Has AKB48 reached their tipping point?

The other day I was watching a documentary on Netflix, and in this documentary this guy was talking about peak oil. Now, I’m not sure if everyone is familiar with this term, and if you’re not I’ll just give you the basics of it now. Right now the world’s oil reserves are at 100 billion barrerls. It might even be closer to 1 trillion. But I honestly have no idea, I’m no expert on this. I run an idol blog not an oil blog. Anyway, peak oil is when we reach the peak of oil production. Meaning we’ve used exactly half of the world’s oil supply and are left with the dwindling second half. Now, that got me thinking. Are we then in peak AKB48?

Looking back you can see the exact moment Morning Musume was at their peak. Mostly because we’ve seen the rise and the fall. But it’s a lot trickier with AKB48. It’s a lot harder to spot a peak in present time when it’s all happening. There are so many variables you cannot account for. That any sudden rise in popularity or dramatic full in popularity can happen at any moment for any reason. It’s especially hard to predict with a group like AKB48. A group that shows no signs of slowing down and seems to keep topping itself with each release. But I’m stil inclined to believe that we are in peak AKB48. But don’t quote me on this. This is just more of a personal hunch or feeling. As I said, absolutely anything can happen at any moment. And I’m no precog.

Right now AKB48 is in a extremely good place. They could sell ice to an Eskimo if they wanted to. I mean, they endorsed men’s suits. Mens. When’s the last time you’ve seen a commercial of a girl wearing and selling men’s clothing? I know I’ve never seen one before. It really is astounding, and no one out there can deny their draw and pull. But there is still a peak. A peak of love and tolerance the general public has for something. The closest examples are flashes in the pan. And since the general public is Japan, there’s not really much we can do about it my friends. Sure we can increase sales, but most of us don’t live in Japan we can’t effect TV ratings. And variety shows are how idol groups gain and increase popularity, and inturn fans, to begin with. The minute no one watches your variety show anymore, it’s the beginning of the end. We see that again with Morning Musume.

Now AKB48 has probably the best PR/marketing team I’ve ever seen. Constantly making an already established brand fresh and exciting. But for every victory they make they are also sabatoshing themselves, whether they relaize it or not. Once you reach the top you tend to get cocky and think you’ll never be beaten. Well, that’s probably more of how the fans think then the girls themselves. But every former child star will surely tell you what goes up must come down. And I think the people behind AKB48 probably have a similar mindset as the fans. The biggest and most blatantly obvious mistake is over saturation of the market. Now, I’ve already mentioned this a couple of times before, but that’s because it’s such a huge deal. It seems every 5 minutes there is either a new sub-group or soloist. But the absolute worst oversaturation is the creation, and future creation of, Teams 4 and 8. Which are nothing more than trying to squeeze more money and attention. And nothing to do with having too many great Kenkyuusei and not enough room or Teams. Which is fine. I get that it’s just business as usual. But do you realize that upon completion AKB48 will have 70 members. Wrap your mind around that for a second. As a jaded idol fan 70 members doesn’t phase me nearly as much as it should. I just though, “Oh, AKB48.” But then I imagined trying to explain them to a non-fan. And they would honestly say either, “Why bother?,” or, “How how do you keep up?” Which is the same conclusion I made. I found  myself saying, “70 members and I’m expected to know all of their names? Are you kidding me with this?” There are probably people out there who know all past, present, and trainees’ name for every 48 group. And you know what good for them. But I doubt there’s really a fan out there who knows absolutely everything about every girl, there are just too many. And if the sister groups completely follow AKB48’s footsteps adding 5 teams there will really be too many. And to know everything about AKB48 I’d probably have to give up every other idol group for a few months. And I’d honestly rather cut my own ear off. Which is obviously an overdramatic statement, but that goes to show to what extent that I can’t be bothered to catch up because of how time consuming it would be. I’ll just stick to my AKB48 noob posts while I slowly and gradually catch up. Well, eventually anyway, when I get around to seriously putting effort into it.

And let’s be honest anyway, the Senbatsu pretty much proves they only need 20-30 members. The other 35 members are just gravy. And that is a bit heartless, but that’s business. Now, maybe AKB48 fans will never get sick of seeing the girls, but obviously Japan doesn’t want to be constantly bombarded with them forever. That alone is enough to make them falter, but couple that with what made Morning Musume fall from grace and you have a bad situation indeed.

