Thursday, June 7, 2012

4th General Election Results: Yuko Succeeds Acchan

With Maeda Atsuko bowing out of this year's election due to her graduation, some may think that Yuko Oshima would have had it in the bag, but the fans were curious as to who the voters of Maeda would vote for instead, which could have tipped the scales any which way. In the end however, Yuko Oshima did take number one, perhaps officially making her Acchan's successor.

Acchan has been very busy the past few months, and speculations about her graduation have been prevalent for a long time now, and seeing that Acchan successfully took back the #1 position last year after falling to #2 the year before, Acchan really didn't have that much to prove, and it was pretty good timing for her to pass the torch. I do love Acchan and she will be missed.

It would have been interesting if someone else won #1 position this year, but Yuko winning perhaps cemented the idea that she is the rightful successor, and at the same time can give the fans the feeling that eventhough Acchan has left, we are not seeing a second-class version of AKB. Whether Yuko would have beaten Acchan again this year, I guess we'll never know, but since she was the only girl to beat Acchan in the elections, it gives the idea that we are just going to see the alternative version of AKB without Acchan, instead of a second-class version. Yuko does deserve the position and it should be interesting to see Yuko being the center of AKB for more than one single. The hard part here is that seeing AKB will no longer have Acchan, fans could wonder if the next elections would become lopsided, since a battle against Yuko would have to be a very steep uphill battle, even with the likes of Mayuyu or Yukirin challenging her. Yuko's competitors will have to do a lot in terms of gaining fans if they want a competitive fight for the #1 position next election, unless, of course, Yuko announces her own graduation before then, not that I want to see Yuko graduate, as Yuko is such a sweetheart.

I was elated that Mayu Watanabe, my oshi, got up there at #2. I was ecstatic when Yukirin's name was called at #3, meaning Mayu beat Yuki (eventhough Yukirin is my third favorite). Here's the stressful part about it though, seeing how Mayuyu is very competitive, and how she verbalized before that she wanted to rank higher, and that she said in her speech in the elections that she did want to target #1, especially now that she's so close, the heat is on for her to beat Yuko, who has pretty much always had a ton of votes more than her, or at least maintain her #2 spot, and I for one do not want to see the same tears Mayuyu cried two years ago when she dropped a spot from #4 to #5 when she was fighting for a higher ranking instead. However which way, this is going to be an interesting uphill battle for us Mayuyu fans this coming year.

Of course, Mayuyu isn't the only one that could steal Yuko's center position, as #3 Yuki Kashiwagi has shown that she can beat Mayu (last year), and many fans would agree that Yukirin does have what it takes to be the center of AKB. I was also very pleased to see Yukirin's reactions as she watched her girlfriend Mayuyu come up stage and give her speech as #2.

I didnt' get the chance to say it publicly before, but my pick for breakout member of the year for last year is actually Rino Sashihara, leaping from #19 to #9 last year, to #4 this year, Sasshi's failings have hardly kept her back as she becomes the first former Kenkyuusei to enter Kami7. For some time now, Sasshi has been my favorite member from Team A, and now she actually is the most popular member in Team A, outdoing even the originals. (Kinda gives you a different perspective on the first skit of the first episode of AKBimyo.) The positions of the top 4 (Yuko, Mayu, Yuki, Sasshi) with none of them from first gen, seem to mark the new era of AKB (Yuko is second gen, Mayu and Yuki third and Sasshi fourth gen). We can easily imagine that the new girls will take over someday, and, well, maybe that someday is closer than we expect.

Not to say the originals are out of it, with Mariko Shinoda at #5, Minami Takahashi at #6, and Haruna Kojima at #7, rounding out the Kami7. (Yeah, I know Mariko is Gen 1.5, but whatever.) From #3 the first two years, to #4 last year, Mariko's rank has been going down one step at a time, not to say that her popularity is declining, but the younger and newer girls are gaining more fans faster. Mariko's speech was also very inspiring as she very well put that she wants the junior members to bring it on and take it to the senior members, essentially welcoming the idea of passing the torch to the newer girls. Takamina and Kojiharu switch positions again for the nth time as Takamina takes the higher rank against Kojiharu this time, which is fine as as part of one of the oldest units of AKB, no3b, I think they get along real well anyway, and them switching ranks again with each other probably doesn't even matter much to them anymore.

I guess technically it wasn't Sasshi that pushed out Tomomi Itano out of Kami7, since she was already pushed out last year by Yukirin, but Tomochin is ranking strong at #8. I'm a bit disappointed that Tomochin's popularity isn't increasing as I hoped it would, with releasing very fine solo singles no less (you should listen to the coupling songs of Dear J, for example), but I hope Tomochin isn't discouraged too much, as she is my #2 oshi, and #8 is still extremely high.

