Monthly Archives: May 2014

2014 Election Book Interview – Ikoma Rina

This is an interview with Ikoma Rina, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Ikoma’s answers are in quotes.

Nogizaka46 was formed as AKB48’s “official rival”. One of the members who stands at the center of the group is Ikoma Rina. In the “Grand Shuffle Festival”, it was announced that she would become a concurrent member with AKB48 as a “foreign exchange student”.

“When I first heard the announcement that I would be a concurrent member, I was really surprised too. The members were all joking with each other, saying ‘I bet someone will get transferred from Nogizaka’, but I never thought it would be me… . It’s just that, if what we were joking about actually happened, I planned on going to AKB. One reason is that I feel our live peformances are lacking in strength. In order to satisfy the people who come to see us, I have to level up my singing and dancing…And right when I was thinking that, I received the news about the concurrency, so I feel like it was fated. I think it’s a huge chance for me to grow”.

For the sake of her own growth, and to further the development of the group even more, Ikoma accepted the concurrency.

“Before, I would get sentimental very easily and ended up crying a lot. I worried about coming to a standstill, then I would panic and try to run away. But since I joined Nogizaka, I’ve experienced many things, and I think I’ve gotten a little tougher and more resilient. Without running from the things set before me, I’ll challenge anything I can, and I’ve started to be able to think of it as good experience for my future. It’s probably impossible to do everything perfectly, but I think as long as I try, it’s fine even if it doesn’t turn out that well”.

When she was in middle school, she was a glum, negative girl. She looked upon her more popular classmates with jealousy and envy. Wanting to change, she became an idol.

“From the start, I wasn’t the type of person to stand in the spotlight. I never imagined I would be chosen to be Nogizaka’s center and do MCs as the group representative. I really think it was a miracle. There have been a lot of hard times, but this is the first time I’ve ever found something I could really lose myself in. I’m not good at studying or athletics. For someone like me with no redeeming qualities, Nogizaka46 is the one place I belong, a place where I can give my all and have fun”.

This will be her first election as a concurrent member.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure I should present candidacy. I know there were some fans who were saying ‘I don’t want you to enter’, and I was also worried about what the other Nogizaka members would think… . But our captain, Sakurai Reika, gave me a push by telling me ‘I think the election will turn into a positive for you, Ikoma, so you should enter’. Her words put me at ease, and I know the other members are supporting me, so I went for it”.

Ikoma is worried about the “challenge of the unknown” the election represents, but she’s ready for it.

“Since it’s been decided that I’ll do things with AKB as a concurrent member, I think I have to see everything that AKB does. I might not be allowed to enter the election next year, so I think it’s something I can only do right now. What is the election like? I want to see that with my own eyes and experience it for myself. Even just once, I want to absorb a lot of things and take them back with me to Nogizaka”.

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2014 Election Book Interview – Kawaei Rina

This is an interview with Kawaei Rina, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Ricchan’s answers are in quotes.

Kawaei Rina, preparing for the close-at-hand election, is seriously thinking and worrying about her rank this year.

“Last year, I went from unranked to my first time ranking in. And on top of that, I even ranked at 25th, so of course I was really happy! But I kept hearing ‘I thought you’d rank higher’ from everyone around me, and even the fans told me ‘Sorry you only ranked 25th’. That’s why, this year, the feeling that I want to rank higher than 25th is really strong. It’s just that I honestly lack confidence in myself. I’m really anxious, actually…”.

Though she says this, the rank she’s aiming for is 16th. Of course, she has a reason for setting her goal as a rank inside the single senbatsu, despite her lack of confidence. Her exposure in the media this past year has risen rapidly, and as a result of that, she’s surely aware of herself as a person who has accumulated many different experiences.

“I’ve made appearances on a lot of variety programs, and I’ve been in dramas like ‘SHARK’ and ‘Sailor Zombie’ too. I was chosen as one of the 16-member senbatsu for the first time in ‘Heart Ereki’, and followed Yokoyama (Yui)-san in being promoted in commercials for ‘AKB Challenge: You Can!’ So I want to live up to those expectations, and I want to connect my experience with results. Because I get the chance to appear in media so much. On the stage last year, I was able to hold it in and didn’t cry. But this year, if I can rank 16th, I might…..start crying”.

Kawaei says this year’s election is a battlefield.

“As expected, it’s a ‘battle’. Since I believe I’ve worked as hard as I possibly could up until now, if I fail to reach rank 16, I’ll wonder, ‘What did I do wrong?’ So no matter what ends up happening in the election this year, I’ll take it as an opportunity to reevaluate my life and think about what I should do from now on.”

