Why I’m bitter about the Shuffle:
I was joking with a friend earlier, saying that “Hey, you know that big Japanese girl group that I shamefully like? Well, tonight is do-or-die time so I might not like them at all after what’s going down.”
Well, I was actually unprepared for the die portion.
I absolutely hate this shuffle and am thinking of quitting.
Let me go over the reasons, but in short, all the changes seem to have to have wiped away the identity that NMB48 and the individual teams seem to have built for itself.
1 – Intrashuffling of the teams destroys the identity that they worked so hard for.
As fans, we suffered through at least 3 years of delays regarding N3’s original stage. We were so eager to see N3 because we wanted to see Team N with its own songs, its own identity, singing things that were tuned and tailored to their ability.
And we got it, and it was fantastic. Fans of any of the girls, whether they were fans of starlets SayaMilky or less pushed girls like Rika and Yuppi, were rewarded with great performances all around and songs that let you know who they were.
… and now it’s gone. Only 3 months have passed since Shonichi and with only 10 performances to their name, the benefit of having an original stage is wiped away, the equivalent of Santa taking his presents back. It’s strange that I’ll be watching the rest of the Team N stages with a bittersweetness.
Fans of Team M have to be heartbroken. Team M was tumultous from the start, facing graduations before they even debuted as a full team, facing the graduation of their superstar in Jo, and enduring a gargantuan amount of criticsm on why they’re not as good as Team N. They persevered and they were rewarded with their own tour, announced during the Osaka Jou Hall Concert, causing Momoka to collapse with joy. They titled their tour, “We’re done warming the bench,” indicating that they were finally ready to emerge from their cocoon and blossom as stars in their own right.
… and now it’s gone. What was supposed to be a breakthrough tour for them is now a farewell tour. What should’ve been one of the happiest moments for Team M is now filled with tears.
Team BII, who quickly rose to become my favorite team, was a team that was mostly ignored. Whereas Team M was full of misfits and compared to Team N constantly, Team BII just lacked any presence and it was magnified when they were the only team on the Revival Stage tour that failed to sell out.
But they didn’t sit their crying and whining. They recognized their difficult situation. They campaigned on the streets, something that the old Teams from AKB HAD to do to stay relevant. They challenged themselves through the “Almond Croissant Keikaku,” a series of challenges that included playing their Team song on instruments, or learning the dance of UZA for one performance. For the last few weeks, BII members shared an undeniable bond, with so many posts of theirs declaring “I love BII!”
… and now it’s gone. Now that the ignored were finally getting some attention coming their way and working so damn hard to prove that they aren’t some no-namers, their name is stripped off and their members cast into different teams.
Last year, the entirety of NMB was driven by one singular goal: To make Kouhaku, to prove that they are on the same or better level as SKE and AKB. And they did it in spectacular fashion, executing a wonderful dance performance of Kamonegics with every single member. The underdog teams combined together to prove that this group shouldn’t be overlooked.
… and now it’s gone.
All of the things that I’ve wanted and supported for many years seems to have just gone up in smoke.
2 – Establishing a new identity in these times seems nigh impossible.
Guess what? Team N had N3, Team M has the M tour, and Team BII was still working on their newly received Tadaima Renaichuu. They did it well, though some of us would’ve liked to see M getting something instead of still doing Idol no Yoake.
Now, let’s get something straight: There is no hope for new original stages any time soon for M or BII, let alone Shin-Team N. They will probably continue to rehash the same tired AKB stages that have been done time and time again. As much as I like BII’s Junai no Crescendo, it’s unmistakably a no3b song because it was their song to begin with. The lack of original stages won’t help any of the girls regardless of the shuffle and in fact, puts them on worse ground.
What else builds identity? Struggle. The foundation of corny sports movies are teams that struggle to gel, overcome their failures through training, and emerge as contenders. M and BII were still going through the struggle, and the whole of NMB struggled for their Kouhaku appearance. The new teams won’t have the feeling of struggle like they did beforehand. “Oh, BII has Milky, they’re a lock now.”
