Working to Make Everyone’s Dream Come True Until the End: Mayu Watanabe Graduation Concert
Mayu Watanabe showed again the love for her birthplace by choosing to perform her graduation concert at Saitama Super Arena on October 31st.
The title of Mayuyu’s last and legendary concert was inspired by the last sentence of her beloved Team B catchphrase “Watanabe Mayu Sotsugyo Concert ～Minna no Yume ga Kanaemasu You ni～” which could be translated “May everyone’s dream come true”.
Once all the 17,000 fans took their seats, projection mapping of 7 golden eagles symbolizing the famous AKB48 Kami 7 filled the giant screens in the arena. Mayu Watanabe appeared on stage via a suspended platform wearing a white dress adorned with beautiful embroidery worthy of a French queen. Her voice trembled with emotion as the performance began with an orchestral arrangement of “Shonichi”, the top ranked song from the first AKB48 Request Hour (2009). The tears on her usually smiling face left a painful reminder that it was to be her last concert as an AKB48 member.
Then her beloved members Rino Sashihara and Yuki Kashiwagi joined “Mayuyu” (Watanabe’s nickname) on stage with Sayaka Yamamoto, Jurina Matsui, Sakura Miyawaki, and Yui Yokoyama to perform the well known Watarirouka Hashiritai song “Kanpeki Gu～no ne”. Happiness took over the sadness right away, especially with the entrance of the graduated members Natsumi Hirajima, Aika Ota, and Haruka Nakagawa for the second part of the song. Then all the members came on stage to perform “Honest Man” and “Yobisute Fantasy” while the star of the day went to thank her fans in a traditional AKB48 cart crossing through the audience.
The first talk of the evening featured Watanabe, Sashihara, Kashiwagi, and Minegishi who greeted fans who followed the concert thanks to the pay-per-view live broadcast and commented on the opening performances. The Saitama Senbatsu was an exclusive line up composed by Mion Mukaichi, Yui Hiwatashi, Yuka Ogino, Ayana Takahashi, Yukari Sasaki, Ayana Shinozaki, Ami Yumoto, Haruka Kurosu, and Kana Yasuda. They sang together “Bingo!” which was the first song that Watanabe had been selected for the senbatsu. Some local sweets known as Jûmangokumanjû were tossed out into the audience during the performance.
“Ponytail to Shushu” and “Juuryoku Sympathy” gave opportunities for members Anna Iriyama and Haruka Komiyama to sing next to Watanabe. The 16th generation also had their chance during the song “Nante Renai Kuragekko” with along with Mayuyu’s mascot Muchichi.
The remaining stage talks were dominated by members sharing their memories with Mayu. There were funny stories like how Nako Yabuki had showed her panties to Mayu during rehearsal as well as Sayaka Yamamoto sharing that her brother was a Mayuyu oshi (fan). There was also an emotional one which recalled Mayu cheering on Sakura Miyawaki for her first AKB single as center “Kibouteki Refrain” which was announced at Janken Taikai 2014.
A series of unit song with famous members followed including “Pajama Drive”, “Zannen Shoujo”, “Hatsukoi yo Konnichiwa”, “Sailor Zombie” and closing with “Kimi no c/w” by Mion Mukaichi and Yui Oguri. Muchichi appeared again for a short skit in which Mayu found out Muchichi’s affinity to Team 8’s ace.
The mood shifted with a trio of prestigious duets, starting with Yui Yokoyama paying her respects towards Mayu for the Legendary Kami 7 song “Yuuhi wo Miteiru ka”. The reigning queen of Sosenkyo, Sashihara appeared alongside Mayu for “Avocado Jane～shi”. A short video showed several emotional moments from the inseparable duo of Mayu-Yukirin, providing the transition for the two members dressed in glittering party dresses. They sang their last duo song known to date called “Kanashii Uta wo Kikitakunakatta” live for the first time ever. Mayu took advantage of the mini-talk with Kashiwagi to announce her new album, scheduled to be released on December 20th.
The next five songs were sung by Mayu’s favorites. She personally chose the member composition and the centers were the ones she thought would be the future aces of the group. Seina Fukuoka, Saya Kawamoto, and Yui Oguri shared the center position with Mayuyu one after another on “Manatsu Sounds Good!”, “Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara”, and “Kibouteki Refrain”. The special medley drew to a close with “Sayonara Crawl” and “Heavy Rotation”.
Another video announced the next three songs that will be performed, each of them taken from one drama where Mayu was featured as the main actress. The first one was “Synchro Tokimeki” for the drama “Sabadoll”. Following next “Deai no Tsuzuki” for “Tatakau! Shoten Girl”. Before the third one, fans could assist to a theatrical piece inspired by “Sayonara Enari-kun” an another drama of hers. Actors Kazuki Enari, Haruna Uechi, and Nori Ikeda joined Mayu on stage for one really well done and entertaining moment. As the theater play closed, “Mamotte Agetaku Naru” finally began.
Mayu along with the three actors then shared a quick talk. As they all left the stage, it was time for the very last talk of the evening with Minegishi, Sashihara, and Yokoyama. All the members went back on stage wearing white and red outfits for a succession of 5 AKB48 greatest hits. The climax of the evening arrived during “Kokoro no Placard” as the members revealed a secret section of their outfits revealing a personal message towards Mayu. On the left side of the arena, fans lifted red and white placards which a giant message reading “Mayu♡Arigatou”.
