I watched this simply because I'm an AKB48 fan..but I had my reservation about this anime. The design wasn't my style, I prefer less loli looking art. The storyline was just ridiculous with their premise of "moe space musical terrorists." However I decided to not judge the book by it's cover and watch this show, mostly because Shouji Kawamori of Macross and Mari Okada, who wrote Ano Hana, Toradora, Lupin the 3rd, all animes I enjoyed. There's also the amazing voice actresses cast that pulled me in.
Edited after more episodes.
At first I was expecting some kind of K-on/Idolmaster typical stuffs with the extra
mecha actions throw in for fun but Mari Okada managed to bring out the drama between the AKB0048 girls and make it an interesting and exciting. It's very storyline focus with very few "fanservice" moments compared to other animes. The background arts are beautiful as well, as expected from Satelight who are known for making very good background art.
There's many small references, to big plot story pulled out of AKB48's own history in this show. Okada, who's an AKB48 fan, herself included many references in the storyline but it doesn't make it hard to enjoy if you don't even know anything about AKB48.
Since it's hard to flesh out such a huge cast, the main focuses were placed on the leader, and the 2 potential aces of the trainee generation. However, there are changes in the other characters' personalities as the story progressed and you can feel they maturing as they struggle through their journey. Instead of focusing on the main senior members, the focus is on the journey of the trainees rather than the senior members who already made the team. The struggle between the senior members who don't want to give up their seats and the younger members who want to rise to the top give it an interesting conflict, among the mystery of the missing Center Novae, and the mysterious hidden being underneath Akibastar.
Not only that, the insert songs are very fitting to the scenarios, but that's to be expected of AKB48 who have over 400 songs that can fit any situation. If you need song in a scene with girls getting shot by mechas, AKB got Beginner. If you need a song for an episode about haters, AKB got Anti. If you need a song need to encourage impoverished citizens of a planet and give them hope, AKB got River.
It's not just a typical "moe" or "shoujo" anime. It have dramas, emotions, struggles that you wouldn't expect from such a cutesy cover art and it's definitely one of the underrated anime this season.
The disappointing thing is probably due to time conflicts with AKB's busy schedules, they can't do a 26 episodes anime and decided to do a 1 cour 13 episodes. There's many things in the storyline that shouldn't be rush. Since the anime BD did rank 3rd in highest sales out of all the anime this season, and is only 500k below the favorite, Hyoka, it's definite guarantee for a 2nd season so I hope that we will get another season that will go more in depth into the storyline.