AKB48 32nd Single General Elections Result

AKBGenAt 8:15am this morning, despite my having made predictions for AKB48‘s core senbatsu line up during the AKB48 32nd Single General Elections, everything I had previously surmised swiftly went directly out of the window shortly after the event began.

Following the graduation of Atsuko Maeda last year and the previous election, it was all but assumed that from here on in, Maeda’s closest ‘rival’, Yuko Oshima would take over the role of AKB48‘s senbatsu centre almost indefinitely.

Despite a strong focus on Mayu Watanabe over the past years and the employment of the ‘double centre‘ concept in several of 2012’s releases, it was by and large accepted that we were in for another few years in which Oshima would continue to preside over proceedings until her eventual graduation.

Instead, Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium paid host to an event in which many established members ranked a lot lower than expected, their traditional seats having been taken by up and coming girls from AKB48‘s Japanese based sister groups, SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48.

HKT48 in particular have experienced something of an amazing surge in popularity with Haruka Kodama and Sakura Miyawaki now taking up significant roles in the Next Girls and Undergirls units respectively.

There is of course one other member of HKT48 who deserves mention here.

Often when choosing big events to make dramatic announcements, it would not have been a surprise if some manner of statement was issued by Yuko Oshima or another high placed member regarding graduation from the group.

But thankfully I was wrong in regards to Oshima’s graduation.

AKB48 General Election - Oshima Yuko (3)In fact, it was a relief to see her smile and laugh once more. Watching her during the final announcements of the senbatsu members, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was almost as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

In her acceptance speech she spoke of how she had encouraged other members of the group to use her as a ‘stepping stone‘ in order to achieve greater success, and with a strange mixture of relief and regret, she turned across from her and told us all that she had succeeded in encouraging others with this advice.

What I had not expected was for long term Team A member Mariko Shinoda to announce her graduation.

I am not afraid to admit that the idea of losing Shinoda fills me with both sorrow and anxiety.

AKB48 without her is difficult to imagine, and yet at the same time it was Shinoda herself who told younger members last year that if they wanted to take her place, they would have to come and get it.

This year, the younger members of all 48 groups most certainly did that; SKE48‘s eternal kenkyuusei, Kaori Matsumura, NMB48 BII’s Shu Yabushita, SKE48 KII’s Aya Shibata, NMB48 Team N’s Mayu Ogasawara, AKB48 Team B’s Miori Ichikawa – the list goes on.

Whilst initially skeptical about talk of this being an ushering in of the new generation there was certainly something of a power shift occurring during the lengthy stadium event.

Yet if this was also a celebration of the new generation, this Election was also vindication for many, seeing the reinstatement of former member Natsumi Hirajima, who together with fellow former Team B member Rumi Yonezawa, left the group in early 2012 following a scandal.

Likewise, demoted kenkyuusei, Minami Minegishi rose to join the Undergirls unit at Rank #18, two steps away from returning to the senbatsu.

AKB48 General Election - Sashihara Rino (7)The crowning moment however was the announcement of HKT48 and former AKB48 member Rino Sashihara as the group’s new centre.

Also the subject of a scandal during 2012, Rino Sashihara‘s place as the group’s centre is both inspiring and affirming.

Rino Sashihara may not be the centre forever and yet right now, I cannot even begin to describe how incredibly proud I am of her.

Whilst I failed my goal of returning former AKB48 and SDN48 member Yukari Sato to the senbatsu, I have, despite my attempts to resist it, been a Sasihara oshi for some time now.

The feelings inspired by seeing her take her place as centre of the group are so large, so broad that it may take me some time to find the words to properly explain them.

AKB48 General Election - Sashihara Rino (13)What I can say is that despite incredible odds, despite poor decisions and the cruelty of the tabloids, Rino Sashihara, 20 years old from Oita prefecture, is the new centre of AKB48 and I have not been this excited about the group’s future releases since the graduation of Atsuko Maeda.

Prepare to have your own ‘Sashihara quality‘ awakened.

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1 Comment

  1. pak says:

    Congrats to Sasshi! Her win was epic

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