After an interplanetary war at the beginning of the 21st century, planet Earth has been left in ruins, with much of its ecosystem completely destroyed. Because it was no longer possible to live a normal life on this planet, the inhabitants are forced to move on to other planets where life will, hopefully, be more comfortable.
The Deep Galactic Trade Organization, a totalitarian government that affects many of the newly inhabited planets, has somehow come to the conclusion that music is a source of evil, and that it must be banned and destroyed for good. The talent group AKB0048 is soon formed, based on the original AKB48 members that once lived on Earth. Even though their music is now considered universally illegal, they make it their mission to bring their music back to life by travelling from one planet to another and holding as many concerts as they possibly can. They must undergo a whole new set of training methods in order to become the best that they can possibly be, while also avoiding the constant danger of being arrested because of their music. Join interplanetary popstars AKB0048 as they try to save the world－with music!
#1: "Kibou ni Tsuite (希望について)" by NO NAME (ep 1) #2: "Yume wa Nandomo Umarekawaru (夢は何度も生まれ変わる)" by NO NAME (eps 2-8, 10-11) #3: "Sasae (支え)" by AKB48 (ep 9) #4: "Niji no Ressha (虹の列車)" by NO NAME (ep 13)
With the large amount of questionable things AKB0048 attempted, this show was inevitably doomed to fail. The large casts of characters, the doubtable synopsis and its variety of genres clustered together just to name a few. Most ridiculous of all, the director expected AKB48 singers, a real-life, popular idol group, to successfully convert into voice actresses. Furthermore, most soundtracks in the actual anime will be inserted directly from AKB48's popular debuts, and this all just seemed too convenient to work out. Thus, I walked into AKB0048 expecting some terribly scripted dialogues, incorrect utilization of AKB48 soundtracks, and tons more to name. But here I am,
telling you that AKB0048 can actually be safely described as multitudes of great things, one of them being a successful collaboration of impinging, tricky anime genres.
However, ignoring AKB0048’s flaws would be too generous. The plot of this Series was just too chaotic in the beginning, and awkward even to the extent of a laughable synopsis. Its attempt at mixing interplanetary mecha themes with the assemblage of idols, who are all such independent loli's, just seemed too silly to fit together. At first, I continuously questioned the silly premise of the story, but later I just decided to go along with it just due to the fact that I don’t have a time machine.
=Now the Actual Review Begins=
Even with all its flaws, AKB0048 proved to me that any future is possible.
Behind all this seemingly plugged up garbage plot, I found a pearl in the sea of sewage. Before watching this series, I constituted all my opinions about idols in a Western sense. Long story short, I live in a very industrialized environment where idols are all seemingly just good-looking people with no talent whatsoever. In other words, certain despicable individuals over the past years have influenced me to completely lose respects for others with similar occupations (even in anime). Ironically, AKB0048, a crew consisting of cute girls, has elaborated enough on idols’ daily lives that I’m actually reconsidering my view point on this world’s entertainment industry. How it has done so with the slice of life, comedy, & science fiction genres fascinates me even up to today.
As a male, I never understood why a vast amount of the female population have always wanted to become an idol (not a sexist statement, it’s a fact that most idol groups include females). But, that is not to say they all have such ambitions for the same reason. With different feelings, intentions, and reasons for becoming an idol, most people who desire to rise to a position of fame come from places scattered all across the board. With that being said, most successful idols do share one thing in common; the way AKB0048 depict these idols, they all seem like a determined bunch, despite their inabilities, adversities, or any obstacles in their way. Now the supernatural situation within ABK0048 doesn't seem as irrelevant, does it? This constitutional restriction on entertainment, although clumsily scripted, immediately creates a universe where young females are disallowed their dreams of perhaps rising to become an idol. Too bad even in a universe where interplanetary wars are supposedly happening, teenagers still don’t think when they act.
