AKB48 shuffles their lineup…again.
This year we did not see the silly shuffles of past years such as “Nishino Nanase to Team A”, “Matsumura Kaori to Team H” or “Matsui Jurina to Nogizaka46”. Nothing like that happened this time around. Rather than repeat those questionable decisions, we instead see several members lose their concurrencies, gain new ones to AKB48, or get sent to other AKB48 teams.
Keep this in mind: This is more of an opinion piece on the shuffle and who has been affected. This piece may go over certain members who got moved and certain members who are no longer part of AKB48. It may read as a bit scattered and unorganized, but this is coming from someone who can only name like, half of the main AKB48 lineup, and that is not including Team 8 or Baito AKB members. Let me use what I know!
Let’s start with the kennin members. Several concurrencies ended with the spring shuffle, from Yagura Fuuko and Kotani Riho ending their tenures with AKB48, Takayanagi Akane and Kashiwagi Yuki ending their tenures with NMB48, to Tanaka Natsumi and Watanabe Miyuki ending their tenures with SKE48. That’s not all though, the concurrencies that caused the most controversy ended as well. Ikoma Rina is no longer a part of AKB48, and Matsui Rena is no longer a part of Nogizaka46. This one-year experiment came to a close, and now Nogizaka46 can continue their work without the connections to the 48 groups (though Kojima Haruna may have something to say about that).
Here are some of the new members announced to AKB48 as kennin members. Welcome back Watanabe Miyuki, as she is granted a second stint with Team B. Yabuki Nako is also a part of AKB48 now, which was a surprising choice given how neither Tanaka Miku nor Tashima Meru had their chance with AKB48. Nako gets the kennin first, and if her concurrency remains successful, perhaps Miku and Meru will have their chance too.
Team A gets Shiroma Miru as a kennin member. I had a bit of a feeling that she would get a kennin with AKB48 given how much gravure and media exposure she has had in the past year, and giving her a senbatsu spot on “Kibouteki Refrain” reinforced that thought. Unfortunately, she acts as a replacement to Yagura Fuuko’s spot on Team A. Miru is getting pushed tremendously and Fuuko is starting to lose some of her spotlight because of it. It is unfortunate to see that because I honestly feel really bad for Fuuko. She could have been sent to Team 4, but instead she lost her kennin altogether. Sadly, that is how management sees things.
As a Shiroma Miru oshi (given how Yamagishi Natsumi is long gone), I am really stoked for Miru and what she’ll do during her tenure with Team A. This may mean more gravure and perhaps an AKB48 single senbatsu spot or two. Also, this could mean that Miru may rank as high as undergirls this year for sousenkyo, but that’s a story for another day.
Kitagawa Ryoha gets a kennin with Team 4. After becoming center for “12-gatsu no Kangaroo” alongside Miyamae Ami, she gains a concurrency with Team 4. It is likely that she may be the next face of SKE48 should Matsui Rena graduate (and that has been hinted at; Rena is not participating in sousenkyo this year). Just like Tashima Meru and Tanaka Miku, perhaps Miyamae Ami may be a part of AKB48 someday.
There are other kennins that honestly make no sense. Nakano Ikumi, Yamada Nanami and Sakaguchi Nagisa are kennin members with Team K, Team A and Team B respectively. What makes no sense is that these three members are all part of AKB48’s Team 8. This sparks the idea that Team 8 seems more like a separate entity among AKB48, and is a sister group in the disguise of another team. If anything, sending all of Team 8 to Niigata would have been a better option, rather than making them seem more separated than they already are. Team 8 could very likely have been NGT48 in disguise! Speaking of Niigata…
Here are two members who have been revealed for NGT48. Kitahara Rie has been transferred from AKB48 to NGT48 and will serve as the captain of the franchise. Kashiwagi Yuki will now be a kennin member with NGT48 since her concurrency with NMB48 ended. Sending Kitarie up to Niigata will spark possibilities for her, since she has not make senbatsu since Labrador Retriever. She could take the Sashihara Rino route and become the face of the franchise along many up and coming members. As for Yukirin, giving her a kennin with NGT48 makes no sense. She won’t exactly be there all the time, but at least she’ll be there in the NGT48 senbatsu right? Yukirin does not need to have a kennin to keep her fans, her popularity, her senbatsu spots, and her sousenkyo votes; she’s done that with AKB48 for years now.
The only thing I can see with NGT48 would possibly be a somewhat older idol group, which hasn’t been done since SDN48 or the Ebisu Muscats. I have no idea what is in store for NGT48, but that is an educated guess given how Kitahara Rie and Kashiwagi Yuki turn 24 this year. Or, Kitarie and Yukirin may have to babysit a bunch of 12-14 year old Niigata idols like Sasshi did with HKT48 for a few years. Again, there’s no telling what will happen with this group. We can only sit back and relax.
Yokoyama Team A
Now let’s get to the newly shuffled teams. Team A remains largely unchained with a few welcome additions to help bolster the lineup, such as Miyazaki Miho, Owada Nana, Ogasawara Mayu and Hirata Rina. I always saw the Team A lineup as the most balanced, with a mix of up and coming members, early generation members, and a few kennin members. However, Team A just got a new captain.
