So with this blog I’m hoping to pick out some things that people in American might believe are strictly Otaku themed things, but in actuality have entered the mainstream, are maybe just more common then you might think or even simply just aren’t a big deal for, lack of a better term, you might think of as “non-Otaku” people.
The first topic will be AKB48. So about 6 years ago when they were more or less first starting out AKB48 was your prototypical Otaku bait. They were an Akiba niche. Young girls, in schools uniforms, singing catchy pop songs. Back then they were certainly just your basic Otaku group with an audience that was probably 20 and 30 year old guys, but oh how things have changed. Now AKB is the single biggest pop group in Japan with any single they release instantly jumping to #1 on the singles charts (recently also crushing records for sales). They are everywhere, TV commercials and dramas, movies, magazine and comic covers, guests on TV shows, hosting their own TV show. They went from a local, niche pop group to one that everyone in Japan knows of. If all that isn’t mainstream it’s hard to say what is. Perhaps now even more surprising is the audience they are pulling in. Their male audience has broadened to more then just Akiba 20 and 30 something fans, to reach younger and older people and people who wouldn’t visit Akiba. Their popularity hasn’t just spread with males, the number of female followers they have is growing. Perhaps this could also simply do with the fact that the group is obviously getting older. It's not just a bunch of kids singing pop songs. Now you have 20 something girls who are becoming celebrities.
Perhaps one of the most striking realizations of this was during their annual live member ranking announcement. This is where the results are shown of the top 40 most popular members of the group as voted on by fans. This year I believe it was being in the top 22 got the girl a spot in the video for their new single, but being in the top… 16 is key. Now I will say I do like AKB, but I don’t know all the little details. I believe the top 16 have a special name and these are the girls who will be featured in front during videos and live appearances and what not. Being #1 is a huge deal. All that aside though this event got major coverage on nightly news shows… imagine this. Your local ABC evening news is showing video of the AKB rankings event. The best part is that they showed reaction shots from people who were watching it in bars and other areas. It was like when they show reaction shots of people watching the Superbowl in a bar and everyone goes crazy when a touchdown is scored. It was like that, but with idols.
There popularity has spawned a large number of "sister" groups in different cities. There's SKE, NMB, SDN and another group is being added as well. So while their core fans are still what you'd expect. AKB isn't simply just an Otaku only group.