In fact, I recall writing in my year-end megapost for 2012 how I doubted Sasshi would ever have a chance for a huge push again. Let's see, what wording did I use again? "The transfer wrecked any chances for Sasshi to be the new center of AKB48 after Maeda Atsuko's graduation and she hasn't had the same attention or pushing ever since." In fact, I think I spent most of the tail-end of 2012 thinking that Sasshi's career as an idol was pretty screwed over. Yeah, looking back, I can't get over how fantastically ironic my prediction for Sasshi's future in 2013 would be. Then again, it wouldn't be the first time I was ridiculously off about a prediction! When the preliminary results for the election came out this year, I think everyone was a little taken aback at Sasshi's jump to #1. However, there wasn't full-on panic (not yet at least) since after all, a lot can change from prelims to the actual results. When I first saw the prelims, I too was surprised that Sasshi ranked #1, especially since I would have thought she'd be going down this year. And while I was hopeful that someone besides Yuko/Mayuyu/Paruru would have a chance at being center, I also tried to remain rational. It was only the first day and I've been through enough Senbatsu elections to know that the final results can and will change from the first day. I was mostly certain that Oshima Yuko would easily get #1 as always, but Sasshi's vote count did plant a little seed of hope in me that the 5th Senbatsu Election might be different this year. And here we are with Sasshi firmly planted at #1 and more than 10,000 votes ahead of Yuko. Of course, Sasshi's ranking wasn't the only surprise of this year's election, but we'll get to those in a couple paragraphs. I just can't believe that Sasshi really did it. From #9 to #4 to #1... it's quite surreal to see her ranked at the top! I honestly thought that Mayuyu or Yuko had a better chance of ranking #1! But nope, Sasshi, the wotagei, scandal-inflicted, transferred idol got it! Of course, everyone was reeling over the results, with fan reactions ranging from hyperactive joy to fire-burning rage and everything in-between!
But honestly... I think Sashihara Rino is what AKB48 needs as a center.
And no, I'm not saying that as a fan of Sasshi. She's not even my favorite AKS member. Granted, I've always kind of liked her, but nowhere near compared to say Akimoto Sayaka or Minegishi Minami. After Sasshi's scandal, my interest in her kind of waned since I didn't see much of a point in following an idol who was clearly getting screwed over by a nonsensical dating scandal that was probably blown way out of proportion. Still, as the year went on and AKB48's songs got suckier, I did start to lament that the scandal happened to her. After all, who knows what AKB48 would have looked like had Sasshi not been transferred to HKT48. But alas, she did, and suddenly, Sasshi's push to the front of AKB48 just... stopped. Sure, she was still in AKB48's Senbatsu, but it was like she'd taken two steps back. Yet I still couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if Sasshi had been pushed as center instead of Mayuyu or Paruru. Most of all, I wondered how AKB48's music would have been affected had Sasshi had been pushed; would it have been better? I've made it clear as filtered water that I have been in a musical rut with AKB48 since Gingham Check; I think all of their A-sides have been incredibly bland and unoriginal. They've been lacking that... spark that was usually there when Acchan was in AKB48. I don't know if it's because Acchan graduated or AKS is too scared to do anything too different for fear that it won't make money or Aki-P got abducted by aliens and replaced with a robot double but whatever it is, I just haven't been into AKB48's music the way I used to be. So even though I know it might be huge shot in the dark but... I think AKB48 needs a new center, and I feel like Sasshi can be that new center. Not Yuko, not Mayuyu, not Paruru, but someone who has never, ever been center before: Sasshi. I don't know if her being center will even affect the music output at all, but part of me hopes that maybe, just maybe she will.
Or maybe I'm being idealistic again. I don't know! Right now all I know is that I am extremely happy and extremely that Sashihara Rino is going to be center for at least one AKB48 single! And you know what's great about it? The fact that so many fans wanted her to be center, enough to boost her rank to number 1! I think it's amazing that despite the scandal and the transfer, Sasshi somehow managed to turn things around and make the best of her situation. In a weird way... I think that "scandal" (if you can even call it that) helped Sasshi out in the long run. And yeah, yeah, I know that management probably helped a lot too by not firing Sasshi and appointing her as manager of HKT48, but I still think it's amazing that Sasshi bounced back so fantastically. It gives me hope that maybe someday Miichan can bounce back from her scandal too... but that's a topic for another post. What makes me most excited about Sasshi as center of AKB48's next single is the sheer unpredictability it'll bring to the table. In other words... what the hell is the 32nd single going to sound like? A quirky and weird song to match Sasshi's quirky and weird personality? An ode to wotadom and idols? A insipid bland song that sounds like all the other A-sides AKB48's been getting lately? Yeah, I hope it's not that one, but I'm still going to keep it in mind as we get closer to details being revealed for the 32nd single. I don't know, right now I feel like there are so many possibilities that can happen with Sasshi as center over say, Paruru or Mayuyu. I don't know what those possibilities entail, but I hope it's something good. And I hope that Sasshi can live up to the position that's been given to her! Well, I figure she'll be able to but still! What I like about Sasshi is the fact that she just seems to really genuinely love being an idol along with her love for idols in general. She's open about her love for idols such as Morning Musume, and it's very... refreshing.