Kawaei also has a clear idea of what she wants to be.

“Everyone sees me as the ‘dunce character’, but I’m thinking seriously! Right now, what I want to become is ‘someone who ought to be in senbatsu’. That is to say, I guess I want to be someone who’s required to be around (laughs). Like if I’m not in senbatsu, people will say, ‘Huh? Kawaei’s not there?!'”

She herself says her goal is 16th, but in this book, she’s ranked 9th! When I showed it to her, she said “No way!” with a look of surprise.

“9th is how many steps up from last year? Around 15 ranks?! …Ah, 16 ranks, huh (laughs). It would be too awesome if I could climb that many ranks!”

However, after “Waratte Ii Tomo!”, she began serving as a regular on the show “Viking” and, as usual, using it as a chance to make her appeal to people other than AKB48 fans. When we consider this, her rank jumping up to 9th is not outside the realm of possibility.

“Well, if I really did end up ranking 9th, I’d shake and hyperventilate onstage like Yokoyama-san!! And she’d probably get mad and say ‘Oi, Kawaei!’ (laughs)”.

Kawaei! Because it’s you, you can do that!

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2014 Election Book Interview – Matsui Jurina

This is an interview with Matsui Jurina, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Jurina’s answers are in quotes.



“I need a rival so I can continue to grow”

In the 2013 Election, Matsui Jurina entered “Kami 7”. After that, she was the victor in the Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament. The next place she sets her sights on can only be that one. In the interview, she analyzed herself with composure, but from every word blossomed a passionately burning fire. What could the reason for that be—?

When talking about this past year in regards to Matsui Jurina, the thing that comes to mind is, of course, her triumph in the Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament. After her entrance, the image of an innocent girl in a school uniform, she rose to victory by throwing nothing but paper.

“You’ve got it”

I can’t explain it in words other than that. You surely have the “Hand of God”.

“The instant I won as champion, I ended up making a face of surprise without thinking. My mouth was wide open (laughs). I’m still so embarrassed about that, I can’t even bring myself to look at the photos! To my fans, that rock-paper-scissors tournament was the beginning of something. At handshake events, they would tell me, ‘There hasn’t been anyone yet who’s been both election center and rock-paper-scissors champion, so let’s aim to crown you as the first!” But on the other hand, I also got a lot of people telling me ‘I wanted your first solo center to be one that wasn’t won through rock-paper-scissors.'”

The fans’ feelings are passionate. And you are connected as one, as remarkably evidenced in this year’s “Request Hour” when the song you stood as solo center for, “Suzukake~”, was voted in at #2 over a multitude of other songs.

“I was really surprised. I would’ve been happy if it had just ranked within the top 10, but to think it would land at #2… While I was singing, I naturally broke down into tears. I also feel like a lot of people got to know me through the rock-paper-scissors tournament. At that time, I had an eye problem, so for a while I would wear an eyepatch or a pair of glasses. Because of that, fans who like ‘girls in glasses’ started to come see me at handshake events (laughs)”.

In any case, the biggest change came in your way of thinking when standing as “solo center”.

“Double center and solo center are completely different. Of course, you’re happy to be solo center, but the pressure is enormous. There’s the million-seller streak on the line, and I don’t want people to say ‘It all went bad when Jurina became center’. So I was always battling my anxiety over that”.

Having experienced being solo center, Jurina has passed another landmark in her growth.

On March 8th, she had a birthday performance in both Nagoya and Tokyo. This was a historical first for the 48 Group. In the afternoon, she appeared in a Team S performance for SKE48 in Nagoya, and then headed for Akihabara in Tokyo. Then she appeared in a night performance for AKB48’s Team K, and she was all smiles.

“I was worried it would be very difficult for my body to withstand. I didn’t even know if I would be able to do it. But the fans on the birthday committee were warmly awaiting my birthday performances, and the SKE members saw me off with ‘It’ll be hard from here on, but have a good trip!’ When I got to Tokyo, everyone came and talked to me, saying ‘You just came from a performance in Nagoya? It’ll be tough, but let’s do our best.’ Hearing everyone’s feelings made me happy, and I was also happy to be the first member to do this.”

Looking back, you were 11 years old when you auditioned. And now you’re already 17.

“I feel both like ‘I’m still 17?’ and ‘I’m only 17?’ Though when I talk to the staff, they talk to me like I’m already over 20 (laughs)”.

As you get older, your group of fans acquires more layers. Your peak as an idol is yet to come.

