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.