Testimonium Kaede


As a child, reaching the age of majority seemed such an achievement. As a kid living under a strict mom with clearly defined household rules made me long for the day when my voice will be heard, when decisions would have to be made in consultation with me. Roughly twenty six years later, I realized that the whole “age of majority” thing was overrated, and now I’m craving for the opposite: leave me alone to sleep in my bed. Don’t bother me with the bills. What bills? What due date?

What is more, the mental and emotional demands of being an adult can take quite a toll. Your problems no longer go away when you hide under your blanket or call for mom to bail you out. At least, that’s the idea. But there are people who, it seems, are very much capable of being a “grown up”.

By the time this article is published, MNL48 Kay has finally turned twenty years old: the “age of majority” for Japanese citizens. For Japanese, reaching twenty years of age seems to be quite a big deal. They even have a whole holiday dedicated to it in January (seijin-shiki), which I expect Kay will attend in Japan.

I can never really be certain what she actually feels about her own coming-of-age. Obviously, I’m not afforded the opportunity to speak to her, and so I can’t really take a measure of her as a person myself and instead would have to rely on drips of information that may or may not have been filtered. But even those small tidbits of info are enough to convince me that Kay wouldn’t have any problems shedding the role of “teenager” and embracing adulthood. If those stories I’ve heard were even half-true, then she already had a head-start, already fulfilling responsibilities that people twice her age have a hard time figuring out.

As her fan, I know her hard-work, appreciate it, and admire it. It is ultimately a thankless job, as she is rarely given official recognition for all those late nights spent fixing a translation, or putting together Team L’s performances. I don’t even think she got any credit for helping her fellow members out with pro-bono Japanese lessons, despite it not being her job in the first place. People appreciate her and her efforts, but she’s not really getting anything out of them.

Other people may argue that her presence in all non-election single senbatsu line-up is proof that her efforts are being rewarded. To be fair, I am quite happy that she is included, and I am happy that she has made a mark in MNL48’s biggest singles in her own way. It’s just that in a way it feels somewhat hollow, because her position usually hovers somewhere in the 14 to 16 range. In other words, she’s at the tail-end of the senbatsu line-up, likely placed there as a half-hearted token of gratitude. Hardly anything to write-home about, if rankings matter to you.

But that’s what I love about her. Despite whatever it is she’s feeling about her situation, Kay does her job to the best of her ability. No fanfare, no drama. At least none that we’ve ever heard of. The fans might crowd at the cute ones, the fishers, the stunningly beautiful, or the charismatic members, but this is what I am looking for in an idol. This is what resonates in me, more than the fishing, the kawaii poses, and the endless flexing to get noticed.

Kay is a natural leader, she puts her team above her first. It doesn’t matter if she’s in the middle of a vacation, if her team needed her advice, she’ll more than happy to take up the phone. That is something I’m not sure I can do myself. I would probably be throwing the phone the minute my colleagues try to contact me.

And the results are there to see: Team L is arguably the strongest team in MNL48 in terms of cohesiveness and team-work. Its current state is a testament to all the hard-work she and the rest of the team have put in. Why does it matter that her contributions to the Seikimatsu Blue film aren’t properly being credited? As long as Team L is going strong, I’d take that as a much better tribute to her over some forced praise from her management and some peers.

But sometimes, I do wish she gets the praise she deserves. She’s only human, and the lack of recognition is bound to get into her psyche. When I see the eyebags she sometimes has, I always wonder if she’s given ample time to rest. And when you hear their management exclaim to her mother that Kay’s weight increased, I sometimes wonder if they’re even being fed right at all.

But still, Kay will be soldiering on, despite the sleepless nights, despite the high expectations and relatively low reward. That’s just who she is, and that’s why I love her for it.