The following is inspired by a series of posts on International Wota. What I am about to say may or most likely will offend anyone involved in this issue. Much like last time, I will apologize in advance, but I’m calling things as I see them.
H!P vs. AKB48
There has been an ever escalating tension growing among fans of the idol groups. Particularly those of Hello! Project and AKB48. At first fans of both groups played nice & were generally cordial with eachother. This was because the upstart AKB48 were not taken as a serious threat to the mighty H!P empire. But things changed and slowly AKB48 started to gain popularity while H!P started to go into a decline.
Hello! Project’s downward spiral started a long time ago but was accelerated when the Elder Club was graduated en masse in early 2009. Gone were the core group of women who were so popular with many H!P fans and the general Japanese public. The ones who had carried H!P to greatness during the golden era were replaced by younger and equally (or more) talented idols.
Unfortunately this newer generation of H!P is for the most part unknown to the general Japanese public (but are very well known to wota). These young women are expected to continue the H!P legacy and take the company to new heights. Without the publics favor it’s a long uphill climb back to the top of the girl idol group mountain. Who are queens of the mountain? Well at the moment it’s AKB48.
You see AKB48 has everything that H!P once had during their peak. Television exposure, high sales and most importantly they are fresh to the general public. Their presence on Kouhaku (which had a lack of any H!P in 2009) is proof enough that they have everyone in their pockets. Not only do they have that but they are also gaining the support of disenchanted H!P fans. The ones who think the group is going too young to the point where they can’t relate anymore. Or those who think that Tsunku has lost touch with the current pop scene and is just re-hashing ideas.
This is where things get really messy because many long time H!P fans are treating this move to AKB as a defection and are labeling their former comrades as traitors. AKB fans are welcoming these new fans with open arms since it strengthens their numbers and re-enforces the fact that AKB is here to stay. Then there are those who are neutral and can equally enjoy the both groups for what they are. When you break it down they both cater to the same audience anyway, just in different ways.
Some may accuse AKB’s approach to be somewhat less pure and more adult oriented. Like it or not you can’t deny that it’s working quite well. You have many people flocking to that theater in Akihabara every day so they must be doing something right. The fact that they have a group like SDN48 to cater to those who like the more mature idol is quite interesting. There’s also the regular stages that conform to the conventional idol mold yet have that AKB twist.
H!P on the other hand is very corporate in their approach and really stick the idea of keeping their idols pure and innocent. It’s an established formula that has been around forever & they have adapted it to their business model quite well. While they may not have the large sales numbers of their glory days they still sell enough to not have to do a complete overhaul of their system.
Yet no one can agree who the queen bees of the girl group idols are (although it’s pretty damn obvious). Nor can anyone find a comfortable middle ground. This is the root cause of the ever widening division between fans. For some reason you must choose one or the other. Neutrality will only get you pressure from both camps until you bend to their will. Both sides will try to convince you that their idols are prettier, have better songs and are the better package. You will be bombarded with video, audio and pic spam links accompanied by long (and often boring) spiels. You will be invited to join forums to get a taste of the culture of the fandom (& read bashing of the enemy). It’s up to you to choose your path.
But what if you’re already involved in one of the fandoms?
The popular opinion is that H!P fans are the instigators. They are the murderous, blood thirsty mercenaries attacking the tree hugging, peace loving forest fairies that are AKB fans.
They are envious of the success that AKB is currently enjoying and would like nothing better than to see the entire group fail. Any mention of the three letters and they go into angry tirades (factual or not) pages/hours long to discredit their rival. Even if no one is paying attention.
That doesn’t mean AKB fans are off the hook. You too are guilty of instigating through passive aggressive behavior. Goading wounded H!P fans into arguments they can’t possibly win. Flaunting AKB’s accomplishments while at the same time claiming to be victimized by any rebuttals you receive. Using backhanded language that compliments & insults H!P at the same time. It’s not right to fling poo at your opponent when their back is turned you know.
Points of Contention
A lot of the points people argue about are so superficial and stupid that it blows my mind that things have escalated to the levels they’re at now. Should people really be fighting over who has the prettier idols? It’s so subjective that it shouldn’t even matter. No one will ever agree on that point.
Lip syncing. Normally I dislike this practice but considering that some of the dance routines both groups do are challenging & would affect the live vocals in ways that would make even a dogs ear bleed. Well.. I’ll let that one slide & you should too if you value your hearing.
Type of music is something that is hotly debated. Some favor AKB because they are taking risks with their songs. Others favor H!P because they enjoy the relative safety of their songs & usually know what they’re going to get. For me I don’t really give a damn who sings the song as long as it’s good.
Both groups generally put out the same kind of music and have also released some real stinkers (I have no idea why anyone thinks River or early Mano Eri is good). If a song sucks, it sucks. Simple as that. Don’t let your blind allegiance fool you into thinking otherwise.
If you think about it, this such a minor (and extremely stupid) thing to be fighting over. It makes us Western J-Pop fans look like immature Internet retards. We all love our idols and to be pitting them against one another is counter productive. Fans should be respectful of who one decides to follow and idolize. And in no way should they try to impose their point of view on others if people don’t want any part of it. There are plenty of fans for idol groups and it’s not hard to find those who are into the same groups as you.
This isn’t a war. There are no people impaled with glow sticks & sharpened photo cards. Friends & families aren’t being torn apart by it & there aren’t protests asking us to stop the violence & think of the children. It also isn’t a big happy party where everyone gets along. Tensions will rise, allegiances will be tested and many will fail to comprehend the sheer dumbassery of it all before it’s too late. There are more important issues relevant to Western J-Pop fans that need our attention & this isn’t one of them.