Ok, first of all, please understand that I’m just trying to explain my point of view. And second of all, I don’t want people to like Yui or Sasshi or Ami or whoever, you choose whoever it is you want to support or dislike, ok? I just really felt like blogging about this particular issue since Yui’s one of my oshis.
So, back in the old days when I became a fan of AKB things were pretty stable. The senbatsu was pretty much set in stone, except for some wildcards pulled here and there, and since AKB wasn’t even popular all of the girls were fairly equal in terms of exposure (bar the singles). But the moment AKB switched to King Records and started becoming popular a nightmare began: The nightmare of the extreme management pushing of some girls, and there have been various examples with different degrees of success. Here’s the examples that I recall as the biggest off the top of my head:
1. Matsui Jurina:
Oh, Jurina, Jurina, Jurina. Pachinko protégé and quintessential front girl. I honestly think Jurina has gotten one of the biggest pushes ever even if people don’t remember about it by now, because most of the fans weren’t around when we all saw the cover of OD and went “wtf?” Not only did she make it to senbatsu to stay there forever, but she also knocked Acchan out of center position for this single. Wow.
2. Komori Mika:
With Komori I was a victim of the “WTF IS THIS NONSENSE” xD She was a kenkyuusei and I couldn’t for the life of me understand wth she was doing in Namida Surprise. Luckily I hated everything about that single (except for FIRST LOVE obv) so I let it slide xD Komori has falled to the UG tier, but the management will squeeze her in whatever they can find in order to make her fit as a pseudo senbatsu member.
3. Sashihara Rino:
Sasshi was getting all the haters for the longest time, until Yui came along, and became the default hated by pushing girl xD However, Sasshi has gotten a much bigger push than Yui, it’s undeniable! And Sasshi’s case is particularly interesting because she was promoted to Team B because of Ayarin’s scandal and firing, and had to take up her spot as one of the frontgirls of Team B (because, believe it or not, there was a time when Kikuchi Ayaka was more popular than Kashiwagi Yuki ahhh how the times change…). She was senbatsu for a short period of time when the King records singles started appearing and then she didn’t make it into senbatsu for the elections and she sort of faded for a bit, only to reappear stronger than ever after making it into senbatsu in the second elections. Her incredibly quirky and popular blog definitely helped a lot to cement her Wota Idol image, and the management caught on the fact that she could be marketable as a weirdo xD She’s now a staple in senbatsu (even pushing down girls like Akicha or Kitarie in the process), is in a new subunit and has her own TV show. Damn, that’s a lot of pushing!
4. Maeda Ami:
The ace of the 7th gen of KKS, Aamin was made center of UG for “Nusumareta Kuchibiru” and even made the cut for Yoyaku Shita Christmas, but unfortunately, her popularity leaves a lot to be desired, so they aren’t pushing her as much now.
5. Oku Manami:
Akimoto Yasushi deemed her as his own personal ace, and he pushed her accordingly. Even though she never got voten into Under Girls she was always a part of this unit, and she even got a solo released, albeit a small one.
6. Takajo Aki:
People might think this wasn’t a big push, but it was HUGE! In a shuffle concert where not even all of the members get units to perform, she got to perform Faint, and in the position that gets the most lines, which is Hana’s and, get this, she wasn’t even promoted yet. She was promoted the fastest of all KKS ever into a Team A member and has been pushed ever since, being the center of UG for a while until Kamikyokutachi which featured her in the cover. She got voted into senbatsu in the latest election, and has been there ever since (well, starting from Ponytail to Shushu). She’s also part of the subunit French Kiss and gets lots of promotion in magazines and the such.
7. Kitahara Rie:
Again, people might not remember this well way back when she was a KKS, but she also got promoted and started appearing everywhere. Sasshi, Moeno and her were inseparable and unbeatable in number of appearances. Rie benefitted greatly from Oshima Mai’s graduation, as she became her de facto under, which made her perform a lot in big concerts and stuff. It’s sad to say that Rie isn’t as pushed anymore, but she’s still a solid senbatsu member and with Not yet around, she’s proven that she’s here to stay!
