Mayu Watanabe Leads White Team to Victory at 4th Annual AKB48 Kouhaku Taikou Uta Gassen!

Mayu Watanabe Leads White Team to Victory at 4th Annual AKB48 Kouhaku Taikou Uta Gassen!

It was a chilly rainy night for AKB48‘s 4th Annual Red and White Song Festival (AKB48 Kouhaku Taikou Uta Gassen) at Tokyo Dome City Hall on December 16th but the performances inside were more than enough to get the sold out audience sweating. The event is based on NHK’s long-running New Year’s Eve show where two teams compete against each other through musical performances. The difference with AKB48’s version is that there is no male team and it is a “shuffle” event, meaning that none of the songs are done by the original performer.

The event opened with a performance of “Aitakatta” by Team 8, followed by the familiar “Overture” before the teams, numbering over 150 members took to the stage. New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was introduced as one of the judges. Tanaka mentioned that he listened to AKB48 songs on his days off, which prompted the obvious question, “what other groups do you listen to?” Despite being known for being a huge Momoiro Clover Z fan and married to former idol Mai Satoda, Tanaka awkwardly replied that there weren’t any.

Red – “Reborn” (AKB48) – White “Kimi no Koto ga Suki dakara” (AKB48):
With Rina Izuta as the center, the “non-senbatsu” (never elected to be on the A-side of a single) members opened the show with the song made possible through the cooperation of fans. Graduate-to-be Yurina Takashima lead the way for the White Team with one of AKB48’s biggest hit coupling songs.

Red – “Temodemo no Namida” (AKB48) – White – “Avocado janeshi” (AKB48):
The Red Team countered with a performance that fans had not seen for many years. Having discovered founding Team B member Miki Saeki after she had become part of Baito AKB, Yuki Kashiwagi was once again able to perform “Temodemo no Namida” as it had been, even wearing the original costumes from the early days of Team B. The White Team took a different approach with Rena Matsui and Rina Kawaei riding in carts on the arena floor dressed in the fluffy outfits from the cute duet about fruits.

Red – “Soredemo Sukidayo” (Rino Sashihara) – White – “Ookami to Pride” (SKE48): Sakura Miyawaki took on Rino Sashihara’s solo debut single accompanied by a group of dancing children, complete with a young boy doing back handsprings before handing her a love letter. The scene shifted to the lobby as Mayu Watanabe introduced Team 8 members Nagisa Sakaguchi and Ikumi Nakano who descended the escalators as they made their way to the stage where they joined their fellow Team 8 members who were dressed in cute wolf costumes.

Red – “47 no Suteki na Machi he” (AKB48) – White – “Kanpeki Gu~no ne” (Watarirouka Hashiritai): Miyuki Watanabe (Nara), Juri Takahashi (Ibaraki), Meru Tashima (Fukuoka), Miki Nishino (Shizuoka), Shu Yabushita (Osaka), Miori Ichikawa (Saitama), Kanon Kimoto (Aichi), and Tomu Muto (Tokyo) represented their hometowns with a tap dance rendition of the Team 8 song. Wotaku B-Boy crew RAB showed up to break things down as the 9th generation members rocked out to Watarirouka Hashiritai’s classic song. Haruka Shimada even put her hair up in twin-tails in an attempt to be more like Aika Ota but kept getting made fun of by Minami Takahashi.

Red – “Heavy Rotation” (AKB48) – White – “Flying Get” (AKB48): This was a showdown of AKB48’s biggest election result singles as well as acrobatics. Marika Tani (Red Team) got lifted high in the air and gymnasts flew through the air doing flips behind the White Team during “Flying Get”.

Red – “Naminori Kakigoori” (Not yet) – White – “Sailor Zombie” (AKB48):
Mako Kojima, Mio Tomonaga, and Saya Kawamoto swam and surfed on waves to Not yet’s classic summer song while Yuria Kizaki, Ryoha Kitagawa, and Haruka Komiyama danced with a herd of zombies.

Red – “Viva! Hurricane” (AKB48) – White – “Escape” (SKE48):
Rion Azuma on keyboards and Nao Furuhata on saxophone got funky as the other members danced in white dresses and recreated Marilyn Monroe’s iconic scene with a fan located in the floor. Anchored by the ice-cold keyboard work of HKT48’s “cool beauty” Madoka Moriyasu, the White Team struck back with SKE48’s pulsing dance number highlighted by Yuuka Tano’s powerful dance solo.

