NMB48: Taking it to the Top


Osaka based idol group NMB48 are widely considered to be one of the better idol groups currently active in Japan today. However, is there a case to be made that they might just be the best? I think there might be and over the course of this article I’ll be looking at some of the reasons why.


This year NMB released an album and it came with a very strong message “Teppen Tottande” or “To take the top” if my interpretation isn’t too far off. “The top” in this instance being to appear as an independent act at this year’s Kouhaku. A very lofty goal for most groups as appearing on this show is seen as a mark of success and proves that you’re the real deal or something. As someone who doesn’t really subscribe to the notion of music show appearances quantifying how good you are, this doesn’t mean much to me but I can appreciate that it’s a big deal to a lot of people.

I have no doubt that NMB will realize this goal one way or another and if this adds another layer of legitimacy to the group then so be it. Being recognized by the public and your peers for all of your hard work and dedication is never a bad thing. I personally don’t think they need it though because anyone with a functioning set of eyes and ears can tell how good they are, but what do I know. I’m also the guy who’s just about to argue that they’re the best idol group in Japan right now.

I suppose I’ve fluffed this out for long enough so let’s get into the meat of this article. I’m going to go through the various facets of NMB48 that I think makes them such a good idol group. I’ll even break it all down under various headers so it’s easier to read. Talk about looking out for my readership.

1. Personality

For me this is probably the single most important thing you can have as an idol. Sure, being an amazing singer or dancer doesn’t hurt either but if you have the personality of sack of rocks then you’re going to struggle. NMB does a lot of things right, but damn do they do personality well. Even if you don’t follow the group you can see this in AKB48 (which I’m sure most of you at least follow somewhat) with Yamamoto Sayaka, Watanabe Miyuki and Kotani Riho.

Those three all have amazing personality and perhaps you might think that that’s the extent of NMB’s character. Well you’d be wrong there, because the group is absolutely stacked with a whole variety of strong personalities. Go look into Yamada Nana, Ogasawara Mayu, Jonishi Kei, Kinoshita Momoka to name but a few. The list is practically endless. That’s no mean feat considering how many girls are in the group.

What’s more, all of these very strong and distinct personalities are allowed their chance to shine. Sure Yamamoto and Watanabe are the faces of the group but the group is managed well enough that they don’t completely eclipse everyone else. If anything they all work to bring out the best in each other which in turn helps the group become that much more entertaining. This, in my opinion is how an idol group should operate.

2. Ambition and Dedication

I think this is probably one of the harder points to justify because you can all just throw “Yeah, well X group says they also works hard, etc, etc” back in my face. Which is fair enough and I’m sure these other groups do work very hard but NMB goes a step farther than that and makes me actually believe it. You can talk as big a game as you want but for me, your actions are what really count.

When NMB made their “Teppen Tottande” announcement I didn’t doubt for a second that they’d get there. If anything I thought that it was a rather safe goal, that they should be aiming for more. Of course that would probably be seen as inappropriate or disrespectful in Japan so I can understand why things are the way that they are. If anything I think that NMB are far too humble, at least outwardly.

To get back on topic a little, the amount of ambition and dedication with NMB48 is almost palpable. I say this as a SKE fan who reads a magazine interview every other month where a member says how they want SKE to step out of the shadow of AKB. Sure, the first time I read something like that I bought into it. Now I just sort of roll my eyes because I don’t buy it anymore.

Maybe there are external forces at play; shoddy management, Aki-P holding SKE back, whatever. However I feel that if Yamamoto Sayaka did an interview tomorrow saying NMB were going after AKB48’s crown then I’d fully believe that they could do it. With everything they’ve done so far, as a fan I have no reason to doubt it. That’s how confident they’ve made me feel in them over the past two years.

Ultimately I think that’s what sets NMB48 apart. They’re ambitious and they’re dedicated but they let you see it through their actions first. There’s a lot less talking and a lot more doing going on in Namba and this goes a long way to building confidence in their brand.

3. Social Media

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge proponent of idols using social media to connect with their fans. While most groups are making strides in the right direction, I feel myself left wanting for more when a lot of girls only find time to blog once or twice a week. That’s if they even bother to do it at all in the first place.

AKS made a pretty good attempt at this when they partnered up with Google+ and made a big deal about how we’d be able to interact with all of the members. Things were pretty good to start with, then most of the more popular members from AKB stopped using it, or never really used it in the first place if your name is Watanabe Mayu (her management runs her account and even they can’t be bothered now). Thankfully a lot of members still use the service a fair bit but there isn’t really any of the fan interaction that I seem to remember being promised. Unless I’m completely making up the fact that they said members would be doing Hangouts and other such things.

