Today I went to see an AKB48 concert. To be precise, the event was called ＡＫＢ４８・２０１３真夏のドームツアー（東京ドーム）. In English, that's the 2013 AKB48 Mid-Summer Dome Tour (Tokyo Dome). Tokyo is the last stop on the tour this summer. In no particular order, the group previously visited Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, and Hakata.
This was Sayaka Akimoto's last concert. She graduated from AKB48 after a seven year career that began in early 2006. Sayaka has the same birthday as me, though I did not know this until today. One remarkable characteristic of concerts in Japan is the lack of applause. The fans here will almost never applaud between songs, though they might at the end. Generally speaking, audience members are disinclined to shout out random things to the performers. For any major performing group, typically there is a group of diehard fans. They know what needs to be shouted, when certain colors of glow sticks are to be used, and the words to all of the music. In addition, most songs have some element of audience participation — like suppose the audience repeats a phrase or answers a question that the singers sing. This is slightly unnerving because if you've never seen the group live or watched the live DVD, how would you know? Indeed you would not know these things, and therefore you run the choice of ignoring the unwritten and undocumented rules, which gets you weird looks, or you try to copy the people around you who have done the proper amount of pre-concert viewing homework. My Japanese friends asked me if this kind of phenomenon existed in America and I said no, probably in America people are more inclined to yell when they feel like yelling, clap when they feel like clapping, and anyway they are unlikely to overly concern themselves with (or perhaps would even embrace) stares of disapproval from fellow audience members.
The Tokyo Dome is normally a baseball stadium. The main stage was set up along the front of the stadium. It had a multitude of platforms and three large screens so those of us farther away could get closeup views. There were three sub stages connected by two two hundred yard elevated narrow walkways. Though the group AKB48 is called AKB48, there are in fact far more than forty eight members. AKB48 is composed of three teams: Team A, Team K, and Team B. Each team has something like twenty members. And there is another group which may or may not be counted as a proper part of AKB48, depending who you ask, called the "Research Team" which appears to have thirty members. So the AKB48 girls alone number somewhere close to one hundred. For some songs, they are all on the stage at the same time, though for other songs, just one team sings. And several times in the concert, AKB48 along with their three sister groups all got on stage and danced around. My seat was at the front of the balcony.
AKB48 has a no picture rule. I ignored it a little, as you can see, but in the interest of not getting thrown out, only a little. Sorry. It would have been great to get some video ... but perhaps a truly devoted fan would buy the DVD. AKB48 was born in Akihabara, which is the computer and video game suburb of Tokyo, and by extension the center of geekdom for all of Japan. Using the word "geekdom" is perhaps unwise, or at least misleading, because people who don't know might assume that all geeks band together. In reality, though, there are many factions, if you want to call them that, and each faction has different goals. For example, some people are into video games, others are into computer games, and yet others are into maid cafes. Some geeks like to dress up in costume, called "cosplay", and go to conventions where they can show off their outfits. This is not to mention the people who play X-rated video games, of which there are apparently a surprisingly large number (of people and games). Comically or tragically, depending on your view, some of these X-rated video games are later made into PG-13 rated anime. Is this just coincidence, or are we being trolled? I don't know. In addition, some geeks like to buy plastic figures from anime or movies (both normal and X-rated), and others like to build plastic models. A few people, such as myself, are more interested in using computers to program, do photo editing, or make videos. And of course there is a fair amount of crossover. Heck, if you like video games, well hey, maybe you'd also like to go to a cafe and have a young woman in a black and white dress call you "master" and draw hearts in ketchup on your omelet.
