Maeda Atsuko’s Hair

If you listen to the podcast, you know that three D’s of NSK (Dae, David and Dave) are at a stand-off for which hairstyle suits Maeda Atsuko the best. It was decided on the spot that we were each going to make a post on detailing our stances, and maybe you guys can decide which side you’re on. It’s gonna be a hair-down showdown all up in here! Our cases are after the break:

Dae’s case:

AKB48’s center Maeda Atsuko has had many hairstyles in her idol career. She’ll change styles at a whim whether it be crimped, curled, or put in a bun, but one thing remains constant: She ALWAYS looks good. Why is that? It’s pretty simple: It’s not her hair that makes her glow, it’s her face. Now this sounds obvious and “duh”, but hear me out.

How many times have people lamented over an idol changing hairstyles because it didn’t “suit her”, made her “look weird”, or even reverse— finally getting noticed due to a hair change? More often than not, a hairstyle will drastically transform the way a person looks; but not Maeda Atsuko.

If a girl can sport a boy’s cut and not lose any femininity or attractiveness, I would say that she most likely has a universally attractive face. If a girl’s look and perceived attractiveness varies wildly between different lengths and styles of hair, it’s more likely that her face is best suited and “locked” for something specific, and is perhaps lacking features that would make her universal in that regard.

Maeda Atsuko’s face shape and features are unique, but they also have this universal quality I spoke of. She can chop it, grow it, dye it, and tie it, and she will not lose a single thing that makes her look like Maeda Atsuko. So if her face makes any hairstyle look good, just what is her best hair style? The answer is pretty straight-forward, maybe even too simple: Her best hairstyle is that which shows off her face best.
So we have to look at just a few different styles.

She can look good with a default shoulder-length hair setup like the picture above, but does this hair showcase her face? No, it does not. Her hair practically crops off the sides of her face; Her hair in this picture is a distraction from her face. In some cases this hairstyle might be preferred for some idols, for instance if they want their face to look slimmer, but Maeda Atsuko needs no such aid. It’s only robbing her of her potential.
Now, let’s look at this picture.

WAY better. Look at how little clutter there is; nothing is chopping off the sides of her face. Her entire face shape is in view, presented cleanly and without any cropping. As far as Maeda Atsuko is concerned, the more you can see of her face, the better—so even something small like being able to see her ears is a big plus. But maybe we can do even better.

Now, THIS IS AWESOME. Yes, my absolute favorite hairstyle of Maeda Atsuko was when she prepared her hair for bobbing apples on an episode of Shukan AKB. Simple ponytail with clips keeping her hair out of her face. From any angle, and any side, there isn’t any situation where her face will be overshadowed. She’s not even made-up or lit properly here like the other photos(this is just a cropped screenshot from the episode) but tell me—does she not look stunning? This is as Maeda Atsuko as Maeda Atsuko can look. Perfect.


Dave’s case:

Maeda Atsuko’s hairstyles have been forever changing, which is ironic to me, since I would think a front-girl or “face of AKB” would need to maintain the same look as long as possible. Of course, one could call her hairstyles plain and boring, with no added color the majority of the time and seemingly safe styles.


Originally, I thought of her as not boring, but stable, not plain, but classy.

Firstly, I need to state what types of hairstyles I enjoy. I have been a long time advocate of long hair. The longer the hair, the better. Shoulder lenght? Okay. Touches her butt? We’re getting there. Goes down to her heels? AWRIIIGHT! In all seriousness though I do tend to enjoy longer hair to shorter hair, mostly because I believe there is more potential in the higher volume of hair.

The reason why I don’t enjoy shorter hairstyles can be demonstrated by photos of Maeda Atsuko looking like a little boy.

Short hair like a little boy
I feel like these styles fit a fashionable little boy rather than a cute female idol. When the hair is textured a bit and a little bit messy looking, it gives it much needed character, but by itself it looks like a cap on Maeda’s head. Needless to say, I did not enjoy when Maeda had her hair cut for Hana Kimi 2.0.