At #9 is SKE wondergirl Jurina Matsui. I think I was brofisting myself in the air when Rena's name was called at #10, meaning Jurina has taken back the top position of SKE (what I mean is that Jurina is once again the SKE member with the highest rank) as Jurina is my #4 oshi (now that Nacchan is gone). As Acchan took back what was hers against Yuko, Mayu did so with Yukirin (top position at Team B), and so has Jurina with Rena. She also climbs five ranks as she fell to #14 last year. I've been mindful of Jurina the past year due to her fallen rank from last year, but I am very glad at how she continued the past year, and very happy that she ranked so well this year.

Retaining #10, earning her way among the Senbatsus, is Rena Matsui. Formerly overlooked, she was my pick for the breakout star two years ago, and she has maintained her much coveted Senbatsu status with no less than being in the top ten, a hard climb especially considering Jurina and Rena are the only two non-AKB members who have been elected Senbatsu since the elections started, and the fact that they maintained their Senbatsu status two years in a row (more than 2 for Jurina) cements their position as Senbatsus, despite actually being in SKE.

Sae Miyazawa retains her #11 rank, and Tomomi Kasai jumps back up from #16 to #12, as two from original Team K stay strong holding on to their Senbatsu status. There were times Tomo~mi looked like she was discouraged from not always being considered at the top along with other Senbatsus so I'm glad her popularity increased as I adore Chiyuu. Rie Kitahara retains her #13 rank, continuing to be the second former Kenyuusei to rank as Senbatsu. Minami Minegishi ranks one spot higher from #15 to #14, as she too stakes her claim at Senbatsu status, and I am glad that she hangs in there as she is a great entertainer and works hard for her spot with the Senbatsus.

Yui Yokoyama's rank from last year at #19 would not have been enough to keep her at Senbatsu, but she jumps four spots to take #15 this year, showing the world she deserves the push she keeps getting. Yui's personality reminds me a lot of Acchan's (especially her shyness), and considering she has such a beautiful face, nice figure, and is an excellent singer, she could very well be a fitting successor to Acchan someday. She also becomes the third ranking former Kenkyuusei among the Senbatsus.

Rounding out the Senbatsus is a big surprise, original team K member Ayaka Umeda, as she leaps six spots from #22 to #16. When I saw Umechan still sitting among the other members after all the Undergirls had been called, I was wondering how Umechan was not ranked at all this election, so I was pleasantly surprised that last year's center of Undergirls was elected all the way up to Senbatsu, especially considering there are five less Senbatsus to be elected this year. Umechan has a beautiful face, is a great performer, and has made her was back from a career-threatening injury during the time when AKB wasn't very popular (meaning likely hardly anybody cared) so actually I guess the biggest surprise should be why it has taken her this long to be this popular. She deserves it.

I suggested last year that there being less Senbatsus in the next election would be an interesting way to shake up the elections, and it was interesting that that it is what they did. I also said it may be counterintuitive, since  there would be more members. So what does AKB Management do? They create two new groups, tentatively named Next Girls and Future Girls, where each group, including the Senbatsus and Undergirls, will have 16 members each. 64 spots is still a great challenge considering over 200 members were eligible.

Centering Undergirls this year at #17 is Aki Takajo. Akicha expressed some disappointment considering she dropped five spots from #12 last year, and more importantly, she dropped out of Senbatsu by just one rank. #17 is not bad at all and had the 21-girl Senbatsu been retained, she would have still been in there, so more power to you Akicha.

#18 is NMB center Sayaka Yamamoto. Eventhough Sayaka ranked 10 spots higher from #28 last year, she did express pressure, being NMB's center, and not being elected Senbatsu yet. NMB is the third 48 group (not counting SDN, or OJS, for that matter) after AKB and SKE, and seeing how SKE center Jurina Matsui had always been voted Senbatsu since SKE started, I can imagine how pressured Sayaka might feel. Of course, SKE has been around much longer than NMB, and there had been less members when Jurina entered the scene, so it is very much understandable why Sayaka has been faring the way she has, but considering how beautiful Sayaka is and how great of a center she has been to NMB through all the hardships NMB has faced, I guess that it's only a matter of time.

Perhaps the Rena Matusi of NMB, first time ranked Miyuki Watanabe ranks at #19. Following just one rank behind their center, Milky has had a lot more exposure the past year. I'm wondering if we'll see a Milky vs Sayaka match up the next election.