It was a three hour show. AKB48 performed, as did three of their sister groups: SKE48, HKT48, and NMB48. I don't know much about the sister groups except that they're in other cities (Osaka, Hakata, and Nagoya, perhaps) and are not as famous. AKB48 was born in Akihabara, and they had several different points of appeal. First of all, they're a large group of young women. This means there are a relatively large number of male fans. Apparently it is socially acceptable for a thirty five year old businessman to be an open fan of fifteen year old girls wearing school uniforms with high socks and short skirts. The group uses many other costumes as well, though to my eyes, those tend to be slightly less scandalous than the school girl outfits. And anyway, by now many of the members are in their mid twenties, seeing as how the group has been around since 2006. Though the number of male fans is high, there are a very real number of female fans, too. I read that the production company made a point to cast a wide variety of ladies, and in particular they made no effort to get the cutest looking faces out there. It was said by some people I know that they were aiming for the third cutest student in class. That lets them get female fans as well as male ones, or so it is claimed, because the average Japanese high school student can relate to the group members. Or, to phrase it negatively... Hell, if we only hire hotties, all those ugly girls will hate our music, so let's cast our net low and wide. Reel in the fans! But this is all speculation, and perhaps there is not much merit in it. After all, it is said that the five or ten most popular members of the group are very attractive (except for that lunatic who shaved her head ... now only softball players and judo practitioners are into her), so maybe the production company only casts a small number of cute ladies in order to keep group leadership unambiguous. Or perhaps the production company values dancing ability more than cheekbone structure and nose length, and what we actually have is a representative cross section of qualified-at-dancing applicants. Regardless of how the members are chosen, what are you going to do — curse at the record company for making a group whose records sell? Incidentally, the scheme AKB48 uses to sell records is well considered. Every year, fans vote on their favorite members. There is a TV special where each member is ranked. The member with the most votes is the "center member" for the year, and she will no doubt appear on TV and in magazines a lot. But in order to vote, you can't just be a fan. Instead, the group releases one or more singles prior to the election, and included in each CD is a ballot. Highly motivated fans can purchase multiple copies just to cast multiple votes. Kudos to the AKB48 business managers.
According to AKBタイムズ, the set list was as follows.
今日のセトリ 影アナ：秋元才加 M01.RIVER M02.Beginner 横山チームA M03.UZA 大島チームK M04.風は吹いている 梅田チームB M05.フライングゲット※秋元才加センター M06.スキ！スキ！スキップ！ HKT48 M07.ピノキオ軍 SKE48 M08.HA！ NMB48 M09.少女たちよ 全員 MC1.総ちゃん1周年！ M10.青春ガールズ 大島チームK M11.最終ベルが鳴る 大島チームK M12.ウッホウッホホ 大島チームK M13.初日 梅田チームB M14.正義の味方じゃないヒーロー 梅田チームB M15.チームB推し 梅田チームB M16.ただいま恋愛中 横山チームA M17.ずっとずっと 横山チームA M18.重力シンパシー 横山チームA MC M19.スカート、ひらり （秋元才加、梅田彩佳、大島優子、小林香菜、宮澤佐江） M20.転がる石になれ（秋元才加、梅田彩佳、大島優子、小林香菜、宮澤佐江） M21.僕の太陽 全員 M22.草原の奇跡 全員 MC (ゆうこ、それレバーじゃないから。冷静なさやか) M23.LOVE修行 AKB48研究生 M24.そばかすのキス HKT48 M25.メロンジュース HKT48 M26.僕らのユリイカ NMB48 M27.オーマイガー NMB48 M28.美しい稲妻 SKE48 M29.1234ヨロシク！ SKE48 M30.Blue rose (秋元才加、倉持明日香、宮澤佐江、近野莉菜） M31.愛の意味を考えてみた UG M32.推定マーマレード FG M33.今度こそエクスタシー NG MC M34.ポニーテールとシュシュ AKB選抜 ※ピアノ前奏：松井咲子 M35.真夏のSounds good AKB選抜 M36.Everyday、カチューシャ AKB選抜 M37.大声ダイヤモンド AKB選抜+AKB正規 M38.ギンガムチェック AKB選抜+AKB正規 M39.ひこうき雲 全員 M40.会いたかった 全員 M41.ヘビーローテーション 全員 M42.さよならクロール 全員 本編終了 EN1.虫のバラード（秋元才加） MC EN2.強さと弱さの間で（秋元、梅田、大島優、小林香、宮澤、大堀、増田、野呂、河西、松原） EN3.To be continued（秋元、梅田、大島優、小林香、宮澤、大堀、増田、野呂、河西、松原） EN4.恋するフォーチュンクッキー 総選挙選抜 EN5.ファースト・ラビット 全員 EN6.AKBフェスティバル 全員 東京ドーム1日目終了 21:10終演