It has only been 10 days since S/mileage announced the new members of the 2nd generation, Ogawa Saki made a surprise announcement that she is graduating from Hello!Project, shocking even for her teammates. Unlikely anyone would object when I say that the timing of the announcement is really unexpected and out-of-place. The official statement claims that her reason to quit is “returning to being a normal middle-school student”. However, not everyone (me included) buys that as the sole reason and feels there is something else leading to her decision. I gathered several popular theories with a few from 2ch regarding Sakichi’s reason of departure. I will examine and dissect each of their credibility, while trying to keep my rage to minimal.
Before analyzing the various theories, I want to first suggest and establish 2 crucial premises, as they will be critical in evaluating the theories later:
i. Sakichi is not leaving UFA on good terms.
With the 2nd S/mileage and the promotion/demotion system, it looks like UFA wants to turn S/mileage into something similar to Morning Musume where the line-up is consistently changing and occasionally members will graduate off. Right now, the lack of a proper graduation for Sakichi is strongly contradicting the direction UFA intends, as graduation should be a big celebration and Sakichi is the first. Let’s face it, graduations are great money-grabs, and for Sakichi to demand to leave S/mileage and H!P entirely before having a proper send-off in the coming fall tour, she must have had enough that she can’t even stand being in the agency any longer no matter how much UFA tries to ask her to stay or delay her departure. Instead of celebrating, both Sakichi and the agency has only been apologizing. To me, this is sufficient evidence that she is leaving on bad terms.
ii. Sakichi’s decision is last minute, but UFA has anticipated.
Although the announcement caught everyone off guard, we do have valid reasons to believe that UFA had prior knowledge of and had made preparations if Sakichi really was to quit. If we recall the uncomfortable moment on the last Nama Suma when Fukuda Kanon suggested that Sakichi and Katsuda Rina can become good buddies due to their similar fondness for food, Sakichi responded with an awkward silence. Very likely, “leaving UFA” was already on her mind at that time, and it is even more probable the moment Ikuta Erina replaced Ogawa Saki on Ohastar, the children morning show. When we realized how much her out-of-the-blue new haircut resembles Sakichi’s, plus the fact that she has acquired this new random talent of baton recently, it makes us suspect that Eripon was a safety valve UFA employed knowing that Sakichi may be quitting in the near future. By the time Sakichi made up her mind to quit, UFA has already anticipated it and started the damage-control.
With the premises in mind, we can then examine and evaluate a few popular theories that are being speculated around the internet and one by one judge their credibility:
1. “Normal-life theory”
Sakichi is leaving solely on her own will with the intention to return to a life of a normal school girl.
This is the official theory provided to us from UFA directly, so it should be the most credible source. Ishimura Maiha (ex-Berryz Koubou) and Murakami Megumi (ex-C-ute) both left H!P with the goal to pursue a normal life, so Sakichi isn’t the first. However, there are couple factors to hesitate us from accepting the official reason by default. First, the next school term doesn’t begin until April in Japan, so the timing is off if school is the central factor. And second, leaving for education/a normal life is a choice to be respected, even if it is regretful from a business stand point. There shouldn’t be any hard feelings between Sakichi and UFA if that really is the case, but they are in fact ending on bad terms as suggested above. “Returning to a normal life” should not be so urgent that Sakichi cannot even hang around until a proper graduation from her job. Therefore, even if this is a motive behind Sakichi’s decision, it probably isn’t the sole main reason. Essentially, there is something important that UFA isn’t letting us know and is trying to cover up with this as an excuse.
Overall likelihood: Take it with multiple grains of salt
2. “Ragequit theory”
Sakichi is leaving voluntarily to avoid certain things she cannot tolerate.
When I suggest this theory, the “certain things” I refer to is essentially the 2nd generation of S/mileage. Recounting the series of event, this theory follows perfectly. It would have originated back when Tsunku announced S/mileage 2nd generation audition at the 1 year anniversary event. Since the very moment of the announcement, Sakichi has shown more distress than any of the other 3 members. The following days, Sakichi was still obviously irritated by the whole scheme, mostly likely out of fear of changes that would essentially destroy the group’s perfect chemistry. Being the youngest in the group, I do not blame her to be visibly overstressed.
In fact, based on a presumed passion for any group member to hold, I can imagine that Sakichi and the agency got into a rather serious argument over the 2nd generation way before the audition ran far in it’s course, and I can also picture her at some point claiming that she would consider leaving the group if the results aren’t ideal to her. Perhaps she was calmed for a while before the reveal, but the results of having 5 new members into the group would have likely pushed her off the edge, particularly if her initial concern was the chemistry and bond among the original S/mileage. It is like having your mom forcefully make you guys include your sister, cousin, step-brother, neighbour’s kid and a family friend’s child into your best-friends-forever playgroup. This theory seems the most probable because it follows both premises: Sakichi left on bad-terms as she cannot tolerate the 2nd generation audition and results; UFA has noted the possibility of her departure since early on, and has utilized damage-control methods if she really decides to quit. The last minute decision indicates to me that it was based on something recent, i.e. the 2nd gen results, while the UFA preparations tells me that Sakichi’s thought to leave was rooted far back, which is the entire 2nd generation audition. To me, the timing is too perfect to be anything other than Sakichi ragequitting after the members reveal.
