Maeda Atsuko. Oshima Yuko. Watanabe Mayu.
Any one of them would be a perfect choice to represent the face of Japan’s biggest Pop group.
But on Saturday June 18, Sashihara Rino, the unlikliest of all idols, will have a chance to do something that none of those previous members have ever done.
If Sashihara Rino is able to once again claim the top spot, she will not only be the first member ever to go back-to-back in the General Elections but she will also become the first ever three time champion.
So this begs the question,
Can Sashihara Rino be considered the all-time greatest member of AKB48?
I know some will say that the competition in AKB these days has not been quite as fierce as it was in the early days. That Sashihara never had to go head-to-head with the likes of Maeda Atsuko.
But while there will never be a Maeda vs Sasshi Dream Match, let’s not forget Sashihara did shock everyone by overcoming Oshima Yuko. And I wouldn’t exactly consider Watanabe Mayu and Kashiwagi Yuki push overs either.
It’s no surprise that AKB has been in a transition period. Every idol group will eventually go through this change. High profile members will eventually graduate and then the group will go through a period of uncertainty.
In the case of AKB many wondered who would ever be able to fill the shoes of such memorable original members.
In 2013, we got the answer. With Sashihara taking center stage, AKB released Koi Suru Fortune Cookie (恋するフォーチュンクッキー) or KFC for short.
It sold 1,095,894 copies on the first day, and at the time it was the highest ever first day sales for an AKB48 non-election voting single.
That record would later be broken in 2015 by Halloween Night, again a Sashihara led single.
But let’s look even further at the impact Sashihara has had on AKB and what it should mean to us as fans.
But she took those weaknesses and turned them into strengths.
She embraced her nerd character. And even flaunted it, which is what initially drew people to her. It’s even what inspired our logo here at NSK.
She made fun of her looks, her flat chest, her lack of fashion sense, and her unreliable nature.
All those would be used to coin the term “Sashihara Quality” And from there she would become the ultimate fail character.
She even wore a shirt that said “Chicken Shit” to the Janken to further solidify her that monkier.
Isn’t that something we all strive for? To be ourselves and accepted for it?
From here, she became the Ultimate Ambassador. There had always been tensions among idol fandoms, especially with Hello Project and AKB.
Furthermore she would “produce” a joint idol concert showcasing some of the genres best and brightest.
But then, right in the middle of all the success, came the scandal.
But somehow, all of this may have just helped her. The scandal made her a household name and humanized her as a woman. She wasn’t just an idol anymore.
Again Sashihara had taken something that should have been a negative and somehow turned it into something positive.
The very next year she captured her first number one ranking. And again two years later.
She is the epitome of the idol success story. A rags to riches tale. A true underdog. Our very own ugly duckling becoming a swan right before our very eyes.
And that is why I will be rooting for Sashihara Rino during the elections this week.
I’ll be hoping that she can once again beat the odds, make history, and become
AKB48’s most decorated member.