The past couple of weeks have been rough for the Japanese idol unit AKB48. The most popular idol group in Japan which annually re-news it’s spot in the Guiness Book of World Records for the largest pop group in the world has had to deal with an illness to Matsui Jurina and a scandal involving Itano Tomomi.
It’s been even tougher for fans of singer and the group’s center/ace Maeda Atsuko. Maeda announced her graduation on Sunday March 25. Though she didn’t give specifics on when she would be leaving the group, many of her fans were shocked by the news.
As a long-time supporter of Maeda (she is/was my oshimen aka idol I supported the most), I’ve had a week to really let everything sink in. Now that the dust has begun to settle a bit, Maeda’s graduation isn’t all that big of a shock.
She recently co-starred in the TV drama Saiko no Jinsei no Owarikata: Ending Planner, which suffered from consistently declining ratings. Johnny’s Entertainment, which represents the star of the show, Tomohisa Yamashita, placed the blame on Maeda and went so far as to blacklist her from appearing in any future TV or film productions with Johnny’s Entertainment talent.
This, of course, extends to Maeda’s involvement in AKB as the group regularly appears on various shows featuring Johnny’s talent, especially the pop group SMAP. Of course they could always exclude her from such shows but a.) that would be odd to leave your ace/center out of certain shows and b.) that doesn’t help Maeda remain in the public conscious.
So if you put yourself in Maeda’s shoes, your window of opportunity for acting is significantly reduced and you’re spending a majority of your time performing with AKB. I certainly don’t believe Maeda would have left if she wasn’t blacklisted. I’m sure she enjoys being around the senbatsu members and performing for her fans.
Johnny’s blacklisting only accelerated the inevitable. We all knew that Maeda’s future was not with AKB. Through her years performing in the group’s music and promotional videos, we knew that she would eventually wind up on the difficult road of becoming an actress.
I see her leaving AKB as a blessing. I will always, always support Maeda in everything she does. My only hope is that she is able to shake the very difficult title of “former AKB ace/center” and can manage a long and successful career in acting. I know there are doubters who don’t think she has the skills it takes to compete with some of the top Japanese actresses working right now. I certainly have concerns as well. But through it all, I and many fans simply have to trust her, support her and believe in her. Regardless of how things go, March 25 will be a day that lives in AKB infamy.
Good luck Atsuko-chan! 🙂
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