You’ve probably read a million of these articles by now but I figured I’d give everyone a chance to throw their hat into the ring before saying my bit. If you want to hear my thoughts on the AKB48 General Election 2013 then feel free to keep reading.
Where do I even begin? There’s a lot of things I feel I want to address but finding a starting point is tricky. Do I go in all guns blazing? Should I take a much softer approach and ease into it? Ultimately I think I’ll end up somewhere in the middle.
As it happens, I’m a very opinionated person both online and in real life (yeah, I’ll actually back up anything I say unlike most keyboard warriors) so I do get a bit carried away from time to time. I’ll try to keep things balanced but I am a passionate Scotsman (ladies?) so bear with me if some things get said that you don’t necessarily agree with.
Okay, that’s you eased in now. Let’s get down to business. This year’s AKB48 General Election has been announced, as we all know. It’s going to take place on June 8th at Nissan Stadium. If there is an idol god then there will be a Youtube stream of the event but let’s not get our hopes up too high. Apart from the date and setting, a few new rules were announced which got a lot of people talking.
There’s a bunch of little stuff but the most important rule that was announced is that this year there would be a candidacy system in place. That basically meant that each girl would have to submit an application to management if they intended to take part. An interesting concept although I did have to question why this was needed since surely everyone would be taking part right?
Well, that certainly didn’t end up being the case. The obvious non-participants being girls who had previously announced their graduations and girls who have since announced their intent to graduate from the group. Nothing horribly wrong with such a stance because if they’re not going to be there after the fact then it makes sense not to take part.
However the waters get a bit muddy when you have girls like Komori Mika, Sato Seira, Mukaida Manatsu and Nakagawa Haruka who have shown no signs of leaving but chose not to take part. It makes you wonder how their fans feel about such a decision. Where does that leave them now that their oshimen chose to sit this one out. It certainly is an interesting decision on the part of all parties who decided that this year’s election wasn’t for them.
Another fairly significant rule that was introduced this year is that any former member of the AKS conglomerate who had been with their group for at least 4 years prior to graduation was eligible to take part. That means we have a host of former SDN members gunning for a spot in the top 64 this year. Oh and Hirajima Natsumi is back on the scene too which I’m sure pleases and upsets various factions in the fandom. I think this is a pretty interesting rule but I’ll elaborate a bit more on that later.
Oh and of course, all of the girls currently on that overseas exchange program are eligible so Takajo Aki, Miyazawa Sae and Suzuki Mariya haven’t been left out in the cold. Not that I really expected them to be since they’re a pretty big draw when it comes to voting tickets.
I think that’s a pretty good set-up for the points I want to talk about so I suppose I should get into those now that we’re sufficiently warmed up. We’ll just go in order from the top so let’s start with that candidacy system and my overall thoughts on that.
The candidacy system in theory is a really good idea. It was also somewhat of a good idea in practice too. It created a huge buzz around the elections and people were talking about AKB after about 3 months of them not doing all that much. Every Japanese entertainment website ran an article about these dramatic new rules, we were all blowing up on Twitter about it too. There was a new-found excitement in what many would argue was a rather tired concept at this point.
Then people started to speculate as to why this change had been made. Many made what I think was the logical conclusion that it was all done so Oshima Yuko could bow out gracefully without upsetting too many people. That would then open things up and perhaps things would be more interesting this year. Great plan, but it didn’t actually end up happening.
Oshima Yuko signed up because really why wouldn’t she? If she isn’t going to graduate in the next year or so then it makes sense that she’d take part. There’s also that whole thing where her taking part probably sells a few thousand more copies of the voting single but that’s the cynic in me talking there. At this point a lot of people were starting to wonder why this new system was created if Yuko was going to run anyway.
Another thing that really puzzled a lot of people was Itano Tomomi’s decision to run in the election. She had previously announced her intent to graduate the group by the end of the year. Again, many people made the logical conclusion that she wouldn’t run but here she is. I don’t have anything against her running because I’m sure she wants that last moment in the sun and to give her fans a chance to send her off in style. At the same time you do kinda think that maybe she could have bowed out and let someone else rank who probably needs it a lot more than she does. Yeah, that’s a tricky one to come down on either side of really.
Now would be a good time to talk about the people who chose not to take part this year. A lot of them make sense, like Nito Moeno, the SKE 9 and Akimoto Sayaka who all announced graduations from their respective groups. Hell you can even forgive Matsubara Natsumi for not wanting to go through a repeat of last year again. However, there’s a reasonable number of girls sitting out who aren’t graduating. Well, at least they haven’t made an indication of such plans yet. Cue anger and confusion from a lot of people on the internet because that seems to be the default setting for most.