So what does NMB do differently? Well, they post on Google+ and they post on it a hell of a lot. Seriously, most of my feed is NMB girls posting updates throughout their day about various things. Whether it be them talking about going to photoshoots, being on radio shows or just everyday mundane stuff. They actually take the time to keep their fans updated on what they’re doing and I for one really appreciate that. It’s not just a couple of them either, from what I’ve seen it’s the vast majority.

What else do NMB48 do well? They blog, every single day. I wake up, open my RSS reader and there is at minimum 40 new blogs from my NMB feed. I won’t pretend that I sit down and read every single one of them but dammit I wish all groups showed this kind of dedication. What’s more, these blogs are all free to read unlike SKE who for some inexplicable reason charge you to read blog archives. Seriously, the senbatsu blog is neat and all but I have favorites who aren’t in there and I’d like to not have to worry about missing an update and never being able to read it again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this sort of thing is in all of the NMB girls’ contracts or whatever (just like how professional Starcraft players have to stream X amount of hours per month) but I’m certainly not complaining. A lot of groups could learn a thing or two from the way that NMB does social media.

4. Talent

Okay, this is completely subjective but hey what isn’t in this fandom? Anyway, I think there’s a pretty strong case to be made that NMB48 have the most overall talent in the idol industry. That’s not to say that there aren’t a ton of groups who are fantastic at singing, dancing, variety and what have you but I think NMB are the most well rounded group out there right now.

When I first saw them show up on “Naniwa Nadeshiko” my first reaction wasn’t “yikes, that was pretty painful” like it normally is when I see an idol group who isn’t used to being in that kind of setting. Instead I was left feeling oddly impressed that they seemed to revel in the spotlight. They were more sure of themselves than I’ve seen HKT48 be so far, although I suppose that could be down to the age difference. Being on television isn’t an easy thing, especially variety television but they took to it like a duck to water.

All of this is before we even talk about their musical ventures. “Zetsumetsu Kurokami Shoujo” should be the textbook example of how you do a debut single right. It came right out and told everyone “This is NMB48 and here’s what they’re all about”. It got right up in your face and demanded that you pay attention. A group less confident in their talent and ability wouldn’t have been able to pull off something as bold as that.

This is all evident in their concert and theater performances. I’ll be honest, it’s really fucking hard to put on a truly terrible live show as an idol but it’s equally difficult to put on really good ones. AKB puts on their grandiose stadium shows which are either a wondrous spectacle or lacking a lot of soul depending on which side you come down on. SKE put on concerts full of energy and youthful exuberance which probably don’t get talked about as much as they should be. HKT are still developing their style but each group brings something a little different to the table

NMB performances work so well not only because of the personalities on show but because of the flair. It’s like going to see a psychic, comedian or what have you. Sure you’re going there to be entertained by the content of the show but if the delivery wasn’t there then the whole thing just wouldn’t work. NMB48 not only has great content but they have the talent and skill to properly deliver it.

5. Agency

This is the point that underpins everything else that I’ve talked about in this article. NMB have easily got the best agency out of any idol group in the Yoshimoto Kogyo Group. In the entertainment industry, who manages your act can make or break you. SKE are seeing this right now according to some, being under the same agency as parent group AKB48 doesn’t leave a lot of room to grow. NMB look to have escaped a similar fate simply by being the product of the biggest entertainment conglomerate in Japan.

The evidence is all there really. NMB show up in all manner of television shows and commercials in Osaka and beyond, with a raft of famous comedians in tow. They’re about to release their own movie which was just shown at the Okinawa International Movie Festival. Not a week goes by without a member of the group being splashed on the cover of a magazine. Various product endorsements. You name it and they’re pretty much doing it. The group’s media presence is rather incredible considering they only came into existence a little over two years ago.

Being under an agency as influential as Yoshimoto has a host of other advantages too. With that much clout behind them they have a lot more control over the direction of the group. If NMB were under AKS I really doubt they’d have put out four singles last year or have an album already. They would have also probably lost their theater manager in that cringe-worthy shuffling of the deckchairs that happened a few months ago. While AKS clearly still has some influence as far as decision making and new songs go, I think it’s clear to see that things are working out pretty well right now.

