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Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued (a J!-ENT Music DVD Review)

December 16, 2011 by  



One of the best music documentaries I have watched from Japan and also a wonderful documentary for those who want to learn more about AKB48!  Delightful, fun and entertaining, “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 AKS Inc./TOHO CO. LTD/NHK Eterprises Inc./Rockwell Eyes, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 120 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Dolby Digital

COMPANY: Toho/New People Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 1, 2011

Directed by Yuri Kanchiku

Produced by Yoshihiro Furusawa, Yasushi Kubota, Hideki Motegi, Junichi Nogami, Sin’ichi Takahashi

Executive Producer: Shunji Iwai

Cinematography by Chigi Kanbe

Edited by Yuri Kanchiku

Starring:

Kaoru Hayano

Tomomi Itano

Grace Kaku

Yuki Kashiwagi

Haruna Kojima

Atsuko Maeda

Natsumi Matsubara

Jurina Matsui

Sae Miyazawa

Rina Nakanishi

Risa Naruse

Kayo Noro

Aika Ohta

Erena Ono

Mariko Shinoda

Ayana Takada

Minami Takahashi

Mayu Watanabe

 

This documentary follows the unstoppable all-female Japanese idol group AKB48 and gives you a glimpse into the girls’ struggle and growth that is behind their success and ever-growing popularity. Five years ago they started as a small Akihabara idol group with only seven people showing up to their shows. Now, they’ve topped Japan’s music chart with the top two best-selling singles of the year in 2010 as well as another two singles ranking in the top 10.

With a complicated balance of competition and friendship among the members, their bond is strong. Throughout 2010 the camera captures AKB48’s history with scenes from their concerts, general elections, and activities abroad amounting to over 1000 hours of footage. The documentary also includes personal interviews with select members revealing each of the girls’ struggle, joy, growth, and dream.

One of the best music documentaries I have watched from Japan and also a wonderful documentary for those who want to learn more about AKB48!  Delightful, fun and entertaining, “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is highly recommended!

Producer Yasushi Akimoto, known for writing producing TV shows and writing lyrics for Japan’s popular groups, was also known for creating one of Japan’s largest all-female idol group in the ’80s known as Onyanko Club.

While Japan has had their full share of large all-female idol groups since the ’80s, Akimoto began working on the franchise known as AKB48 in Dec. 2005.

Originally, AKB48 (AKB named after Akihabara) was a theater-based idol group that performed in Tokyo on the 8th floor of a Don Quijote store and would entertain their fans through their music and performances on a daily basis.

But slowly, the group became popular and now AKB48 is one of the most successful franchises in Japan which featured 16 members who are part of individual and competing teams such as Team A, Team K, Team B and Team 4 (which currently has 11 members).  Since then, Akimoto has added SKE48 (which performs at the Sunshine Sakae in Nagoya), SND48 created around an “adult idol” concept in 2010, NMB48 (a group which performs at the Yes-Namba Building in Namba, Osaka) and now Akimoto intends to grow the franchise by launching a Taiwan version known as TPE48 and an Indonesian version known as JKT48.

Needless to say, the group has dominated the single and album charts (each single release features different teams performing the songs, which have different arrangements), are featured on many television commercials and magazines and hold the Guinness World Record for “largest pop group”.

And what makes AKB48 so different from other Japanese idol pop groups is that a performer must stay competitive as general elections are held to determine which members will perform on a single and which members would end up on what team formation and who will lead the group.  So, there is healthy competition built upon these different groups which make up AKB48.

For most people, the whole concept of AKB48 may seem confusing or too much to take in, but fortunately, New People Entertainment will be releasing the group’s 2011 documentary “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” on DVD.

The DVD features scenes taken from over 1,000 hours of footage including interviews with several members of AKB48 in 2010.  Including their feelings about being part of the group, the anxiety of leaving a group you have been with for years and joining another, about the competition and elections and also seeing a personal side of a member.

Here are a few things you can expect from a few of the spotlighted AKB48 members in this documentary:

  • Tomomi Kasai – Tomomi discusses being moved to Team B for the 2nd formation and how hard it was to leave her previous team.
  • Sae Miyazawa – Sae of Team K (2nd formation) and being part of the media spotlight and the frustration of not being one of the members who never got the opportunity to speak to media and wants to improve her ranking in order to get noticed.
  • Rino Sashihara – Rino of Team A (5th formation) goes to visit her grandmother who was originally against her joining AKB48.
  • Mayu Watanabe – Mayu of Team B (3rd formation) talks about her love of collecting action figures and drawing but the challenge of wanting to have a better ranking.
  • Tomomi Itano – Tomomi of Team K (1st formation) talks about her love of fashion and eating.  But also taking on a leadership role and her feelings of having to leave Team A, who she had been with for five years.
  • Minami Minegishi – Minami of Team K (1st formation) talks about leaving Team A after being with the group for so many years and joining Team K and thinking about the future.
  • Haruna Kojima – Haruna of Team A (1st formation) talks about preparation for a show and how she looks at herself as average.
  • Rie Kitahara – Rie of Team B (5th formation) talks about her dreams of being a leader and being realistic of her rating.
  • Yuki Kashiwagi – Yuki of Team B (3rd formation) visits her hometown, the first time in four years.
  • Yuko Oshima – Yuko of Team K (2nd formation) talks about being a member of AKB48, not being goody-goody and being a leader.
  • Atsuko Maeda – Atsuko of Team A (1st formation) talks about being voted the #1 member and being a leader in the group and also being busy with her acting career.
  • Mariko Shinoda – Mariko of Team A (1.5 formation) talks about her love for fashion and being one of the mature members of AKB48.
  • Yui Yokoyama – Yui of Team K (9th formation) talks about her approach to making mistakes as an AKB48 member and being a member of the group.
  • Mina Takamina – Mina of Team A (1st formation) talks about being the leader of AKB48 and the challenges that come with having to be the person that leads and expecting the best from each performer.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and in Dolby Digital. 

