AKB48, Dizon, Shokotan Help Raise New Year's Ratings
posted on by Egan Loo
Until the mid-Eighties, more than two-thirds of the population of Japan celebrated New Year's Eve by watching the televised Kōhaku Uta Gassen ("Red and White Song Battle") competition. However, with more people going out of the house to celebrate the holiday — including otaku — the Video Research survery firm has been reporting that ratings for the singing competition have dropped in the past two decades. Ratings for Tokyo's Kanto area have fallen from 80.4% in 1962 and 69.9% in 1982 to just 30.6 (first half of the program) and 39.8 (second half) in 2006.
In a bid to reverse the drop, the public broadcaster NHK invited Akihabara-based female idol group AKB48, the self-described otaku personality Shoko Nakagawa ("Shokotan"), and the model-turned-singer Leah Dizon to perform for the first time in the most recent competition last weekend. They sang during the first half of the program, along the revolving-door idol group Morning Musume (the stars of the Musume. Monogatari manga), rock group Porno Graffitti (the group known for Fullmetal Alchemist's "Melissa"), Japanese-American artist Angela Aki (singer of Final Fantasy XII's "Kiss Me Good-Bye" and Blood+'s "This Love"), and Korean artist BoA (Inuyasha's "Every Heart: Minna no Kimochi"). With their efforts, Kōhaku inched up in the Kanto area ratings with 32.8% for the first half of the program. The first half ended with a tribute to the singer-songwriter Zard, who passed away from injuries suffered during a hospital stay in May.
The second half of the program scored a 39.5% rating in the Kanto area, although that is below even the previous year's near-record low ratings. The ratings dip came despite an elaborate stage performance by singer/actor Gackt that included scores of extras wearing samurai armor. (Although Gackt is best known for being the former front man of the Malice Mizer visual kei rock group and having a solo singing career that includes Zeta Gundam theme songs, he has also been playing a warlord named Uesugi Kenshin in NHK's Fūrinkazan period drama series.) The perennial SMAP boy band (featuring Howl's Moving Castle voice actor Takuya Kimura and Akazukin Cha Cha voice actor Shingo Katori) also performed.