Of course, the Senbatsu election hasn't completely brought rainbows and flowers. It also brought forth a graduation announcement, and a big one too. Most of you probably know by now, but when 1st Generation member Shinoda Mariko was announced as 5th, during her speech, she announced her graduation. And honestly, when I woke up the next morning and found out, I think my stomach dropped. I literally did not see this coming. Like if you'd asked me who I thought was going to graduate next in AKB48, Mariko would have been far, far down the list. Hell, I even made a joke in one of my latest PV reviews about Mariko never graduating from AKB48! I mean... wow. I know it's been over a week since the Senbatsu election, but I still haven't gotten over the fact that Mariko will be gone from AKB48 in just over a month, along with Tomochin and Sayaka... Yeah, the graduation dates for those three idols were all announced. Mariko will be graduating on July 21st, Sayaka on August 22nd, and Tomochin on August 25th. Obviously, Sayaka's graduation is the one I'm dreading the most, but I can't say I'm looking forward to Mariko's either. I guess she has had a long, glorious run in AKB48, and she is getting older. There are a lot of other professions Mariko may want to take on, and if she wants to pursue something else instead of AKB48... then the best of luck to her! Still, I can imagine July and August are going to be very, very painful months for many an AKB48 fan. But hey, at least Maeda Atsuko's appearing at one of AKB48's concerts! Yep, AKS just can't seem to let her go, can they? I have nothing against Acchan, but I'd prefer her to keep doing her own think outside of AKB48. Really the only reason I'm a little excited about Acchan's appearance is the fact that a new unit will also be announced on the same day. About time too! All the current sub-units are pretty much kaput what with all the graduations... Well, many changes are a-coming to AKB48. Whether they're be for better or worse, only time will tell. Personally, I hope they're for the better; I'd very much like to get out of the rut I've been in with AKB48.
For now, let's take a quickie look at just who makes up this year's elected Senbatsu this year!
16. Suda Akari - Oh, so the bottom of the Senbatsu is a random SKE48 chick whom I have no idea about? Oh goody! It's a repeat of the Janken Senbatsu all over again! I'll be honest, I don't follow SKE48 that much an can only count the number of members I know and recognize on on hand. As you may have deduced, Suda Akari is not one of members I am familiar with! Well, I'm a little more familiar with her now! I looked her up on the Stage 48 Wiki and apparently, she's been regularly featured in SKE48's Senbatsu since 1!2!3!4! Yoroshiku! So I guess she must be pretty popular to rank so high in the Senbatsu Election. Well, Akari, I may know nothing about you but congrats on going from #29 to #16!
15. Watanabe Miyuki - Does anyone else find it kind of hilarious that both Milky and Sayanee climbed at the same rate and Milky landed one spot behind Sayanee just like last year's election? Anyone? Well, the faces of NMB48 said that their goal was to make it into Senbatsu for this year's election and by golly, they did it! It probably helps that Milky's in concurrency with Team B and Sayanee's captain of Team N and just... Sayanee in general. I'll admit, Milky's kind grown on me in the past year and I think she's a very charming an entertaining idol, even if her schtick feels a tad bit forced at times. It's still awesome that she was able to climb out of Undergirls and break into the lower part of Senbatsu though!
14. Yamamoto Sayaka - How appropriate for the captain of Team N to rank in the Senbatsu this year! Last year, Sayanee was one of the girls that I really wanted in Senbatsu (and I thought she'd get in) but like Milky, she just barely missed it. Still, Sayanee persevered on in both her team and in her singles with AKB48 and it looks like her hard work paid off! Sayanee's always been one of my favorite captains from any of the AKS groups; the only captain who trumps her for me is Takamina! Then again, it is Takamina so yeah... I like that so many team captains got into Senbatsu. Now if only Umeda Ayaka had been able to rank just a little bit higher... not that I'm mad about her (very high) position in Undergirls either!
13. Yokoyama Yui - Ah, what's a Yokoyama Yui Senbatsu speech without copious amounts of tears and emotion from Yui herself? I will say though I don't think the speech from this year was quite as blubbering and teary as the past two elections. Still, Yui was as grateful as always for her ranking and it's strangely heartwarming to see her get so emotional over her ranking! I've always liked Yui so I think it's great that she's climbed a little bit in ranking this year, even if it isn't a terribly high climb! I've always found it odd that despite the huge push she gets, her ranking never gets super high but it's still great that she's going up a little bit every year with each Senbatsu Election!
