Recently A-To-J Connections Project Lead, alavic_222 was fortunate enough to talk with J-Pop artist, Chii Sakurabi and discuss various topics such as her inspiration and what the future holds for her music. This interview will be sure to delight her fans, who are affectionately referred to as her “Sakurabbits”!
Hi. Before we start, here are some questions just to break the ice and to reveal a little more about you to your fans. What is your favorite color?
Of course, I am into cute things, and pink is the color of cuteness, so pink is my defining color!
Great! What is your favorite food?
I mostly eat Japanese food, and I cook it every day! My favorite food is probably tonkotsu ramen, since I grew up eating it all the time! It’s a real comfort food!
How about your hobby?
I love creating things! If it’s not music, I like to draw, sew, and otherwise make things with my hands ^^
Here’s the important one. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Hmm…. I love chocolate!
Finally, do you have a favorite quote, slogan or saying?
Hallo-lo and Bye-nyan!
Now let’s move into some questions regarding your music. First off, what was your inspiration to become a singer?
When I was in college I met a famous bassist in Tokyo. He was always very serious when he talked about music and was dedicated to creating the perfect sound. In the process of making an album, he wouldn't sleep for like a week! I had been singing since I was as kid, learning from my grandma who was a Japanese “Enka” music teacher, but I just did it for fun. By hearing this bassist talk about his efforts for his music career, I was inspired to take my singing more seriously as well. I knew then that I wanted to sing in front of people to make them happy and give them a dream! That's how it all started.
If you weren't a singer, what else do you think you would be?
Well, I guess I would be a voice actress. I’m actually interested in getting into that line of work now
That’s interesting. Similarly to the previous question, if you were a singer in any other genre besides pop, what would it be?
I actually started by doing J-Rock covers, so I would probably go back to that. I’ve always liked rock music and I incorporate some rock flavor in music…it seems like it’s becoming more and more popular J-POP singers to add a bit of a rock edge to their sound.
Wow, J-Rock covers? That’s amazing! If you had to pick a favorite genre of music what would it be?
Of course, it’s J-POP. I’ve been a J-POP fan all my life and I know it suits me best.
What bands/artists do you listen to in your free time?
I listen to all kinds of artists. I guess right now I really like Ariana Grande and Kana Nishino. I think they are both highly skilled singers…and they’re both really cute too!
Who are your musical influences, American, Japanese or otherwise?
My biggest musical influence would probably be T.M. Revolution. He’s just an amazing talent and has a unique voice. I also learned a lot about singing from listening to Nana Mizuki, who has an incredible vocal range.
With those last two questions in mind, if you could have a collaboration with any music artist, who would it be?
I would love to collaborate with T.M. Revolution since he is my idol.
We’ve talked about some of your musical influences, now let’s talk about your personal experiences as a performer. When was your first performance in front of an audience? Can you share anything memorable about it?
I always thought of myself as a strange person and sometimes felt out of place. However, when I first sang on stage, everyone clapped and cheered me on, which made me feel accepted and that music must be my calling. I remember I used a lot of props and effects trying to show I wasn't like everyone else and tried to make everyone feel happy!
Can you share some of your favorite experiences performing since then?
Well, there are so many great experiences I have had it's hard to single any out. But I can say that I'm always so happy to see people supporting me wholeheartedly, dancing along with my songs, waving their glow sticks, and jumping around! They always give me so much energy! I like to have people come close to the stage and be excited...it's hard to perform when people are sitting down because I feed off of the energy of the crowd!
That’s completely understandable. Following up on that last part, have you ever had any negative experiences while performing? Or some experience that made a specific performance difficult?
Since I perform all over the world, sometimes I can't communicate well with the sound techs and I've had problems with songs skipping, changing order, repeating, not starting at all, or the video is off...to name a few. It's become a lot smoother the last couple of years since I streamlined the format of my concert sets. Anyway, I always try to just go with it and make the best of the situation.
Without a doubt I’m sure that your fans always take note of your efforts. Moving onto your music specifically, can you tell us a little about recording your first album, "Mirage"?
Mirage was my first real effort in recording, so it took me a long time to record and re-record. I did all the recording myself at my home and I would send everything to Nucky, my sound producer in Japan. We used Skype to communicate back and forth for the whole production. It was a lot of work and I wasn't used to it at the time, but it became a great practice for me.
What were some of the inspirations behind the songs?
The theme of Mirage is fantasy, and in particular my own fantasy world. Each of the songs tells stories of different fantastic situations, some that have been influenced by my own life. It's really a personal album, but I think it can appeal to anyone.
It’s definitely a powerful album. Your recent album, "Moon Princess", is based on the character Princess Kaguya, what drew you to this particular story?
I loved fairytales and since I had been traveling over the world and I appreciate the otakus of the world, I wanted to share one of the oldest and most famous of Japan's fairytales. So that's why I chose this story, which I had always been inspired by. Also, I have a moon in my logo...I guess I always had a spiritual connection with the moon.
It is indeed a story that one can find inspiration in, your fans should check it out if they have not already. Can you tell us about the process of creating/recording the Moon Princess album?
The process was similar to that of Mirage, however, it went a lot quicker as we had better equipment and past experiences on how to get it done more efficiently. It was still very much an independently recorded album, however, the quality was much better!
