Negicco Isn’t Worried About NGT48! Here are Some Reasons Why You Shouldn’t be Either!
With the announcement of NGT48, the Niigata branch of the “48 group” family, on January 25, 2015, the Internet was abuzz. Across town from Tokyo Dome City Hall where AKB48 was holding their 5-day “Set List Request Hour Best 1035 2015”, the pride of Niigata’s idol scene, Negicco was finishing up their “Negicco LIQUIDROOM 2 days” in Ebisu. It seemed like any search for NGT48 was in reference to what possible impact it would have on Negicco.
Niigata came as a shock to many because there had been no mention of it as a possible site for expansion. There had been rumors for years as to where the next “48 group” would be with many thinking it would be somewhere like Sapporo or Okinawa after it was announced by producer Yasushi Akimoto that there were plans to start groups there. Akimoto mentioned future plans for making groups in the Philippines and Taiwan but so far TPE48 (Taipei) has not progressed past the audition phase despite being announced in 2011.
Negicco, established as a temporary group to promote leeks grown in Niigata, has become known throughout Japan with loyal fans all over the world. Active since 2003, when it comes to “local idols” in Japan or Niigata, Negicco is among one of the first things to come to mind. Also known as the “Never Give Up Girls”, Megu, Kaede, and Nao☆ experienced their biggest success in 2014 after getting a 5th place weekly Oricon ranking (daily 1st place) for their single “Hikari no Spur” (release date: December 2) and starring in a commercial that was broadcast nationwide. Their second album “Rice & Snow” (release date: January 20) has received critical acclaim, with one writer calling it one of the best albums of 2015. To find out more, check out the interview that Tokyo Girl’s Update had with Negicco earlier this year and the video Vice Japan did about them in 2014 below.
There were many articles interpreting the establishment of NGT48 as an attack on Negicco, an attempt to come in and take over the home ground of Niigata that the trio had so proudly represented for almost 12 years. However, Kaede was less worried as her tweets “NGT48-san! NGC3” and “There’s a lot of cute girls to I think it can become a good group” (Niigata kawaii ko ooi no de kanari ii guruupu ni naru no de wa to omoimasu,,,!) were retweeted and favorited hundreds of times.
On one hand, a new group under the umbrella of AKB48 means that several dozen young women will get the chance to become an idol under a system that has been proven to work in Nagoya (SKE48), Osaka (NMB48), Fukuoka (HKT48) as well as Tokyo. Right away NGT48 will have songs to perform, even if it will probably be Team A’s “Party ga Hajimaru yo”. On top of that, the popular members of the new group will almost certainly be integrated into future AKB48 singles and transferred or be given concurrent status in another group. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear of NGT48 having a nationwide tour or appearing on NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen in a few years either. This is because they have a system in place and business relationships built by the groups that came before them to take advantage of.
However, this does not necessarily mean that NGT48 will destroy Negicco as badly as the media would lead you to believe. The members of Negicco were born and raised in Niigata and have built a strong local fan base in the 12 years that they have been active in addition to gradually expanding their popularity. Even if NGT48 has a large percentage of members from Niigata, there is no doubt that there will be a lot of young women from other prefectures applying as well.
As a smaller group, Negicco has a stronger identity and have more creative freedom to provide lyrics for their songs and design their merchandise. They are seasoned veterans of the music business and have grown stronger through their trials and tribulations as well as their successes. Even though they are classified as idols, in many ways they are closer to musical artists. In contrast, the sound of the “48 groups” is strongly influenced by Yasushi AKimoto who writes all the lyrics, similar to how Tsunku composes all the songs for the Hello! Project groups. For anyone who remembers when any of the sister groups of AKB48 (or the draft members, Team 8, or Baito48) appeared, it was a little overwhelming to see all those new faces and figure out how to remember them. Negicco is Megu, Kaede, and Nao☆; with a “48 group”, a near infinite combination of members are available. If NGT48 is to continue the tradition of being “idols you can meet”, it will be important to have enough members to have regular theater performances no matter what happens.
While Niigata might be the least populated metropolis to get a “48 group” so far and some may wonder about the feasibility of sustaining a group in a place with such a small idol scene, it does not necessarily mean that this will come at the expense of Negicco. The establishment of NGT48 gives the residents of northwestern Japan access to their own version of AKB48 without having to travel 2 hours by Shinkansen to Tokyo. It’s like a chain of restaurants expanding into a new region. For the most part, you know what to expect with a “48 group” and this is probably one of the reasons that they have succeeded to this extent.
Negicco is one of the pioneers of the “local idol” movement, a group born and raised in Niigata that has recently begun to experience breakthrough success. In this sense, they are like a long-running local restaurant that has become so popular that the regulars have a hard time going there because there are so many out of town visitors. Even if you were one of the first ones to know about them, you now have to share them with the rest of the world as their merits are acknowledged. Negicco will always call Niigata home but their upcoming tour will take them far from the land of “Rice & Snow”. This is the price to pay for popularity.
Negicco and NGT48 may both be idol groups but, under the ever-changing criteria of what is considered an idol, there is enough of a difference between them that they should be able to co-exist and even have a good symbiotic relationship. The fact that AKB48 is such a well-known group in Japan it is likely that many people found out about Negicco for the first time when news of NGT48 came out. If anything, Negicco might have been able to win a lot of new fans and increased support because of the NGT48 announcement drawing more attention to them. It seems that those worried about what effect NGT48 will have on Negicco neglect to acknowledge that their success in Niigata was not due to a lack of competition but years of perseverance, hard work and talent.
Negicco Official Website:http://negicco.net/home.html
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