first come first serve basis rather than at random. It used to be that the only way to do so was through a cellphone, but they have recently added a PC alternative, perhaps in response to complaints.
The shop is located at the entrance to Takeshita dori, just beside the Lawson store here. The first floor of the shop is open to the public without a prior reservation, but the only thing for sale here were AKB48 branded biscuits. It’s not that the biscuits were actually in the shape of members or anything, that would had been interesting. Beyond that, there was also an abundance of unsold of Flying Get stationery for sale
AKB48′s Harajuku store consists of 3 floors in total. The second floor and basement were the restricted areas blocked off by two young shop assistants. To get past, I had to present our confirmation email and we were given a couple of slips of paper as passes.
We were instructed to return the slips before leaving the store to another assistant. The shop was seriously overstaffed, there were at least 5 staff on this floor alone (and another 2-3 on each additional floor).
While the walls were stocked full of various AKB48 merchandise, there wasn’t much worth buying. Mostly stationery items, which made sense since most of the customers here were young grade school level girls. The small B5 sized clear files with different AKB48 members plastered over them were a popular item among this audience.
The shop had been decorated/vandalized by the combined seemingly combined efforts of various AKB48 members and shop staff. Almost every inch of the store was covered with autographs and doodles, giving it a nice personable touch.
The other thing of interest would be actual member costumes displayed at the store. Despite the signs, some of the little girls here reached out for a feel. I’m sure AKB48 could had easily reproduced these costumes or even just the badges on them for sale and it’d make a more meaningful purchase.
The basement was mostly just stationery, stickers, charms and key chains. Similar stuff was to be found upstairs with a greater assortment of key chains. Some of the agency made goods, like OgiPro’s t-shirts and clear folders were also available for sale.
The only thing we managed to pick up that was remotely useful were a couple of new official yellow concert pens, which are basically battery operated glow sticks. They had the AKB48 and Team 4 words across the side. These were the only remaining ones left, with the other team versions long sold out.
We snatched up the last in stock, one for Yan and another which Gage would keep himself. Took some time to stash it away in my bag since I wouldn’t be caught dead walking around anywhere in Japan with a AKB48 plastic bag.
Also paid a quick visit to the Evangelion Store nearby, it had been closed the past few days. It only just opened a couple months ago. The first floor served as a retail outlet for Radio Eva, while the second floor sold more conventional goods for the classic anime.
Next was to Shinjuku for the first SUPERGiRLS concert of the new year. A crowd had formed outside the Shinjuku BLAZE building where the concert was to be held. Today’s concert was to hold 800 guests.
The concert was to be one of the main highlights and chief motivations for my impulsive trip down to Tokyo.
While I initially paid little attention to SUPERGiRLS and first dissed them as yet another plaid clad AKB48 clone back when they debut at Tokyo Idol Festival in 2010, avex’s foray into the conventional idol market had put on a most impressive display this year.
So while 2011 was a series of disappointments as far as AKB48 was concerned, SUPERGiRLS simply pushes all my right buttons. In fact, between their rainbow and star motif, colored sorted members and aggressive use of SNS gaming into their concept, you’d think I was somehow responsible for SUPERGiRLS’s branding.
People who turned up for the show (and those who didn’t) stopped to gaze at the bright pink bus parked outside the venue.
Getting inside the theater was an unusually smooth and easy process. Ticket numbers were number 1-800 (Gage and mine were 744 and 745 respective). Numbers were called in quick sequence, first individually for the first 50 or so people, then in groups of 10 and finally bunches of 20 when it didn’t matter as much anymore.
Note that while tickets for the concert were cheap. One of the requirements upon entry to Shinjuku BLAZE, which was really a club (this is Kabukicho), was that we needed to purchase a 500 yen drink coupon upon entry. We were also given a slip of paper with a special “key code” to redeem a trophy to prove our participation of the concert in My Idol, SUPERGiRLS’s integrated social network game. Cruel.
As bad as our ticket numbers were, we had somehow managed to secure a standing spot in the absolute right corner of the 5th row. Which by the size of the small performing venue and the fact that everyone was compacted together, turned out to be the equivalent of a 3rd row view at a AKB48 Singapore “Live”. Which was fortunate, as most of the group’s young fans turned out to be an unruly bunch. I will postpone describing them till tomorrow.
Perhaps through sheer luck, the right corner happened to be where members Maeshima Ami and Tanaka Mirei would spend most of the concert at. Though we had to sacrifice being able to see much of Kano Kaede or Shimura Rika. Unfortunately, Maeshima wasn’t the most interactive of idols, who except for one or two glances, preferred to limit fan interaction to those in the center in favor of spending more of her time with the cameras. In comparison, Yasaka Saori greeted us the most despite being rather stiff in other situations.
The show started off with the Kanto and Kasai iDOL Street (the avex equivalent of AKB48′s kenkyuusei research students) teams performing what must had been their only 3 songs. While the performers were alien to us, the songs threw us off guard by being surprisingly good. This would mark the opening of a pretty awesome concert.
