This is my journey in getting interested in AKB and how they helped save me. It’s a little long, so please feel free to skip it. But please know that if you ever feel depressed or anxious and unable to keep going, that there is hope. And I found this hope in AKB.
Like most people, my first exposure to AKB was through the Heavy Rotation video. Someone on an LJ community I kept up with posted it as an example of “typical J-pop misogyny at its finest.” And I won’t lie— I was pretty put off. I thought the whole group must be weird as fuck if this was the kind of stuff they were releasing.
But then Majisuka Gakuen came along. I didn’t like it the first time I watched the first episode. But I gave it another shot and fell in love. I watched the first season within a couple of days and quickly moved on to the second. But I wanted more. I looked up more videos of AKB and felt immediately discouraged. There was something about them that made me feel uncomfortable— their image was completely different from what I had seen in Majisuka Gakuen and I felt like a pervert watching their videos, even if they were not specifially fetish-y like Heavy Rotation. But I loved MajiGakuen so much that I couldn’t give up there.
I powered through their videos to find one I finally liked: Flying Get. I joined Stage48 to get to know more about the group and quickly realized I was in over my head. 48 members? 600+ songs? And to top it off, I felt still felt like a pervert being interested in the group. Despite being a girl about the same age as maybe half of them them, I felt a deep sense of shame for being interested in what I assumed was meant for middle aged creepers who were exclusively men (I guess this is the part where I should probably mention I am pretty gay— like 97%. Obviously this didn’t help my shame).
I gave up on their music for a while once I realized I was in it for the personalities. I wanted to see these girls beyond their MajiGaku counterparts. I wanted to see the girls I had heard about on Stage48 and get to know them in a way that didn’t feel creepy to me. So I sought out AKBingo and became enthralled. I loved Shoujiki Shougi and the Danso segments, and I quickly grew to recognize most of the girls and to love them. I got over feeling creepy, and started watching their music videos and stages in earnest. I’m now one of those fans that has a strong opinion about all of the members whose names I recognize (which is—and maybe I should be embarrassed about this, but I’m not—most of them).
It’s amazing how much AKB has come to mean to me. Reading 48shadesofgay’s post reminded me of this and inspired me to share it. This is kind of long, so admittedly it”s mostly for my own benefit so I can look back and remember what AKB was (and will always be) to me.
I got into AKB when I was deeply depressed and had life-altering panic attacks. It would be a bit of a stretch to say that AKB saved me from that, but at that time in my life they were without a doubt essential in motivating me to keep living. I had just started my first year at university, and went from having lots of friends to none. I felt isolated and alone, and spent my days going to class and retreating to my room to have a panic attack and down excessive amounts of Nyquil.
Watching them and listening to their music didn’t just give me something to pass the time with. It gave me indescribable hope. In a time when I wanted so desperately to die, when I would pass each day going to sleep and saying “just wait this out until tomorrow,” AKB was a light at the end of the tunnel. Listening to their music, I felt that maybe there was happiness to be found somewhere, and that all I needed to do was hang in there. I looked up to Matsui Jurina for perservering through her difficult rise to fame at eleven and through her mysterious illness. I looked up to Takamina for her leadership and her attitude that hard work will always produce results. I felt certain that if I had that confidence, I would make it. I worked hard to build it and to recover from the panic attacks that plagued me every day. And when I saw her help Acchan through hyperventilating on stage, it gave me an indescribable sense of calm. Whenever I had a panic attack, I imagined her helping me breathe like she helped Acchan, helping me find the rhythm of my breath and restablize it. It may sound stupid, but it was one of the most comforting images for me.
I watched these girls go through countless hardships. Scandals, the elections, difficult work conditions… and yet through it all they kept smiling. They kept dancing and singing and working towards their dream without complaint.
I’ve since transferred universities and am now lucky to have plenty of wonderful friends. I am no longer depressed, and I no longer have panic attacks. I am incredibly happy, and my relationship with AKB is significantly more stable. I don’t have to rely on them anymore for my happiness, because they gave me the strength to get through my sadness already. I still find endless inspiration in AKB, but I am able to enjoy them on an emotionally intense level that does not involve necessity. I will never forget the year of hell that they got me through. And, of course, happy as I may be, I will still cry whenever I watch their elections or documentaries.