We’ve talked about your albums specifically as a whole but if you had to pick one what is your favorite song in your catalog? Both personally and to perform live.
Black Tail was the first song we wrote and it has always been with me as my coolest song. I love performing it as it has a lot of meaning for me as well. But nowadays I really like performing Veil, since it is off my album and I think it is my best song.... it always gives me great energy to perform!
Those are both very good songs. Now, I’m sure your fans want to know this. What are your plans, if any, for future releases?
I am working on a new album now, and plan on releasing it sometime next year! I'm still in the early stages of it, but I’m really excited about it!
That is exciting news! Now, in your view, as someone who is living in the US from Japan, how does the music scene differ between the two countries?
The obvious difference is that in the U.S. J-POP is still not that well known, unless it's at an anime convention or something like that. In Japan, I could pretty much perform anywhere and people can relate with my music, whereas in the U.S. it's a lot more selective. But because of that I think it's allowed me to be unique in the U.S. and be able to perform in many different cities, rather than just being a local artist.
Those are good points to make. On the same topic, how do you like the United States in general, compared to Japan?
I think the U.S. is far more free than Japan! I enjoy my freedom and sometimes Japan can be a bit restricting and rule-oriented. I'm happy to be in the U.S. and I love the people here!
Can you share an amusing story that occurred since you've moved here?
When I first had a haircut in the U.S., the lady said she had never touched hair like mine and got kind of nervous... of course she messed it up and I had to fix it myself... It took me a few years before I decided to go back to a hair salon...fortunately, I found a good one in LA (but my hair stylist is Japanese!).
That’s very funny! I’m glad you were able to find a solution that worked! Moving back to impressions of the US, has being in the US changed the way you view your music in general?
Well, I have to incorporate English in songs...and I even did one song in Spanish! I listen to the local radio stations and I think the sound has influenced me as far as technical parts go, but I think my sound is still authentic J-POP in nature.
There amazing thing about your music is that it’s really universal in its appeal. This has meant that you've been able to perform in many different countries around the world. My next question is a little tough. Out of all the countries you’ve performed in, which has been your favorite?
Each country has their own great flavor! I can't choose between the countries because I love performing in different countries, near or far. I always think it's so exotic and am so fascinated at how J-POP's influence has spread around the world!
Great answer! Also, is there a dream venue you would like to perform at?
There isn't really a dream venue in particular, but I would love to perform on a huge stage in front of thousands of screaming fans! It doesn't matter where.
Wonderful. Now we will move to some of our concluding questions. What are some of your goals for your music career?
I'd like to perform on a famous TV program and I would love to have my music as an opening or closing for an anime!
I’m sure your fans would love to see that goal come to fruition! What can your fans do to help you achieve your goals?
I love my fans and always appreciate their support. It would be amazing if they could help recommend me for different events in their local areas, as I am always happy to perform anywhere. Also, just telling their friends about me and sharing my music with them goes a long way!
While this has been a great interview it sadly must come to an end. Before we finish, do you have a final message to your fans?
You guys are awesome and I love you all!...all my Sakurabbits! Keep your passion alive and keep on dreaming!
I’m sure your fans will love to hear that! Thank you for your time.
Chii Sakurabi is a J-Pop singer originally from Tokyo, Japan. 2011 saw her move to the US and release her first album “Mirage”. 2014 saw the release of her second album, “Moon Princess”. Both albums features songs both in English and in Japanese. She has performed in countries such as the United States, France, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Japan. She has also been invited as a guest to perform concerts at pop culture and anime conventions such as Anime Expo, Anime Conji, Anime North, Paris Manga, and Armageddon Expo, just to name a few.
Her upcoming shows include: MIDTONES J-POP NIGHT (Los Angeles, June 6th), Saskatoon Blitz (Saskatoon, Canada, June 13-14), Natsu Con (July 24-25) and Idol Matsuri (August 14-16)
For More Information:
Official Site: chiisakurabi.com
Facebook Fan Club: facebook.com/groups/ChiiSakurabi
Below are the PVs for "Kaguya" and "Veil". Both from the album "Moon Princess" which can be purchased from her official site.
(Left to Right. Back - Kusaka Karen, Kakizaki Risaki, Sari.
Front - Yotsuyu Hina, Tsukumo Hotaru)
NECRONOMIDOL has a bit more help to stop fans' hearts cold! After the March announcement that original member Tachibana Ruu would graduate from NECRONOMIDOL, the group made the decision to hold their second new member auditions. The occult idol group, formed in early 2014, held their first new member auditions late last year to find a replacement for original member Henmi Setsuko who left to focus on her studies. From this audition, the group gained one new member, Tsukomu Hotaru.
(Kusaka Karen. source: twitter)
So when the second audition was announced, I think many fans expected to receive only one new girl again. Fans attending the new member concert were treated to quite a surprise to see not one, but two new members joining the group!
(Yotsuyu Hina. source: twitter)
The new members’ profiles are not yet up on the official website but to get an idea of what they might be like, here is an video of Kakizaki, Sari, and Hotaru saying what the group is looking for in a prospective member
NECRONOMIDOL’s management has a good eye for choosing members, so I’m looking forward to getting to know Karen and Hina and seeing them perform with the group! Despite only having debuted last June, the group has put out 3 amazing singles and performs 2-3 shows a week. On June 30th, they will hold their first Oneman live and if their live shows on YouTube are any indication, it’s going to be something really special. If you like your idols with more edge and a darker image, definitely give NECRONOMIDOL a try and please keep your eye on Karen and Hina and what they will bring to the group.
