As someone who started watching stages since 3rd Anniversary, it definitely looks like Yamamoto Team N is struggling, especially compared to Nana Team M (whose core didn’t change and was only bolstered by the addition of the rising star in Mirurun, experience in Reinyan, and young crazies like Anchu) and they aren’t gelling nearly as quickly as Team B2, which was an eclectic group on paper but an exciting group to watch on stage.
If I were to give my own personal reasons as to why I think N is struggling, I would say this:
1 – A lack of leadership from Yamamoto Sayaka/Jonishi Kei
Sayaka is at the theater fairly often, but I do feel as if her AKB kennin is distracting her from growing the team. Make no mistake, Sayaka is the de facto leader for all of NMB, and the general impression is that that all of NMB is still in awe of her. Her presence seems to make the team a little bit happier during MCs. But with her career starting to take off, AKB kennin, and solo work, it’s tough on her to also captain a team.
I’m utterly confused by Kei. She seems to have good rapport with many of the members and not just Team N members but Ms, B2s, even KKS. But in terms of stage shows she seems to disappear during MCs, which is far from helping the younger members get better.
On the other hand, I do really like Akarin stepping up as the “3rd Captain”, she really seems to do her best helping everyone out and has a tendency to turn around some of the MCs. I’ve been enjoying her growth a lot lately.
2 – Nandomo Nerae wastes a lot of talent
The original version was great. Maachun’s silly faces, Moka punching, the general confusion on Ripopo’s face… the song was so unique for all those members. Now it looks completely weird. I have no idea why Murokana is there. Keila went from her high ranking Kataomoi to this strange position and then to graduation. Sakipi is Moka punching, and I’m not sure why. This unit completely backfired due to the shuffle.
3 – Where is Yukirin?
Yukirin only showed up twice; Shonichi, and for her birthday. And her birthday stage was really fun, but she just isn’t around enough to help grow the younger members. I appreciated Uuka and Yuuri making fun of her for not showing up and all that, but if she’s not around, doesn’t really help the team.
4 – The strange perma-subs
Megumin has probably performed Zipper more than Milky at this point, Rururin subs in plenty for Aika when she moves to do Yume no Dead Body in Sayaka’s absence, and Yuumin has stepped in for Keila since her graduation. But during MCs it seems as if they are shut out, and of course they wouldn’t appear with Team N for their tour. That kind of hurts.
5 – Their talkers aren’t as crazy as the other talkers, and they all have the same style
Rika, Sakipi, and Yuppi are all good MCs, but more like hosts. I would have them MC my wedding, but if I want to see some comedy and them getting all crazy, it’s just not going to happen. Furthermore, the way they talk is very similar. This especially hurts during the post-unit MC when they have to talk with Aika and Naru, with Aika being super shy and Naru being the only boke. Compared to M’s unit with Nana’s general MC strength (which doesn’t decrease too much when she subs out with Ayabaa/Aapon) and B2’s absolutely brilliant unit with Haru/Konomin/Umechan/Churi or Haako or Ayatin, N’s is just kinda ho-hum.
6 – Medley seems weak
While I like the selection of Boku ga Maketa Natsu / Mattemashita / SeiRap it just seems like a weak grasp back to 1st-gen when the landscape has already shifted dramatically. They should be given better songs. I guess it’s kinda cool that Sayaka does Mattemashita instead of Boku ga Maketa, but still, I’d rather have songs that are either just straight singles, or encompass more of the members.
Team N right now is lacking the craziness that the other teams have, as well as the chemistry. But I do think N has a ton of great upside as well.
1 – The B2 commentary was voted best show on YNN
Aika, Naru, Kei, and Ririka formed one of the coolest talk units. The combination of Naru’s absent-mindedness, Kei’s random fangirliness, Ririka’s nerdiness, and Aika being super serious and made fun of for that was great entertainment. I do think it only worked because of the format allowing us to explore their characters (I don’t think Aika looking all serious for a 5 minute MC will make for better MCs), but if they can somehow leverage those skills I think we’ll have something good going on.
2 – Ririka might be able to save MCs
Ririka is such an X-Factor. Her oddity and wota-leanings should really be able to boost MCs once she’s healthy and back performing, especially with Rika/Sakipi/Yuppi. They can only pick on Naru for so long, and then she just spaces out anyway. She may have the courage to break the kouhai/senpai wall that is most visible in Team N.
3 – Tremendous performance level with even more potential
No words have to be said about Sayaka. Aika has those days where she sings Yume no Dead Body phenomenally, and she’s a great dancer too. I’m happy to finally see her in HajiHoshi. And as much as I like Aika, Chuba taking her position in Kono Sekai was amazing. The other day I was watching ONEW and I remember watching Uuka and I was impressed with her dancing ability even though it’s not even a song with great dancing in it. Yuuri is super cute and has went from clumsy dancer who can’t crack 3rd-gen KKS to ably performing Fumo, and she hasn’t regained her MC form that she ably captured with old B2 so there’s room for her talk skill to grow. And I think Murokana can still do something, even though I’m not sure if she’s found what her calling is. She seems pretty popular for not doing much in stages.
And we still haven’t seen performances like Sayaka/Rika acoustic Mushi no Ballad.
I’m not sure why, but I would declare Team N as my favorite NMB team right now. Maybe because I like underdogs. Maybe because I’m a recent oshihen to Aika, who just barely beat out one of new favorites in Uuka, and they still have my old oshimen in Sayaka. Maybe because Sakipi was one of my old favorite B2 MC leaders when she would run the quizzes with Mako and Honori, maybe because I’ve come to really like Naru’s silliness, and because Ripopo will always be one of those dark horse girls that I love to cheer for–and she’s been looking great lately. Plus there’s just tremendous growth coming out of Akarin. And we still haven’t seen too much of the Ririka beam.
I wouldn’t count them out just yet. They’ve got an amazing amount of potential and upside that just needs to be brought out, and it appears they’re slowly getting on track.