I hear lots of funny stuff on the internet from non-Japanese about AKB48 and NMB48. I’ll try to dispel or clarify some of them. And just for fun I’ll add some of that edgy commentary that lots of people hate.
1: Are there really 48 of them? Do they all perform at once?
Actually, there’s more than 48 of them, if you include the research students. But luckily, they don’t perform all at once.
There are 3 Teams, and Team N, Team M, and Team BⅡ, and they take turns performing in the Theatre. Theatre performances usually include both songs with all the members as well as songs involving 1-7 members, also called “unit songs”. CD Singles usually select their top members to perform for the lead track and have other mix and match groups for the B-sides, but it never goes above 16 or 18 per group.
There are also understudies called “Kenkyuusei” that they have, so yes, there’s more than 48.
2: How do you keep track of them? Why are there so many? Wouldn’t it be easier if there were just like, 8 of them?
Actually, you don’t keep track of them. You just keep watching them and following those that catch your interest. There’s no immediate need to know everything right away. Take your time, watch some shows, and follow your interest.
The reason why there are so many is so that there’s a chance you can find one you like–that’s the official marketing line. I think there are also deeper business reasons, like how you can still retain interest just by switching members to follow, or that feeling of trying to grasp the whole thing but never being able to, driving you to keep purchasing more product in an effort to get it all… but that’s a different argument and perhaps a different university class with an essay due for the final.
Sometimes I think it’d be easier if there was 8, but oh well.
3: What’s an “oshimen?”
Oshimen is some odd permutation of Japanese of 推し (oshi: to support) and メンバー (member) that means “chosen member.” Since there are so many girls, they feel happy when they are your favorite, and fans dedicate a large amount of money to this oshimen. It’s most often associated with the election, but they also tend to collect other paraphernalia such as photos and magazines with their favorite member.
Because there are so many members, if you declare that you like AKB48 or NMB48, the first question you’ll get from people who know about it is “Who’s your Oshimen?” There are also other terms that are thrown around regarding your favorite member, such as “DD” (dare demo, or “I like everyone”), “Kamioshi” (God oshi, often used when you have several favorite members but there is one that towers over the rest), and probably more.
4: Why do the fans keep yelling during the concert? What the heck are they doing?
It’s called MIX, or a wota chant. (Wota is an otaku who is into idols instead of anime.) Somehow it became part of idol culture and there are several chants/mixes that people use for a song. Most aren’t exclusive to 48 groups either. There are also dances called “wotagei” involving set movements to certain songs.
5: I heard all the fans are fat, lonely single 30-40 year old guys. Is that true? Isn’t that kinda nasty? How can you associate yourself with those people?
I’m not gonna deny that that kind of fan exists. I’m not even sure what the real fan base looks like. So yes, they’re there. And obviously, an all female group is skewed towards male popularity.
I don’t understand them myself. But I’ve heard it all; surrogate daughters, surrogate girlfriends, that kind of stuff is appealing to them. And yes, some of them are creepy and stalker-like, even.
But I’m not like that. I’m my own person. And so are you. You don’t have to act a certain way because everyone else does. I don’t spend time fantasizing about them being my girlfriend. (Instead I fantasize about meeting a hot young intelligent woman fan during an NMB concert, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen either.) I don’t collect cards or pictures. I just watch them because they’re fun and/or funny and because it helps me learn Japanese.
There are plenty of people like me out there. You might be one of them. Just because there’s a culture surrounding a hobby doesn’t mean you have to subscribe to every facet of it. And so it’s true for many fans in Japan. Old, young, male, female. Some are more hardcore than others, some are shy. Some guys take their girlfriends to the shows and they get hype together. It’s pretty cool when you think about how it’s family friendly and can appeal to everyone.
6: I don’t understand Japanese. How do I learn more about NMB48?
Yes, I am being serious. I passed my JLPT N2 in December 2011 after beginning serious study of Japanese in June 2009. The amount of information that you can obtain with Japanese is a million fold compared to being limited to the news from the English speaking world, not to mention a ton of horrible rumors based on crappy translations (including mine!). You don’t need to go to class or get a degree in it; you can study it right now. I’d say that without following idols, my Japanese listening skill would be abysmal. If you need help learning, you can always feel free to let me know.
Other than that, join internet fan communities like S48 and read internet blogs and Tumblr. Participate in forums, be active. Try to keep up with the shows even if you don’t understand them, because you can still enjoy them. Support fans who translate stuff because they like knowing that their work isn’t in vain.
7: How can you listen to this garbage? K-Pop is so much better!
Because I like it. And you like K-Pop. Let’s leave it at that.
8: What’s the difference between AKB48 and NMB48?
While my NMB48 introduction covers a lot of it, I’ll go over the core differences and similarities.
-NMB48 is a sister group to AKB48. They share the same producer in Akimoto Yasushi. Occasionally they interact together and NMB48 usually appears at big AKB concerts and handshake events.
-There is no real rivalry, though I think there should be.
-NMB48 is based in Namba in Osaka, AKB48 is based in Akihabara in Tokyo.
-Each group has its own music singles and for the most part they have their own TV shows, etc. Some NMB members may appear in AKB singles because it’s seen as the “All-Star group” but no AKB members have ever appeared in their sister group’s singles.
-Until NMB gets their own original stage, at the theatre, they perform older set lists that AKB has performed in the past. As of now, the only original stage is Team N.