Lee Seung-gi, host of Produce 48, greets fans at an appearance in Taiwan.

PRODUCE 48 Episode 1: A Cultural Divide

The first episode of Produce 48 showcased the differences between J-Pop and K-Pop idols and hinted at how the rest of the season will pan out. In the initial episode, which aired last week on MNet, the biggest story above all was how different the Japanese trainees were compared to the Korean ones. Early on in the episode, the viewers are told that Korean idols are taught by their trainee company, while Japanese idols learn everything on their own. This talent difference was shown immensely when contestants performed and got graded on their performances by the judges. Out of the 12 performers that were graded with an F, 11 of them were trainees from the AKB48 side of the show. On the flipside, the viewer rankings for this episode put AKB48 trainee Sakura Miyawaki in the number one spot, with seven of the top 10 spots going to Korean trainees.

Assessments Bode Well for Koreans on First Episode of PRODUCE 48

The Introduction

The first episode started with contestants entering the studio group by group, based on what company they are from. They selected which number seat they wanted to sit in, of course ranging from 1 to 96. Park Seo-young, who was one of the two only free agents in the competition, took the first seat. She was previously a trainee for YG. She is also the only contestant with blonde hair.

After the seat selection, we were introduced to the many celebrities who will appear on the show. The host/emcee for the show will be Lee Seung-gi, who is coming off his military service which ended in October. The selected judges/trainers were split into three divisions. Lee Hong-gi and Soyou were the vocal trainers for the show. Soyou is a soloist who recently put out the project RE:BORN and single My Blossom. The rap trainer is Cheetah, and the three dance trainers are Bae Yoon-jeong, Choi Young-joon and May J Lee. Throughout the episode, there was a trope expressed that Bae Yoon-jeong was a strict, cutthroat judge, while Soyou was kinder to the contestants, giving them second chances when they slipped up.

The Grading Process

The rest of the first episode consisted of performers being graded by the judges based off of performances. For this assessment, contestants performed with their fellow agency members. Individually, they were given a letter grading.

One of the performers that stuck out during the first episode was Yamada Noe. She had a very energetic and crazy personality, one that the judges and peers seemed to take a liking to. She had a very distinct “husky” voice. People online and a judge on the show drew comparisons to Momoland’s JooE, an idol who became famous for her distinct look and explosive personality in a Tropicana advertisement.

Distinctive Performances

The trainees from HOW Entertainment made waves online with their cover of “Celeb Five.” It was very unique with the three performers having very stone cold expressions throughout the song. A friendly rivalry was also set up in the first episode between WM and Woolim Entertainment. In the K-Pop scene, WM competes with Woolim for the best group with a cute concept, with the two groups being Oh My Girl and Lovelyz. Since Lovelyz are a part of the Woolim label, they did a cover of the Lovelyz song “Ah-Choo.” Their performance caught many’s attention when halfway through it switched to a more badass tone with a serious song. This showed the group’s ability to do many different types of group concepts.

Looking Ahead To Episode 2

The previously mentioned Sakura Miyawaki has not performed yet but is set to in the next episode. What is interesting is how the first week of voting is really a popularity contest based off of nothing. Six of the top 10 haven’t even performed yet. 46 of the 96 trainees performed, with the rest of them most likely going on the second episode. By the time the second episode is done, we will have a better sense of how the field of contestants stands. Also, we will be able to see if the voters have changed their opinions about the contestants. The intensity on the show heightens seemingly every time it is talked about.

Full Rankings After Episode 1:

