Final question, and thank you to everyone for being patient with me when it came to getting around to answering these. Also thank you to everyone who asked a question. I really enjoyed doing this and you can expect me to do this next November as well.
This last but not least question comes from keiko:
Arigatou for opportunity to ask question. It is difficult for those of us now living outside Japan to determine rankings of popularity. This based on cd sales, dvd sales, concert funds or ticket sales, etc. Of the debuted Johnny groups, as of end of 2012, can you give guess as to most popular down to least popular?
As I am not in Japan myself it is a bit hard to tell myself exactly how the order of this will go so I will do general groupings and explain why I think they fall where they fall. And to make it easier I will stick to just doing groups and not the soloists of Johnny's.
SMAP and Arashi
This should go without saying really. Arashi can be seen easily by foreign fans because they have high sales to go with it. As an older group SMAP's popularity is more based on their variety programs and dramas which they tend to be top in both. They also have remained rating draws despite getting older and the various scandals they have gone through.
Kanjani8 and Kinki Kids
Kanjani8 I would place on the top of this tier and would actually have them between this and Top tier. They have come a long way since at debut the easily would have been in the Bottom tier but they work great in variety so they should be able to enjoy being near the top for a long time to come. I think what works against them is that at first glance they look nothing like an idol group and with their emphasis on comedy they tend not to act like an idol group either. But they have done quite well and still have chances to rise.
While Kinki may be surprising to international fans they are much like SMAP, in that they are now more variety based and they do well on that platform. They also have a lot of hit dramas and songs behind them that keep them from being forgotten. They usually have steady sales that are up to par with SMAP and can still fill the larger concert venues. They are set to remain in this tier for a while as their early massive fame is going to help them linger on.
Kis- My-Ft2, Hey! Say! JUMP, KAT-TUN, NEWS, TOKIO and V6
Kis-My-Ft2 are easily the breakout stars of the more recent debuts and with heavy pushing from management but I do not think they have had that break yet that would push them into the next tier. Barring a major scandal I can see them eventually getting that break as they keep getting put in the right places for one to happen, they just need everything else to line up for them.
HSJ is the next up in this tier and only here mainly because of their odd release schedule and are mainly hanging on Yamada Ryosuke's popularity. Some of the other members are getting more steady pushes than in the past so they could rise easily if that continues and they release more.
KAT-TUN is a group that is struggling to find a place in the entertainment world. Not only have they had a rocky time as a group since shortly after their debut but they are in need of a successful image change to keep from dropping from this tier. Kamenashi Kazuya though will help them stay in this tier because he does have some popular drama roles attached to his name but the other members of the group are in need of getting some breakthrough roles themselves. Also the "bad boy" image is not ageing well with them, but they seem intent on keeping it. I do not think they need to change to look like other groups but they need a change that reflects who they are that audiences are able to connect to better as almost 30s still looking like rebellious youth is not working.
I honestly would put NEWS on the low end of this tier because of the recent leaving of members. But the ones remaining are doing okay and are getting a rather steady stream of work so I think they can hang around on this tier a bit longer off of that. They could very easily slink down to the next tier if they do not start getting some breaks to bring them more into the public's eye but for right now they are very much in a state of flux and in the coming year it will be more telling if they are slipping down still or not.
TOKIO is very close to dropping from this tier. But because of being popular with variety as well as having some popular dramas attached to Nagase Tomoya they can still be placed here. Not to mention the lasting popularity of the song Sorafune.
V6 is another group that is just hanging on to this tier. They are saved with their variety shows and lasting popularity from their more popular ones, as well as Okada Junichi's acting career. So they get to hand here for a while still yet.
NYC, Sexy Zone and Tackey & Tsubasa
Honestly I am lumping Nakayama Yuma with NYC as the group has always come off as a vehicle for him more than anything else. Honestly NYC only exists these days for him and to be the Johnny's act in the first half of Kohaku Uta Gassen. Though with the lackluster ratings the group got this year they should probably switch them out with another group. But because the group has Yamada and Chinen Yuri is saved from being lower than this. If Yuma ever gets his break and is strong enough to go solo I can see this group finally going.
Sexy Zone had a weak debut and probably just need to wait until they start getting some break out moments, like the right drama role or variety program. The good news for them is that they do get pushed so they should eventually leave this tier to move up in it. I would actually put them at the top of this tier but they need to start showing appeal to a broader audience to feel like they will have enough behind them to leave it. But probably by the end of the year they should be ready to be in the Middle tier if they keep getting steady promotion.
I rather hate to put any group in this tier but there is no denying that A.B.C-Z is most likely unknown to the general public and are more relying on their Junior popularity. Management does not seem to be helping much in this, though I will give them credit for at least getting Hashimoto Ryosuke a drama role.
So that is my guess and some of the reasons I think they fit in certain tiers.