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Nogizaka46 Yumi Wakatsuki Graduation Ceremony : Unbelievably Expressive Performer Delivered Top Rate Entertainment & Always Spread Affection

乃木坂46若月佑美卒業セレモニー開催 : 超A級表現者による極上エンターテインメントと、与え続ける愛情
Nogizaka46 Yumi Wakatsuki Graduation Ceremony : Unbelievably Expressive Performer Delivered Top Rate Entertainment & Always Spread Affection

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The other day a member of Nogizaka46 graduated after discovering for herself the clear goal of becoming an “actress.” As a first generation member, ever since their 3rd single Wakatsuki Yumi (24) was a selected member for 20 consecutive songs. She is also a skilled designer, winning design awards from the Nika Association seven years in a row since joining Nogizaka46. Her graduation ceremony, held at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, had production and organization befitting Wakatsuki, and just as you’d expect from an actress, this highly expressive performer had a strong presence, giving a top rate stage performance that is sure to remain in the memories of her fans. The impact that she made on Nogizaka46, as well as her affection and feelings, are beyond measure.

Held on December 4th, the “Nogizaka46 Wakatsuki Yumi Graduation Ceremony” took place in front of more than 10,000 fans in Nippon Budokan, and for the fans who could not make it there were live viewings held on 73 screens at 60 movie theaters across the country.

The event signs hung outside the Nippon Budokan featured a design based on chopsticks, an homage to Wakatsuki’s trademark “Hashi-kun” (a one person act talking with disposable chopsticks). This was just the beginning of the amazing level of detail exhibited by this ceremony.

According to people connected with the program, this stage performance had only a single day of rehearsal with all members present. Aside from Wakatsuki herself the selected members were performing in Shanghai, China until two days before. Following the completion of the stage performance of “Tekkonkinkreet” in which Wakatsuki starred, she carefully arranged and rearranged the program herself in only a week.

Before the curtain rose to begin the ceremony, the narration was provided by the three third generation members of the Wakasama Gundan that Wakatsuki formed. One of the unit members, Yamashita Mizuki, who is expected to become the next ace for Nogizaka46, started crying, and her strong feelings for Wakatsuki united with those of the fans in attendance before the curtain rose.

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As the performance begin and the dancers took the stage, Wakatsuki appeared, doing a comical routine of the “Wakatsuki Robot” that has gained notoriety and has even been discussed on regular TV shows. With an exclamation of “Let’s go, Budokan!” she performed the robot dance that has become synonymous with her. Those familiar with her history first laughed and then cried at this performance.

After that the screen showed a full moon. The song chosen to lead off the ceremony was “Ookami ni Kuchibue wo,” which featured Ito Marika and Fukagawa Mai joining Wakatsuki herself front and center. With the performance of this popular and highly regarded song, the atmosphere inside the building instantly rose.

At one point during the performance Wakatsuki said, “While this is a graduation, because it is December I want us to relax a bit.” Following this suggestion, tiered choral risers rarely seen at Nogizaka46 concerts were brought on stage, allowing the other members to watch the performance in a delightful twist. This allowed the fans to see the members of Nogizaka as Nogizaka fans themselves, making it a fun development for everyone. Waving their penlights in unison, the fans were overjoyed as they watched the members eating fried food and rice on the choral risers.

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During this the plan shifted as Wakatsuki said, “These are the BEST 5 songs I want to do before I graduate!” Songs not normally heard at live shows continued one after another.

The Under Members’ song “Border,” which Wakatsuki loves, was performed with Wakatsuki standing on the aforementioned risers giving her support, giving the second generation members who had worked hard beside her an opportunity to be in the spotlight. Many fans became aware of the singing skill and power of expression of the second generation members. Second generation member Ito Junna, who has been recognized for her strong acting ability, was overcome with emotion by her elder Wakatsuki blazing the trail as an “actress,” and the scene as she began to cry during the song left a deep impression.

Wakatsuki was involved not just with second generation members but with third generation members as well, combining her own “Hashi” (chopsticks) with Spoon, Knife, and Fork characters to create the “Wakasama Gundan” unit during her time with Nogizaka46. On this day, while performing the unit’s top song “Shitsuren Osoujinin,” as a surprise she sent the three members a special message.

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Having gained popularity by working with Wakatsuki, current selected members Yamashita Mizuki and Umezawa Minami were each recognized with, “She will become a core person to Nogizaka46” and “She is the flower of Nogizaka46.” Sakaguchi Tamami, who has not yet become a selected member, was told, “You are the future of Nogizaka,” as Wakatsuki showed her affection for all of them on stage without holding back. After performing the songs, as Wakatsuki’s favorite Christmas song “Senjo no Christmas” played in the background, as an homage to the famous scene from the farewell concert for former great Yamaguchi Momoe, chopsticks were left on stage in place of a microphone as she walked off. Once again, everybody present cried and laughed.

