I woke up on the morning of December 3, 2017 feeling very broken. My body hasn’t recovered yet from the event of the previous day, and I got leg cramps on top of that. It took all my will to drag myself out of bed to prepare for the another day where I could potentially stand for at least three hours.
But I had two consolations, first, the day’s activities were a bit more mobile. AKB48 Team 8 will have a mini-live in the SM City North EDSA Annex at 1PM, then it’s off to the ABS-CBN Center Grounds again for their last live before I would have to go to another location for the Press Conference. Second reason? My invites from HHE now take effect, allowing me to rest easy about having to beg and plead to the security to let me in because I’m covering the event.
Unlike the previous day, Sunday’s weather was pretty unpredictable. Saturday was consistently sunny, Sunday a lot less so. With the first live of the day being held inside a mall, the fans would at least be shielded from the elements. I tried not to think about those in the ABS-CBN compound, not to mention those who are still hoping to get in. I let out a silent hope that they all flocked to SM North where it was more comfortable, there are plenty of restaurants and other food-stalls available, and plenty of restrooms where they can relieve themselves.
There were already a lot of fans on the location. I met up with FilWota admins Youko and Soul.Assassin, and had my first chance to apprise the situation. The audience area was divided into two locations, the VIP and the general area. To get in, you only need to present a receipt from Yoshinoya, one of the sponsors. At least there was none of that “50 only” nonesense. I did wonder why there was a VIP area in an event that VIPs are pretty much not expected. I figured that the sponsors and HHE had invited important folks over, plus that’s where I’m about to sit so any questions I have, I decided to keep to myself for later. I was introduced to other people inside the VIP area. Four Japanese fans who went to the country specifically for this event. Then there was the waiting game.
I instantly regretted my decision to come inside straightaway. I haven’t eaten anything, and the guard wasn’t sure about letting my companions buy drinks for me inside the event. Well, at least I’m not standing. But I was really tempted to grab one of those Yoshinoya bowls that were being brought in for a mini-game later.
Right away, there were signs that something was wrong. The stage was deemed to be too small and extensions were being added. It didn’t really delay the event that much, probably 30 minutes. The girls also arrived around this time. Unlike in the Team 8 Fan-meet a year ago where a chorus of shrieks and cheers greeted the girls, the fans weren’t ready and there were a few greetings while they went into the dressing room.
It was also around this time that Paolo Kurosawa, the head of HHE who will be producing MNL48, decided to do away with the previous arrangements and allow the fans to enter the VIP area to bring them closer to the action. It was a nice gesture, and would have gone a long way to eliminating – or at least reducing – the fan back-lash that the previous day’s events made if not for one simple problem: the technicals (the microphones, specifically) gave out.
It was disheartening for me to see a well-prepared event go to waste because of equipment break-down. These things do actually break down a lot during performances, but mini-lives are rarely equpped with stand-by replacements in case the technicals did go out at an in-opportune time.
To HHE’s credit, they did try to do all they can to fix it. The Yoshinoya challenge started, and the Japanese comedic group HPN3 (Hapon Three…thanks DD from the comments!) tried to keep the audience entertained. But as time went on, the fans were getting impatient, wondering why the program isn’t starting. When Apple Tree started doing on the spot variations of their routine, that’s when I knew: we’re on the verge of event cancellation.
Unknown to us at that time, there was something going on at the back-stage area. If we are to take Yachang’s (the Japanese comedian who also moonlighted as a translator that day) words as an accurate account of what happened, it seemed that the girls were briefed about the situation and was told that they would hold a mini-talk show instead to maximize their presence. The girls (presumably their managers) wanted to perform since that is what was promised to the fans. The end result was the girls did perform (on live studio records aka playback) but enough time has been lost by then, reducing their total songs to just two. They couldn’t have added more as they had to be in ABS-CBN for a scheduled 3pm event.
It is hard to imagine how tough it must be for some of the fans who, after being rebuffed in ABS-CBN, went to the SM North live in the hopes of finally getting the show they wanted, only to be “robbed” of it again. I tried to shut it out, I had to, since I have a job to do. But the thought just keeps going on at the back of my head as I rushed towards the Taxi-bay and through the traffic-filled streets of North EDSA as we made our way to the ABS-CBN grounds.
Upon our arrival, we saw that there were still some fans outside who wouldn’t be able to come in. It’s a lot smaller crowd than Saturday’s, no doubt because a lot of them decided to go to the mall instead. Upon getting in, I saw the folks at animeph already set-up. I took up a place beside them, determined to catch some decent concert footage this time without placards or hands to block my view.
Before the live started, the winners of the Koisuru Fortune Cookie dance video contest were announced. Their prize is being able to ask questions to the girls later. It was fun, with some notable “performances” by the fans.
And then the overture! No matter how tired we were, the overture never fails to excite us. This is it! The penultimate live which, for many fans, is their last interaction with the girls until HHE decides to bring them back again or until the fans themselves book a trip to Japan.
