NGT48 shakeup comes after months of scandal.

Niigata Prefecture-based idol group NGT48 has been at the center of attention multiple times over the past few months, and never for a happy reason. The scandals started in January, when NGT48 member Maho Yamaguchi came forward and revealed, through her Twitter account, that she’d been attacked by two NGT48 fans at the entrance to her home, something the group’s management had been covering up for an entire month at that point.

One day later, the 23-year-old Yamaguchi appeared on stage at a NGT48 performance to apologize for “causing a commotion,” but in March she tweeted that her apology had been coerced by the group’s manager, who threatened to have another idol read a written apology and attribute the words to Yamaguchi if she didn’t apologize in-person.

▼ Yamaguchi’s last tweeted photo, which she shared after the attack took place but before it became public knowledge.

The scandal has resulted in multiple resignations/firings from AKS, the talent company that manages NGT48 and its mega-popular sister group, Tokyo’s AKB48. Now comes yet another shakeup, as NGT48 has announced it is dissolving its intra-group team structure, with the dismantling coming in just 10 days, as part of its plan to “relaunch” the group.

Like many multi-vocalist idol groups, NGT48 subdivided its members into teams for promotional purposes, which in its case were called Team N3 and Team G, the latter of which Yamaguchi was, and is still officially listed as, sub-captain for.

However, since she was attacked, Yamaguchi has removed any mention of NGT48 from her Twitter profile, as have three other members of Team G: Riko Sugahara, Fuka Murakomu, and Rena Hasegawa. While NGT48’s management hasn’t mentioned why it’s disbanding the teams, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that having four of Team G’s 11 members, including the sub-captain, subtly giving the group the cold shoulder in their Twitter profiles makes Team G look embarrassingly small in comparison to Team N3, or perhaps like a group of dissenters. There’s also the fact that while the NGT48 official website continues to claim Yamaguchi as a member of the unit, she hasn’t performed in concert since dropping her Twitter bombshell in January, and all of her subsequent tweets have been in relation to the attack and her dissatisfaction with how NGT48’s management handled the incident.

▼ Hasegawa tweeted her last video on January 8, one day before Yamaguchi first tweeted about being attacked.

It could also be that AKS has taken into consideration Yamaguchi’s accusations that other members of NGT48 were the ones who supplied her attackers with information about her place of residency and schedule, allowing them to plan the attack, and now feels the need for a more unified atmosphere within the group. Either way, though, it’s looking less and less likely that Yamaguchi will return to being an active member of NGT48, giving management a no-win choice between having an absentee sub-captain for Team G, or creating yet another scandal by stripping Yamaguchi of the title and awarding it to another idol, who may herself not want the role if she’s going to acquire it that way. Faced with those undesirable outcomes, taking a third option and simply doing away with any sort of intra-group team system at all seems like the only move that has any chance of ending well.

Team N3 and Team G will both be holding their final individual performances at the NGT48 Theater in Niigata City on April 21, after which NGT 48 will be rebooting itself with all active members lumped together as “first-class members” (in the sense of “first-generation”) with trainees aspiring to become full-fledged members occupying a tier below them.

Source: NGT48 official website, Livedoor News/Nikkan Sports via Jin
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