Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 AKB48 Election~!

I've mentioned before in several blog posts that I'm a pretty big fan of the Japanese pop idol group AKB48. They hold many yearly events, the most popular of which is the Senbatsu Election. "Senbatsu" is the term used to symbolize which girls are "chosen" to promote a single. These girls are the ones that appear in the music video of the song, on the cover and also the ones that perform and promote the song through tv appearances and performances.

The 16 girls chosen to promote the group's newest single, "Bokutachi wa Tatakawani"
Getting a spot in senbatsu is a huge deal for the girls because with it comes increased exposure and basically indicates that a girl has amassed enough popularity that the management is willing to invest in increasing that popularity and having the girl become one of the ambassadors of the group. There are many girls who are "staples" in senbatsu, meaning that due to their high popularity, they are always chosen to promote a song. Then, there are girls that are newcomers and those that may be giving a spot on one single, only to be dropped from the roster for the next single. This can be very frustrating for fans that have a favorite member and want to see her in all the releases/gain more popularity. And of course, there are also many girls that fans feel are deserving of a spot in senbatsu but are never given one by management. 

Maeda Atsuko, winner of the 1st election
This is where the election can help fill that gap. Because AKB48 is such a large group, there are very few stages on which all the members can appear. Therefore, a senbatsu, or roster of chosen girls had to be created. Generally, there are 16 senbatsu spots, but the management has done a 32-person senbatsu before, although these are extremely rare. The election is the one time a year where fans can choose the senbatsu themselves. Of course, they have to shell out money if they wish to make an impact in the rankings, but for many fans, the money is well worth it in order to see their favorite receive recognition for the amazing job they have done with the group.

Oshima Yuko, 2nd election winner
How does it work? AKB48 usually releases a single in May. Each physical copy contains a voting ballot that fans can then use to vote for their favorite girl online. It's not unheard of for one fans to buy hundreds of copies in order to vote a couple hundred times for their favorite member. Sometimes, even 5 votes can make the difference between a #32 and a #33 spot. Many fans also campaign, gathering money throughout the year in order to buy as many singles as possible to support their favorite member. Official fan club members get a vote each and if you're subscribed to any of the 48Groups's mobile content, you receive a vote as well, but for additional votes, fans must buy singles.  Due to the high amount of members, the 7th election has a total of 80 spots with 300+ girls competing. Ranks 1-16 are Senbatsu. Ranking in the 17-32 range gets a girl a spot in "Undergirls" and these girls sing and perform the B-side track, although they receive much less exposure than the top 16 ranks. From there, ranks #33-#48 are named Next Girls, #49-#64 Future Girls and #65-#80 Upcoming Girls. These girls sing the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th b-side tracks respectively.

Maeda takes the crown again!
While girls ranking below the top 16 are not given any significant extra exposure in the following single, is fans are able to get a girl to rank, it indicates to management that the girl is popular and has invested fans and may increase opportunities for employment for the girl outside of AKB48-related activities. This "outside work" is extremely important for a girl, as the more work a girl has outside the group, the more likely they are to survive in the entertainment industry once they leave the AKB umbrella. So why did I tell you all this? Well, the 7th annual election will be held this June and voting is currently in full swing!  This year is an interesting one, because not 1, not 2, but 4 girls that ranked in the top 16 last year are not participating this year. There is a long list of girls
Oshima wins the 4th election!
that fans see as strong candidates to enter senbatsu, but it's sure to be surprising no matter what happens! Not to mention, the #1 spot is still very contested and it will be interesting to see who will take the top. Right now all fans pretty much agree that there are 4 girls that are strong enough to possibly take the #1 spot. So, without further ado, I'm going to go ahead and write in my prediction for the top 16 spots as well as the Undergirls arrangement. I won't bother with the rest of the rankings, as they change too often for me to make a good prediction xD

Starting with Undergirls, from #32-#17, here are my "realistic" expectations.
#32 Tano Yuka
#31 Minegishi Minami
Sashihara Rino wins the 5th election!
#30 Kojima Mako
#29 Furuhata Nao
#28 Mukaichi Mion
#27 Tomonaga Mio
#26 Okada Nana
#25 Tashima Meru
#24 Anai Chihiro
#23 Futamura Haruka
#22 Moriyasu Madoka
#21 Takahashi Juri
#20 Kato Rena
#19 Muto Tomu
#18 Kizaki Yuria
#17 Kitahara Rie

Watanabe Mayu wins the 6th election!
And now for the coveted senbatsu spots!
#16 Takayanagi Akane
#15 Kodama Haruka
#14 Miyazawa Sae
#13 Shibata Aya
#12 Matsumura Kaori
#11 Watanabe Miyuki
#10 Yokoyama Yui
#9 Suda Akari
#8 Miyawaki Sakura
#7 Yamamoto Sayaka
#6 Takahashi Minami
#5 Shimazaki Haruka
#4 Matsui Jurina
#3 Sashihara Rino
#2 Kashiwagi Yuki
#1 Watanabe Mayu

This year also marks the year in which I've voted the most! I have sent in 5 votes for Watanabe Mayu, 3 votes for Tano Yuka, 2 votes for Watanabe Miyuki and 8 votes for Yokoyama Yui~! I will be comparing the final results to my predictions when they're out and we'll see how good I am at reading the stars! :D

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