Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yuki Kashiwagi

Yuki Kashiwagi failed entering Morning Musume. If not for Mayuyu and Tomochin, Yukirin would be my absolute #1 favorite AKB girl, so don't be miffed by the opening statement, I need it later on.

I was never a fan of Morning Musume, so I really can't say much about them, except that in their heyday, they were the top group of their genre. They've been around over a decade (started in 1998), and other AKB members have admitted in various ways of wanting to be a part of Momusu at some point in their lives.

I don't know how they do things in Momusu, but Yukirin auditioned for them (8th gen, from what I read), and was cut (in the 3rd round, around July 2006). I don't know how that went on (was there a reality-like show, or did the auditions last for weeks) but nonetheless, she gained a following from that. Even so, try to imagine yourself in her shoes. Joining the top group in that genre would be a dream for a girl her age (she just turned 15 that time), and eventhough she made advancements towards that dream and gained a following, her dreams were cut. Must have been a sad and disappointing day for dear Yukirin.

However, she didn't resign herself to failure. A few months after (December 2006), a new girl group that was making waves in their industry for almost a year then held an audition for their third team, AKB48's Team B. Yukirin would audition for this new, upstart and unknown team and this time would make the cut, making her fans from the Momusu auditions happy.

For Team B's first stage, I firmly believe she was setup to be the front girl of Team B. She takes Yuko Oshima's place (front girl for Team K) in Team B's first stage (for Kinjirareta Futari), while Mayu Watanabe took the place of Erena Ono (who are of the same age) in Ame no Doubutsuen. In AKB's first concert tour (second concert), while Team B was still rehearsing and was still to debut, Yukirin was one of two girls from Team B who were utilized in the concert, even before their Team actually debuted; Yukirin filled in for Yuko Oshima (again) while Naruppe filled in for Sayaka Akimoto. Yukirin was also among the first three members of Team B to be included for the recording of a single, Bingo!, with Mayuyu and Nacchan. It made sense for AKB Management to put their chips on Yukirin; she already was known from her Momusu audition while most of the other Team B'ers were absolute newbies to the industry.

Then, by Team B's second stage, the revival of Team A's second stage, Aitakatta, it wouldn't be Yukirin who would take the place of Team A front girl Maeda Atsuko for Nagisa no Cherry, but Mayu Watanabe, signaling the start of Mayuyu becoming the front girl of Team B. Now, AKB Management are smart people, their choices were not random or biased, using various methods available to them (merchandise sales, surveys, etc.), they were able to determine that new girl Mayu Watanabe had a larger following than Yukirin, so Yukirin had to step back for Mayuyu. By the next single after Bingo!, only Mayuyu would represent Team B for Boku no Taiyou, and again for Yuuhi wo Miteiruka. After which was Romance Irance, and this time, it was only Ayaka Kikuchi who was added with Mayuyu to represent Team B. Again, try to imagine what Yukirin must have felt this time. One of my favorite AKB girls has gotten a lot of disappointing spots in her career, not that she has disappointed her fans, but the chips were just not falling in her favor.

Sweet-imaged Yukirin would continue steadily though, and she would get included again in the single Sakura no Hanabiratachi 2008, and would become a part of the recording for every single (up to the time of this writing) since then, and would rank #9 in the Iiwake Maybe Senbatsu elections voted on by the fans, all proof of her now established popularity.

For me, Yukirin is the best dancer in AKB, better than Jurina, Nacchan or Takamina, and those are some of the best dancers in AKB right there! If you aren't distracted by her beauty and actually observe her dance, Yukirin's steps are very precise, they are intentional, from her footsteps to her facial expressions and any other body movement. It also seems like she can learn any dance in the shortest amount of time as she seems to be one of the first choices to be a substitute for anyone who is unable to perform. Granted, this may also be since she has only two original stage subunits (pre-Budokan shuffle), and less participation in singles in the past, she doesn't have as many of her own performances as her fans would like so they keep sticking her as a sub whenever someone is unavailable for their concerts for maximum Yukirin exposure. And whenever she does sub, oh, how beautiful a sub she is! Her gracious dancing is always a treat for me, not to forget to mention her beautiful face. Also, I think Yukirin is the most professional girl in AKB, not only with the things I've already mentioned, sticking with things even though they weren't going in her favor, but you can see her professionality when she dances, as she pretty much emanates the emotion that she needs to convey in the song with her facial expression and her motions. She knows that when it's time to be serious, she's serious, but when it's time to go crazy, look out!

Yukirin is also one of most fun girls in AKB. She's so silly, funny and cute, no wonder she's one of the most endearing personalities in AKB. Many of the AKB girls love her; Yukirin is also very close friends with her team's topstar, Mayuyu, who adores her so much. It's no wonder that when CinDy got transferred to SDN48 fulltime, it was announced in the Budokan shuffle that Yukirin would take her place as the leader of the new Team B. Mind you, this is not the same Team B she started with, but this will be a Team composed mostly of former members of Team A and K, with about half of them being her seniors!

