Well, what a better way to spend your duly earned vacation leave than to watch and review something that has been out for a month now.
I don’t care if it’s been a month since the June 27th premier date as it’s better to review a show once the hype has been settled in my opinion.
So without further ado, AKB48 Asia Fest 2021 aka the first virtual Asia Fest in 48g history and the first one since 2019 as 2020 pulled a Vince Russo and screwed us over with COVID-19.
The show itself is being held at Tokyo Dome, home to New Japan Pro Wrestling’s January 4th shows and All Japan Pro Wrestling’s 25th anniversary PPV aka the best wrestling PPV in 1998 Japan, and while only the mother group is the only one can be seen at the Dome, the others are presented via online video.
The show opens with a banger intro and with the all the participating groups singing “Aitakatta” and boy was that a surprise. I never expected that to be the opening song, probably because it’s the one all the groups have already covered.
AKB48 Team TP
First on the list, AKB48 Team TP (Taipei) with a performance being held at a basketball court. I’m not that well versed into AKB48 post Atsuko Maeda so I don’t know the title of the first song they performed (now I know it’s Yumeno Ruuto) but I kinda liked the beat of it and the sports themed uniforms really fit the place they’re performing in. Just to segue into another point, why didn’t Akimoto named the team “TPE48” or “TWN48”?
Does it have to do with appeasing Xi Jinping as the relationship between China and Taiwan is not that good? We will never know do we. In between performances, they insert montages of archive footage of Team TP’s shenanigans and I think that’s cute.
After answering a question regarding the similarities between Japan and Taiwan, they end their segment with a video of them singing Sakura no Hanabiratachi in Taiwanese. A fitting end I presume but I’d say that it would be better to put that song like at the very end of the concert but we’re just at the 20 minute mark on this almost four hour concert so I might eat my words when we get to the end.
We go back to Tokyo Dome with the AKB48 performing Aidoru Nante Yobanaide complete with WWE-tier holographic CGI with a carnival motif. This is the first time I’ve heard the song and this is going to my download list after I finish this write up. I just kinda laughed at the CGI because it reminded me on how bad WWE CGI is.
Now we move with the first idol group in the Philippines since HHE wants to retcon Kawaii 5’s existence. The segment opens with Sheki saying that they want to go to Mt. Fuji once COVID is over (again, life swerves us with the Delta variant). Unlike Team TP’s stage, they performed in an open field and they started with High Tension. Unlike their ASAP performance, at least it’s obvious that they’re singing here.
Unlike Team TP where they pre-recorded their performance, MNL48 decided to do it live and that is why their costume fits First Rabbit more than High Tension. They followed it up with their original song, Hashlove in acapella then leading into an acapella version of Green Flash complete with CGI fireworks and then capping off with Koisuru Fortune Cookie, in acapella of course. Nice move on your part, MNL48 and I really liked the uniqueness of said performance.
It might not seem like it, considering that HalloHallo is back to it’s McMahonian ways (note to self: ENOUGH WITH THE PRO WRESTLING REFERENCES!!), it seems that for once, HHE gave the girls creative freedom on this one and the gang didn’t disappoint us with this one heck of a performance and Sheki is really killing it with those beatboxing skills.
They end their segment with the current single, River, but without the beatboxing this time. Again, the costume choice really doesn’t fit the song but that’s beside the point now as River is what I call a good ending song on the first half of your concert.
Back at the Tokyo Dome again with Himawari and the song, for some odd reason, reminds me more of something FIELD OF VIEW would release than AKB48 would. I mean sure, anybody can release a song with a pop rock beat but drop the pitch to a few notches and it’s something you would hear in the mid-1990s. I really can imagine Uya(x) Asaoka singing this song during the whole performance.
It’s our friends from Indonesia’s turn. After some talking about fruits, they open with another song to be added on the download list: Darashinai Aishikata and it’s a return to pre-recorded performances (or is it a live performance because it really looks like a pre-recorded one to me).
If the interlude song reminds me of FIELD OF VIEW, this song reminds me of CODA aka the band who did the opening songs for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure parts 2 and 5 and the motif for this performance reminds me more of Kaguya-sama: Love is War and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kaguya’s TV adaptation gets a third season, this would be a great candidate for an opening song.
Next on the set list, 109 (marukyuu). I don’t get why is it titled as such as one hundred and nine reads more as hyakuku or hyakukyuu in Japanese (JKT48 stans, correct me if this is some Indonesian thing and not a Japanese one or if there’s another reading for 109 that I don’t know). I would also put this in the “Kaguya-sama season 3 song” pile as it really screams Love is War.
