Some time ago – April 5 to be precise – Wada Ayaka announced her graduation for spring 2019 on her blog. Considering her age – Wada is the second oldest Hello! Project member after Juice=Juice’s Miyazaki Yuka and currently 23 years old – this is not a surprising announcement. In fact, among fans there has been some exchange about when she’s going to graduate, and even media speculated about it to the point that Wada herself made it clear an idol could be in her 20ies and still be a great idol. And in fact, she herself is the portrait of an non-conventional yet non-alternative idol.
Of course, Wada is cute. Of course, she is beautiful. She has published a few photobooks by now, some of her in bikinis or swimsuits. She has a cute, high-pitched voice and started her career as a 9-year-old 1st generation member of the Hello Pro Eggs (now Hello Pro Kenshuusei). This is a rather conventional way for an idol career.
Somewhat unconventional is the fact that she is in graduate school, has finished a bachelor’s degree in art. She has published two art books and wrote several entries for art columns in newspapers. While this makes her a woman of her times – her senpai Tsugunaga Momoko (Berryz Koubou / Country Girls) and Suzuki Airi (°C-ute) also graduated from university with bachelor’s degrees – she has gone one step further to visit the graduate program while still being an active idol. In fact, she has never said she’d retire after her graduation – for now it’s only certain that she will leave ANGERME and Hello! Project. However, as of an interview from 2016 her career goal is to become a curator.
Wada Ayaka is a woman of records. She is the first member of H!P’s official trainee program to become its leader. She’s the longest serving leader of a generational group, while becoming leader of S/mileage at age 14. She is the last 1st generation Egg member left. And as mentioned before, she’s the first H!P member to enter graduate school.
Regarding this her reasoning for graduating is sad after all. Her seeing her graduation as an important part for ANGERME to grow as a group, or that she holds back ANGERME, is something to discuss. Personally I loved what she did with the group, how the group wasn’t caught up in stiff senpai-kouhai-relationships and how she welcomed every new member, despite being critical of a second generation when it was announced years ago. Wada is a prime example about how a person can grow, in responsibility, character, and love.
I am a bit sad. I would have loved to see her go on for a few more years, even if it was just to show the idol world that you don’t have to graduate before you turn 25. However it’s also obvious that she will graduate from university next year, so maybe she does have more serious plans for her future.
I learned to respect and even love Wada over the past few years. In S/mileage, both the original 4-member line-up as well as the 6-member group she was always one of my least favourite members, but for the last few years we’ve both grown, side by side, and I realized that it was a lot of work to manage a group, especially at her rather young age.
Thank you, Ayaka, and I hope you can enjoy your last year with Hello! Project to the fullest.