Has there ever been a time where you submerged yourself into an idol group, and then you found someone who seems rather under-appreciated and underrated? That’s my oshi right there.
Yes, this is a post that tells the world how awesome my oshi, Wada Maaya, really is.
Before I get started, let me tell you the back story and how Maaya became my oshi in the first place. First of all, when I ran into some photos of some girls on Tumblr, namely Shiraishi Mai, Ikuta Erika, and Eto Misa, I found out all of them were from the group Nogizaka46. Since my other favorite idol group, the Ebisu Muscats, was disbanding, it became time to find another one to focus on. Keep in mind that I was on the fence about AKB48 and this was in the Fall of 2013. When I heard they were “AKB48’s First Rival Group”, I was curious.
Then I found out about all sorts of personalities and characters among the members. You have the fashion-model-to-be Shiraishi Mai, the little sister-esqe Hoshino Minami, the older sister-esqe Fukagawa Mai, and the otaku-esqe Ikoma Rina. All of these idols seemed pretty awesome, and of course it was hard to pick an oshi. Usually when it comes to selecting an idol as your oshi, the first one who comes to mind is the one who got you into the group in the first place. By that definition, that means Shiraishi Mai technically should be my oshi. However, that would not be fair to the other members, especially since this was the first time I had seen every member of Nogizaka46.
Then someone at the end of the list caught my eye.
This girl at the very end of the member page with a Shinoda Mariko/Mankanshoku Mako/Coconut Head based haircut caught my attention. Her name was Wada Maaya. She changed my idol fandom life forever.
Throughout 2013, I started to learn a bit more about whom Maaya was and where she came from. She was born in Hiroshima and was a cheerleader before she became an idol. She also moved from Hiroshima to Tokyo all by herself, despite still being a high school student. Keep in mind, when she started out with Nogizaka46, she didn’t have the hairstyle most of her fans know her by.
Yes, she had long hair at one point in her life. Because I found out about her when her hair was cut shorter, there is no way I am going to get used to this look. I wasn’t there when Nogizaka46 first appeared in 2011 (I just started getting into Ebisu Muscats at the time). If she grew her hair this long today, it would take a whole lot of time for me to get used to it. But this was a few years ago, and if Maaya wants to grow her hair at this length, it is going to take a few years to do so.
But besides talking about Maaya’s hair, let me tell you about how interesting Maaya is as an idol. There was one episode of Nogizakatte, Doko?, all of the members took an exam to determine who is the smartest member, as well as the #1 dumbest member of them all. While Maaya ranked higher than some members on this exam (she ranked higher than Shiraishi Mai, which of course, shocked everyone), that didn’t mean she was free from the competition to determine who was the #1 dumbest member of them all.
In this competition, select members would answer questions in a game show-like setting, and those who could answer any of these questions correctly would escape the title of #1 dumbest member. Maaya was one of the contestants, and yes, she did not do so well in this competition. She answered each question with a cockiness that I had never seen before, and even though she got several questions wrong, I certainly appreciated this side of Maaya. I mean any footage of Maaya on Nogizakatte, Doko? was rare, given that she is not the most popular Nogizaka46 member. Eventually Maaya got so many questions wrong that she became the #1 dumbest member of Nogizaka46. She certainly had a lot of confidence in her abilities however.
Even though this may just be a performance to woo new fans, Maaya’s act on Nogizakatte, Doko? was hilarious. I certainly don’t think that Maaya really is as dumb as she made herself look on the camera, She’s certainly a funny girl whom, if given an inch, she can go a mile. Among Nogizaka46 fans, many say that, despite her small handshake numbers, she has some amazing handshakes if you do stop by her lane during said event. Her singing voice is tremendous and very distinguishable amongst some Undergirls songs, namely Hatsukoi no Hito wo Ima Demo (one of my personal favorite Nogizaka46 tunes).
Maybe this post is straight up oshi bias, but I really like Maaya and all that she has done on Nogizaka46 to make my stay as a fan worthwhile. I already mentioned that she is by no means the most popular member of the Nogizaka46 franchise. She is not at the level of a Shiraishi Mai, of an Ikuta Erika or of a Nishino Nanase. But you know what? That’s okay. She only has a small niche of fans and the fans that she has are incredibly supportive. Hell, I have seen one fan line up hundreds of single CDs to form the kanji of Wada Maaya’s name. That’s an overall impressive feat. But I digress; Maaya has a small yet very supportive fan base, and I do intend to meet some of the other people who picked Maaya as an oshi one day I fly to Japan for a handshake event. Maaya is still young (she is the same age as Miyawaki Sakura), so she has plenty of time to make a name for herself amongst fans and management (she did score a few gigs on Nogizaka46-based shows, NogiEigo and NogiGolf).
I am proud to be the only Wada Maaya oshi, as I know no one else who is a Wada Maaya oshi (I am the only one among my friends who are into idols). I think I may be the only Wada Maaya oshi in all of North America, and yes I am going that route. Because honestly, if you too are a fan of Maaya and have called her your oshi, please stand up! We Maaya oshis need to stick together!
That’s all I have to say. In short, Maaya is a very funny idol with a can-do attitude on things in life. If you see her on Nogizakatte, Doko?, you’re in for a lot of laughs. I hope this article sparked an interest in this amazing young lady, especially since she does not get a lot of chances to shine.
Now it’s time for me to watch some NogiEigo, and cheer on my girl as she tries her best at English sentences.
◆ Rin Rigoni