TOKYO (AP) — AKB48 is not exactly a band. It's an army of girls-next-door ranked by its fans, and after taking Japan by storm it's getting ready to go global.
Four teams totalling more than 60 girls and young women make up what is arguably Japan's most popular pop group. It performs almost every day, has spawned affiliates across the country and has recently given rise to sister groups in Indonesia, China and Taiwan.
AKB48's big event is an annual vote — by almost 1.4 million fans this year — to determine who records their next single.
Their singing and dancing aren't always perfect, and the group's ever-changing members are hard to keep track of. But fans are forgiving and view them as their friends or little sisters, not out-of-reach superstars.