Overall likelihood: I would be very surprised if this is incorrect
3. “Friday’d theory”
Sakichi is leaving against her will due to certain scandalous events that forces her out of agency.
Seeing how rushed the announcement came, this is a popular theory found on 2ch. Since several ex-H!P members (Murakami Megumi, Yaguchi Mari, Fujimoto Miki, and Arihara Kanna) all left the agency in an urgent fashion due to scandals, the history causes fans to suspect that Sakichi is leaving understand similar circumstances. The easy answer regarding this theory is “time will eventually tell” as we wait for the scandal to appear. But as for now, I consider it low probability. My reason is that Sakichi’s idea of leaving UFA has sprouted for quite a while and UFA knows of it too, as established above. The reaction to a scandal would have been much more spontaneous and leave UFA no time to prepare for damage control than as they did now. In addition, we would have likely heard something by now if she was caught in a scandal, since there isn’t really a reason for a magazine to keep itself from publishing the story anyway. The lack of any news tells me that this is unlikely, though not entirely impossible. Again, only time will tell.
Overall likelihood: Low probability
4. “Demotion theory”
Sakichi is leaving voluntarily knowing that she will be soon be demoted.
Another theory generated from 2ch. It does make sense to a degree, but I don’t think this theory is all that feasible. Simply because I don’t believe that anyone from the original S/mileage would actually be demoted. H!P’s approach to promoting the girls is to make an emotional connection with the fans, and to demote a girl would be the biggest F U the management can give to the fans besides kicking the girl out. Unless Sakichi and UFA were on bad terms already, I wouldn’t picture that Sakichi (or any other members, for that matter) to ever be demoted, especially since she is still so young and talented with so much time and potential to expand her fan-base.
Nonetheless, there is one situation where demoting Sakichi might happen: the demotion system was introduced for Sakichi. For example, if Sakichi threatened UFA during 2nd generation audition that she will quit if the results aren’t ideal to her, and UFA counter-threatened Sakichi by introducing the possibility of demotion, so Sakichi was left with the choices to quit, take her words back, or be demoted. It sounds too extreme, but it would be crazy dramatic if that is actually accurate.
Overall likelihood: Doubtful (with one exceptional circumstance)
5. “Disgusted theory”
Sakichi is leaving voluntarily because she wants to leave the hell out of having to do handshakes with kimoi old guys.
Another 2ch theory, and well… there is probably some truth to this. However, it would not be more than being part of her reason, especially not with such an extraordinary timing of events. Whoever suggested it was probably trolling.
Overall likelihood: Trollololol
6. “Low Income theory”
Sakichi is leaving due being dissatisfied with her income.
This is a 2ch suggestion that we will never find out. Nonetheless, I hold doubts against it. It’s easier to imagine the mature girls like Takahashi Ai who are leaving H!P with income as a driving factor. But it’s difficult to say the same for a girl like Sakichi who is 14 and probably has her parents manage her income anyway. Being a middle-school student, we can assume that there aren’t any high-paying jobs waiting for her anyway, if any jobs at all. Then, to quit isn’t to increase end up but rather ending it completely. Not to mention, the group is still on a raise as Uchoten Love’s sales number would suggest, and she probably earns more than other S/mileage members already thanks to her daily Ohastar position. It appears to me quitting S/mileage contradicts the income reason as this theory suggests.
Overall likelihood: Highly doubtful because it makes no sense
7. “Internal Affair Theory”
Sakichi is leaving due to conflicts she’s been having with other S/mileage members.
This is another one of those 2ch theories that requires a lot more information than we could ever get to know. Words have that Sakichi is leaving the group because she and one or more members (particularly Maeda Yuuka) often get into arguments. It is possible, but the theory is rather unfounded. Over the past 7 years, they’ve came a long way to where they are now. And I strongly believe that Sakichi loves and cares about the group enough that their bond overcomes little fights, or else she wouldn’t be showing so much negative emotions when 2nd generation was first announced. Her fear to have the group’s bond broken by newcomers convinces me that she cares about S/mileage so much that there wouldn’t be internal affairs that cannot be resolved on themselves.
Overall likelihood: I wouldn’t underestimate S/mileage like that
The speculations are made with the essential factors as the main focuses while disregarding many smaller hints. There are many bits and pieces of clues that I haven’t included, and there will never be enough time and space to include all the information while not directing the speculation to move in an endless circle. For example, I decided not to cogitate into the wordings of the official announcement, as that would take me twice the length as I already have written. My analysis is obviously not definitive or authoritative in anyway, because we all lack many essential evidence that we will never see from our side of the fence. However, I hope the discussion have gathered and clarify certain scattered thoughts, and hopefully it has also shed some lights on the event from perspectives that you have never considered before.
If you have got any thoughts and ideas regarding the theories, analysis or anything else above, let me know at the comments below.