Okay, we’ve established that length is good, but what about the style? Well, my favorite styles for long hair tend to be straight, a tad bit of wavy, some curl, and tails. Tails of two specific varieties. Pony and twin. Ponytails and twin tails (sometimes referred to as pigtails) are amazing. Let me direct you to Ponytail to Shushu, possibly one of the best songs and PVs never seen by Tron.

Pony~tail~ Kaze no naka!

If you watch the Ponytail to Shushu PV, you will notice that in the locker room Maeda starts with the standard, below shoulder length hair. This was the first hairstyle I had seen of Maeda, since the first photo I had seen of her was her 2010 profile photo, and the first time I had ever seen her was performing live in Los Angeles at Anime Expo.

Standard Maeda

Also, some large reference photos to show what I mean. For the longest time, this length and straightness was probably my favorite. It’s fine and dandy, and personally I think she looks great in it, but then you proceed further into the PV and you see her in a DYNAMITE ponytail. I’m talking a ponytail that can rival Suzumiya Haruhi’s.

Watch Maeda as she prances around on the sand. The dynamic swing and bounce of her ponytail is what sold me instantly. It’s not very long at all, but it’s definitely not too short either. The tail doesn’t touch Maeda’s back, but it hovers a little over the bottom of her neck. I think that is why her ponytail is able to achieve the frisky bounce that it has in the PV.

Collage of ponytails

Besides the Grade A ponytail, this look is awesome because it creates those signature bangs that Maeda has, with the part above her own left eye. This hairstyle itself could quite possibly be one of Maeda’s best styles ever. When in action and at different times, Maeda’s hair may not be parted, but that’s fine too, as seen in her appearance in her Ponytail performance outfit.

Let’s see it applied to other situations, such as a bun, covered over with cloth, and in other variations of having the hair tied up.


As you can see, they all have the similar and characteristic part at her left. The bang length is very nice, sitting at her eyebrows, and the rest of hair can be configured to different situations.

But Dave, don’t you like LONGER hair?

That’s a good question.

I do.

Maeda delivers yet again in Heavy Rotation.

Still heavily rotating

Here is her Heavy Rotation lingerie look, along with an additional photoshoot image from around the same time. This longer hair with the slight curls looks great on her because it really adds additional flair to her look. The hair itself has details in it you can visibly see since the strands fall onto each other as they curl near the bottom. For the front, she can go with full bangs or the small part on her left again. The additional volume of the longer hair allows for more width in her hair, which is a bit strange at first, but I think it matches her face really well, especially when she smiles.

And what about old school Maeda? We can’t forget that!

Collection of longer hair

Oh but we haven’t! What I liked about her Oogoe Diamond profile photo is that her ear is visible. In the PV itself, it’s not like this, but the ear being visible adds a new dynamic to the longer hairstyle. I remember a Shukan AKB episode where Maeda shows off her ear to the camera and attempts to show that she can move her ear on its own. (Sheer willpower and psychic abilities, right?) The signature part is easily visible in all of the photos. The third photo might be of when Maeda’s hair was the longest in the old days. The fourth photo is a much more modern iteration of the revealed ear(s). I would really like to see Maeda with this hairstyle again, if just for nostalgia’s sake.

Jesus Christ, Maeda Atsuko
“Jesus, this post is long…”

However, I’m going to suddenly throw everything out the window by stating this… I think Maeda Atsuko’s hair looks absolutely amazing in that bobcut she had for Beginner. In 2010, I was introduced to a long haired Maeda. In the same year, she had it cut and she looked fantastic. This was a suprise to me because like I said earlier, I prefer longer hair to shorter hair.

Beginner!Bobcuts for everyone!
I was going to say maybe it’s the song, Beginner, that did it for me, but really, when I look at other photos of Maeda sporting this sharp bob, It still looks really good. The key her is the sharpness at the end of her hair. The sharper the hair, the hotter the girl is. This might be fact. From a ¾ shot you can see that the hair is longest in the front and tapers off towards the back. Therefore, you receive the illusion of her hair being down to shoulder length when really it’s just the front.

It’s a very clean cut and I think it matches Maeda’s face nicely. It also made Q10 watchable. The irony is earlier, I said I didn’t like hair that fit on Maeda like a cap, but this hairstyle is somewhat helmet-like. In the end, all I can go with is my subjectivity when I say this is an excellent style.