Your newly appointed AKB48 General Manager, Yokoyama Yui, has become the captain of Team A. Team A now has both Yokoyama Yui and Shimazaki Haruka in the same lineup, so you 9th gen fans and/or YuiParu fans can now rejoice. Team A looks like it will be one of the strongest lineups among AKB48. That can’t be said for the next team, which didn’t solve the problem it had last year.
Minegishi Team K
Team K now has my AKB48 oshi in Minegishi Minami as captain to replace Yokoyama Yui. Muto Tomu joins Team K to bring her back with Tano Yuuka. Mukaichi Mion also joins Miichan from Team 4 to Team K. That’s all fine and dandy, but the same problem that affected Team K still affects it now, albeit worse than last year.
Yamamoto Sayaka and Matsui Jurina are still the faces of this team.
Don’t get me wrong; I love Sayanee and Jurina. But they are the faces of NMB48 and SKE48 respectively. They become the faces of Team K simply because they are kennin members, which means AKB48-based members of this team lose senbatsu spots, especially if the senbatsu is the traditional 16 members.
The four faces of Team K who aren’t kennin members are Miichan, Mion, Tanochan and Tomu. They all made senbatsu for the upcoming “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai” single, so there’s hope for non-kennin Team K members. But ask yourself this: for the upcoming election, do any of these four have a shot to crack the Top 16? It pains me to say that because this team has my oshi (she ranked pretty high last year at Undergirls and looks like a dark horse for senbatsu this year). But there was only one AKB48-based Team K member who cracked the Top 16 during the sousenkyo last year. She’s with Team A now.
Kizaki Team B
Gone are the days of Kuramochi Asuka as captain of Team B. Straight out of Team 4, Kizaki Yuria has been appointed as the new Team B captain. New members of Team B also include Iwasa Misaki, Tatsuya Makiho and Kato Rena, among others. The team overall feels relatively the same, with Watanabe Mayu and Kashiwagi Yuki still as the faces of the team. The new kennin members seem like great additions as well.
However, maybe this was me, but I somewhat got used to Ikoma Rina on the AKB48 lineup, especially on Team B where she blossomed. As a Nogizaka46 fan, yes I was surprised with the shuffle to send her there. I got used to seeing her in AKB48, seeing her make the sousenkyo senbatsu and seeing her team up with Watanabe Mayu during some concert performances. It is going to be different without her, and I know that she learned an awful lot during her year on Team B.
She’ll make senbatsu on Nogizaka46 and that’ll be a lock unless she graduates, but gone are the days of Ikoma Rina at center, especially when Nishino Nanase, Ikuta Erika, Shiraishi Mai, and maybe Hashimoto Nanami look primed to be the upcoming centers for singles.
I think this is me saying thank you Ikoma Rina for everything you did on Team B. Keep rocking the Nogizaka46 lineup!
Takahashi Team 4
Let me say this about Team 4 before I get on with the new additions. I always saw this team as a farm system for AKB48. In sports like baseball and basketball, a farm system is a team that is meant to give experience to younger members so that they could move on to higher levels. The kenkyuusei system technically does this, but that’s supposed to train members to be regular members of AKB48. Team 4 trained members to become the next faces of the entire AKB48 franchise. Think of the members who were a part of Team 4 before the spring shuffle. Kizaki Yuria. Mukaichi Mion. Kato Rena. Think of the members who were and still are a part of the team. Komiyama Haruka. Nishino Miki. Okada Nana. At least one of them will be the next face of the franchise come 2017 or later.
With Minegishi Minami as the leader, it seems like she was the senior member the younger members could look up to for guidance on how to navigate AKB48. This made for one of the most powerful lineups on AKB48, with up and coming idols, a motherly 1st gen leader, and the fan support to back them up. Heck, Team 4’s “Seijun Philosophy” was also the #1 track during Request Hour 2014!
This time around, Minegishi Minami has moved to Team K and the lineup is now led by Takahashi Juri. I’m going to be honest, but I have absolutely no idea how this lineup will turn out. I don’t know that much about Takahashi Juri, but I do know that she has fan support and I’m guessing her fans will love seeing her lead at captain. I have no idea what her leadership qualities are like, but she has a year to prove herself. Perhaps this lineup will surprise a lot of people this year?
Also, Team 4 may be missing an idol to represent the entire team. Team A has Yokoyama Yui, Shimazaki Haruka, Takahashi Minami and Kojima Haruna. Team K has Yamamoto Sayaka and Matsui Jurina. Team B has Watanabe Mayu and Kashiwagi Yuki. Heck, Team 8 has Nakano Ikumi. With Team 4, the face of the franchise looks like someone transferred from another team. This looks like it can be Kojima Mako’s team when all is said and done, since she too is an upcoming member who will represent the entire franchise in the near future. Maybe the same can be said for Kawamoto Saya, who made senbatsu for both “Kibouteki Refrain” and “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai”. Perhaps she can be the next face of the team if she plays her cards right. Who knows?
There you have it for the new teams. Again, this was meant to be an opinion piece on the members who got switched out. What were your thoughts on the shuffle? Did your favorite member get shuffled to another team? Let us know in the comments below.
◆ Rin Rigoni