Supermerlion discusses the upcoming election29 April, 2012 by Mus
With AKB48’s next election looming around the corner, the fandom has been abuzz with many having their own take on what is going to happen this time. Supermerlion weigh in with our opinions on the concept of election, the new format, Maeda Atsuko’s graduation and of course, our own predictions for the rankings.
Each year since the first, the AKB48 General Elections has been the most major event for Akimoto Yasushi’s pop empire. The “election single” is sold in mass quantities for 1000-1600 yen each, often at more than one copy per person. I personally know people who have bought as many as 500 copies all this in hopes of “pushing” their favorite member.
Unfortunately, experience has taught me that this election process is a little more than just another way to inflate their CD sales as any changes to the management and agency discussed lineup is immediately dismissed after the next single. With the AKB48 elections, AKB48 has manged to get people to actually pay for the opportunity to do a survey. It feels like the results are more a pat in the back to the companies involved and an affirmation that their investments are paying off.
In my opinion, the senbatsu system has always been a double-edged sword, both for the girls and the fans. There’s always the case of a girl that ‘hits it big’ with the senbatsu by seeing a rise in her popularity after being voted in, or getting picked to star in a new single. But it comes at a price, namely that of fan interaction. Having more time allotted to media exposure means that some of the members spend little to no time in the theater, or fans getting less time with her at handshake sessions.
It’s a good way for the girls to get more exposure, but that leaves you with the usual suspects, the time tested faces that have already had a lot of exposure as it is.
I’ve always felt like the senbatsu system was just a way for the company to get more money from the fans, under the pretext of giving them a chance to affect the group. Sure, this was true in the first staging of the elections, but the subsequent ones have always just been a populist matter, and it’s a never-ending cycle. The ones that get voted in are already popular, and thus already in the regular, non-vote senbatsu.
While this may be just the rant of someone who will probably never see his favorite member step anywhere close to the senbatsu of a single, it does feel like there is no reason to vote, when it’s clear that the more popular members will dominate, as usual.
Some would argue (and AKB48 whitewashes it with this reason) that increasing the number of positions would increase the opportunities for members. But this isn’t the case as the unranked members would always appear in the other coupling songs anyways. Instead, the competition is much fiercer this year with teams dropping from 21, to just 16 members. The members will now be spread out over multiple different “versions” of the next single, with sales being the main motivation.
Fans like to think that placing well in these other teams would be of some significance. It does, in the sense that it gives them exactly one PV where they get to see their favorite member more. In the greater scheme of things, there is little benefit to the girl. AKB48’s Ota Aika debunked this misconception last year; many believed that being the Undergirls center was better than being a bottom ranking Senbatsu. From her own words, we learned otherwise. The ranking itself counts more than anything else when it comes to determining how valuable a particular girls is to the company. This is further proven in previous years when Sashihara Rino started her ascension, after placing in the low Senbatsu.
I don’t think this will really result in many changes, other than the fact that the usual senbatsu team is reduced to a 16-girl team. The remaining teams that are not part of the top 16 will probably be broadly categorized as three different teams of Undergirls, which to me sort of defeats the purpose. However, this is good news in that it is much easier to perform songs in a 16-girl team. This is the usual number that make up a fully functional team to perform on stage; the lower number means there is less of a logistical problem for them to perform the next senbatsu song.
The revised format sounds good. While of course most people would say that it doesn’t really help anything, especially considering that many would still appear in the other promotional videos. However I think it’s pretty great nevertheless that additional girls get called up. Personally I’m a big fan of taking exposure whenever you can get it.
I doubt that it will matter much in the grand scheme of things. However with the dropping of the Media Senbatsu concept, it’s entirely possible that this brings about more balanced treatment of the lower ranking girls. It’ll be interesting to see if any unexpected faces appear on the bottom rungs; fans might get even more motivated by the extension of senbatsu to pool their votes together.
With Maeda Atsuko out of the picture from this year’s elections. Many are expecting much from this year’s elections indeed. While I would like to see some new faces, I see most simply shifting up one spot in her absence. A safe prediction for the number one spot would be Oshima Yuko, generally regarded and proven to be the group’s other fave. The hype from well timed releases might affect votes positively for Sashihara Rino, Watanabe Mayu and to a lesser extent the rest of Watarirouka.
