"Nemohamo Rumor" came out when most of the old guards have left and has a much more technically demanding style of music and dance than their previous works, as well as the first single in 11 years to not include the aces of the sister groups, symbolizing a transition to a "new AKB" for many.
After predicting that AKB's popularity will probably wane in 1-2 years, a lot of fans bashed Rino Sashihara for being the "negative idol" and "unsupportive of her group." While the backlash died down, she had to develop a different fanbase of her own, from being in HKT and appointed its manager.
Yui Yokoyama was this when she was a newly promoted member, as she got heavy promotion.
Yuihan's contemporary Haruka Shimazaki also became one, since she came across to many as unmotivated and dismissive of fans.
The next is Miori Ichikawa, transferred to NMB. Many fans believe her cute appearance and behaviour doesn't fit with NMB's more sexy style.
Sakura Miyawaki. Despite being an HKT48 member, she's got a huge push on AKB48 singles, which puts people off. It doesn't help that she is one of the AKB48 ace candidates, despite already being one of the front members in HKT48.
Moeka Yahagi was also one due to the massive push she received. She did a solo concert, released a photobook, and became an A-side center all within a year after being promoted in December 2018, and some even believe the AKB No. 1 Singer Contest was actually set up to showcase her abilities. The hate she received, and leaked suggestive photos of her with a male classmate, lead to her graduation in February 2020, just two years after joining the group.
Broken Base: There are fans who think the group's switch to King Records made them more "mainstream" and think their older singles were much better. Then on the other side you have the fans who think the sellouts prove that AKB is finally getting the attention they deserve. And then you have everyone in between.
Also, many fans from AKB's Golden Era are quickly leaving the fandom now that older members are graduating and younger members from sister groups start taking the spotlight.
Opinions of the former members that ended up in porn industry such as Risa Tachibana and various members that formed Honey Popcorn.
Whether the Senbatsu Election is a valid indicator of popularity or only shows which members have richer fans. On the subject of annual events, whether the Janken Tournament is rigged.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Amina Sato. For someone who is neglected by the management, consistently placing in the top 21 for senbatsu elections is surely something. However, she dropped to rank 33 in the 5th Sousenkyo, but that makes her the Center of the Next Girls.
Some really popular members from sister groups, like Jurina Matsui or Sayaka Yamamoto, as well as the exchange member from their rival Nogizaka46, Rina Ikoma.
Miyuki Watanabe was unranked in 2011, then suddenly shot up to #19 in the 2012 election and raised to #15 in the 2013 election. However, her popularity decreased after she was involved in a scandal, with most of the NMB fans votes going to Yamamoto instead.
The Team 8 as a whole. Originally planned to be just a publicity group to be only involved in Toyota events, the girls' youthfulness and talent made them extremely popular among AKB fans. They are now a solid group who acts in concerts of their own, and have original songs featured in AKB singles, and continue to exist even after Toyota ended their sponsorship in 2021.
As seen in the Hilarious in Hindsight entry below, the very notion that Sashihara Rino would ever win the Sousenkyo was a running joke since nobody saw it coming. Let alone winning four times after a major scandal.
Atsuko Maeda. Probably the most promoted member of AKB48. She's the center for almost all AKB48 singles to date.
After her graduation, despite Yuko being named new leader of AKB, Haruka Shimazaki has taken Acchan's place in most promotions and songs she was featured in. Also Minami Takahashi is the member who represents the group in TV programs and interviews. Yuko keeps the center in AKB-exclusive events and concerts.
After Yuko's graduation, and since she ranked #1 in the elections, Mayu Watanabe became the face of AKB until she graduated.
As of 2022, Yuki Kashiwagi, the longest-serving member and the oldest at 30 years old. Nana Okada, Mion Mukaichi, Rin Okabe, and Yui Oguri are the faces most often seen in prime-time TV.
Fandom Rivalry: With Morning Musume fans. However, some members of AKB48 are fans of Morning Musume and vice versa. There are even some members (ex: Yuki Kashiwagi) who auditioned for Morning Musume.
Manami Oku, often forgotten former original Team K member, is surprisingly popular with JKT48 fans. There are Indonesian fanclubs dedicated to her, and most of the comments in the videos/pictures related to her are made by Indonesian users.
Haruka Nakagawa was moderately popular during her AKB days, but her career really took off after she transferred to JKT48. She became fluent in Indonesian, stays in Jakarta after her graduation and regularly appears in prime-time television shows to this day, and occasionally also does work in her home country. She was also appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for Japan-Indonesia diplomatic relations.
Anna Iriyama has a sizable Mexican fanbase (and even in Central and South America) after she starred in a popular Televisa telenovela there, followed by a YouTube channel in Japanese and Spanish exploring both Japanese and Mexican cultures.
