Big twist of 2013, huh? Here I was thinking "Wow, we finally got through the last month of 2013 with no heart attack-inducing announcements!" then BAM! Graduation time! Okay, so technically Sato Amina also announced her graduation this month, but management doesn't care about her. And I don't either. No offense to Sato Amina. As I'm sure you are all aware, Oshima Yuko, the last popular member of Team K, announced her graduation at Kouhaku Uta Gassuen. You might think this was a ploy to generate media buzz by announcing something at a national Japanese event, but I'm pretty sure it was just one giant scheme to divert attention away from the beauty that was Perfume's projection-mapped performance of Magic of Love. Yep. All one big giant conspiracy against Perfume! Clearly there was no other reason to announce something so impactful for AKB48! All right, I'll stop joking
So yeah, Yuko's graduating, everyone's shocked, you know the drill if you've experienced any idol graduation in the past. Honestly, Yuko's announcement doesn't surprise me as much as I thought it would. Initially, it did, but I think part of that had to do with the timing. What surprised me more was the event and time that Yuko announced it. This happened at Kouhaku. You know, that really popular, end-of-the-year Japanese television special hosting a variety of popular Japanese artists? I don't know if it was her decision or management's, but announcing it at such a widely-watched event is... I don't know, it comes off as kind of tasteless to me. The announcement seemed more like a grab for attention. I mean, not everyone who watches Kouhaku is an AKB48 fan. Imagine how confused those people all must have been when this random idol from "that idol group with a bazillion girls in it" announced a graduation they probably didn't care about. I think it would have made more sense for the announcement to have taken place at AKB48's version of Kouhaku. But oh well, cat's out of the bag, and all I can do is talk about it.
Like I said, I am not that surprised. Ever since Acchan graduated, Yuko's expressed a desire to graduate and move on to greener pastures (aka acting). And why not? Part of Yuko's drive in AKB48 was the dynamic she had with Acchan. The two weren't bitter enemies, but Yuko and Acchan were the only two members who had a real chance of being centers, especially once the Senbatsu elections started. Part of the fun of the tracking the third Senbatsu election was seeing if Yuko would beat Acchan as she had for Heavy Rotation! Ah, those were the days... Listen to me, I'm starting to sound like an old geezer remembering the "good ol' days," and I haven't even been in the idol fandom for very long! But I feel like every since Acchan graduated, Yuko's been itching to graduate from AKB48, and her staying was more out of obligation. Hell, I even think part of the reason AKS made her Team K captain was to keep her in AKB48 for just a little longer. And now over a year after Acchan's graduation, it's now Yuko's turn. I'm actually pretty okay with Yuko graduating.
I never disliked Yuko; she was never exactly my favorite member, but I did like her. I've always liked her outgoing and engaging personality! Anyways, her graduation announcement is not that surprising; honestly, it reminds me of the same situation with Morning Musume's Takahashi Ai and Niigaki Risa. I at least give Yuko props for staying in AKB48 for a little while longer until AKB48 got back on their feet after Acchan's graduation. I'd say that her leaving will effect the group's popularity, but it probably won't. But if it does, maybe AKB48 will start selling lower and Aki-P will try with AKB48's music again!! Wouldn't that be wonderful!? AKB48 songs with effort... It sounds like something out of a fairytale. Now the only question is when Yuko will graduate. I'm thinking it'll be either after the summer single or after the Senbatsu single, definitely before the end of 2014. There's no way AKS would just let Yuko peace out with some big graduation song to commemorate her on a single.
The announcement of Yuko graduating means more than just AKB48 losing a big face. Yuko's graduation also means that not only will Team K lose their most popular member, but they'll lose a captain. Which means... someone has to take her place. As horrible as it sounds, the one aspect about graduations that excites me is that one girl graduating leaves a void for someone else to take her place. And Yuko's graduation will indeed leave quite a void. Not only is Yuko captain of Team K, she's pretty much the only popular member left. Itano Tomomi is graduated, Miyazawa Sae is pretty much gone, Yokoyama Yui's captain of Team A now, and any other remotely popular member of Team K has either transferred or graduated. Look at the selected members of Team K for AKB48's past two singles. For Heart Electric, Yuko was the only Team K member in Senbatsu. Then for Party is over, the only other Team K member featured was Nagao Mariya.
Mutou Tomu, Nagao Mariya, and Kuramochi Asuka were all featured in Mosh&Dive, so maybe they'll represent Team K after Yuko's graduated? Or maybe AKS might bring Kitahara Rie back into Senbatsu, but I don't know. Either way, Team K needs some more popular members in it, especially now that Yuko's graduating. I'm sure AKS will find some fresh new Team K meat to spruce up the Senbatsu, so I'm not that concerned. I will admit, it's pretty surreal looking at the original Team K and seeing so many members gone; I think there are only three original members left now. Now that Team A and B have that many original members left either. It's not that surprising with change in lineup being a staple in AKB48, but still. I pity anyone who's followed AKB48 from the beginning. Think of all the painful graduations they've endured! I don't know what I'm going to do when Minegishi Minami graduates... For the moment, I hope Yuko's last months in AKB48 are happy ones, and I hope that whatever career she pursues post-graduation is a successful one! She's a pretty good actress; I'm sure she'll do fine for herself!
While we're on the subject of graduated idols, Mitsui Aika is also graduating. Kind of. She might be graduating from the college she studies abroad from! That's right, Hello! Project member Mitsui Aika who doesn't get much to do has finally decided to do something for herself and study English abroad! Aika was in Morning Musume for a few months when I started following them before she graduated, so I never had much of a chance to have much of an impression on her. I don't think she was by any means the worst Momusu member ever in history ever, but she never really stood out to me either. Her graduation was by no means a huge tearjerker. Then when she remained in Hello! Project, I felt like management never gave her a lot to do other than being in that Satoyama group. So it's nice that she's finally giving herself something to accomplish other than languishing in H!P.
I do admit though, studying abroad with little to no knowledge of the English language is... well, it isn't impossible but I'd think it would be very difficult. I mean, I have a moderate grasp of Spanish, but I'm certain if I were ever to study abroad in Spain or Mexico or any other Spanish-speaking country, I'd have a very hard time. So I can only imagine what it's like going to a country and not knowing a lot of the language. Besides, English is a weird language. Trust me, I speak it, it's freaking weird. It's also very different from the Japanese language in grammar and vocabulary and even the way it's written. I admire Aika for aspiring to study abroad, but I hope she realizes just how difficult it's going to be, especially in the beginning. Still, if she can at least have somewhat of a grasp on English, I think that'd be great for her! And the best way to learn a language is to go someplace where the language is spoken! Aika is only twenty, she should go out and see the world, do something outside of Hello! Project! Who knows? Maybe she'll study abroad in America! But I'm betting she'll go to Europe; it's closer and not as overwhelmingly large as the United States is. Wherever Aika goes, good luck to her!