On June 16, 2018 at the Nagoya Dome in Aichi, the results of the “AKB48 53rd Single World Senbatsu General Election 〜Sekai no Center wa Dare da?〜” finally revealed SKE48‘s Jurina Matsui as the new center with a staggering 194,453 votes.
It was the first worldwide election in the history of 10 years, with 339 candidates from all groups including the overseas groups.
Although in previous years only the top 80 places were announced, this year’s election sees the top 100 being announced with the establishment of The 10th AKB48 Sekai Senbatsu Sousenkyo Kinen Waku. Shizuka Oya capped off the ranking, coming in at 100th place. She playfully commented “I’m glad I could confirm that there’re actually Oya fans!” and thus kicked off the ballot-counting event.
AKB48’s first foreign member Ma Chia-Ling ranked in at 97th place. “I began liking AKB48 8 years ago and always wanted to be a part of it, but I thought my dream would never come true because I didn’t live in Japan,” she said. “3 years ago I passed the audition and became a member of AKB48, finally fulfilling something that had only been a fantasy. Today another dream came true—to stand on this stage and give a speech. Thank you so much.” Reflecting on the journey she’s taken since passing the overseas audition, Ma Chia-Ling’s joy was clear.
42nd place went to SKE48 member Mikoto Uchiyama, who had never managed to rank in the past nine elections and narrowly missed out last year at 81st place. She finally managed to rank in for the first time on her tenth election. In the audience, the fans collapsed the boundaries between the groups they supported to deliver one big, resounding Mikoto call to the stage. With a huge smile, Uchiyama commented: “Thank you so much. Even though I’d been participating in every single election from the beginning, I was always left out of the ranking and sometimes like my heart was going to break. But I finally managed to rank in this time. 42nd place is amazing, isn’t it. I really love everyone! The members who supported me, my family who raised me, they’re all my pride.”
From the first-time foreign candidates, BNK48‘s Music and Cherprang ranked in at 72nd and 39th respectively. The group’s ace and captain succeeded in their first election. Mixing Japanese into their words, the two members tearfully celebrated with fellow member Rina Izuta who had transferred from AKB48. The fans in the audience gave them a warm applause as they watched this exchange. Music said: “To everyone who supported me, to everyone who voted for me, thank you. I’m happy my dream could come true and that I can stand on stage with my seniors. I’m happy that I can express my feelings in Thai even here.” Speaking in Japanese, she said to the fans: “I love you (aishiteru yo)!”
Cherprang commented: “Thank you very much. Thanks to everyone I’m able to stand here. I love the AKB48 group. I’m full of gratitude towards Rina Izuta for being in BNK48. Thailand has a lot of great parts to it, like the movies and food. Cherprang will be waiting, so please come to Thailand. I love you all.” As expected of the captain, she enthused about the appeal of her home country.
AKB48 member Yui Oguri, who served as center for the latest single “Teacher Teacher”, ranked in at 25th place. “There was pressure, but I’m happy to receive the 25th position,” she said. “I want to take the lead and keep AKB48 revolving! Or rather, I will take the lead!”
Mion Mukaichi made a return to the senbatsu with a ranking of 13th place. She looked back on her struggles over the last year: “Last year I was 17th and fell short of the senbatsu just by one. Not being able to fulfill everyone’s expectations filled with me with so much frustration and uncertainty in the path I’d taken for a year.” Reflecting on her victory at the AKB48 Group Center Test in March 2018, she continued: “It’s so difficult to come first in anything in this group, but I believe that none of the time I spent as a fan and as a member these seven years has gone to waste. I can affirm that the path I’ve believed in and taken was not the wrong one. I love AKB48 and when I realized that I wanted to live for this group, I found a new dream. Someday, one day, I want to become the general manager.” Her declaration earned her a large round of applause.
Miku Tanaka and Nako Yabuki, known as the “Nakomiku Combo” that took on the double center position in HKT48’s latest single, nabbed their first center positions at 10th and 9th place respectively. HKT48 member and manager Rino Sashihara watched over them as Tanaka made her speech, saying “I’m going to cry” while dabbing at the corners of her eyes. When Yabuki’s named was announced for the 9th position, she expressed her joy again: “This is the best!”
