This is an interview of the two new AKB48 captains, Okabe Rin and Takahashi Juri that appeared on the May 2018 issue of EX Taishu.
The teams are reset: The new captains’ ideal AKB48
New Team A Captain – Okabe Rin
Born on 7 November 1996 in Ibaraki Prefecture. Debuted as a member of Team 8 in 2014. Her skill is demonstrated in her work as Team 8’s illustrator. First appeared in AKB48’s single senbatsu in 2017. Acts as Team A’s captain starting this spring.
New Team B Captain – Takahashi Juri
Born on 3 October 1997 in Ibaraki Prefecture. A 12th Generation member. Promoted to Team 4 in 2012 and transferred to Team A after the dissolution of Team 4. Transferred to Team B in 2014 and then Team 4 in the following year, taking on its captaincy. Acts as Team B’s captain starting this spring.
The new team shuffle was announced at the end of last year, at the AKB48 Theatre 12th Anniversary show. The previous teams were dissolved and new teams were reinstated. As compared to previous sorrowed shuffles, this shuffle was a positive one, in order to create a new AKB48. We wish to ask the 4 captains who stand at the frontline how they will create AKB48’s future.
The type of person that worries before doing things, and the type of person who worries after.
-When did both of you start to interact with each other?
Okabe: We’ve had opportunities to work together since my first senbatsu appearance in “11gatsu no Anklet” and since then we’ve interacted a bit. Before that, we had small talk like ‘You’re that girl from Ibaraki’.
Takahashi: Rin’s image has changed a lot. At the start she seemed like the strange and mysterious kind.
Okabe: ‘Rin-chan is strange~’ is something I hear a lot (laugh).
Takahashi: But she’s a serious girl that has her own views. That’s why she became Team A’s captain.
-What are your thoughts about Juri-san?
Okabe: Before entering AKB48, I knew about her because people said “There’s this Takahashi Juri girl who’s also from Ibaraki.” She also made an impression on me on the TV show “Ariyoshi AKB Kyowakoku”.
-There was a time she was called “Messi” because of her dead eyes. (This is a pun made during the aforementioned TV show)
Okabe: Since I met her, she’s been very friendly. She’s also a lot more mature than on TV. I think she’s great at communication. It would be great if I could be like her.
Takahashi: Eh? That makes me happy! But I’m younger though. Rin-chan is my senior in life.
-What do you think about being appointed as captain?
Okabe: I was wondering if I got appointed because shuffles needed to have some surprises (laugh). I don’t know why I was chosen, and now I’m trying to find the reason along the way.
Takahashi: Rin-chan is really bright. She’s composed and also persuasive in her actions. That’s probably why she was appointed as captain. There wasn’t any explanation when I became Team 4 captain too. But we have to continue while concealing our doubts. Though in my case, it was really troubling once it all began.
-The type of person that worries before doing things, and the type of person who worries after are really different.
Okabe: Everyone thinks that the captain should be the vocal figurehead to bring everyone forward, but I think Juri-san is more suitable for that.
Takahashi: But I think that being captain of Team A and the young Team 4 is completely different. Back then, Team 4 was a group of girls who did young concerts. That’s why there was a resolve to work hard so we wouldn’t lose to the seniors.
-Are you conscious about being Team A’s captain?
Okabe: When things are going slow, like in the mornings, I’d want to sleep a bit more, but then I’ll remember “No, I’m the captain now!” and I’ll get my act together.
-Serious! Did Juri-san experience a change like that?
Takahashi: I did. Before becoming captain, if I were feeling unwell, I’d say it out and my seniors would be concerned, asking me “what happened?” But now I won’t say it out loud. I think that leaders need to be able to light the way for their companions. My outlook has changed such that even in times of adversity, it’s most important to stay positive.
-Okabe-san, what’s your attitude as a captain?
Okabe: I hope to become a captain that can be calm and objective, that can let people think “The captain can always be relied on!” When everyone is hyped up, I’ll take a step back, and when things are tough I’ll give suggestions.
-Which members in your teams pique your interest?
Okabe: Goto Moe-san. At first she treated Team 8 as her rivals. But a while back, the backstage area got smaller so she ate at the staircase, and she reserved a spot for me, shouting “Captain, there’s a space here!” Afterwards, she’d say “Captain, I’ll clean that up for you!” The rest won’t keep calling me “Captain, captain!” so our relationship is quite interesting. I’ll also answer her by saying “Yes, Goto?” (laugh)
Takahashi: For Team B, it’d be Kubo Satone. She’s really cute, and she also looks like a Team B type. But her appearance on Team K stages as a research student made quite an impression on me. She’s great at dancing and her performance ability is solid, making people want to watch her. Her foundations are built well. It’d be great if she could show it in Team B. She made it back into senbatsu this time, which is heartening.