Though, I have an inkling feeling that she’s had hair like this before…

Maybe~ maybe~

Oh right! Iiwake Maybe! It’s definitely not the same, but it’s similar in shape and length. Iiwake Maybe has a special place in my heart due to how it was one of the first PVs of AKB48 I had seen and it has great costumes. Along with that, it had great shots of Maeda.


Perhaps I’m taking crazy pills here, but mid-summer 2009 Maeda Atsuko could be my favorite Maeda Atsuko. Granted, first impressions last, especially when they’re positively enforced, so seeing Namida Surprise a hundred times in a row may be a contributing factor as to why I enjoy that hairstyle from Maeda. I’d love to wrap up my case for those brave enough to have read it all the way through, but I have to bring up one more thing before my conclusion.

Twintails. Coming from a heavy Anime background, I was always a huge fan of twintails on 2D girls. There’s something about hair that can be tied up at the upper back corners of the head and allowed to drape down to the shoulders or below. Now that’s some sweet long hair! Rarely does Maeda ever consciously (or does she) dabble in the world of 2D moe, but I couldn’t help but notice that she had an excellent hairdo during Heavy Rotation.

Catgirl Twintail madness
Ladies and gentlemen, twintail catgirl Maeda.

If I were my former self, there’s a high chance I would elect this style as my favorite of all time. Though, I’d have to attribute much of the attraction to the fact that it’s Heavy Rotation. What a perfect song to get the girls into much fancier styles. Not surprisingly, in the same single, a coupling song involving vegetables helped bring out a Maeda I’ve never seen before.

Good morning!
Ladies and gentlemen, the cutest tomato ever.

I never would have expected a song made for a vegetable drink commercial to actually have any relevance to good hairstyles. Hell, I never expected this PV. That’s not the point though, the point here is look at Maeda Atsuko. Twin tails with a slight curl. This is some Grade A+ hair. The beret can leave or stay. Actually I would really like to see this hair without the beret. If this were an Anime, Maeda would be the only girl I would pay attention to. Hell, it would be an Anime about girls who are vegetables. Jesus.

That leads me to conclude that Maeda Atsuko’s best hair style is her signature “Beginner hair”  bobcut. It looked fresh and new when she first sported it and it grows long very nicely, since that hair can venture into Namida Surprise and Iiwake Maybe status.


One can say it’s plain and simple all they want, but perhaps that’s the true beauty to it.

Pulling out her own extensions like a boss
Maeda don’t give a shit.


David’s case:

After going through Dae and Dave’s opinion, I’m impressed by the versatility of Maeda look. I’ve always just thought of Atsuko as just the extremely cute center girl, the role which she has played rather well. But when I see her catalogue of looks, each seem rather fitting of her image.

While I don’t consider myself as big of an Atsuko fan as Dae or Dave, my only advantage is that I can say that I took notice of her before either of the two. I had become aware of AKB before either of them became idols fans and Maeda Atsuko was the first member I could place a name to. She was immediate recognizable and to this day I’m still trying to figure out why.

Short hair like a little boy
For that reason my favorite look for Maeda A will still be her original short cut. Her look has changed over the years signifying her maturity and venture into adulthood but her short cut is how she looked when we had first “met” so it’s always been the most memorable. While I may have moved on to other favorite members, Maeda Atsuko will always be my first favorite member, like a high school love or an elementary school crush. She’s unforgettable and though she’s not constantly on my lists, I’ll always look her way to see that she’s doing well.

It’s encouraging to see her success continuing. As I see more Maeda fans, I still try to pinpoint exactly what is her actual appeal. Is it for the same reasons I first took notice or is it for something completely different and modern? I feel like there is a connection but I know the puzzle will never be completely solved.

Going back to the original topic, Short Cut Maeda is still my favorite. Seeing that original look fills me with warm feelings of nostalgia and is a reminder of great times I had in the past. Times where she was just plain Acchan.

About Dae Lee

-Dae, aka Mizu -Writer, broadcaster, and podcaster on New School Kaidan

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