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Small talk : thoughts on AKB Sousenkyo 2018


Every year takes place the Sousenkyo, flagship event of the 48group. Tears, regrets joy, tension in a whole package. There was some tweak along the road : Even more members participating, like overseas sister group, and a bunch of very popular members chose to step down from the competition or simply graduate. Every year we talk about how doomed Sousenkyo is, and i’m part of this. However there’s still 3 millions vote cast every year. What are the lessons learned from this Sousenkyo?

First, the amount of vote. Logic would say that after big guns dropped (sasshi, mayu), the amount of vote drop as well. Here we have the entry ticket to 14.448 just to make it to top 100. It means that instead of creating popular members, we’re building small fanbase sized idols that are supported by their families, surrounding, or die hard fans. Making the vote pool much more homogeneous. Is it a good or a bad thing? I would say bad, because who brings visibility and endorsement contract are those who bring money to AKS franchise. To me it’s more profitable to have one Sasshi than a 20-30 Kenkyuusei.

The expansion strategy (creating STU, NGT, etc) is looking grim. Making more sister group, it implies you think there’s still potential fans to convert: however with Sakamichi (nogizaka, keyakizaka) it really feels that the market is being saturated. Here we have NGT members who made a breakthrough last year who significantly dropped in 2018, except of Ogiyuka. Last year, HKT benefited from their rookie status to make a breakthrough, and with the same pattern, STU was supposed to follow, but only the center made it. In fact, having so much members, being a rookie is not enough to make a breakthrough. You can’t expect STU to succeed with such short time. And without a boat. This pessimistic prediction doesn’t apply to overseas, because it’s not aiming at the same market. Horizontal expansion outside japan is credible, Bangkok being a perfect guinea pig to observe if the franchise work outside japan. If only AKS didn’t break ties with SNH48…. (but that’s another story)

SKE huge victory shows how ponctual and strategical voting is. Because They knew sasshi and mayu were out, because it’s nagoya dome, you can witness almost 80% variation of the total vote of a member. Overall it’s a popularity contest, but also the contest of the most organized fanbase : Saving up for years, using cheapest voting method, optimizing their time bank to cast code on the website…. In that case, SKE proved to be a power to reckoned with.

It was a good year for me. I was really surprised at Nakomiku being so high. It tells a lot how far away i’ve been of HKT lately. I remember the first time i checked Stage48 to see who were the third generation of HKT, and they were so small at the time. Nako was very happy, but mature and composed when doing her speech. How much they’ve grown up, both of them! Thanks to that management can rely on them with legitimacy thanks to those results. Overall HKT results have dropped, but considering the competition, i would say it was expected.

A good amount of senbatsu are AKB, and there’s few team 8 that slide in the ranking. Does that mean that AKB “only” is back? Anyway, they need to invest even more resources to develop the core, because if Global is on their way (BNK, TPE, etc), it’s not with daily theater performance that you can raise KKS to popular status.

NMB still don’t care about sousenkyo. It’s mostly about supporting an individual rather than NMB as a whole. But i don’t blame them. What is else to win aside of a position in an AKB single? I would rather support the girls during NMB handshake events.

SKE are the winner of night for obvious reason.

Music and Cherprang, BNK representative have both ranked, which is a very good sign. It’s keeping the thailand fanbase enthusiastic for the future “there’s hope they rank better next year” or “there’s a fanbase in thailand, we should develop BNK more”. I think it gives leverage to them.

Of course, we should talk about these two. Acchan had Yuko, Sasshi had Mayu, and Jurina should have her Sakura.

Jurina, with her 190k+ votes showed that she could have fought Mayu and Sasshi on equal footing.

Sakura with 50k+ increase in vote showed that her fanbase truly thought they could snatch the crown for them.

Let’s talk about Sakura. Like any other super pushed members, she had her fair share of criticism. Being ambitious (she wanted to break and rebuild AKB), competitive (frustrated to be third in preliminaries) or even snob if you interpret this way (she said that if Sasshi is not here, the sousenkyo is not worth it), i can understand some AKBgroup fans turn their back against her. To be absent of the senbatsu picture is not helping either (but it is said that she was late, not absent because she wanted to). Who can claim keep their composure and good sport in such an important event like Sousenkyo? Yes, Sakura was frustrated to lose, but i believe she worked hard to believe in her chance. To be competitive can be seen as arrogant and cold toward other contestant, but to me it also means she has a brave heart and want to face adversity straight on. In that regard, she was a great rival to Jurina. I would recommend to come back next year and acknowledge Jurina has a goal to take down. As HKT member, she took pride to aim at Almighty Sasshi, but to lose Sousenkyo 2018 should alert Sakura on her own strength and aim at what’s aimable. She can grow up of it.

I should give some apologies to Jurina. To relentlessly target the throne even though Sasshi and Mayu are gone, i was perplexed as i believed this win would have no flavor. But Jurina never saw Sousenkyo as an easy win. Sousenkyo is more than winning against someone, it’s about putting an ending point in a decade of idol career. It is beyond my understanding that Jurina’s win was the consecration of many single center, endless interaction with fanbase, a career made from scratch. In that case, it means the world to her. Even during the time of bliss, she took time to greet and thanks nagoya fan for their support. It was classy and proof of leadership. She was leading SKE troops. Just a small thoughts on her speech : she said there was still things to aim in the idol world, but didn’t mention it clearly. Knowing that produce48, BNK, TPE, Mumbai48 were on their way, i think it would have been a great idea to talk about AKB group in a global scale. If she wants to be the leader of the new generation, and make the fanbase hype, it was a great opportunity to talk about it. She missed a chance, but considering it’s not her last sousenkyo, there’s still room for improvement.

I advocate for Sousenkyo doom. Following the same narrative for years, it’s becoming dull. But the question is, what are these alternative? Of such an emblematic event. I would say, stop focusing too much on this event, and go back to the roots : good music, good performance. Sousenkyo is just a tool. Sakamichi didn’t need Sousenkyo to reach million copies sold.