So AKB48 member Minegishi Minami (峯岸みなみ or みぃちゃん) spent the night at a guy's house, got caught, and, in a fit of panic while waiting for the axe to fall, shaved her fucking head. All right, this story is way old now, but since she's my favourite, I thought I should weigh in just a bit.
So first of all, can I just come out and say the no-dating rule itself is complete bullshit. I get it, I understand it's there because fans would go suicidal with jealousy if their favourite girl became sexually unavailable to them (not that they ever were), because the entire AKB brand is, after all, a wish-fulfillment fantasyland before all else. But you gotta admit it's a touch unreasonable, and also naiive, to expect these girls to refrain from any and all romantic and sexual affiliation for the years and years that they spend with the group. Certainly not in the prime of their youth. What the fuck are they gonna do, les out their whole careers?
(Side-note: They totally do, though. No, not maybe, not probably. They do. That many hot girls locked up with nobody but their producers and each other for company for days and weeks at a time? Get fucking real. Somewhere in Japan, or wherever they're touring, they could be having a six-girl orgy right now. You're welcome.)
Look, anybody who really “loves” these girls would be thrilled to see them develop romantic connections and pursuing their own human happiness. Fuck knows it's all they're gonna have when they get graduated, since they've spent their high school and university years getting what I imagine is only a bare minimum of education, developing skills that are useful for only one job – a job that's not particularly kind to women past the age of about 25, by the way. Hamasaki Ayumi is an exception; go ahead and tell me what ever happened to Yaida Hitomi. You've probably never even heard of her. But, ok. Crazy stalker fans. Transmuting the male gaze into gold bullion. Can't argue with results.
At the same time, nobody forced them to sign their contracts. They wanted to be idols, and that carries a certain opportunity cost. They knew the rules and agreed to them of their own free will. In that respect, the company had every right to demote her. She should be so lucky; I remember one member, a few years back, got expelled outright just for being photographed in public with a boy. Minami's merely being kicked down to kenkyuusei. My understanding is that she caught a little lenience since she's one of the original members. I'm not sure if this means that she'll eventually be in contention to re-join the main group as a full-fledged member, however, although obviously I certainly hope so. But it definitely won't happen if she's anything less than exemplary in both conduct and professional performance for the next year, minimum, and it's possible that she may be pressured to resign of her own accord.
When I first heard the news, my reaction was, in order:
1. Holy fuck, she's ugly now
2. Is this faked? Am I accidentally reading The Onion?
3. It's going to be awfully embarrassing to tell people she's my favourite from now on
4. At least I still have Miyazaki
And it wasn't until later that I realised how incredibly crass that was.
She was maybe a little bit stupid in spending the night at that guy's house, and she was definitely stupid in getting caught. (Not that she was exactly capable of blending into a crowd, even before her new look.) But let's have a little sympathy. We all have stories of alarmingly stupid shit we've done, and again, the no-dating rule – total bullshit.
I immediately thought that I should start lying about her being my favourite. Just to avoid the ensuing conversation – you like the crazy weirdo one who shaved her head? But I'm not gonna do that. I mean, I'm just some prick on the Internet, she'll never read this, she'll never hear me say it, but she needs fan support now more than ever. So go ahead and throw your lot in with Minami. If you liked her before, don't stop. And if you always had something against her, maybe don't amp up the Schadenfreude or spend too much time vilifying her on Facebook or anything, because she's a bright young person who made a mistake and you know nothing about her.
And maybe one day we'll see her get back to this: