Yes, there are subgroups to this massive idol phenomenon and in many ways it makes sense to do this. By creating smaller groups, you can assure that the various personalities within AKB are working on projects they enjoy. Smaller groups are also more accessible to new fans, who may not want to learn anything and everything about the whole of AKB, but are more than willing to follow the careers of a few of their favorites. Furthermore, as many of the groups are themed, you ensure that you're providing your broad fan base with music tailored to their particular interests.
I've found one particular subunit which consistently puts out the kind of music I love: DiVA.
DiVA is promoted as AKB's vocal and dance subunit. Formed in early 2011, DiVA initially consisted of four members: Masuda Yuka, Umeda Ayaka, Miyazawa Sae, and Akimoto Sayaka. I'va already spoken at length about Yuka's amazing singing talent and maintain that she is one of best singers in AKB, but the remaining members are no slouches. Sayaka's voice is not only very strong, but quite distinct. She brings an almost haunting quality to each of the songs. Ayaka is likewise a talented singer and dancer, as evidenced by her private video. Sae has the weakest voice of the four, but fits right in as far as the style of the group is concerned. I also know that she is good friends with Sayaka and they were the first two approached about this project.
Shortly after their formation, it was announced that there would be open auditions for new members of DiVA, with the express aim of increasing the subunit to 10 people. This announcement was met with fan backlash, many of whom felt like the four original members would get lost amid the sea of newcomers. Others feared Akimoto would pull members from various AKB sister groups into DiVA and it would lose the qualities that made it unique. On December 20, 2011, this video was released on DiVA's official channel:
The new members were Inoue Yuina, Kasuya Satoko, Fukuno Ramu, Futami Yuuki, Furukawa Atsuko, and Yamagami Ayaka. All were unaffiliated with AKB beforehand and, even with their inclusion in DiVA, still aren't considered members. Each had been through an exhaustive screening process. Thankfully, most people's fears were assuaged when it was revealed that these girls were only meant to be backup dancers and that DiVA would operate in much the same way that Exile, a fourteen member group with four singers, does. As they are brand new, very little is known about these six other than the fact that they are exceptional dancers. If you are interested in learning more about them I would suggest watching the latest videos from DiVA's official Youtube channel, which just began a series of three minute introduction videos for each.
DiVA's sound tends to be dark and their style reflects the same. I've always been a fan of strong female vocals (two of my favorite bands are Nightwish and Sirenia) and this group doesn't disappoint. It's difficult to put into words exactly why I like them, but they have undeniable talent. Take a look at their latest video and see what I mean.
That song, by the way, is the closing theme of the recent Ultraman Saga film. Look who makes an appearance as Team U, a unit of the Earth Defense Force, in that movie.