Maho Yamaguchi announced her intention to graduate from NGT48 Sunday night during a performance at the group’s Niigata theater. The announcement comes months after the 23-year-old performer was assaulted outside of her home, and after bungled efforts by NGT48 to move on from the incident that drew heavy scrutiny from fans and national media.
Watch the full video of Yamaguchi’s graduation announcement below.
In her speech, Yamaguchi mentioned the attack on her and the subsequent handling of it by the group’s management. She said those working behind the scenes in NGT48 told her not to bring up the issue, even though all she wanted to do was protect other members in the group. She said it is no longer a place where she can be an idol.
Later on, she apologizes to fans for stepping away from the group and mentions that she has heard from people who gained courage from her decision to come forward in January a month after the assault. Read an English translation of her speech here via a Twitter user.
NGT48 Team G members Rena Hasegawa and Riko Sugahara also announced they would graduate from the group at the concert. Both of them are close friends of Yamaguchi, and Yamaguchi herself mentioned both in her speech.
The Yamaguchi assault case has been one of the most prominent news stories of the year in Japan, and the news that she would graduate from the group (idol-world language for “leaving the group” that makes it sound more innocent than it is) was introduced as breaking news on national broadcaster NHK.
The news comes several weeks after NGT48 announced a “restart” to the group that involved a dissolving of all teams within the unit. The show that Yamaguchi and the other members announced their graduation at was the final show for Team G.
Early fan reaction to the news finds many angry that this is how Yamaguchi’s time with the group will end, as she hasn’t gotten justice for what happened to her while NGT48 itself will carry on. Stay tuned for more updates on the story as they become clear.