To sum up the announcement that I’m sure you’ve all read by now: she’s graduating at the end of the Spring tour to eventually work in “welfare”. It’s unclear if she means social work exactly, but based on her inspiration for the decision (the Satouyama things), it’s probably something humanitarian.
It’s the usual “did my best”, “thought long and hard about this decision”, “please support me” and so forth.
Bro and I were watching Shige’s last Music Station performance the other day (a pitifully short clip) and afterwards he sighed mournfully, like seeing her was painful. I teased him until he reminded me that she didn’t just graduate, she left show business altogether (“It’s over after graduation.”). Zukki is doing the same thing.
In a sense, it’s way too real.
When Yossy graduated, it didn’t feel quite like this. Zukki has always been dear to me, but absolutely no one has even come close to Yossy. When she left it was more than sadness, but almost a sense of panic. Like, “what will I DO?”, even though I knew that I wasn’t going to leave the fandom and I wasn’t invested ONLY in Yossy. I also knew she wasn’t leaving entertainment and therefore wasn’t falling off the face of the earth.
But I still felt a fluttery panic at the thought of a Momusu without her.
My love for Yossy is more of an infatuation, with a healthy dose of admiration. We share the same birthday. She’s the one who got me so invested in Momusu that I started this blog. I could never shake her hand, look her in the eyes and tell her that her smile is the best, like I did with Zukki. I wouldn’t be able to speak to Yossy, let alone stop crying, or actually go anywhere near her. I would be more than satisfied just being in the same room.
(I’m making myself sound crazy here, but please stay with me.)
In New York, I felt complete exhilaration and terror when standing in line for the hand-shake. Zukki was the only one I was able to speak to with any coherence because her bright, warm smile made me feel a sort of comfort, like it’s ok to say something because she’ll probably appreciate it. I was able to tell her that her smile is the best and she said thank you (in English) and “I love you”. And then we laughed.
I couldn’t have had that moment with Yossy because to me, she is larger than life. Zukki feels real in a way that Yossy never could, even if I did meet her and manage to not make an idiot of myself (impossible). I’m sure Yossy is gracious with fans, or kind, or laid-back and freakin’ amazing-
My reaction to her means that she’ll always be on her pedestal. Zukki leaving feels like saying good bye to a friend. I’m not panicking, I’m just sad. I’m never going to see her again.
As with any graduation, there’s a bunch of theories as to why now. Some are quite dramatic, like the one about the agency forcing her out. Yes, they FORGED that announcement and FORCED her to say it and she’s being (essentially) FIRED because they are malicious BASTARDS!!
Well, if they were going to invent a reason to “fire” her, they probably would have already done so. I’m sure they could have tried to ease her out when she was injured (hence the Miyamoto nonsense) under the guise of “consequences”, but that didn’t happen. And really, what has she ever done, aside from get injured, to warrant a dismissal? Be pocchari? Give me a break.
There’s also the Riho theory: now that Zukkiri has broken up and Ace has left the group, Zukki can no longer continue. I mean, look how sad and not-into-it she looked in the last triple-a-side! She’s always followed Riho and without her, she doesn’t know what else to do. Maybe she even wanted to leave when Riho did, but they weren’t allowed to graduate together. Those bastards had to get an audition in order first.
I would love to believe my Zukkiri were close, but I really don’t think Zukki is unable to function without Riho. And while I’m sure someone from the agency looked over her words, I very much doubt that they forced her to say them.
As fans, it’s almost cathartic to speculate and to take out our sadness on “the agency” or whomever, but the fact is, we’ll never really know. My immediate thought was that she just hasn’t seemed the same since the ‘rebound’ stuff. I don’t know if that was the last straw, but perhaps she’s simply had enough of being the chubby one in her group and of the criticism following the inevitable failure of her diet.
[Mini Rant: I say inevitable because diets will never work long-term. For anyone. It doesn’t matter about willpower because once the diet “ends”, and you go back to old habits, you’ll gain all the weight back twice as fast as you lost it. That’s how the body works. You have to create good eating habits FOREVER. Period.]
(gif from ZukkiLove on tumblr)
I’ve never believed that Zukki was content with the pocchari thing, but it was really the only way to deal with being the bigger one in a group full of tiny waifs (like have you SEEN Eri-pon?? I don’t mean this as criticism at all. I’ve honestly just never seen a human being that small). It fits her genki attitude to laugh things off, or speak of them head-on the way she does. The agency asked her to keep doing the funny faces (she said as much on a variety show), even when she wanted to be a bit more mature following the entrance of her first kouhai. While she’s appeared strong throughout, it’s hard to imagine the rebound was easy to laugh off, considering when it occurred and why (in the middle of Oh my Wish and due to her eye infection).
Zukki mentioned in J-melo that “wherever” she ended up, she wanted to make people happy. She didn’t mention being in the group in the future, so perhaps she was already thinking it over before Riho’s grad.
