The Election: A Victory For Common Sense?

So, the election was today, as if everyone and their mothers didn't already know. In it, we saw a complete turnaround of the established order. Big names fell left, right and centre, and in the end, Sasshi stood tall (on a float, which ran around the arena, rather than sitting in the throne, which was there for apparently no reason whatsoever as it wasn't used).

But it's got me thinking. In terms of scandals, this election showed an outpouring of support for "scandalled" members. I mean, huge support. With a group as big as the 48s, there will be scandals, of that there's no doubt. There's also a massive discrepancy between how those scandals are handled, from the HKT mass-firing to the NMB "let everyone vote for them to come back in." However, of the members who survive scandals, they've managed to perform not only admirably, but probably better than they would have without the scandals.

I suppose there's no such thing as bad publicity after all, and it shows that maybe not as many wota as has generally been assumed are so fixated on this idea of ritual purity expected of idols.

So, let's explore a little.

Obviously, Sasshi bears the most goodwill and ill will of the lot. She was massively divisive even before her scandal, afterwards it became all the moreso. Regardless of the fact that her scandal had happened years before, she was transferred to HKT. She didn't like it. HKT didn't like it. But AkiP's genius shone through, as it's become pretty much the biggest success story since AKB hit a million for the first time. Firstly, Sasshi brought experience. She helped incredibly in making HKT's characters known and getting them out there. Her skills in MCing programs is growing to the extent that Hakata Hyakkaten was probably the best idol show I've seen in a long while, and Odekake is also pretty damn good. Certainly, even in such a short time span, HKT have more TV time than SKE and thus become easier to remember. Of course, SKE's fanbase is already established, so the TV isn't needed as much, but HKT's variety skills have already far surpassed that of 95% of SKE and a good deal of NMB and AKB too. With Lovetan's addition to HKT Sasshi gained a reliable helper and someone with more experience than her, as well as more experience of sitting in the mid-ranks. This, I think, means that the HKT midranks are far vaster and more interesting than that of the other groups, because they have someone who knows what that rut is like and how to overcome it. Sasshi is also now the joint-theatre manager, obviously her role in the scandal that had all those HKT members kicked out, and the subsequent "restructuring" of HKT's management team to remove Sato, the old manager and put in Ozaki instead was great enough that they felt she could be trusted with such a position. And it shows. Not only has she managed to retain probably most of her pre-scandal fans, she's also won over a good deal of the HKT fanbase (plus the HKT girls themselves, who were rather annoyed to be burdened with her in the first place) in order to pull off a massive upset victory. Of course, her haters probably outnumber her fans, but luckily there's no such thing as a negative vote yet. Still, a good show.

Milky's scandal was never going to get in the way of her world domination, so I'm less surprised that she's gone up quite a lot. Incidentally, another girl from the same incident who bore more responsibility than Milky also managed to rank, namely Yoshida Akari, who came in #50. Akarin was reinstated after suspension following wota votes, so again, you could say it was justified, but the full extent of the NMB scandal still isn't fully known so what the suspension was actually for I can't say. Either way, they've both managed to bounce back and rank well for their relative positions, so it can probably be taken as a victory for Kaneko and the NMB management team.

Miichan is probably unlucky. She ranked lower than last year, but with the expansion of the 48 groups and the general malaise towards older gen members who don't pull their weight, I highly doubt she would have ranked in the top 20 this election anyway. However, with the scandal, and the worldwide publicity that followed, she's managed to claw herself back to 18th, and bagged 10000 more votes than she did last year anyway. More proof, if any were needed, that having a boyfriend doesn't really impact all that much on the willingness of fans to support girls.

Oba Mina managed to jump up in rank, and Kikuchi Ayaka managed to keep her place from last year, so even more proof than old shames (or whatever) also don't really affect things. I honestly still don't get how Minarun's thing was a scandal in the first place, given it took place before she even joined. Kikuchi's managed to build back up her popularity since rejoining after her scandal firing, and seems more happy than she's ever really been in the group, so obviously that helps. These two prove that having a life before you join a group should have no impact on what happens after it. Or even through it.

Finally, Nacchan. When Nacchan "quit" following the scandal of her and Rumi, I was quite pissed off. I was, at the time, still sort of deciding my oshi after Maachan graduated. Nacchan was the leading contender and I was probably on the eve of crowning her my oshi. I had a brief moan about it on LI. But it wasn't the fact that she'd had a scandal that annoyed me, it was the fact that I couldn't support her anymore. I had barely even bought any of her stuff, so it must have really annoyed people who'd been supporting her for a while and had obtained a bunch of now practically worthless goods. However, despite her leaving AKB, she never really gave up on her dream, and gave some very candid interviews on the AKB Documentary. And then she decided to take part in the election, just to see if she still had it. And, amazingly, she did. Despite placing 62 (after 3 straight years of 26 in the first three elections), she still managed her highest ever vote count of 11806, compared to 9742 in the third election.

So yea, what can we take from this election? Maybe that Japanese fans, or wota, or whatever, aren't as unforgiving as you might think. Maybe it's time for a relaxation of the rules, eh?

Still, slightly disappointed Meetan didn't rank. Would have been great to see the first married woman in an AKB single.

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