The picture quality of the DVD is very good, great colors and many outdoor shots featuring a combination of various footage from concerts, theater performances, personal interviews and more.  If anything, because the quality is very good, I hope that New People Entertainment considers releasing this documentary on Blu-ray in the near future.  

Dialogue and music is clear and understandable and English subtitles (which are optional) are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” comes with two theatrical trailers.

In 2007, I had the opportunity to exclusively work with a few of the major Japanese labels of some of Japan’s top female idol groups for interviews and review of their music.

My first introduction to AKB48 was through their first stage album when there was only Team A and Team K.  At the time, I only thought of the group as a theatrical idol group and because they weren’t so popular at the time, I figured that producer Yasushi Akimoto was going a different path than what he did with Onyanko Club and what other producers were doing with their idol groups.

Fastforward to 2011 and not only has he done something different than what other producers have done with their idol groups but he has managed to make AKB48 internationally known.  The group has ventured outside of Japan, performed in the United States, Europe, Asia and I’m quite impressed of how the overall operation has been in cultivating this idol franchise with multiple teams and now building more teams in various countries.

As I have reviewed and interviewed a good number of Japanese idol groups, AKB48 has been an interesting pop group because there are so many people and they move from team-to-team, it’s not easy to casually follow this group, especially if you listen and follow other J-Pop artists, groups and bands.

But when I first heard that “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” was being released in the United States, I was absolutely thrilled.  For one, New People Entertainment is literally bringing out the first J-Pop documentary DVD to the American market.  Two, it’s an AKB48 DVD that has possibilities of extending other AKB48 merchandise or videos for U.S. release and three, it’s a documentary that will help explain how things are with AKB48 and also introducing viewers to a few of the key members of the group.

Granted, not all members of every group are interviewed on this DVD.  That would be too difficult and there is typically a process of how members are featured on a single and possibly on this documentary.  I will say that the most visible members of the group (visible in the fact that I see these members featured on the majority of the TV commercials and publications) are featured in this documentary, these interviews definitely give you a more personal side to the members of AKB48.

For me, it was intriguing to learn how Tomomi Kitano loves to try different types of food (that other’s probably wouldn’t eat), to see Mayu Watanabe so different than the other members because she is a big action figure fan and loves drawing.  But also to see how being member of AKB48 has changed people.

For example, Yuko Oshima who is one of the top-ranked members of the group, ditching her goody-goody side and it was really interesting to hear her talk about her approach to life.  But also to learn more about the leaders of the group, especially Mina Takamina who is the leader of the entire AKB48 and knows that she is in a leadership role where she has to be tough on the members of the group and direct.

And also interesting is how competitive these girls are, especially when it comes to the elections.  With most members of an idol group, they are in the group forever…unless a producer feels they are not popular or are getting old, they make them graduate from the idol group.  But it’s a popularity contest and to see how some girls react when their rank is not as great as they would have hoped, was rather sad but also interesting of how they are encouraged to speak up about their emotions to the audience.  One was Mayu Watanabe looking devastated after being picked as #5 and crying her eyes out and telling the audience how upset she upset she was but wanting to do better.

These “personal” sides of these talents, A&R and management are good to put a squash on things like that in Japan.  To the point that what you know of a member is what management allows them to say to their audience.  But because of these spontaneous elections and then the talent being interviewed about their true feelings, that’s what I loved about “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued”, you get to see a real side to these talents…good and bad.

I’ve watched many documentaries, concerts, and videos of Japanese artists, groups and bands in Japan, and I have to say that “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is the best one that I have seen.  There was dedication in the making of this product.  From following the group for the entire year of 2010, over 1,000 hours shot and personal interviews…most Japanese labels typically don’t wait that long to get a product out (and sometimes, you can tell it was rushed). But in this case, there was no rushing…what you get in this documentary is a year’s worth of footage. And the editing is well-paced and the presentation is sleek, colorful and looks great on DVD (I just wish it was also released on Blu-ray).

Granted, I wish there were special features such as extra interviews that didn’t make the cut or maybe even outtakes but knowing that many of the J-Pop DVD’s or Blu-rays I have reviewed from Japan, rarely do you get special features.

Overall, “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued” is a fantastic documentary on AKB48 that fans will love, especially for those who are new to the group and want to learn more about how AKB48 operates and also learn more about key members of the group.

A delightful, fun and highly entertaining documentary on AKB48 that is highly recommended!







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