This chapter is subtitled ‘Sashihara Style Produce’. It outlines her views on how certain things should be looked at, from a management perspective. There’s also some division between fans regarding management decisions, so I thought this was quite an eye-opener into the thought process of some things.
In April of 2013, Sashihara Rino became the theatre manager for HKT48, becoming the first in history to be an idol-manager. While there are some that think this changed a lot of her responsibilities, they pretty much stayed the same. She listened to her juniors, dispensed advice, and relayed messages to the higher-ups if any of the girls expressed concerns. For all the fine details, she left that to Ozaki.
As part of being a theatre manager, she had the ability to give her input on concert setlists. While she could do so before, some things were a little harder to say as a member of the group. With her history as a wota herself, she held concerts in high regard, and felt like this was the #1 most important place of work for her.
Don’t Fight in the Same Arena
Enjoy yourselves till the very end
In terms of aura, dance, MC quality and general popularity, HKT pales in comparison to the rest of the sister groups. Because of this, fighting on that level leads to no means of victory.
But if there was a ranking of the members themselves having fun with their work, HKT48 would definitely end up on top. The easiest way to get the audience to enjoy themselves is for the idols to show that they are having a great time as well. While the best way would be to produce an enjoyable performance for the fans, HKT48 doesn’t quite have that kind of power yet, so the best way is to say “we’re having a great time, join us!”
One of HKT48’s best weapons is that ability to cheer anyone up with their cheery attitude and active personalities.
Destroy the pre-established harmony (with the song selection)
HKT48 had its first Kyushu tour with from January this year. This was the first time that Sasshi was involved right from the start, and she got to offer suggestions for the opening performance and any proposals outside of just the songs they played. According to her, this was the first time she could ‘do what she wanted’.
The first thing she did was to change up the setlist. With the amount of singles HKT had already released, they had enough songs over all the types to populate a setlist. To a fan, they want to go to a concert and hear the songs they know, but at the same time if it falls into a predictable pattern, even fans will get sick of hearing the same songs over and over again.
She devised a plan for them to not sing all the songs they had, but instead make anything a possibility. Listening to all the songs in AKB’s repertoire again, there are many songs that aren’t sung, like the stage songs, or the album songs. Skipping these songs because they were unknown, or because they were old songs are such a waste.
She picked songs from SKE, NMB and even NGZK46. By increasing the pool of songs HKT could perform, she could shatter expectations by fans on what would be performed. At the same time, these songs would keep HKT fresh.
Put into action plans that do not have any comparison
As a highlight of the show, HKT48 The Best Five was thought up. This was a section in the show where the members performed covers of classic songs, like Aoi Sangosho (Matsuda Seiko) or Sabishii Nettaigyo (Wink). This changed with every show, and the members performing in the segment changed as well. The girls remembered the dances and performed them well, but some people definitely wondered why this was done.
HKT’s unit song repertoire is limited to Temodemo, Ame no Doubutsuen, Candy and Kinjirareta Futari. For them to keep doing these songs even at a tour would lead to a little dissatisfaction. At the same time, doing completely new songs would be risky in a big concert.
While watching FNS Kayousai (Pop Song Festival), O. Aika mentioned that it would be really cute if “Mio did Sentimental Journey (Matsumoto Iyo)” This was what made Sasshi think of the segment.
Of course there are fans that don’t want this at all. Those that want to hear the AKB songs that they know, and the younger AKB fans might not know the older pop songs.
But for HKT to do the same things that AKB does, there’s no way to win. For them to do the same things that SKE or NMB does, there’s no way to win. Even if they fight by the same rules, the time that they’ve spent on it varies far and away, and if a comparison ever comes into play, only defeat awaits.
Look at things from a fan’s point of view
Members are usually asking the fans “are you having fun?!” This is a way for the members and fans themselves to realize that they are having a great time. This method of hyping up the fans also works when you do it to the upper floors of a venue, which will trickle down to the lower floors and result in the whole place having a great atmosphere.
Sasshi learned from a stage director, that looking up will ensure that you will always look cheery when you look upwards from the stage. Looking forward and down will only make it look like your eyes are dead and emotionless. This stage director was new, and brought a business-like atmosphere with him. He constantly reminded the girls that “as pros, never forget the reality that these people paid to see you.”
After hearing these, the girls themselves changed in how they viewed things, and worked hard to make sure that everyone left satisfied. For Sasshi, concerts with HKT is what she wants to do most, and enjoys the most. More so than appearing on TV.
In the Kyushu tour, Sasshi was particularly concerned about the first song of the night. The opening song, Morning Musume’s “The Peace”, was not chosen simply because of her love for the group.
Being that HKT was a small upstart group with lesser members than AKB, and that it was a Kyushu tour, it was basically just local news. There was no reason for the mass media to report it, unless there was something like “A 48 group covers Morning Musume!”
During AKB48’s Saitama Super Arena concert series, she got advice from Aki-P as well, who said “If you don’t make a forceful impact in the opening song, you won’t make it in time for the next day’s news”. It was with this advice that it was decided that HKT would appear in gym wear in Saitama. With something like that, people in the media would take photos, and maybe a headline like “HKT48 opens their first arena concert with a sports festival!”.
Of course what actually happened was articles titled “Sashihara appears in tight-fitting bloomers?!” were published instead. For HKT to grow, it’s not just a matter of making an impression on the audience, but to the general populace as well.
Creating an Ace, Rotating the Batting Order
Establishing a center, and supporting her
For singles so far, the centers have been T. Meru, K. Haruka and T. Mio. But these people have the talent to be idols, and are fit for the position. However, from Sousenkyo ranking, M. Sakura is higher in position than any of these girls. However, putting the most popular member in the center is not the best thing to do.
Putting the most popular member in the center would shift all attention to that member, and the group itself suffers from this. There are many members aside from those who aspire to be centre: those thinking about where they’ll end up in the senbatsu, or to start with, those that wonder if they’ll get into senbatsu this time.
There are people who feel this is a little pitiful. But from Sasshi’s point of view, the ‘oshi’ system works. To expect someone to like the whole group at once is impossible. It needs to start with shining a light on a few, and from there it expands to a wide interest in the group. This, in Sasshi’s opinion, is the only way to go.
There are some times she gets asked “why is she center?” and the answer she gives is “this is for HKT’s benefit”.
"If this girl sinks, we sink with her. If she succeeds, we succeed with her. At this moment, think not just about yourself, but please work for the sake of the group."
Granting everyone a chance
With wanting to grant every girl a chance to shine, the first step to this was giving each girl performing in her hometown a solo part in a song. This acts as motivation for the girl herself, and increases the possibility that a fan will notice the member.
"Oshi is not something you swap, but is a list you add to"
This is something that Sasshi was alleged to have said. When it comes to oshimen, she doesn’t feel like there’s a need to limit it to just one person. At the end, a group that can be a force to be reckoned with, even with different centers every time is a strong group.
Sashihara wants to grow as many stars as possible in HKT. Together with everyone else, she wants to be #1.
This was long but not as long as the previous one! I translated this faster than the one before, so pardon the crappy English. Again, if you enjoy these translations, please buy the book from your nearest online bookstore: http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/NEOBK-1695105