When the concerts in Fukuoka were announced, I was lukewarm on wanting to attend. It took place during the middle of the week, right in the middle of graduation season where it would be the last time seeing some of the students that I teach. Furthermore, I’d have to use vacation to go. And lastly, it’s a huge hassle to actually get off the island. In fact, I began writing this on the midnight ferry, all in order to catch my elementary school graduation ceremony.
I put out on a call on Twitter to see if anyone would want to go with me, and luckily one of my good friends said that she could go. I applied for and purchased tickets to both the March 15 and March 16 date back in December. As the date came closer and closer, I began to regret that purchase, but I couldn’t back out as my friend was a huge fan and due to the ID checking policy, I needed to be there for her to enter.
Unfortunately, about a month before the concert, my friend said that she had an important lecture for that trip that she couldn’t afford to miss, and thus she had to back out of the concert. I was caught in a dilemma. Should I just abandon the whole trip? One of the reasons I came to love the concerts was being able to celebrate with friends. I’ve attended idol concerts alone before, and I came out feeling more negative about myself and being a fan, it’s just not the same.
As I was running out of options, I asked a fellow English teacher here on the island if he wanted to go just for fun since he knew nothing of idol culture, and surprisingly he agreed. The trip was booked, tickets were bought, lodging was found, and we were set to go.
On the day of the first concert, I attended the graduation ceremony at one of my middle schools, and after that I flew out from the island to Fukuoka. However, the graduation ceremony hit me in the heart for personal reasons that I’ll choose not to divulge here, but suffice to say I was a bit of downer.
I arrived at the concert venue quite late, about 45 minutes after the doors opened. The way the seating system worked was that you were given a number on your ticket, and you were let in the venue in order according to that number, but once you were in it was a free-for-all. When I got there, I didn’t even know that system existed, and I had a number in the 500s for a venue that fit at least 2000. I took my time and bought my concert goods before entering the venue, where we stood in the very back corner.
Ichikawa Miori, also known as Miorin or “Fresh Lemon”, was already kicking off the pre-concert entertainment with a segment called DJ Lemon’s All Night Lemon, a play on the radio show “All Night Nippon” in which she would sing and dance and answer questions that were put in her question box. With a freshly-purchased NMB48 glowstick in hand, I got myself ready to enjoy the concert.
When it started, however, I was still in a terrible mood. I was still heavy-hearted from the graduation ceremony, tired from poor sleep on the night before and the exhausting commute to even get to the concert venue from the island, my friend knew nothing about that group and had no way of hyping me up, and I didn’t know anyone else at the event. Furthermore, despite this being the closest I’ve gotten to the group in a concert setting because it was a small venue, being in the back was kind of awkward. The chants were quieter and I didn’t feel like I was that close to the group. I started off sour.
As the concert went along, the set list picked up and I started to remember some of the good times I had following the group. In particular, I enjoyed the “flat-chested” Zipper routine from Kusaka Konomi (Konomin), Ijiri Anna (Antan), and centered by Umeda Ayaka (Umechan), especially the part after they took off a layer of clothing and looked at each other sadly as they lamented their chest size.
Most of all, I was extremely impressed by the Team B2 medley. The medley was an amazing set which featured a few remixes of some of NMB’s B-sides performed non-stop as different groups of members would rotate in and then dance transition to another group. I loved the NMB medley at the 5th Anniversary Concert so being able to see another medley performed live on a small stage was an awesome experience.
I perked up a bit after the concert and resolved to come back the next day and pick up the energy.
Due to some complications regarding getting our ferry tickets for the trip home, we barely made it in time for the doors opening. Our place in line was #603, and I was excited to see that once we got in we were about 8 rows behind the front. I could already feel the tension building up and was excited to be able to see them up close.
Once again, DJ Lemon kicked off the pre-concert entertainment, and she was quite amusing that day. I recall her asking the crowd if anyone wanted to marry her, and a loud contingent of about 3 or 4 girls screamed that they would. Lemon replied that it was great but she wasn’t sure if girls could marry girls, then openly lamented the fact that guys were being honest and did not want to marry her.
Although the setlist was mostly the same except for the unit shuffles, being much closer was a complete game changer. As someone who used to watch nearly every NMB DMM (which then became nearly every Team N DMM, then only unique shuffle DMM, and now, well, no DMM) there was such a huge difference from watching them on the screen and seeing them up close and live. Certain members, who I’ll get into later, gave off extremely different impressions and mostly in a positive way.
Furthermore, I also loved being in the middle of the crowd. The energy was up there and it was great to be able to do calls and such. Even though I was so close to the performers, I doubt that they could hear me over the screams of everybody else, which is a great party-like feeling and an atmosphere that I love in any concert.
For those unaware, Umechan, whose hometown is Fukuoka, had announced her graduation this year and thus this performance would be her last performance as a member of AKB/NMB and a few special things were planned out that day. In the Day 1 concert, the song Dakishimechatara was performed and during the MC they had said that the song was not included on the original setlist but decided to do so in Fukuoka for Umechan. The song had importance as during one particular election, she just barely missed making it into the single senbatsu but due to that was able to center this song. For Day 2, the Umechan chants peaked during the song and persisted far past where it was supposed to end, and once the lights came on after the song it was apparent that it brought the other members to tears during the MC followup, a truly moving moment. I could hear sobs throughout the crowd and even I felt that emotional wave sweep through me.
The energy in the building was through the roof following that song as well as the last song of the encore, To Be Continued from Saka Agari; a powerful song talking about living the current day with no regrets and to be able to look back and think about what a great day it was. When the team finished and bowed out, the lingering emotion could still be felt and to my surprise, the lights remained off and we were rewarded with a double encore after a strong B2 chant. I honestly think it wasn’t planned, especially considering the songs chosen–NMB48 and a repeat of the opening song and NMB’s anthem, Seishun no Lap Time. It was really a sad ending as I could tell that everyone in the building wanted to see more performances but alas, the concert was over.
For specific members-
I’m a bit torn on her. On stage, she is an amazing performer. The way she dances is stunning and she can do every style from sexy and cool to heart-meltingly cute, and she possesses the charisma to draw your attention from any time she appears.
On the other hand, when it’s juxtaposed with her baka-character, it’s really a strange feeling as I can’t take both of them seriously. Nevertheless, I found her mesmerizing whenever she appeared.
Shuu brought the energy to both concerts. On stage she just seems happy to be there and always seemed to be smiling and having fun, messing around with the other members, and overall just having a ball. She was great to watch and seemed to uplift everyone around her just by being there. Not something you’d expect from a kusogaki/little brat character and she really shone seeing her up close and live.
-Naiki Kokoro (Kokochan)
She was definitely a lot prettier than I remember. And in idol world, where everybody’s vying for your attention and trying to appeal to the fans as much as possible, Kokochan just does her job admirably and looks great. She’s like that person at work who shows up, blitzes through her work and looks good doing it, then quietly and humbly leaves. She won me over during this concert.
-Watanabe Miyuki (Milky)
I’m not sure but there was something about her that felt very strict and business-like. Compared to the others there was an air about her that felt different, like she wasn’t as close to the team or that she wasn’t as excited to be performing. She performed “Dear J” on the first day and “Kimi wa Boku da” on the second day, which should be amazing solo performances for her to take on, but I just wasn’t feeling her.
While I started off the concert not feeling too excited about going, eventually I came around and left with a big smile on my face and excited for the next 3 concerts in Osaka, especially if they are going to be an equally small venue. The Umechan moments were especially touching and those kind of unique events seem to only be possible within the idol community.
It was a spectacular concert and I was glad to have been a part of it.