As the story starts developing, three young girls who want to become the 77th Generation of AKB0048 idols consistently meet more and more obstacles as the story progresses. The first few episodes explore some character’s family issues, backgrounds, personalities, and give a vivid detail of where the series is heading, while the whole entertainment ban theme over-arches all these episodes. Things get tougher the more you get into it. Haters, dealing with failures, and stressing over little details of your actions will all lead to shed tears. But in the end, you’re never the only one going through it. There are always people going through the same pain as you, as they walk the same path as an idol. This relationship then establishes friendships between the idols depicted in this series, and it is a very interesting concept of friendship that it illustrates, by simply dealing with every day issues. As the Series progresses, the intensity builds up as well. At first the plot was driven simply by a few science fiction references, but by the end supernatural and mecha themes are thoroughly explored. Though, don't get confused because although the plot is very detailed in its description; the overall mood of AKB0048 still remains to mostly be drama/slice of life. Even though the execution of mecha scenes in AKB0048 seemed needless and unnecessary, the appearance of mecha did contribute to illustrating (symbolic) difficulties that even idols have to overcome. But to an extent, this theme was probably exaggerated on too much, while lacking the correct coherence most mecha/shounen shows actually have.
Besides these heavily emphasized themes, AKB0048 also frequently (meaning, A LOT) transitions into comedy moments. These scenes often follow serious, dramatic moments, but rarely feels barged in through the whole development. In fact, the serious moments themselves appear to be melodramatic sometimes too. But, those are just the result of the conflicted traits within some characters, which essentially arouses a feeling of drama without the actual atmosphere being so just by itself. This makes even further sense because most of the characters are professional drama queens, which, as I mentioned before, makes up these lighthearted comedy moments within this anime. Just the over dramatic atmosphere itself being consistently interfered by clumsy, klutz moments are hilarious by themselves, but the show sometimes even makes fun of itself. I won't go into details, but let's just say perversely suggestive jokes occur frequently. Even in the one beach episode (ep10) and other possible candidates where fan-service was visible, the story still progressed and was always accompanied by those suggestive jokes mentioned above. In other words, fan service done correctly without being too distracting. Personally, this consistent aspect of the show made it a more enjoyable watch.
The developments of characters were incredibly smooth as the series played out. That is, to say, if you didn't get annoyed by them from episode 1. Some characters are very irksome when they are first introduced. Unlike most anime though, these annoying characters all change in some ways in AKB0048. It's not just subtle or slight adjustments either, it's life changing choices these characters decide on which makes the viewer so attached to them. These character developments don't just occur to a few selected people either. While there are obvious main characters with bigger roles, most other (side) characters actually get their own arcs, and have a re-occurring role(s) throughout this whole series. Please note that though the cast of character is about 2 dozen idols, AKB0048 was able to handle all those characters while getting the plot to flow well, and making sure nobody gets overshadowed for the most part either. Now, that's just a bit impressive.
For an anime almost made to commercialize AKB48's songs, I'd have to say it did a great job. Any fans of the real life AKB48 idol group should check out this anime (and vice versa), think of this show almost like a behind-the-stage TV series. The music was top notched in terms of the J-pop genre, but I feared for terrible synchronization with the animation, and luckily it didn't turn out bad at all. There were also notable background music playing and it's remarkable how just a lighthearted themed soundtrack can help scenes transition from one to another (especially from those dramatic to comedy scenes). Also, due to the lack of experiences it probably took a while for those AKB48 member to suddenly become voice actors. But by the end not only was the voice acting minimal quality, they all seemed to fit the character very well, so well that It should be considerably outstanding for those undergraduates.
Animation was good, and there were obvious efforts put into the character designs. Those efforts are exemplified by the motif of carving cute (loli-like; moe) things such as hearts with a very shallow curve into characters' hairs. Not only the characters, but it's choreography within those dancing scenes also seemed fairly unique. The animation even switches into a 3-D dancing crew during actual performances of dances, and my eyeballs were just overfilled with soothing joy. For someone who's impatient to the point that even waiting 10 minutes for a movie to start becomes a problem, I'd have to say it did a fine job entertaining me with those mesmerizing dancing performances.
All in all, with a few due casualties, I think AKB0048 deserves a better rating than what most viewers are giving it. While exploring the daily lives of idols, AKB0048 accurately depicts symbolic obstacles faced by those working in the entertainment industry. Although this anime is layered over by exaggerated, heavy mecha/supernatural themes, AKB0048 still manages to blend it in somewhat nicely into the rest of its plot, and ended up with a just right amount of varieties of genres. There's never any overly done action scenes, and the serious parts/arcs of this drama have nicely attached meaning behind them all. Though, do look out for comedy scenes caused by melodramatic moments, inelegant characters, and some referenced jokes which barely cut for PG13-audiences. As for recommendations, this series is a tricky one due to its vast amount of genres; however, I would recommend AKB0048 especially to slice of life fans out there, who won't mind a few awkwardly fastened mecha plot points here and there.
