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In many ways, the death of Aikatsu reminds me of the death of Geauga Lake.

We all just kind of assumed Geauga Lake was going to be there. I mean, the park had been around since 1872 in one way, shape, or form. It was a staple of the community. That's where your dad went as a kid, and your grandfather went as a kid, and your great-grandfather went as a kid. You had these memories that lasted for generations, shared things. Remember when your first roller coaster was the Big Dipper? Or when you ate too much cotton candy and you got sick? That was "something special," all right. Those shared memories of things like the Kitaouji Theater, having your blood "sucked" by Yurika, every performance of Idol Activities.

Much like Aikatsu, Geauga stuck with the formula that worked. It thought it was safer from a flashier alternative. It was right, for the most part. Given enough brands and enough fashion style changes, Starlight Academy could last forever under the same system, just like Geauga did for decades. And then an amusement park sixty minutes away built the first roller coaster over 200 feet, and we all know where the summer of 1989 was spent.

Geauga had its fans, the people who still continued to go every year. But the Prism Paradise on the shore of Lake Erie had it solidly beat, fair and square. Its big thrills (and its ability to "snap and trade" tickets) were something Geauga would never have. So Geauga sold out, in order to stay alive. It tried to be something it wasn't in order to become big and popular again. Gone was Geuaga Lake, hello to "Six Flags Worlds of Adventure." It spread itself thin between too many new roller coasters, all of them pretty and none of them too particularly exciting to talk about.

Geauga was sold by Six Flags in 2004 and became Geauga again, but by that time it was too late. Six Flags had interrupted the flow of memories with its boisterous claims of fame and glory. Geauga was a shadow of what it once was. There were lots of quiet goings-on behind the scenes, and some of their roller coasters were transferred away from the park -- most notably Firehawk now at Kings Island. Looking back now, that's the difference between the fate of Geauga and, say, Dorney Park in Pennsylvania -- Dorney has stuck to its roots for 130 years. Perhaps we can all learn from that lesson.

Nobody from Geauga ever stood up in May of 2007 and said, "This is our last operating season. Get your final rides in." And that's exactly what Aikatsu never did as well. We all knew that Akari would probably become Starlight Queen and there would be changes in order, but we all assumed we'd ride it out until season 5 hit in October. But we never received notification that Ichigo and the others, and Akari and their generation, would have their stories done in a matter of weeks. Finito. With a messily wrapped bow.

We all had signs that make more sense as warning signs in retrospect -- the manga ending, Ciao not giving out new Aikatsu cards, the most recent fanbook having an All-Stars poster and less promotional cards being given out, the "All-Brand" promo they ran this wave, even the Parade Coords and Kanna sticking around. We all thought those things would stay for another year, and I held out hope that a new girl would be introduced in April and we'd get to hear her story, just like we heard Akari's, and the baton would be passed once again.

With no notice whatsoever, Geauga Lake closed its doors forever in late September of 2007. We all knew things were low, but some of us had held out hope that things would turn around. But Geauga's owners knew. The ride operators knew. We were all just kept in the dark about it, unable to see the signs of a dying generation until it was too late.

So now, we are here again. In four or five episodes, the rumors say, Ichigo and Akari's entire school will be gone. Aikatsu itself will live on, but in what reiteration we have no clue. It could be awesome. It could suck. It will probably suck, at least at first. We are losing the connections we had to these characters they built up, and no amount of movies or episodes or mobile rhythm games can do that justice. We will have to choose how to keep these characters alive, and it will be different for each of us.

For me? Perhaps I'll go to Dorney. Perhaps I'll stop in my favorite spot of Dorney, just under their oldest roller coaster, and remember the oldest roller coaster of Geauga Lake. And then I'll wander further down that midway to a new portion of the park. A more modern, compact roller coaster sits there -- one of the roller coasters that was once at Geauga Lake, back when it was Six Flags and trying to look pretty and popular. Maybe I'll go to that roller coaster, pick some daisies or Queen Anne's Lace or whatever I can without pissing off the groundspeople, and I'll lay some flowers at the station entrance.

For Geauga.

And for Aikatsu.

February 2017

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