Your Thoughts: On the Janken Senbatsu

Right after I posted this post about AKB’s Janken tournament, a friend of mine (who has for some reason decided to just not comment on my blog at all =P) brought something to my attention, and that’s that last year Shimazaki Haruka only used scissors during the tournament (and then won) and that this year Matsui Jurina only used paper (and won). This has changed my opinion from “it may or may not be rigged” to ‘yeah it’s probably rigged.”

However, despite the fact that the winner is probably chosen by management, I still stand by that I don’t think the entire tournament is rigged. My friend and I both agree that even though the top position may have been rigged these past two years to support Paruru and Jurina, that it’s still a really fun tournament that gives a good chance to the rest of the members. In this past week the positions for the final single were finalized. Two things that amazed me were that Hirata Rina is #3 in the single and Natori Wakana is #6. These are two girls that have never been in a senbatsu before and have rarely been pushed, but are now at high positions. The #2 in the single is Kameida Emika, a member of NMB’s Team BII, who gets some decent promotion in NMB but still hasn’t been senbatsu in NMB yet either. And now these girls get a lot of promotion in AKB, which is the fun of the janken tournament.

Commenter Mozenator wrote: 

I have to think it’s rigged somehow. Like you said though, ‘why Jurina?” MAybe they worked out some deal with her? I mean they are all actors, being an Idol is a type of act, if you think people can be that cute and happy all the c’mon! Some go as far as to create an whole new character, most just exaggerate personality traits they already have…

What I’m saying is it’s all built on illusion, the Idol world. It would be nice if this were a true contest and a certain HKT Kenshuusei could get center for an AKB single..or Miyu Takeuchi or Lemon (my 3 top personal choices). But it seems management has other ideas. A shame really. I still think it’s fun just not as much now.

If it weren’t for the “one-hand-sign-all-the-way-thru” thing for two winners in a row…I would be a ton less wary..still can’t wait to catch the costumes!

First off, I totally agree that it’s rigged now, just based on the one hand sign all the way through. So I agree with you there.

That said, while there is an illusion of chance for this competition to a degree, I don’t think it completely diminishes the tournament. Every idol may not be able to get #1, but they can get #3 and so on. As a long-term Natori Wakana fan, I’m incredibly happy that she managed to get into senbatsu, because she barely gets any screentime in what little she gets in AKB (basically team songs and if there’s a really big undergirls group). Does this make it a little less exciting? A bit, yeah. I know my favorites won’t be able to achieve #1 (well, maybe Kawaei Rina could make it next year, she’s getting a pretty big push. However, if we accept that management is going to put whoever they want in the #1 slot, then we can focus on the excitement of the rest. A bit of a cop out, I know, and I do wish that everything was left up to chance. However, maybe it’s because of my own personal biases, I still like the janken tournament.

As for why Jurina, I still can’t figure that out. As for it all being an act… I mean, I guess to a degree. Some idols do have “characters,” too (I know that for a time in Morning Musume they actively encouraged girls to get a specific personality down). However, some people are happier than others, especially at their job. Currently I work a retail job, and it’s one where I’m not necessarily happy about it. I wish I was doing something else, I wish I got paid more, I’m just not satisfied at my job. However, I have a smile every day, and I’m genuinely happy to be there. I like helping people, and I like making people a bit happier because they were helped by someone who was positive. I’m not saying every idol’s like me, or that every idol is happy, but I think people put a bit too much into “It’s all an act!” Yeah not everyone is happy all the time, but I personally like being happy, and try to put on a happy face even if on the inside I’m unhappy. This is something that pretty much everyone does; the chipper waiter or the happy realtor who sells you their home may be “faking” their emotions. But this is something pretty much everyone does, so I think calling idol culture an illusion is taking it a bit too far, simply because that’s something common in culture.

(note that this isn’t just aimed at you and I’m sorry if it seems this way; this is just something I’ve been thinking about for a while).

Steve S commented: 

Just like Mozenator said, so much of this is just based on illusion and staging things to appear a certain way, and ever since the previous tournament, I’ve thought these are far more staged than before. At least the first two actually did have a number of unknown girls near the top, these ones have kinda become just a joke.

On the whole thing about Jurina winning, whether she misses a lot or not, this could’ve just been a kind of underhanded way to try to convince her to not miss as much, maybe, by purposely choosing her as an ultimatum. I seem to remember quite a few AKB performances in the past where the center was not there for one reason or another, so it does happen, which also brings into question whether or not they even care if the center is there if its not some huge, national performance on a huge TV show or something.

I really can’t take much of anything they do very seriously anymore after discovering more idol groups who don’t have the same kind of generic, transparent “act” about them that we’ve been seeing for the last 25~ years, but this kind of stuff just pushes it over the limit for me and a little further away from the group as a whole.

First off, I think this actually has a decent amount of unknown girls near the top. The #2 and #3 are relatively unknown, and I’d say the majority of this year’s janken senbatsu is pretty interesting. The only girl who’s pretty famous that’s high up there is Kitahara Rie. There are girls that are known with certain people (Oba Mina, Tano Yuka, Kikuchi Ayaka), but there’s a really big lack of girls who are pushed and high up with the senbatsu. In fact, I’d say this is more of an unknown group than last year, excepting the center. Maeda Atsuko was in the first janken senbatsu, Kojima Haruna was in the first two, and the third senbatsu (with a rigged center) also featured Itano Tomomi, Shinoda Mariko, and Kashiwagi Yuki. This year’s senbatsu is the most unknown group yet, which is exciting (despite the center being most likely rigged).

As for Jurina herself, perhaps it is an underhanded way, but I’d personally prefer them to focus her on one group. Not because I want AKB to remain just AKB or anything like that, but I know that Jurina has had health issues in the past and has had to miss a lot because of that. I’m not saying that’s why she missed so much in Koisuru Fortune Cookie, but I think choosing to overexert a member who’s already having issues with overexerting herself is bad news. Even still, you’re right in that the center could be covered, so it’s not like it’ll make a HUGE difference, but it still puzzles me since there are other members they’ve been trying to push.

I know you’re not super into this type of thing, and I don’t blame you, especially after finding out more about what you personally care about (note: Steve and I are Facebook friends and follow each other on twitter, so I know a bit about his personal tastes). Personally, I go back and forth on AKB; I love individual members and songs, but when the music quality goes down I stop caring. However, I enjoy these big AKB wide events, just because it’s something to care about beyond record sales. It’s another bit of excitement to write about or follow. I like being able to have my little bit of drama with the senbatsu election. I know it’s not to everyone’s tastes, but it helps some of my favorites out and I think it’s fun, regardless if there’s a little rigging in there.

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