It is the future (not again! Why is it always the future? Why not have something a tad closer to us in time?) At the start of the 21st Century, an interplanetary war broke out. Earth’s ecosystem was severely damaged, and humanity was forced to flee the planet. In several planets of this new society, things that “disturb the heart” like music and art are forbidden. 48 years later, the legendary idol group AKB48 (and this is a REAL J-Pop group, OK?) is resurrected as the interplanetary troupe AKB0048, made up of girls who carry on the title and spirit of the original members. Held as heroines by some and labeled as terrorists by others, they must take up arms to bring their music to their fans wherever they are. The story follows a group of young hopefuls as they train to become the next generation of AKB0048. (And you though Simon Cowell was a big jerk. Well, he is, but I never saw him come to the shows armed to the teeth to shoot the contestants.)
Now, since they are recruiting all the time, we see the efforts of the 77th Generation (implying this fight has been going on for 77 years), plus those that have gone on before. It is a rather capacious cast, but we will focus on those we see up in the splash panel.
From left to right:
Suzuko Kanzaki, a quiet fourteen-year-old girl with glasses who knows a lot about the history of AKB0048. She is met on the talent ship
Makoto Yozomizo, a timid and easily scared sixteen-year-old girl, who often worries and thinks negatively. She is also met on the talent ship.
Sonata Shinonome, a ten-year-old girl, who failed the first round of auditions for AKB. She sneaks aboard the talent ship heading towards the second round to try again. She is very supportive of her older sister, Kanata.
Mimori Kishima, a sexy seventeen-year-old who loves to boast about her rich lifestyle, proportions and height. She and Kanata share a connection as part of the 75th Generation
Chieri Sono, the daughter of a corporate CEO who introduced Nagisa and her friends to AKB and helped them sneak into a concert when they were younger. She runs away from her father to audition for AKB and considers Nagisa as a rival.
Kanata Shininome, Sonata’s older sister. She is fifteen and pretty hardheaded. She is also part of the 75th Generation of trainees, who has yet to become a successor. She joined AKB in order to get revenge against the DES who killed her father.
Orine Aida, one of Nagisa’s friends who lost their parents early and worked at a factory to make ends meet before leaving with her friends to join AKB.
Nagisa Motomiya, a thirteen-year-old girl who often does not have a lot of confidence. She wears a ribbon given to her by her mother, who supported her decision to audition for AKB despite the disapproval of her father, who works with the government’s entertainment-banning activities.
Yūka Ichigo, a twin-tailed fourteen-year-old who is a thinker who makes things clearer, yet is a little impatient too. However, she is friendly, and is very protective of her friends. Out of all her friends, she is the only one with a boyfriend.
These are all the trainees and understudies, but we really follow Chieri, Orine, Nagisa and Yuka as they strive to be selected as the next members of AKB0048. They saw a banned concern a few years earlier and are against the Entertainment Crackdown. Things get complicated with the departure of Chieri, owing to her status as the daughter of a CEO. He thinks she’s been kidnapped, so the bloodhounds are released.
This is really a squealing girl anime. I assume if I was the age of the girls in the show (14 to 17 or thereabouts), this would be a killer of a show, but I’m an old fogey, so a lot of the appeal of the show is lost to me. But this does not detract from some competent story lines, which are boiled down to:
1) Will they make their dreams?
2) What will they have to sacrifice to get them?
3) Are they aware of what is asked of them?
4) How do you pilot this robot weapon?
Yes, before you can sing, you have to be able to defend the performers on stage from the attacks from the Anti-Fun Goons. (Which raises the first Big Question: why don’t they just spray knock-out gas on the venue and wait until everyone is conked out and then they take into custody the objects of your desire? Too easy? Sorry.) So, it’s not enough to learn the complicated choreography, but you have to be able to wield a weapon.
Well, with anything like this, there are complications. There are rivalries between the old guard and the new upstarts (as no one wants to be replaced) and there is a huge conflict between Tsubasa Katagiri (the current manager and a previous AKB 0048 singer) and S-Quad (short for SenSei SenSei, the shadowy head of the entire group who writes ALL the songs and designs ALL the dance steps) and the mystery as to why there is no longer the spot of Center Nova, a kind of Queen of all singers.
I get the feeling that the season run was padded, to extrapolate out the conflicts. There is also a huge rift from the 75th Generation, also referred to as the Lost Generation, as only two made it this far and they feel bereft, as they are getting passed over for the newer girls. There is a lot of catty behavior, uncertainty as to if they can make it, made and broken and remade friendships and the unusual kirara, a creature that reveals itself to those who are talented and have ‘the gift’.
One really annoying aspect of this is that all the girls have hearts on them. Perhaps a glint in their eyes, or a sheen on their hair. I guess it’s really cute, to show their pure and innocent nature, but it really gets distracting, as I sometimes found myself counting hearts than catching the story. And even with the beach shoot, the fan service is kept in check, so take your mouth-breathing fantasies elsewhere.
Overall, this is a good introduction anime to those who do not know that much about anime and really targeted to tween girls. They would go to town with it. And with the coupler ending, we can potentially expect more adventures to come, theoretically in 2013 by OUR calendar. To those of us more advanced in years, it’s more of a sorbet (something to cleanse the palate) as I await the next episode of “BTOOOM!!” (more on that later).
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Despite the hearts)
Plot 7 (Not really fleshed out)
Pacing 7 (You sometimes wait for things to catch up)
Effectiveness 7 (It does get a bit repetitive)
Conclusion 6 (It reaches a ‘coupler’, but doesn’t really end)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Overall 7 (Reality need not apply)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Your efforts aren’t in vain.