While I agree that it is really disappointing that these girls aren’t taking part, the rational and calm part of me offers up that they probably have a reason for it. On the other hand, another part of me does think that some might choose to graduate soon. However I’m sure they didn’t just decide to not take part because they don’t care about their fans, or any of the other accusations I see floating around on the internet. There’s probably a reason for it, good or bad and at the end of the day you can either accept it or just stop being a fan I suppose.
One disappointing thing I’ve seen is a lot of people hating on the girls not participating. This is really unproductive and a waste of energy at the best of times. The real kicker here being that most of these people aren’t even fans of the girls that they’re hating on. It was also proved that I can’t win when it comes to a stance on something AKS related. While passing comment on the futility of the whole situation, I was accused of being someone who only wanted to look at the fandom in a positive light. That’s the internet for you though.
With all of that out of the way, I suppose it’s time to air my views on this most curious rule of letting graduated members participate in the elections. At first I was pretty excited about it because I like a lot of the older girls, then I saw just how short the list of eligible candidates really was. That took a good amount of wind out of my sails, that’s for sure.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still looking forward to seeing how well the likes of Noro Kayo and Ohori Megumi do because back in the day they were some of my favorite members of AKB. I don’t know, I just hoped for more I guess. That’s not even getting into how strange the 4 year thing is either. I get that they don’t want to open it up to a hundred people or whatever but hell even 3 years is a long time to be in an idol group. Would it really be such a bad thing if they let Oshima Mai and Nakanishi Rina back for one last hurrah? Not a good idea you say? Well, it’d certainly make things interesting.
Speaking of interesting, what’s up with Hirajima Natsumi throwing her hat into the ring? Isn’t that going to be pretty awkward if she ranks high (or at all really)? Will they give her a kenkyuusei spot along with Minegishi Minami and let bygones be bygones? It’s a pretty big gamble on Nacchan’s part so it would be nice to see her rewarded for it if it does end up paying off. Who says there isn’t room for second chances in life.
With all this talk of graduated girls coming back, it does pose the question of is this really fair to the girls that are still in the group. Let’s assume say…3 graduated members rank in the election. That may be high to you or it may be low, I just went for what I thought was a reasonable number in my head. Assume that many rank, that’s 3 less active members getting exposure that I’m sure would be of more help to their careers than a hindrance. Is it really fair on them that these already fairly successful people just get to swan in and soak up the limelight? I’d say it might not be, others would say that they shouldn’t have it easy. It’s a divisive topic.
That’s not even getting into what could have happened if Maeda Atsuko decided she wanted another shot at the number one spot. I’m sure the fans would have loved it, well maybe some of them. I know a few who are of the opinion that it would be disrespectful to her graduation, Tokyo Dome, blah, blah, blah. Sadly none of that matters when it comes to making money. Thankfully Maeda figured out that such a stunt would completely kill her already floundering acting career and chose to stay away. Although who knows what will happen next year should that door remain open.
It’s at this point in proceedings that I should be summarizing my thoughts so let’s try to do just that.
What initially started out as interest and dare I even say excitement has rather quickly faded out. I guess that’s what happens when you go with a candidacy system that sees pretty much everyone sign up anyway. There’s nothing to follow up on now, all of the Yuko “will she, won’t she” stuff is put to bed and it’s pretty much certain that she’s going to win again this year. Sure it’s cool to see graduated members coming back for this but outside of Hirajima there aren’t really any shocking entries.
These new rules talked a big game but in the end delivered very little in the way of shaking things up. At this moment in time I’m struggling to see how this year will be any different at the business end of things. Anything outside of the top 16 is a complete crapshoot but you can make a fairly reasonable stab at senbatsu already. It all comes off feeling very smoke and mirrors when you see it in the cold light of day.
I suppose in the end this is a very good exercise in publicity on the part of AKS. These new rules may not have brought a lot to the table in the end but they got everyone talking about AKB and the elections. Ultimately it served its purpose and they should be able to ride the wave until the next single comes out. I’ll just have to deal with this hollow feeling that I’m left with right now in my own way.
As always, if you’d like to discuss anything that I’ve talked about in this article then feel free to leave a comment, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @Mage77. I try to respond to everything because I figure if you take the time to read and comment on something that I write then I should take the time to respond to you. I enjoy reading what you all have to say, regardless of if you agree with me or not.