AKB48 Senbatsu Election 2013 – Results + Analysis

The time has come again for a crazy senbatsu election. This time I spent the evening/morning hanging out on the Selective Hearing live skype viewing party. I had a lovely time doing that, so thank you to everyone who did that. So I watched, slept, and now when I woke up it’s time to blog. Still, overall, I had a lot of fun. One of the commenters in the chat (I forgot who, sorry!) said this (idols in genera) is a spectator sport and reality TV all in one. Which is quite accurate. This took place in Nissan Stadium, which is normally for athletics, and definitely had the feel of a big sporting event. Even though it started at 3:15 AM my time and got done at around 7 AM, it was a fairly intense experience, and one I’m glad I had. Even though indie groups have taken a lot of my interest recently, these big events will always be really fascinating.

For this post I’m using these results from Melos no Michi as reference, as well as cross checking that with last year’s results as seen here on Stage48. So here’s some of my thoughts on this election day.

Sashihara Rino takes #1

In the chat I was in, a bunch of people were joking “oh Sasshi #1,” liking the idea but doubting very much it would happen. Slowly, as Kashiwagi Yuki and Watanabe Mayu were named, we began to wonder if what started out as a longshot could happen, and we really all started pulling for Sasshi.

Sashihara Rino getting the first spot is really major for a couple of reasons. She’s the first girl to get #1 who’s not in AKB48, actually, and she’s also the first girl implicated in a pretty major scandal. Last year, her getting #4 was a bit of a surprise to me, but soon after she had her scandal and was moved to HKT48.

This whole election was really encouraging for fans of the sister groups of AKB48, but Sasshi taking #1 was really a big part of it. I also really hope that this will be one step closer to eliminating dating rules, or at least starting to get less strict on scandal punishments. Fans want Sasshi, and they have spoken.

At the end, when Sasshi was going around the stadium in a giant float, one of my fellow commentators mentioned that it really didn’t feel like a Sasshi type of thing. Which is fairly true. Sasshi isn’t really a typical idol to get #1 in something like this. When they were discussing what kind of single the next one would be, the word thrown around on stage was a “weird” single, which is something I can look forward to. Move over traditional idols, the weird but imperfect idols are here to stay, and I’m quite excited for it.

Shinoda Mariko announced her graduation

When Mariko announced she was graduating, I honestly thought it would be the biggest news of the evening (but Sasshi winning beats this). It’s honestly not something I expected, even though Mariko’s the oldest member at 27. Last year, during her election speech, she kept mentioning not losing to the younger members, and I really assumed that that meant that Mariko was here to stay. Even though she’s the oldest, she’s the one I least expected to graduate after Takahashi Minami, mostly because of this stubbornness. All good things must come to an end, though, and Mariko announced she’s ending things on a bang, looking to graduate at the Fukuoka Dome concert in July (since she’s from Fukuoka).

With all the members who left this year, and now Mariko leaving this year, the AKB48 senbatsu is looking very very different, and I imagine next year will be even more different.

SKE48 in Kami7, NMB48 in senbatsu

Like I said earlier, the sister groups really shined this year. It was noted in the chat that only 30 members out of the 64 were actually in AKB48; this year, the sister groups’ influences grew. Six girls from HKT48 ranked, even though they’ve only released one single, seven from NMB48 (eight, counting Ichikawa Miori), and seventeen from SKE48 (eighteen if you count Oba Mina). This is a massive showing for what’s the AKB48 election.

The biggest news, other than Sasshi, is that five girls that didn’t originate in AKB48, Suda Akari (who I had no idea would rank so high), Matsui Rena, Matsui Jurina, Yamamoto Sayaka and Watanabe Miyuki ranked in senbatsu. In the previous years, it was only the two Matsui girls who ranked in senbatsu, but now they’re in the top 7 (known as kami7), a huge achievement.

Above all, the increased rankings of girls not in AKB48 shows that they’re not just the sister group to the popular AKB48, but that they’re really valuable groups in their own right, and have a good deal of their own popularity. Unfortunately, some of the girls who’ve always ranked highly, like Takahashi Minami, Itano Tomomi and Kojima Haruna, got pushed down a bit. But that shows that the sister groups are really able to go far.

Personally I’m really happy; I like NMB48 and HKT48 a lot in particular, and while I have three oshimen in the 48 groups I’ve more and more started to consider myself as Watanabe Miyuki oshi, and Oota Aika’s my other main oshimen. There’s a lot of really great stuff going on in the sister groups, and it’s great to see it getting recognition.

Miyazawa Sae focusing on SNH48

Earlier it was announced that some of the foreign exchange members were going to be AKB48 members as well. However, Sae decided to take that back, and focus full time on promoting SNH48.

I understand in theory why she’s doing it; she really wanted to make SNH a group in their own right, and I imagine she’s really frustrated because of all the roadbloacks that she’s faced in becoming a member of SNH48. However, it doesn’t change the fact that this might not be the best move. My friend Dani, in her first message to me about the election, immediately said that “Sae committed career suicide,” which is pretty apt.

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to support these foreign groups. Nakagawa Haruka’s focusing completely on JKT48, and seems to be doing well there. However, the politics between Japan and China have been so tense that Sae has been barely able to do anything with SNH48 simply because getting a working visa has been tough. I don’t know if she’s still been able to get one, which means she won’t be able to do much of anything. I know that Sae and Mariya had to watch the first public appearance of SNH48 from the audience, because they couldn’t work.

I appreciate Sae’s convictions, but if you can’t get a work visa there’s only so much you can really do. I know it has to be REALLY frustrating, but this is something that Sae really can’t change and is out of her control.

I really hope things work out for her, but I’m pretty nervous as well.

Vote inflation

I keep thinking AKB48 is going to have some giant sales decline, but Sayonara Crawl keeps breaking records left and right (recently outselling Speed’s White Love). And it shows! This year three members got over 100,000 votes. Ichikawa Miori’s votes almost doubled from last year, and she only increased one place. The 16th ranked member in senbatsu, Suda Akari, received 43,252 votes. To put this in perspective, Maeda Atsuko received ~4500 votes when she won the election in 2009. AKB’s popularity has increased a LOT, but it really goes to show that we’re dealing with so many more votes. Even if a girl’s position goes down or stays the same, she could have still had a decent increase in the elections.

Just something to keep in mind; so many girls are getting way more votes than they did last year, regardless of their actual ranking.

Hirajima Natsumi Ranking

Nacchan didn’t rank highly, but I’m really happy she ranked at all. Since she’s a member who’s graduated, and left because of a scandal of all things, it’s really nice to see her fans gave her so much support. It will be really interesting to see how this works with her in the Future Girls. I know I’m not the only one who wants to bring Nacchan back!

My personal thoughts
My two oshimen are Watanabe Miyuki and Oota Aika. While I wanted Milky to beat Sayanee in the race for NMB48’s top member, I was really happy to see her ranking increase (and her votes more than doubled). The big disappointment of last year was seeing Oota Aika drop so low, and so I was really glad to see her jump up 9 places and get 10000 more votes than last year. I’m really proud of the both of them!

So overall, this was an exciting, surprising and really entertaining senbatsu election. All these lineups look pretty interesting, and I’m excited to see what happens next for the 48 groups.