Wow was that a long-winded circlejerk. In conclusion, there’s no doubt in my mind that NMB48 are going to perform solo at Kouhaku this year. If they don’t then it would be a complete disservice to everything that they’ve achieved as a group and as individuals up to now. I’m also pretty sure that they’re the best idol group around right now but maybe you disagree, that’s cool

As always, if you’d like to discuss any of the points that I raised in this article then feel free to leave a comment, send me an email at garry@newschoolkaidan.com or hit me up on Twitter @Mage77. I’ll try to respond to all of you because I figure if you take the time to read and comment on something that I write then I should take the time to respond to you. I really do value my readers and their opinions, regardless of if you agree with what I have to say or not.


19 thoughts on “NMB48: Taking it to the Top”

  1. Total agreement. Nothing more I can say. This is totally why NMB won me faster than SKE…. well tbh even HKT got it faster than SKE. :3

  2. Good article Garry!

    Safe to say I agree with all of what you said

    I think that the strength in depth is their real winner though, not only do they have every type of idol imaginable from Yagura Fuuko to Kinoshita Momoka but they are all so strong in performances or on shows, seriously NMB is pretty much the only group where I will watch all of their shows because you will generally get something good from at least one of the members on that show!

    They also to me feel like the real rival group to AKB, yeah sure it’s supposed to be Nogizaka but really they are like the friendly cousin rather than a rival, really I think that falls to NMB who are like the spunky little sister who is out to prove that big sister AKB is not the be all and end all….

    Having Yoshimoto here really helps that, it gives NMB that separation that SKE and HKT don’t have, it gives NMB the advantages of the 48 brand without some of the baggage and of course they have Yoshimoto seeing them as their only concern, not as part of some mass idol juggling act….

    And really I like than in NMB, I like that they are pushing (though it might be a cause for the high graduation count perhaps) sure they got a great start being on the “AKB wave” but they have used it to their advantage rather than just resting on it, I respect that and in a time when I have been bemoaning AKB for their recent unoriginality it’s something that has never crossed my mind for NMB……

    NMB Teppen Tottande! is what I say!

    1. Yeah, NMB’s television work is easily one of their stronger points. Like you said, you do generally get something entertaining out of at least one member on any given show. They don’t tend to just sit there and awkwardly try to take part.

      Nogizaka were crippled from the outset by being touted as AKB’s rivals. That put far too much expectation on them, assuming people didn’t completely write them off as a joke group from the start. It’s a damn shame because Nogizaka are easily as talented as NMB but not enough people are taking notice.

      Yoshimoto are the defining factor in NMB’s growth and success over the past two years. I doubt they care much about AKB, SKE, HKT and whoever else we’re going to get in the future. They’re looking out for number one. They have an investment to protect and I applaud them for their efforts.

      There’s clearly a vision for NMB which I think is why things seem to be on a better track than the other groups. AKB is top dog so it doesn’t really matter too much what they do. HKT are trying to play up the fresh faced, new kids on the block angle and that’s okay but not really a mainstream product. As for SKE, who really knows what they’re about these days. I sure don’t.

      Thanks for reading my article and leaving such a great comment.

  3. I remember well how I fell in love with NMB and this article was a reminder of all the things NMB fans love about the group.

    “I’m also pretty sure that they’re the best idol group around right now.”

    Completely agree with you there.

  4. NMB is awesome. Ogasawara Mayu and Yamamoto Hitomi are funny as hell and the whole group has a welcoming feel to it. From what I gather, this seems to be a typical Osaka trait.

    ProjecdtSUB48 has been translating Geinin slowly but surely and the episodes are funny even if ypu don’t undserstand a word. I would watch and think that Yamada Nana was a comic genius. The subs would reveal that she is horrible at comedy, but she’s so bad it’s super funny.

    Can’t wait for the movie – and the badass single I expect them to drop to justify their invite to Kouhaku.

    1. YES, 100% the group feels welcoming. That’s not to say that other groups don’t but I feel a warmth to NMB48 that I don’t particularly get from many other groups out there.

      Project SUB48 do some great work to help make idol shows more accessible to people who don’t pick up on Japanese as well as others. I totally get that a lot people can’t just grind through shows like I do so their contributions are invaluable. I hear they’re aiming to get the last few episodes subbed before season two starts so people should look forward to that.

      Yeah, I can’t wait to see the movie and the second season of the television show. It was probably one of the more enjoyable idol shows in recent memory. As far as singles go, I don’t think they really need to drop this amazing masterpiece of a song, just keep doing what they’re doing right now and if Kouhaku doesn’t invite them then they’re idiots.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It means a lot.

