What a night. The Sousenkyo is over, and what a night it was, filled with surprises, broken records, and cameo appearances. A new 48G champion has been crowned the Sousenkyo pennant, and all sorts of new members ranked for the first time.
This is an article based on the takeaways from this year’s Sousenkyo. It is a bit of an opinion piece based on my observations. So if I manage to anger a select few, my apologies.
Let’s dive right in at the takeaways from a night filled with surprise.
Welcome Back Suuchan
I will admit that 2014 was not too kind to Sato Sumire until the arrival of the coupling song, “Ambulance”. She was transferred to SKE48 and she failed to rank in the 2014 Sousenkyo. This year, she has come back in a big way: as Future Girls center.
I will also admit that I haven’t followed Suuchan as much as the average AKB48 and SKE48 fan, but I will say that she really blossomed at center in one of the best coupling songs in AKB48 history. Maybe it had to do with the nurse motif.
Welcome back to Sousenkyo, Sato Sumire!
A Round of Applause For Kojina Yui
One of the biggest surprises, not only among HKT48 fans but also among HKT48 members, was the appearance of the punctual yet goofy Kojina Yui, ranking as high as Next Girls at #46. The thing is, the members who have no idea that they’ll rank end up with the best reactions (such as Tanabe Miku during the last election).
Jiina was rather surprised ranking this high, evidenced by hyperventilation. All of her HKT48 comrades were rooting for her to start her speech. However, she needed the host to hold on to the microphone for a bit so she can take out a mirror to see if her makeup wasn’t smudged or anything. That alone was enough to capture the hearts of new fans.
You go Jiina. Rock on with your goofy self!
A Steady Vote Count Doesn’t Mean A Steady Rank
Let’s look at the minimum amount of votes needed to rank this year: 13,116. Last year’s number was at 9,561. For some members, that meant if a certain member has a steady and consistent fan base willing to put in almost the same number of votes as last year, that certain member is very likely dropping a few spots.
Even if the number of votes for a particular member has increased by a little bit (about 500-2,000 more votes than last year), that still does not mean that member is going to stay at the same rank as last year. Take into account Tano Yuka and Nagao Mariya, who received more votes than last year, however fell a few spots. This shows that the game is changing, and more votes are needed to allow a certain member to remain at a certain spot.
SKE48 Fans Make A Statement
Several members of SKE48 ranked for the first time, from Upcoming Girls (Kumazaki Haruka, Kitagawa Ryoha) to Undergirls (Tani Marika). You could also argue that the AKB48 vs. SKE48 rivalry has just heated up, given how more SKE48 members ranked this year compared to AKB48 members. Yes, SKE48 has 27 representatives in this election versus AKB48’s 23 representatives. And they did this without Matsui Rena.
However, given that SKE48 had four members in senbatsu (just like last year), the group did not necessarily win this year’s election, despite the Sakae faithful voting in several new members.
Home Field Helps
This is the first time the AKB48 Senbatsu Sousenkyo took place in Fukuoka, where HKT48 is located. While SKE48 has more members rank in this election than anybody else, HKT48 members ranked but in a special way: three of them are centers for three lineups. Yes, Anai Chihiro is your Next Girls center while Kodama Haruka is your Undergirls center. Despite how only 15 HKT48 representatives made this year’s election, three of them are going to get the most screen time on the upcoming songs.
Yes, I mentioned that three HKT48 members cracked the center spots, and one of them is Senbatsu center. Now it’s time to get into the Senbatsu takeaways, and there were plenty.
Muto Tomu Is This Year’s Big Surprise
In 2013, the big surprise ranking was when Shibata Aya made Undergirls center, beating Minegishi Minami to the punch. Last year, the big surprise ranking was when Matsumura Kaori made Undergirls center, beating Watanabe Miyuki to said spot. This year, Muto Tomu cracks the last Senbatsu spot, edging out Kodama Haruka for the spot.
The reason I say this is the biggest surprise is because not a lot of people really predicted Tomu to make Senbatsu. This spot was usually predicted for members such as Kodama Haruka, Minegishi Minami, and Kizaki Yuria. Yet Tomu and her fans managed to edge all 3 out to clinch a Senbatsu berth.
The Competition Is Way Too Fierce
As predicted, Shimazaki Haruka, Yamamoto Sayaka, and Matsui Jurina all make senbatsu. All 3 of them received a whole lot more votes than last year, from 5,000 to 30,000. However, that did not translate to an increase in rank. Paruru fell down 2 spots out of Kami7 to 9th place. Jurina fell down a spot to 5th place even though she received over 14,000 votes more than last year. Sayanee received over 30,000 more votes than last year and still stuck at 6th place.
This just begs the question: how many votes will it take to win the Sousenkyo pennant?
Heartbreaking Yet Heartwarming
This is Takahashi Minami’s final Sousenkyo election. Thus, a message to her fans was that she wanted to rank in first place, which would be a tremendous sendoff to one of the most influential AKB48 members in history. Unfortunately, while Takamina managed to crack the Kami7 lineup, she did not win the entire election; she placed 4th overall, her highest rank in Sousenkyo history. This is heartbreaking because Takamina does not have another chance at Sousenkyo center.
While her rank was rather heartbreaking, there was a heartwarming cameo appearance right after. Maeda Atsuko, a former face of the AKB48 franchise, came to comfort Takamina right before she was about to sit down. For those of you who have been with AKB48 since its inception back in 2005, you would know that that was a big moment for fans of the franchise: this brings back the friendship between Acchan and Takamina (Atsumina) that has been around until Acchan graduated from the group. This was probably the most powerful moment of the entire Sousenkyo. While Takamina did not get her wish granted at the end of it all, it was nice to see Maeda Atsuko return to comfort an old friend.
New Ways To Shock The World
Since 2013, Watanabe Mayu has shocked people with her ranking on Sousenkyo. The 2013 year was the year most fans thought she would have won, but she ended up ranking 3rd behind Oshima Yuko and Sashihara Rino. In 2014, a lot of fans thought she would have lost to Sasshi, as evidenced by the preliminary results. Yet we all know how that turned out.
This year, Mayuyu received about 15,000 more votes than last year, at 165,789 votes. This amount of votes was enough to win last year. This year, this amount of votes was only enough to secure third place. This also makes Watanabe Mayu the first ever Sousenkyo champion to rank lower than second the very next year.
Even her fellow Team B comrade, Kashiwagi Yuki, beat Mayuyu by a little under 1,400 votes. Yes, Kashiwagi Yuki only secured second place with that ranking. That is just how fierce this competition was. Tough break Mayu…
How to Break the Sousenkyo System
Remember when I said three HKT48 members managed to make the center spot for three separate units? One of them was Senbatsu, and Sashihara Rino once again claims the Sousenkyo pennant. This makes her the third 48G member to win twice and the first since Oshima Yuko. It also helps that this year’s Sousenkyo took place in Fukuoka, which means the HKT48 faithful came in droves. This was a lot better than 2013, where several 48G fans were leaving once Sasshi’s name was the last called.
What makes this victory better than the surprise from 2013 was just how many votes Sashihara Rino received this time around: 194,049.
Yes, one hundred ninety four thousand votes were given to Sasshi in order to win this year’s election. That’s almost one hundred thousand more than Yamamoto Sayaka. If you combine Matsui Jurina’s votes (105,289) and Miyawaki Sakura’s votes (81,422), those votes are still not enough to dethrone Sashihara Rino. This means that next year, a likely vote count of 200,000+ may be necessary to secure the #1 seed. This is how you break the voting system.
Well, Sasshi did promise her fans a concert in a bikini, so...
◆ Rin Rigoni