-What about the seniors?
Takahashi: Oya (Shizuka)-san is very caring. We were in the same team during Kuramochi Team B, but we never got to talk much back then. But now that I’m 20 and can drink with her, we should be able to connect better.
Okabe: For A, I’m looking forward to Myao (Miyazaki Miho)-san. I’d like to see her talk with Yuiyui (Oguri Yui) during MC. When flustered, Yuiyui’s word choice and reactions are interesting, so I think she can bring out Yuiyui’s merits.
The atmosphere of Kumamon that can overpower Yukirin snowmen.
-Do you have any ideas for the vice-captain role?
Takahashi: I think everyone’s a vice-captain. The vice-captaincy is as special as the captaincy, so I hope everyone can take on that role. I hope everyone can feel that they are building up the team. It’s because everyone has something that is unique to them, and everyone meets different challenges, so I hope everyone can build such a connection.
Okabe: For me, I’d pick Myao-san. She’s the oldest senior in the team, and someone who has seen the ups and downs in AKB48, so I’m curious to know what she usually thinks. I think if it’s Myao-san, she has the answers to any problem. If there’s a vice-captain position it’d be a lot easier to discuss with her. I’d like to know her strategy.
-I wonder how far she has thought about things.
Okabe: Even if she can’t help me, I think she can strengthen my spirit. With her around I feel at ease, and she’s the person I’d like to talk to the most.
-What would you do in times of difficulty?
Takahashi: I’ll consult Yukirin (Kashiwagi Yuki). She has experience and also knows how to treat fans. There have been a lot of things that I’ve decided to do because of Yukirin’s support, and I’ve learnt a lot.
Okabe: At the concert a while back, when I had to choose songs, staff members who have been with AKB48 for the longest of times gave me their opinions. I usually keep my opinions, consult others, then make a holistic decision to pick songs that can satisfy all.
-As captains, what would you do if there are girls that seem troubled?
Takahashi: Previously I would talk to them immediately. But there are girls who want to get by with their own capabilities, so now I would observe her from the sidelines, so they can become stronger.
Okabe: But I won’t want to let go of her like that. Because there are a lot of times when Team 8 and 16th Generation members can’t solve problems solely by themselves.
Takahashi: So I hope to become a more cheerful person. If people thought I was scary, they wouldn’t consult me.
Okabe: Juri-san is really easy to talk to.
Takahashi: Really? I’m so happy!
-In the previous issue, the manager said that AKB48 requires more “hako” fans, what do you think?
Okabe: Shouldn’t we treat “member fans = AKB48 Group hako fans”?
Takahashi: But there are a lot of competitive activities, so it’s probably impossible to do that.
-Even with the General Election, sister groups have “hako” fans don’t they?
Okabe: I think there’s no real concern about “hako” fans, since I think it’s about the AKB48 style.
Takahashi: But I was really shocked when I went from Team B to Team 4. There are a lot of Team 4 fans and they were really full of energy. I learnt about the advantages of a team from Team 4.
-Indeed, Team 4 fans are very enthusiastic.
Takahashi: It feels like Team B is being carried by “Yukirin Snowmen”.
-There are a lot of Yuki-san’s fans.
Takahashi: Previously there still was (Watanabe) Mayu-san. But it’s not that we want to rely on Yukirin-san. For example, we’d like to actively gain the attention of those who only have Yukirin-san in their eyes.
-It would be great if they could switch from single-fans to hako fans.
Okabe: I’m coming here as a Team 8 member, so I can feel the difference in the fans’ enthusiasm when working as a Team A member.
-Team 8 fans are very passionate! It would be nice if that passion could influence the other teams’ fans.
Takahashi: Indeed, Kuranoo (Narumi)-chan’s fans at the Thumbnail show were amazing. They were holding Kumamon toys and could overpower the Yukirin snowmen in atmosphere.
-Then, please make a statement about your aspirations as captains.
Okabe: I want the image of Team A to be like when I was still a fan, where Team A held the aces and was the flagship team, the team that always piqued the interest of fans. I want it to be the pioneer team that makes people think “If there’s a Team A performance, I’m definitely going!”
Takahashi: Though I think Team B has a cute little sister image, but Shiichan (Oya Shizuka) has come back and Chori (Nakanishi Chiyori) has come as well. I hope we won’t be limited to that image and let everyone show their talents. But we’ll have to work harder in terms of performance. We have to show people a gap in expectation, that even Team B can be this flashy!