“From around the time I turned 16, I gained new fans. I’ve been told ‘You were too much of a kid until now, and I couldn’t support you’. And since I turned 17, it seems my fanbase has increased yet again (laughs). I think I’m still fresh. I’ve been doing this for 6 years now, but I’m still only 17! I won’t lose to those past 6 years. But NakoMiku-chan (Yabuki Nako and Tanaka Miku of HKT48) have just started middle school… . I’ll lose to that kind of cuteness, but I won’t lose in energy and being powerful! I want to shine even brighter when I turn 18”.

In her 6-year career with youth on her side, she will become a grand weapon for the 48 Group in years to come.

That brings us to this year’s election. Last year, you got into “Kami 7” for the first time. With what feeling are you facing the election this year?

“Last year I received a really wonderful rank. Supported by that result, I’m able to overcome all the hardships”.

Last year, Shinoda Mariko, who was one placement above you, was separated from you by 15,000 votes. We can call this a difference resulting from general public familiarity. In order for you to eventually climb that high, you have to become familiar as well.

“It’s true that I still have a long way to go in attaining that degree of familiarity. I want to keep increasing the frequency of nationwide exposure I get, and there are a lot of things I want to do. But right now, I think the most important thing is to focus as much as I can on the activities I’m doing in SKE and AKB. Rather than making my name as an individual known, I’m putting priority on doing things “for the sake of SKE” or “for the sake of AKB”, because I want us to grow more as groups… . And I’ll be glad if that comes back to me someday, and glad if I can shine brighter when I’m 18. That’s what I think”.

For the recent single, “Labrador Retriever”, you’re no longer center.

“I was incredibly happy to have been chosen to be one of the front 3 members, but frustrated when I thought there’s still a higher place I could be in. But after listening to the song, I was satisfied. I think I would have been more frustrated if I was passed over as center for a dance number”.

The frustration you hold inside hasn’t really shown on your face this past year. Good things have just kept coming your way. I’m sure you’ll sparkle even more if you turn that vexation into energy. If you didn’t aim desperately higher like you are now, it wouldn’t be very interesting.

The presence of Yamamoto Sayaka seems like motivation in the making. You and she are both aces of sister groups, and now you’ll both stand on the same stage in Team K performances. Should we be calling you strong rivals?

“When I found out we’d both be in Team K, I was really looking forward to it, because it’s been a while since I’ve had this burning feeling. Until recently, the rival I’ve been trying hard not to lose to has been (Oshima) Yuko-san, my senior. But this is the first time I’ve felt a burning desire not to lose to one of my juniors. When I realized that, I couldn’t help but be excited. Because it won’t be my 100%. I’ll be putting out 120%.

Oh yeah, at AKB’s Request Hour, it was amazing when we danced together as Team K members. Before our performance, Sayanee and I were both calm, but when we went out on stage we both danced as if to say ‘Like I’ll lose to you!’ (laughs). As we were dancing, that’s when I felt it. I wanted all our fans to see us at a theater performance. Because concerts and theater performances are totally different things. I want to change myself, I want to be forced to grow, and because of that I need someone who will act as motivation for me.”

Since your debut, Matsui Rena has been by your side, and you’ve constantly been compared to each other. These past 1~2 years, you’re no longer considering each other rivals or being considered rivals with the appearance of the Western Beast, Yamamoto Sayaka. She’s become an unknown variable in this election. As a vision of the future of AKB, the position you’re both in will likely come to stand out from the rest.

“But I’ll be satisfied with any rank I get in the election. Though I’m a bit let down to be forecasted [in the book] at 7th place (laughs). Eh, the book staff forecasted Sayanee as 1st?! That’s totally fine, but, yeah, I’m a little fired up about it (laughs)”.

To Jurina, is it that the election is an ignition point for vexation? Or is it a springboard to a leap forward? The two are one in the same.

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2014 Election Book Interview – Takahashi Minami

This is an interview with Takahashi Minami, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book.  Interviewer is in bold, Takamina’s answers are in quotes.



Listening to your speech last year, it seemed like you were pretty unsure about whether to run in the election or not. What about this year?

“The decision to run was much easier than last year. (Oshima) Yuko isn’t around anymore. So in order to keep the public from thinking ‘The AKB group has gotten weak’, as a long-time member of the group, I made the decision to fully participate. That was my own reason, but I think another reason to participate might be as a way to repay AKB and Yuko… . Besides, to me, participating in AKB events is “making memories”. Since I’ve reached this stage, I just want to experience each and every thing the group does together with the members and fans. But don’t take what I’m saying as a ‘graduation flag’ or anything (laughs).”

I’m worried about it (laughs). You’re always at home at handshake events. Your fans must be very warm people.

