Can anything stop the AKB48 mutations?
Hot on the heels of the b-kyu gurume (local cuisine) and yuru kyara (local mascot) crazes, gotouchi idols looks like the next big thing to come out of provinces. By copying the massively successful formula used to create AKB48, these all-singing, all-dancing, locally based pop groups are aimed at revitalizing tourism in their respective hometowns.
AKB48, the many-limbed J-pop monster, officially resides in Akihabara at their very own theater on the 7th floor of Don Quijote, where the group gives performances daily. Then there are the regional clones, such as NMB48, from Namba, Osaka, SKE48 in Nagoya, and HKT48 in Fukuoka.
Along those lines, Fukuoka’s Himekyun Fruits Can established its own theater at Matsuyama Kitty Hall where the goup also performs daily. Like most gotouchi idols, Himekyun Fruits Can strongly resembles AKB in numbers, age range and gender: all eight members are young women in their teens and early 20s.
Among the latest crop of gotouchi idols are: Hachinin Garuzu from Kochi Prefecture, MMJ from Hiroshima, the kimono-clad KK Eleven from Kyoto, and Fantapeace, a 15-strong gaggle of 12-22 year olds that formed last year and are based in Nipponbashi district, Osaka’s version of Akihabara.
Gotouchi idols are often seen enthusiastically endorsing items of local produce and one of the most popular acts to appear in this burgeoning scene is Negicco, from Niigata, who, like virtual idol Hatsune Miku, are often photographed brandishing negi. That’s right, very unglamorous leeks.
The latest gotouchi band is AKG48 from Gunma, another AKB48 clone group who formed in May this year. In the video above you can see them featured in “Gotouchi Idol Hakkutsudan,” a weekly TV show on Tokyo MX dedicated solely to the phenomena. Though local idols have been going for quite some time, it seems the success of AKB48 has set the cookie-cutter production line into overdrive.