My favorite Sayaka would have stayed on at Senbatsu if they had retained the 21-girl line up, but this year Sayaka Akimoto's #20 rank puts her in Undergirls. Sayaka has been placed in Undergirls quite a number of times now (in non-election singles) so I am at peace with this. #20 at AKB is extremely high so I hope the supergirl captain of Team K stays strong. Much thanks to all who vote and support our Sayaka.

Just like Sayaka, Amina Sato drops 3 ranks from last year to #21, and would have stayed at Senbatsu for ever since the elections started if they retained the 21-girl line up. Amina is still popular, and it ain't no fluke.

Dropping one rank lower is Asuka Kuramochi, down to #22. Beautiful Mocchi is still one of the most popular girls in AKB.

Another announcement that made me ecstatic, Haruka Shimazaki ranks #23. Paruru is the highest ranked girl to be ever ranked in an election as a Kenkyuusei two years ago when she ranked very well at #28. Then, perhaps due to receiving less push, she was not ranked at all last year. It's great that she outdoes herself this year.

I'll mention Yuka Masuda first, as she is the last actual AKB member among the Undergirls. Yuttan ranked #26, down by six spots from last year's #20. This is the first time the #26 rank has been occupied by someone other than the now graduate Natsumi Hirajima.

There were only six actual AKB members among the 16 Undergirls this year, and although the higher two non-AKB members are the top two members of NMB, no less than half of the Undergirls are SKE. This perhaps is a great testament to the popularity and success of AKB's first sister group. As an SKE fan, this makes me very happy.

Akane Takayanagi, captain of KII, is also its highest ranked. Churi ranked one spot lower from last year's #23 to #24, but it's still awsum.

Close behind her at #25 is her teammate Sawako Hata, up eight spots from last year's #33. So, are we going to see a competition between Churi and Shawako for dominance of KII similar to the Jurina vs Rena at Team S?

#27 is Masana Oya, solidifying her position as Team S' #3 girl. She is up by 3 spots from #30.

This announcement probably made me most excited, Kumi Yagami is elected at #28. After ranking at #38 two years ago, she was not ranked last year, so for this past year I was watching Kuumin even more so, hoping she was not at all disheartened by it. Kuumin stood well, and she has her highest rank so far, so one of my top favorites should rise even more.

The energetic Akari Suda climbs seven spots from #36 to #29, holding her own. Airi Furukawa, who is now KII's third most popular member, is finally elected at #30, and I think it was about time this adorable girl get some push. Yuria Kizaki, another Team S cutie, is finally elected at #31. When Yuria got called, I was even more concerned about Kumi, as I perceive the teammates (and performers of Okami to Pride) to have a little friendly competition going on, so I was very glad that they both made it in. Rounding out the Undergirls is another popular KII girl, Shiori Ogiso, finally ranked at #32.

Misaki Iwasa centers the new group tentatively called the Next Girls. There shouldn't be much surprise to Wasamin's popularity and I'm glad it has translated to votes. This is also her first time to be elected.

#34 is Kaori Matsumura, the first SKE Kenkyuusei to ever be elected while still Kenkyuusei. Kaori has been my favorite SKE Kenkyuusei ever since, and I have long wondered why she has still not been promoted, given that she has been around before Team E even started, so I was surprised and very happy at her rank. In her speech she also mentioned about asking for support for SKE Kenkyuusei among the fans. As it is, AKB Kenkyuusei already have more exposure than what a Kenkyuusei would have received years ago, and even so, SKE Kenkyuusei still don't get as much exposure. Well, I'm hoping Kaori will get more exposure soon, but hopefully no longer as a Kenkyuusei, but as an actual member.

Manatsu Mukaida finally gets elected as she ranks #35. Formerly the center of KII, her youth and shyness did not translate very well among the fans as Maeda Atsuko's did before, as Akane Takayanagi would become the first, and then, only KII member elected previously. Manachan's popularity would further dip to the point that by SKE's single Okey Dokey, she was no longer chosen by SKE Management to be Senbatsu, something that greatly disappointed her (she was crying when the announcement was made), as it seemed from center, she was seen as no longer Senbatsu material. This ranking however should give her the extra push that she needs to keep on fighting with the rest of KII.

Sayaka Nakaya, original member of Team B, finally gets ranked at #36, after being left out ever since the first elections. Nakayan credits her book, similar to an autobiography, where apparently she talks about her experience of never being picked. I think it's about time Nakayan got ranked; she is very beautiful and she is a very good trooper. Next year, it's time for Tanamin to get elected.

