I love AKBINGO! It’s one of my all time favorite Japanese variety shows, right on up there with Gaki no Tsukai. (P.S. if you haven’t already heard of Gaki no Tsukai, do yourself a huge favor and check that out as well.) Over the past century, we’ve written a few posts about the stars of AKBINGO!, AKB48, and how they’ve taken over Japan, seduced China, made babies over the internet, and played God. While not for everyone, AKB48 is still insanely popular.
Lesser known (I think) is the band’s variety show, AKBINGO! Like I said, it’s one of my favorite variety shows to watch for study/immersion/etc. If you haven’t heard of the show before, you’re probably in for a treat.
AKBINGO! With English Subtitles
I’ve included a few videos with English subs for those who aren’t as far along in their Japanese studies, but these videos will give you a good feel for the show. I really like that every show is different with tons of different games, skits, and performances. Every show is a new experience and there’s plenty of band members for you to pick favorites from. Even I have a favorite, but more on that later.
Since this is a variety show, the cast members speak much faster and sometimes even talk over one another. As such, the show can be a bit harder to understand than your usual drama, so variety shows are more for upper intermediate to advanced learners in my opinion. But even if you don’t understand much of what’s being said, you can still enjoy all the visuals and follow along with the games which is quite enjoyable.
Another bonus to the show is that it features both male and female speakers with largely unscripted dialogue. This gives you lots of exposure to raw unedited Japanese that’s very natural. If you’ve mastered learning with dramas (click here if you haven’t), variety shows are one step up in difficulty and will help take your listening skills to the next level.
Like I mentioned before, AKBINGO! along with Gaki no Tsukai are two of my favorite Japanese variety shows, but they’re by no means the only good ones out there. Just look at TORE for example. And for whatever reason, the best AKBINGO! videos from YouTube were of the punishment dodge ball game, but the show has plenty of other games as well.
Another great thing about variety shows is that for the most part you can come in at any time and enjoy what’s going on. Variety shows are probably my favorite thing for passive learning since there’s not a story you need to follow along with and you can just jump in and start paying attention anytime you want to, enjoy it for a bit, then come back and pay attention again later. Variety shows make for great passive background noise.
AKBINGO! in the Raw
And here’s one of the better AKBINGO! videos on YouTube with no English subtitles included. If you’re a Japanese master, this will test your skills with all the chitter chatter going on. Can you keep up? And for those of you who aren’t at that level yet, you can see that it’s still pretty fun to watch even if you don’t understand much of what’s being said. What do you think?
Another nice thing about variety shows like this is that they often subtitle random dialogue in Japanese at the bottom of the screen which is nice, assuming you can read (if you can’t, click here for practice). Sometimes it’s done for dramatic effect and other times it’s done when someone says something too quietly or people are talking over one another.
One potentially bad thing about AKBINGO! though is the inconsistency of the shows, at least for those who can’t understand the dialogue very well. Some shows are more dialogue heavy than others, and some don’t even include any games or skits at all (gasp!).
John’s Favorite AKB48 Member
Okay, so almost everyone who has more than just a passing exposure to AKB48 has a favorite member and I am no exception. Since I’m sure all of you are just dying to know who my favorite member is, it’s Sae Miyazawa. She’s always been my favorite. Is it her height? Her short hair? Her smile? I dunno, I just think she’s cool.
To be completely honest, I haven’t been keeping up with AKB48 happenings as much as I used to (I know, shame on me, right?) but I actually don’t think Sae is a member of AKB48 anymore and has moved on to something else. Well, she’s still my favorite anyway – deal with it.
Music! Music Everywhere!
Another potential benefit of AKBINGO! (or detriment, depending on your tastes) is the inclusion of lots and lots of AKB48 music. I’m actually not a huge fan of their tunes, but I do really like the song included here. Most of their stuff is too sugar sweet J-poppy, but I actually think this one is pretty cool.
There’s also another version of this music video (the non-dance version) which is way better in my opinion, but for whatever reason it isn’t on YouTube just yet. You can check it out here though, and I recommend you do so because it’s pretty entertaining.
So tell me, what do you think of the show and AKB48 in general? Do you have a favorite member? Any other cool variety shows to share? Let us know in the comments!