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You could say Nogizaka46 was born to fight. Created by Yasushi Akimoto and billed as the “official rivals” to his breadwinning AKB48 outfit, the group overcame an adultery scandal in 2014 and made its debut on NHK’s yearend “Kohaku Uta Gassen” music extravaganza in 2015. Meanwhile, coincidentally or not, AKB sister groups SKE48 and HKT48 found themselves knocked off the roster. And now, armed with a less cringe-worthy arsenal of songs, Nogizaka now has AKB in its sights.

Second album “Sorezore no Isu” (“Each Chair,” which reportedly refers to each member finding their position in the group) starts off strong, led by the melodic, piano-fueled house track called “Inochi wa Utsukushii” (“Life is Beautiful”). As evidenced by the title, the album falls prey to typical idol tropes such as cheerful lyrics and child-like vocals, but Nogizaka is less sugary than the rest of the cash cows in the 48 stable.

“Yokubo no Reincarnation” (“Reincarnation of Desire”) starts off with filtered vocals, before launching into space-age disco. The beach vacation-themed “Threefold Choice” is a suprising success thanks to a believable ska backing track, and the warmer climes vibe extends to the Latin-influenced “Kakigoori no Kataomoi” (“One-sided Love of Shaved Ice”), which is about the sadness of unrequited love and is backed by a prominent Spanish guitar. Of course, it’s hard not to think of Babymetal’s success when listening to the screeching (and somewhat out-of-place) metal of “Teitaion no Kiss” (“Cold Kiss”

This subdued brand of kawaii (cute) has done well by Nogizaka46, launching it into the top 10 of the notoriously idol-resistant digital charts with their singles, territory that until now has only really been breached by AKB48. Look out behind you ladies, there are 46 idols ready to take your place.

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