AKB48’s Next Step? Minami Takahashi’s Surprise Graduation Announcement at 9th Anniversary Concert
On December 8, 2014 AKB48 celebrated the 9th anniversary of their first performance at the AKB48 Theater on the 8th floor of Don Quijote in Akihabara.
In those 9 years as AKB48 went from performing in front of 7 audience members to selling out stadiums across Japan and selling millions of CDs, Minami Takahashi was there to experience it all, wrapping strips of pink tape on the theater’s pillars each December to mark another year of the group’s success. However, by announcing her intentions to graduate from the AKB48 at their 10th anniversary performance, 2015 will be the last year that Takahashi will be there to do it.
AKB48 went all out for the event with Teams A, K, B, and 4, 16 members of Team 8, as well as Ayaka Umeda (NMB48) and Sae Miyazawa (SKE48/SNH48) making appearances, a total of 109 members! Following the familiar “Overture” which opens all AKB48 concerts, the dark stage came alive as Team A performed their coupling song (“Juujun na Slave”) from AKB48’s 38th single “Kibouteki Refrain”. Following in the order that they were formed, Team K (“Hajimete no Drive”), Team B (“Loneliness Club”), Team 4 (“Me wo Aketa Mama no First Kiss”), and Team 8 (“Seifuku no Hane”) kept the music going.
Yuki Kashiwagi, Mayu Watanabe, Asuka Kuramochi, Yui Yokoyama, Minami Takahashi, Haruka Shimazaki, Minami Minegishi, and Haruna Kojima then took the stage to greet the audience. A giant clock was unveiled, explaining that it would countdown until the 10th anniversary.
Continuing with the concurrent members (Jurina Matsui, Sayaka Yamamoto, Sakura Miyawaki, Haruka Kodama, Nao Furuhata, Fuuko Yagura, Rina Ikoma, Riho Kotani, Nagisa Shibuya) performing “Oogoe Diamond”, Draft members (Kayoko Takita, Rena Nishiyama, Moe Goto, Hinana Shimoguchi, Saya Kawamoto, Aeri Yokoshima) with “Ame no Dobutsuen” and transferred members (Yuria Kizaki, Mayu Ogasawara, Chiyori Nakanishi, Rena Nozawa) with “Tengoku Yarou”.
Beginning with the 15th generation (“Baby Baby Baby”) each song that followed was performed by current members of the preceding generation, counting down to the end of the concert, just as the clock counted down towards the 10th anniversary. It was truly a set list that conveyed the 9-year history of AKB48, particularly because most of the members who originally performed the songs beloved by fans through daily theater performances were not the same ones on stage that night.
Following “Kibouteki Refrain”, Takahashi expressed her deep feelings of gratitude to the fans and shared some of the challenges she and the other early members faced. Her words slowed and a single tears began to stream down her cheeks as she struggled to announce her graduation, flanked by fellow 1st generation members Haruna Kojima and Minami Minegishi. With the exception of the clicking of cameras and sniffling of heartbroken fans, Takahashi’s words were the only sound in the AKB48 Theater. Here is a short excerpt from her speech: “This is not a sad thing. Next year will be AKB48’s 10th anniversary, a very special year. I am very happy to been able to be part of this group for 10 years and this is not a group that will end after 10 years. I want it to continue into its 11th year. I think it will be fine. And so I am passing the baton to Yui Yokoyama and the other members and ask you to keep supporting AKB48 in the future.”
Although Takahashi will not be graduating until next December, hearing a graduation announcement from a member that has been with the group since the beginning is never easy. The giant clock on display outside the AKB48 Theater serves as a reminder of how little time in the group is left for the current general manager of the biggest girl group in the world.
1. Juujun na Slave (Team A)
2. Hajimete no Drive (Team K)
3. Loneliness Club (Team B)
4. Me wo Aketa Mama no First Kiss (Team 4)
5. Seifuku no Hane (Team 8)
6. Oogoe Diamond (concurrent members)
7. Ame no Dobutsuen (draft members)
8. Tengoku Yarou (transferred members)
9. Baby Baby Baby (15th generation members)
10. Kimi Dake Chu! Chu! Chu! (14th generation members)
11. Te wo Tsunaginagara (13th generation members)
12. 1994-nen no Raimei (12th generation members)
13. Enkyori Poster (11th generation members)
14. Eien Yori Tsuzuku You Ni (10th generation members)
15. Omoide Hotondo (9th generation members)
16. Lucky Seven (7th generation members)
17. Himawari (6th generation member Aki Takajo)
18. Gomen ne Jewel (5th generation members)
19. Yuuwaku no Garter (4th generation members)
20. Team B Oshi (3rd generation members)
21. Nakinagara Hohoende ~ 16-nin Shimai (2nd generation members)
22. Ai no Sonzai (1st generation members)
23. Kibouteki Refrain
24. Sakura no Hanabiratachi (all)
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