By Gwendolyn Ng
JAPANESE pop group AKB48's Misaki Iwasa has no issues with otaku (people who have a fetish for anime and anime characters) forming the core of the group's fan base.
The 16-year-old said: "I consider myself an otaku as well - I like to watch anime."
She was in town to promote the opening of the AKB48 official Singapore shop at *Scape in Orchard Road.
Over 500 fans turned up to see her and fellow members Mika Komori, 16, and Miho Miyazaki, 17, at a meet-and-greet session last Saturday.
The all-female group earned a place in the Guinness World Records last year as the "pop group with the greatest number of members", with 48 members.
AKB48 has since recruited more lasses to join its ranks, and now comprises 56 girls, aged between 12 and 24.
With so many girls in a group, they each have to take turns to perform and record singles - sometimes having to earn their place via popularity polls.
Asked if they were stressed by the competition, Iwasa said: "Whatever I do is for the fans, so I don't feel stressed."
Explaining how she tries to stand out, Iwasa joked: "I'm very short. To be spotted by fans (during performances), I try to dance with big actions."
But there is more than internal competition going on in the music industry. Japanese pop groups have to deal with the reality that Korean pop has gained popularity, possibly supplanting J-pop.
my paper asked if AKB48 felt threatened by K-pop groups like Girls' Generation.
Miyazaki, who said she listens to Girls' Generation songs every day, said: "There's no need to differentiate whether you are from Japan or Korea. Music is for everyone and has no borders."
AKB48 and their sister groups - under the same idol-management company, AKS - are expected to fly in from Japan to perform at *Scape every month. Kick-starting the shows was a soldout gig yesterday at 3pm, featuring 16 of the AKB48 members, with another gig at 7pm.
Ardent supporter Brandon Ng caught both concerts.
The 19-year-old, who is waiting to be enlisted in national service, said: "It's a dream come true for fans. We can buy merchandise available exclusively in Singapore and can also catch AKB48's live performances here."
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