Virgin Love, on the other hand, just needs some tweaks and it can be retrofitted into a Super Sentai song or leave it as it is, it’s a Lupin III song. Rapsodi, is something you would hear on a local radio station on Saturday afternoons and it’s a great way to calm the audience down after three straight songs of pure energy.
Now back to the Tokyo Dome and AKB48 performs Kioku no Dilemma. The song is okay, the CGI this time reminds me of those Hatsune Miku Project DIVA games Sega would churn out when Vocaloid fandom is it’s peak bad it really has this weird motif with stopwatches and Roman Numerals and all that cyberpunk stuff.
Southeast Asia is on a roll here as it’s now Thailand’s turn to perform and this is not the only Thai 48g group here. CGM48’s performance is your typical idol group performance and nothing more but what sets them apart from the previous three groups is that they wore face masks during the performance.
Before you type in and say “but John, Team TP also wore face masks”, yes I know that Team TP wore face masks but that’s just for the introduction video and not for the whole set list. I don’t know about you dear reader but this performance really felt a bit lackluster and it might have something to do with the fact that their face masks obstruct their lip movement in terms of singing that it felt that they’re lip syncing. I don’t doubt their talents and all that but that face mask thing really takes something away from the performance.
On a positive note, the last song on the list, CGM48, reminds me of Asereje that I just wanted to dance to it for the lulz and that like MNL48 before them, this really felt like a live performance with the lack of costume changes.
Back to Tokyo Dome, people. They are singing Namida no Hyomen Choryoku and the only thing I can comment on is that on the background image and knowing who’s next on the set list, it might feel like a red herring to some.
AKB48 Team SH
After telling the audience about kids being into TikTok, we go back to East Asia for Team SH, the more popular Chinese 48g team. The opening song, Qian Qiu Ling, is what I would call a Chinese 48g song because you can hear some of the CPop elements on it but not to the point that it overpowers the 48g part of it.
The next three songs are your regular AKB48 covers so nothing special with that and with that said, I would focus instead on how Team SH is the most coordinated in terms of choreography as in their synchronization is near perfect albeit there are times that you can see timing errors on how they execute their moves and such but it’s as minimal as it can get and that they can sense timing like a military unit with daily drills.
The train sequence during Kurayami is funny to look at. It’s like they’re back at being kids again for a second playing choo choo train.
The only negative I can see with Team SH is that it seems they put too much make up that most of them looked pale when under the stage lights at least for some of the members.
No more AKB48 interludes at the Tokyo Dome this time as we move next to Saigon 48 but first, they showed something what I would call Zaiko’s answer to superchats or something.
SGO48 would follow Team Taiwan’s steps and that their performance will be aired as a pre-recorded performance because Corona. After some talking about subway trains, they opened with…their version of the CGM48 theme song.
Is this like a 48g theme song or something because if it is, why didn’t MNL48 or Team TP or anybody else sang a version of this song, not just on this one event but anywhere else? Help me out here 48g stans as I am quite really confused.
Fan favorite song Heavy Rotation is part of the set list and I liked how they presented this like in pseudo-240p, although the original Heavy Rotation music video was released in an era where DVDs are the de-facto standard for physical media, it feels like a late 1990s music video.
Also, it’s a coincidence that both Manila and Saigon would have the same two songs on their set list (Koisuru Fortune Cookie and River) and I liked the first half of their KFC video because it really looked like a gag music video. For River, whoever designed the girls’ wardrobe for this one must be a giant fan of Tetsuya Nomura because it’s all belts and zippers from here.
The color motif reminds me of Fire Force for some reason but without the color blue (at least for Kaycee and Mon who wore the black jackets, the rest reminded me of what would idol groups would wear in music videos….in 1999.)
One last detour to the Tokyo Dome and we have all seven sister groups are involved on this one for some reason because it has something to do with asking them about the traditional festivals they chose. It’s understandable for groups for Team SH and Team TP because they’re technically separate countries but this is where my question of “why would Thailand need two 48g groups” come in.
Is it some logistics decision on Vernalossom’s part? Does it have to do with Thailand’s laws? I don’t know because we’re almost at the home stretch on this concert. We still have an hour left.
