It is rare for MNL48 to have a month like February: a total of five appearances so far have been confirmed. That may not sound much, until you realize that all those appearances are concentrated in just one weekend.
Let’s begin with the first one: MNL48 will be the guest performers in the J-pop Anime Singing contest on February 16, 2019. This one had been announced a long time ago already, and will be held on SM Mall of Asia. Admission is free, although people would have to register in advance.
I think it’s a good thing that MNL48 will perform in an event sponsored by the Japanese Embassy. They are, after all, a J-pop idol group, and promoting both Philippine and Japanese cultures should be one of their main objectives.
The second event, also held on the same day, is the Lipa Love Fest, held in Lipa City, Batangas. MNL48 is just one among many groups and artists that will grace the event, and I’m not even sure how well they will be received since this is their first performance in Batangas, and I am not sure they have enough fans in the area who can go to Lipa to support them.
The mere fact that they were invited though, is a big thing. Either someone from Lipa has their eye upon MNL48, or someone recommended them to the organizing committee.
The third event of the day is a performance in a town fiesta in Bulacan. Yes, MNL48 was invited to perform in a town fiesta of all places. I was very surprised when I found out, but I am happy that fans from that area would have an opportunity to see them. Although seeing as it is a town fiesta, I don’t really know how the fans will be able to just come without knowing anyone from that area, much less be invited. But we’re talking about fans who went to Pangasinan of all places, so I may be underestimating them.
If that is not enough, the next day will be a double event: The February Seitansai and the Valentines Day mini-concert. The February celebrants are Quincy, Kyla, Joyce, and KKS Yna. Not exactly big names but Quincy has been inviting people to come every chance she gets and it’s really hard to let her down. I’m not pretty sure how many will come, but the monthly seitansai is becoming a traditional thing for some people so there would at least be some of us. What I am sure though, is that fans will want to catch the Valentine’s Concert afterward, as even if you didn’t care about celebrating Valentines Day, the girls’ skill in performing live makes it a must-see.
That’s five appearances in two days, utilizing all members, going from North (Bulacan) to South (Batangas). While I am not really sure how they will be received in Bulacan and Batangas, it should amount to something, especially since the mall shows seem to be off the table now.
HHE has been roundly criticized for not pushing the girls to be more visible, with mall shows, TV shows, and other programs just like – or at least similar to – what AKB48 has. And their complaint has merit because the success of the group will be dependent on how visible they are.
But I also think that HHE needs more time. MNL48 has been in existence for just a year, and they have only been actively operating for much less than that. What is more, they’re not exactly popular among non-Jpop fans, and it would be hard to sell them as endorsers for prospective clients If their name recall is very low.
Despite the promising sales of the second single, their popularity level is not where it should be for them to even be seriously considered as marketing ambassadors yet. They are slowly getting known for sure, even by people who do not actively follow the group, but there’s a long way to go.
MNL48 must succeed in order to garner attention. With that attention should hopefully come the financial benefits. And being profitable means the management will have more resources to do those requested high-quality MVs, give the members individual projects, and improve their over-all handling of the group.
The main challenge facing HHE is that their media partner seems disinterested in actively promoting them. The HHE staff itself seems understaffed and overwhelmed, and it often falls to the fans to try and spread news about the group via social media, blogs, vlogs, and anything they can think of. And in some ways, that has proven to be a lot more effective than getting the mainstream media to write about MNL48.
They didn’t care to write about it when the First Generation audition was running on “It’s Showtime“, so I don’t think they’ll suddenly have an epiphany and start covering the group more intensely.
It’s not an ideal setup, sure. But I always think that we fans have proven to be very creative enough in helping the group succeed. I would like to think that in that way, we may be able to get the group to reach milestones faster than if we’ll just wait for their management to move the way we want them to.
The second generation auditions is also underway. Announced last January 31, 2019, MNL48 is also looking to add new blood to their group.
Just like the previous one, girls can apply via the MNL48 app. Unlike the previous one, however, this audition will only take applications for a month. Processing and evaluations will run in March and the whole thing is expected to be done in by April.
That’s in stark contrast to the first generation which ran from December of 2016, had to be restarted by October 2017, and put us all through four agonizing months of ‘It’s Showtime‘ shenanigans. Also, this time there will be none of those reality-TV type challenges as HHE seems to have decided to keep this low-key.
Or at least, that’s what it seems to me. I mean, for all we know, they may pull off another “secret audition”. But at least we won’t have to see these hopefuls subjected to tasks and challenges that had nothing to do with being an idol. Even though I still have “Mr. Kupido” running through my head, I would like nothing more than for idol hopefuls to be evaluated as idol hopefuls.
My personal feelings about this audition is that I am cautiously optimistic. On one hand, adding members has always been part of the 48 group especially in their early years. But on the other, MNL48 has 48 members with three teams plus kenkyuusei already.
From that perspective, holding auditions lacked any sense. Unless they’re expecting – or planning – many departures this year. As it is, HHE can barely promote the girls it already has. Wouldn’t adding new mouths to feed make it even worse?
Also, it seems that the management favors specific girls so much it has concentrated their line-ups with them. For example, there’s simply no reason to give two songs to the single senbatsu. In MNL48’s case, four of the existing songs are comprised of senbatsu members the main girls of which are the same.
I’m not even going into the debate on who “deserves” to be senbatsu. That has always been the management’s prerogative. And Sheki, in my opinion, just can’t be matched when it comes to over-all performance ability. But the senbatsu don’t really need to have two songs per single.
And that’s pretty much my concern with this audition. Adding people takes away opportunities to members who haven’t actually been given much.
I do feel that HHE seems to have settled themselves around a core group of girls they’ve decided they will push. That’s not a bad thing by itself, but it does give off the impression that they’re not really keen on mixing things up. Like choosing as center a girl not named Sheki, for example.
Everyone knows she’s so skilled that it’s a no-brainer. But the good thing about her is that you can place her literally anywhere in the line-up and she’s going to shine just the same. That’s why I am not worried about her. My thinking is that having a member as skilled as Sheki should give the management a lot of flexibility with regards to choosing other centers amd taking risks by including members who haven’t gotten in senbatsu.
I personally think that the management should take a risk and try choosing other members as centers. I personally think Faith has a good shot due to her popularity with wotas, not to mention being a hard worker. If the management is still looking for skilled members there’s Brei. Having good singing skills (not to mention having approximately the same height as Sheki) should do it.
That doesn’t mean to say that I am not in favor for the second generation. I just think there are things that the management needs to address before they welcome a new batch of girls (they have 2 months to do it). I’m hoping we get really good ones.
Oh yeah before I forget…..promote the kenkyuusei. They too, are first generation, and it’s about time.