While in Japan discussing pop culture with my students, the first question that the kids would ask me when I claimed to like a group was “Who is your favorite member?” Not having a favorite was usually met with skeptic looks. The kids doubted that I really knew or liked the group. But once I had a favorite member I was legit. I proved that I knew what I was talking about and then the kids were quick to tell me who they liked and which other students liked the same members as me. I also found that some students did not like AKB48, but they still had an oshimen. There was still a girl or two in the group that they really liked and followed, even if they weren’t a fan of the group as a whole. Personally I feel that when I picked an oshimen for AKB48 was the moment when I transitioned from knowing about them and enjoying their music to really being a fan. And the member who won me over was Oshima Yuko (last name first as per Japanese convention).
I don’t remember when I first became aware of AKB48 as a group. I do remember that when their 17th single "Heavy Rotation" came out in mid 2010 they were EVERYWHERE. I caught many performances of this single on TV and there in the center, wearing an adorable hat, was a girl with a radiant smile. She was clearly having a great time performing the song. It made me smile just to watch her.
|I seriously want this hat.|
I did some research and found out her name, that she joined the group with the second generation back when Team K was formed, and that she was in the center for this single because she had ranked number one in the recent election. I was disappointed in the following singles when Maeda Atsuko defaulted back to the center position since I didn’t yet understand how the lineups were chosen, but Yuko still got a good amount of screen time.
Yuko has bounced back and forth between first and second place in the elections (2nd in 2009, 1st in 2010, back to 2nd in 2011) so I'm not alone in my support of her. I'm hopeful that Yuko can retake the center position in the upcoming election and I think she has a good chance (especially since her main rival for the first place position will not be taking part in the election). I'm sure this puts a lot of pressure on her, but she seems to handle it all with grace. Even when she was bumped back down to second she accepted with a smile.
Yuko has great stage presence. She was a child actress and her experience performing in front of people shows. She just looks comfortable on stage, like there is nowhere else in the world she would rather be. It’s difficult for me to explain, but there is just something endearing about watching someone who so clearly enjoys what they are doing. Performing is something I too enjoy (although I’ve never been able to do anything as high profile as AKB48, just some theater and high school marching band) so it’s a small way that I connect with her.
Yuko eventually wants to become an actress and I think that she will have success in this. From what I’ve seen of her in dramas she has a pretty wide range. In the AKB48 drama Majisuka Gakuen, which I or Eric or both will likely discuss later, Yuko was a high point of the show for me. Some of the other girls came off flat in front of the camera or simply weren’t believable in their roles, but Yuko gave a strong performance.
Everything I hear about Yuko indicated that she is a nice, cheerful, genuine girl. She seems like the type of person I would want to be friends with. Someone who can be loud and fun, but is also thoughtful and will be honest with you. I’ve heard other members speak well of her and it seems like even if she doesn’t remain successful forever, she is truly enjoying it while it lasts. My very first oshimen is still my #1 and I will continue to support her in AKB and when she eventually graduates.
To finish things off, here is Yuko to introduce herself. The video is several years old, but still adorable and lets you learn some more about her.