AKB48’s 50th single “11-gatsu no Anklet” ended the concert. At the very end of the song, Mayu left her mic on the stage at the center position, an allusion to the super popular 1970’s idol Momoe Yamaguchi.
After a series of powerful encore calls which went on for 10 minutes, Mayu returned to the stage, dressed like a princess, ready to express her last words to her fans.
Thank you. Up until today, clearly the fact that I’m graduating hadn’t sunk in yet, it’s been a strange feeling. Standing on the stage today, the concert starting, seeing all of you, I suddenly realized: “Aah, so I’m graduating from AKB.” So many of you are here to see me… and I think there are those who could not come too. These 11 years I’ve met many of you, and many of you have given me your support, I truly cannot thank you enough for all these memories.
Hmm…to have a concert like this today, I feel it was not a mistake to have walked the path I believed in for these 11 years. It’s the fans who have made me feel that way, and today, many members have helped in creating this stage. Although you can’t see it from the outside, many staff members spent plenty of time to prepare (for this concert), so I feel everyone’s love and feel truly happy.
The AKB48 of the future, many reliable junior members have emerged and these members are the ones that make me feel that I can entrust the future of AKB48 to them, and that is why I chose to graduate. While I may be walking a different path from all the members, I want to walk the path I believe in. Thank you for all your love these 11 years.
This time, on the occasion of my graduation, Mr Akimoto has written a very wonderful song for me. It’s a song which is full of my feelings, so please listen to it. “Sayonara de Owaru wake Janai” (Goodbye does not mean the end).
As the first piano notes of the graduation song especially written for her by Akimoto Yasushi, a giant wave of blue light sticks filled the venue.
The arena went dark for a few seconds and the well-known Team B catchphrase was shouted by Mayuyu and Yukirin followed by alumni Haruka Katayama, Miku Tanabe, Aika Ota, Natsumi Hirajima, Kazumi Urano, Sayaka Nakaya, Haruka Nakagawa, and Ayaka Kikuchi. The blast from the past intensified as “Shonichi” resonated through the arena for the second time. Cherishing the moment, Mayu couldn’t hold back her tears, happy to have all her friends next to her.
“Yakusoku yo” from the Team K stage “Seishun Girls” blessed the fans with another huge wave of emotion, which continued to grow as all of the members gathered with the promise to never forget the idol known as “Mayuyu”.
For her last speech in front of the audience, Mayu thanked everyone for this beautiful concert. Sashihara thanked her friend for her 11 years in the 48 franchise and with watery eyes but a big smile said, “Good luck on your next step, enjoy your new life as actress, we will always be there to support you!”.
Yuki Kashiwagi read the very first letter she had written to Mayu since she had too many things to tell her. She expressed many strong feelings like, “I have been able to move forward because you have been on my side,” and, “I will be your spiritual (second) mother forever”. She ended her letter with “From the person who loves Mayu more than anyone in the world. Yuki Kashiwagi”.
Momentarily speechless, Mayuyu finally expressed her hopes and trust towards the group’s future and that she will always have a well-wishing eye on it. “Sakura no Hanabiratachi” wrapped up the concert. Mayuyu greeted her fans and the other members before eventually hugging Yukirin for the last time. An aerial bucket adorned with great angel wings lifted Mayuyu up in the air while fans kept calling out her as she finally disappeared, leaving behind her 11 years of her life as an idol.
The 48 franchise said goodbye once again to one of their legendary idols. One of the cute faces of Team B will remain for the fans a charismatic center and a wonderful friend for her teammates but she will be missed for much more than that. From 250 fans in the theater to the 17,000 Mayu oshis in Saitama Super Arena, the 11 years she spent within the group has been an overwhelming achievement. Through all those years, she grew up by captivating hearts with great and sometimes painful efforts. More importantly, she did that by staying true to herself. Maybe that’s what AKB48 is all about?
Additional photos by Nathan Gey
02 Kanpeki Gu～no ne
03 Honest Man
04 Yobisute Fantasy
06 Ponytail to Shushu
07 Juuryoku Sympathy
08 Nante Renai Kuragekko
09 Pajama Drive
10 Zannen Shoujo
11 Hatsukoi yo Konnichiwa
12 Sailor Zombie
13 Kimi no c/w
14 Yuuhi wo Miteiru ka
15 Avocado Jane～shi
16 Kanashii Uta wo Kikitakunakatta
17 Manatsu Sounds Good!
18 Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara
19 Kibouteki Refrain”
20 Sayonara Crawl
21 Heavy Rotation
22 Synchro Tokimeki
23 Deai no Tsuzuki
24 Mamotte Agetaku Naru
25 Labrador Retriever
26 Flying Get
27 Iiwake Maybe
28 Ōgoe Diamond
29 Kokoro no Placard
30 So long!
31 11gatsu no Anklet
E1 Sayonara de owaru wake janai
E3 Yakusoku yo
E4 Sakura no Hanabiratachi
AKB48 Official site: http://www.akb48.co.jp/
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