With only a week away from the MNL48 2nd General Election, emotions will surely be running high as the members and candidates will try to rally their supporters for a last-minute push for votes. After a week of emotional turmoil due to some leaked private conversations of two candidates producing another storm over in Twitter, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that things might become a little crazier down the stretch.
Indeed, with the stakes this ridiculously (and needlessly) high, all bets are off to secure at least the spot in the Top 48, much less the senbatsu. Fans are probably scraping up the last peso in their wallets to secure more voting tickets and ensure their oshimen stays in.
But aside from the financial toll this exercise is wreaking on the fans, there is surely the emotional side that is no less important. Every fan is fearful that their oshimen might get cut, but the members must be worried sick too, after all, this is their future that is at stake.
When you have something on your mind that is giving you stress and anxiety, it is extremely hard to focus. Imagine yourself a member, spending sleepless nights worrying if everything is going to end within a week. Think about the things you’ve been through, the memories you shared with that member snoring in the other bed. Memories flashing of the first day you came to the apartment block they call “Mansion”, of that brutal first months of training.
You think of your first stage performance, the first time the fans cheered your name, the first time someone walked up your handshake lane. You remember the feeling of seeing people tagging your official account on social media, saying they bought a complete set of your photo-cards. You may also remember how happy it must have felt that you and your team sold out all the available albums in a mall show.
And ultimately, you will remember the people you’ve been with, the same people you became close with, or who got into your nerves. You remember how you all adjusted with each other and the lifestyle imposed on you. You remember those mornings when your body hurts so much that you can’t move, but the bell is ringing downstairs waking you all up.
Like any soldier on the battlefield, it really becomes less about the politics and more about the person beside you. When loneliness, homesickness, despair, and frustration sets in, it is these girls who will be the first one on your side. Living in a community means that you are part of a whole that heals itself when wounded. Chemistry and morale being very important when you are all taken from your respective comfort zones to be formed for a job that requires much inner strength and determination.
Being an idol isn’t for everyone, but that statement usually does not account for whether the girl wants to be one anyway. Sometimes, a girl realizes that she can make a bigger impact in the hearts of her fans as an idol rather than just another pretty face or powerful voice on TV. Something as simple as smiling and saying “hi” can be powerful enough to wipe away whatever it is the fans are going through. When something as simple as a smile can become precious in the hearts of the fans, you might want to stop and think that despite the hardships you are going through, there is still hope out there, somewhere, that things might turn out right.
True, a simple gesture by an idol seems incongruent to a concept as deep as “hope”, but the very idea of an “idol” itself is fantasy based anyway. The idol culture is one profit-driven cash venture that promotes a perfect world where the fields are covered with lilies while you sleep on a bed of roses. It is hardly realistic, and given the amount of money the fans spend, neither is it really practical.
But I would deign to suppose that if there is something positive that can be had from the experience, then why not? If these idols manage to inspire the fans into an optimistic state of mind, then its maybe there is something inherently good in it, after all. Even allowing for the fact that there are many things about idols and the general idol culture that are less than savory, their raison d’etre is giving the fans the happiness that we think we deserve, however temporary.
If a simple smile can give me hope, can I then suppose that idols – especially MNL48 – are more than the sum of its corporate parts? If even an anti-management fan declares his love for MNL48 despite whatever it is the management throws at them and the fans, wouldn’t it mean that for the members at least, they have managed to accomplish far more than they ever thought they could?
Each one of us longs for a meaningful, hope-filled fandom. Even though we all have our own oshimen, I would like to think that we are all united in our love and concern for these girls. We feel protective of them, because they mean so much to us. Scrutinizing newbies for their behavior is as much sizing up their “market value” as it is ensuring that they do not bring headaches to whoever will be left of the first generation.
This bond between MNL48 and its fans is the legacy that will be left behind by the First Generation. It is a bond that allowed us to accomplish things we did not think we could. I may have skipped the last two seitansai, but I have been to every single one before that. And I did it because I wanted to support these girls. I wanted to be there to see them grow. The first generation may end on April 27, but their legend will live in the hearts of their fans.
And boy, did I watch them grow! That is the reason why the concert felt so sweet: MNL48’s redemption, I felt, was finally complete. They may still not have mainstream success, but for the moment, they have us. If you weren’t there on their first event (MNL48 First Fan Meet), you wouldn’t be able to tell the progress. The seats in Movie Stars Cafe were half-empty during the very first seitansai, now they’re almost full.
No one knows what will happen in a week’s time. But I am certain in my belief that MNL48’s first generation did their job extremely well. The bonds we have forged with them means they will live on as long as MNL48 endures. They came, they saw, and they conquered our hearts.