JKT48 + COVID-19 = -26

As the pandemic continues to stretch on many people and businesses are struggling to get by. Live entertainment in particular has had to navigate the ebb and flow of risk in order to obtain whatever revenue possible.

Social distancing has made it especially hard for idol unit AKB48 and its several sister acts to carry out their signature meet-and-greets known as “handshake events.” This undoubtedly has taken a toll on their bottom line, with the hardest hit being the farthest reaching units, such as the first “48” group established outside of Japan, JKT48 in Jakarta.

▼ JKT48 covers many of AKB48’s greatest hits in their own language

Although Indonesia has the largest economy in Southeast Asia, they have been struggling to contain COVID-19 like everyone else. Various restrictions such as school closures, shorter business hours, and restaurants limited to 25-percent capacity, have been enacted and JKT48’s ability to perform and appear in public has been severely cut over the past year.

This left the group’s management with a difficult choice: either dissolve the group completely or drastically downsize it. So, they chose to restructure JKT48 into a leaner, meaner idol unit with 26 fewer members.

However, “layoff” isn’t in the vernacular of these idol organizations, so instead the 26 women will be “mass graduated” in a ceremony honoring their contributions and wishing them luck on their future endeavors elsewhere in entertainment.

▼ The graduation of former member Ratu Vienny Fitrilya earlier this month

The first question that might spring to mind upon hearing all this is whether they will still be called JKT48 if there aren’t actually 48 members. That’s probably not a huge deal anyway, since up until this announcement there were technically 63 women on the team when you include the 15 Class A Academy members that act as a reserve pool of idols in training. It is this sector of JKT48 that will be hardest hit by graduations, with 11 of the 15 Class A Academy members moving on to greener pastures.

Among the main members, Diani Amalia from Team J announced her graduation on Twitter, telling fans “I will always cherish every single one of you who supported me from the start up until now,” and “I’ll never forget JKT48 and I really hope that JKT48 can continue to entertain JKT48 fans all around Indonesia.”

▼ Amalia performed on the group’s latest single, “Rapsodi”

Amalia and the others who will be graduating with her are as follows:

Team J
Adriani Elizabeth
Amanina Afiqah
Diani Amalia Ramadhani
Gabriel Angelina
Nabila Fitriana
Riska Amelia
Sania Julia

Anastasya Narwastu
Fidly Immanda
Kandiya Rafa
Rinanda Syahputri

Team T
Aurel Mayori
Umega Maulana
Viona Fadrin

Academy Class A
Caithlyn Gwyneth
Chalista Ellysia
Christabel Jocelyn
Cindy Nugroho
Febi Komaril
Febrina Diponegoro
Gabriella Stevany
Keisya Ramadhani
Nabila Gusmarlia
Putri Elzahra
Shinta Devi

They will all be sent off in a ceremony scheduled for the end of February, after which JKT48 will chart its course for future endeavors until the threat of COVID-19 is minimized.

This however, raises the question of whether JKT48’s troubles are an isolated incident or whether they might just be a canary in the coal mine, signaling hard times for other 48-or-so-member idol groups from here on out.

Source: JKT48, J-Cast News, Twitter/@Diani_JKT48
Featured image: YouTube/JKT48
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