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This cool performance was done with a smile, and with a hint of the style of Fukuda Yuichi, who is her director in the currently running popular drama “Kyo Kara Ore Wa!”, you could feel how her talents will be properly used in the “Fukuda Group.” After Wakatsuki made an announcement about the breakup of the “Wakasama Gundan,” there was a discussion about changing groups with the three group members and Takayama Kazumi, who had been acting as MC from the choral risers, but Yamashita Mizuki announced, “After this there will be a fourth generation group to spread the magnificence of Wakatsuki!” She was unable to contain her unchanging feeling of respect for Wakatsuki. By the way, on this day Yamashita’s hairstyle was the “amikomi” wave style that Wakatsuki often wore for concerts. This was likely Yamashita’s own way of showing her respect for Wakatsuki.

Then, the “School Girl Quartet” unit (Wakatsuki Yumi, Akimoto Manatsu, Sakurai Reika, and Nakada Kana) that Wakatsuki had the strongest emotional attachment to performed the song “Kokuhaku no Junban” for the first and last time on this day. Before the song the video was played of her telling her fellow first generation members, who had shared in so much joy and sorrow, firsthand of her graduation, bringing the crowd to tears. The performance that the four of them gave must surely have been etched deeply into the fourth generation members in attendance who had had their own event the previous day.

 

This graduation ceremony was filled with crying and laughter, and it was truly first rate entertainment. Credit for the entire production goes to the very expressive Wakatsuki Yumi, and it was loved by all watching, be they fans or Nogizaka46 members.

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The second half of the ceremony featured famous Nogizaka46 songs one after another. Starting with the debut single “Guruguru Curtain,” which has hardly been performed at all recently, when the cw “Aitakatta Kamoshirenai” was performed the intro alone caused a commotion in the building, and “Girls Rule” and “Seifuku no Mannequin” sent the crowd into a frenzy. Along with Nishino Nanase, Wakatsuki performed her final single as a Nogizaka46 member, “Kaerimichi ha Tomawari Shitakunaru,” as a finale. From this day forward we will never again be able to see Nishino in the center with Wakatsuki by her side smiling, and watching this scene the fans could not stop their tears from flowing.

The encores came without end. Following a big chorus of “No-gizaka, Wa-katsuki,” a video was shown looking back at the 2658 days since the debut of Wakatsuki Yumi. Then, as Wakatsuki took the stage in a black dress, she turned to the fans and read a letter aloud.

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This letter, which was also posted on her blog, was very profound.

“When asked about my dreams for the future, I have always answered the same way. It wasn’t that I wanted to be an actress or something like that, but rather my wonderful dream was to be a person who made a positive impact on somebody else’s life. If that showed up in someplace I didn’t know about then that would make it all the more special. There are many times in life where you can make an impact on those close to you, but to make an impact on somebody you have never met requires a choice by that person, and if they don’t accept you then nothing really comes of it. Furthermore, only a very small number of people are able to make such an impact. If I have been able to achieve this in some small way, then I feel that everything over my seven years has been rewarded and has been worthwhile.”

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After these remarks the song “Ushinaitakunai Kara” was performed. During this song Wakatsuki said, “Thank you” to each of the 39 members, and she also handed them Gerbera flowers as a present. The first person she handed one to was Nishino Nanase, who has also decided to graduate, and the very last person she handed a flower to was her true friend and Nogizaka46 captain Sakurai Reika. At first Sakurai declined the flower, but as Wakatsuki took a knee and handed her the Gerbera, all the emotion of the past seven years came together. The pink Gerbera flowers are said to represent “gratitude.” This was an amazing scene that will be spoken of for the rest of our lives.

The song she chose for the grand finale was “Danke Sheen.” The final words of the song are the signature phrase “Of course, it’s Nogizaka!” that Wakatsuki Yumi had always been in charge of saying. The fans would always reply with “It is!” However, the other members had one final surprise in store, and as the song played a second time the members closed by saying, “Of course, it’s Wakatsuki!” The fans joined in with a huge “It is!” as Wakatsuki said, “Uh oh. Now I’m going to cry…” With a smile she showed her first tears of the day.

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I will close this report with the final words she left us with at the end of the Wakasama Gundan performance.

“Hashi-kun, Hashi-kun, you have done so much for me. I guess this where we separate.”

“What are you saying, Waka-sama?! Chopsticks separate like this (separates disposable chopsticks) so that they can be used to grab things.”

Actress Wakatsuki Yumi, expressive performer Wakatsuki Yumi, she will surely keep on giving after this.

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TokyoGirls'Update
TokyoGirls'Update

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