I’ll have a new edition of What I Watched coming up soon, but I’m going to switch gears a bit, since I closed down my Tumblr account, and post up a few AKB related posts. The fourth annual general election is coming up on Wednesday and I couldn’t resist weighing in on who will be selected in the Top 16.
This marketing stunt gets more popular every year. The most recent single, Manatsu no Sounds Good! sold 1.61 million copies, shattering Oricon’s music-chart records previously occupied, by, yep AKB48. In fact, of the Top 10 all-time top selling singles in Japanese pop music history, the top five are all AKB48 singles. Each single comes with a chance to vote for your favorite singer, so it’s no surprise that die hard fans buy up multiple copies so their favorites get as many votes as possible.
This year’s election has an added dynamic that the previous year’s elections didn’t in that 2011’s #1, Maeda Atsuko will be leaving the group as of August 28th. She (and by she I mean producer/founder Akimoto Yasushi) has decided to sit out the election rather than cause chaos two months down the road. So with Maeda now gone, who takes the top spot? More than 64 members are eligible in this glamourized popularity contest but which members will make it into the Top 16 and thus earn increased exposure in magazines, commercials, promotional events and the coming year’s slate of singles? Here’s are my picks with each member’s 1-minute video for fans:
16. Yamamoto Sayaka – NMB’s ace, she’s been getting a lot more air time on AKB shows and music videos. Early rankings had her at 18 with 3,218 votes, but I expect a surge from NMB fans that will push her over Kasai Tomomi and Kitahara Rie, who sit 17 and 16 respectively.
15. Kasai Tomomi – This spot will go to one of three people. I feel Kasai has enough support to boost her up to 15 over Kitahara Rie (16th) and Minegishi Minami (15th). My guess is Kitahara Rie drops down to somewhere between 17th and 19th which means…
14. Minegishi Minami – Minegishi bumps up one spot from last year to number 14. She’s been a steady 14-16th place vote getter since these elections began and I don’t see that changing this year.
13. Takajo Aki – I know absolutely nothing about her. Her placement at 13 is merely a guess based on her steady trend (12th last year, 13th in 2010) and her early voting results found her more than 700 votes behind 12th place Yokoyama Yui.
12. Yokoyama Yui – Again, another performer I know nothing about but place her here as she is over 1,000 votes behind 11th place Kojima Haruna.
11. Kojima Haruna – Based on the early votes, she has the biggest drop in votes. A steady 6th-7th place finisher the past three years (she was 6th in 2011), Kojiharu’s appeal is starting to wear off. The airhead act is only entertaining for so long, then it just becomes sad.
10. Itano Tomomi – Yes, she’s 9th in early vote results, but I’m predicting a late surge. Tomomi is too scattered with AKB duties and her solo career and whenever I see her on AKB programs, she genuinely looks like she doesn’t want to be on the set. A scandal a couple months ago also may have hurt her appeal with younger fans, but let’s face it, she’s probably done with AKB within a year or two, tops.
9. Miyazawa Sae – As mentioned above, I predict her to surge past Itano in the final days of voting. She trailed by just under 300 votes a week ago and I’m sure by now, she’s surpassed Itano. Her deficit to Matsui Jurina is a bit much to overcome in the space of a week, which means she’ll land in the 9 spot.
8. Matsui Jurina – She has a devoted fan base and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her surge up a couple more spots. She trails fellow SKE member Matsui Rena by under 700 votes and Shinoda Mariko by about 900.
7. Shinoda Mariko – Mariko may actually drop to eighth, but I’m going to settle her into the 7th spot for now. Regardless, this is her lowest finish yet after finish third in ’09 and ’10 and 4th last year. At 26, she’s the oldest member of the group and may very well be on her final stint as a member of the group.
6. Matsui Rena – She’s surged up in the ranking every year from 29th in 2009 to 11th in 2010 and 10th last year. My guess is she cracks the Top 10 this year and makes a serious run at Top 5.
5. Takahashi Minami – The de facto captain of AKB, she is the glue that holds this group together. In fact, regardless of where she finishes, if there’s no Takamina, there’s no AKB. I say that in a general sense as of course the group would somehow manage to continue to syphone money out of our pockets. Takamina’s early vote results have her in 5th, trending up and about 300 votes ahead of Shinoda Mariko. She could make a serious run at 4th and overtake Sashihara Rino, whom she trails by 400 votes. In fact, this is where my focus is. I despise Sashi and hope Takamina overtakes her. That been said…
4. Sashihara Rino – Sashi will probably finish fourth (unfortunately). She has some unexplainable connection with fans, though, thankfully she sits more than 2,000 votes shy of third place Watanabe Mayu. Ugh, enough about Sashi.
3. Watanabe Mayu – I’m convinced that if not next year, then the year after (if she’s still involved with the group) Mayu will be #1. Her fan base is huge, devoted and while she sits 700 votes shy of second place Kashiwagi Yuki, I don’t think she has quite enough to overtake her.
Which brings us to the top two. With Maeda gone, I don’t see much change and the early voting results confirm my suspicions. As mentioned above, Mayuyu could surge past Yuki, but I doubt it. Last year’s results are simply bumped up one spot.
2. Kashiwagi Yuki – I’m rather indifferent about her. She a decent actress, she learned to play drums. I’ll give her props on that front. But if I have to choose between Yukirin and Oshima Yuko, my vote is going to go to Yuko.
1. Oshima Yuko – Her early vote count is more than 3,000 votes ahead of Yukirin and I just don’t see her being overtaken (unless Akimoto says so, then so be it). Oshima has traded first and second with Maeda ever since this election gimmick began and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an extremely emotional “passing of the torch” from Maeda back to Yuko to conclude the night. Honestly, Yuko has the charm and extroverted personality to fulfill the #1 spot. She’s the exact opposite of Maeda, although I won’t go into that since it has been well-documented and the sadness of my Oshimen leaving is depressing enough. It is interesting to hear that Yuko was thinking of skipping the election as well, following Acchan’s graduation announcement. I believe this is the final year for Yuko, who has a steady career as an actress to more than fill her time.
Not much will change. Maeda still has her solo career, AKB will still keep pumping out the same songs that pretty much recycle the same lyrics over and over. They’ll continue to dominate the Japanese pop charts for a few more years until the next big idol act comes in and takes over. Until then, I’ll continue to support Maeda in her non-AKB career and continue to root on the first generation members – Takamina and Mayuyu as well as second generation member Masuda Yuka, third generation member Yagami Kumi and seventh generation Maeda Ami. Their videos are below.
Yagami Kumi: (I don’t know why she’s holding a hanger. She’s quirky like that.)
Masuda Yuka: Yuttaannn ~ 🙂
Maeda Ami: Mayuge-chan 🙂
We’ll see how it all shakes out June 6th, 5:30 p.m. JST or Wednesday, 1 a.m. in Los Angeles.