Groups photos courtesy of NECRONOMIDOL’s manager, Ricky.
As you may know, it is Sousenkyo season, which means it’s time to see the fans vote for their favorite member or members. For most fans, this is the time to show appreciation for their oshi and all the hard work they have accomplished throughout this past year. While some members may have more fans than others, there is always a warm feeling when a certain member ranks in Sousenkyo who hasn’t ranked for years. Remember when Tanabe Miku ranked for the first time, even though she has been on AKB48 since 2007? She felt amazed, shocked, but more importantly humble about ranking that she was brought to tears. If you’re a Tanamin-oshi, this gave you a sense of accomplishment and joy, seeing the member you support finally rank after all these years.
Today, I wanted to share you a little story about my current AKB48 oshi, Minegishi Minami. This is an article explaining why she became my oshi in the first place, and a very important confession I have to make about her.
Like Tanamin, Miichan has been a veteran for years now. She has been a part of AKB48 for almost 10 years, and she is the last remaining 1st generation member alongside Kojima Haruna and Takahashi Minami. Miichan is known for her skill on variety shows, her presence on the sub-units no3b (“No Sleeves” alongside Kojima Haruna and Takahashi Minami) and the now disbanded SONE (alongside Miyazaki Miho, Kitahara Rie and Sashihara Rino), and in recent years, she has been a captain for Team 4 and now Team K. She is also known for her spectacular dancing and singing skills. Basically, her resume on AKB48 is nothing short of amazing. However, let me tell you why she became my oshi in the first place.
Besides the fact that she collects hats just like I do (I have 110+ New Era caps stuffed in my closet), there was something she did in the first quarter of 2013 that caught my attention. In January of 2013, Shukan Bunshun reported that Minegishi Minami was caught sleeping over at GENERATIONS from EXILE TRIBE’s Shirahama Alan’s apartment, thus breaking the “no dating” rule established by the management. She took the scandal to heart and, rather than shrugging it off, she shaved her head in penance. This in turn made news in media outlets not only in Japan, but around the entire world.
The first time I spotted Minami Minegishi was after opening an article on Yahoo News titled: “Pop Star Shaves Head”. This was the first time I had seen a J-Pop star broken by one mistake. That said, to be 100% honest, the scandal is how she became my AKB48 oshi.
Let me put it into perspective first. In early 2013, I was a die-hard Ebisu Muscats fan, and by no means an AKB48 fan. My oshi in that Muscats lineup was their youngest member, who was still one year older than I was. In early 2013, the only two AKB48 songs I knew were “Heavy Rotation” and “Aitakatta”. The Muscats just announced that they were disbanding at the end of March, so I needed a new group to pay attention to, or a new idol to pay attention to. While Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was helping me get through my J-Pop drought, this news story comes out and my first thought seeing Minegishi Minami was: “Even with the shaved head, this girl is still pretty cute”. Then I did a little research on who she was and what she has done on AKB48. That is when I started to like her even more.
To be fair, the scandal came at a time where she had mental instability. With prior knowledge on the topic, I knew how Miichan felt at the time of the scandal. It didn’t help that when you searched her name on Google Images, the type of stuff some of the fans made wasn’t exactly kind.
By late April, I was blasting almost all of the no3b set list. Miichan’s very own solo song, “Watashi wa Watashi” was something I played very often. I found myself enjoying her appearances while watching past AKBingo episodes and found that she was slowly becoming my 48G kami oshi.
A year later, after being demoted to kenkyuusei because of the scandal, Minegishi Minami made it to the Team 4 lineup as captain, and became the only member in AKB48 history to be a part of every team (at the time), including Kenkyuusei. This was also a time where two groups were fulfilling my need for J-Pop: Nogizaka46 and NMB48. Then I meet a group of people who live in the Los Angeles area who like AKB48 and their related groups. When I started to collect photocards, whose did I collect? Miichan’s of course.
2014 was the year I paid attention to everything 48G. I found about and paid attention to members such as Watanabe Mayu, Watanabe Miyuki, Shiroma Miru, Miyawaki Sakura, Ichikawa Miori, Sashihara Rino, and the list goes on and on. Even up to now, I am paying attention to almost everybody in 48G, but the big question was: What about Miichan?
Honestly, part of me forgot about what Miichan was up to. I was too busy paying attention to a whole lot of other members that I was close to smacking the oshihen button. This is what I meant by “important confession”. I was about to switch my all-time 48G kami oshi to someone who had several amazing gravure shots and had a knack for fishing her fans during handshakes. I was about to switch my 48G kami oshi from Minegishi Minami to Shiroma Miru.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Miru an awful lot. In time, she became my NMB48 oshi, as I oshihenned from Yamagishi Natsumi to Miru. Really though, the entire reason she became my NMB48 oshi was because she was really, really damn attractive. Like, so damn attractive that she overtook Miichan for a while. Then Miru gets sent to AKB48 as a concurrent member, and then it was decision time: who is my kami oshi?
After a week’s worth of thinking and with reasoning from my AKB48 SoCal friends, I eventually came back to my senses and stuck with Minegishi Minami. I mean, I was there during her darkest times back in 2013 and stuck with her then, so I probably shouldn’t give up on her now!