And then boom! The technicals worked up again, dampening the mood of everyone and prompting the girls to go backstage again. It had been such a frustration to have a perfect day marred by technical difficulties in both venues. I could not understand that time how, after two relatively impeccable Team 8 events the past two years, everything that could go wrong in the production side, did. Thankfully, whatever the problem was, it was solved this time and the overture started once again.
Don’t take my word for it, here’s a video of the whole performance.
The fans asked for an encore and it was granted. By this time, I have shifted positions and got closer to the stage because I was on my way out to get to the press conference. Boy was I glad I stayed. Two songs, Koisuru Fortune Cooke (with confetti), and their trademark 47 no Suteki na Machi e, the latter on a confettie filled stage. And then it was over.
But not for me.
The press conference was held at the Luxent Hotel. The girls were given time to freshen up and they were introduced to the press people gathered there.
My good friend, Admin Youko of FilWota served as the translator, with Yachang helping out. The girls were visibly tired from the gauntlet of engagments they had to go to, and it was their professionalism that got them through.
Some highlights of the press conference:
– The press conference was attended by an assortment of press people, some of whom have made careers out of reporting entertainment news.
– I managed to capture the whole press-con in audio but some words were inaudible or the voice too low to be understood. Unfortunately I was not able to record it in video (I only have two hands).
– The first question thrown to the girls was “what advice can you give to the future members of MNL48?” Serika answered the question which was translated to something like “the girls will like the songs” or something, something hyper (I was busy taking pictures and the audio recording was terrible on this part).
– They were also asked if they would like to meet the members of MNL48 to which they responded “yes”.
– The topic of who will train MNL48 also came up, although the girls had no answer for that. The staff came and said that the training for MNL48 members will be handled by HHE.
– The girls were asked if it is true that the members leave on a certain age. Serika also handled that question saying that it depends on the girl when she would like to leave. She also says that the group doesn’t really have a hard cap with regards to age.
– Someone also asked regarding the type of music they have. This was a little hard to translate to the girls, but they eventually answered that their music covers a wide range of topics. Which is actually true as AKB48’s songs have covered everything from the deep to the mundane.
– The girls’ advice to MNL48 hopefuls is just practice and practice and never lose hope. Ayaka Hidaritomo even recounted that during her own audition, she wasn’t able to finish her introduction and was sent home. But because she really wanted to be an idol, she never gave up. So her main message is to never give up. Nao Ota also added that she was the oldest applicant during her own audition for AKB48 Team 8, so age shouldn’t deter people from joining (for context, Nao is currently the oldest member of Team 8 and was in her late teens when she auditioned. Japanese idols usually start at around 13 to 15 years of age).
The girls were supposed to answer around 5 to 6 questions but had to move on to their last engagement: the MNL48 livestream. Yes folks, the reason why the livestream was delayed was because they were in the press-conference and had to trek back to studio for the live-sream.
Before they went, the girls allowed us an opportunity to take pictures. They stood in front of the cameras while all of us took photos. Because all I have is a trusty cellphone camera, I wouldn’t even dare go to the middle with all those SLRs, so I stood slightly to their left, content that I was alone in my spot.
One of the hardest things for me to do is to suppress my being a fan during press conferences. Unlike in the event grounds, I’m not supposed to cheer or do name-calls. But this time, I decided to take a risk: I waited for Serika to look my way, and I waved.
She smiled, and returned my gesture.
Everything happened so fast that I wasn’t able to take a picture of it. But at that very moment, all my tiredness just floated away and my fan self was at peace. I was so engrossed by the moment that I didn’t notice Hitomi Honda also smiling my way, bowing thanks while they were leaving. My finger instinctively took a shot, but all I git was a blurred image of her face as she made her bow.
Some of us were still planning to interview Kurosawa-san, but because he had to be there with the guests, we just decided to pack up and call it a day.
The two-day event highlighted a few things:
– HHE and ABS-CBN needs to work on their coordination in their next event. There were a lot of misses that shouldn’t have happened and things that could have been prevented had the two partners were more clear with what they’re running.
– The number of fans were smaller than the first day, and I attribute it to two factors: the news about the 50 person limit had already spread among the fans, and many opted to go to the SM North live instead.
– The technical gaffes were really unfortunate. I hope it doesn’t happen again.
– The girls’ schedules were too packed to give them sufficient time to fix themselves in between. The traffic on a payday weekend didn’t help matters either. I like them more for giving 100% (in the case of Yokomichi, 200%) effort in their performances even through all the unexpected incidents during the second day.
– The next event should be somewhere else. Please. I can’t wait for HHE’s Glorietta or Centris locations to go live. Those locations are tailor-made for events like these.
In closing, the 2-day event certainly had its problems, but one cannot deny that Team 8’s performances were well-met, and the MNL48 staff tried to accommodate as many people as possible. I would still call it a success because it managed to do the things it set out to do, albeit with some opportunities for improvement. The MNL48 audition is fast nearing its Second Stage, and I can’t wait to see it all unfold.