The season before this show aired, we had Black Rock Shooter, (BRS) a title made for similar reasons: To sell via name and to appeal to its established audience. AKB0048 (AKB) is made just to cater the fans of the homonymous teen idol group and nothing more. Not only that, but unlike BRS which had a pseudo-serious premise to attract the unsuspected, AKB doesn’t even try.
The story is completely retarded and is nothing but a piss-poor excuse for some plot and conflict to exist in some form. It is still your typical moe-flick where nothing of importance ever happens … even when it is supposed to. Basically they combined the procedure of making pop-idols out of normal girls with a sort of resistance war against armies of oppressors. So you get pop idol / resistance fighters trying to become famous and glamorous / fighting against a status quo that has banned entertainment.
At the same time, I must hand it to them for not trying to make “just” a slice-of-life pop idol show. Those things get boring in a few episodes. Remember that snoredrome that was Idol Master a season earlier to this? As dumb as its earlier version Xenoglossia was, at least it had a little bit more than the obvious. So, no sir we have some context, this is a coming of age story taking place in a dystopian society. And the girls are not carefree K-On clones who aspire to be glamorous and mesmerize the audiences as means to get into their pockets. They struggle against their parents and sacrifice their platonic boyfriends in order to find happiness and help others … through J-pop. Ok, it’s stupid but the music in the show is supposed to have a magical effect that makes people happy. And supposed the society they live in went to some rough times because of too many carefree citizens and decided to head the other way. And supposed every time they have a forbidden concert they need to be singing for the fans at the same time they are fighting the security forces.
All that kinda remind me of the rough overall story found in the original Macross. And indeed, the director is Kawamori Shouji, the very same person who directed it. Of course over there the whole pop idol busyness was just a rather small part of a very big epic setting. AKB doesn’t have anything serious in it and hardly amazing battles or imposing antagonists. All you get is a bunch of cutely dressed pretty girls hovering in the air and singing J-pop songs, which makes the audience to feel happy. And then fight with martial arts and smoke bombs, while still singing perfectly. And the army is trying to capture them with nets and firework missiles. It’s stupid but at least it doesn’t try to pass as serious, despite the otherwise serious premise.
Speaking of which, the previous season we had another anime with pop idols. Symphogear was a complete failure for having a very rushed plot and a very uneven atmosphere that was jumping back and forth from fluffy to tragic like crazy. So trust me, it could have been far worse; or do I need to unbury the dreadful memories of Final Fantasy 10-2 to prove my point? I otherwise find no interest in this mess; I prefer something besides teen idols, where we also get engaging plots of the likes of Looking for the Full Moon, Perfect Blue, or Key the Metal Idol.
Other than that, the production values are quite good; especially for the team that took over the whole project. Satelight Studios have made several anime throughout the years, most of which are average in their budgets. I otherwise liked only Noein amongst them and only for its interesting scenario. In AKB’s case they did a fine job to portrait a dull society and its counterpart a dreamy land full of colors and concerts. They didn’t hold back on making everything look detailed and I would even say they went artsy with it. The girls are drawn almost chibi-like and have reflections of hearts and stars on their heads to the point I felt like I was watching an anthropomorphic version of My Little Pony. The 3D dancing of the idols is quite eye-catchy too with all the motion, and the fireworks, and the crowds, and the neon glow sticks you get in those concerts in general. It reminds me of the ending video of Heartcatch Pretty Cure for some reason.
As for the sound part I am no fan of J-pop but nothing sounds too irritating and the fans will definitely get kicks out of listening to the songs of their favorite band. And voice acting is ok, considering how some of the girls are actually voiced by the actual pop idols and this is their first time as voice actors.
Down to it, this is not a show of mass appeal despite trying to make it feel like it is for everybody by being easy going, full of cute girls, teen angst and high spirits. It was made specifically for people who dig pop idols, and that’s it; most won’t even give it a second glance because of the stupid story and no amount of good visuals can change that.
I can even say that the whole show is insulting, as it’s a poor attempt to mask an industry that thrives on the dreams and hopes of young girls by making it look like they are the saviors of the universe. There is no magic here people, it’s just people getting high on a shallow type of music before the singers get to their 30’s and are kicked out for fresh blood. Seriously, what is this crap trying to present it like a vital humanitarian act? The Red Cross does more than them and it doesn’t need to dress cute or dance their way through the battlefield.
And it can actually feel even worse if you think really hard about what is going on in this show. As you will notice early on, the girls are literally treated as objects instead of people. They are not allowed to sing their own songs; they must learn the established songs of the past pop idols and they must dance in the exact same way as they did. They are not even allowed to have their own personality and name, as their ulterior goal is to replace the older generation of AKB instead of being individuals. They are treated as if they are spare parts in a huge emotionless machine! That is what I loved in Looking for the Full Moon; the heroine there refused to sing the cheesy lyrics that others wrote for her and was dead set on doing her own song. She was only one pop idol and yet she had a million times more characterization than these 47 cardboards.
Not to mention that mysterious leader figure of their planet. It looks like a demon who had absolute control over everybody’s lives. For all we know pop idols could have been banned to prevent the demon from taking over the galaxy by brainwashing people with cute girls.
Easy watch? Yes. Enjoyable? Perhaps. Memorable? No. Quality material? Hell no!
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks colourfully cute)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (lots of hearts and rainbows)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 0/2 (retarded)
Pacing 0/2 (loose)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 2/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 0/3 (no reason to rewatch it)
Memorability 2/4 (the premise is weird enough to kinda remember it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10
Art 1/1 (looks cute)
Sound 1/2 (the songs are corny but they have their appeal if you are a fan of jpop)
Story 0/3 (retarded)
Characters 0/4 (drones)