Before long, the main members took the stage, opening with the titular song of their upcoming album EveryBody JUMP!! and keeping up the high tension by moving directly to Joshiryoku Paradise.
While I wasn’t too keen on the new EveryBody JUMP!! from the preview clips so far, seeing it performed live changed my opinion for the better. Overall, the concert managed to blow away all my expectations. Between the actual live singing (in which Mizote Ruka shone) and sharp energetic dance moves (Miyazaki Rina performed a flurry of acrobatic somersaults mid song, none of that cartwheels nonsense), the only other things that crossed my mind was how adorable Maeshima was and how stunning Tanaka Mirei was in real life.
The concert was pretty short though, with something like a a total of 10 songs, lasting about an hour and a half. For better or for worst, there were no unit songs. Instead, the members would run off stage occasionally between MCs to catch their breath or grab a drink.
For today’s concerts, being the new year and all, the MCs revolved around the topic. The members were asked to do some shodo, a certain zen inspire Japanese calligraphy to write their new year’s resolutions. You can see all of them at the official SUPERGiRLS staff blog. These were hung outside the theater later. Arai Reira aka Rachel wrote hers in English, which prompted Maeshima to reminded her shodo was a form of Japanese culture.
The young attention seeking Maeshima felt the need to cut into lots of people’s conversations, occasionally causing the other members to simply ignore her. On the other hand, Tanaka Mirei barely spoke a word beyond her necessary singing lines.
There was also ballot during the concert where patrons who visit today could win prizes in the form of handwritten letters from the girls. They took a little time to tease about the industrial norm of idols being unable to date and this being the closest thing. Ironically, the person explaining this would be Shimura Rika. In turn each of the members drew a ticket stub from a box and the winner would get the respective member’s letter.
In a moment of anticipation the numbers 7 and 4 were called out (I can’t remember by who but it was probably Goto Aya) but it turned out to be for 742. Close but no コール. I remember Akita Eri standing out particularly during this part of the show. She mentioned writing a lot of jokes in her letter. She later remarked to the person receiving her letter that she hoped he enjoys humor.
Before we knew it, the concert was over. There wasn’t any encore or such. I guess they were expecting most fans to come for the second show in the evening, which we unfortunately did not have tickets for. Instead, we took the opportunity to get a midday lunch at Midori Sushi while excitedly going through what had happened. Gage concluded that SUPERGiRLS performance was better than anything he had witnessed from AKB48 thus far, though falling short of SKE48 levels. A meet and greet session might had changed that though.
After the concert, they continued selling a small selection of concert goods. Briefly considered buying one of their ema tablets but wondered what I would ever do with one. Not sure if I should had bought anything else other than the concert tees we grabbed on the way in but we didn’t.
There wasn’t any queue at all on this Thursday, so we could simply walk in and grab the first sushi (and sadly only) sushi we would get this trip. Again, on hindsight, I wonder why we didn’t get more.
The sushi at Midori was still the same slimy delicacies as before. Gage ordered their amusingly named ultimate platter while I went with the more humble special assortment. Both sets came with a side of soup and chawanmushi. The chef was nice enough to give Gage an extra cut as “service”, Japanese for on the house.
Over brunch, decided that we should probably return tomorrow for another concert. There was still two terrible tickets for sale at Gorakudoh but feeling lazy, we took the chance to delay getting them until tomorrow morning. Instead, we headed toward Akihabara which was more in the direction of our hotel. What a wota day this was turning out to be.
Didn’t get a chance to look around Akihabara in much detail this trip yet, in fact hadn’t been around the shops here in quite a while since I’m neither into anime or manga.
Most of Akiba had been further taken over by AKB48 since before though, if that we even possible. There wasn’t any queue for the shop section of the AKB48 Cafe here (the cafe always has a queue and you have to make reservations), so we took a brief moment to look inside. Pretty much the exact same stuff as in Harajuku.
Apart from all of the AKB48 related advertisements and promotions sprawled across all the shops, many had now taken to selling AKB48 related stuff too. Even the stores better known for their anime sculptures now have sections dedicated to selling second hand merchandise for the idol group. New capsule boxes have popped up here too, again with many being taken up by fans selling their photos at exorbitant prices.
It was the adults goods store Lammtara that sold the idol merchandise at the most affordable prices. The humor was not lost on me. They had a more varied range of photographs for just about every 48 group available here at standard prices. There were a couple of folders worth of SUPERGiRLS stuff too. Was lucky enough to find the Mirei set I was looking for here.
Also picked up the iDOL Street Official Book from Animate so as to put some names to the training members. Pictured with the tees that we got from the concert earlier. All of SUPERGiRLS tees come with an outline of their trademark insignia in front. If you’re feeling generous, you could always socket the respective favorite member’s colored emblem (sold separately) for added bonuses.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.
Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.