It’s definitely an interesting prospect. With the departure of AKB48’s ace this could signal the start of real change in the group dynamics. It’s the biggest thing to happen in AKB history, and will definitely have some effect on the election. Her decision might influence the rest of the founding members to think about graduation, and possibly announce it themselves.
While immediate changes are unlikely, I think fans will have to adjust to understand that AKB48 isn’t just made up of the regular senbatsu that they always see on TV or in music videos.
This was a shocker for me. While I dread the day that it happens, this is an important step forward for the group as a whole. Losing the ‘face’ that they have depended on so much might have both positive and negative consequences, but it definitely nudges the group in the right direction. AKB48 is sufficiently big enough that they no longer need a figurehead like Maeda Atsuko to carry the group.
Just like she said in her graduation announcement, the juniors will have to pick up the slack, and this might definitely show when the girls receive their votes.
The past year has been particular eventful for Watarirouka Hashiritai’s center with her recent solo music and drama debut. Historically, Watanabe has found popularity as the group’s “cute” type character, an archetype that often takes center stage in other Japanese idol groups. This differs for AKB48 though. It may be a good thing then that Watanabe has since shed this stereotype for a more mature image. With Kashiwagi Yuki losing in power this year, it is probable that Watanabe Mayu might finally take the second spot this year.
I would point out that Watanabe’s recent solo single, Synchro Tokimeki which shows off her more mature side, was probably the best selling recent 48 side project apart from Oshima Yuko’s and Not Yet’s Perapera Perao, at least until Sashihara’s Soredemo Sukidayo hits shelves next month. Interestingly, Synchro Tokimeki outsells even Mayu’s Watarirouka singles.
My Kami7, in descending order: Kashiwagi, Oshima, Watanabe, Shinoda, Sashihara, Takamina and Kojima. The first place is a toss-up between Kashiwagi and Oshima. There’s very little chance that Kashiwagi will capture that top spot if she doesn’t get it this time. Sashihara has the highest exposure amongst the front girls this year, so a huge jump into the Kami7 is not that unexpected really. I don’t see any huge jumps happening besides that and while there may be some swapping of places, I think the senbatsu would mostly stay the same.
With the ridiculous amount of publicity she has had so far this year, I think Sashihara will have enough voting power behind her to take at least a top 5 spot. While I don’t think that there will be any chances of any other girls besides the few already mentioned above to get into the Kami7, I think that Shinoda and Itano stand the risk of dropping out of the Kami7. Shinoda partly because of her lack of well, anything, and Itano just because it’s a continuation of the downward trend she’s exhibited since last year’s.
If I were to bet on one person jumping into the Kami7, it’d be Yokoyama Yui. She’s had her moments, and is definitely a nice fit. With AKB48’s adoption of Google+, it’s entirely possible for an unknown to come up the ranks, but it’s a long shot, and probably won’t breach the top 16.
The new single
Personally, I used to look forward most to the subsequent release after the elections, which often is a highlight of the year since it brought us great hits like Iiwake Maybe and Heavy Rotation. Unfortunately, last year’s Flying Get killed that enthusiasm. More so than who ranks at what place, hopefully this year’s post election release will be a good listenable one.
I’m not particularly hopeful for the upcoming single. While it may be good, it will be hard to match the catchiness and hook of Heavy Rotation. The good news however, is that the B-sides are usually good listening material, so that is something I am looking forward to.
I must be the only one that actually liked Flying Get. Nonetheless, the recent AKB48 releases have been lackluster at best, and hopefully this election single will get them out of their slump. I’m not holding my breath or anything, but it’s entirely possible that Aki-P will pull a rabbit out of his songwriting hat and give us a really great single to celebrate the new beginning of AKB48.
Well that about rounds up things on our end. Do you have any thoughts on the upcoming election? Share them in the comments below!Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.
Writer who also doubles as the photographer during event coverage. Mus' interests in Japan lie in the language, literature, popular culture and underground rock bands. Having an academic background in Japan, Mus is also particularly interested in the study of Nihonjinron.