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And how can fans accept the ritual humiliation of someone they look up to?

To answer that, we have to look at the story of AKB48, and how brilliant marketing and institutional misogyny have exploited pop cultural loopholes for the group to take over Japan.

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Singles often come with lottery tickets to meet members of the group, or — most lucratively — a vote in the annual AKB48 "election," a giant popularity contest that crowns the leader of the group.

There's no limit on the number of ballots, meaning fans sometimes buy tens or hundreds of copies of one single in order to help their favorite member to the top; it puts a whole new spin on the phrase "voting with your wallet." Ballots for last year's election came with copies of the single "Manatsu no Sounds Good!

Make no mistake — taking over Japan is exactly what AKB48 has achieved in recent years.

The girl group dominates the charts to a level never seen in countries like the US today; in 20, all top five positions in the Oricon rankings (Japan's equivalent of the Billboard chart) were occupied by AKB48, and the band has sold over 20 million CDs in total.

With its streets of manga stores and maid cafes, Akihabara is the otaku capital of the world, and it's no coincidence that AKB48 was born there.

In a declining music industry, producer Yasushi Akimoto worked out how to strike gold: create a group laser-focused on the one demographic guaranteed to hand over money, no matter what. Not only did Akimoto make AKB48 appealing enough for people to buy the CDs, he figured out methods of convincing devoted fans to buy the same CD multiple times.And if they were to buy CDs, it's unlikely they'd go for AKB48, who make music that would be considered impossibly juvenile by just about any standard.Instead, the group has found success by targeting a niche market: the otaku, Japan's unique subculture of nerds and misfits.," which went on to sell close to 2 million copies at 1,600 yen (around at the time).The election ceremony takes place at the legendary Nippon Budokan, home to historic performances by the Beatles and Bob Dylan."My name is Minami Minegishi of AKB48 Team B," she says, referring to the hugely successful group she became a founding member of seven years ago.

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