This interview with Sae appears in the “AKB48 Official Election Guidebook 2013”. Plain text indicates Sae’s answers, bold text indicates the interviewer.
Last year and the year before last, you came in 11th. That of course can be called “someone who’s reached stability”, but on the other hand, there are probably fans who are thinking “Sae, you’ve come to a standstill”. However, the feelings of the girl herself are in neither of these two categories.
“I myself thought I would rank a lot lower last election. If you were to ask why I thought that, it’s because during my activities after the election the year before last, I don’t think I was giving a lot back to my fans. It was bad enough that I prepared myself for not even ranking within the top 16. That’s why, when it was announced that I ranked 11th, I was honestly ecstatic. Taking that ranking announcement as a cue, I’d begun to feel like ‘I really want to somehow rank at least 12th!’”
The results were one higher than you hoped, 11th position. Onstage, you gave a speech filled with thanks to your family, with a very impressive Sae-like smile across your whole face.
“But when the result came out, I was thinking ‘This rank is way too high’ (laughs). On the other hand, receiving a rank that was so much higher than I expected made me feel anew the strong bond between myself and my fans. With the strength of that bond reaffirmed, it gave me confidence in myself, and because that confidence was there, I was able to make up my mind to transfer to SNH.
When I made the decision, my family really gave me a lot of support. I wasn’t able to tell Papa about the transfer until it was announced, but Mama and my older brothers knew about it, and they worried about me the whole time. We all went on a family trip to Niigata and Nagano, where my grandparents live. And in private, my friends gave me energy. And then, in the end, the members and fans gave me a lot of support. I’m really supported by a lot of people. It’s a joyful thing.”
You made the decision to transfer to SNH with strong emotions, but opposite to those emotions is your inability at present to move forward with SNH activities.
“Because it’s something I decided for myself, it’s frustrating, but I think there’s nothing I can do about it right now. But the number one thing is having to excuse myself to the fans, that is, the situation might be making them have those same frustrated feelings. However, for now I’m having fun and am able to spend my time usefully, I think. The individual activities I’m doing are fun, and helping out in AKB activities now and then makes me feel like ‘it’s been a while, but I’m still here’ (laughs). If I was only participating in AKB, I might have faded into the background. More than anything else, the fact that I transferred to SNH meant that I have different feelings than anyone else, and that’s interesting.”
There’s something you want to do if you manage to get into senbatsu. Something that’s already in your heart.
“My opportunities to look at AKB objectively have increased, so I’ve come to more easily recognize what’s lacking. That’s why, if I get into senbatsu, I want to be someone who can cover for those parts that need work.”
Since parting from AKB, concerns about the next generation members have grown.
“That’s because AKB is trying to switch over to the next generation. I’ve checked out the dramas the new members are appearing in. I’ve seen ‘Shiritsu Bakalea Koukou’ and ‘Majisuka Gakuen 3’. I wanna be in more dramas and movies too, so I’m always thinking ‘Ah, that must be nice’ (laughs), and stuff like ‘What kind of performance will the next gen members put on?’ and, ‘If it was me, how would I act that part?’ I’ve really absorbed a lot from the younger members. I’ll take what I can get (laughs).
But really, I don’t have anything to do with the younger members! Looking at the long-term, they’re my rivals, because I want to be an actress in the future as well. So it’s something I found really frustrating. But I don’t want them to think that being able to appear in a drama is a given, I want them to feel properly happy about being chosen for it. Because there are a lot of other girls who want to be chosen, too.”
While embracing various emotions, you’re challenging the election, aiming for 3 ranks up from last year, 8th! This year in January at ‘Request Hour’, the song you are center for, ‘Kiseki wa Ma ni Awanai’ ranked 2nd, a great leap up from 24th last year and giving you confidence.
“I was really, really happy! When my fans pool their strength, a miracle like this can happen! If I’m able to get 8th in the election, I think that’ll be really awesome, but for now ‘higher’ is what I’d like to aim for. Putting my enthusiasm into words, I guess it would be ‘I’m leaving it to chance!’. Those are the words of my favorite jockey, Iwata Yasunari, but if you don’t try entering a race, you’ll never know what will happen. It means that if you try entering the race, that gives birth to possibility and something just might happen for you.
Right now, I’m extremely optimistic, and I feel like this is the most confident I’ve felt up until now. Like what they showed me at Request Hour, I’ll reaffirm the strong bond I share with my fans, and from that, I would be happy if a good result would come out of it.”