Asia News: Arashi, Super Nintendo World, Avex & More

Arashi Livestream A Success Despite Glitches
Arashi – Arashi
Promo shot

Japan’s biggest boy band, Arashi, which plans to go on hiatus after a big New Year’s Eve concert, held a much anticipated online concert at the new National Stadium that was recorded without an audience and then streamed around the world on Nov. 3. 

The concert was reportedly a huge success. However, several local media later reported that a number of paid subscribers to the concert were not able to watch due to technical problems.
In a long article published by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper’s Ronza supplement, an associate professor of journalism outlined the problems as an illustration of local news outlets’ lack of journalistic rigor, since the glitches went unreported amidst the consistently upbeat coverage of the concert. 
Dubbed AraFes (as in Arashi Festival) 2020, the show was an all-day affair broken into different sections. Availability of the different sections for viewing depended on which ticket package was purchased and whether or not the purchaser was a member of the official Arashi fan club, which requires a yearly membership through the group’s talent agency Johnny & Associates.
According to Ronza, the daytime portion of the concert, which consisted of a documentary and live interviews with the band that was only available to the fan club, was marred by streaming glitches that froze the image for minutes at a time. 
Around 5:30 p.m. some media reported the glitches, saying that it was a problem with the broadcast itself and not due to individual problems regarding internet providers or wi-fi networks. Fans reported having to reboot the Arashi home page repeatedly. The problems continued after the content that was made available to non-fan club members began, and apparently were more prevalent among people viewing the stream from outside of Japan. 
Originally, the organizers of the concert said that there would be no repeat broadcast. 
However, they changed their mind and repeated the entire two-part production three times from Nov. 6 to 8, selling more tickets in the process. However, according to Ronza they did not at any time admit to the technical difficulties nor apologize for the bad feed. 
The home page for the concert said that some ten million people had viewed it, and the Ronza article estimated that perhaps tens of thousands of paying viewers were not able to enjoy the show fully. No refunds were offered. 

Universal Studios Green Lights Nintendo Attraction For February
Despite the pandemic, Universal Studios Japan has announced plans to open its $580 million Nintendo attraction on Feb. 4, 2021, after a long delay. 
According to Bloomberg, Super Nintendo World will be a life-sized replica of some of Nintendo’s most popular games, featuring rides, shops and other activities. 
Perhaps the first main attraction will be the Mario Kart ride, patterned after the Super Mario Brothers game. “Players” can collect virtual coins by wearing special wristbands as they explore the area and interact with features using a Switch console. 
It is one of the largest projects that USJ has ever conceived, and was originally planned to open last summer, but was postponed due to the COVID crisis. Bloomberg reports that the opening could be pushed back further, given that Osaka, the city that hosts USJ, has recently seen a severe spike in infections with the onset of winter. 
However, USJ has a lot riding on Nintendo World, since, like most event-related businesses in the world, it has suffered a huge drop in revenue the past year, mainly due to the loss of foreign tourism, since overseas visitors, especially from China, have been the driving force behind USJ’s fortunes in recent years. NBCUniversal, which owns USJ, says it is suspending plans to open a similar Nintendo World attraction at its Orlando park.
Avex Makes Moves To Stay Afloat
Avex, one of Japan’s biggest record labels and entertainment talent agencies, announced in November that it has asked about 100 full-time employees over the age of 40 to voluntarily take early retirement in a bid to cut costs as the continuing pandemic eats at the company’s bottom line. 
In addition, Avex says it is selling its 18-story Tokyo headquarters building which has only been open for three years, through the Canadian real estate fund BentallGreenOak. 
More significantly for Japanese music fans, the company is undergoing restructuring after it reported a 3.2 billion yen ($30.6 million) loss during the first quarter of the fiscal year. 
According to the J-pop fan site Arama! Japan, while Avex has some potent legacy acts signed to its label, it has failed to cultivate new artists in recent years. Its business model, according to one insider, “became out of date in the age of the internet.” 
Consequently, the roster of artists that Avex manages will likely be reduced, with those acts that have not had a major hit recently being let go.

BTS were StubHub
Matt Sayles / Invision / AP
– BTS were StubHub
This picture was taken at a performance at the American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles Nov. 19.

K-Pop Stars Permitted Military Service Deterred

South Korea’s National Assembly passed a bill on Dec. 1 that will allow “globally recognized pop culture artists” to postpone mandatory military service, reports the Yonhap news agency. 
The revision to the Military Service Act was first proposed in September after K-Pop juggernaut BTS became the first South Korean pop act to ever top the U.S. singles chart. 
However, the idea of deferring military service for male pop stars has been under discussion for years as K-Pop grew in international popularity. Previously, military exemptions were only given to internationally recognized athletes and classical musicians. 
Under the revision, certain recognized pop stars can put off their service until the age of 30. Presently, they must enter the military no later than 28 year, which means the oldest member of BTS, Jin, would otherwise have to go into the army sometime in the coming months.