It’s pretty obvious that Momusu’s fall from grace happened when their beloved and popular members graduated. They were the members that made Morning Musume, Morning Musume. Not only that but it is extremely hard for new members to have the personality and the dynamic that the old members shared. With Acchan graduating it is a sobering fact that popular members are eventually going to start dropping like flies. Maybe even sooner rather than later. AKB48 is in such a seemingly good place right now. The group is 7 years old already and haven’t really lost any substantial members to graduations. And even if they did AKB48 was nowhere near as popular as they are now, so it didn’t really effect them as much as it would now. And we have girls in AKB48 who have either been there from the beginning or close to it. They are either starting to get too old or starting to think it’s been too long and are ready to move on. And you can’t really rule anyone out either. Idols frequently graduate years before they really have to. Kago Ai, Tsuji Nozomi, LinLin, Konno Asami, Sakuma Kaho, Akita Eri, Hayami Akari, etc. Idols also leave because of injuries or medical reasons Kameri Eri, Mitsui Aika, Kosuga Fuyuka, Imade Mai, Matsushita Yui, etc. And you can’t rule out idols being picked off from scandals as in the cases of Kago Ai, Murakami Megumi, Arihara Kanna, and Kato Rubi. Not to mention close to home scandals in the cases of Hirajima Natsumi, Yonezawa Rumi, Ishiguro Atsuki, and Kikuchi Ayaka. (Which obviously worked out for her in the end.) The next few years are probably going to be devestating in the terms of graduations. But even if these things do bring them down, I do still see hope for them. And they can do so by pulling an Arashi.

There’s no doubt that right now Arashi is the top idol group in Japan right now. Yes, the top. AKB48 might sometimes sell twice as much as Arashi does, but Arashi has been on top far longer than AKB48 has. AKB48 didn’t start selling Arashi numbers until 2010. Now, AKB48 is just like Arashi in the aspect that everyone loves them despite their age or gender. Both groups are variety royality with multiple shows and appear on multiple others. Despite the level that Arashi is now, the group wasn’t always on top. Arashi initially was doing good. Their debut single A.RA.SHI. sold over 900,000 copies. Arashi didn’t exactly keep up that pace though. Their next 5-7 singles only sold over 300,000 copies. And then after that their sales took a complete nosedive and their singles for the next few years only sold somewhere between 150,000 and 250,000. So what helped Arashi return from their fall from grace to reach the top? It was 2 things really. Gaining the success and completely striking when the iron is hot and making the most out of their success. Arashi regained their popularity because of Matsumoto Jun’s drama Hana Yori Dango 2. Arashi’s Love So Sweet single was used as the theme. And obviously since the drama was so popular the theme song sold well over 400,000 copies. Personally I don’t know what was so great about Hana Yori Dango 2 for Love So Sweet to sell so much. Arashi did the theme for the first season of Hana Yori Dango as well, but Wish only sold a little over 100,000 copies. And personally I thought the first season of Hana Yori Dango was much better. And their next theme song, Happiness, for the drama Yamada Taro Monogatari sold over 300,000 copies.

Shortly after that Arashi released One Love which was used as the theme song for the Hana Yori Dango movie. Which sold over 500,000 copies. And then that is where Arashi used their regained popularity to their advantage to stay relevant. At the time Arashi did 2 tours. One for their Dream “A” Live album and one Asian Tour. Coming off the popularity of One Love one month after it’s release they released their next single Truth. And the next single after that was Beautiful Days which was used as the theme for the drama Riyusei no Kizuna. And while all of this was going on Arashi also debuted 2  varitey shows that are still airing today, Himitsu no Arashi-chan and VS Arashi. But not only did they debut 2 variety shows the 2 shows premiered in a 2 day spand. Himitsu no Arashi-chan on April 10th and VS Arashi on April 12th. Further solidifying their popularity.

Now this might have seemed like way too much to read about Arashi in an AKB48 related post, but I felt it was important to go through exactly how Arashi regained their popularity. Because it really shows how AKB48 could also rebuild their image when they face their decline. A big chunk of AKB48’s popularity started from dramas to begin with. Oogoe Diamond which was the first big jump in AKB48 sales was most likely due to the fact that it was used as the ending theme to Mendol. Maybe the switch to King Records also helped too, I don’t Know. But AKB48 did start selling Arashi numbers because the theme song to Majisuka Gakuen was included in their Sakura no Shiori single. And then after that the rest is pretty much history. Which goes to show that the right drama can really make or break an idol group. Perhaps that was one of the reasons that Morning Musume never regained their popularity. Until recently the girls never acted in dramas.

So, what was the conclusion of this whole post? For one I absolutely do think AKB48 is in their peak. I don’t see AKB48 really being able to rise that much more above the level they are at now. I mean what really is above their current level? Really, think about it. Another variety show? Even more commercials? Selling 2 million copies? Even if they do achieve that, I think the public will be so fed up with AKB48 at that point. Even though hardcore AKB48 fans will want to see them constantly forever, casual Japanese fans, and non-fans alike, will think enough is enough already. I know it’s certaintly like that in the US. Like Lady Gaga for example. A couple years ago Americans, the media, and to some extent myself, could not get enough of her. But then you started hearing articles of people being sick of seeing her and hearing about her. And after Judas didn’t go as well as expected you didn’t hear from her nearly as much as you used to. Yes, You and I did have slim popularity, but that’s about it. Personally I thought You and I was a let down of a song and I didn’t even bother listening to Marry the Night. To this day I’ve only heard bits and pieces of it the number of odd times it’s been played. And that’s mostly due to the fact that it was her least popular song in the US. So, if someone like Lady Gaga can fade here, what’s stopping AKB48 from fading there?

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