And so it’s happened: My oshimen, Nishimura Aika, has graduated from NMB48 to pursue English studies and her dream of being a worldwide actress.
It’s been one strange journey, especially these last few weeks.
Due to a lot of weird circumstances combining together, I was able to attend all 3 concerts for the NMB Live House Tour 2016 Final in Osaka.
As it turned out, that week happened to be Spring Break, and plans were made for Spring Break to be spent in Kansai. Andi had asked me to apply for 2 of the concerts in his name, and then I sat there wondering if I should apply for the third.
“Sure, why not. And let me ask my friend RJ too.”
He agreed, I applied, and I won two of the three concerts. Andi also won another one, and then I thought, hey, why I don’t attend the concerts with him?
The first day was the Aika graduation concert, and that wasn’t even announced until after I had already won the tickets.
Now, nearly all the songs chosen for the graduation concert were linked to her history, and she’s gone over the song selection on Twitter. I didn’t expect that kind of fan service for Aika fans. More surprisingly, I knew a lot of the songs and the significance when I heard them, even though I wasn’t around for some of them. For example, I didn’t follow Aika during her kenkyuusei days or even when she was promoted to Team N; I began to take notice of her shortly after the Team N original stage, so I felt a little bit nerdy knowing the significance of some of these songs that I wasn’t around for. Things like her centering Junjou U-19, which had significance because she centered it in NMB RH 2014 when she was promoted.
It was a really good concert and I’m sad that we won’t get footage of it. In particular, the acoustic version of Aika/Sayaka doing 365-nichi kamihikouki was something really special.
Even after the concert, it hadn’t hit me. When they announced senbatsu for the new NMB single, I felt a little slighted that Aika wasn’t in it, before realizing she’s graduating. Same with the Niji no Tsukurikata unit. “Aika should be there instead of Kokochan! Well… wait…”
After the concert, I thought to myself, hey, wouldn’t it be funny if I applied for the theater show? Actually, I had no idea it was already announced, and Ryan had to remind me when it was. I barely made the Enpou deadline, but I didn’t get in. Unfortunately, with the other seats, notification is really tight coming from Tsushima. For that show in particular, I would know by Thursday if I had gotten in, the show would be on Wednesday, and transportation would be a tight squeeze so I’d have to take two days of vacation. I asked for it in advance and said I might not even take it, and luckily my workplace obliged.
On Thursday I got the notification that I won as a fanclub member and I would be attending. I’ve never been to the theater so I was elated that I got this email. I’ve never even known what it looked like. Of course, these were not the best circumstances to have a first visit, but no matter.
I confirmed with my work that I would take these two days off for vacation, then hurriedly bought overnight bus tickets.
Lately, I’ve been having a bit of an identity reconsideration. That’s a topic I’ll save for my personal blog, but in short I’ve really been evaluating who I am and what I want to accomplish and what’s important to me. On Saturday night, I had trouble sleeping and so I changed my plans to leave on the first ferry to leaving on the last ferry. What I failed to confirm was that my bus tickets were not the usual 10pm night bus but actually the 8:30pm bus, so imagine my surprise when I showed up to the bus reception area and was informed that I missed my bus. I had to fork over an extra 5500 yen for another ticket, and I was really upset that I made such a silly mistake and had to deal with the extra stress.
I arrived in Osaka at 6:30 or 7:00, and I was really puzzled at what to do. It’s weird not having a “home-base”, and eventually I decided to check into a Manga cafe and sleep some more before taking a shower there. It’s also weird that I’ve been to Osaka so many times and was no longer really interested in touristy stuff; I just wanted to go to the theater show and go home. (If I had a little more money, I’d gladly do my typical gourmet activities, but the spur-of-the-moment plans and the missed bus, I didn’t even want to bother.)
One of my ALT friends in Nara kept me company after lunch, and then it was off to the theater. It was here that I had some regret that I didn’t know the Aika fan community since there were so many of them, but it was too late for that and there’s really not much room for that being in Tsushima anyway. I got my ticket, put my stuff in the locker, and lined up outside.
My seat was actually around the 5th row from the back. Not too good, and I kinda laughed to myself knowing that I had closer positions in the concerts I attended, but still, it should be nice and comfortable in the seats compared to being crammed in standing-room only venues. I also panicked a little since on my right there was a pretty cute girl who was also an Aika fan, but again, I felt weird not knowing the Aika fan community, not really attending handshake events, and being a foreigner.
Of course, Aika did the kage-ana, and you could tell she was trying her best to leave with a smile and not cry like she always does. And the show started, replacing the end of each line of the Mix with Aika or Nishimura Aika.