Rank Contestant Agency Evaluation
1 Sakura Miyawaki HKT48 (J)
2 Ahn Yoo-jin Starship Entertainment (K) B
3 Jang Won-young Starship Entertainment (K) B
4 Jurina Matsui SKE48 (J)
5 Lee Ga-eun Pledis Entertainment (K) A
6 Jang Gyu-ri Stone Music (K)
7 Choi Ye-na Yuehua Entertainment (K) A
8 Lee Si-an Stone Music (K)
9 Miru Shiroma NMB48 (J)
10 Jo Yu-ri Stone Music (K)
11 Wang Yi-ren Yuehan Entertainment (K) B
12 Mako Kojima AKB48 (J)
13 Kim Min-ju Urban Works (K) D
14 Nako Yabuki HKT48 (J)
15 Kim Si-hyeon Yuehua Entertainment (K) B
16 Moe Goto AKB48 (J) F
17 Miho Miyazaki AKB48 (J) D
18 Bae Eun-yeong Stone Music (K)
19 Heo Yoon-jin Pledis Entertainment (K) C
20 Juri Takahashi AKB48 (J)
21 Kim Chae-won Woolim Entertainment (K) B
22 Chiyori Nakanishi AKB48 (J) D
23 Tomu Muto AKB48 (J)
24 Ko Yoo-jin Blockberry Creative (K)
25 Kwon Eun-bi Woolim Entertainment (K) A
26 Nanami Asai AKB48 (J)
27 Erii Chiba AKB48 (J)
28 Vivian Murakawa HKT48 (J) F
29 Lee Chae-yeon WM Entertainment (K) A
30 Hitomi Honda AKB48 (J)
31 Kim Do-ah FENT (K) A
32 Sae Murase NMB48 (J)
33 Lee Yu-jeong CNC Entertainment (K)
34 Park Seo-young Free Agent (K)
35 Natsumi Matsuoka HKT48 (J) F
36 Na Go-eun RBW Entertainment (K) A
37 Aoi Motomura HKT48 (J) D
38 Kang Hye-won 8D Creative Entertainment (K) F
39 Miyu Takeuchi AKB48 (J) A
40 Yoon Hae-sol Music Works Entertainment (K)
41 Miu Shitao AKB48 (J)
42 Shin Su-hyun Fave Entertainment (K) D
43 Ikumi Nakano AKB48 (J)
44 Shinobu Mogi AKB48 (J) F
45 Noe Yamada NGT48 (J) C
46 Saho Iwatate AKB48 (J) B
47 Choi Yeon-soo YG K-Plus (K)
48 Kim So-hee Woolim Entertainment (K) C
49 Park Min-ji MND17 Entertainment (K)
50 Misaki Aramaki HKT48 (J) F
51 Lee Ha-eun MNH Entertainment (K)
52 Park Jinny Free Agent (K)
53 Mina Imada HKT48 (J) D
54 Yoon Eun-bin CNC Entertainment (K)
55 Kim Na-young Banana Culture (K)
56 Erina Oda AKB48 (J)
57 Minami Sato AKB48 (J)
58 Kim Su-yun Woolim Entertainment (K) C
59 Park Hae-yoon FNC Entertainment (K) A
60 Kim Da-yeon CNC Entertainment (K)
61 Rena Hasegawa NGT48 (J) D
62 Kim Min-seo HOW Entertainment (K) C
63 Miku Tanaka HKT48 (J)
64 Han Cho-won Cube Entertainment (K) D
65 Jo Ga-hyeon Starship Entertainment (K) B
66 Lee Seong-hyeon WM Entertainment (K) B
67 Kim Hyun-ah Collazoo Company (K)
68 Kim Cho-yeon A Team Entertainment (K)
69 Yuka Asai SKE48 (J) F
70 Kang Da-min Wellmade Yedang (K) B
71 Yuuka Kato NMB48 (J)
72 Serika Nagano NMB48 (J)
73 Sae Kurihara HKT48 (J) F
74 Jo Yeong-in WM Entertainment (J) B
75 Kokora Naiki NMB48 (J)
76 Hong Ye-ji CNC Entertainment (K)
77 Park Ji-eun RBW Entertainment (K)
78 Amane Tsukiashi HKT48 (J) F
79 Manami Ichikawa AKB48 (J) F
80 Kim Da-hye Banana Culture (K)
81 Won Seo-yeon MMO Entertainment (K)
82 Ahn Ye-won YG K-Plus (K)
83 Jo Ah-yeong FNC Entertainment (K)
84 Ayana Shinozaki AKB48 (J) F
85 Park Chan-ju MND17 Entertainment (K)
86 Yoo Min-young HOW Entertainment (K) A
87 Choi So-eun Music Works Entertainment (K)
88 Alex Christine ZB Label (K)
89 Jo Sa-rang Million Market Entertainment (K)
90 Kim Yu-bin CNC Entertainment (K)
91 Hwang So-yeon Wellmade Yedang (K) A
92 Wang Ke HOW Entertainment (K) B
93 Azusa Uemura NMB48 (J)
94 Cocona Umeyama NMB48 (J) F
95 Son Eun-chae Million Market Entertainment (K)
96 Lee Chae-jeong MND17 Entertainment (K)


All Contestants That Got Marked A:

Contestant Company Rank
Lee Ga-eun Pledis Entertainment (K) 5
Choi Ye-na Yuehua Entertainment (K) 7
Kwon Eun-bi Woolim Entertainment (K) 25
Lee Chae-yeon WM Entertainment (K) 29
Kim Do-ah FENT (K) 31
Na Go-eun RBW Entertainment (K) 36
Miyu Takeuchi ABK48 (J) 39
Park Hae-yoon FNC Entertainment (K) 59
Yoo Min-young HOW Entertainment (K) 86
Hwang So-yeon Wellmade Yedang 91


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