Why lots of people think AKB48 is a shame of Japan and why I think AKB48’s charm has no border

  April 28, 2012

The Cool Japan Project

On the 28th of April 2012, Japan’s minister of economy and industry, Yukio Edano, made an appearance at NicoNico 超 conference 2012 held in Makuhari Messe.

As Mr.Edano appeared on the stage with NicoNico’s live-streaming (as usual, tons of comments are running through) of this event set up on the back, NicoNico users expressed their excitement in their comments like “Eda-non Kita!! (Eda-on finally came here!!)” or “don’t have immediate effects on health. (<-his comment during the worst moment of the nuclear disaster)". Welcomed by NicoNico users’ usual black humor, Mr.Edano greeted to audience with a mild smile, which brought huge welcoming clappings. His ministry is leading the Japan’s most important project for pop culture, Cool Japan, and he came to this conference to promote his ministry’s project.

*Cool Japan: Project to find, introduce and spread Japanese culture and industry which can compete in the global market to overseas, lead by Ministry of Economy and Industry.

“I finally came all the way to this (central place of Japan’s online community) place.”, Mr.Edano said as casually laughing, and continued “Japan has a lot of interesting stuffs such as NicoNico Doga, B-class Foods. I am eager to introduce Japanese culture that people from other parts of the world appreciate.”

He mentioned AKB48, which he is also a fan of, as an example of Cool Japan, and said “I’ve long been puzzled why Korean-pop is popular among South East Asia while AKB isn’t. I firmly believe AKB girls can be popular overseas!!!” in energetic voice.

When asked who his Oshi-Men is, he cleverly dodged the question, said “If I answered this question, I would have more enemies… lol” but he added “Whenever I go to Karaoke, I sing at least 3 of our girls’ songs!!”. This remark sparked joyful reactions from NicoNico residents and brought comments like “Mazi??” “Please sing for us next time you come here!!”.

There’re also a founder of NicoNico Doga, Mr.Kawakami at the conference. He proposed his own idea to Mr.Edano, said “I know a lot of overseas fans of Japanese Otaku culture. Cool Japan will spread throughout the world soon if we promote immigration of those people to Japan!!

Source (Cinematoday)

AKB48 = Shame of Japan (?)

As AKB48 project is mostly controlled by Dentsu, this Cool Japan project is also lead mainly by the behemoth Ads agency. Recent move of AKB in Jakarta and China is reportedly corresponding to Denstu’s expansion strategy into Indonesia, the largest nation in SE Asia and mainland China as the company is concentrating on building a firm relationship China’s ruling party.

So guess how residents of other big Japanese online community, two channel, react?

No, they are not supportive to him and AKB48. Most of comments are maybe worse than nightmare for you and me. They are basically saying AKB48 = Shame of Japan, and those who think AKB48 (symbol of Lolicon and Hentai) can be big in overseas market is a traitor of Japan who just want to show Japan’s shame to the world by spending tax revenue.

I also found a lot of comments that AKB48 and Korean-pop are both crap, and what we really have to promote to the world is Hatsune Miku. As I was going through their comments, one thought popped in my mind. “Are they really Japanese?”.. yes they definitely are Japanese since not only condemning AKB48, they’re also completely bashing Korean-pop.

The next thing came to my mind is “Does liking AKB48 makes us look Lolicon or Oddball?” Think about AKB’s most popular track, Heavy Rotation. It’s Youtube video has a huge number of dislikes!! I believe most of those dislike came from Japanese themselves, because I can understand their thought that this video cause misunderstanding that most of Japanese male has an obsession for young girls.

“Congratulation! You are pedophile!! ( Related: Does Liking AKB48 Makes Us Lolicon? )”

But really?
Sometimes even I don’t get why AKB48 members dress in such revealing costumes.

For me, it’s doesn’t matter whether they emphasize their boobs or booties (but I must admit I like their check-patterned uniform) with sexy costumes. What matters for me is their personalities and whether I can relate myself to them.

I think the crucial part of AKB is this “relation” thing. When I say I can relate myself to AKB48, this is not a usual relation but something much deeper, much synchronized, much resonates inside myself. How can I describe this??

Before expressing my thought on why AKB48 captured my heart -which is super hard to elaborate- I present you main points why Japanese people prefer (Hatsune) Miku to AKB48 and why they came to hate AKB48.

