The 5th annual AKB48 “General Election” ended with a huge surprise – Rino Sashihara shot to the #1 ranking among more than 300 girls in the idol group
On June 8, 2013, the “AKB48 General Election” took place in Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, Japan. This was the 5th year of the election and was broadcast live for 4 hours on national TV. For the top 16 ranked girls, there is a spot to be part of the group’s upcoming 32nd single.
For those who do not know what “AKB48″ and the “AKB48 General Election” are, let me explain a bit about them…
AKB48 is currently the most popular girl idol group in Japan. It’s named after Akihabara, famous for a subculture of techie stuff, manga, idols, anime and gaming – the center of Otaku Japan. AKB48 have their own theater and even after they started to appear on media a lot, popular members still perform in the small theater. For this reason, people call them “idols you can meet”. AKB48 consists of nearly 100 girls and they also have sister groups in other cities in Japan and even outside of Japan. Below are the current sister groups of AKB48:
SKE48 – Sakae, Aichi prefecture
NMB48 – Namba, Osaka prefecture
HKT48 – Hakata, Fukuoka prefecture
JKT48 – Jakarta, Indonesia
SNH48 – Shanghai, China
TPE48 – Taipei, Taiwan
So, this weekend’s “AKB48 General Election” was for their fans to decide the top 16 girls who will make up the ensemble that will sing the group’s 32nd single. The name of the single has yet to be announced (and probably is still being written) – the reason for this is that the single will be made and tailored to fit the singing and dancing skills (or lack of skills…) of the group of 16 girls.
So who was voting this weekend? AKB48 fans could acquire the right to vote by buying the latest AKB48 single or registering/buying related services. Once they have the right to vote, each AKB48 otaku can support their “Oshimen” (the girl who you give your support to).
Getting the most votes and securing a top ranking is extremely important for AKB48 members and their fans, because the higher a girl’s ranking, the more media exposure she will receive. The girls in the top 16 will get by far the most TV time and the #1 ranked girl will always be at the center of the group.
So it is so important for fans that their “oshimen” get a high ranking – because they will be able to see more of her cute smile on TV and promotional events for the next year – and a lot of attention is given each year to see which girls will be most popular and who will get the #1 spot.
And so, the pundits discussed the chances of each of the girls, the favorites were analyzed, fond memories from past singles and past AKB events were discussed, and the results were revealed.
When the results of the election came in, the winner was a surprise! It was Rino Sashihara, 20, who got 150,570 votes, winning first place over many other popular girls including perennial favorite, Yuko Oshima, 24, the previous #1, who has had unshakable popularity and who had competed for the top of the group with former #1, Atsuko Maeda, 21, who left the group last year.
Rino Sashihara had been ranked #9 last year, but her ascendency to #1 was a big surprise because she had been transferred to sister group, HKT48, during a scandal last year amid revelations that she had an ex-boyfriend. AKB48 members are prohibited to have boyfriends, but because this was something that happened in the past, she was able to remain popular with her fans.
Another surprise happened that night, when one of the original AKB members, Mariko Shinoda, 27, who finished with a #5 ranking, revealed that she will leave AKB48 for good after receiving her ranking.
Something else that the election showed was that AKB48 is currently in a transition of popularity to the next generation of younger members.
AKB48 sells a considerable number of CDs and goods in an age when CDs don’t sell so some say that their popularity affects the economy of Japan…
The announcement of the #1 ranking for Rino Sashihara on live national TV…