So there’s my story about Minegishi Minami. Anything she does on 48G, from concerts, to variety show appearances, to the occasional Vine appearance, will sit well with me. But her election video for this year’s Sousenkyo struck a chord:
Here, she claims that she wants to make the senbatsu lineup one last time. She also claims that some fans have been ashamed of having her as an oshi, and she wants the male fans to treat her like she is your girlfriend.
For starters, this is not January 2013. Yes, she probably lost a lot of fans, but her true fans stuck by her through thick and thin and probably forgot all about the scandal at this point. Yes, there are a few people who bring it up, but it is nothing to be ashamed of if you and the fans moved on from it. Yes, I was guilty of paying attention to Miru and a hell of a lot of other members. But I was never ashamed to be a Miichan oshi. Not one bit. Not back then, and certainly not now. That’s like Stephen Curry saying it’s challenging to be a Golden State Warriors fan. Or like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu claiming it is difficult to like her songs.
I, as well as the other Minegishi Minami fans, will support her. Hell I know a few Miichan fans that live in North America and will stand by her no matter what the nay-sayers may say. I am sorry that I fell into the trap of oshihening because of Shiroma Miru, but that’s on me and not on her.
Because of this, I will give Minegishi Minami my only vote in senbatsu.
Yes, I only have one vote because I only bought one vote. Although I would like to support my kami oshi, I am not a type of person who wants to keep 30+ copies of the same CD (If I did that, I hope Goodwill likes AKB48). Also, I can’t go to Japan for handshake events. Not yet at least.
One vote may make a difference between Next Girls center and the last spot for Undergirls. Given that she wanted to make senbatsu one last time, this convinced me that she will either not participate in the 2016 Sousenkyo, or she will graduate sometime this year or next year since Takamina is graduating this December.
I have supported her for this long and yes, I did view her like a girlfriend. That’s what she wanted right?
But I will give her my vote this year so I know that I contributed something to help her out in her time of Sousenkyo need. I do believe that senbatsu is an uphill climb, but maybe her last wish on what seems to be her last senbatsu can be fulfilled this one last time.
If she announces graduation that June night, or if she remains the last 1st generation member, I will still support her on her journey through AKB48 and onward.
Minegishi Minami, can you please visit Los Angeles again? I can give you some of my snapbacks!
One of the inevitable pains of being an idol fan is accepting the idea of graduations. This is when a member of a group retires from the group and pursues other goals, such as a solo career or a break from the public scene. Hello! Project has recently seen one of its most beloved groups go on an indefinite hiatus (graduate, for all intents and purposes). With this week’s episode of Hello! Project Station another graduation announcement was made: Fukuda Kanon of ANGERME (formerly known as S/mileage).
Kanon began by announcing that after almost 11 years in Hello! Project (almost 6 years in S/mileage and ANGERME) she would be graduating from ANGERME and Hello! Project this coming fall. The addition of the 3rd Generation members last year (Murota Mizuki, Aikawa Maho and Sasaki Rikako) kicked off a major change and shift for the group, along with a name change. Kanon stated that it was at this time that she started to think about her own graduation. She was careful to mention that this was her own decision, and that she wants to walk a new path in life. She’ll be taking a break from university until her graduation so that she can put her whole heart and time into ANGERME until her graduation. She didn’t specify what she wants to do after she graduates, but she did mention that she wants to study hard and graduate from university. The precise date of her graduation is still to be determined.
To all the fans out there who love Fukuda Kanon, don’t forget to support her through to the end. Graduations are in the very nature of the industry. This does not make it any easier for the fans, but it certainly is to be expected. She came to this conclusion on her own, and her decision should be respected. It’s been a tough year so far for Hello! Project fans, but we have received some good out of it too. Remember to always love and support the idols you enjoy, and never forget the good times either!
Fukuda Kanon, born March 12, 1995, is one of two remaining 1st Generation members of Japanese pop idol group ANGERME. She began her career in Hello! Project as a Hello Pro Egg in 2004. After much practice and dedication she finally debuted into a major group in 2010: S/mileage (they officially started in 2009 as an indie group). Since then she has participated in various productions, many singles, survived S/mileage’s evolution into ANGERME and even voiced a character for an anime (Hime Chen! Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri).
Below is a link to a translation of the announcement done by Up-Front Link and below that is a link to the segment from the Hello! Project Station.
NOTE: The announcement starts at 7:55 and ends at 13:10.
We just had our first day of AKB48 Sousenkyo results, and only one word can describe exactly what the fans and the idols just witnessed:
While the preliminary round of Sounsekyo should be taken with a grain of salt, there are plenty of takeaways for this one night alone. The preliminary round will not guarantee the final senbatsu lineup nor will it guarantee the winner, but let’s take a look at a few of the takeaways from this one night.
Tani Marika is This Year’s Moriyasu Madoka
Last year, Moriyasu Madoka placed 11th on the preliminary round, securing a spot in Undergirls when all was said and done. This year, Tani Marika placed 11th on the preliminary round, with 14,324 votes. If you place this high on the preliminary round, it is easy to say that you have clinched a spot in this year’s Sousenkyo. Last year, the minimum amount of votes needed to rank was 9,500, so Tani Marika will make Sousenkyo for the first time in her career. Senbatsu seems like a stretch, however Undergirls seems more realistic.
