While I’ve spent so much time squealing about the cuteness of my OTP in Majisuka Gakuen 2, it occurs to me that I’ve never talked about the first Majisuka Gakuen that got me into the whole AKB franchise.
Unlike the recently concluded sequel where I only hung around to roll my eyes at the “friendship” of Center and Nezumi, the first Majisuka Gakuen worked so well because of Atsumina’s back story driving the main narrative, making it on the whole, a much more satisfying viewing experience.
(If you haven’t seen the original series, read spoilers of the arc after the cut at your own risk!)
Majisuka Gakuen’s Atsumina Summary:
Are not all great love stories essentially tragedies?
In Majisuka Gakuen, it’s basically the relationship between two friends, Atsuko Maeda and Takashi Minami. (Both were using real-names in a fake series; I side-eyed the hell out of their producer Akimoto-P for his slyness at making sure new viewers would remember their names.)
Their story is largely told through flashbacks from Maeda throughout the series; we slowly work out the mystery of her dis-engagement with life, her goal to become a nurse, and the unexplained extreme trigger towards the sentence, “Majisuka?”.
The pieces come together and we watch their entire history played out; Atsuko and Minami were once the best of friends, yankee buddies, fighting side by side together, an invincible duo in their world. Yet one day, after another winning fray, Minami informs Atsuko of her decision to give up fighting.
Minami sees the futility of their current behavior and does not wish to continue her life as such. She has found and wants to commit to her new serious and worthwhile purpose in life; nursing.
Although confused by this sudden decision, Atsuko pronounces her desire to follow her friend in this new course of life. (Clearly, with Atsuko was adopting the “You jump, I jump” stance , one could foreshadow the outcome of our couple. Sigh.)
But a reformed Minami will have none of it! She snaps at Maeda to take this new commitment seriously, happily explaining (and justifying) Maeda’s future actions in beating not-so-serious folks into a pulp whenever the sentence is uttered in her presence.
I digress; back in LaLa Land, a puppy-dog-like Maeda demurs to Minami, who in turn, presents Maeda with friendship bracelets embossed with the letter of their first names as a symbol of their new promise. (Does no one learn? Exchanging
love mementos in midnight dramas generally lead to fatal consequences!)
In-tune with the “You never leave the gangster life, the gangster life chose you” concept, Atusko’s “retirement” doesn’t sit well with cohorts of enemies that she made since her time as a precocious young girl.
One night, en-route her way home, Minami is targeted by rivals, who decide to use her as bait to lure Atsuko out. A competent fighter herself, Minami however declines to fight. She goes on her knees, the time honored Japanese tradition of humbling oneself, and pleads with them to allow Atsuko a chance to start anew. (I would like to point out that people who would think of kidnapping someone to threatening someone else for their goals, are very unlikely to be understanding or emphatic human beings.)
For her attempts at pacifism, Minami receives a vicious beating and gets tossed down a stone flight of steps. Akin to seeing half of a star-crossed lover cough in an Asian drama, we all know this bodes no well for any character.
Maeda, upon receiving news of the ambush and rushing down to the hospital. In possibly the most heartbreaking scene of the series, she can only watch helplessly outside as the medical staff try to revive an unconscious Minami.
They fail, and Minami dies in her sight.
Maeda is now left with only mementos, a promise, making watching fans equally bereft and tramautised.
This loss and pain only becomes clear in an extended hallucination after one of the Rapapa unwisely triggers her unconscious. When she sees Minami again, Maeda desperately clings on to her, breaking down and apologising continuously. (I admit that I approved tremendously when she awoke from the hypnotism and pummeled Kojima the offender. You don’t mess with people’s deep dark memories and expect to walk away unscathed, really.)
Towards the end, she finally comes to term with her friend’s passing, able to say goodbye but not forgetting as she transfers their mementos from her wrist to a hair band, watching her friend smiling as she moves on with her life.
Their story is beautifully summarised in this wonderful fan-made video for the original Majisuka Gakuen OTP by a youku member, yuxyuyu.
The editing, pacing and choice of Tank’s ballad, “If I Become A Memory” was sublime; with the ending lyrics just made me feel like tearing up again;
if i become a memory
i’m afraid i’ll be disappointing
stubbornly remaining in the air
occupying the space in your heart
burdening the you who still loves me
to continue suffering this loss
this isn’t right
so please try your best
to forget me.
Check out the original at youku!
Poking further around the net, I discovered that Maeda performed Kinjirareta Futari (禁じられた2人), one of AKB’s two “famous” L-word songs in Majisuka Gakuen styling in a concert.
The point of this?
Right towards the ending, at around the 3 minute mark, Maeda tailors the ending “love confession” with something akin to, “I still love Minami” line and guess who appears on stage to lead her away?
Fan service or not, I like to think that the Atsumina fan love is still going strong~