AKB0048 Next Stage Episode 2: The Early Results
“I want to show my true skills in concert. I want to get elected because of my skill.”
Tsubasa has decided to run a guerilla variety show featuring the kenkyuusei, having them participate in various activities and events live for an audience. Meanwhile, Chieri’s popularity has rocketed up due to the trial, and she has found herself doing gravure shoots and many other types of solo work that has limited her concert appearances. When Tsubasa decides to announce the early results of the General Election after a kenkyuusei concert, Chieri manages to clock in 9th place – a seat within the Senbatsu.
Tsubasa has begin to expand her horizons, by moving from guerilla concerts to guerilla variety shows, featuring the kenkyuusei participating in various games and events broadcasted to various planets where entertainment is banned. It’s never directly referenced, but I’m sure its inspiration was taken from the real-life AKBingo! variety show, in which AKB48 members participated in contests or activities in front of an audience – maybe not bungee jumping, but things like races and quizzes. I’ve watched a few segments while the first season was airing, including lots of Shoujiki Shogi (honesty chess) which involved embarrassing questions asked and a polygraph machine to determine whether they were telling the truth or not.
Anyway, the kenkyuusei as a whole didn’t take to this sudden change too well – they focused more on succeeding in concerts rather than giving their all in these smaller scale events. It may be disheartening to do them at first, but that’s all part of what being an idol is about. There’s more to it than just the singing and dancing, and as Mimori helped them learn in the end (with a bit of added fanservice on top) you don’t have to be in a concert for the Kirara to shine. Whether it’s on stage or elsewhere, the most important thing is to give it your all, from your heart – and really enjoy yourself. I wish they’d introduced a new AKB song instead of re-running Shoujotachi-yo from the first season’s premiere episode, but the fact that it’s the kenkyuusei now singing it instead of the Senbatsu is a nod to how far they’ve grown since then.
A lot of the episode focused on Chieri, and the positive publicity that she’s generated because of the media attention from the trial – as the pro-entertainment supporters are going to mark her as one to watch because of it. Cherry’s therefore getting increased amounts of work, like various gravure shoots with the former Minegishi Minami, meaning that she has less time to perform in concerts or dance, which has been the main focus of all the kenkyuuseis so far. Her popularity might not be so much of a good thing however – with her father and the Zodiac Company experimenting on synthesising artificial Kirara, Cherry’s spot in the limelight gives her father more opportunities to use her for his own ends. I do understand her fear of being increasingly popular due to her stance at the trial, and therefore getting elected not because of her skill but because of an incident – but it happens. The opposite holds the exact same implications – for example, if there’s a media scandal surrounding an AKB48 member (like there has been in the past), then fans will undoubtedly react badly and your popularity will drop regardless of your skill. The fact that this is Japan doesn’t make it any better – remember what happened with Hirano Aya, guys?
I would have thought the whole issue over the looming General Elections would be dragged out for a bit longer, so I was honestly surprised when Tsubasa turned up and started announcing the early results. The way the election works is this – fans can buy a copy of AKB’s latest single (which was Manatsu no Sounds Good! in last year’s 4th election) and there’s a voting ballot slip inside each CD. There’s no limit to total number of votes, so any fan can buy as many as they want. Say Mayuyu gets 20 votes overall – half of them could have come from one person. It means one of the determinants of getting elected is strong fanbase support – which is what Chieri is benefiting from now, at 9th place. Even so, it’s still a considerable achievement for a kenkyuusei to make it into the Senbatsu, on their first year too – that kind of thing doesn’t happen in the real-life elections. I’m predicting that Yuuko’s taken 1st, which would be a nice conclusion to younger cute Hikari’s determination to surpass the 13th Acchan. However, early results don’t guarantee victory by far, and many things may have happened by the time election day rolls around. Interestingly enough, AKB’s spin-off manga, AKB49: Ren’ai Kinshi Jourei has its current arc focused on the elections too. Isn’t that a coincidence xD