A Push from Management Does Not Guarantee a Spot
This really pains me to write because I am a Shiroma Miru fan (she is my NMB48 oshi now that Yamagishi Natsumi is long gone). But I did notice that Miru wasn’t the only one who did not rank in the preliminary round: no Kojima Mako, no Kawamoto Saya, no Nishino Miki, and no Anai Chihiro. Even members who did rank the past two years didn’t rank this time around: no Nagao Mariya, no Umeda Ayaka, no Ogasawara Mayu, etc.
This does not mean that members listed here won’t rank. There is plenty of time for some of them to crack the Sousenkyo lineup. But this goes to show you that even if members get a push from management, a Sousenkyo spot is not as solidified as one might think.
Look at last year’s final rankings. One of my favorite Team BII members, Shibuya Nagisa, was the first member to be promoted from kenkyuusei to 2 teams at the same time. She had the push from management. She did not rank when all was said and done.
SKE48 Wins the Preliminary Round
A lot of SKE48 members ranked in the preliminary round, most of whom did not rank at all last year. In total, 27 members from SKE48 ranked this round, only one shy of AKB48’s 28.
Yes, these 3 members, Kamata Natsuki, Hidaka Yuzuki, and Kumazaki Haruka, all ranked somewhere. After SKE48 saw several members graduate in a short period of time, it is good to see that the fan base is still holding up strong, essentially giving these 6th generation members a chance to shine in an otherwise competitive Sousenkyo field.
Also, SKE48 has 6 members in the preliminary Sousenkyo senbatsu. When all is said and done, I would not be surprised if the Nagoya faithful kept at least 4-5 members there.
NMB48’s Turnout is Alarming
I say alarming because there are members who have made it somewhere in the Sousenkyo ranking, at least for the past 2 years now. While I may say that there is still plenty of time to bring some of your favorite NMB48 members into Sousenkyo, that does not mean NMB48’s preliminary turnout was not alarming.
NMB48 had only eight members rank in the preliminary round. Members such as Yoshida Akari, Ichikawa Miori, Kotani Riho, Umeda Ayaka, Fujie Reina, and of course Shiroma Miru, did not rank this time around. By the time the final results are revealed, perhaps NMB48 will have more members to represent their squad come June 6th, but these first day of results do seem pretty disheartening.
When Yamamoto Sayaka is crying in frustration due to how bad the preliminary results were, you know that something is wrong.
One Day of Prelims Can Throw Predictions out the Window
I wrote my predictions article nearly hours before the preliminary results were released. Then they get released and my prediction to have Kizaki Yuria at 16th overall was thrown out the window. While the preliminary round can end up being horse you-know-what when all is said and done, seeing Yuria, Takajo Aki and my AKB48 oshi Minegishi Minami this low on the prelims is pretty disheartening.
Last year, Yuria was at a healthy 24th place in prelims, while Miichan and Akicha placed 41st and 64th respectively. On that rainy night of Sousenkyo, all three of them ranked in the Undergirls lineup, so not all hope is lost.
Basically, I would not be surprised if all three did manage to make Undergirls, or even if one of them can crack Senbatsu. But I would not be surprised if one of them fell to Next Girls or Future Girls. That is just how unpredictable the Sousenkyo can be.
This Year’s Sousenkyo is Wide Open
Like I said in my Sousenkyo predictions article, this year really has no favorite to take the Sousenkyo pennant. Last year, Sashihara Rino was the overwhelming favorite, with a 12,000 vote cushion against Watanabe Mayu, but still lost on the final result by 10,000 votes. This year, Sasshi is still #1 in the preliminary round for the third straight time, but this year is different: she has about a 5,000 vote cushion against the #2 seed, Kashiwagi Yuki.
There is so much intrigue with this year’s sousenkyo because any of these 4 idols could take the crown. Yukirin could win Sousenkyo in the name of AKB48 (and maybe NGT48 too?). Sasshi could win and be the 3rd 48G member since Oshima Yuko to win two Sousenkyo pennants. Mayuyu could be the first ever back-to-back Sousenkyo winner. Jurina could be the first ever Sousenkyo winner to represent SKE48. This is anybody’s race, which is what makes this year so exciting.
Again, preliminary results in a competition like this should not be taken so seriously. Members who ranked now may not rank later. For example, last year Hirata Rina ranked in the preliminary round but ended up not ranking at all during that Sousenkyo night in June. A lot can change in the span of a few weeks.
June 6th is going to be one wild and crazy night.
It’s that time of the year again, where fans from far and wide (but mostly in Japan) vote in their favorite members to rank in the senbatsu lineup for the upcoming AKB48 summer single. Yes, it’s Sousenkyo season once again!
Now, as you can see from the title, this is a prediction post for the upcoming senbatsu (#1-16) lineup. That means that this is an opinion piece based on my observation of these 16 members throughout the latter half of 2014 up to now, and yes, there are members on this 16 member list I do not follow on a daily basis. Based on these predictions, your favorite member(s) may or may not make my senbatsu prediction lineup, so if you get mad at my predictions, I apologize in advance. Let me reiterate: this is an opinion piece.
You ready? Well here we go.