Now we’ve got auditions again and people are referring to the “cycle” of auditions and grads and how one triggers the other. After Platinum, five years doesn’t seem that long anymore, but many have pointed out that it used to be a normal tenure. Being in the group for a decade had never happened before, even with long-time leader Iida Kaori. I doubt if that will ever happen again, especially if they keep the auditions going at the same speed.
Bro commented that the 12th gen still seem too green to be senpai, but this will give them an extra push. I suppose that’s another benefit. I actually remember feeling the same way about Zukki’s generation when the Jyukkies showed up.
Let’s get to a more optimistic theory as to why Zukki is graduating: if you look at it, she’s already climbed to the top of Momusu in only five years. Where else is there for her to go in the group, minus becoming the leader or the ace?
She will never be the ace. As much as I love her, she just doesn’t have the same kind of talent as Riho. I’m a die-hard fan and I can still admit it.
As far as being the leader, we already have a leader from her generation, Fuku-hime, who I can easily imagine will be there for at least three more years.
Tsunku has been flirting with the idea of international expansion, but it wasn’t really until 2014 or so that we started to see consistent efforts: the subtitles on every video, online advice on how to buy merchandise (which when you think about it is actually really helpful), the shows in places that aren’t Japan, the entrance of a member who can speak English fluently, etc. Zukki has consistently topped the list(s) of most beloved by the international fans. It seems normal that a long-time member like Shige would be popular, but the fact that so many people embraced Zukki is really amazing. She’s made such an impact I’ve even seen people ready to rage-quit because “there’s nobody as interesting”. This was no mystery to me, but Japan seemed continually baffled by it (hence that insipid ‘American-sized’ explanation).
Zukki hooked everybody with her audition skit (yes, she performed a skit, which no one had ever done before, as far as I remember), she kept us watching with her bubbly enthusiasm, weirdo faces and her struggles as the only member of her generation with no previous experience in performing.
(gif not mine; googled it)
Even though she was always in the back, and perhaps because she was always in the back, her dancing got better and better. Do you have any idea how much frantic running about you need to do in the back?
Let’s not forget her radio show, the time-slot taken over from Queen Shige herself. Itsudemo Kanon Smile is a great show and even though she’s had it for a short time, she’s grown into it very well. No one can replace Shige, but there’s certainly no dead-air and no over reliance on guests (like poor, nervous Oda on her ‘web-talk’).
Those of us who went to N.Y will always remember the Zukki roar, how we drowned out her intro in a perhaps rude, but inevitable show of love and support. It was one of many fantastic memories I’ll always have of that day. She was so overwhelmed and it was adorable. I saw later on J-melo she’d come in first as the favourite member of international fans, but it was no surprise after that cheer.
Yeah, I know. That did not necessarily represent the feelings of ALL non-Japanese fans, but it was still enough to baffle the Japanese news shows and make me smug. Very smug. For a “pocchari” idol who had nothing to do with the Golden Era and who hadn’t been in the group for more than five years, to be so loved internationally is not half bad.
Then Oh My Wish happened. She finally got a center position and made people take notice. Even though the weight-loss didn’t last long, at least it pulled back the veil for a moment and showed people who couldn’t see past her weight that she’s actually quite beautiful and cute and won’t shrink away when you give her a chance.
Plank like a BOSS Zuk!
Perhaps it’s the fact that she isn’t a waif, but is still as interesting and beautiful as the other members that made her feel more accessible. In person, she wasn’t doll-like, like Oda, or intimidating like Shige (seriously, she was so cute it was formidable), but just cheerful and beautiful. It was almost (not quite – because OMFG!!) easy to look her in the eyes and speak.
Non-fans are probably laughing hysterically by now, but that’s ok. You know what, you go ahead and have your fun. I understand. The Winky years were hard for me, just like the Zukki years must have really been tough for you…you know, despite how little spotlight she got for anything other than her size.
Let’s just move on with this pic of Riho (in crocks!) playing with Zukki. No I don’t know what’s going on and YES it IS delightful!
When I compare Riho’s grad to this one, it feels like this one is less about the group and more about Zukki herself. Riho posts always seemed focused on what she did for the group at the expense of her voice and who would be the next ace; it was all centered around Momusu. Zukki posts have just been about how much she was appreciated simply for being herself even though she was regulated to backup so much.
Who will be the new ace? Don’t care.
She should have had Hello Morning.
Ugh! Such a waste of a potential Ogawa-Makoto-esque performer!
(gifs not mine; googled them)
I’m not rage-quitting. At least, not yet.
But I am back to not knowing who to watch anymore.
Zukki was the closest I’ve had to a favourite member in years. I doubt her graduation will be the celebration of awesome that we hope for, but it won’t take away what she’s accomplished or what she’s meant to her fans.