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Pairings in Keyakizaka46 (2016)

Pairings. Or also called, OTP ( One True pairing). The definition goes by: “your favorite relationship in a fandom”, or “the relationship that match the best”. AKB48 already proved the existence of pairing like Atsumina, Wmatsui, or Sayamilky. Keyakizaka46 is no exception.

Why is it so particular? why does pairing influence fandom culture so much? I have already defined Idols in 3 relationship. Idol x herself, idol x fans, and idol x idol. Pairings is one aspect of the third relationship. Fans are keen to watch members interaction because it is different from what they can possibly have with the idol herself. The friendship, bond between members shows aspect of your oshimen that you would never imagine. This is the magic of the OTP.

Before we get started, i want to point out that those pairings are just my opinion and are by no means a judgement on who is closest to who. Being close is a huge factor, but i also works on the pair chemistry.

“Za cool is the name of the tandem Shida manaka/Watanabe Risa”

I’ve been lurking Japanese fandom for quite some time and the most well known pairing is undoubtly “Za cool” or also called “MonaLisa”. It make sense because Keyakizaka has been built on a cool image and both of them have natural assets like great, lean figure and slim silouhette. It’s not really about the interaction between the two ( correct me if i’m wrong) but for what they represents in Keyakizaka; they are the symbol of classy, good looking girls that japanese teenager aspire to be.

It’s about the looks, but also the manner. In individual PV, both of them traded the usual cute and appealing idol video to make more personal, in depth short movies to assert their cool personalities ( One is doing martial arts, the other is making a fashion show in her living room). When you think of it, there is cool members in the 48group but none of them stand out better than a whole pairing. I would not be surprised to see both of them in fashion magazine, like true cousins of their senpai of Nogizaka46.

Something to notice, Nogizaka and more recently Keyakizaka have a sizeable amount of female fans. Cool members that convey self confidence are very popular among them. And when Za cool cultivate a “strong, reliable” character ( close to danso) you can be sure members and fans match perfectly.

“Yuichanzu has already 2 B-sides up their sleeves, and fans are asking for more.”

Born from management’s wish to operate Kobayashi and Imaizumi Yui musical talents, the duo Yuichanzu has evolved into a distinctive musical aspect of Keyakizaka, the pop-folk tune of the group. No management have put as much faith in a musical sub-unit in the past, and it tells how important the duo has become for Keyaki.

Yuichanzu is even more of a deadly weapon when you take into account the global consensus of musical landslide AKB group releases have become. Not only Keyakizaka stand out with their powerful main track (hello Silent Majority), but they take the luxury to open their musical range by releasing ballad like the musically acknowledged “bob dylan wa kaesanai”. In a world dominated by visual and Auto-tune, Yuichanzu stand as a new refreshing effort to set back music as the main concern of a group. Even for idols.

This tandem success also come from an efficient blend between them. Yuipon is kind/quiet type, almost shy, while Zuumin has this cheerful, almost bewildering personality. Together, they sing in harmony, making way to one of their best performance .

The perspective to bring Keyakizaka this so much awaited musical variety is what makes Yuichanzu so valuable. Not only it defends the idea that idols are also artist ( and not ONLY marketed musical product) but it hugely helps other girls than the center develop their personalities. “Idols you can see grow” has never been more true than the present day.

“The Sun and the moon. What do they have in common? They both shine.” 

TechiNeru relationship has been slightly elaborated here. But it still has to be mentioned. This is my own belief that Neru is Yurina’s rival; from the opposition of their styles, from their close level of skill. From their respective stories and role in the group. What made Batman so popular as a Hero? Because he had lot of powers? In that case green lantern would win hands up. Then No. The real answer is that he had charismatic enemies and rivals, like Joker. In the same logic, This duo will climb to new heights thanks to their rivalry. This is passion.

Something that i have omited to talk about, is the bond between them. Neru has chosen to defy her parents when becoming an idol, defying at the same time the path she chose over the path chosen for her. Yurina became an idol to forget about an alleged painful past. To pour all her energy into a “new her” was a way to not look behind ever again. It comes from her famous quote “Whatever happened in the past, i have no choice but to only look forward.” Despite their clear contrast as orthodox and unorthodox idols, they share the same resolve : To face the future with a challenging heart.

Then probably, Nagaham Neru is the member that understand Yurina the most. Only a center can understand a center, as you bear the overwhelming pressure of fans and management expectation in your shoulders. Both have solo songs, both lead a generation. One can suffer from the eternal comparison between the two ( Watanabe Miyuki mention her painful experience as being Yamamoto Sayaka eternal number 2) and this is why the link between them is so strong. During Keyakizaka one man’s live performance, Yurina was on the verge of tears, overwhelmed by the emotion of sharing this last performance with fans. You can catch a glimpse where Neru quickly hug Techi to cheer her up during the next verse.

