Mar 26 2013
So it seems as of this year AKB will be allowing former members to participate in their annual “Senbatsu General Election” (aka popularity contest).
Now obviously the first thought in everyone’s heads is “WTF NOOO!! WHY?!”, and on looking at it that does seem to be the sensible thought. However it doesn’t have to be that way, there are ways in which this could work, so lets look at what’s been announced and what this means:
“The members who have the right to stand as a candidate are…
(1) The members in AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, and HKT48 (as of March 31)
(2) Former AKB48 members who transferred to the sister groups in overseas (Takajo Aki, Nakagawa Haruka, Suzuki Mariya, Miyazawa Sae)
(3) OG members who have been the member of AKB groups more than 4 years”
So we basically have current members, current members that are on overseas loans, and former members that had been a member for over 4 years. This means that previous winners that have now graduated (“for example, Maeda Atsuko”) have the ability to participate again. This is somewhat of a drastic change as she would no doubt win again despite not being part of the group.
But then I thought, why would that be a bad thing? If Morning Musume had an election involving all of it’s members every year… Lets say many years ago the likes of Goto Maki, Nono etc. won, then skip ahead a few years to an election for Morning Musume after Sayumi has graduated, say Riho wins….. does that victory carry the same weight as the victories of Nono? Of course not, few people would consider the current crop of Morning Musume remotely close to the same league as previous members. Thus such a senbatsu becomes rapidly flawed, its only purpose to inflate ego’s.
Morning Musume’s “Division 3 winner” & “Premier League winner”
Now imagine a scenario where all members including graduated ones are voted for every year. The flawed victory scenario no longer happens, current members are compared with former members on an equal footing every year. This has many benefits:
- Gives current members something to strive for
- Gives fans a conclusive “who is the most popular member ever”
- Gives former members media coverage (think of it like a pension plan!)
…and perhaps most importantly:
- Gives management (and the entertainment industry as a whole) an indicator of when the group is past its prime or time to retire.
Regarding this last point, if we go back to AKB, sure Acchan could come back this year and win it again, but the current members will be pushing her hard, it wouldn’t be an easy victory, this indicates that the current lineup of the group is still popular amongst the public. Now compare this with if Morning Musume were to do the same now; the former members would ease to victory, there would be absolutely no challenge whatsoever. This suggests that the current lineup isn’t popular, and perhaps management should consider gracefully putting the group out to pasture, bringing a fresh new group into the field… it worked for Aki P right (Onyanko Club –> AKB48)? Eventually there will come a tipping point where there are more former members at the top than current members (unless of course Aki P masters the utopian masterpiece of a truly generational millenia long idol unit, whose members popularity are tied to human generations over the course of lifetimes. An idol for life with fans for life.).
That sort of data is surely vital to an idol industry whose sole purpose is popularity, what worth is an idol if she is not idolised? (admittedly that’s an entirely different discussion, but just look at this point from a company profits perspective $$$)
And so we can conclude that having former members take part is good for the fans, good for the group, and good for the industry!
That is not how it is going to work with this year’s AKB senbatsu. Lets take a look closer at the details:
“Same as the previous years, 64 members will be elected for the 32nd single. Details are as follows.
(1) #1~#16 = 32nd single Senbatsu members
(2) #17-#32 = Under Girls
(3) #33-#48 = Next Girls
(4) #49-#64 = Future Girls
The reception desk period for the candidacy will be from March 31 at 12:00 pm ~ April 7 at 12:00 am. The members who are willing to run as a candidate need to submit a written notice to the election executive committee which is set in each theater.”
There are two major issues there. Elected members will be participating in the singles, and participation requires the candidate to opt-in.
Having former members participate in singles just seems to be a completely crazy idea. If a member has left the group but is still participating in singles then surely they have not left the group? Does that not defeat the purpose of leaving? This also means that current members will have less chance to shine if former members are constantly around. BAD IDEA!!
And regarding candidates to opt-in isn’t really that good either, having popular members potentially not participating invalidates all of the positive aspects of having former members in the election. If they are going to go down this route then all eligible candidates should be on the ballot paper. Of course they can choose to not turn up to any related events, refuse to even speak to AKB management, but they should still be able to be voted for even if they don’t turn up to collect their award! If you are ranking current members against former members you can’t have some previous winners deciding they no longer want to participate just to preserve their winning record. Again doing this invalidates all of the positive aspects of having former members in the election. BAD IDEA!!
So, I’ve rambled for a bit, my general conclusion is that overall this could be a good idea, however the implementation AKB are going with (based only on the details I have seen so far) is in my opinion completely the wrong approach. However I guess it shows Aki P is up for a bit of experimentation, maybe he’ll see how this one goes and then reach the same conclusions as me. Time will tell…
tl;dr: Vote Mayuyu!