It’s been recently announced that AKB Group, the idol conglomerate responsible for AKB48, NMB48, SKE48, HKT48, NGT48, JKT48, and SNH48, will be adding another serial number to the roster in the form of MNL48, which is planned to operate out of Manila in the Philippines.

This new group will be formed through a project by the publicly funded Cool Japan initiative which, contrary to what Gackt may think, appears to be doing something tangible with all their funding after all. In fact, this is especially tangible as yet another source of revenue for Yasushi Akimoto, the head of AKB Group who also just happens to be the chairman of the Cool Japan Council.

■ Cool Japan Mall
The concept of MNL48 is actually rather reasonable in the context of the entire Cool Japan funded project. Sometime in 2017, in the Metropolitan Manila area, a theme park named the Cool Japan Mall will be constructed to celebrate and share the many cultural wonders of Japan with the people of the Philippines.

As a part of the overall theme park, a theatre for an “authentic” AKB Group, MNL48, will be provided. I use quotation marks as several people have questioned how involved the producers of AKB48 would actually be with these girls and speculated that this will simply be a name licensing agreement.

For this reason and more, comments on social media and other websites have been rather harsh regarding Cool Japan’s backing of an AKB Group act.

“But they’re not even that popular in Japan.”
“It’s not ‘Cool Japan’ but ‘Fool Japan.'”
“Can they really keep churning these things out?”
“Will Cool Japan ever stop embarrassing us?”
“Everyone in the Philippines, sorry! Sorry! SORRY!”
“Another name loan. It’s probably just letting them use the name if they pay money.”

■ TAX48
Critics were neatly organized into two camps this time around. Beyond the opinion that groups such as AKB48 were a representation of the worst Japan had to offer culturally, others suspect that something may have been up with Cool Japan Council chair and AKB Group General Producer Yasushi Akimoto.

“Don’t use taxes without permission, jerk.”
“Are they making stupid crap with taxes again?”
“Akimoto’s playing with our taxes.”
“I think using tax money is fine. But what kind of return are the people going to get from this?”
“Japanese tax will make an idol group of foreigners in a foreign country…”

Of course, there is no evidence that Akimoto abused his position to push through yet another group of AKB idols. If an amusement center were to be built encapsulating all of Japanese pop culture, of course idols would have to be represented in one way or another, and among them AKB would certainly be front-runners. So, it’s not outlandish to assume that MNL48 was a decision made by general consensus within Cool Japan. I mean, stranger things have happened.

Whatever the case may be, both Cool Japan and groups like AKB48 are always lightning rods for resentment in Japan, and at this point we can perhaps include the Tokyo Olympics (of which Akimoto is also an organizing committee member) in the mix. Despite the variety of specific complaints people have against these three entities, the underlying message is the same: “We can do better.”

Source: Infoseek News via Itai News (Japanese)
Top Image: Mamiya Kyoshiro