For a blog that is named “weekly”, I sure took my time to make the next one. Thankfully, my very long hiatus is justified by the fact that nothing official has been announced yet. Yes, MNL48 is still in the same place it has been since it started last December 2016. What’s holding it up? I don’t know, but I’m not worried. Well, not yet anyway.
So why revive this blog? Well, it’s because of a certain former NMB48 member who was one of the minor guests of Toycon 2017. After several attempts at making an article about the event as a whole, I figured I’d rather write about the one thing that made me go to the con 2 days after calling off my original plan of VIP passes and 3-day coverage.
It is not often that a top member of AKB48’s sister group in Osaka (or a top member of any AKB48 group for that matter) to visit the country. We have been graced with Team 8 two times, and each time we had at least one or two “upper tier” members. But none of them were of the same level of Nana Yamada. One of NMB48’s top three from the group’s foundation, she has neither the singing prowess of a Sayaka Yamamoto, nor the dancing skill and natural seductive charm of a Miyuki Watanabe, but she sure is funny by default. So funny that even when her jokes bomb, she’s still funny. So funny that at even just by hearing her talk, you are already laughing.
I’ve long watched AKB-related material even before finally joining the band-wagon, and one of those is NMB48 Geinin! which will go on to have three seasons. In the show, the other members mercilessly poke fun at everything from her age, her voice, and her bombing jokes, but the she became a sort of indispensable fixture on the show precisely because her reactions to all those are so funny.
But I also had another agenda: I wanted to see myself what a top member is like.
To put things into perspective, Nana Yamada has already graduated from NMB48. She’s not even a “main guest” in Toycon’s Fan-Xperience and only a tiny fraction of Toycon’s guest had any idea about her. But for AKB48 fans, it was a big thing. So big, in fact that others coughed up PhP 3,000 for the VIP tickets in the hopes that she’ll have a “Meet and Greet” (more on that later). Me? I was content with just seeing her on the main stage because I wanted to know what it feels like seeing a top member perform.
The decision to watch Nana was formed while enjoying the final day of Movie Stars Cafe in MOA. I had already been to the Toycon a few hours earlier with fellow AKB48 fans and, frankly speaking, wasn’t planning on coming back the next day. It was still unclear weather Nana will have her own meet and greet (Toycon’s replies on Facebook are pretty cryptic to say the least), so I wasn’t sure I wanted to fork in 3 grand for a VIP ticket. Sure, I wanted to see Karen Fukuhara, but 3K? I’m not even a Funko Pop collector so my mind can’t seem to justify the price with the freebies involved.
But the opportunity was just too tempting to pass up. We all know that Top-tier idols aren’t likely to appear on a Philippine stage until AKS suddenly becomes generous or Hallohallo Enertainment suddenly went for broke. This is my chance and upon waking up the next day, my decision was made.
Toycon day 2 had much more people in it that it was hard to move around. Most of the items I marked during day 1 were already gone, and for some reason the program was running late. I tried sitting through Karen Fukuhara’s stage but my head was hurting due to hunger. As always, Toycon organizers seem to underestimate the number of annual con-goers by making the food area as small as possible again. Well, at least the Takoyaki and the Fish and Chips didn’t have a long line.
When the ‘Girl Power’ stage ended, I scrambled towards the main stage and, after finding familiar faces, got ready to welcome NMB48’s former Top 3.
It has been said that wotas don’t necessarily follow idols for their singing and dancing skills. In fact, a lot of idols can’t sing or dance, period. Nana can dance, but she can’t sing. And I think she knows she can’t sing but she’s putting supreme effort into her singing anyway. You know what? I didn’t care. Because I was basking on the affirmation that, yes, the reports are true: top tier members are a whole other level.
I’ve been in a press-conference with Team 8 during their event in Market! Market! and for a fan who doesn’t get to go to their handshake events, that’s as close as I can get to the girls. They too have that aura, that distinct charisma and professionalism that you can only feel from highly trained idols. It’s the same when I saw K-pop girl group 4Minute when they came here before they hit it big (it was a mall tour, I think). The swagger, the poise. You see it. In Nana, you have something else.
Imagine standing and then performing in front of a small crowd, without really understanding their language, by your lonesome. Then you have to sing even though you know it’s not your strength. Ultimately, you have to make that small crowd happy, some of which only sat there to rest. You have to have nerves of steel to pull it off. Nerves which only top members of idol groups seem to have.
Nana performed three songs: Nagiichi, Zipper, and Rashikunai, all from the NMB48 catalogue. Zipper is famous (or infamous, depending on who you talk to) for the “costume change” part where the performers remove their outer-garments to reveal an inner, more sexier outfit. It’s not hardcore by any stretch of imagination, but it’s enough to silence the boys in the crowd for a few seconds. There was a funny moment when the incorrect music played and she reacted to it in a funny, adorable way. During her performance, Nana tried to speak to the crowd, her attempts at speaking in english only ending at the last song when she promoted her social media accounts. Then off the stage she went.
That should have been the end of it. It was the end of it, but the fans tried to catch a glimpse of her before she went through the door just down stage left. Nana gamely posed for the people, even shook their hands (yes, some lucky fans got free handshakes). It is important to note that Idols don’t really do this. She really made time for the fans, posing smiling, greeting. And then, she’s gone.
If there is a sad note to an otherwise awesome weekend, that would be finding out that Nana won’t actually have a meet and greet, thereby rendering some fans’ VIP passes pointless unles they actually wanted to meet and greet the main guests. I cannot shake off the feeling that the organizers could have handled the situation better by being more straightforward with the information. To be fair, it was never really announced that Nana will have a meet and greet, but it was never really confirmed otherwise until some fans have already forked 3K. To provide context, for 3K, I can buy an Obi-Wan SHF. Or it can buy me a brand new PS4 game. Or it can allow me to go on a Vikings buffet three times. It’s a LOT of money, especially for students. It’s not a fiasco by any means, but it is an area for improvement.
It is hard to explain how great this experience was for me. Other people would have just shrugged the whole thing off as a minor event by a minor, unknown celebrity that was pulled in to fill the gap. It is easy to shrug off my experiences as that of a fan in the midst of euphoria, making something as more than it actually was. But that is, in essence, what fan experience is all about. Enjoying your moment, all the rest be damned.