12. Shimazaki Haruka - I have to admit, I wasn't that surprised that Paruru ranked somewhat low in the Senbatsu despite a colossal push from management. You know how I said in some AKB48 review several posts back how Yokoyama Yui had gotten the same promotion Paruru had but it didn't have a huge effect on her position in the Senbatsu Election? I was kind of thinking that Paruru's rank would parallel Yui's and hey, I was right! But can we all talk about the look on Paruru's face!? The girl looked like she was gonna cut someone! I don't think I've ever seen Paruru look so... emotional! It was a little scary! Still, from #23 to #12 is still an impressive achievement!
11. Itano Tomomi - My heart kind of sank when I found out Tomichin ranked even lower than last year despite graduating this year. I mean, I've never been a huge fan of her or her music but I still can't help but feel a little bad that she ranked so low in her last single in AKB48. It would have been a little nice if she'd been able to go out of AKB48 with a slightly higher ranking, you know? Still, with all the pushes of the newer generation, it must have been hard for Tomochin to rank high enough. I will say, her comment about "I always hated this Sousenkyo," really does hit home, especially when you think about how it's basically pitting the girls against another in a giant, televised popularity contest.
10. Miyazawa Sae - All right, one rank up for Sae! You go Sae! I can imagine that this past year has been pretty rough for Sae with Sayaka graduating, her transfer to SNH48, the trouble of actually being in the group what with all the uneasy relations between Japan and China right now... but it's nice to know that she's still got what it takes to rank so high in the Senbatsu Election! I actually think that her concurrency might have helped her get a few more votes, the same way it did with Sasshi! Speaking of that, during her speech, Sae announced that she was rejecting the concurrency Aki-P thrust upon her to devote more time to being in SNH48! So yeah, you go Sae!
9. Kojima Haruna - So as I predicted, Harunyan went down. I can't say I'm too surprised but hey, she's still in the top 10! What I noticed from the 2nd to 4th elections, she and Takamina always switched places! Like when Takamina was #6, she was #7 and vice versa! Yeah. I just thought that was kind of interesting. I actually don't have too much to say about Harunyan's ranking since I'm not a huge fan of her. I mean, I like her and all; I just don't follow and/or notice her very much. Still, she seems like a very nice person! And I like her in no3b alongside Takamina and Miichan! It's a shame that all three of them aren't in Senbatsu this year. But oh well, it's nice that Harunyan still got a pretty good ranking!
8. Takahashi Minami - Like Tomochin, I was bummed that Takamina ranked so low in Senbatsu. Well, I guess "low" is pretty subjective because if someone like Fujie Reina or Umeda Ayaka ranked this high, I'd be jumping up and down with joy. But it's Takamina! It just feels a little odd with her out of the Kami 7, even if it is by just a little bit. I'd think with her solo single she'd have ranked a bit higher but I suppose not. I think Takamina's freaking awesome, definitely one of my favorite members of AKB48, and one of if not the best leader I have ever seen for an idol group. She's always had a very sweet, unintentionally hilarious personality and I'm happy that she's remained a staple of the Senbatsu!
7. Matsui Rena - Wow. It dawned on me while I was writing this post that both Rena and Jurina are in the Kami 7. It's just... kind of surreal. In fact, almost half the members in the Kami 7 aren't even from AKB48 for this year's election! How weird is that? Rena and Jurina went up the same way Milky and Sayanee did, side by side with Rena ranking just below Jurina again! Funny how that parallel's last year's election... and 2nd election. It makes sense, considering Rena is one of the faces of SKE48 alongside Jurina and now the captain of Team E of SKE48! I can't say Rena's one of my favorites but I do like her and I think she has a very nice voice! I think she makes a nice addition to the Kami 7!
6. Matsui Jurina - And I think Jurina fits nicely in the Kami 7 as well! I've always liked Jurina; I admired just how much effort she puts in both SKE48 and AKB48, even if she works a little too hard at times. I also think it's amazing how far she's come from the 11-year old center of Oogoe Diamond. I definitely think Jurina's earned such an honorable spot on the Senbatsu from all the work she's put into juggling two teams at once! So going through the list, I just realized that there a lot of girls from different groups in Senbatsu this year. Well, a lot in comparison to previous elections; the highest number of girls from other teams has been two. But this year? There are six in the Senbatsu. How crazy is that?
