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Marriage, Graduation Announcements Overshadow Idol Rino Sashihara's 3rd AKB48 Election Win

posted on by Jennifer Sherman

The 9th annual AKB48 Senbatsu Election featured an unprecedented announcement this year. The event to reveal the vote count was held at the Tomigusuku Municipal Central Community Center in Okinawa on Saturday. Ririka Sutō, a 20-year-old member of the NMB48 idol group, announced that she is getting married. Sutō ranked 20th in the election.

Sutō said, "I fell in love with someone for the first time." She looked nervous and fumbled her words as she announced her marriage. She repeated herself to emphasize that she was serious. The announcement shocked the event's host and staff members, as well as Sutō's fellow idols who attended the event. Sutō's partner is rumored to be a medical professional. The idol was seen going in and out of his Tokyo apartment earlier this month.

The announcement was a bombshell because Japan's idols are generally prohibited from dating or marrying. They are supposed to portray ideal maidens that fans could perhaps imagine having relationships with. Sutō will likely leave NMB48, but she may be able to continue working in the entertainment industry as an unprecedented "married idol."

Sutō's announcement was not the only revelation at the event. Mayu Watanabe, who ranked at #2, announced that she is retiring from AKB48. After thanking fans, she said, "I have something I want to tell everyone in the country. I, Mayu Watanabe, am graduating from AKB48. I will go out into the outside world after this, and I plan to make a fresh start from scratch." Watanabe and some of her fellow idols broke into tears at the announcement.

Continuing her winning streak, AKB48 sister group HKT48 member Rino Sashihara ranked #1 for the third consecutive year in the annual election.

"I'm really happy!" Sashihara said of her win. "I think it's from having confidence in myself little by little, being able to repay my parents, and everyone making me #1." She also thanked fans for their support.

The AKB48 Senbatsu Election determines which member of AKB48 and its associated groups sings the next single, which will be the 49th single for this election. The election first selected 80 members from a general pool of 322 candidates. Fan voting began on May 30. The idols who ranked in the top 16 in the election will perform the upcoming single, which will ship on August 30.

Here are the top 10 members in this year's election:

  1. Rino Sashihara (HKT48-H, STU48; 246,376 votes)
  2. Mayu Watanabe (AKB48-B; 149,132)
  3. Jurina Matsui (SKE48-S; 113,615)
  4. Sakura Miyawaki (HKT48-KIV, AKB48-A; 82,803)
  5. Yuka Okino (NGT48-NIII; 73,368)
  6. Akari Suda (SKE48-E; 63,124)
  7. Yui Yokoyama (AKB48-A; 58,314)
  8. Sarina Sōda (SKE48-KII; 52,475)
  9. Nana Okada (AKB48-4, STU48; 48,143)
  10. Rie Kitahara (NGT48-NIII; 45,684)

The top three idols retained their ranks from last year. Miyawaki and Suda also ranked in the top 10 last year.

Sashihara also participated as the producer in a voice actress idol competition on April 29.

Sources: Nikkan Sports, Oricon (link 2) via Yaraon! (link 2), Otakomu, Hachima Kikō

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