Making their name known, AKB48 is catching the hearts of not only men, but even women of all ages.
AKB48 is a girl group from Japan consisting of more than 60 members. Their name derives from Akihabara, which is a district in downtown Tokyo where the ‘Otaku’ was born, which might explain their style a little.
These girls, 14-26 years of age, are initially divided to 3 sub – groups; Team A, Team K, and Team B. Annually, around 1.4 million fans vote for their favorite members who will be recording the group’s next single. Last year, the group earned more than US$200 million in CD sales.
Unlike other big girl groups like South Korea’s SNSD and KARA, AKB48’s members are selected by fans and change annually. Also AKB is more accessible to fans, who can visit shows and attend hand–shaking events right after. Many of them are not professional or trained entertainers, and that is another reason why common people love them. Many fans think of them as their friends or even little sisters.
Taiwanese student Yi-wen Kao said, “’You get to watch them grow. In the beginning, perhaps they weren’t very good, but then later you see them evolve and shine on stage.” Yi-wen was one of the three lucky fans from abroad to participate in the group’s elections at Tokyo’s Budokan Hall.
Yasushi Akimoto, the producer and also the group’s founder, called them “’idols whom you can go and meet in person.”, when he formed the group back in 2005. Members have their own personal blogs that are open for fans to read. The group even has DVDs that show some backstage scenes, personal problems and conflicts within the group.
Akimoto is now taking the AKB fever abroad by creating “clone” groups. There is already from Shanghai (SNH48), from Taipei (TPE48), and the most successful clone yet, JKT48 form Jakarta.
”I wasn’t fully confident (AKB) could make sense to anybody but the Japanese, and I thought hurdles would be higher overseas, but I want to tell everyone that ‘let’s have confidence.’ Today the world is watching Japan, and we are also watching the world.” These are Akimoto’s statements during a recent TV interview.
According to Takuro Morinaga, an economist at Dokkyo University whose expertise include the ”otaku” culture, Japanese are not into big superstars like Lady Gaga. ”They are certainly cute, but not outstanding beauties,” he said. ”You can probably find one in your classroom, and that’s what makes them likable.”
Joseph Salmingo from of El Monte, California, who also participated in the group’s elections, said ”There’s just so many of them and each one has their own story,” ”It’s kind of like a reality show.”