No Sleeves is often referred to as no3b. To understand how that makes any sense, you have to have at least a basic knowledge of the Japanese language and the way they represent English sounds (skip this paragraph if this is of no interest to you). Japanese has no TH sound and so when adapting English words it is usually replaced by the SU syllable. Japanese also doesn’t have an L, and the R they have is different than an English R (in complicated ways I’m not going to go into), so both English sounds are represented with R in Japanese. And last, there is no V is Japanese, so its usually replaced with a B sound. Thus, in Japansee the word sleeves sounds more like suriibusu. Surii is how you would pronounce the English word three in Japanese. So we end up with no3b.
The members of no3b are Takahashi Minami, Kojima Haruna, and Minegishi Minami. These girls were all original members of Team A (although Minegishi has since been shuffled to Team K), and they performed together in Junai no Crescendo (part of Team A’s 4th Stage) and Bye Bye Bye (during Himawarigumi’s 2nd stage) at the AKB theatre. The girls clearly had chemistry together and so in November of 2008 they debuted as a subunit with their first single, Relax.
The name of the group itself refers to sleeveless clothing and the girls can usually be seen wearing tank tops or sleeveless dresses in their promotion materials. The group has released eight singles, with a ninth on the way later this year, as well as an album (almost all of which come in annoying multiple versions). The three members also starred together in a TV drama called “Mendol ~Ikemen Idol~.” In Mendol they play girls who desperately want to be idols, but keep failing auditions. They witness a crime and have to flee from the culprits and then finally find a producer willing to let them debut. To protect their identities they dress up as boys for their stage personas. The group released two digital singles as the male idol group from the show (aptly named Persona). They have also starred in a cellphone drama and have a weekly radio program.
If you’re a fan of any of the members, you will want to check out the subunit for sure. They all have very nice voices and they harmonize together well. And since there are only three of them, they each get a decent amount of solo lines, allowing you to really get a feel for their individual voices, something nearly impossible to do in most AKB48 songs. Also it’s common for subunits to feature solo songs as coupling tracks on their singles, and since not all members get solos in AKB this is a great opportunity to hear what your favorite members can really do. No3b’s last two singles, as well as their album, have come with a solo song by each member (although you only get one, depending on which version of the CD you purchase).
As for their music, they don’t seem to have one set style. Songs range from the basic pop of Pedicure Day to the almost Latin rhythms of Lie to the rocking Kuchibiru Furezu…. They are very adaptive and make all the song work although all of the songs may not be to everyone’s taste since they are so different. My favorite of their singles is Answer. The dances for their music videos don’t seem to be too intense. I know that Minegishi Minami is considered a great dancer and Takamina is pretty good, so I wonder if Haruna just isn’t on the same level so they tone it down a bit. Or perhaps they simply want the unit to focus on vocals and not flashy dance moves.
Overall I like no3b. All three members are very experienced by this point and it shows. This group is the only subunit so far to have 2 members who are in the top 10 in terms of popularity (last election Haruna was number 6 and Takamina was 7). This probably contributes to the unit’s popularity. In 2011 subunit songs were still allowed in the annual Request Hour Concert, where fans vote for their favorite 48 Family songs and the top 100 are counted down over four days, and four of their five singles, one of their Persona songs, and one of the coupling tracks from a single ranked. That’s pretty impressive. In 2012, they made all subunit and soloist songs ineligible and instead had a separate Unit Matsuri the next day, which did not involve voting of any kind and was mostly just a showcase of the different subunits. In the future I hope that they will have a Request Hour just for subunits and solo songs in the future.