Yukirin's story is inspirational, when you think about. With all the disappointments she faced, she didn't give up and kept on going. Now she's in the top group of her genre (Obviously, I believe AKB48 has already surpassed Morning Musume as the best group today, with the sales of River and Sakura no Shiori as one proof), and not only that, she's leading one of the main three teams. These would have never happened if she made it at Morning Musume. She would have realized her dream, but would end up in the #2 group. But instead, she became a part of the group that beat the best group. If Yukirin passed Momusu, I would have never known her. I'm so glad she failed. God works in mysterious ways when you don't give up and continue to try hard.

A few screencaps of Yukirin:

Though not a lot of focuses, Yukirin's first PV is Bingo!

After missing Senbatsu status for three singles, Yukirin would get chosen again for Sakura no Hanabiratachi 2008, briefly shown here with a few other Team B members

3rd single to include her, Baby! Baby! Baby!

Oogoe Diamond

Her posistion in Baby! Baby! Baby is similar to her position here, left (facing us) and almost in the back of the pack

10nen Zakura, position improving (2nd row, behind Jurina)

More focuses on her on Namida Surprise

After ranking #9 by the fans in the first Senbatsu elections, she is now undeniable, as she has a much better role in Iiwake Maybe

After being announced the new captain of the new Team B weeks earlier, she takes a much more prominent role in River

Still Senbatsu in the next single, Sakura no Shiori, she also centers Team PB in its accompanying track, Enkyori Poster

In AKB's first concert tour, Yukirin was the sub to Yuko Oshima, even before Team B debuted, shown here in the "the making of" video

Just before she entered the stage with the rest of Team K, shown here with Sae Miyazawa

Since Rina Nakanishi had graduated, Yukirin substituted for her in Boku to Juliet to Jetcoaster in the Shibuya AX Best 100 2009

Perhaps to somewhat distract her beloved teammate, CinDy, along with Nacchan and Kojiharu, sitting behind the performers, waves at the performers, mostly Yukirin, when the performers faced them. The professional Yukirin was unfazed though and continued with a straight face as the performance required.

Since Reina Noguchi graduated on Pajama Drive's Senshuuraku, when Tenshi no Shippo was performed after it at the 2009 NHK Hall concert, Yukirin joined Lovetan and Nakayan as Gussan's sub

Because Yuko Oshima was out due to an operation, Yukirin subbed for Yuko for Yuuhi wo Miteiruka? on the same concert series

Yukirin subbed for unable to perform Yuka Masuda on Tobenai Agehachou for their Budokan 2009 concert

Yukirin would take center as Mai Oshima's replacement in the Team B - Team K version of Kioku no Dilemma at G-Rosso, Sept. 17, 2009, one of the best renditions of one of my favorite AKB songs

Her first stage subunit is Kinjarareta Futari, with Nakayan, where Yukirin takes Yuko Oshima's place

Her first original stage subunit was the top subunit of the Setlist Best 100 2009, Temo Demo no Namida, with Mikachi, shown here being performed at Budokan 2009, at Mikachi's graduation, where professional Yukirin can be seen trying to hold back her tears due to her injured partner's graduation

Yukirin's second original subunit is the very popular Kuchi Utsushi no Chocolate, with Nacchan and Lovetan, shown here performed at the Shibuya AX Request Hour Setlist Best 100 2010

One of Yukirin's earliest most eventful segments on AKBingo! was the Shiritori Fast Word Battles.

A must see for any Yukirin fan is the Feb. 19, 2009 episode of AKBingo!, where she was prominently featured in a prank.

Another must-see for Yukirin fans is her battle with close friend Mayu Watanabe on Shojiki Shougi (Truth Chess Battle) on the Aug. 12, 2009 episode of AKBingo!

Dubbed "Reaction Queen" for her very funny reactions, Yukirin shares this title with Sae Miyazawa, paired with her here on the Aug. 26, 2009 episode of AKBingo!

In the Team B show AKB48+10, if Team B leader CinDy was not present on the episode, it is usually Nacchan or Yukirin leading the show, Yukirin shown here judging the competition on its 4th episode, aired Jan. 1, 2008

In my favorite Yukirin clip, she cutely approaches the camera on the "the making of" video of the NHK Hall 2009 concert

Really having nothing serious to say, since Moe Yamashita and Rena Matsui were passing by, she decides to introduce them

While Yukirin was about to talk about her hairpin, as Harugon tends to do, she interrupts Yukirin, where Yuki playfully displays annoyance. The two are actually good friends.

She messes around a bit with Hacchan while performing Shiroi Shirts on the same concert, something I rarely see her do while performing, but enjoy seeing her do

Announcement of the first Senbatsu Election results, 2-3 seconds before Yukirin's name was called

Ranking #9 in the first Senbatsu elections, proving her worth to the whole AKB

She takes no less than #1 AKB girl Maeda Atsuko's place in Yuki's performance of Kuroi Tenshi in the Budokan 2009 shuffle concert with Nakayan and Hacchan

In the Shibuya AX Best 100 2010 concert, she joins Minami Takahashi and Sayaka Akimoto as the captains of thier respective Teams to start the concert series, wearing their most classical Team uniforms, where Yukirin wears her Shonichi uniform.

Yukirin learns for the first time that she will be the captain of Team B in the Budokan 2009 concert

As CinDy leaves Team B, I am happy that Team B is at least in good hands. I will continue to support the new Team B along with its new Captain. Way to go, Yukirin! Continue to do great, and may more of the best go your way!