Yui Yokoyama, General Manager of the 48 group, achieved her personal best ranking at 6th place. She collapsed into tears as she stood before the make to the loud “Yuihan” cheers booming from the audience as everyone celebrated with applause. “Recently I’ve been told that AKB48’s lost its force, and I was full of remorse that our generation didn’t put in enough effort to uphold the group that our seniors had raised,” she confessed. Fervently thanking the fans for their support as well as the members, her words touched the hearts of her fellow members.
5th place went to AKB48‘s Nana Okada, who is concurrently serving as captain of STU48. She earned the highest position among the AKB48 members as well as achieving her own personal record by entering the “Kami 7” for the first time. While conveying her happiness and gratitude to the fans, she also commented: “Looking at this year’s election from an outside perspective, the members of AKB48 are struggling to claim the top positions even though it’s the senbatsu for AKB48’s single and I feel regretful. I’ve been thinking this whole time about what I need to do in order to protect AKB48 and pull STU48 forward. I will do what I can in my life as a 48 group member and give everything I’ve got. For both these groups’ and the fan’s sake, as well as my own, I’ll live in the presence with all my might to bind the present with the future and keep on running. If there’s an election next year too, AKB48 will take the top position.” The conviction leapt out in her words. “To all the 48 group otaku, please let me say one thing. Have confidence and persist in your life as a otaku!” The fans responded with loud cheers.
NGT48‘s Yuka Ogino, who had taken the lead in the preliminary results, rose one spot higher from the previous year to claim 4th place. For five and a half minutes, she sobbed without taking a breath and talked quickly throughout her speech to the laughter and applause of the audience.
HKT48‘s Sakura Miyawaki came in third. “Hakata will continue to hoist the flag that we picked up,” she declared. Miyawaki had been aiming to follow in the footsteps of Sashihara, who had won an unprecedented three victories in a row. Although her votes increased by around 60,000 to reach 141,106 this year, she was not able to clinch a 4th victory for HKT48. “Thank you to everyone who voted and supported me,” she said. “Sasshi, I’m sorry. I was always looking at Sasshi’s back, watching you as number one, and I thought I wanted to be just like you. I wanted to protect the first place position in the election that you didn’t participate in, but I’m sorry.” Miyawaki shed tears of regret. “Even though Nako and Miku got into the senbatsu and I wanted to show them the back of the first position…I wasn’t able to do it.” As she spoke, Sashihara tearfully told her not to apologize.
“I announced my candidacy for this year’s election intending it to be my last. It’s thanks to the fans that I never dropped in ranking even once, so with this pride in my chest I want to finish the elections. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” With that, she made known her intentions to withdraw from the elections. “However it doesn’t mean I’m graduating, so from now on I want to live my idol career full of smiles instead of sadness and frustration.” After imparting those thoughts, she concluded: “I’m so glad I could become a part of HKT48 and meet everyone in HKT48. Thank you for your support. I’m sorry, but I want to continue working hard with Sasshi even though you’re nearing thirty. I’ll work hard till I also reach thirty so please continue running forward with me from now on.” Her statement drew laughs from the audience as she pledged to keep HKT48 and the 48 group prospering together with Rino Sashihara whom she so respected. At her mention of being nearing thirty Sashihara responded with an “Hey!!” but praised her junior, saying: “It’s a golden comment right down to the punchline. You’re a genius!”
Following that, SKE48‘s Akari Suda was announced as second place. As soon as her name was called she embraced Jurina, whose first place was immediately ascertained. “As someone who began from the very edges of the stage and climbed her way up to such a high place as this, I was hoping I could prove something to the members who want to work harder from now on and so I was able to aim for the top.” Suda, who had fought her way up with a spirit as tough as weeds, reflected on the tough journey she had taken to this point. “As long as you have resolution and the fans know that, they’ll follow and support you. I hope the members can feel that.” She conveyed her encouragement to the junior members with a smile.
