While it may seem a little crazy to make a statement like this while AKB is still super successful and the Janken was well received, here’s why Shinoda Mariko winning the second Janken Taikai was actually the best thing that could have happened for AKS.
Things could have turned out horribly. Last year in my opinion was a bit shaky. It was the first year for the tournament and while it wasn’t a disaster, I don’t think it was something that instilled a lot of confidence as a yearly event. The event started to go long. There were some missed cues and confusion among the members as to the process of entering and exiting the stage. And even the ending ceremony was awkwardly handled, with the winner’s chair left vacated for quite a long time.
But the biggest question mark was that a virtually unknown member won the center spot. It was good in the sense that the concept of the tournament was created so that anyone would have a chance at being number 1. In that regards the Taikai delivered completely.
But it also showed the flaws behind the system. We saw a significant dip in the sales numbers due to the unfamiliarity of the line-up. It was a much more generic song to fit the possibility of a varied set of girls. And the single covers also lacked a certain confidence behind the design. None of these are anyone’s fault. It’s just how the chips fell.
But that’s why this year was so special and so important. Uchida Mayumi did not do a very good job capturing the hearts of those in attendance the night she won. Call it unfamiliarity with being in the spotlight or maybe it was just nerves, but I know a lot know people left thinking who the fuck? There were 40 other girls that were more excited, more smiley, and with more personality.
Again, I’m not blaming her, even though it might sound like it. I’m simply trying to make a comparison to the importance of this year. The reaction from the crowd when Mariko won was unanimous. Not that I think people weren’t rooting for Fujie, but Shinoda Mariko is someone everyone recognizes. She’s one of the most successful names and has one of the brightest futures. Of all the members who could have won, nobody could have unified the support the way she did. Atsuko and Yuko have both had their turn in the spotlight. Other members are either too controversial or too unknown. I feel like everyone is happy with Mariko winning even so far as to seeing her as deserving.
This is important moving on for future Jankens. AKS needed this to keep the general public interested. Think about all the clips shown after the Janken. It’s all focused around Atsuko losing to Sayaka, Yuko losing to Ami, and Shinoda winning. The casual fans need to be kept in the loop. They want to know what’s going. When an unknown wins, they are much more likely to be disinterested. So the positive energy that comes off the Mariko win will easily carry a few more years. Regardless of future results, there will always be memories of this time.
The final point I’d like to make is about Shinoda Mariko’s eventual graduation. We all predict it has to be happening soon right? At the absolute latest two years? At the absolute soonest before the end of year. Could this win be the final step for Shinoda Mariko? Are all her goals now accomplished within AKB? Having Mariko graduated after the Janken Single would close off a storybook ending to her career. From her beginnings as worker in the AKB café. Getting an audition from fan support. Being a regular top senbatsu member and making a name for herself. To finally making center via the Janken win? There’s no better story than that. She is one of THE best successes to come out of Japanese entertainment.
I’ve seen a lot of negative press with Idols of the course of my years. There’s no telling what could happen tomorrow and it can all be gone within a blink of an eye. A scandal could happen. Her career could take a hit. AKS could look bad and AKB could all be over. You have to believe at 25 she’s at least somewhat interested in starting a relationship. Or negativity could even be as simple as Mariko graduating a few years later when AKB is on the decline. Then everyone thinks she’s abandoning a sinking ship and all hell breaks loose. People don’t want to see that happen, just like no one wants to get to the point where they’re making the old hag jokes at her expense.
A much as I want her to stay, I also want her to keep going. I want AKB to keep growing and they’ll eventually need to bring in other members to the spotlight. If Mariko graduates now, she would be the true example of AKB48. From humble beginnings to brightest futures. “AKB makes dreams come true.” We give our girls the tools to be successful.
But then again, any big name that has left AKB only looked back to see AKB become even bigger. It’s a pretty tough decision, one that I’m glad I don’t have to make.
Of course there’s always the chance that Aki-P pulls another rabbit out of his hat to solve the problem of members graduating. Which at this point, I could see him actually doing.