The following should most likely not be taken too seriously given that the premise is a bit thin to begin with. But if you can take something useful or informative out if it, good for you.
AKB48 released their latest single Kuchibiru ni Be My Baby just as 2015 and their 10th anniversary year nears its end. The song recorded their lowest first day sales since 2011’s Sakura no Ki ni Naoru with 813,044 copies. The first week sales topped out at 905,490 breaking the much-hyped million-seller streak.
Seeing how Takahashi Minami’s graduation single accomplished this feat actually reminds me of another streak that was recently broken. I am going to delve into the world of professional wrestling here and those who follow it probably have an idea of where I’m going to go. If you don’t, well I guess I’ll do my best to try make this as relevant to AKB48’s streak ending as I can without getting too deep or having to refer you to historical documents of some sort or making you sign up for WWE Network.
It’s over. Done. Finished.
In the world of professional wrestling there is a streak of importance that fans have latched on to over the years. That is the Undertaker’s winning record at the WWE’s biggest PPV, Wrestlemania.
“The Streak” as it became to be known was a series of 21 straight victories starting in 1991 at Wrestlemania 7, when the Undertaker defeated Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. The final victory in the series was against CM Punk at Wrestlemania 29 in 2013.
As the years went by this became an attraction and a pivotal moment of Wrestlemania. A win over the Undertaker at the event was considered an honor even greater than winning the world championship. 18 men tried and failed to defeat the dead man until the match at Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans. The streak finally ended when Brock Lesnar defeated an older and worn down Undertaker after a very slow and lethargic match.
Fans were stunned and shocked at this turn of events and the WWE played this up by displaying the “21-1” graphic on the displays in the Superdome and cutting to various shots of crowd reactions before the Undertaker left the ring to a standing ovation.
Now that you have a bit of history of what “The Streak” is let’s now get to how it relates to AKB48’s own streak.
Takamina took AKB48 to Suplex City
AKB48’s million-seller streak began with their 21st single Everyday, Kachuusha. Their final single to sell one million in the first week was their 41st single Halloween Night. 20 singles in a row that have sold that many copies immediately is impressive to look at on paper.
When Takahashi Minami was named center for AKB48’s 42nd single, Kuchibiru ni Be My Baby there was the assumption that the good times would continue given that it was the last one to feature her as an official member of the group before her graduation. After all, who would not want to support the general manager on her farewell single? Yet, it was not meant to be.
Every AKB48 single since the million-seller streak started has been expected to sell that much at minimum every debut week regardless of whether the actual song merited or even deserved that number of sales or not. That fact is probably the most divisive and subjective among those who like to debate such topics. Add in other factors including the gimmicks such as handshake, 2-shot tickets, Sousenkyo votes, etc. that helped push the additional units and you probably have hours of arguing on the Internet to partake in.
Whether this streak ending is on the level of the Undertaker’s is probably an incredibly far stretch other than the comparable numbers of consecutive successes during their respective peak time periods. Sure, both streaks went on longer than they should have and created some unrealistic expectations and/or apathy among the fans but unlike the wrestling world, there is not a scripted back story to explain what happened to AKB48.
There’s no such thing as a grand conspiracy theory story line where Takamina’s graduation was held back intentionally so she could kill the streak (and motivate her kohai to start a new legacy) before riding off into the sunset. Nor was there some sort of setup where her final single was made incredibly generic on purpose. Anyone with somewhat decent hearing can tell a lot of current AKB48 singles are recycled versions of previous successful formulas with the one oddball single thrown in for good measure.
It’s just the inevitable end that was slowly coming given the quality of the singles that were being pumped out. Sorry AKB fans, you were not being worked by Aki-P.
Then again, idol and wrestling fans are similar in their over reactions to anything major happening in their worlds. You only have to look at discussions in either of the fan communities to figure that out. Who knows? It is possible that AKB fans are being worked given how emotionally involved they can be in just about everything no matter how insignificant it is. That blind devotion does make one susceptible to being played.
Who do I yell at for this travesty of justice?
So who or what is to blame for AKB48’s million-seller streak ending? Do you place it squarely on the center? Do you point the finger at the producers for not creating a more epic song as the swan song for one of the founding members of the group? Or is it you the fan who did not have enough interest in the song to make a multitude of purchases?
Maybe it’s a combination of it all. Then again does it really matter? What’s done is done. Time to move on to a new plan. Which if you’ve been following current news, does not reek of awesomeness but of something fishier. What’s the word? Oh yeah, desperation.