From Chuo Dori...
A couple of months back Melos from the blog MELOS no Michi asked me to do an entry for his "getting to know your idols" series. Specifically he asked me to do a writeup on Iwasa Misaki. I fretted over how I was going to do this piece for a few weeks before finally delving into it. In the meantime, Melos has had very little time to devote to blogging, so the article just sat there...
Instead of wasting the effort I put into the post, Melos decided I should just put it on my own blog. So here goes!
Iwasa Misaki AKA Wasamin!!!
Name: Iwasa Misaki (岩佐美咲)
Nickname: Wasamin (わさみん)
Birthdate: January 30th, 1995
Birthplace: Chiba, Japan
Singles Participated In
Hikoukigumo (Theater Girls)
B4: Kuchi Utsushi no Chocolate (RS Stage Ver.)
H2: Tonari no Banana (Revival)
Iwasa Misaki (aka Wasamin) debuted with AKB48 in early 2009. She was only 13-years old at the time. But unlike some members she wasn't exactly new to the entertainment world. She had been previously trained at Hajima Vocal Academy in Tokyo, which explains her above-average singing abilities. But I will get to that later. She is a bit tough to write about from a historical perspective because at this point she has never been a member of a core team. That will finally change when she makes her debut as a Team A member this summer. But just because Wasamin doesn't have a long history with the group doesn't mean she hasn't earned her placing as my favorite member of AKB48. So what is it about this 15-year old 7th generation kenkyuusei that I find so fascinating?
This post is really about "getting to know" Wasamin through my eyes. And the good news is she and I have had the chance to meet multiple times over the last year.
Wasamin came to my attention last May during a Team K show. That weekend they were filming the PV for "Namida Surprise", so there were many Kenkyuusei subbing for the regular members. It was the first time I noticed this adorable girl with the purest of smiles. Who was she? I knew she was an RS. But since I really didn't pay attention to the trainees beyond Ishida Haruka (who charmed me in much the same way) I had no idea who she was. All I knew was that she danced with tons of enthusiasm and was totally attentive to her teammates during MCs. Oh, and that adorable smile.
I returned to my hotel and immediately went online to find out who she was. I had her face embedded in my brain, so it was easy to pick her out of the member list. Her name was Iwasa Misaki, and she was 14-years old. FOURTEEN??? I swear she carried herself on stage as if she was at least 16 or 17. This was dangerous territory for me. I am older than your average idol fan, and to get an idea of the type of idol I like my AKB48 oshimen in Ohori Megumi. I am also a big fan of former H!P member Kago Ai and Erika Yazawa from Idoling!!! If you aren't sure who she is, look her up. You'll get the idea of what I am talking about. Becoming a huge fan of a young fresh-faced idol was a little bit out of my comfort zone. So I kinda "backburnered" her for a while. But I never forgot...
Flash forward to the Fall of 2009. AKB48 had announced their participation at the New York Anime Festival. While I debated whether or not to go I scanned the list of members who would be in attendance. None of my favorites were there. I finally resolved to make the trip. But if I was going I needed someone to root for. Then I saw a familiar name at the bottom of the list. Iwasa Misaki...She was going to New York City! That's who I'm going to root for! If none of my favorite members were going to be there, Wasamin would become my Oshimen for the weekend. I wasn't alone in that plan either, as my friend Yumestarlet (from Stage48) also had the same idea. So the good news was Wasamin would have at least two fans cheering her on in New York.
And cheer we did! Yumestarlet even brought signs. We called her name as she walked through the Javitz Center, and we cheered for her at Webster Hall. The best part was that she noticed, leading to my first ever interaction with her. At the end of the show she kneeled down and thanked me for cheering for her. That was it, the golden moment where I fell in love with her!
