Maeda Atsuko is considered the face of AKB, and Takahashi Minami has been given the role as the soul of AKB. On Takahashi’s recent photobook, there are numerous lengthy interviews that I never expected to get translated but by the grace of god, I come across a featured, translated interview.
It’s surprisingly candid and neat to see some straight-talk come out of this article. They talk about their differences, first impressions, what they make of their success, Takahashi’s darkest times, her rise to captaincy, what they think of the future, and cake. There’s a whole lot to read; Major kudos to the translator, Jellymomo of Stage48.
Get some cake and click below to read on.
“AKB48’s Captain” ,Takahashi Minami x “AKB48’s Ace”, Maeda Atsuko. The “interesting relationship” of the original members who have shared good and bad times together since they were 14.
Ever since the beginning of AKB48 since they were in 2nd year middle school, they’ve spent five years together and matured together as partners. How do these two see each other? This time we’ve asked them to talk in depth about this, but first the cake in front of them seems to have their attention…
The master of dance met a shy girl!?
Maeda Atsuko (MA): That looks good! Let’s eat it!
Takamina Minami (TM): It’s dangerous eating cake at this hour. It’s already 11? At night.
MA: …Yummy! This kind of has a mature taste. You aren’t going to eat any Takamina?
TM: I’m gonna eat it! I’m gonna eat it! Lol
MA: But you know, both of us like cake but we totally like different foods don’t we?
TM: What Atsuko likes, I can’t eat at all. Lol . Like clams and sushi.
MA: Takamina only eats meat.
TM: That’s why Atsuko, you always accommodate to me. When everybody says “Let’s go eat”, when I’m going too, you always accommodate and you are always the first to ask “Takamina what do you want to eat?”
MA: Even though it’s always “I wanna eat meat!” lol.
TM: Even if I had a million dollars and they told me “You can eat whatever you want”, I would probably choose pork cutlet bowl. Lol. But you know…isn’t it kind of strange?
MA: Whatchu mean?
TM: I mean our basic personalities, from beginning to end, are totally different right? Even when we first got into AKB, our future dreams were different. I wanted to become a singer, and Astuko, you wanted to be an actress, right?
MA: I feel like if I weren’t in AKB, I wouldn’t be with you Takamina.
TM: I seriously understand that! Me too! If we were in school we probably would have never spoken to each other and graduated. Couple of years later, we would probably look at our yearbooks and say “Oh, was there a girl like this?”. Kind of like that. Lol.
MA: And that has come to be five years now…
TM: It seems really short but really long at the same time…I’m going to come out and ask but, what was your first impression of me?
MA: I thought you were a really good hip hop type dancer.
MA: I mean, what you were wearing was so impressionable. Ever since I saw you at audition…you had dyed hair, wearing oversized dangling accessories, and sunglasses. So I thought, she must dance like a pro.
TM: Was that it? Lol.
MA: And then I saw you dance on the first day of lessons…and you couldn’t dance at all. Then I thought, oh what the heck? This girl is all for show. Lol.
TM: Oh how embarrassing… I wonder? Why did I dress like that?
MA: You were just putting up a front.
TM: I was all about looks. Lol. My first impression of Atsuko was like, ‘there’s a really skinny girl. She seems very shy, although I am too’.
MA: I was always looking down.
TM: We had nothing in common except for the fact that we were the same age. We didn’t even talk to each other for a while, did we?
MA: The first time we actually talked, was it during the recording for “Skirt, Hirari”?
TM: Probably. So it was maybe six months since our theater shows started?
MA: Even though there were times we would talk all together.
TM: There was rarely a time when it would be just the two of us. Even after that, it continued kind of like that, didn’t it?
MA: Yeah, that’s how it was. It really has been the last two years, hasn’t it—when we started talking a lot more. Only in the last year did we talk about stuff regarding the team and AKB as a whole.
TM: When I think back on it, I was always with Atsuko. How strange…
MA: I wonder why, even though I’m always with Takamina…
Both simultaneously: We don’t get tired at all!?
TM: What are we, the touch?! Lol (referring to twins in a manga)
The Senshuuraku encore (finale/ last show, referring to Team A 5th stage) that brought everybody
back to their roots/beginning.
TM: You know, don’t you often get asked during magazine interviews “How was it like when AKB made it big?”
MA: Yeah I do.
TM: But honestly, we really don’t know huh?
MA: We really don’t know. It’s more like even now I almost ask, “Is this really happening?” All we’re doing is the same thing we’ve been doing for the last five years and the fans have been supporting us since then too.
TM: Although we haven’t changed, I wonder why is it that our surrounding is always changing when I feel we haven’t changed at all.
MA: Yeah! Yeah! But honestly when I heard that “Oogoe Diamond” made it into #3 on the Oricon (Billboard) charts. I did feel that AKB can still do better and we can still continue.
TM: I understand. It’s not a feeling of we’ve hit it big, but I felt as though I’ve regained a fresh perspective. Even with the motivation factor.
MA: I mean, I thought it would be impossible to ever make it to #3, especially back then.
TM: When “Skirt Hirari” came out, that’s when we got to appear on TV shows and I thought ‘from now on I wonder if there would be more chances like that’. Even though I was optimistically excited at the time, it still took over two years…we were still very far from the mass public. Lol.
MA: (Acchan makes some comment about the cake, sorry hard to translate lol)
TM: Hahahah lol.
MA: But back then, so much happened at the theater too, didn’t it?
TM: Seriously, happy times and hard times, lots of things happened. For me there was the encore incident. That was probably the hardest. Lol.
MA: There was that huh? It was during Team A’s 2nd “Aitakatta Senshuuraku” so…
TM: (immediate response) August 11th, 2006!!
