AKB48 Senbatsu Sousenkyo Analysis: Kami 7 and Other Observations
The biggest Senbatsu Sousenkyo in AKB48’s 10 year history saw a record number of votes cast and the reclamation of the throne by HKT48’s Rino Sashihara. It seems that the era of Maeda and Oshima has been replaced by that of Sashihara and Watanabe. Even as it becomes more difficult for older fans to keep up with all the new faces as founding members graduate, the sun has not yet begun to set on the AKB48 empire. The AKB48 Senbatsu Sousenkyo remains a logic-defying media spectacle and sales generating powerhouse. That being the case, we have attempted to use logic to figure out what may have lead to the results of the Kami 7 and some observations about the lower-ranked members.
01. Rino Sashihara HKT48 Team H (194,049)
On TV or social media, Sashihara has only become more influential and inescapable as time goes by. Other more well-endowed idols would get called out for using their sex appeal if they promised a swimsuit live contingent on their victory but, it might not be the main reason that gave her the win. Sashihara isn’t afraid to say what other idols won’t say and do things that other idols won’t do (except for bungee jumping).
02. Yuki Kashiwagi AKB48 Team B/NGT48 (167,183)
Kashiwagi has come a long way from not even being considered one of the original “Kami 7”. Despite receiving enough votes to have won by a landslide the previous year, Yukirin was edged out by Sashihara’s even more unbelievable voter turnout. Perhaps some time in Niigata with NGT48 will be able to stir up enough support to put her over the top for her 2016 campaign?
03. Mayu Watanabe AKB48 Team B (165,789)
Mayuyu could have repeated based on the number of votes she got this year but, every year the amount needed to even keep one’s rank increases. Watanabe almost seemed relieved when her name was called at #3. It was a nice change from previous years when Mayu’s dissatisfaction at not being named the center was much more intense. At the very least, her increased numbers show that her fans have not begun to lose hope in having their queen ascend to the throne a second time. However, as much attention as she is given through conventional means, adding more interaction with her fans online could help keep her in their sights around the clock.
04. Minami Takahashi AKB48 Team A (137,252)
It would have been a storybook ending for Takamina to go out on top in her final Senbatsu Sousenkyo but, in spite of her leadership qualities, singing ability, and legacy, even getting almost double her personal record for votes was not enough to get things done in 2015. Regardless of the result, her hard work was not all in vain. As the “heart and soul” of AKB48, her final acceptance speech will likely be remembered for years to come.
05. Jurina Matsui SKE48 Team S/ AKB48 Team K (105,289)
There is no doubting Jurina’s ambition and drive when it comes to being an idol but the wall became insurmountable with the Mayuyu/Sasshi rivalry, Takamina’s impending graduation, or even how hot her mom is providing ample distractions. Jurina’s intensity has several advantages to it but it may backfire on her one day. The absence of Rena Matsui did not seem to have as big an affect on the results for her but, it seems like Jurina will be around for a while and so her day may be coming soon.
06. Sayaka Yamamoto NMB48 Team N / AKB48 Team K (97,866)
Riding the wave of momentum generated by being inaugurated into the ranks of the “Kami 7” in 2014, Saya-nee maintained her spot despite gaining about 30,000 additional votes in 2015. With so many different interests and talents, the danger Yamamoto faces in the future could be getting pulled in too many directions, similar to how Takamina has been. However, she does not seem to be as focused on taking the center position as long as she can do what she loves.
07. Sakura Miyawaki HKT48 Team KIV / AKB48 Team A (81,422)
As the first HKT48 member to rank in (47th in 2012) and make senbatsu in an AKB48 single (UZA), a lot of pressure has been put on Sakura from an early age. Given the makeup of the current group, her feelings of wanting to tear it down and create something new are not that unusual to consider. Will her prophecy come to pass? Compared to the other hopeful centers in the 48 groups, Sakura still seems to have energy to spare so it may just happen. At the very least, she hasn’t yet slipped into using the word “frustration” (悔しい) to describe being ranked in the top 7 out of over 200 girls?
Most entertaining speech has to go to Yui Kojina (HKT48 Team H) who ranked in for the first time at 46th place. It was a throwback to the first time that Yui Yokoyama (AKB48 Team A) ranked in, as Kojina completely lost control of herself as she was wrapped up in the moment. Most painful to watch speech goes to Akari Suda (SKE48 Team E) as she fell out of Senbatsu to 18th after ranking 10th in 2014. Even when she was finished, her sobbing next to Haruka Kodama (17th) was heartbreaking. The slim margin separating Akarin from Senbatsu made it even harder to take.
Fears of AKB48 being “destroyed” are not completely unfounded as more “silly/goofy” members moved up the ranks: Kaori Matsumura (#13) jumped into senbatsu and Marika Tani made her debut at 23rd. Miori Ichikawa almost fell out of the rankings at 79th; maybe it’s time to give up the whole “Fresh Lemon” gimmick now that she’s 21?
Will Akane Takayanagi (#14) soar higher after her jump from 31st (2014) or will she be in danger of having her wings clipped and return to Undergirls like Suda did?
Haruka Shimazaki (#9) seemed to warm up a little during her acceptance speech but what would happen if she gave up the “salty interaction” that fans seem to love so much?
After making some progress in recent years, Yui Yokoyama (#10) seemed to relapse into her old ways while giving her speech. Will she be okay leading AKB48 when Takamina is no longer there to cheer her on?
Now that the cabinet of the 2nd Sashihara administration has been announced, it should be fun to see what kind of songs will be chosen for them in AKB48’s 41st single as well as what after effects there will be from the recognition of 2015’s most popular members. If you weren’t pleased with the results of the 2015 election, set aside some resources to cast your vote in 2016 because just wishing for things to happen doesn’t make them reality.
AKB48 official site : http://www.akb48.co.jp/
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