Common Sense vs Sympathy and Art

The way they dress in MVs or stage performance looks for ordinary people inappropriate that it is only acceptable for Otakus to dress in revealing or sometimes shocking costumes ( customised school girl costumes? ), and many people think this is giving bad name to Japan that affection toward young girls and Kawaii things are nation’s characteristic.

These people put common senses prior to sympathy to the story the girls are trying to tell, that AKB48 could do it more artistic way. And they don’t get what we think art ( I think whole AKB project is a magnificent art ) and rich culture. In short, most people think the way AKB48 produce themselves crossed the line according to our social standards.

AKB’s performance is laughable while Miku is awesome

Most of AKB haters point out AKB’s cheesy live performance that they can by no means stack up to other artists who has forged their career path without cheating.
Yes, AKB’s tricks to drive up records sales and their way to present themselves in the show and MVs can be described as a “cheat”. While some their songs are really touching and have powerful, captivating tune, their live vocal or live band performance is almost always disappointing <- this is what they said.

I think they are great at their theatre performances or their own concerts but on TV music shows where they perform alongside other professional musicians, it’s quite obvious AKB sounds unprofessional compared to the rest in general and harsh criticisms are unavoidable when AKB is selling by far more than those real musicians.

Basically their complaint arose from their not so fair comparison between musicians and idols.

Democracy vs Dictatorship

And they are all for Miku. Miku has her own (few) haters but she represents a polar opposite to AKB actually. Its about democracy vs dictatorship. While AKB is lead by behemoth agency Dentsu and one renowned producer AkiP, Miku is a collective soul of many Japanese creators who don’t belong to big labels but given a chance to show their talent thanks to Miku.

In longer perspective, it’s Miku that will bring renessance to Japanese music scene by fostering tons of independent artists??

The image of Japanese culture Japanese want to introduce to the world is completely different from what AKB is representing

As AkiP and researchers from Japanese government suggest, things what we think can be big hit in overseas market is usually different from actually can be big in the world. Generally Japanese almost always want it more sophisticated and subtle way than people of any other nationalities. And AKB’s somewhat blunt way is for them only acceptable in the small world of AKB-Ota. But this is a common pitfall of Japanese, from AkiP and Japanese government’s perspective. ( Read: Brain-Parent of AKB48 Akimoto Yasushi Talks About What He Thinks About Now and Then of Japanese CulturePart 2 )

And the last reason is…

Nogizaka46 is more Kawaii!!!! In fact Nogizaka is 超Kawaii!!!

No…. no this is not what they said….. it’s just how i feel lol

So how I describe the reason for my passion toward AKB?

I think something similar to my feeling toward AKB can be found in 東方神起 in their early period. When they first appeared Japanese media, they couldn’t speak Japanese well, their performance was boring, but instead of focusing their skills, Japanese media focused on how they were trying to adapt themselves to Japan and Japanese culture, and their determination to be big in Japan.

What captured Japanese audience heart was they didn’t intend to go back Korea, until they grab a huge success in Japan, and to my eyes they were honestly and diligently striving for their dream, dedicated themselves and their adolescence for their dream in Japan.

Of course it soon turned out where their honest intention ends and where their agency’s tactic starts, but at least I still has a little amount of sympathy for some members of the group, and mostly the reason Japanese audience don’t see TouhouShinki as Korean-pop is because they were based in Japan until they became really big in Asian music scene and they were consistent to their initial goal and promise.

AKB48 for me is also the story of their promise for themselves, the story of teamwork, and the story of their growth together with fans. The reason I am deeper into AKB48 than other idol groups are partly their strategic events, represented by the AKB48 Annual General Election, but mostly because the scale of the group that reminds most of fans of their school days, when you quarreled and fought with our friends, irritated that your friends don’t understand you or do what you hate, but we learned it’s only after going through these tough times that we come to understand the real of others and can build a life-long friendship with someone.

AKB is doing something we all experienced in our school days and will experience after we become a member of society, but what they are different from us is they are doing this in the show-biz world, the most grueling world to survive.

So we can relate ourselves to them in a real sense while what they are facing on their way to their goal is sometimes so cruel and serious that hurts our hearts, it makes us feel more sympathetic with them and reflect ourselves that we also head for our dream with the passion like them rather than think they are living in completely different world from us.

Uhmmm it’s not easy to describe my thoughts on AKB, but I think at least I could express one of my idea for AKB here, and I want to know your thoughts, your reason to love AKB. Sounds off in comments!

Thanks for reading, I love your faces!!