H!P Execs: "Okay, guys, how should we end the year? Low note or high?"
H!P Management: "I dunno, it's been a pretty shit year. Maybe we should go out with something positive, like, say... a beloved members return?"
H!P Execs: "Nope. She's decided to graduate."
H!P Management: "Well, fuck. Low note it is, then. Things can't get any shitter for us in 2017, at least."
H!P Execs: "Here, here." -sips bubbly champagne and hits PUBLISH on the official announcements page-
A look into the End of Year discussions at Up-Front HQ, because they gotta go big, or go home, despite the multiple nope moments they've already experienced this year.
Aikawa Maho is graduating ANGERME and Hello! Project, and no, this is not how I want to end my year. Hell, it's not even how I wanted to wake up on the final day of 2017, but, there we go. Life just doesn't cater to our desires, does it, now?
So, yeah... It was announced only recently, and though I've not seen a whole lot online about it, the few comments I have come across are heartfelt and sad. I can see that it's disappointed so many fans, regardless of which member they happen to support. However, there is also a lot of understanding as well, with fans acknowledging that this choice of Maho's is probably for the best, and I respect this. It's so nice to see the community actually respecting Maho's decision and praising her for taking herself into consideration.
You can read the official announcement here.
Of course, a lot of us know why Maho has decided to graduate. Since beginning her hiatus in January, Aikawa has been open about the fact that she suffers from panic disorder, and that she wanted to rest and recover so that she could eventually come back to perform, as well as return to everyday activities such as university and interacting with others. It's been a tough time for Maho, however, she has dedicated herself to caring for her mental and physical health, and has progressed beautifully to a point where she knows she can live a normal life once again, but has also come to understand just how her mind and body works, too.
Because of this understanding, Maho knows that there is the possibility her panic attacks will return if she goes back on stage. It must have been a tough decision for her, to realise that she can no longer stand on a stage and greet the fans with the members of ANGERME that she loves so much. However, I'm just happy that Maho knows what is best for herself, and that she has come to a conclusion that will benefit her in the long run, rather than harm her both mentally and physically.
It's sad to know that we won't see the bright smile Maho has again, and it's heartbreaking to think that we won't see her perform with ANGERME, either, but I'm not unhappy with her decision, either. This is for the best, and I feel like Maho has made a mature and important decision that will allow her to live an easier, less stressful life.
I know that there has been a lot of hope within the fandom for Maho's return. I wanted to see her come back myself, anticipating the comeback of Maho's energetic aura and delightful smile, but it's not meant to be. Of course I'd rather have Maho get well and live a life free from stress, so I am another supporter of her decision to move forward, graduating from ANGERME in order to better herself and keep her panic disorder at bay, as much as she can. I can't say it will ever go away, but Maho has found a way of life that suits her mind and body well, something that is pleasant and fun as well as balanced and active. It's not the Idol path she longed for, but it's a path that will allow her to mature and grow even more.
Living with a panic or anxiety disorder is hard, but Aikawa Maho is moving forward to better herself and become a more confident, radiant person. Though a lot of fans are sad to see her go, I am happy to see that they are also understanding and supportive of this choice. A lot of Western fans are quite aware of the harms that a panic or anxiety disorder can have on a person, and to see an Idol who is so open about it is refreshing, but also an eye-opener into what these girls go through, and what they hide in order to make their fans happy.
Even though this news is sad, it's not sudden. We have known about Maho's panic disorder fora while now, and through the updates, we have been able to acknowledge and understand her progress. Up-Front, for all their faults and attitude towards certain groups and members, have been very understanding and patient with Maho, and have allowed fans to stay updated through announcements, never leaving us in the dark. I commend them for this, and I commend Maho for wanting us to be aware of her situation and all that she has been doing to better herself whilst she worked on getting better.
We waited for so long to hear about Maho and her progress, and despite this news being the one we didn't want to hear or see, it's still an announcement that feels positive and warm. Maho is living a life that is pleasant and happy, one that she feels confident in and wants to continue. Though she is sad that she cannot meet the fans again, she knows what she must do in order to live a life with as little stress as possible, and for that, I respect her even more than I did before.
The decision must have been hard, but this is for the best. Maho needs to put herself first, and despite the long wait to hear more about her recovery, I'm just happy to see that Maho can live her life happily. She is an Idol I like, and all I want for her is the best, and for her, this is the best.
Thank you, Maho. Alongside many other fans, I will miss you, your energy and smile dearly, but your health is important. For three years you have given us your all, and for three years we have adored you. Now, we will look back with fondness and remember a beautiful Idol who brightened our days.
Have no regrets and live your life to the fullest. We will all miss you dearly.
Thank you for all your hard work! Now, it's your turn to live life and be happy.
I only hope that the rest of the fandom is as respectful as those I have already encountered, and that people understand Maho's reasons for graduating, instead of bragging that they 'knew this would happen'. Don't be a dick, and respect the fact that all this year, Maho tried her best to come back, but finally came to an understanding that, in order to be happy and healthy, she had to move forward and graduate, all to better herself.
Until next time, everyone. Please cherish your Idols, and respect thee decisions they make to better themselves and their livelihood.
Goodbye, Maho. I'll miss you.