There’s still hope that there will be team activities like what I wrote about yesterday when Team BII did their skits. Still, team pride pretty much went out the window in AKB after they stopped making original stages, and the shuffle for NMB feels like they’re trashing them too.
3: While the new identity is being built, there’s a bunch of transfers and temps that have confusing roles and interfere with the development of original NMB girls.
When I look at the transfers, were they to join the already established teams, it would’ve been sweet. Yukirin performing Zipper, Sheegs on Nandomo Nerae , Churi and Umeda in BII with their awesome performance ability, Reinyan… well, I dunno where she’d fit in given all the Team M unit shuffles, but still. All of them could’ve offered both an identity boost to the current team and built up their individual fanbase at the same time. A win/win for everyone.
Instead, since it’s concurrent with the shuffle, the girls are not merely supplementing the group but have to be considered core for the revival of the individual teams and the group as a whole. And I don’t like that. Many of the mid-tier girls looking for their breakout roles, like Shimarena, Ayabaa, Uuka, Yuuri, Saeppi, Momoka, Yuipon, etc. are now shunted to the back in favor of the more popular transfers. Senbatsu becomes a fortress, and it makes me cringe to think that the 10th single may have so many members from other groups. I don’t like thinking that the latest song has a bunch of second and third-tier AKB girls instead of NMB girls looking for their big break.
So, even if they do build themselves back up, they might not be re-made in the image that I originally came to love, and they might be around a core of girls that I haven’t cared about and would be hard-pressed to care about now.
Aside: I keep talking about image and identity… why is that important to me?
When it comes to supporting teams and companies and such, fans want the ability to identify with and support things that they feel resonates and reflects with who they want to be. It could be for simple, geographical reasons (I like the Lakers because I live in LA) or because I like the way a team thinks and operates, or I like a company because of their philosophy and approach to product design.
Whatever it may be, there’s a big reason why fans of teams and organizations tend to say “We” instead of “They”.
I fully identified with NMB as well as each of the smaller teams. It’s no secret that I liked them all, I liked the talent and the way they were developing, I liked what they stood for, and I wanted to continue to support them as they are. When that image breaks up, it makes it very difficult to continue supporting them when they stepped on the things you liked.
4: Handling the Jo situation.
Jo is due to come back and in a big way. There’s no denying her star power, but she carries a burden on her back for having left the group due to all the pressure. For some people, she also left at a time when Team M needed her the most.
Her comeback was supposed to signify mistakes that were made from everyone and that they would work through it, figure out where they went wrong, and resolve it for the future. As for Jo, she was actually doing work and bridging a significant gap between generations, bonding with many 4th-gens. Her chemistry with Ayatin was great, and she would do silly things like spam her G+ with over 40 messages.
Management decided to drop the bomb on her and promote her to Team M.
That was probably one of the worst decisions you could make. You’d bring her back into a Team where members and fans are still somewhat salty that she left. You promote her before other KKS, especially experienced, hardworking and talented ones like 2nd-gens Hirorin and Yuumin who have more than proven themselves to be capable by subbing for all the stages.
Now, Jo has since decided to refuse the transfer, which brings her to the other side of the miserable situation. Now if other KKS get promoted, they can’t help but feel that it’s because “Jo let them get promoted.” If they don’t get promoted, they’re stuck thinking “Why is she still here? Why did she pass up an opportunity that any of us would’ve taken in a heartbeat?”
No matter what Jo chose, it would do nothing but increase the level of awkwardness, and it’s management that put her in this sorry situation.
With nothing left to support, and with confusing decisions being made from the top, I am stuck here wondering whether it’s still worth it to watch, with a lot of the answers tending towards “No.” To be honest, in entertainment, you never really quit something by declaring it to be over, you simply just get bored of it. I’ll be curious to see if they can somehow maintain the same level of entertainment they did for me.