So it's been nearly a day since we learned about Ogawa Saki's fate.
At the time it was shocking. Even now it's still shocking. Very few people could have imagined that Hello! Project's youngest full-time member (excluding Eggs and the new sub-members) would be leaving - in 3 days no less. It's natural to question it. I definitely did and I like to think of myself as a pretty loyal fan. Thankfully, Takamaruyo swiftly put up translations of the official article/blog post from the S/mileage website, which cleared up a lot of confusion and revealed so much that us fans had no idea about. In this post I'm going to take a look at the official statements and logically analyze it to try and clear up any questions that appeared from yesterday's news.
Read on or not - it's your choice.
First let's start with the actual announcement (and again, thanks to TKMR for the translations),
We have an important announcement about S/mileage’s Ogawa Saki.There are three surprising pieces of news in that statement - the obvious first one being her graduation, the second being the location (at a hall which most likely is a lot smaller than the venues they normally perform at), and the third is the date (four days from the time of the announcement). To be honest, that short paragraph managed to raise more questions than it answered. Why is Saki graduating? Why is it so sudden? And why at a release event, of all places?
Following the Uchouten LOVE Live Event on August 27th at Higashi Betsuin Hall in Nagoya, Ogawa Saki will be graduating from S/mileage and Hello! Project.
To attempt to find answers to those questions, we must read on to Tsunku's comment in the same article.
Early in May this yearThat's pretty interesting. So, as far back as May, Saki was considering quitting the idol business. For the actual reason, we must skip down to Saki's comment,
“Earlier, I have been contemplating and consolidating with staffs, about returning to being a normal middle school student. I feel very strongly about this, please let me quit.”
she has made this request.
However, somewhere down in my heart, I felt there was a gap between myself and the S/mileage me.I think that is one of the most important lines in the whole article. To put it simply, Saki grew tired of living the life of an idol.
In the case of someone like Aichan, most H!P fans are more understanding, citing the fact that she's (along with Gakisan) have been in Morning Musume longer than anyone in the group's long history. But, let's not forget that Saki has been a part of Hello! Project (and thus, an idol) for seven years (she joined the H!P Eggs in 2004 as one of the original members). That means that Saki has been a part of H!P for just as long as the Berikyuu members and almost as long as Morning Musume's 6th generation members. It's really easy to overlook that fact simply because she is so young, but don't discount Saki; she's a veteran to the idol business.
And what a business it is. Excuse me for being blunt for a minute, but let's face it, being an idol means living a lie (at least partially). One of the most important features of an idol - any idol - is their personality. Real or fake, they need some way of standing out in a crowd of seemingly never-ending girl groups.
Whether it's playing the role of boke, tsukkomi, or something entirely different (such as Sayumi's poison tongue character), they all have some sort of appeal to their fans. But, not all of them are completely real. Sticking with the Sayumi example, I'm sure that she actually does think she is the cutest thing in the world (and she'd be right~), but the poison tongue thing is definitely for show. Repeatedly, her fellow idols have exclaimed how nice and kind she is (look no further than Morning Musume's appearance on Mujack earlier this year) and mention that she is the complete opposite of her black-hearted TV personality.
Constantly putting on a show for fans (always smiling, showing a personality that may or may not be real, being careful to not show true weaknesses, etc) is draining on anyone; not to mention a fourteen year old girl like Saki. Is it their dream to sing, dance, act, and do all of the many other things that idols are expected to do? Sure. But that doesn't change the fact that it's not easy.
We ask (actually, demand) that the girls not fall in love or date. We must have every second of their life documented (despite H!P members/idols appearing on various TV shows, radio shows, magazines, etc, there are still many, many stalkers who obsess over their every move). And, we ask them to push their bodies to their limits (for H!P idols at least, they have a minimum of four full concert tours a year, 3-4 singles, multiple FC events, photo shoots, plays, TV/movie filming, etc) all the while juggling school in a lot of cases. Most of that is borderline inhuman, especially considering how much they actually make (we don't really know official, up-to-date numbers, but it's obvious they aren't filthy rich like virtually every American celebrity that does a lot less is).
What I'm trying to say is that I know you're all sad that she's leaving. I am too (Raffi is a living witness to this; we shed many manly tears last night). But, we should respect Saki's wishes. All too often these graduations seem suspect - like there are other, hidden reasons. However, what H!P has revealed for this particular case changes everything. They've (well, Tsunku mainly) revealed so much more than they have in the past.
Yes, there are still some questions left unanswered, but they can't (aren't) going to put everything out in the open. Some things can and should be left private - after all, that is the whole reason Saki is leaving in the first place. So, I say let her have her privacy. Let her be a normal middle school girl.
In the meantime, continue to support S/mileage as they go through a rough patch in their careers. Imagine how they feel, after being together for seven years. Don't quit on S/mileage just because Saki is leaving. They've worked so hard up to this point to debut to throw everything away. Their coming off of their highest selling single to date and although Saki will be greatly missed, there are five sub-members waiting to show what they've got. S/mileage can and will overcome Saki's graduation and has all the potential in the world to get better. They just can't do it alone. Keep supporting them in whatever way you can and cheer them on as they continue living their dreams.