Idol group NGT48 plans to disband the current two teams performing under their name, according to an announcement made on the group’s official website late Thursday evening. The project will restart, with all current members still being part of the group for the time being.
The move comes as the Maho Yamaguchi assault scandal carries on in Japan. In late March, a third-party investigation into the December assault on NGT48 member Yamaguchi found that no other members of the music group were involved in the attack, though management failed to act in multiple ways. Yamaguchi herself countered, saying this wasn’t accurate.
NGT48 was previously comprised of two teams, Team NIII, and Team G, which follows a model utilized by all other groups in the AKB48 family. Both teams will perform one last time on April 21 at the NGT48 theater in Niigata City.
The decision to break up these groups means that NGT48 is basically attempting to start over. It remains to be seen if new groups will be formed in the wake of this news, or if members will just perform under the NGT48 banner. It’s also unclear, according to the statement, what title the performers will hold. It also remains to be seen what Yamaguchi’s role with the group is, as she is still listed as a member of Team G on the NGT48 website.
In related news, NGT48’s management recently apologized to the Niigata prefectural government over their handling of Yamaguchi’s assault. In the wake of the attack on her, many sponsors have backed out of deals with NGT48, and according to Japanese news reports, the Niigata government is deeply concerned about how this is unfolding.
All events associated with the group, including live shows and handshake events, had been canceled over the last few weeks.
It’s hard to look at this “restart” as anything more than a last-ditch effort to save NGT48’s reputation. Given the information presented at the time, this news is less a new beginning and more a rebranding. As of writing, all members involved in NGT48 remain the same. This is the equivalent of a company in the wake of a scandal creating a new name for themselves, hoping that the public forgets about all the bad things in the past via a fresh title. It remains to be seen if this actually works, or is just desperation.