"I, Akimoto Sayaka, am not running for election, I am graduating from AKB48."
Over the past year, I've been mentally preparing myself for Akimoto Sayaka's graduation. With so many older generation members of AKB48 dropping out of the group like flies, I've mentally acknowledged that the possibility of Sayaka graduating is more than likely. Everyone knows that Sayaka isn't anywhere near as promoted in AKB48 as she used to be, especially after her scandal in 2010, and her underexposure within the group gives her a valid reason to leave. Not only that, but Sayaka's achieved a lot more success with her activities outside of AKB48, particularly with theatre. Logically, graduating would benefit Sayaka more than hurt her. But... that doesn't mean I wanted it to happen. I don't talk about Akimoto Sayaka as much as I want to on this blog when it comes to AKB48-related reviews because she hasn't been in Regular Senbatsu in ages. Last year, she didn't even make it into the top 16 for the Senbatsu Elections. Looking at her position in AKB48 now, you never would have thought that she was one of the members who was constantly in Senbatsu and frequently appeared on television alongside her fellow members of AKB48. But despite the fact that I never saw her in Senbatsu, barely saw her on television, Akimoto Sayaka has always been my favorite member of AKB48. Daresay I call her my oshi? The word seems silly coming from someone like me, doesn't it? But reading last night at eleven pm that my oshi was graduating was still shock, despite trying so hard to anticipate the very plausible idea that this amazing woman would graduate someday.
I became a fan of Akimoto Sayaka after about a month or so after I'd finally started giving AKB48 a chance. It was around the time in which I was looking through the group's older singles and PVs and even watching a few episodes of AKBingo! and other miscellaneous TV shows they were in. I didn't notice Sayaka much in the PVs since she didn't get a lot of screen time; where Sayaka stood out to me was in the group's television shows. When I was watching clips of AKB48's variety show on Youtube or Dailymotion, one of the members that just grabbed me was Sayaka. Not only was Sayaka really pretty she was really funny and she projected this vibrant yet cool personality. Like in the episodes where she dressed up in danso! I loved seeing Sayaka so much that I'd fast-forward through the other members dressed up in danso just to see what she dressed up as! One time she dressed up as Michael Jackson and sang Thriller on stage and did the moonwalk and it was awesome! And then there was this one segment where she parodied Lady Gaga and don't even get me started on the fact that she spoke English. What I love the most about Sayaka though is that she really seemed to love being AKB48 and she really seemed to care about her fellow members. Watching Sayaka get excited on the variety shows and even in her performances was what really made me start opening up to AKB48. I thought she made an amazing captain for Team K and I was furious the day the re-shuffling was announced and Oshima Yuko replaced her as captain.
Not only does Sayaka have an amazing personality, she's talented too. Sayaka, in my opinion, has one of the best voices in AKB48; it's really deep and really rich. Sure, it sticks out compared to the lighter and cuter voices of the group but I loved hearing Sayaka sing. I even thought her rendition of Flower of better than Maeda Atsuko's original version! And Mushi no Ballad is one of my favorite stage songs! In the months I started getting into AKB48, Akimoto Sayaka just seemed like coolest, funniest, most talented member of AKB48 and she quickly one me over. Sure, I developed other biases in the group like Minegishi Minami, Umeda Ayaka and Takahashi Minami but Sayaka has always held a special place in my heart. Shortly after I'd decided the Sayaka was my favorite member of AKB48, I found out about her scandal. And then I found out that this amazing person had been tangled up in a dating scandal that had nearly destroyed her career and knocked her out of Regular Senbatsu. The fact that Sayaka was constantly shafted by management post-scandal really upset me. I think that's why I had such strong reactions towards Miichan's scandal this year, because I feared it would parallel the career-derailment Sayaka faced a few years ago. I've stated in more than one post on The Wonderland that I think Sayaka should be included in Regular Senbatsu and that I think she's highly under-appreciated in AKB48.
I guess I was kind of holding out and hoping that through some miracle, Sayaka would somehow bounce back into Regular Senbatsu and somehow have a position of relevance in AKB48 again. I didn't really want to believe that Sayaka would graduate and leave the group because the idea of an AKB48 without her seemed to painful to think about. Back in 2012, I even put Akimoto Sayaka's graduation on the list of idol graduations that I would truly dread. But then I realized something... by the time of her graduation announcement, Sayaka has barely been in AKB48. Much of the work she's been getting lately is through stage plays and other appearances that aren't connected to the group. The only times Sayaka's been involved with AKB48 singles recently is with the Team K songs included on singles and even then, she's not exactly the most featured member of her team anymore. Sayaka is part of an older generation that's rapid being pushed aside for this newer generation, another valid reason for her wanting to graduate. Why should she stick around in a group that doesn't want/need her anymore? Okay, that's a little dramatic but still. What upsets me the most about her graduation announcement though is that Sayaka also announced that she won't be participating in this year's Senbatsu Election. I wanted to be able to see her in one more AKB48 single but I guess that's not happening now...
Still, if Sayaka wants to graduate... I'll support her decision. After all, she's been in AKB48 for eight years now and it's obvious that management doesn't care much about her anymore. When Sayaka graduates, maybe she can move on to bigger and better things and pursue dreams and activities that she loves. Right now, the announcement still hurts but I'm hoping that AKB48 isn't the last chapter in Sayaka's career. So I guess after thinking it over, Sayaka graduating is the best possible thing she can do for her career. Someone who has so much talent and such a wonderful personality too doesn't deserve to linger around a group that's paving the way for younger and fresher faces. From her translated blog posts I've read, Sayaka really seems to be enjoying her work outside of AKB48 such as her stage plays she's been in. And at the end of the day, I only want the idols I follow and adore to be happy. Right now, it still hurts me that Akimoto Sayaka is graduating. But I'd also like to think that something better awaits for her outside of AKB48, like a stage career or maybe even a family of her own. Akimoto Sayaka has been an amazing idol in AKB48 and my only regret is that I didn't get to talk about her much. In hindsight, I should have reviewed something by DiVA, the subgroup she was in, especially since the unit is pretty much kaput by now. Hrm... maybe I'll do a Time Capsule Review of something by DiVA!
Anyways, as saddened as I am that my favorite member of AKB48 and one of my favorite idols in general is graduating, I wish nothing but the best for Akimoto Sayaka's future. I wish that she has a career even greater and more wonderful than her time in AKB48. I wish that whatever Sayaka pursues, she'll excel in it and I hope that many more people will be able to see just how great of a person she really is. I hope graduating opens a new door for that strong, noble, beautiful Akimoto Sayaka. Ganbare.