NOTE: The final results of this show are already well known so who made it in isn’t really anything new. This recap will follow the same pattern as previous articles where the process of how they got to the end will be of more interest. At the end there will be some commentary about the members who made the final cut just because. If you want more opinions about this entire season of Produce 101 you can also check out our podcast about the show as well.

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The final episode of Produce 48 started with flashbacks to the many moons past where the trainees were fresh-faced hopefuls who had yet to face the trials of the show. Audition videos of the remaining finalists flashed across the screen. The amount of experience each Korean trainee had varied from 1 year to 6 years. The Japanese trainees from AKB48 had longer tenures ranging from 7 to 10 years of experience as performers.

Despite their differences they all had a common dream, experiencing similar hardships along the way to make it to the finale of Produce 48.

After the flashbacks the live show officially started with Lee Seung Gi asking the people to vote for their favourite followed by a video explaining how to do exactly that. Once all the formalities were done with it was time for the first performance of the night. “Pick Me” started with the top 20 performing the first verse and chorus in Korean. The 76 eliminated trainees then appeared on stage to perform from the Japanese verses until the end of the song.

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Before the start of the evaluation Lee Seung Gi went through the voting rules again just in case hammering it in the live audience and viewers heads at the beginning was not enough the first time. He also announced the name of the completed group to be IZ*ONE in an overly dramatic fashion.

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The final lessons and rehearsals for the debut evaluation followed next. The “We Together” team were in the studio recording their parts for the song. Much like in the last evaluation the producers of the song were checking to see who would best fit each part. Yu Jin impressed everyone with her vocal ability hitting the difficult high note in the song easily.

When it came for Miyu to try she missed the mark going off key for the high note. After hearing the producers recommendations the team decided to sing the high note section in harmony to make up for any vocal defects. It still gave Miyu a chance to be the main vocalist but put less pressure on her to when it came to singing that particular part of the song.

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Min Ju ended up having issues with the choreography for the song continually going out of sync with the rest of the members. With a lot of practice she managed to fix her synchronicity issue receiving praise from the trainers for doing a good job and showing off more energy than before.

The competition for center position was full of shameless self-promoting in front of the trainers. After filming each person in the role the team gathered in a room to watch, assess and debate about whom they thought fit the criteria for centering the song. It came down to Yu Ri and Chae Yeon as the top two vote getters and in the end the latter was revealed to have won the position for the live performance.

The actual performance was a bubbly and fun one and the big high note moment went as intended. The plan to harmonize worked out preventing any disastrous off key moments.

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The team performing “Suki ni Nacchau Darou” started off with getting their dancing checked by the trainers. They were praised for their high energy and eye catching facial expressions. After that each member took turns at the center position.

Each person brought their own style and it was hard for the trainers to give them advice. They basically told everyone in the group to not fuck up (in a nice way) so they would have the best chance to be in that position at the live finale. This team went through the same video evaluation and debate about who would best fit for center.

There was a lot “kawaii” for this group as each member did their best to embody the mood of the song. With that in mind there were a lot of strong candidates on this team. The top two for center came down Ye na and Sakura with the former winning her first center position on the show.

“Suki ni Nacchau Darou” had the whole cutesy J-Pop vibe written all over it and Ye Na was definitely the right choice to front the group when it came to that. This was very similar to the first evaluation song performance where there was a lot of high spirit and boundless energy throughout.

The final performance of the night was a song created by Lee Gi and Yong Bae called “While Dreaming”. They asked the trainees to think about their time together dreaming of debuting and to sing the song with a sense of warmth. Unlike the other songs on the finale so far this was a ballad so it allowed some of the stronger vocalists to flex their diva muscles a little while others let the tears flow as the song reached its climax.

Lastly, the moment the trainees and fans of the show were waiting for arrived with the announcement of the final 12 members who made the cut. Similar to previous rankings the lowest ranked member was announced last for that dramatic effect.

The final rankings ending up being:

11 – Kim Min Ju (Urban Works)
10 – Kim Chae Won (Woolim Entertainment)
9 – Honda HItomi (AKB48)
8 – Kang Hye Won (8D Creative)
7 – Kwon Eun Bi (Woolim Entertainment)
6 – Yabuki Nako (HKT48)
5 – Ahn Yu Jin (Starship Entertainment)
4 – Choi Ye Na (Yue Hua)
3 – Jo Yu Ri (Stone Music Entertainment)
2 – Miyawaki Sakura (HKT48)
1 – Jang Won Young (Starship Entertainment)

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The race for 12th place ended up being between Han Cho Won, Lee Chae Yeon. Lee Ka Eun and Miyazaki Miho. Miho placed 15th, and Lee Ka Eun placed 14th leaving Cho Won and Chae Yeon as the final two candidates for the last spot.

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And the last trainee to join was Lee Chae Yeon from WM Entertainment.

Well the final line up of IZ*ONE was certainly high on the cuteness. Looking back at at the first four members voted in there was no way this was going to be a “sexy” type of group. Otherwise you would have members like Lee Ka Eun, Shiroma Miru, Takahashi Juri and Han Cho Won making the final cut instead.

And common sense would have no Big Baby in a “sexy” type of group whatsoever. I would think that if Matsui Jurina did not go back to her home planet to heal from her earthly afflictions (see end of the video for AKB48’s “Sentimental Train”) she probably would have taken one of the Japanese members spots in IZ*ONE.

In the end the viewers demanded young and innocent and with the exception of Kwon Eun Bi (who is of Japanese idol retirement age) they got exactly what they wanted. The fact that Jo Yu Ri made it into this group might be a shock to some. There were several powerhouse vocalists to choose from in the final 20 but when you see who is surrounding her she fits the mould of the group the best.

What has me perplexed is that two of the same type of girl are in IZ*ONE. I am speaking of the awkward and pretty Kim Min Ju and South Korean Hip-Hop MC legend in the making Kang Hye Won. On paper they are very similar and only time will tell if they will be able to cultivate some interesting personas. 

When I first started watching this show I was looking to see some Japanese idols get exposed for their lack of training compared to their K-Pop counterparts. And I did get that in the early episodes in spades. Once the numbers of trainees started to dwindle down and the cream started to rise to the top I had more interest in the individual competitors who I thought should make the final 12.

Overall this was an entertaining show to watch. Other than another idol group to follow I believe this show re-ignited my dormant interest in K-Pop again thanks to some of the songs that were covered by the trainees. I don’t know if this collaboration between the 48’s and Produce 101 will result in a second try at repeating this successful experiment. If anything this is most likely a one-off and the fourth season of Produce 101 will go back to the status quo.