Behind the “Great Leap Forward” of SKE48


SKE48 took a great leap forward in AKB48′s 41th Single Senbatsu Election, held at Fukuoka Dome on the 6th.  Out of 80 spots, 27 (including Miyazawa Sae, who holds a concurrent position in SNH48) were SKE48 members, despite ace Matsui Rena’s resignation from candidacy and 6 graduated members who ranked last year.  They have surpassed AKB48, who sent 23 people into the 80 spots, as “the Majority Party of the 48G”.  Why is SKE so strong at elections?  We believe the furious anger of SKE fans towards the group’s “unfortunate situation” is at work here.

Sending Matsumura Kaori (13th) and Takayanagi Akane (14th) into senbatsu for the first time, “Nagoya Power” exploded in Hakata.  The sounds of joy coming from the stands is a result of vote-collecting “Election Committee” hard at work.

These committees are voluntary organizations formed by fans.  They rent conference rooms and gather to open CDs or enter voting codes.  With many of these at work, it’s no wonder people say that “among 48G fans, SKE48 fans are extremely passionate.”

But the motivation behind the passion is more complicated that it seems.  According to an SKE fan, “SKE is most vocal when it comes to complaints against the management and taking actions.”  The frustration from SKE’s current situation builds up over time and reaches a critical point at Senbatsu Election.

Despite having “W Matsui” Jurina and Rena and popularity not very far behind AKB, SKE has the least media exposure.  The other two local groups NMB48 and HKT48 both have their own shows on local TV stations, but SKE has none on Nagoya networks.  HKT48 even has regular shows in the Kanto TV network, which makes the contrast more obvious.

There are also many fans that think the lack of local concerts or events outside of theater is a problem.  NMB toured within Osaka and Kinki just 2 years after the formation of the group, and HKT went on a Kyushu tour in their 2nd year.  But SKE, which considers Aichi, Gifu and Mie prefectures as its home, has only sent Team KII to perform in Mie in their 7th year, and has never held a concert in Gifu.  “SKE has very few live shows, so we have nowhere to spend our money other than on elections” said a local fan, sarcastically.

The reason why SKE can’t have individual live events is probably because AKB has a higher priority.  Local groups have to attend AKB’s individual handshakes, and that contributes to the AKB’s record of continuously selling above 1 million copies.  “SKE members have to attend both SKE and AKB handshakes, which take place on weekends and that’s why they have no time for live concerts.”

The lack of media exposure and other outlets (relative to other groups) is what fueled the fire of SKE fans to make the group the Majority Party.  

As a well-known SKE fan, Kato Shinpe, an ex-cycling Grand Prix champion, said that “SKE wotas want to see members rewarded more.  There’s nothing else we can do except to help them rank higher at Senbatsu Election, which commands the attention of the entire nation.  That’s why we spend every penny we have to support them.”  It will be interesting to see if the passion of the fans reach management from here on.