This interview with Takamina appears in the “AKB48 Official Election Guidebook 2013”. Plain text indicates Takamina’s answers, bold text indicates the interviewer.
“Actually, this time, I waited until the last minute to announce candidacy. The results of this election will determine what happens the rest of the year. It’s an important event that will make clear the path the group has to move forward on. So, looking at it from an objective point of view, there is a lot to be gained.”
And by that line of thinking, what was the reason you decided in the end to join the election?
“I suppose it’s to say on the election stage, nervously yet seriously, ‘Though I’m a first generation member and someone who always gets chosen for senbatsu, I’m working desperately hard!’ I want to show that visage to the younger girls and have them think ‘I have to try harder!’ Well, as usual, I’ll give it my all and have fun. At any rate, I just can’t help looking forward to seeing all the fans at Nissan Stadium (laughs)”.
Takamina answers with a smile, but this year there probably isn’t any member who has worried more than she has. To AKB48, which had the absolute ace Maeda Atsuko graduate from the group last August, the biggest issue has been how the members will work together to start the second chapter of the group. In that regard, as the person who leads the group, Takahashi Minami was appointed as General Manager.
“From there, a lot of things changed. I wanted to protect the things I’ve loved all this time. Though I’ve had feelings that I want the group to develop and expand, since becoming General Manager, now I feel like the AKB group has to get stronger, has to get bigger. Before I knew it, this sense of duty that says “I have to do this” was completely controlling my heart, and I felt like I would be crushed by it.”
Takamina cares for others over herself and gets close to other members’ feelings. That’s why this group of girls, which has exceeded 250 members, are willing to lend their ears to her words. The fact that she has this strong point became her downfall.
“The things being demanded of me suddenly went way up, and I couldn’t really follow them. I wonder if I’m actually useful to everyone as I am now. What exactly am I, I wonder… I realized I’ve come to think about that all the time.”
At handshake events, there are fans who tearfully ask Takamina if she can’t somehow reverse the decision to halt the AKB activities of certain members. There are fans who ask her why their own favorite member hasn’t been chosen for senbatsu. Each time that happens, her heart is pained.
However, while struggling along, the seeds that she’s continued to nourish will steadily begin to sprout as the 2nd chapter of AKB continues on. Even the singles whose centers were members from the new generations have become million sellers. At the end of last year, during the “Japan Record Awards”, it was the first time in history a female group secured successive wins, going strong for another year and impressing the world.
“I was really happy! Of course, we ended up winning, but I was really happy about the passion of the members who kept saying they wanted to make AKB a stronger group. ‘I’ve been good enough up til now, right? With these feelings of wanting to protect the group I love, isn’t it okay to keep doing the things I want to do how I’ve been doing them?’ That time, all of a sudden, I was able to think that. And I thought, I’m okay, I can still go on!”
At last, a light shone in on her heart and spread, a large project had begun. This year, on April 3rd, her long-awaited solo debut single went on sale.
“Even in the meetings, I was doing all I could to participate, like choosing the jacket pictures, suggesting coupling songs… . It was time to do my best just for myself, and I never knew it would be this much fun (laughs). I joined AKB when I was 14, I didn’t think there was anything greater than that, and I was able to have so many wonderful feelings. But this time, I was able to taste yet another kind of happiness. So please let me say it here again. It’s thanks to my fans that the dream I’ve always had my eyes on of a debut as a solo artist has been granted to me! Takahashi Minami is very fortunate. Thank you so very much!”
And what is her next objective?
“Going on from my solo debut, the things I have to work on and that I’m lacking as a solo artist have become clear. And one by one, I want to bring those under control. That’s half of myself right now. The other half is to get more and more people to love the AKB group that I love, and to that end I want to do everything I possibly can.”
I love the Takamina who runs around exerting herself for the sake of AKB48. But I’ve always worried about her. She’s able to do all that, so can’t she make more time to spend on her own dreams? Right now, after 8 years, it seems as though she is finally becoming concerned about that. At the end of the interview, looking a little embarassed, she told me about her dreams for the future as a solo artist.
“To perform by myself at all the venues AKB has performed at up until now and to have my fans all around me is my dream. To start from a small space, and eventually perform at Tokyo Dome… . Even with the members pooling our strength together, we took 7 years to get there, so in my case, it might take a few decades, though (laughs).”
Far ahead on the road, beyond this year’s election, I pray that the place she’s dreaming of and striving towards is waiting there for her.