Also, I almost forgot that there are seven sister groups on this concert because they forgot to put a video camera for JKT48 and I initially wrote six sister groups. Nice job to whoever forgot to put a video camera for JKT48 for this segment although it’s just a minor inconvenience.
Another thing, Crayon Shin-chan? They just mentioned Crayon Shin-chan out of the blue. Why? Also, they skipped SGO48 for the Fantastic Festival segment.
They also announced that AKB48 is on TikTok, and they also presented the winners of the TikTok competition that took place on the days leading up to this concert and the first place goes to…
As for the introductions for Bangkok 48, theirs would be that they’re the first place winners of the TikTok competition with a score of 50,929,661 points. A whopping 25 million point difference from the second place winner who, coincidentally, is their sisters from another mother (CGM48). Talk about a grand introduction right there.
D-Aaa might be another candidate on my “songs to download” list and it’s because it reminds me of the early Heisei-era songs that I would listen to on my music playlist or on Japanese radio. Also, you can dance and bang your head to it at the same time. Just like CGM48 before them, they wore face masks for the whole duration of their performance so the whole “face masks removing a little bit of the believability of their performance” still applies here but where CGM48 lacks, BNK48 excels with their presentation with their choreography and with a little bit of those camera cuts.
Their version of Only Today is a little bit mellow/bubblegum pop-ish compared to Team TP’s version (maybe because BNK48 might be using the original song or their own version of the song). Oogoe Diamond is kind of familiar to me by name but now that I’ve heard the song, it reminds me of some Japanese song from the 1990s that I forgot the name of but nonetheless, BNK48 nailed this song on the head because their rendition of it is superb coupled with the synchronization as great as Team SH’s in terms of choreography.
They end their set with an original song Dode-Di-Dong and with Thailand’s history with Kamen Rider and Ultraman, Dode-Di-Dong reminds me of 1970s tokusatsu opening songs complete with grainy footage and practical effects and Koorogi ’73 vocals.
We’re now onto the final leg of this almost four-hour concert. Of course they have the most bombastic intro out of all the groups because they’re AKB48 and the rest are not.
If you’re like me who watched the concert in the wee hours of the morning (hence the title), Koi no Onawa should get your spirits up (and everybody else’s ) because it’s energetic in a traditional way and what would be the better way to follow up said performance than with my personal favorite, Flying Get? None. Just kidding, my personal bias is showing up here.
Since we’re now back on the Tokyo Dome for the rest of the show, and because they’re AKB48, they can go full blast with those holographic CGI objects and yes, it still looks like something from those Project DVIA games I’ve mentioned earlier.
After some introductions, a second team performs Chime wa Love Song complete with floral outfits that makes you think you’re in Hawaii and you’ll also notice the return of the “superchats” on the background video. HA! Sees the return of WWE tier CGI with fireballs raining down on the group coupled with fans with the syllable “HA” on it. The song also goes to the “Kaguya-sama season 3 song candidates” playlist.
In terms of choreography, years of experience really shows on how they move in coordination with the music. If you think Team SH’s choreography is in sync, that’s just child’s play for AKB48. I know it’s stating the obvious and yes, it is stating the obvious but when you pay attention to what’s on the stage, you can really see the differences in the little stuff.
I don’t know if you notice it but this is also the only time the Tokyo Dome audience seems to be the most lively it’s ever been. It’s not as lively as your usual idol concert audience would be only on the AKB48 section did I see the audience had the most movement during the whole four hour concert.
The whole concert ends with 365nichi no Kamihikouki with all the groups singing the song. I know I would eat my words that I said at the beginning of this write up because this is as great as using SUMMER SUSPICION or Hadashi no Megami as the final song of your set list.
This year’s Asia Festival is a roller coaster ride of music showcasing the talents of the 48g groups all around the world although I would say that four hours might be a bit too long for a concert of this magnitude, three hours would be enough of a runtime in my opinion.
Aside from AKB48 of course, MNL, Team SH, SGO, and JKT stole the show. In fact, I would give MNL48 kudos for this one not because I am a Filipino, but because out of all the sister groups (and in this case, AKB themselves), they brought something unique to the table in terms of idol content: acapella singing and beatboxing. You won’t see that in a regular idol concert.
As for Team SH, they’re the most coordinated out of the sister groups as you can really see that they are one unit and everyone knew what their role is and how they would function on stage.
Well thanks for taking time in reading this and see you later for another Zaiko related event review as we move out of idols and the Tokyo Dome to a local fruits market and exploding barbed wire.