AKB48 couldn’t give her spot to another idol, so they found a way to put her in the video even if she wasn’t physically present.

If you’re filming a music video for Japanese idol supergroup AKB48, it doesn’t seem like it should be such a big problem if one of them is out sick. AKB48 is made up of four dozen idols, so if one of them needs to take the day off, just pick one of the remaining 47 to fill in, right?

Except it’s not quite that easy. One of the reasons Japan’s idol industry is so robust, despite being marketed to a much narrower niche than mainstream J-pop, is because fans are encouraged to buy multiple copies of the same CD in order to get more ballots to vote for their favorite vocalist with. The winner of these popularity contests often gets the honor of being the group’s “center,” or most prominently featured performer, for its next music video, which is what happened for 21-year-old Jurina Matsui following the most recent AKB48 “election,” which was held in June.

▼ Jurina Matsui, who also ranked seventh in a poll of Japan’s most beautiful idol singers

At least, that’s what was supposed to happen. Unfortunately, when the time came to film the video for “Sentimental Train,” AKB48’s 53rd single, Matsui was too sick to take part. But since fans had given Matsui the most votes in June, the producers couldn’t replace her with another singer in the video, so instead they replaced her with a CG model and manga illustrations.

▼ The dancing CG version of Matsui, front and center

During their indoor dance scenes, the other featured singers perform in a missing idol formation, with a CG construct of Matsui, wearing a matching outfit, digitally inserted. At points where the camera would have cut to a closeup of her, instead a black and white illustration of her face appears onscreen.

The lengthy 10-minute video has a hefty story element, loosely retelling the legend of Princess Kaguya, who briefly left her home on the moon to live on Earth. Because of that, Matsui was scripted to have several scenes of dialogue with fellow idol Akari Suda. Instead, Matsui once again appears in anime-style illustrated form, with her lines written onscreen as text before the camera cuts back to Suda, who speaks her lines aloud, as seen in the video here.

There’s a palpable romantic tension to Suda and the simulated Matsui’s scenes, which is added to by the fact that the manga illustrations come courtesy of Takako Shimura, creator of LGBT manga such as Wandering Son and Aoi Hana/Sweet Blue Flowers.

Surprisingly, the video has several cuts featuring what are supposed to be Matsui’s back or hands, essentially fessing up to the fact that a body double was used instead.

▼ Matsui’s actual back

Still, the CG and manga visuals make it so Matsui is still technically the video’s “center,” even if she’s not actually in it. But don’t worry that Matsui has missed her chance to shine in-the-flesh. The producers are labeling the video the “unfinished version,” implying that once Matsui is well enough to spend time in front of the camera, her scenes will be filmed and spliced in, thus giving fans two versions of the “Sentimental Train” video to enjoy, and, of course, buy, should the producers decide to sell them separately.

Source: Livedoor News/Daily via Jin, YouTube/AKB48
Images: YouTube/AKB48

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’d be open to the idea of having his face in videos replaced by a Rumiko Takahashi or Kia Asamiya manga portrait.