AKB is still shaped by those influences: Many of its members dress in schoolgirl uniforms like characters in comic books, and some members talk in a cartoon-like, high-pitched sweet voice.
“They are certainly cute, but not outstanding beauties,” he said. “You can probably find one in your classroom, and that’s what makes them likable.”
Core fans are mostly men, but AKB is gaining a following among teenage girls and older women.
Some critics say they come across as sex objects that encourage men to exploit young women. They sometimes perform in itty-bitty bikinis for video clips or pose for photo books.
But others say they have a positive, hard-working image: They are required to devote themselves to AKB, wash their own laundry and aren’t allowed to have boyfriends.
The group initially had three 16-member groups _ Team A, Team K and Team B _ hence the number 48 in its name. It has expanded to at least nine sister groups and teams of “interns” around the country _ including SKE48, NMB48, and HKT48, representing various cities.
Only people who bought the latest AKB CDs or joined fan clubs are allowed to cast ballots, which can be done online.
People gathered in front of TV screens in downtown Tokyo for last week’s election. Morinaga said it “seems to be monitored even more closely than the real elections.”
The top 16 performers will record the next single, and the number-one vote getter sings in the center position. For most girls, the primary goal is simply to make the top 64, which brings more TV and other media exposure.
Yuko Oshima, the winner two years ago, returned to the top seat with 108,837 votes.
“I really wanted to be up on this stage again,” the tearful 24-year-old said. “I was under enormous pressure (to win).”
She praised the younger girls for their ambition and said “that is what will keep us going.”
Many of the performers _ aged 14 to 26 _ said they have “no special talents” but vowed to improve and continue to pursue their dreams to become a top singer, dancer or actress, and eventually “graduate” from the group to go solo.
So far, no AKB alumna has made it big on her own.View Entire Story
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