Harsher in Hindsight: In a 2012 Mechaike episode, comedian Hiroyuki Yabe becomes a handshake event staff for a day and jokingly mentions that if somebody tries to cause trouble with a sharp object, he'll subdue them with his kempo skills. Two years later, it actually happened and resulted in Anna Iriyama, Rina Kawaei, and a staff member receiving serious injuries.
Hilarious in Hindsight: In 2011, AKB had this comedy show called Bimyo, and the first episode had a skit in which Sashihara was the group's center. The idea was ridiculous at the time. Fast forward to 2013 though...
Same with an episode of the variety show Mechaike in the same year, where Okamura declared that Sashihara would never become center.
Several AKBingo! episodes focused on pairs of members who are supposedly in a relationship.
Kayako Takita allegedly dated girls prior to joining the group.
Misaimed Fandom: The "Heavy Rotation" MV director said that the MV was meant to depict young girls being carefree and having fun among themselves without any adults or boys around. Unsurprisingly, many people see it as just tons of fanservice and Les Yay, although the song did attract more female fans to the group.
Never Live It Down: When reporting about AKB, foreign media often describes it as "the Japanese girl group which member shaved her hair because she had a boyfriend", referring to Minami Minegishi. In the lead-up to her graduation, she appeared on a YuuNaaMogiOn Channel video talking about things to leave behind, and put a piece of wood with "shaved head" written on it in a campfire to symbolize her wish to leave her dark past behind and that people would stop talking about it after 8 years.
Seeing your oshimen being sliced and diced in the original uncut PV for "Beginner".
The "Manatsu no Sounds Good!" PV also has the members brutally killed.
Majisuka Gakuen season 5 put many fans off because many characters are murdered as well.
No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Sashihara took a hit to her career when an alleged ex-boyfriend sold her out to the media by sharing intimate details about their relationship and sex life. A few years later, she came in first in the rankings and even (sarcastically) thanked the tabloids for running the story.
Portmanteau Couple Name: Over the years, plenty of members who are close friends are called these: AtsuMina, Mayuyukirin, JuriMayu, YuiParu, TomuPon, NakoMiku, YuuNaa, Mogion, Yuiyuihan...
Yuko is a surprisingly good actress. Yasushi Akimoto, producer of AKB, said he thinks that she'll be an internationally known actress in 10 years.
One new generation member who has shown exceptional acting skill is Nana Okada. In the TV drama Joshikou Keisatsu featuring Tentoumu Chu!, one episode had dialogue filled with Tongue Twisters. They were so hard, they had to keep looking down at their scripts in front of them. The only who did not have a script and said every line perfectly was Okada. She later became the main character in the Majimuri Gakuen stage plays and started to act in productions outside the group as well.
Another young member who's shown great acting skills is SKE48's Nao Furuhata. Even though she has had no experience in acting, she was the winner of an acting audition in an SKE TV show "Position Zero" and was given a guest role in a serial drama.
Team B's Watanabe Mayu, who has previously starred in several dramas. One role that really shows off her acting prowess is Usa Shijimi/herself in the live-drama adaption of the manga Saba Doru, in which Mayu is actually a woman in her late 30's concealing her age.
Target Audience: Like most Idol Groups, AKB48 seems to target mainly males but it also has a sizable female fanbase, especially after the release of "Heavy Rotation".
Vindicated by History: Both Rino Sashihara and Minami Minegishi were "demoted" from their regular positions in AKB due to scandal—but LOOK WHERE THEY ARE NOW.
Rino Sashihara was sent to HKT48 in 2012, which was the then-newest sister group only in its second year. Many thought this to be like an "exile", but Sashihara utilized her seniority and experience to help mentor the young HKT members, as well as promoting them on TV shows and other media. In the 2013 General Election, she pulled a Dark Horse Victory and won first place, beating Yuko Oshima and Mayu Watanabe! She also shares a concurrent post as a theater manager for HKT. After graduation, she is one of a handful of members who consistently remain in the public consciousness.
Minami Minegishi, a first generation member, was demoted to Kenkyuusei in 2013, and it didn't help that her public apology in which she shaved her head sparked a controversy that even reached international news outlets. But like Sashihara, Minegishi was put in a unique position to be a mentor to the Kenkyuusei, who were made up of the newest and youngest generations of AKB members. This allowed the group to polish their skills and coalesce into a performing team that would attract more interest in fans wanting to see their theater shows. In August 2013, the 13th and 14th generations were all promoted to Team 4, with Minegishi as team captain. Their first original song as a team, "Seijun Philosophy", ranked #1 at the 2014 Request Hour. Minegishi stayed as captain of Team 4 until 2015, when she became captain of Team K. She was later replaced as captain by former Minegishi Team 4 member Haruka Komiyama, and stayed on that team until her graduation in 2021.