Thinking back on AKB0048 now, there may be hope for the entertainment industry after all. With such a surprising treat from the first season, I can safely say second season may be just as exciting. Now if people would just listen...
Well now, here's something that I was expecting to be a giant pile of horse crap. I mean, come ON, a show about AKB48 saving the world through song? That's so freaking dumb. And then I remembered Macross already did that... Wait... Kawamori Shouji is directing it? THE HELL? The director of Macross Zero, Aquarion, and Macross Frontier (among others) is directing a AKB48 anime? Color me intrigued. Series is composed by Okada Mari, who has some very good titles under her belt (Hanasaku Iroha, Gosick, Wondering Son). All in all, the production team seems solid.
So yeah, that's how I started watching this show, in
spite of all the ridicule I got from my friends. Am I sorry I watched it? Hell no, it turned out to be one of my favorites this past season. Please keep in mind that this review will contain spoilers.
In hindsight, there have been far worse plots then "let's save the world through song". I'm looking at you, Queen's Blade. But, seems that the story is not exactly that. In the future space travel is possible. But in a strange twist, entertainment is banned on many planets. While they do not go in depth into what "entertainment" means in this world, from what I can tell, singing, dancing and concerts are against the law. I haven't been able to find out too much about this, but apparently, in 1948, Japan passed the Entertainment Business Control Law which was similar, but much less intrusive, then what is presented in this show. All in all, it's not completely implausible. We've already seen shows where books are banned. At first we aren't given a reason as to why this is happening, but we'll get into that later. AKB0048 is a rogue idol group that sweeps in and hold illegal concerts on planets where entertainment is banned, while fighting off the DES (anti-entertainment army). DES actually uses live ammo, so the idols could very well get killed. Still, they fight back with non-lethal weapons. During one such concert of Lancaastar, four young girls, Nagisa, Yuuka, Chieri and Orine, watch the concert and decide to join the group when they are older. And so begins their adventures from passing the audition, to actually getting there, to becoming part of their beloved idol group.
The plot moves fairly fast. It takes two episodes for the girls to actually reach AKB0048 and another three for them to get to their first event. During that time, they train in both entertaining and fighting. Kawamori "The Troll" Shouji gives us an episode 3 right out of Macross, to the point where I was wondering if I downloaded the wrong show. Needless to say, all's well that ends well, after some high speed battles, songs and angst. Yup, that's our Kawamori. Also, there's a fan service episode at the beach... with plot in it. Don't see many of those.
Here's where it gets interesting. The characters are a joy to watch. Nagisa is determined, but detests conflict. Yuuka is outgoing, and enjoys being in the center of attention. Orine is shy and very soft-spoken. Chieri is cold, distant and extremely competent. Of course, she gets much more mellow once we learn her reason for being so cold. She also tends to be painfully blunt when trying to help, which makes her seem mean and only out for herself. On the way to AKB0048, they meet three more girls: Sonata, Suzuko and Makoto. Sonata is the youngest of the group, full of energy and well... adorable. Suzuko is quiet and very knowledgeable Makoto is shy, loud, and has low self-esteem. Not sure how she got there... to be honest. Once on Akihabastar (yes, horrible pun, I know) we meet the final two understudies: Kanata and Mimori. Kanata is Sonata's big sister and Mimori is Kanata's best friend. These two have been understudies for two years. That's a LOT. Of these characters, most get some decent development, while some are neglected for now. They act surprisingly realistic for this type of show, and the dynamics between them are quite good. They are, in a way, paired up to each other (Nagisa & Chieri, Yuuka & Orine, Suzuko & Sonata & Makoto, Kanata & Mimori). Still, some of the best character development comes from the current successors of Takamina and Yuuko, part of the first to learn the selection process. They will probably develop the characters even more in the second season, coming 2013.
The art is hit and miss. No, not hit OR miss. The normal art for the characters, the backgrounds and the rest is fine. I am very fond of the character designs. But, during the concerts, the switch to CG for some of the dance. It looks jarring, and really, I don't know why they keep doing this. Still, it's not unwatchable, even though the CG in the first couple of episodes is pretty bad. The action scenes are great. Well, he directed Macross, for Pete’s sake, they'd better be.
OK, this one's special. The main character are voiced by actual members of AKB48. Now, the girls of AKB48 are not voice actors, and that's painfully obvious in the first episodes. I got used to their voices fairly quick though, and they do a good job of making you feel the right emotions. The current successors are voiced by very experienced staff and do a great job. Not much to say about this, really.