  5. I fully agree with this analysis. I recently felt a ‘set-back’ with my HKT fav Haruppi being ‘de-throned’ as “Ace”- then I realized what would be a silver lining- Move Haruppi to NMB! Notice I didn’t suggest AKB or SKE first. NMB has become it’s “Idol Flavor” in that it takes risks & genuinely has an image all it’s own. I generally like their fans enthusiasm. They have an “anything can happen” kind of vibe that makes me often curious what they’ll do next.

    If anyone’s going to stand shoulder to shoulder with AKB, I’d want it to be NMB and I pray they ‘steal’ Haruppi from HKT and maybe Amita from “Super*Girls” while they’re at it

    1. I dunno about moving Haruppi to NMB but your point about NMB having their own image and their attitude towards being idols is second to none.

      Yeah, I think NMB are the closest “threat” to AKB right now. Even if not many people notice or want to admit it.

      Appreciate the comment and you taking the time to read my articles. Thanks.

  6. Like the people above me, I’d have to agree wholeheartedly with your analysis. I fell for NMB when Junjou came out and followed the wave when Geinin started to air. Strangely enough it was thanks to Google+ that I even started to learn more and more about the other members beyond Nana, Sayaka and Miyuki. Each girl brings something great to the pool of talent these girls display.

    To me, they’ve done more than enough to prove that they can stand on the Kohaku stage as a independent group.

    1. Google+ seems like it’s dominated by NMB these days. They’re really just grabbed a hold of that ball and ran with it. You could tell from the start that they were serious about it when I believe it was Yamamoto Sayaka who was protesting to management to not restrict their usage after a certain time of night. They wanted that connection with their fans and they made sure it was as unrestricted as possible.

      Kouhaku are free to invite whoever they want of course but I think it would be a gross oversight if they pass up NMB this year.

      Thanks for the comment, every single one of them is greatly appreciated.

  7. Hats off. You sir, wrote a splendid article.
    Noob question, where can I get rss of NMB girls blogs? I’ve been following blog48 on livejournal, but there aren’t any NMB posts

  8. As much I want to be all like “Heil AKB!”, I can’t disagree with most of these points you’ve brought up.

    The only thing that I’d probably disagree with is probably personalities not outshining each other. While they do seem to work together, they will outshine each other, and they have because NMB has a rather high turnover rate

  9. I have to agree to most of what you have already said. NMB’s agency has a major role on making NMB growth outshine other sister group. I have to say that HKT growth is all thanks to Sasshii’s recent influence, and SKE’s growth is all thanks to… uuuhh… their own selves? I mean, unless Takayangi Akane screamed to have KII concert of their own in her sousenkyo speech, I bet they won’t have a stage and unless somebody really scream again from Team S, I bet Team S won’t have a new stage to change from their 3-years unchanged Seifuku no Me S3rd stage.

    NMB has a lot of facilitation to improve and a lot of push. Though they are hit by scandals here and there, but they still stand strong. For their will power and their entertaining vibe, NMB got all my kudos.

    …. However, as an SKE fan, it hurts or more like, I envy the spotlight that NMB could gain from their agency. SKE are used by AKB but never rewarded, in my eyes. They strive on their own and get by on their own, while in personality they have different characteristics, different interaction between girls. SKE doesn’t get scandals often, in fact, I would say they are amongts the cleanest sister group to ever caught on scandal. But that doesn’t matter isn’t it now? Aki-P said he doesn’t like Team E, while Team E has the ability and professionalism to carry own singing Katafi Live when the sound system down in the middle of a live. Who knows.

    Anyway, I guess these are what makes SKE has really strong sisterhood between each other. I just hope more fans will get to know SKE, just how they getting to know NMB easier. With the recent manager change, I am hoping for more space for SKE to grow so they can stand on their own, not being pushed down by AKB. Perhaps this is the reason why many of SKE wota has quite an animosity towards AKB, but who could blame them.

    And sorry for suddenly talking about SKE. But really, looking at your NMB post, I’m suddenly being reminded of what SKE is strong about and it is a pity that people overlook it.

    1. dont worry SKE is full of hardworker and dedicated girls ( and about the scandal thing, well the only one who got a serious scandal is momona, and she’s not even popular, other than that Churi and Kuumin one was million years before they applied for SKE, you wont see a hotel scandal where most of the member involved are popular one ) SKE dont need anyone help they will do it themselves, beside they have their own extremely dedicated wota who will do everything for them (as an AKB fan i admire SKE for being so dedicated to their
      jobs, must be the reason why they also attract dedicated wota)

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