And the one who claimed the glorious victory of the first World Senbatsu General Election was none other than SKE48‘s Jurina Matsui. In the midst of deafening cheers, she pumped her fist and received the Queen’s trophy and mantle. “I’m not going to cry today,” she said, although her voice was full of tears as she expressed her gratitude towards the fans. Just as she began talking about achieving her goal of coming in first at the election and lead everyone to think she was about to announce her graduation, she declared: “That’s why…I’m not graduating!” Her smile was met with applause. She continued, firmly disclaiming any idea of graduation: “I finally realized this. I want to be an indispensable presence in the 48 group. I can’t rest unless I make the 48 group number one.” As she spoke of her determination to lead the 48 group, her fellow SKE48 members watched over her.
Jurina Matsui’s speech:
“I won’t cry today. There’s nothing but gratitude. Firstly, thank you so much for always supporting me and bringing me to this point. It seems like there’s no time, but there are lots of thankful feelings that I want to share.
First of all, it’s thanks to AKB48 that the election could be held in Nagoya. If AKB48 didn’t exist, SKE48 would not exist. Also, it’s because there are so many juniors chasing after us from behind that SKE48 can be here. The 48 group exists in the world even outside of Japan. That’s our strength.
Everyone’s who part of this, the fans, all of you are number one. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don’t want to disappoint my precious fans, but…I came here with the goal of claiming the first place. And now I’ve accomplished that goal.
That’s why…I’m not graduating! I finally realized this. I want to be an indispensable presence in the 48 group. I won’t cry! Champions cannot cry. Today, I saw the tears of so many members. I understand those feelings of frustration. After all, you did everything you could. Of course I don’t know everything about the 48 group because I started with SKE48.
I’ve gotten to sing alongside great seniors so I can say this with confidence. The current 48 group is the most powerful. It’s because everyone is by our side at all times. No matter what happens everyone stays close to us.
I don’t want to see any members feeling lonely. The only people who can prevent that are the fans. So no matter what, please stay by our side always. It’s a promise.
The fight for the election ends here for now. But we still have other things to fight for. I say this with the utmost sincerity when I say that I can’t rest unless I make the 48 group number one. There are so many reliable juniors. There are so many warm fans. Right now, there are people watching and supporting us on TV. So if everyone believes in each other, the 48 group can rise to the top of the idol world again. It’s not enough to just hope for it. We’ll do it.
I want everyone in SKE to listen to this. The privilege of holding the election here at Nagoya Dome today is because everyone in Nagoya and Aichi worked hard. So please let me express our gratitude. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for letting us hold the 10th General Election in Nagoya Dome. If there were to be an election next year, please don’t leave halfway no matter who becomes number one. Please watch over us until the very end.”
SKE48, whose hometown had held the election, made great success with Jurina and Suda’s one-two finish in addition to 5 members in the senbatsu and 24 members ranking within the top 100. It was the best result the group had seen in the ten years since its formation, and they claimed the victory together with the fans.
AKB48 53rd Single World Senbatsu General Election
Final Results: 53rd Single World Senbatsu Members
1st SKE48 Jurina Matsui 194,453 votes
2nd SKE48 Akari Suda 154,011 votes
3rd HKT48 Sakura Miyawaki 141,106 votes
4th NGT48 Yuka Ogino 81,629 votes
5th AKB48/STU48 Nana Okada 70,067 votes
6th AKB48 Yui Yokoyama 67,465 votes
7th AKB48 Tomu Muto 62,611 votes
8th SKE48 Mina Oba 53,998 votes
9th HKT48 Nako Yabuki 51,620 votes
10th HKT48 Miku Tanaka 50,175 votes
11th SKE48 Sarina Soda 48,671 votes
12th AKB48 Juri Takahashi 48,100 votes
13th AKB48 Mion Mukaichi 47,485 votes
14th NMB48 Akari Yoshida 46,837 votes
15th SKE48 Nao Furuhata 45,688 votes
16th NGT48 Hinata Homma 39,241 votes
AKB48 53rd Single World Senbatsu General Election Special site: https://www.akb48.co.jp/sousenkyo53rd/
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