Maeda Atsuko, the face of AKB48, has announced her graduation tonight on the final day of AKB48's [Gyoumu Renraku. Tanomu zo, Katayama-buchou!] concert in Saitama Super Arena. No graduation date has been announced at this time.
Maeda Atsuko's graduation speech
I am a first-generation member and have been here since I was 14. This was my life. It was a big decision. And I will make a second important decision. I am going to graduate.
I have caused some troubles because of my mood swings, but thanks for everyone's help, I am here today. To perform in Tokyo Dome was a dream since I was 14.
Now this dream has come true, at 20 years of age, I have to work hard towards my next dream.
I have worked hard for the past 6-1/2 years. I have to move onto my next dream at the age of 20. I am anxious and worried because I don't know what will happen. But for the kouhai, I have to take the first step towards this. No details have been decided.
No graduation date has been announced, but it will most likely be at the end of the AKB48 Tokyo Dome Concert since she said it was her goal. The date for that has not been announced either. It was not mentioned if she will still take part in the AKB48 Senbatsu election this year, but she will still be part of the 26th single [Manatsu no Sounds good!]
Update: Akimoto Yasushi finally posted on G+ about this. You can see the translations on Bilingual48.
I am just at a loss for words. I didn't expect Acchan to graduate yet. She's only 20, and still has a lot of future for her in AKB48. I was expecting one of the older members like Mariko to graduate first because of her age, but definitely not Acchan. I guess it is inevitable, graduation is part and parcel of idol groups. But AKB48 will be very different without Acchan. She might not be my oshi, but she is among the people I respect the most in my life.
Quoting a line from her solo single Flower
(The most beautiful of all flowers)