One would think, following AKB48 of Akihabara, Tokyo, SKE48 of Sakae, Nagoya, NMB48 of Namba, Osaka, and HKT48 of Hakata, Fukuoka, the next of the franchise would be something along the lines of SPR48 from the next big city of Sapporo, Hokkaido. But to everyone’s surprise, producer Akimoto Yasushi decided to go for NGT48 in Niigata.
Why this choice was made was initially unclear since Niigata is barely famous outside Japan, if known at all. However, according to online reports, Niigata is in fact one of the prefectures with the most active local idol groups. That could be why Akimoto is looking to get his share of the pie.
Unfortunately for Akimoto, one of the most successful groups called Negicco, an idol group that promotes Niigata’s famous produce of spring onions (or negi), has an extremely strong support base. Approximately a month ago, this group’s single 光のシュプール (Hikari no Spur) even made it into Oricon chart’s fifth position.
It was reported on TV recently that Akimoto’s goal of creating another of the 48 franchise is to get all members to compete against one another and ultimately create an elite Japan48 group for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Influential cross-dresser マツコデラックス (Matsuko Deluxe), however, wasn’t impressed. In fact, she strongly proclaimed her stance in not wanting Japan48 to perform for the opening and closing ceremonies because it is “embarrassing” (especially after seeing how impressive openings countries like China had). She also feels strongly about the idea of having NGT48 as she secretly supports Negicco, with whom she has collaborated once, and asked the 48 franchise to not interrupt.
Interviews with Niigata residents revealed that they are repulsed by the idea of NGT48 and rather than viewing them as a Niigata idol group, they view NGT48 as rivals.
Akimoto’s actions, to me, is like a big corporation trying to wipe out competition and monopolize the market. This is unethical. But I have to admit that, without the news of NGT48, I probably wouldn’t (and many people probably wouldn’t) have learned about Negicco. Perhaps Akimoto is just a devil on the surface and is secretly being the angel, helping Negicco gain further fame by creating controversy.
The entertainment industry is a complex one.