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...