For my picks, I am going to go from #16 down to #1 at the end. This time, four senbatsu spots are open for new members, as Kojima Haruna, Matsui Rena, Ikoma Rina and Kawaei Rina sit this one out due to personal choice, ineligibility, or for missing the deadline to turn in the application. Regardless, here are my picks. I will also list the amount of times said member made senbatsu in previous elections.
#16: Kizaki Yuria (AKB48 Team B, 0x Senbatsu)
A year ago today, the 48G fandom was shocked to see Kizaki Yuria permanently transferred to AKB48. Over a year has passed and Yuria has carved out a nice niche among the AKB48 lineup. Team B is hers to lead, she recently released a photobook, and she has had starring roles in Majisuka Gakuen 4 and Tatakau! Shoten Girl. She got a lot done this past year or so, which very likely translates to more votes and the 16th seed. If she does not make senbatsu this time around, she will have plenty of opportunities.
I do predict that Kizaki Yuria will barely edge out Shibata Aya for the last sousenkyo spot, as Shibata Aya falls to Undergirls center.
#15: Kodama Haruka (HKT48 Team H/AKB48 Team K, 0x Senbatsu)
Yes, this is the first time Kodama Haruka will make senbatsu. Basically I am looking at this year’s Sousenkyo in this standpoint: HKT48 is rising tremendously, as last year’s Sousenkyo showing proved just that (several members jumped some 10-40+ spots in the rankings, and 2 HKT48 members made senbatsu). This trend will continue this year, and the arguably third face of the HKT48 franchise makes senbatsu. It also helps if you have centered the last 2 HKT48 singles.
#14: Watanabe Miyuki (NMB48 Team BII/AKB48 Team B, 1x Senbatsu)
Last time Watanabe Miyuki made senbatsu was in 2013, where she placed 15th. Then in 2014, a scandal somewhat weighed her down and she fell three spots to undergirls. This year, she has a clear shot to come back to senbatsu. She was the winner of the 2014 Janken Tournament, defeating Kojima Haruna to claim her very own single. There is not a lot that can stop Milky this time around unless she gets into another scandal. Besides, NMB48 needs one more member in senbatsu to represent the group, and no, Kashiwagi Yuki didn’t really count.
#13: Matsumura Kaori (SKE48 Team KII, 0x Senbatsu)
Last year’s surprise showing to give Matsumura Kaori the Undergirls center position was nothing short of…well, surprising. This time around, now that there are four spots available for members to move in, this trend may continue again and we may see the “forever 17”, “honorary Kenkyuusei” Matsumura Kaori in senbatsu. Whether you love her or hate her, I don’t see a lot stopping her from making senbatsu, especially when there are photos circulating around the interwebs of Kaotan fans and their stockpiles of CDs used for voting.
Perhaps she will bring her camcorder with her again…
#12: Miyazawa Sae (SKE48 Team S/SNH48 Team SII, 6x Senbatsu)
Yes, Miyazawa Sae will make it for the 7th straight time. While I do not follow Miyazawa Sae (or SNH48 for that matter…) as much as I should, I am well aware of how big the Miyazawa Sae fanbase is, and it does not look like it will let up this year either. There is a reason Sae has never dropped out of senbatsu, and she will not drop out this time around either. She did release a photobook which will help out with votes as well.
#11: Kitahara Rie (NGT48 Team NIII, 4x Senbatsu)
Some of you may think that this ranking is way too high, but I have Kitahara Rie to clinch the 11th seed. I say that because of how much she is willing to offer to AKB48. After an emotional confession, revealing that she may not have a lot to offer to the franchise anymore, she was given the opportunity to move to the next sister group in NGT48. Basically, she is doing what Sashihara Rino is doing with HKT48 (albeit without a scandal). She is the leader of the franchise and will lead her fellow Niigata girls into the spotlight. Perhaps Niigata-based 48G fans can help vote her into senbatsu?
#10: Yokoyama Yui (AKB48 Team A, 4x Senbatsu)
Yokoyama Yui clinches the 10th seed. She got this far after years of hard work and determination, and time and time again such hard work has paid off. This will be Yuihan’s highest ranking in the Sousenkyo election, and it’s in part from a few things: having a major role in Majisuka Gakuen 4, releasing a photobook, and making every senbatsu lineup for every AKB48 single this past year.
It also helps your votes if you are named the AKB48 Soukantoku (General Manager) after Takahashi Minami graduates.
#9: Suda Akari (SKE48 Team E, 2x Senbatsu)
Suda Akari makes senbatsu once again. From what I hear, Dasu’s handshakes are some of the best in all of SKE48, as she has a ton of energy and character if you do meet her for a handshake event. This translated to a rise in voting, as Dasu’s rank has gone higher and higher with every Sousenkyo, and this year that trend is likely to continue.
Hopefully Suda Akari does not have an acceptance speech that is 30 minutes in duration…
#8: Miyawaki Sakura (HKT48 Team KIV/AKB48 Team A, 1x Senbatsu)
Oh boy, this is where the ranking will start to get difficult…but yes Miyawaki Sakura jumps up to the 8th seed. Think of all that Sakura has done this past year: she was a lead in Majisuka Gakuen 4, she was the first ever HKT48 member to dual center an AKB48-based single and she has a frequent line of gravure photos on your everyday Young Animal issue. Even with the impressive resume this past year, Sakura remains one spot shy of the Kami7 (#1-7 rankings). I say this because one could argue that any of the Kami7 members could win Sousenkyo, simply from their magnitude alone.