It was about this time that they announced the cast for AKB48's upcoming play "Infinity". I think most people were surprised by some of the cast selections. This was their first real play, and many of the Senbatsu members weren't going to be part of it. Beyond the main characters, the cast was largely populated by lower ranked members and Kenkyuusei. There has never been any mention of the casting strategy that I know of. But I would imagine that they were picked based on acting talent and stage presence. For Wasamin, it would be the first time she would get to showcase all of her talents on a big stage. For those of you who have seen it you know what I am talking about. Beyond the two main players, her part was pretty much the biggest among the supporting characters. Not only did she play a very strong character with great intensity, she got to sing lead on Tomo Yo AND dance out front in many scenes. It was the scuttlebutt I heard all over the AKB48 Theater that week. "Wasamin is sensational in the new play!" Needless to say she exceeded all of my expectations when I finally got to see the show. I was so happy for her! So when we got to meet a member of the cast after the performance, naturally she was my first pick. Which was really saying something since some of my favorite members WERE in the cast as well. But I passed them up for Wasamin. When I got to the front of the line she was one of the few with nobody in front of her. She glanced at me out of the corner of her eye, fully expecting me to pass her up. But I stopped in front of her and growled her name...WASAMIN!!! At first she looked surprised that I picked her. But as she handed me her photo and thanked me she suddenly gave me a different look...
My heart jumped into my throat when I saw that look of recognition on her face. She remembered me from New York! The funny thing is she might have been as thrilled as I was. Obviously she isn't as popular as many of the other girls, and to have a foreign fan pick her as the girl to meet must have been a pleasant surprise. And since I cheered for her in New York she knew I was really a fan and not someone who randomly chose her.
By the way, at this point the team shuffles had already been announced. So we knew that Wasamin was going to be promoted to Team A. If you watch the final Budokan DVD, you may have noticed that she showed no happiness or celebration when they announced her name. To me it is a testament to her maturity, which is why I have mentioned her age so many times in this article. She realized the gravity of the situation around her, and was consciencious enough not to celebrate while so many of her teammates were in obvious distress. Wasamin carries herself with a maturity far beyond her years.
Singing, dancing, acting and the quintessential "girl next door". Oh, and she is drop dead adorable too! She is a "five-tool" idol, and people in the right places are beginning to notice. Not only was she recently cast in a play outside of AKB48, it was announced at Yokohama Arena that Wasamin was recruited by Ogie Productions. That is one of the big talent stables in Japan, and most of the AKB48 girls they promote are really popular. Not only that, she was chosen for one of the shuffle units the first night of the Yokohama shows. She wasn't the lead girl, but she did a great dance solo in the middle of Renai Kinshi Jourei.
Plays, Promotions, a genuine talent. This girl has it made right? RIGHT???
This is the "WTF" portion of the post, as the recent AKB48 MIXI rankings revealed that Wasamin is ranked 55th in popularity by Japanese fans. 55th??? There are only 48 members on the core teams. So that means even many of the 9th generation kenkyuusei are more popular at this point. I know MIXI isn't the "end all be all" for measuring the members, but it is a fairly accurate gauge of the girls' popularity. And as far as the local fans voting her that low? I'm sorry, but those fans must not know their asses from their elbows. I'm not expecting her to be Senbatsu, but come on! Usually the girls this low are there because the consensus generally "dislikes" them. And it baffles me how she could be so unpopular. If they could only meet the girl who last month beamed at me and said "I am sooo happy to see you again" at the 2-shot event they would know what an awesome idol she really is. And oh yeah...She remembered me...again!
Later on we saw her walking backstage toward the break area. I caught her eye and that beaming smile immediately returned. She smiled and waved to me all the way back to the curtain. It was enough for my friends around me to say. "I think she wants to jump in your suitcase and go home with you!" (hahaha)
Are you beginning to understand why I adore her so much?
Perhaps it is the fact that she hasn't been featured on any of AKB48's television shows. I don't remember ever seeing her on AKBingo! before, and I think her recent appearance on Shukan AKB was her debut. Surprisingly, most of the fans in Japan have never been to the theater, and only know the girls from the singles and t.v. programs. So in the future I hope she gets featured more on TV. If you look at her history, it seems as if the management does think highly of her. So I hope the future holds more tv appearances.
Wasamin needs a pie in the face, STAT!
It is almost two months until the debut of the new Team A's 6th stage. I'm sure Wasamin is already training hard for that fateful day. Her debut as a core team member of AKB48. She will be competing for attention with some major players in AKB. But I know Wasamin, or as I like to call her..."Awesomin". I am confident she will find her niche and shine on her new team. And after she does finally become a popular member, I am sure she will still remember her American fan because she is just "that kind of girl".
CK in California