In a heartfelt video address to fans on AKB48’s official YouTube channel unveiled today, Atsuko Maeda announced that she will be withdrawing from the AKB48 Senbatsu elections this year.

This announcement comes slightly over one week after Maeda shocked fans on March 25, the final day of AKB48’s Saitama Super Arena concert, by announcing that she will be graduating from the pop idol group soon. No concrete reasons have yet been given with regards to why she decided to leave.

However, in the YouTube video, Maeda – or Acchan, as fans affectionately call her – does talk a little about her decision. Maeda says that she’s had thoughts about leaving since quite a while back. Naturally, she couldn’t really tell the other members in the group, but she did consult with Team A captain Minami Takahashi, other Team A members, and AKB48 producer Yasushi Akimoto.

“At the time, all the talk felt incredibly unreal… if I didn’t have AKB48 in my life, what else is left? All of it made me feel very queasy,” Maeda said.

A member who’s been with AKB48 since the very beginning, Maeda goes on to reminisce on the idol group’s accomplishments over the years. Winning the Japan Record Award (for the single “Flying Get”). Announcing their first Tokyo Dome concert (to be held later this year). Being invited to perform on NHK’s end-of-year music program, the Kouhaku Utagassen, for the very first time.  These were all once nothing more than mere hopes and dreams the AKB48 members held. But now that these dreams have turned into reality, Maeda says that she feels like it’s time for her to move on to the next phase in her life.

Maeda also mentions that the date for her graduation has not yet been decided. In the meantime, she will withdraw from the upcoming AKB48 Senbatsu elections, to be held on June 6 – putting to rest fan speculation that the AKB48 star might graduate before the elections.

The actual graduation date will be one with delicate timing, with input from various relevant parties.

“I’m sorry [about withdrawing from the AKB48 elections, and the sudden graduation announcement]. I really wanted to convey my apologies to fans myself, and so we arranged for this little video here, as an avenue for me to do so.

“Although I won’t be an AKB48 member for much longer, after my graduation, yoroshiku onegaishimasu. I would be incredibly humbled if my fans would continue to support me. And, above all else, please continue to support AKB48.”

泣かないで、あっちゃん! Don’t cry, Acchan!

 

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