I will say this: Sakura is still young. At age 17, she will have plenty of opportunities to crack Kami7, or maybe even win. She is still developing as an idol and is already this high. The future is bright for this young lady.
#7: Shimazaki Haruka (AKB48 Team A, 2x Senbatsu)
Yes, one of the faces of the beloved 9th gen of AKB48 makes it into Kami7 at the 7th seed. Being the center of the single used to vote (“Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai”) will help your cause, and being one of the leads for Majisuka Gakuen 4 helps as well. But we know that Paruru has her fair share of AKB48 fans, mainly because they have seen how she has grown from a rather shy and salty persona to someone who can open up to her fans and her fellow Team A members. She has become not only one of the faces of the 9th generation, but of AKB48 as a whole.
#6: Yamamoto Sayaka (NMB48 Team N/AKB48 Team K, 2x Senbatsu)
When I said this part of the predictions was difficult, this is what I had in mind. Yes, I have Yamamoto Sayaka at 6th. The truth is, I don’t even know where to put Sayanee…
Yes, she will make Kami7 and there is no doubt about that. You can say that she released an amazing photobook. You can say that she outsold her handshake tickets in a single day. You can say that Yamada Nana’s votes have to go somewhere. But at the end of the day, there is a rhyme or reason for the members ahead of Sayanee to rank as high as they can. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sayanee: I think she is a fantastic musician, one of the funniest idols in the business, and she has amazing gravure photos (even though I know she doesn’t feel comfortable with the gravure). But again, there is rhyme and reason behind the 5 remaining spots of Kami7.
I will say this: like Shimazaki Haruka, Yamamoto Sayaka could dark horse her way into the #1 seed, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she did win.
#5: Takahashi Minami (AKB48 Team A, 6x Senbatsu)
This is what I meant by “rhyme and reason to win Sousenkyo”. Yes, I have Takahashi Minami at the 5th seed. What more can be said of the current general manager of AKB48: she is the heart and soul of the franchise, she is one of the 3 remaining 1st generation members, and she shows support towards her fellow members whenever they need a helping hand. She is the true definition of a leader.
Why she ranks this high is because this is her last Sousenkyo, and she wants to end her final run with a center position. Normally she would be okay with a Kami7 spot while her fellow members all aim for the top, but this year is different. She is calling for her fans to help her out this one final time. However, Takamina has never ranked higher than 5th overall. Winning it all is going to be a challenge, but wouldn’t it be a perfect sendoff to one of the most powerful leaders of the franchise?
#4: Kashiwagi Yuki (AKB48 Team B/NGT48 Team NIII, 6x Senbatsu)
The “idol of idols” makes the 4th seed on this year’s Sousenkyo, dropping one spot from last year. Yes, every year, Kashiwagi Yuki ranks high and sells out handshake events with a drop of a hat. Management may not like her, but the fans sure do. She has had a few solo concerts, she has amazing gravure photoshoots, I mean, what’s not to like?
I do find the NGT48 kennin rather questionable, but that’s just me. Like Kitahara Rie, maybe the Niigata-based AKB48 faithful may chip in a few votes? More votes do not hurt especially how Yukirin is likely to receive over 100,000 votes like last year.
#3: Watanabe Mayu (AKB48 Team B, 6x Senbatsu)
It pains me to put Watanabe Mayu this low on my prediction list, because she is one of my favorite AKB48 members (third to only Minegishi Minami and Shiroma Miru). But I have a specific reason why Mayuyu ranks at 3rd.
Simply put, she won already. She took down the metaphorical Goliath in Sashihara Rino last year, and Mayuyu really doesn’t have much to prove with Sousenkyo anymore. She could win again and that would be fine and dandy with me, but I have a very strong feeling that her fans have accomplished what they wanted to accomplish: seeing Mayuyu clinch the center spot. Yes, she has had an exhausting, busy past few months, with her Tatakau! Shoten Girl drama and with her AKB48 based activities (such as handshakes). There’s also the fact that no one has ever repeated as winner of Sousenkyo, so Mayuyu has odds to defy. Because of this, her votes may be lower than what they were last year, but she’ll still crack 100,000.
#2: Matsui Jurina (SKE48 Team S/AKB48 Team K, 6x Senbatsu)
Originally I had Matsui Jurina to win the whole thing this year, but due to what I have seen from the last member, I could not do that. Simply put, those of you who were used to seeing WMatsui (Matsui Jurina and Matsui Rena) in the Sousenkyo lineup will be disappointed, as Matsui Rena decided to sit this year’s election out. Thus, a surplus of votes is available, and SKE48 fans may go with the other Matsui of that lineup in Jurina.
She holds the record for most Senbatsu appearances across AKB48 and SKE48 singles, her Janken single got #1 in the 1035-song request hour, and she is still only 18. Even though she is a veteran of SKE48/AKB48 for some 6.5 years, she still has a bright future ahead. She will crack at least 130,000 votes this year, and like every member I named in my Kami7, it would not surprise me if she clinched the #1 seed.
#1: Sashihara Rino (HKT48 Team H, 5x Senbatsu)
So you might be wondering, why do I have Sashihara Rino as the potential #1 seed? One simple reason:
This is a revenge year for Sashihara Rino and her fans.
