Nikkan Sports Article 9.15.16 – Shimazaki Haruka Potentially Graduating?

AKB48’s Salty Member Shimazaki Haruka on the Road to Graduation – Will Her New Center Position Be Her Final? [source]

We’ve learned today, Sept. 15th, that Shimazaki Haruka (22) of AKB48 has expressed her intentions to graduate. Though she is an ace of the group whose position in the General Election has remained high, it seems she has resolved to take the next step. Today, it was announced that the group’s 46th single (set to release 11/16, title undetermined) will be centered by Shimazaki, and that the song will likely be the last one she centers.

Shimazaki participated in today’s AKB48 concert at Yokohama Arena. During the encore, it was revealed that she was chosen to be the center of the next single. Sharing her thoughts, Shimazaki said “I’m really awestruck. According to what I’ve heard about this song, it’s going to be a really energetic song.” Sashihara Rino (23) of HKT48 made everyone laugh by replying, “Even though she herself is so unenergetic?!” Shimazaki then made light of the joke by saying “I’ll do it energetically so it doesn’t become unenergetic!” which invited more laughs. Even though it appeared to be a funny scene, in truth, it seems her heart was full of the resolve to graduate.

According to data collected this summer by Nikkan Sports, some close friends of Shimazaki’s divulged that “she has resolved to graduate from AKB48”. “Paruru”, as Shimazaki has been nicknamed, gained a boost in popularity when she centered last year’s Japan Record Award-nominee single “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai”, but of course the graduation of the current ace would cause huge reverberations.

Actually, the new commercials for Baitoru that started on the 12th of September that Shimazaki stars in may contain some evidence of her thoughts of graduation. When Shimazaki, in the role of a cafe owner, is asked by her junior co-worker (played by HKT48’s Miyawaki Sakura (18)) “Paruru-san, is it true that you’re quitting?”, Shimazaki answers with a refreshing smile, “I’ve had a lot of valuable experiences here, but I finally know what my real dream is. That’s why I won’t call it quitting, but rather graduating. I’ve decided to move on to the next part of my life”. Afterward, the current General Manager of the group, Yokoyama Yui (23), Watanabe Mayu (22) and Sashihara all chime in with “We’re rooting for you!” The contents of this commercial suggest Shimazaki’s current condition and thought process.

The timing of her reception of a solo center position is also laden with significance. The past three years of General Elections have seen her position fluctuate between 7th, 8th and 9th, but her position has only been stable, and it can’t be said that she’s been making rapid gains in popularity. It also can’t be said that AKB48 chooses centers with no rhyme or reason to the decision, so her position as center in the upcoming single could be considered support for her graduation.

It is not known whether Shimazaki has made her intentions clear to Producer Akimoto Yasushi as of yet, but the situation bears the scent of surprise that AKB48 members are so fond of springing upon everyone. We may recall Oshima Yuko’s surprise graduation announcement during the live broadcast of NHK’s Kouhaku Utagassen. Also, Shinoda Mariko and Kojima Haruna’s graduation announcements during two different General Elections. It is quite likely that Shimazaki also already has a plan for her graduation announcement in mind.

Shimazaki has often expressed her dream to be an actress and her roles in dramas and movies have been steadily multiplying. She will also be playing a leading role in TV Asahi’s serial drama “Metropolitan Police Department: Nasi Goreng Division”, which starts in October. The number of her outside activities is certainly increasing. And during this year’s General Election in June, Shimazaki made the declaration that “this year will be my last election”. During her speech after she ranked in, she also confessed “Honestly, I have been considering graduation”.

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