MA: How…that must have been a hard time for you.
TM: There was a time when the same customers would come see every concert. And you know how the songs for the encore were already set? There was slowly this atmosphere that even if no one called for an encore, we would do one anyway. And even if we couldn’t hear anyone calling encore, we would just perform the encore…
MA: I think we had become numb. And I think the customers picked up on those feelings.
TM: Yeah. And then during the day of “Senshuuraku” before the encore performance, we were given a cue card from the staff. And you know how AKB’s MC didn’t have a script, but suddenly we were given a small cue card and when we looked at it, it said “If nobody voiced an encore we were going to end the performance for the night.”! I totally thought I was going to collapse. Because it was the “Senshuuraku”, the members had put so much effort into thinking about their last comments after the encore. So I thought, if there is no encore, is it just going to end here?!
MA: It was great that we did get an encore.
TM: Seriously. There was never a time when I cried so much receiving an encore. After that, repeating the phrase on the cue card, was in a sense, more difficult.
MA: I think it was because we were so numb. The staff probably thought, we have to knock some sense into them and return them to their shoshin (beginning/start/original feelings/per google “original intention”).
TM: True. We definitely felt like we returned to Shoshin.
The support technique of two people who understand each other.
MA: But back then, it didn’t really feel like you were captain or anything.
TM: There were a lot of times when I thought about it. You know, under my breath. Lol
MA: And when you’re in the back, Takamina is so tiny people can’t even see you. Lol.
TM: And then Atsuko you would tell me “This is what you’re thinking right? Then you should just say it out loud.” That’s when I thought, maybe I should say it, since Atsuko thinks so too.
MA: It’s actually the repeat of that, that eventually made you the Takamina we know now as captain. Lol.
TM: When I don’t get that push, I never know whether it’s ok to say something. Because you always give it to me straight, I think, okay I’ll say it. Lol.
MA: I thought Takamina, why don’t you just organize them? It’s not like we necessarily wanted somebody to take the initiative to be the leader, but I did think it would be better for Takamina than me. And then I decided to try my best to support that Takamina in that role.
TM: You can’t be the one saying it, Atsuko. (regarding leading members)
MA: It’d be all messed up. Lol
TM: It wouldn’t be all messed up, but if Atsuko were to say it, it would be a little too harsh.
MA: I think so too.
TM: And that’s why you should leave it up to me!
MA: You say that, but in reality, however, you’re always pissed off. Lol
MA: A lil bit, ne?
TM: Well, once in a while. Lol. But there are many times when Atsuko has caught me. Yes.
MA: You’re in the corner of the room saying “What the heeeeeck?!! while you mumble. It’s a cute, tiny, pissed off.
TM: I’m all irritated, mumbling by myself during situations when I can’t scold somebody’s actions. Lol. These are the moments Atsuko always catches me in…
MA: But I just watch. Aww Takamina is grumpy again, all tiny. Lol.
TM: But we are both the type to prefer being left alone rather than being cheered up.
MA: I have times when I don’t understand why but I’m irritated. But Takamina you are always quietly watching over me. Yeah?
TM: Un. I just think, Atsuko’s in a bad mood and just watch on.
Both simultaneously: Just watching ~lol
From now on, we are going to enjoy every day with everything we have!
TM: I wonder what is going to happen from here on?
TM: I’m actually worried about those girls that entered AKB after we’ve gotten big.
MA: Yeah, I agree.
TM: This is kind of weird, but I think we’d be alright despite what happens to us, but I’m worried about the understudies. If by chance, the CD rankings were to drastically drop, I know we have the confidence to use that as a platform to try harder.
MA: Because it took so long for us to get where we are I want to keep those feelings precious, on the opposite end, I want to be prepared when we start declining.
TM: I’m worried that in that situation, the understudies might think “I can’t go on anymore” or “I’ll just give up.” If that were the case, it wouldn’t be AKB anymore.
MA: That’s why we have to try our best too.
TM: Yeah yeah, we have to try our best too!
MA: But actually, everyday is fun.
TM: Yeah yeah, lately everyday has been very fulfilling and uber uber fun. Team A gets along really well too.
MA: I have a feeling we’ll get even closer.
TM: Atsuko’s feelings are always accurate. I’m getting excited! Lol.
Not just close!? An interesting relationship that surpasses even friendship.
TM: Dude, I feel like we talked a lot. Lol.
MA: We don’t even talk about this stuff usually, huh?
TM: I didn’t think we’d ever talk about this kind of stuff.
MA: But I always get this sudden feeling that we somehow just get each other.
TM: Me too! Somehow how? Lol.
MA: I don’t remember…like usually we don’t even text or mail each other.
TM: Nope, nope. That’s why it’s mysterious. Lately I’ve been thinking. I wonder what Atsuko is to me.
MA: What? What?
TM: I don’t really understand it, but I think you’re like a “mirror”.
MA: That’s deep. Lol. Kind of like a reflection?
TM: Un. I can’t really explain it. Like each of us has a different way of expressing ourselves, but I feel like we’re thinking the same thing deep down inside. We always know what the other is thinking.
MA: Un. Yeah, I kind of understand that.
TM: Even though we’re completely different types.
MA: For me, let’s see. It’s not like someone is telling me to be with you, but when I realize it, we always end up in each others company…I guess you can say you’re my closest partner. Even if we become old ladies, I think I would probably randomly go and see you like normal.
TM: Even if we don’t see each other for a while, I would probably just normally say “Atsuko, what cakes do you like lately?” Lol. Wait. Astuko when did you finish the cake?!?
MA: Fueee. I ate too much!
TM: I’ll go get you some water. Wait here ~!