Why I say that is because, well, Sasshi lost to Mayuyu by a margin of 10,000 votes. Given that I predicted Mayuyu’s votes to drop off a little bit compared to last year, all Sasshi needs now are over 140,000 votes to secure the #1 seed. You might see a Mayuyu/Sasshi rivalry spring in the future (much like how Maeda Atsuko and Oshima Yuko went back and forth during past Sousenkyo elections). I have Sasshi beating Jurina by a large margin of votes (about 5-6,000) to secure the Sousenkyo pennant. Plus, it also helps that Sasshi would do a concert in a bikini should she win this year.
These are my predictions. By the time you read this, the preliminary results for voting should be out, and while those results will give us a good indication on who will make senbatsu, it does not mean that the #1 seed in the prelims will be the #1 seed when all is said and done. Last year, Sasshi went over 10,000 votes over Mayuyu in the preliminary round. Look what happened there.
Overall, these are predictions I made that are rather safe and free from oshi-tinted glasses. Because if I really wanted to make predictions, I would have Minegishi Minami and Shiroma Miru in senbatsu, Ichikawa Miori and Tani Marika in undergirls, and Watanabe Mayu winning it all with 250,000 votes. It is likely that none of this will happen.
So who do you predict will make senbatsu? What are your thoughts on my predictions? Let us know in the comments below.
See y’all June 6th!
Rock fans, idol fans, listen up!
Continuing their tradition of bringing over some of the biggest acts in Japanese music and pop culture, Anime Expo's newest guest is...
Momoiro Clover Z and KISS!
Formed in 2008 as a six member group under the name Momoiro Clover (Peach-colored Clover), Momoiro Clover Z is currently a five member idol group managed by Stardust Promotions (Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku, Takoyaki Rainbow.)
Styling themselves as "weekend heroines" and "idols you can meet right now", their Super Sentai schtick has brought them from performing street lives in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, to winning a platinum disk award for their 2013 album "5th dimension" and becoming the first female act to perform in the National Olympic Stadium. They have also sung themes for several popular anime, including Pokemon, Sailor Moon Crystal, and Dragonball Z.
Earlier this year, the group released a collaboration single with multi-platinum American rock group KISS; Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina (Try and Bloom in this Fleeting Dream World.) The single, the first official collaboration KISS has ever done, quickly peaked at #2 on the Oricon charts. This upcoming concert featuring both super groups will be the first time Momoiro Clover Z will be performing in the United States.
Today, the senbatsu lineup for the 12th Nogizaka46 single has been revealed. There are some good things about the lineup and some bad things about it. Matsui Rena is no longer a part of the lineup, which means a senbatsu spot for a new member is open. Who will be the one who takes it? Who is your 12th single center? Who falls out of senbatsu? Let’s take a look.
This is what your back row looks like. Just like last time, a new 2nd generation member gets a spot at senbatsu. This time, it’s your office-lady/barista/model idol Shinuchi Mai! Big ups to Maichun for securing a senbatsu spot! As for the rest of the lineup, fan favorites from the undergirls lineup, such as Saito Yuuri and Inoue Sayuri come back to senbatsu. Overall this back row lineup looks the same as the 11th single, with someone missing.
This is the first time Hori Miona did not make senbatsu.
This is a bit of a problem because this shows that just because you have been center for a single before, doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to be in senbatsu forever (see “Barette”). I personally did not like seeing Miona gone. Yes she did not start as one of my favorite members when she became center (At the time I was like: “Wait, who’s that? Why are you center?!”). As time went on though, she somehow grew on me and has become a member that I like. I am probably not the only one like this; Miona has been well received by a lot of Nogizaka46 fans. To see her fail to make senbatsu is pretty disheartening, but she can lead the undergirls lineup alongside Nakamoto Himeka and continue to do amazing things.
This is the 2nd row. This looks nearly identical to the 11th single, but this time Takayama Kazumi makes the 10-member Fukujin lineup, rather than the back row. So if you are a Kazumin fan, you’re in luck.
Here’s your first row, which consists of the five faces of the franchise. There are some interesting points to mention though. First of all, Shiraishi Mai is not your center; she got moved to the side of the 1st row. After getting snubbed several times for center, now she just got moved to the side; you can’t help but to feel bad. Shiraishi Mai WANTS to be center and this is yet another round where management chooses otherwise. But maybe she can be center for the 13th single. There is always next time.
Yes, Ikoma Rina is your 12th single center. After her stint on AKB48, I see this more as a test from management to see if she learned anything during said stint. She has been center before, so let’s see if she can make this 12th single really sparkle. She’s done it before (see “Seifuku no Mannequin”) so I believe she can do it again.
Also, big ups to Hashimoto Nanami for making the 1st row!
So there you have it. This is your senbatsu lineup for the 12th single. Yes, it does look more solidified if anything, and it doesn’t seem like much will be changed in the 13th single (maybe Sasaki Kotoko replaces Shinuchi Mai, but that’s really all I can say). This isn’t a bad lineup by any means. But maybe this is just me, a Wada Maaya fan, being rather salty about another senbatsu lineup she didn’t make. I guess, so long as Saito Asuka is in senbatsu, Maaya has no chance.
Oh well. At least Maaya can teach her fellow members English or something.
◆ Rin Rigoni