Today, July 10th 2011, is the 20th birthday of AKB48's dearest Maeda Atsuko! Congratulations!
A change from the usual news, today I will share with all of you a short story about our most beloved Acchan. The struggles she faced to get to where she is now.
One of the few surviving 1st gen members left in AKB, she joined the group at the young age of 14 years old. Acchan was quite a reserved girl and actually never wanted to be an idol. She admitted that the only reason why she decided to audition for AKB48 was because Akimoto Yasushi's name was on the poster. That was her first time auditioning for anything.
A normal girl-next-door with no special talent or experience in entertainment and auditioning, it was amazing she managed to get in. Suddenly she found herself given the lead role in AKB48's 1st major Single (and 3rd overall) Aitakatta. From then on her popularity skyrocketed and she became known as the face of AKB48, taking the center of most of the group's Singles.
However Acchan at that time didn't really like being the center. In Team A's 2nd Stage [Aitakatta], she was given the lead of the unit song Nagisa no CHERRY, with Minegishi Minami, Masuyama Kayano, Hirajima Natsumi as the backing dancers and backing vocalists. Only Acchan had lines in the song.
Then at the end of Team A's 2nd Stage, in front of all the fans, the girls were made to say the stuff they didn't like. Some members said "I didn't like being behind Acchan". Acchan herself voiced out her opinions and said "I didn’t want to do 'Nagisa no Cherry'". It helped relieve the massive amount of pressure on her back, and strengthened her friendship with the other members.
Fast forward to Oogoe Diamond, AKB48's 10th Single. SKE48 finished auditions not so long ago. All of a sudden, 11 year old Matsui Jurina was selected to sing beside Acchan in a double center. Both fans and members were shocked alike. That's not all, the cover of Oogoe Diamond was a solo shot of Jurina for all versions. This was Acchan's biggest challenge yet, and since. She started to worry but after some talk with Aki-P, she managed to pull herself together.
Fast forward some more to July 2009, AKB48's 1st Senbatsu General Election. Of course Acchan won. This boosted her sprits, seeing the more and more fans were acknowledging her.
But that's not the point I want to talk about. Throughout the years as the center of AKB48, she has also gathered qutie a large number of haters who are tired of Acchan in the center. They wanted change. The top 2 was between Acchan and Yuko. When about to announce which of them would take the 2nd place, there was an Acchan call by the haters. They didn't want her as the top any more.
And they got their wish. A full year later at AKB48's 2nd Senbatsu General Election, Yuko overthrew Acchan's throne by a just 600 votes. (597 to be exact, 31448 to 30851).
Acchan naturally was devastated. For the first time, she was not the top. She felt that she didn't deserve to be the top. That was what she felt at that time. However this only strengthened her resolve. Her dream. Back to 2011, the 3rd Senbatsu General Election just 2 months ago. This time, Acchan managed to get back her position as the center. Just like I thought, the only member who could be AKB48's face is Acchan. The one that we know and love. Nobody, I repeat NOBODY, can ever substitute for her.
2 weeks later, Acchan's 1st solo Single Flower was released with much anticipation. It was a hit with 100k copies sold in it's debut day. It's amazing how much Acchan has grown since the day she debuted on stage back on December 8th, 2005. Acchan was often called emotionless back then because of her lack of feeling and energy in her performance. But look at her right now. Flower is just brimming with emotion. Her dancing too, while still lacking compared to the others, has improved greatly. Acchan may not be my oshimen, not even in my top 10, but I still feel damn proud of her.
Looking back at it now, it kinda feels like Aki-P planned all this since the start in order to develop and blossom this little seed of his into a beautiful Flower, and be one of Japan's most iconic individuals. All the challenges like her being suddenly pushed to the center, the confessions during Team A 2nd Stage, Oogoe Diamond, the 3 Senbatsu General Elections, all that seems to be planned just for Acchan.
Hanazakari no Kimitachi e〜 Ikemen☆ Paradise〜 (hana kimi), a drama which Acchan takes the lead role in, will start airing today evening. Do remember to watch it!