(Sorry for the late post on this, but we needed time to adjust our feelings before we could write anything readable.)
On August 27th 2012, AKB's "face" Maeda Atsuko graduated from the group. Her final show at the theater in Akihabara was streamed live on AKB48's official YouTube Channel, FujiTV and on selected big screens around Tokyo.
To commemorate her final performance with AKB48, a special show was held at the theatre. A full member Team A performance of their 6th stage [Mokugekisha] was followed by six special songs performed by:
Team A: Maeda Atsuko, Kojima Haruna, Shinoda Mariko, Takahashi Minami
Team K: Itano Tomomi, Oshima Yuko, Minegishi Minami, Miyazawa Sae, Yokoyama Yui
Team B: Kasai Tomomi, Kashiwagi Yuki, Kitahara Rie, Watanabe Mayu
Team S: Matsui Jurina, Matsui Rena
Team H: Sashihara Rino
M01 - Skirt, Hirari (Itano, Oshima, Kojima, Shinoda, Takahashi, Maeda, Minegishi)
M02 - Aitakatta
M03 - Flying Get
M04 - Ponytail to Shushu
M05 - Everyday, Kachuusha
M06 - Sakura no Hanabiratachi
Before the last song was sang, all of the members had a chance to say their last words to Acchan. Here are partial transcripts of their messages.
Takahashi: “Once the concert at Tokyo Dome was over, we promised each other to come back. I’m honestly not worried about you at all. Do your best with what you want to do. You’re free to guest star in the theater anytime”
Kojima: “I love you so much. Please shake hands with me, as a fan.”
Minegishi: "The time I spent with you and the group was the best part of my youth."
Shinoda: "I know you've had it hard. I feel I couldn't help you much in that regard. I've invited you a lot to eat outside. When I'd see you eat a lot, I felt it was the least I could do to relieve you of some stress. Please do your best from now on"
Kashiwagi: "I admire you as a performer. Singing with you yesterday, I noticed how much I really like you"
Watanabe: "It's incredible you can put a smile on that many peoples' faces with your personality. Please keep doing that."
Sashihara: "I shouldn't have been on stage yesterday when the original Team A members were performing with you, but I was honestly happy when you told me to come up on stage with you."
Matsui Rena: "You have always been a special, higher presence to me. There's a lot of things I can learn from you as an actress as well"
Matsui Jurina: "We met for the first time at Oogoe Diamond. The more I'd see of you the more I'd respect you. You stayed over at my place and I did the same in return. Please welcome me to your home again"
Miyazawa: "When I was going to be transferred to SHN48, you said "Let's do our best together". I was so glad you said that."
Kasai: "I've tried to imitate your smile many times and wasn't good at it. I adore you as a performer and person. Congratulations."
Oshima: "Thank you for leading AKB until here. Thank you for being a worthy rival. There's lots of happy, lots of sad memories. But it's all good memories. Let's create new memories together."
At the end of the show everyone sang the song [Sakura no Hanabiratachi]. It was the song that AKB48 debuted with, and now also Acchan's last song as a member of AKB48.
The first time we got here, seeing the place, we were worried about being able to work towards our dreams. There were times when we all wanted to stop. But because we were all there for each other, because we all worked towards our dreams, we are where we are now.
I love this theater, and everyone that performed together with me and watched us.
I really can't tell whether it was long or shot, but it was the greatest seven years imaginable.
Melos: The day has finally came. Even though it's been long since it was announced, I still find it unbelievable that Acchan would graduate. And in the hours after the graduation show, I found myself thinking "what now?". It's so strange not seeing Acchan there anymore.
kieyuku: AKB48 will never be the same again. So many things have changed since the point I joined the fandom and Acchan's graduation is the biggest. It just doesn't feel like the same AKB48 I used to love. Growing more disinterested each day, Acchan's departure may be my trigger to leave. I'm only holding on for Rie but if nothing exciting is happening for her I can see myself abandoning the fandom.
Miss Moonlight: I have to admit I've never been a big Acchan fan but I respect her for dealing with the pressure of being AKB's ace and for all the efforts she made in the past seven years. I wish her all the best for her future career. I don't know how the group will develop from now on, but Acchan leaving is a big turning point for sure.
Sammy: No Acchan in AKB anymore..... for a while I think AKB would be a bit weird for me with not seeing Acchan there anymore. She was a very important part of AKB since the beginning and I hope all the dreams she has comes true. Good luck Acchan.
HoneyRoastedPeanuts: We're lucky we were able to experience this important moment in the group's history and the years leading up to it. It's the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. AKB
Acchan, you've finally made it. Good luck with whatever you're doing from now on.
emptystring: While Maeda is not my oshi, I felt that she was the best choice for the center and she did the best she could. Her AKB career was quite legendary and all future centers will inevitably be compared to her. I think her graduation was also very well planned and she went out in great style, accomplishing her dream (and the dream of the entire franchise) by performing at Tokyo Dome. I wish her the best. I am also very excited and anxious to see the next chapter of AKB franchise with the new teams.
Jul3: Acchan held a special place within the group which doesn't look likely to be filled. She had this star presence which didn't just make her shine, but the entire group. When she smiled, the whole of AKB48 shined brighter. Acchan's graduation, combined with reaching the "dream of Tokyo Dome" is an era for AKB48. Who knows what the future holds, both for AKB48, and for Maeda Atsuko.
Ying: It will take a while for me to feel accustomed to an AKB without Acchan. I really took for granted what she has done for the 48 franchise. She has become immensely popular, so much to the point that the she no longer fits the idol, and is now an entertainer who can step into the real world without the group name weighing her down.