Sunday, June 26, 2011

AKB48: they finally got me. Also, home.

As I mentioned before, Japan is currently being overrun by AKB48. You can't get away from them. Flip around on the TV and you will find them. Walk on any commercial street and you'll hear their music blaring from somewhere, and probably see a poster or two (sometimes a hundred feet tall). They are, by far, the biggest musical act in Japan right now. And there's nothing equivalent in the US - I've never seen anything like this. Lady Gaga does not come close to this level of popularity, or maybe just promotion. And I'm embarrassed to admit that their marketing finally worked on me.

On our last day in Japan - literally at the Narita Airport Tsutaya store - I bought their Blu-Ray disc that was released this week, "AKB ga Ippai" ("Lots of AKB"). There was no way not to. My defenses are only so strong, and I can only hold out so long against this kind of assault.

That's a pretty big box for a Blu-Ray disc.

I don't think I'm going to become a fan - this is obviously not music to take seriously. But every trip to Japan I take ends up having a soundtrack. I always buy some CD or DVD that puts a backing track to my memories. Once it was Kimura Kaela's "Scratch". Another time it was Utada Hikaru's "Kiss and Cry" CD single. This year I figured it may as well be AKB48, considering they were pretty much in the background of every single photo I took anyway. This is the soundtrack to Japan right now, for better or worse.

Their marketing is pretty impressive, though. In addition to just saturating all the traditional media, they do things like putting one of three different sets of postcards in each DVD, so that if you want to collect them all, you need to buy at least three DVD's. They just had an "election" for the first leader of the group, and to vote you had to buy a CD to get a ticket. You could vote as many times as you wanted, but there was only one vote per ticket. Obviously, this meant that a lot of their fans bought multiple CD's just to vote more times. My wife heard about one guy who bought ten of the same CD just to get ten tickets, then he gave the CD's away to kids.

My Blu-Ray disc set came with three postcards plus one big plastic thing that's like a little laminated mini-poster (complete with fake signature). I had to pick this at random - you could get one of any of the girls on the front cover (I don't know how they picked who is on the front, they have 58 members!). That also means that if someone wants a specific girl, he/she would have to buy multiples. And people do it! Not me, though.

btw, this is not my first brush with AKB48 - despite not really being a fan, I seem to cross paths with them pretty often. They were at the Tokyo Game Show when I was there in 2007, and here they are walking by my store's booth at the New York Anime Festival a couple of years ago (they're the blurry mess wearing school uniform-ish jackets in the middle of the photo):

Oh, also? I'm back home. I've got a lot of other little posts I want to write about the trip, so watch for that this week!

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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