Also previously unelected, Chisato Nakata finally lands herself at #37. Again, a very pretty girl, Chiichan ranks quite well at #37. She doesn't cause too many waves, but maybe it's time to let her make some.

Miho Miyazaki drops 11 spots from #27 to #38. She was elected Senbatsu two years ago at #21, then dropped to Undergirls, and is now in Next Girls, and Myao has expressed concern last year about her declining popularity, but not to fret, ranking at #38 still makes her one of the most recognizable faces in AKB.

Mariya Nagao, Team 4 member, is proving her popularity, finally ranking at #39. Reina Fujie, one of my favorites, still holds on as she retains her rank at #40. I'm glad Reinyan is still popular. Surprisingly, Team K original (now Team B) Kana Kobayashi ranks for the first time as she is elected to #41. Team A's Ami Maeda drops five spots from #37 to #42. Aina Fukumoto, the third NMB girl to get ranked, is elected for the first time at #43.

Losing 20 spots from #24 to #44 is Haruka Nakagawa. Haruka is one my favorites, so I'm just glad she is still hanging in there. Haruka said in her speech about not wanting to be called Harugon anymore, as she said Harugon represented the fun-loving, silly, and some criticized, immature Haruka, an image she perhaps no longer wants to be seen as as she wants to become more mature. I don't know, but I loved the old Harugon, so whatever that means, I hope we just see more of her, whether its Harugon or Haruka.

A new member of Team 4, Yuka Tano makes an impressive debut at the elections by ranking at #45. The 4th member of NMB to get ranked, Nana Yamada is finally ranked at #46. The first and so far only member of HKT48 to get ranked, Sakura Miyawaki debuts in the election at #47.

Rounding out the Next Girls is Haruka Katayama, at #48. Haachan was Undergirl the first two elections, and then unranked in last year's. She has however gotten more push reminiscent of Ohori Megumi (without the overt sexiness), and it seems Haachan is going to take the ball and run with it.

The last batch of 16 elected girls is tentatively called the Furture Girls, and their center is no less than only the fifth girl to be elected while still Kenkyuusei (besides Shimazaki, Yamauchi, Matsumura and we'll also count Ishiguro), the very fresh Tomu Muto, with a very successful debut at #49. From #27 two years ago, to unranked last year, Haruka Ishida reemerges at #50. Ayaka Kikuchi finally gets ranked at #51, showing her worthiness to get reinstated.

After being Senbatsu the first election, center of Undergirls the second, and member of Undergirls the third, Aika Ota drops down to Future Girls, down by 27 spots from #25 to #52. Ironically, I have been liking the very cute Rabutan more and more as she becomes more mature in her attitude, so I hope she doesn't get too discouraged, and that she keeps on fighting.

Although dropping down 15 spots from #38, Sakiko Matsui proves her popularity by staying ranked at #53.

Another new member I adore, Suzuran Yamauchi, one of the first three Kenkyuuseis to be elected as Kenkyuusei two years ago, ranks at #54. Ranran was unranked last year and she is back with a vengeance. Her Nemousu golf episodes has been some of my favorites, and I don't mind seeing more of her.

Down by 24 spots from #31, another one of my favorites, Moeno Nito hangs in there at #55. Team E center Kimoto Kanon finally enters the ranking at #56, and I am so glad Nonchan can make it in. Mina Oba also drops 22 spots from #35 to #57, and am also glad she made it. Her teammate Miori Ichikawa also drops by 19 spots from #39 to #58. Shizuka Oya drops 30 spots from #29 to #59, but nonetheless stays around. The fifth NMB member to rank debuts at #60, Mayu Ogasawara, showing that the NMB girls can hold there own, and given more time, no telling how far they can get. Sumire Sato drops 25 spots from #34 to #61, still holding her own. The very adorable Team KII member Miki Yakata finally enters the ranking at #62, and I'm so glad she made it in; she's so bright and sunshiny. Team S original Yuka Nakanishi finally enters the ranking at #63, a feel good moment to know that she made it in. Rounding out the elections, dropping 32 spots from #32 to #64 is Mika Komori, completing Watarirouka Hashiritai (unless we count CinDy, who wasn't eligible in the first place).

There were many others I was hoping would get in, primarily was KII's Anna Ishida. This darling remains unranked.

Elections for next year should be another interesting one, I don't have much speculation now, we'll have to see what develops the coming year. For now, I'm very excited to see the singles, especially the SKE dominated Undergirls track.

By the way, here are links to my post on my news blog about the results, and my thoughts on the previous two elections: