This interview with Sasshi appears in the “AKB48 Official Election Guidebook 2013”. Plain text indicates Sasshi’s answers, bold text indicates the interviewer.
When she announced she would run for this year’s election, Sashihara made up her mind to have no doubts.
“I talked about this in my appeal video as well. I didn’t have a single ounce of doubt about this. Even though so many people went out of their way to give me so much support last year, I was transferred almost immediately to HKT. So I was full of feelings like ‘I’ve caused so much trouble for others, there’s no excuse for this’. But even as I was, there are people who have kept cheering me on, and there are also people who saw me for the first time in HKT and became fans. There was no reason not to run for election.”
You made great leaps ahead last year, landing at 4th place, and gained attention and limelight as a sort of heroine. And this year is the first year you will compete as part of HKT48. You’re garnering attention of a different kind this time…
“I’ve become a lot stronger since I transferred to HKT. I’ve started to try to have more fun with everything. Even though I loved it so much, I haven’t been checking the internet (laughs), and thanks to that I’ve been told that my personality has brightened up too. I might be inviting a misunderstanding here, but right now, I’m having the most fun and feeling the most emotionally fulfilled.
A little while ago, Miichan (Minegishi Minami) told me, ‘Sashihara, isn’t it like you came from the future? Since you already know everything that’s going to happen from now on, you can just keep following that path.’ I thought, ‘That’s true!’
That’s why, in this year’s election, though my goal might be shameless, it’s ‘way up at the top’! Fans have told me that it would be nice to see all of HKT take the stage. I also think that would be great, but on the other hand, the election is a battle between individuals. So I have to harden my heart and view the other girls in HKT as rivals.”
Onstage at the 3rd election, a place where members who aren’t normally in the spotlight can shine, Sashihara said of herself in her speech“I’m bad at dancing, bad at singing, and I’m not cute”. She could be called a member who personified those qualities from the start.
“The HKT members often say things like, ‘if I’m in the very back row in the next single, what should I do~?’, but when they do, I tell them ‘Even I haven’t been placed in nothing but the back row. But even if that’s the only position you get, if you properly project your own character, even if you’re not in senbatsu, you’ll have a chance for activities on television’.
Isn’t the biggest chance, then, the election? I’ve always been on the fringes of AKB, but the single that comes out after the election is the one place I would be able to sing in the center, so I really love it. That’s why I ran for the election this year too. Even if my rank falls here, I really think I’ll be able to have fun from the bottom of my heart.”
At some point, the negative, ‘hetare character’ Sashiko had disappeared.
“Of course, even now I still suck at singing and dancing, and I know my face isn’t cute, but somewhere I’ve made that clear. I guess it took a weight off my shoulders. Before, even when I was able to appear on variety shows, I was really nervous. But now, I feel like I should just have fun while recording TV shows.
The other day, when I was able to appear on “Odoru! Sanma Goten!!”, I was able to have fun without being nervous in the slightest, and I was able to participate in the conversations of the other talents who were there. The result of that was receiving the chance to do “Odoru! Hit Shou!!” Everything changed, being able to have fun like that. I’ve become strong. When I was in AKB, I thought many times that I wanted to be left alone, but in HKT, that side of me has faded away. I’ve learned how to have fun both as an HKT member and as Sashihara Rino, the solo artist.”
Since you joined HKT48, I’ve often seen you spot and talk up back-line members on TV shows, and help to raise their power level in talk segments.
“I think there are a ton of really interesting girls in HKT, and even though I still have a long way to go myself, I’d like to help them along the path if I can. I keep thinking, it’s not limited to HKT, but if more SKE and NMB members can become famous, that’s a good thing for the 48 group and for me.
It’s already over, but it’d be nice if we could have more shows like “Hakata Hyakkaten”, where we have conversations about members and their various attributes. Right now Miichan and I are in charge of variety, and we trade off talking to each other a lot, back and forth. I’m very thankful for that, but it would be nice if there were more members like that. I think, if only we could look for girls who seem like they would fit into that box.
Speaking of which, lately, Natsumikan (HKT48’s Tanaka Natsumi) has been really good! I think we’ve discovered an amazing new talent. I also want Miichan to recruit from the ranks of the research students.”
We’re finally facing the 5th AKB48 Senbatsu Election. Sashihara, with a smile that looked like she was having fun from the bottom of her heart, had this to say.
“No matter what happens, I want to stay in HKT, and when I graduate, I want to graduate from HKT. I think there are a lot of girls in HKT that everyone has come to want to support. I understand that feeling too. But I just turned 20, so it’s a really critical time. I hope everyone can watch over me with composure, but if it happens that my popularity doesn’t go up, I’ll understand (laughs). I’ll be counting on your wholehearted support!”