A captain’s voice
(first of a two-article series in celebration of AKB48’s fifteenth anniversary)
Takahashi Minami. Akimoto Sayaka. Kashiwagi Yuki. Minegishi Minami. Yokoyama Yui. Saito Makiko. Matsuoka Natsumi. Okada Nana. Oba Mina. Melody Nurramdhani Laksani. Beby Chaesara Anadila. Alice de Leon. Kay Ishiyama. Cherprang Areekul. These names are synonymous with one word: Captain.
For over 15 years, the title “Captain” had same regard with the title “Center” inside the confines of AKB48 and its sister groups. The title itself was held highly by those who lead not just their teams but the group as a whole.
The position itself did not came into effect during the idol group’s maiden days in 2005. Back then, they just appoint those who they think is the leader of their respective teams: Takahashi in Team A, Akimoto in Team K, and Urano Kazumi in Team B. It was until the 2009 Team Shuffle that role of the Team Captain was in effect. Both Takahashi and Akimoto kept their position while Kashiwagi took over Urano since the latter was transferring to SDN48 at that time.
Since then, the position has taken shape as it was passed along different names within AKB48, including its sister groups. But role and responsibility remains the same -- aside from leading their respective teams or groups if we talk about Overall Captains or General Managers (Soukantoku), the captains are the “voice of reason” for their respective management, becoming the voice for their team in decisions such as picking someone to be part of their team for the Draft Kaigi and other important topics.
For those who held the title, they put it with importance as they gave the opportunity to lead not just the current members but also a chance to be a guide for the kenkyuusei (trainees). Such example is Takahashi’s run as Team A’s Captain, and later as AKB48’s Soukantoku. In those mentioned runs, she lead with a strict but gentle demeanor, especially the kenkyuusei (hence the phrase “Asobina, asobina” was synonymous to her as it was one of her advises to those who are new in the group, especially in times that they are tense or nervous).
In its 15 years, AKB48 had a fair share of captains who paved the way to the group’s evolution and identity. Ranging from Urano’s leadership run that became a motivator for an upstart Team B at that time to work hard hence “Sounichi” became their anthem to the strict demeanor of Akimoto that lead Team K to mold its trademark “tough yet perservering” image to Minegishi nurturing her teammates in Team 4, her first stint as a Captain, which led to the team’s monicker at that time, “Minegishi’s Children.”
Indeed, the position itself is very important for AKB48 and its sister groups. While the “Center” position was given by the fans or the management to those who they think they should entrust to in order to lead the senbatsu to the success of a single, the “Captain” has given the same emphasis, however thru either the management or the member’s vote of trust for that individual to lead them to their desired future.
And this is why the title of “Captain” had the high regard. Aside from being one of the people who might be joined in the senbatsu of a single by default, she is also the “voice” of pride, reason, and trust. The 15-year narrative of AKB48, along with its expansion through its sister groups across and outside of Japan, had become a true testament to this, and hoping that in the future years, we would hear their voices, even though they change faces.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and does not reflect the views held by the entirety of PAKSA MNL and fellow MNLoves.