AKB48 Team 8 performs at Phil-Jap 60th anniversary celebration
Japan and the Philippines has enjoyed many years of friendly diplomatic relations and 2016 marks their 60th anniversary. In celebration, the Embassy of Japan, together with Hallohallo Entertainment Inc., organized a performance by idol group AKB48.
AKB48 is an all-female idol group formed in 2005, and is considered as a social phenomenon due to its success in the Japanese recording industry. The group has also done shows overseas in New York, Paris, Moscow, Korea, Los Angeles, Paris, Cannes and Taiwan, among others. Comprising over 100 members, who are divided into five teams (Teams A, K, B, 4 and 8), the group regularly travels the country for shows, do TV guestings or perform in its own AKB48 Theater in Akihabara, Tokyo.
Team 8 is the first of the sub-groups to visit the Philippines when it appeared last year at the Cool Japan Festival. Introduced in 2014, the members go by the concept of “idols who go meet you” due to the fact that members tour various regions of Japan and other countries to meet and perform for fans.
This year, Team 8–a mix of returnees and first-timers in the country–met Filipino fans. The members who performed at the event were Rena Fukuchi, Yurina Gyouten, Riona Hamamatsu, Kotone Hitomi, Serika Nagano, Rin Okabe, Nanami Sato, Maria Shimizu, Karin Shimoaoki, Ayane Takahashi, Hijiri Tanikawa and Nanase Yoshikawa.
Greeting the girls at their performance in Market! Market!’s activity center was a throng of their loyal Pinoy fans mixed with a few Japanese and international fans who flew in just to see their favorite idols.
A correspondence with prominent fan group FilWota48’s co-founder Youko revealed that Pinoy fans have been following AKB48 since 2006. With their numbers steadily increasing over time, a now defunct public forum materialized in 2010. This was replaced by a Facebook group in 2015. Furthermore, other groups apart from FilWota48 started to emerge due to the rapidly growing fan base for AKB48. The two other groups that make up the triumvirate of prominence for current local fan communities are MOCCHII and 48Fam. There are also groups that cosplay and/or cover AKB48 songs. Some of them are SGR48, Seishun Kakumei, AOS48, WNK48 and Davao-based Pastel Mix.
Tokyo-based all-female Japanese idol group Starmarie also performed for the audience. Starmarie has been to the country several times before, performing at anime and cosplay conventions such as Best of Anime (BOA) and Cosplay Mania. It was formed in July 2008 and has since gained fame for its fantasy-themed songs and Gothic Lolita fashion. Apart from the Philippines, it has performed in other pop culture events in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Taiwan and the US. The group is composed of Nozomi Kishita, Shino Takamori, Hiroka Matsuzaki, Motoko Nakane, Monya Nakane and Kaede Watanabe.
A project to create sister groups abroad is currently underway and the Philippines is included in the list. To be labeled MNL48, auditions for the first generation of members has already begun. Members will be chosen through a nationwide voting system where applicants may apply through the official MNL48 mobile app. Here their profiles will be visible to the public where they can garner votes. A total of 64 finalists will be selected through these auditions and will be able to promote for one year. A general election will be held every year between existing members and newly selected finalists. Girls selected for the top 64 will go on to promote for one year until the next general election.
Japanese idol fever is entering the country in force with the cream of the crop leading the way, and more Pinoy hearts are about to get stolen. Alfred Bayle
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