Tuesday 7th August 2018, Imaizumi Yui announced her graduation from Keyakizaka46.
Incontestably one of the most popular member. When we think about her, “positive”, “cheerful”, “bright smile” always come to mind first. But this time, it is a sad, sad news. Even with such a long hiatus since Fukyouwaon, her fans never gave up on her one bit. How did we end up in a situation like this? To answer this question, will help process, and eventually accept her sotsugyou.
It all come first with her sudden hiatus in Fukyouwaon. It was abrupt, and confusing. Bit by bit people realized it was health issue and then hoped for Zuumin recovery. Everyone knows that Keyakizaka as a band is used to tough choregraphy. Very demanding. Whether it’s zuumin, yurina or manaka, members needed to take a break. I’m not even talking about the hell of a schedule Zenkoku tour was. Fortunately, Zuumin was still recovering that time.
Then, the recovery. Last day of makuhari, we see her returning. Seeing her again in variety, seeing her in front during Glass o ware. Same smile, same quirky and joyful character (keyakitte kakenai meeting the manzai actor illustrate it very much). Logically, due to her absence, her handshake slots are packed. It feels like everything is back in order.
But it was not the case.
There was rumor and speculations, fans implying it was difference of music orientation, awkwardness between members or even aiming at being a musician rather than an idol. We need to be careful about information we get : try to get the source, try to think it through from your own standpoint. Don’t let you influenced by groundless badmouthing.
Official blog, mobame, magazine interview, face to face handshake (if you were very lucky) is probably the most reliable source of information you can even get. And from what i’ve read and felt : her fondness for keyakizaka and us fan was sincere. Yes it’s possible to enjoy being an idol, and yes you can express your musical individuality within the group.
But why was it so awkward to come back during Keyakizaka album release? Mostly because of idol culture, or even japanese culture. Japan was always a group-oriented nation. So when everyone is doing their best and you take a break, it feels like you’re letting the group down. And probably Zuumin felt this way. But Sony management were not monsters, nor were Keyaki members. Zuumin had members support to take as much time needed to fully recover and come back. That was the deal, and that was what we hoped. And we tried.
The truth is, it can only work if it’s punctual, and as you can see, Zuumin absence has been chronical since Fukyouwaon. As she said herself in her blog, even with the greatest willpower of the world, you can’t keep up activities that would put your health at risk.
In long term, it would not be possible to make a 2 geared keyakizaka group were some members goes full power, and other are half hiatus. You can make it through one time (like Yurina filming for hibiki) but deciding for Senbatsu formation each time without knowing zuumin can make it or not, is not doable.
Some fans interpreted her graduation as : “i want to go solo, therefore i will graduate”. From the information we have, it’s possible. However what i think is “my health doesn’t allow me to continue keyakizaka as a member, therefore i will graduate, and looking forward to continue as a talent, at a pace that will fit my current condition”.
What’s important here, is that we put the group first. The staff, fans, members. Until the end she consulted members about this, with transparency. And of course, the girls chose what’s best for her.
After thinking it through, it is indeed the best decision. Zuumin break free from keyaki hectic schedule, and can choose a path more adapted to her health, while keyakizaka, even though losing one of it’s best voice, can carry on without worrying about song selection, handshake and senbatsu position.
It was never about criticizing zuumin decision; figuring out what’s wrong or right, but more about understanding. People need to understand to move on.
Zuumin graduation is one thing, but keyakizaka without zuumin is another. What to think of the future?
It’s especially hard because the “ki” of kizuna (bond) is part of keyaki. This is the first time we encounter a situation where this bond is kind of severed, even if we didn’t have a choice. Think about it : the girls are going to kick off the summer tour soon. Hard to think we’re gonna do it in a joyful mood and with a big smile in our face. Yet the girls will have to do it. They are idols. Part of the job is to share positive energy.
In a situation where the equilibrium is shattered, our responsability as fans is “MUTUAL SUPPORT”. We need our idols being genki, smiling, but i do think they need us being supportive as well, and not think “keyaki is over” even if Zuumin had to resign. This is the same pattern with yurina; they will show that they love zuumin, that they love the group, and the show must go on. If we don’t answer the call, then this resolution might waver. It shall not.
Everyone involved in this (fans as well ofc) should take time to think through. Don’t avoid this sadness. Embrace it, and accept it. It’s the best way to not make it a durable pain in the chest.
Now if you will excuse me, i will start listening to “Bob Dylan wo kaesanai” a million times.