5. Shinoda Mariko - I think my stomach dropped when I read shortly after finding out the results of the election that Mariko was graduating from AKB48. I mean, I know it was coming since she is 27 and has been in the group since it started but still. It's Shinoda freaking Mariko, how could anyone want her to graduate!? She always joked about how she was never leaving the group no matter how old she got and the fans always joked she would in the group until she was 40 but... I guess not. It's nice to know that Mariko still has the popularity she had from the day she was a waitress too busy to audition for AKB48. #5 is a great ranking to go out on, but I'll definitely miss Mariko in further elections!
4. Kashiwagi Yuki - I'm always surprised at how high Yukirin ranks at each election. Mainly because she doesn't get that much promotion in AKB48 singles (in comparison to say, Mayuyu, Jurina and Paruru) yet she still always maintains a pretty high position in the Senbatsu Election. True, she went down this year but only by one rank. I'm actually kind of happy that Yukirin is out of the top three, mainly because she doesn't really appeal to me that much. I don't know, I guess I just find her to bland. She's an okay idol an all, but personally I like the top three of this year's Senbatsu much better than last year's! Still, congrats to Yukirin for staying afloat amongst all the other idols getting bigger pushes than her!
3. Watanabe Mayu - Speaking of the top three, let's start with el numero tres, none other than Mayuyu the Fantastic Creeper! From what I've heard around the idolsphere, fans (or at least foreign fans) were pissed when they found out that Mayuyu only ranked at #3. Like I'm talking done with AKB48-type pissed. And it was highly entertaining. I was a bit taken back too that Mayuyu went to #3, especially since she's gotten such a huge push this year. She didn't even have a close gap with Yuko; the latter still got over 30,000 more votes than she did. Personally, I think the top three is nothing to complain about, and I don't think Mayuyu works very well as a center in AKB48. Overall, I have no problem with her ranking!
2. Oshima Yuko - Man, can you imagine the tension in that stadium when it came down to the final two rankings of the election? Between Yuko and Sasshi, unless by some fluke an obscure member of AKB48 managed to jump into the top two. Personally, I thought Yuko had this election in the bag the same way she did last year for Gingham Check but nope, I guess she didn't! I'd just never pegged Sasshi to be the one to take the #1 spot. But we'll get to her in a minute! When I was watching Yuko's speech, I noticed how she seemed much happier and more at ease than previous years; I don't even think she cried! In fact, I think she was both amused and okay with Sasshi getting #1. I'm happy she's still in the top three though!
1. Sashihara Rino - And here's the #1 girl herself, Sashihara "Fuck you, Shunkan Basho" Rino! I already spent a few paragraphs talking about how happy I am that's she's number 1 so I'll just paraphrase what I said up there. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that Sasshi, the idol who started from the bottom, rose to the top, only to be knocked back to the bottom, was able to get the #1 spot. It's refreshing to see someone besides Yuko/Mayuyu/Paruru have the opportunity to be center, especially someone like Sasshi! She has such a vibrant personality and enthusiasm for her career as an idol that I can't help but feel really happy for her! Now I'm excited to see how her Senbatsu single will turn out!
Right now, I'm really looking forward to this year's Senbatsu single. I don't know if it's because I'm still high off the results of the election, but I just feel like this year's song is going to be something new and different! And I really hope that's the case! For the first time, I'm really hoping that the A-side produced this year is something that isn't bland. Okay, I've been saying that same thing for the past few singles from AKB48, but this time, I really feel like there's something to hope for. Sasshi has never been a center for AKB48, and I think that's what the group needs right now. Not Yuko, not Paruru, not even Mayuyu but a completely new person to be center. After all, Aki-P said that he writes his songs around the center, so hopefully it'll be a song to reflect the best parts of Sasshi's personality. Like her love for idols, the wota side of her, her ability to adapt to new situations and make the best out of things... there are so many directions that this single could go, and I'm so excited to see what happens. I'm kind of thinking that Sasshi's song will be the kind of song that's an ode to idols and wotadom, but then again, Sasshi's song could be a lot of things! As long as it's not Soredemo Suki da yo. I can't stand that song. I guess I'm a little nervous too that I'm raising the bar too high and the song's going to suck. Yeah, I really hope that doesn't happen. Part of me doesn't want to get too hopeful in case Aki-P decides to whip out another half-assed, bland piece of shit, but then another part of me feels like there are now possibilities. New ones that will take AKB48 to places it's never been before! Well okay, maybe not that dramatic of possibilities but still! So guys, now that the election hype is dying down, are there any upsets you had with this years Senbatsu Election? Any surprises? I didn't exactly give much attention the the Future/Next/Undergirls so any happy surprises or upsets with them? Are you looking forward to the next single as much as I am or hiding under a rock and waiting until it's over and done? Feel free to comment!