“They really are~. Just like last year, when I put in my candidacy this year, they told me ‘Thank you for running in the election’. And so many people told me that. I’m always being reminded of what good people my fans are. I’m sure no matter what happens with my situation, they’ll keep cheering me on. It goes for the election as well. Even if I chose to withdraw this year, I think they would have understood. That’s why I want to fight in the election alongside them.”

Do the fans come to handshake events with the air that they’ve “come to meet a good friend of theirs”?

“It goes beyond the relationship between idol and fan, it’s absolutely ‘person to person’. That I’m being supported like that is, in a sense, a point of pride for me. It becomes an incentive. THE ALFEE’s Takamizawa Toshihiko-san, who I’m on ‘Shin Domoto Kyoudai’ with, is celebrating his band’s 40th anniversary this year, which is amazing! And so there must be fans who have been supporting the band for nearly 40 years. I guess they would be called something like “comrades who lived through the same era together”. I think that’s wonderful. Sharing the same time with the people who have been supporting me while I repay them, getting older together, I think it would be wonderful if that could happen.”

By the way, this came up in our conversation already, but do you think the ‘AKB48 without Oshima Yuko’ will be all right?

“Since we’ve already had this problem so many times in the past, I don’t think I can answer any way except ‘it will be all right'”.

As the General Manager, are you the advance guard in pulling the group along?

“Of course I feel that way, but as far as ‘pulling the group along’, it really means ‘there are people for me to pull along’, right? I feel that from now on, the 48 group can’t continue on that way. The most important thing is just how much everyone feels ‘I want to be in AKB’. The things that I’ve been doing up until now are things I’ll keep doing. I’ll put everything I have into supporting the group. After that, what direction the ship sails will be up to the members who are shouldering its future”.

Takamina, you kept saying, ‘Yuko is a billboard for AKB that everyone has put up’. Who seems like they might be a successor to that billboard?

“Speaking from what I’ve concluded, I don’t think anyone can fill the hole that Yuko has left. Just like any of the other members, there is no replacement for Yuko, so… . Instead of filling in the hole, dig it up! Or that’s what I’m thinking, anyway (laughs)”.

And how would you go about digging it up?

“Attempt to build something new. Up until now, the 48 group has been one big department store with Oshima Yuko’s image as its billboard. It felt like ‘Please look at this sign, AKB is over here’. But from now on, though they’ll be small, each member will run her own shop with its own advertisement out front. With those all assembled together, they’ll make up AKB. I think that would work out well. It would move from an all-in-one department store to a whole shopping mall full of different stores overflowing with personality. If they can complement each other, that hole will naturally fill up, and from there I think a new power to charm people will be born in the 48 group.

There are a lot of young members who are working very hard, such as “the three musketeers” (Okada Nana, Kojima Mako, and Nishino Miki), Owada Nana-chan, and (Mukaichi) Mion-chan, whom Yuko personally chose as a center for ‘Heavy Rotation’. There are currently a lot of girls like them who I think will become very noticeable in two or three years. However, what I really want to convey to them is that if they don’t each treat AKB with as much care as possible, there won’t be a two or three years later. It’s for their sake, too.”

It’s not restricted to Yuko – lately, members wanting to take the next step and move on have been graduating one after another.

“The activities Acchan (Maeda Atsuko), (Akimoto) Sayaka, (Shinoda) Mariko-sama, and Tomochin (Itano Tomomi) have been doing are really encouraging. If you judge by their popularity in AKB, they’re also popular outside it, and that gives me hope. Like Kikuchi (Ayaka) who aims to be a model, Haa-chan (Katayama Haruka) who’s making great strides as a stage actress, etcetera, I’m praying from the heart for everyone who graduates to find success. And if the junior members’ goals pan out for them, there’s nothing better than that.”


From here on, the graduates will probably increase, won’t they?

“From the beginning, AKB has been ‘a place where you work hard developing the ability to strike out on your own and make your dreams come true’. So it’s not a unhappy thing for graduates to increase. Some could say “I joined AKB to help out my future self”. Rather, who I’m really worried about are the members who will go on to graduate years from now. The moment those girls take the happy state of affairs AKB is enjoying right now for granted is the moment the door to their future closes… . But the situation the group is in now is a very fortunate one. In a week we’ll shoot 2~3 commercials, and a day will be set for the whole group to record. All the different media providers we record for will gather in the same studio for us, so we can do several recordings without interruption.”

But you at least have a certain degree of familiarity with the world at large. Would you say that your situation won’t change much even if you graduate?