As the show progressed, I realized how awesome it is to be in the theater. It’s a really intimate experience, the members are so close, and it’s a small stage. It was also a rarity for Sayaka to be in the theater as well. And despite seeing so much of this stage on DMM, I was just so pleased to have been there live. In fact, I’ve never really sat through a DMM show from start to end, and I’d always skip around and it still felt like a long time; here, the entire stage felt like it was over in a flash.
And the members, well, they’re all really pretty in person and again I had to come to that realization being so close to them. My other favorites are Uuka and Jo, and Uuka is just an absolute stunner in real life. I also love Jo’s smile–seeing that smile instantly perks me up. Rika was also looking pretty and she does nice things with her hair all the time. And well, Sayaka is Sayaka.
Speaking of Sayaka, she’s amazing. She looks spectacular, carries herself with just the right charisma, knows exactly how to put others in the spotlight when needed, she seems to know what to say and when to say it and yet it doesn’t feel forced, and despite being larger-than-life she doesn’t feel distant at all but rather it feels like she could be your best friend. Whenever people complain about Sayaka or about other being people the next Sayaka… I don’t think they really understand the kind of person she is.
The units came and went. Yume no Dead Body was great, Nandomo Nerae was kinda meh, ONEW was fun and cute. There’s something about Yuuri where I think she looks really weird in print/video but she looks great in real life.
And then there was Kono Sekai ga Yuki no Naka ni Umoreru Mae ni…
How bittersweet that the first time I get to hear this in the theater with the original members is the last time it’ll be performed with the original members. It really took me back, that this performance helped me turn the decision to oshimen to Aika. At the time, I didn’t know who she was, and I was amazed by her singing performance even though she was nervous.
God, I just…
There was Zipper to somewhat take my mind off of it, and of course once again I was blessed with Uuka Zipper, but it couldn’t beat the specter of the Aika graduation.
It persisted throughout, through the encore calls, I just couldn’t get over the fact that she was leaving. I was surprised to see Yuumin and Rurina burst into tears during MCs since I didn’t think they were too close with Aika. Naru seemed to be in such a sad mood for the entire show.
The graduation video made me a little bit emotional. Like I said, I wasn’t there for the promotion. I wasn’t there for the stage debut when she was kenkyuusei. But I saw the original N stage, or the 3rd Anniversary performance where I saw her on DVD and was blown away. The first time she entered units and seeing her in Yama e Yukou, I was there for that. And it was just a trip down my own memories, cheering for this girl, seeing her progress, seeing her break into senbatsu with Rashikunai and Don’t Look Back!, making the dance senbatsu of Must be Now, it was all so good to me.
Her final song was with her KKS class, which I somehow knew was going to be her choice, and I told Ryan as much after the Osaka concerts.
The ceremony was really nice. She got a bouquet of tulips plus rainbow roses in the center, which Sayaka said represented infinite potential. I was kind of moved when the 4th gen gave her their own kind of gift too. Because Aika was promoted really fast and certainly wasn’t there for that big kenkyuusei push, it really touches me knowing how close she is or wanted to be with the 4th gen.
And as I watched everything going on, I couldn’t help feel some sort of regret. I wish I was a bigger part of the fan community, since I contributed nothing really to help out with the graduation concert, and it seemed like everyone in the Aika fan community was great. I only went to one handshake with Aika and I totally bombed it and that was like 2 years ago. I just kept wishing that I was a better fan, that I was better friends with the community, that I supported her truly instead of the half-ass way I felt like I did.
As the members lined up to wave us bye, I remember a couple things. I remember this one girl breaking down in tears. I remember seeing some of the more well known Aika fans and getting good reactions from her. For me, I remember waving to Nattsu since she was first in line and she waved back and I kinda got a little weirded out because I wasn’t really there for her. Kei-chan for some reason waved and then looked really sad. And Aika, well, I don’t even think she acknowledged or remembered me, which led to more regret over being a crappy fan of the oshimen. And then I remember Naru looking really broken before walking out of the theater.
I feel a lot of regret, wishing I was a better fan. I also really wanted to see Aika carry the torch for the next generation of NMB. And while I hope she does well in the future (even doing some silly pinky swear promise that she will return to the entertainment world after she finishes university), I know that if she comes back, it’s not going to be the same for me. Great actresses just don’t drive you to the same fan-levels as a group like NMB does.
And… there you have it. A lot of emotions, regret as a fan, and general sadness seeing how far she’s come along. I was relieved, though, that I got to see her live in the theater for her last performance, as well as just an all around great performance from my favorite NMB Team.
While I wonder who I’m going to choose as my next oshimen, it still feels like I’m not doing my best as a fan. And with this kind of heavy heart, I’ll hopefully be as good a fan of NMB as I can.
Because, let’s face it: It’s more fun to be a great fan and sharing in their hopes and dreams than it is to be a casual fan unaffected by the more emotional events.
I may not be a blip on Aika’s radar, but she’s certainly made a big impact on me.