Red – “Ame no Doubutsuen” (AKB48) – White – “Plastic no Kuchibiru” (AKB48):
The Red Team’s performance of “Ame no Dobutsuen” featured juggling clowns, which is either awesome or terrifying, depending on who you are. Anna Iriyama, Haruka Kodama, Rena Kato, and Miru Shiroma performed a 4-person version of Mariko Shinoda’s solo song and were joined on stage by flash mob dancers disguised at staff and audience members.

Red – “Yasashiku Suru Yori Kiss wo Shite” (Miyuki Watanabe) – Red – “Tomonoura Bojou” (Misaki Iwasaki):
This was a showdown of solo songs with two completely different approaches to interpretation. Haruna Kojima’s performance of Miyuki Watanabe’s solo debut song (release date: December 24) began with her turning down a love letter from AKB48 theater manager Tomonobu Togasaki. Things got crazy as he and all of the managers from the other 48 Groups’ theaters as well as costume designer Shinobu swam under a door to present her with love letters, splashing water all over the stage. Yui Yokoyama took a more serious approach to Misaki Iwasa’s hit enka song, fighting off thugs who “killed” Kenji Kitagawa (the one that the NMB48 song is about) with a sword and even shooting down hard-boiled actor Riki Takeuchi with a machine gun as the stage went black.

Red – “RIVER” (AKB48) – White – “Nandome no Aozora ka?” (Nogizaka 46):
The cast of the AKB49 musical reunited for a rousing rendition of “RIVER” with several comedic moments thrown in, particularly Sae Miyazawa and Youjin Hino’s reactions to seeing Mako Kojima and Nana Owada as Hiroko Yoshinaga (they were “double-cast” meaning they would alternate performances as the same character). Rino Sashihara blurred the borders between AKB48 and Nogizaka 46 further by appearing on stage with several of the group’s members under the name “Sashizaka 46” and performing one of their songs.

Red – “Seventh Chord” (Atsuko Maeda) – White – “Ai no Sonzai” (AKB48):
A 6-piece band was wheeled onstage and assembled in minutes for the battle between Kansai and Kanto; Sayaka Yamamoto vs Minami Takahashi. “Saya-nee” strummed her guitar and rocked out to Atsuko Maeda’s “Seventh Chord” but “Takamina” had brought legendary guitarist Akira Takasaki from Loudness to add some blistering solos to “Ai no Sonzai”.

Red – “Kamonegikkusu” (NMB48) – White – “Migikata” (Atsuko Maeda):
For their final song of the night, captain Jurina Matsui lead the Red Team in the dance number “Kamonegikkusu” while fighting off a SWAT team that descended from the ceiling on ropes, ending with a shootout. White Team captain Mayu Watanabe took to the stage solo in a Cinderella-like dress to perform a beautiful cover of Atsuko Maeda’s “Migikata” as confetti fluttered through the arena.

While the votes from the viewers in the theaters across Japan and in the arena were being counted and the judges were making their decisions, there were performances of the coupling songs from “Kibouteki Refrain”.

Mayu Watanabe and Minami Takahashi were worried as the Red Team won the movie theater and arena votes, especially since they had never been on a winning team in the 4 year history of the AKB48 Kouhaku. However, tonight was the night that the jinx was broken as the White Team won over a majority of the judges votes to win 6-4.

All of the remaining members performed “Kibouteki Refrain” for the last song of the night but, it wouldn’t be an AKB48 event without some sort of big announcement. More specific release dates for all the documentaries were announced as well as the next AKB48 documentary which should be full of rare Minami Takahashi footage. Until then, keep your eyes open for AKB48’s 4th Kouhaku Taikou Utagassen DVD because it was an amazing night that you will definitely want to see again and again!

DOCUMENTARY of SKE48 – February 27, 2015.
DOCUMENTARY of Nogizaka 46 – May 2015.
DOCUMENTARY of NMB48 – August 2015
DOCUMENTARY of HKT48 – November 2015

Related Artists : AKB48
Kai Okudara

Writer, researcher, photographer, foodie, KSDD

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