8. Yokoyama Yui:
Now the dreaded Yui. Yokoyama Yui was a 9th generation KKS who was the most popular one among all of them, so she became a regular in Ariyoshi AKB Kyowakoku (the KKS TV show). However, lots of other KKS were getting more promotion than her (like Takeuchi, Shimada and Mori’s Miniskirt subunit or Shimazaki’s photoshoots etc) so people didn’t really see it coming when popular member Ono Erena graduated from Team K, that she would take her place. But she did, and got promoted to Team K, while she had been a KKS for around a year at the time. After she got promoted, she got a lot of screentime in the Team K PV ALIVE, which followed with the news of her signing with huge agency Ohta Pro and then the creation of the subunit Not yet which featured her as a member alongside veterans Yuko, Sasshi and Kitarie. This is generally acknowledged as the point when western fans went “Dude, stop it.” but japanese fans went to join her mixi xD lol stupid analogy but yeah, basically, after that Yui got a big feature in the Documentary pushing out senbatsu members (although, I think she and Sayaka were included because they had different stories to tell: Yui being recently promoted and Sayaka with her non-scandal) anyway. Nowadays, whenever AKB is promoting some product of some sorts Yui has appeared alongside senbatsu, but she’s never been senbatsu. (yet mwahahaha)
9. Nito Moeno:
Moeno was promoted to Team B after Inoue Naru suddenly left the group with short notice, and not only she got a lot of attention from the management in concerts and the like (funnily enough, they used to pair her with Sasshi a LOT even though IRL they don’t seem to hang out together at all xD) getting great spots in units, and she was also senbatsu for a short period of time. And then she kind of never got voted into senbatsu in the elections and remained as an UG. However, Moeno is definitely very much pushed in a lot of ways. She gets decent screentime in AKBs TV shows, she gets good parts in Stage performances, and is generally known to be one of the popular members of the group.
10. Fujie Reina:
Now, this was a long time ago too, but bear with me. I’m trying to make this list as complete as possible in order to make my following posts more coherent in a way. Reinyan was the absolute fan favorite from 4th gen, so obviously, she got promoted to Team A, and then got a big push that made her land in senbatsu. However, things didn’t work out so well for her, sadly Reinyan is said to be a very shy girl, so when she joined the all-star team that was Old Team A she felt left out and didn’t really have many people to talk to. Until Oshima Mai became her friend and sort of tutor in a way, or at least this is what a series of heart warming AKBINGO episodes told all of us xD Her friendship with hugely popular member Maimai should’ve worked wonders for her after Mai graduated, but it didn’t really work like that. Her tutor left, and Reina’s status didn’t improve much. In fact, her popularity fell, which sent her out of senbatsu for good (or at least for now )
11. Miyazaki Miho:
Myao got a humongous push too, but it was also a while back. She was the ace of the 5th gen, and an absolute fan favorite. Myao’s adorable moe looks and energetic personality made her find a way to become Takamina’s sub in Himawarigumi-2 stage (even though she wasn’t the original Takamina sub, but Nakata Chisato IIRC) and appear everywhere in the DVD (sorry for bringing up this old old old news, but back when it happened it shocked me quite a bit xD) after that, she started getting bigger and bigger roles in AKBINGO, got promoted to Team A, got a part with lots of solo lines in Renai Kinshi Jourei, got into senbatsu, barely made it in senbatsu because of the votes in the first election and stayed there. Until the second election came around and she barely made it to senbatsu again, so she was relegated to front UG and afterwards, to just be part of it. I don’t really know why Myao stopped being as popular as she was before, my guess (and the rumors I’ve heard) point to the fact that her “bitchy” character worked against her (although it’s damn entertaining)
12. Ichikawa Miori (KKS):
Miorin hasn’teven been promoted and she’s still appearing in AKBINGO a lot more than some regular members, she’s been placed in the YJ7 subunit and is basically getting a lot of attention (including the TV special with her plus 9th gen KKS at some beach lol Idk I don’t really watch AKB’s TV shows). Also, as Max reminded me, she was center for Nagisa no Cherry in the Yoyogi concert. Nagisa no Cherry is Acchan’s emblematic pseudosolo song, and it’s been tradition of AKB that only the most popular girls perform in it as center: Ono Erena from Team K, Watanabe Mayu from Team B, Matsui Jurina from Team S and now Miorin, which definitely says something about her status in the group.
13. Kuramochi Asuka:
Mocchi is also a bit of a blast from the past, but she was originally a KKS who got the under role for Oshima Mai, and then she got promoted to Team K where she got lots of attention, and earned a senbatsu spot as well. While she’s recently fallen out of senbatsu, she’s still very much an important member, and a part of French Kiss.
Ok, I’ll leave it at this because I have to wake up early xD My point in mentioning all of this girls who have gotten big pushes during their tenure as AKB members is to make people realize that it’s not just a recent fad, it’s the way AKB has worked since a long time ago. Note how I haven’t included any of the top tier senbatsus here because they’ve been pushed since a long long time ago. Feel free to point out any mistakes you might’ve spotted in this list, or tell me which members I should add to the list that I’ve left out. The more complete this list is, the better it will serve its purpose for the continuation of this series of posts.
Also note that I am aware that Ichikawa is not getting a TV show like Sasshi. I’m just talking about girls who are generally more pushed than the others in a way. The specifics will be discussed in the next installment of this series.