Mei Hanakawa, a member of the voice-acting idol project 22/7, announced on Wednesday that she will graduate or leave the group by the end of the year. The group had announced in October that she would go on extended hiatus due to her health, and had planned for her return after she recovers. However, despite Hanakawa and the staff's best efforts, she explained that there was no signs of recovery and that it would have been difficult to continue performing.
Hanakawa will take part in a postponed handshaking event on December 28, and fans who previously had tickets for her in similar events on October 20 and November 2 can participate.
In a personal blog entry, Hanakawa apologized for what she feels is like turning her back on fans who anticipated her return. She noted that she had been in poor health (and had been on temporary hiatuses) before October's extended hiatus. She explained that her doctor determined that it would be difficult to recover her health if she maintained her performing career.
Hanakawa also apologized to the character Nicole Saitō (pictured left), whom she would have played in the 22/7 television anime premiering in January. Hanakawa asked fans to continue supporting the character in the future. She also thanked her fellow 22/7 members for saving a place for her potential return until now, and for giving her so much when she had nothing.
The group members announced in July 2017 that they were getting an anime project. The group began releasing animated music videos in 2017, and their first character videos debuted in English in May 2018. The anime will premiere on January 11.
AKB48 founder and producer Yasushi Akimoto is producing the "dimension-crossing" idol group. Based on the concept of "idols who cross dimensions," the group has eight anime idol characters, and their respective voice actresses also perform as idols in the real world. Sony Music Records and Aniplex received 10,325 applications for the idol group and held five rounds of auditions.
Source: 22/7 idol project's website (link 2) via Yaraon!