AKB0048 First Stage
Released Year : April 29, 2012 to July 22, 2012
No of Episodes : 13
Genre : Music,Sci-Fi
Plot : In the beginning of the 21st century, a world war breaks out over interplanetary travel tech. The environment is pretty much destroyed so mankind leaves Earth, settling on other planets, and starts Star Calendar 00. Entertainment and songs become heavily regulated and eventually banned on several planets due to their power to move people, but a brave idol group puts on guerrilla performances in these systems in the name of a famous act from earlier times that sang to Earth's bitter end, AKB48. Famous throughout the galaxy, the group's name is AKB0048. This story centers around a group of girls from various planets, some where entertainment is banned and some, where it is not, striving to become great idols and join AKB0048. Therefore, they participate in the entrance exam and eventually become undergraduates, aiming to someday succeed the current members of the group. (Source: edited from Crunchyroll)
Our Review : 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.