“Of course not! When AKB’s faces leave, whether it be original members or senbatsu members, it’s worrying for them. As much as I do work outside of AKB, I’ve experienced the fact that reality isn’t so sweet. That’s why I try to do things in a way where I won’t be misunderstood as thinking ‘There’s plenty of people who can replace you’. Up until just a few years ago really, things were extremely hard for AKB in the entertainment world. We had to grit our teeth and just do it, but now it’s the opposite. Taking that first step, an intimidating world waits for you at the beginning. The members up until around the 9th generation have felt that, and so they’re a bit more subdued. I’m worried about the members after them. They don’t have the free time to consider how thankful they should be that people follow their daily activities… . That’s why, so there aren’t a bunch of “AKB refugees” showing up in the entertainment world some years later, I want to convey the things I have to convey to the other members. Even if they look at me like they wish I’d shut up (laughs).”

You’re as earnest as ever, you really do love the 48 group (seriously). And to think for your appeal to the voters today I thought about asking things like ‘where on your body do you wash first when you take a bath?’

“Ahahaha! What kind of question is that? (laughs) But I can’t help it. I am who I am, my personality doesn’t change.”

Putting your role to watch over your juniors as General Manager aside, what goals are you yourself aiming for right now?

“At present, having been made captain of the new Team A, I want to make it the ultimate team, but I also have other goals. There are things I want! From the beginning of this year, this whole time, there’s something I’ve been burning for that I’ve kept secret from everyone else.”

And what would that be?

“At the end of the year, I want to seize the Japan Record Award!”

The award for best song 3 years in a row was on the line last year, but regrettably, the prize went to someone else.

“The first year we received the grand prize, I was really happy. It was like repayment to Akimoto (Yasushi)-san for what he’s done. However, somewhere in my heart I wondered ‘Is it really okay for us to win it…?’ That didn’t change the second time around. However, last year was different. The song that was up for the award, ‘Koi suru Fortune Cookie’, is a song that had quite clearly been accepted by more different kinds of people than our songs up until then. Everyone was more interested in it than we thought they would be. Everyone was talking about it, from little kids to veteran artists. I was moved to hear that it was considered a song that was ‘loved nationwide’. That’s why I wanted it more than anything, that Record Award. With pride in our hearts, we all wanted to win it… . That’s why, this year, I want to try to win it one more time! I want to show everyone in Japan that ‘AKB48 doesn’t get discouraged’!”

As expected of the General Manager, how passionate! Any last words for the conclusion?

“This year, I’m gonna do it!”

Your meaning is a little obscure, I think~ (laughs). What are you aiming for in the election?

“I went from 5th, dropped to 6th, then to 7th, then back up to 6th. And then last year, I was in 8th place. I did a lot of thinking about this year’s election, and as a result a desire came out. I want to make it back into the top 7! Uwaa~ I said it. I wonder if that’s okay…”

I forgot to tell you, but in the book, we placed you at 4th.

“Why would you put that hurdle there?! (laughs). This year, please allow me to stand firm here as AKB48’s Takahashi Minami. Thank you for your support!”

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Shimazaki Haruka Short Interview – FLASH SPECIAL 05.2014

This short interview with Shimazaki Haruka was printed in the 05.2014 FLASH SPECIAL GW Issue.

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“I turned 20. But I didn’t think anything special of it (laugh). I was happy that the members celebrated my birthday. But it was sad to leave my teens. In my mind, I stopped at 18. I still sometimes almost introduce myself as ‘Shimazaki Haruka, age 18’. The other day we had ‘the big shuffle’. It was decided that I would move from Team B to Team A.  Names were called: the captain, Takamina-san (Takahashi Minami), the vice-captain (Nakamura) Mariko, Kojima Haruna-san, Kawaei (Rina), Annin (Iriyama Anna), A was full of senbatsu members. And then as if faintly, my name was called. I imagined I’d be with (Yokoyama) Yui, who’s in the same generation as me, but not this time.

 

Actually, I love Team A’s songs. “Rinjin wa kizutsukanai” and “Kurumi to Dialogue” are especially good. I want to try performing them at a concert. What I was surprised about was (Kizaki) Yuria coming to AKB48. She acted alongside me in “Majisuka Gakuen 3″, so I was happy. I think this will bring out a new side of Yuria, so I want her to dance with all her strength. Since Oshima Yuko-san is graduating, AKB has to become something new. One member I’m noticing is Owada Nana-chan from the 15th generation. She vaguely gives off the same atmosphere I used to, so I’ve been thinking about her. It’s not just me here, I want every member to go on holding up AKB together.”

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