AKB48 songs, what did you expect? Still, they are very good, and the singing battles are fantastic. I especially loved Beginner and Ooge Diamond. The emotions transmitted during those songs were absolutely fantastic (despair and team work, love and hope). There are a ton of songs, and they are all quite decent, but those two are fantastic. Oh, and the OP/ED are featured in the last episode, with the ED actually being a plot point.
This was entertaining as all hell. I couldn't wait till the next episode, and now I'm going to have to wait till 2013 for more. This show got a lot of hate, much of it before it even aired, just for being about AKB48. Many still bash it, even though they most likely haven't seen it. If you enjoyed Macross Frontier, you will enjoy this. Just watch it, and make a decision for yourself. I hope this review got you at least a little bit interested.
So, AKB was a series that not many people seemed to like, so with this review I’ll try my hardest to explain why it managed to win me over. And let me get one thing straight: it’s not like I’m some sort of idol fanboy. In fact, I hate the idol business. I really dislike J-Pop as a music genre. And I’m really not a fan of abusing moe and cute girls to pander to an audience. So yes: how on earth did this show manage to win me over?
For the people who aren’t familiar at all with AKB0048: AKB48 is an idol group, consisting
out of a huge amount of teenaged girls who sing songs and do other cute things. This series is meant to promote them: the main characters are all played by various members, most of whom have no voice acting experience, and the plot is about a world in which music has been outlawed and the girls run around and perform guerilla concerts as a sort of resistance. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Yeah, but here is the thing: the two main creators, the chief director and the main writer, are two of the biggest trolls around in the anime business: Shoji Kawamori and Mari Okada. And they were given a lot of freedom. I still don’t know who found that a good idea, but bless this person.
Now, to fully appreciate this series, you’re going to have to need to read inbetween the lines a bit. It’s indeed true that we have a bunch of idols who sing and fight evil enemy soldiers at the same time. But at the same time this series does some really surprising things as a show that’s meant to be a promotion of an idol group. I mean, usually these things are incredibly cheap and superfluous: cartoonified members of the group go on random adventures and try to be as cute or cool as possible. AKB0048 however, completely throws these conventions out of the window and starts to focus on the uglier sides of being an idol; how unfair the business can be sometimes, how hard it forces teenaged girls to work and how it forces some dangerous mindsets on them. This series, on one half is indeed cute girls doing cute things, but that other half is really dark to balance all of that out, with some really cynical messages at times.
Beyond that, this show also is just very well executed. The thing with this show is that nearly all voice actresses are completely new, so they don’t have a stereotype that they all try to fit in like what you’d have if people like Kugimiya Rie were cast and all. There are a lot of characters in this show, but none are unlikable or try to force their cuteness down the viewer’s throats. They’re all well-developed and all have engaging issues that actually differ quite a bit. Beyond that there is excellent animation and musical numbers: the performances in this series really work and its use of music is really excellent.
Having said all that though, the overall storyline of this show IS completely silly. The people who outlawed entertainment are nothing more than shallow villains, and somehow they keep getting beaten by a bunch of little girls despite being in armored tanks and mechas. For as much attention this series gives to entertainment and idols, so little it spends on the actual bad guys of this series. That really is the biggest weakness of this series: at times it will be really, really hard to maintain your suspense of disbelief. The sign whether you’ll like this show or not is probably at episode number two: if at that point the characters don’t interest you, then you’ll have a very hard time with this. That episode however does have the power to really capture its audience though, so if you’re interested in this series, do give it a chance and don’t be put off by the whole premise… too much.
It's not often that an anime comes around that pulls one over on the audience as fast as AKB0048 does. Given what is probably one of the silliest premises ever in anime the writing takes hold and runs away with it, spinning a complex story of futuristic idols in a world where entertainment is banned.
I went into this show with incredibly low expectations and came away wowed. Although the show does not fall too dark there are some rather grim undertones - to perform their concerts in worlds where entertainment is banned the idols form two teams, a performance group and a defending group. The
idols on defense have to fight against an organization that uses live ammunition and is actively trying to capture or kill the 00 members.
Behind the concert and combat scenes there is also the mystery of just who runs 0048 and the implication is shady at best. Even then, and even among the tears, the show manages to also be bright, cheery and full of love.
It's an emotional roller coaster I recommend checking out, even (and especially) if you aren't a fan of the actual AKB48. I went into it knowing nothing of the original group.