“The OTP without name. What about the two pillars?” (now it’s yuukanen)

The appearance of this duo has been quite recent, precisely during the sports festival in Keyakitte, Kakenai? episode. There was the blue team led by Sugai Yuuka who represented the “my pace” team, while the red team was led by Moriya Akane, the “gachi” (serious) team. This is probably the most accurate representation of this tandem. You have on one side the kind, caring member that makes you comfortable ( the mother), and on the other side the strong, reliable member that pumps you up ( the father). In any case, the “Yuukanen” duo is the pairing that all keyaki members look up to.

I chose the two pillars because the two have the potential to be captains. To ensure good communication between member, to represent the group in talk session ( especially Yuuka), to call people out when members are slacking off during practice ( Akanen), to set a good role model for members to follow. This is the necessary sternness that helps Keyakizaka keep their high level of performance.

Those two are the self-consciousness of Keyakizaka46, essential to make the group operate backstage. We’re not even talking about their  SUPER high level of aesthetic and own individual appeal ( Sugai sama and her noble persona, Akanen the big sister that hates to lose). Their awareness and sense of responsability framed the group into the right path. Keyakizaka was a rookie group without senpai, and the two of them assumed this role just naturally. The very definition of idols are people you admire and respect; Yuuka and Akanen absolutely fit those requirements.

“Boke&Tsukkomi is an absolute reference of Japanese comedy”

Now we’re entering non-established pairings, but that holds potential in the future. The limitless ponkotsu personality of Watanabe Rika and the variety talent of Oda Nana makes the pairing extremely potent. It’s true that Berika can make any situation laughable on her own, but Oda nana presence frame those funny moments, making them less awkward and more elaborated.

In japanese entertainment industry, the workforce mainly consist of actor/actress and singer, but also people you call “talento”, like Becky or Lola. They don’t have any particular skills, except that they are extremely good at talking. To give good rythms and atmosphere to a variety show, you invite those kind of celebrities. And it works! Only thanks to selling their image and smooth talking, the best of them are very popular and can endorse as much as 10 brand advertisement. This is important to understand japanese culture.

So yes, they don’t have the musical talent of Yuichanzu or the visual of Za cool, but Oda Nana and Watanabe Rika are the living ground of an excellent Boke&Tsukkomi pairing. The “boke” make stupid nag, while the “tsukkomi” correct him/punish him, make the situation hilarious. This concept is so popular that best comic duo like Downtown or 99 originated from this. Well, Watanabe Rika&Oda Nana holds this tremendous potential of talking and comedy.

“If you marry weirdness and cuteness together, how will it blend?”

This is a personal wish of mine, to see more of those two. To pair those two is like making a step in the unknown. But since Keyakizaka taught me that everything is possible in the line up, i’m willing to hope. Nogizaka’s sister group is filled with great individuals which explain Ozeki and Uemura’s mixed visibility in the group ( they are often in the third row), but i’m convinced it is not because of their lack of personality.

In a group heavily cool oriented, to be extremely cute is an advantage. Uemura rina can benefit from it. But what she needs is to overcome her fear to stand out, and it is not an easy feat. But this weakness can be filled with Ozeki’s natural outgoing personality (someone who is not ashamed to turn herself into ridicule). Ozeki style. An underrated genius in comedy that probably would rise tenfold if given the proper tool to shine. It is understandable that comedy is not Keyakizaka top priority, but i’m eagerly waiting for her to take the group by storm.

Ozeki helps Rina to believe in herself, and Rina helps Ozeki in the visual department. And despite their opposite personalities, i have noticed a great relationship between the two; as they take 2 shot regularly together or holding arms during variety shows. If they helps each other’s out i’m sure they will find their rightful place within the group. Oh, and, i genuinely think BOTH are cute!

Conclusion 

As you might have expected, Keyakizaka draw his strength from the richness of the girls color and personalities, going from visual and music aspect to comedy and presence. The young group also beats the odds by running backward current trends that promote individuality ( Sayanee, Sasshi, Jurina) in successfuly highlighting a group unity. ( thanks to their group choregraphy and huge line up). Indeed, to have 3 times Techi as center is also promoting individuality, but what makes the difference is that compared to 48group, Keyakizaka doesn’t suffer from shuffle and dilemma between old and new gen promotion (because the girls all start from the same point). It ends up with all those strong pairings mentioned above.

Why is idol popular? Because idols helps sharing this positive energy to fans, or non fans alike. An energy that encourage you to step forward. This is a constructive energy. Also, from their genuine bond between them helps you recall to value your friendship with those that you loves and loves you in return. Those pairings remind you to be grateful for what you own. It helps you feel generous.

It is only depending on you to have your own OTP. Share this heartwarming feeling. Share the love.

-Gocchisama