As announced during the AKB48 32nd Single Senbatsu Election last Saturday, AKB48 Team A Captain Shinoda Mariko will be graduating from AKB48.
The announcement was made by Mariko herself, in the middle of her speech for obtaining the 5th position for AKB48's 32nd Single. She also requested for her graduation concert to be held at her hometown of Fukuoka, during the Fukuoka Dome concert which will be held from July 20th to 21st (Sat ~ Sun).
Mariko will still be participating in AKB48's 32nd Single, slated for release sometime in August, but will stop all promotional activities after she graduates.
Shinoda Mariko 5th Rank Speech (and graduation announcement)
Translated by: Miss Moonlight
"First of all, thank you for so much support. Last year I said "please come with the intention to crush (us senpai)", after that a year passed where I could feel that a lot of kouhai are doing their best in order to live up to these expectations. Watching today('s event), I also thought that so many kouhai are doing their best. I was really happy and I realized that the 48 group can still go further up. Seeing my kouhai, my energetic kouhai, I decided to make one decision. I, Shinoda Mariko, will graduate from AKB48. I am not saying I was really crushed or so, but to see the energetic and powerful backs of my kouhai I became so happy. I have nothing to regret concerning AKB48. Graduation...("Mariko" calls from the audience) Thank you. My kouhai are trying to make one step forward, so I decided to step one step forward too. I thought that I want to have my graduation in my hometown, so, though it's sudden, please let me graduate during next month's Fukuoka Dome concert. I think the AKB48 group can still aim further up. I'd be glad if I could still watch over the members even after I graduated. That I could continue my life in AKB48 these past 8 years is because my fans who supported me were there. To me all fans who supported me are my treasure. Thank you.
(Host: When and with what feeings did you decide the graduation?) Every year I thought I would graduate in that year. Wanting to lead my life with full power, I thought about graduation every year. But seeing everyone's energy this year, my kouhai have pushed me forward, that's how I feel. Last year I said "come with the intention to crush", but I also thought watching over everyone for a year and then hand over my seat would also be typically me, so I came to this year's decision.
(Takahashi Minami asked to comment on this: It's lonely! Mariko is almost from the same generation and to part from her feels really lonely. But she really was always someone who walked ahead and seeing her walking forward I just want to push her back. I have seen her back (walking forward) a lot and today her back just looks so cool to me. She has moved forward....) Because I think our general manager is needed in AKB48 I want her to do her best here for 30, no for 100 years.
(Host: What is AKB48 for you?) When I joined AKB48 I didn't have any confidence in myself, but the fact that so many people support me made me confident and I feel as if I was changed as a person. I have no regrets."
Hayley: As a Mariko oshi, I wasn't surprised with the news. Upset, of course! But not honestly surprised. The most surprising thing was the date she chose. It's okay to want to graduate in your home town, but she's leaving before other members who announced their graduation months before her. I'd hate to make this sappy, but Mariko has been very inspirational to me. Call her my role model, my make-believe older sister, whatever! I would always try harder and reach for farther goals because of her and because of AKB48 as a whole. As Takamina said, it's going to be really lonely! But Mariko has been doing some amazing things with her career. She doesn't need AKB48 anymore because she has her own image. Since the date is so unfortunately soon, I've been scrambling to raise the money to see her once in concert (even made an indiegogo. hint hint!). All we can say to her as her fans is congratulations and good luck! She will surely be missed from the group, but I know she'll continue to do amazing things! You will forever be my number one oshi! Mariko, you beautiful and wonderful and amazing and perfect woman.. CONGRATULATIONS!! Good luck after AKB48.