First and foremost, please note that this review is currently for both AKB0048 and AKB0048: Next Stage.
I bought this on Blu-ray for my wife due to the incredible discount at the time, similar to what this >reviewer< mentioned about getting it for a good price. We started watching it back in 2017, but ultimately never finished it. I decided to give it another go and started over in 2019 and watched it completely this time. I'm very glad that I did.
Entertainment is "band" throughout many parts of the galaxy. People who live on planets that suffer from this are often depressed and hopeless. That is where AKB0048 comes in. They are musical group of idols providing guerilla concerts at these types of planets. They sing, dance, entertain, and combat the regulatory agency known as the Destroy Entertainment Soldiers, or DES. They can pilot mecha units, use automatic hand weaponry, and even know how to wield mic-sabers. What!? Mic-sabers!? Yes, microphones that can convert into a light-saber type weapon.
Is the series far-fetched? Yes. Weird? Yes. Entertaining? Yes. Fun? You guessed it, yes! AKB0048 is all of the aforementioned and more, particularly when it comes to the 77th Generation trainees (and select others). They must learn, develop, and grow as they fight through increasingly more and more difficult adversity they encounter throughout this season and AKB0048: Next Stage.
Up close the character designs are simple but colorful. The further away they appear on the screen, the worse the hand animation and artistic detail gets. However, most of the time we see them close up when they are hand drawn.
The CG animation is a mixed bag. Both the mecha units and the space ships are unimpressive. However, when the girls are performing (using the CG format of animation) it is quite fluid, colorful, and very pleasing to the eyes. That is one of the best parts of the anime. Unfortunately, the hand drawn and CG elements do not mix very well as a whole.
The multiple OP's from AKB0048 are good but can get a little annoying after a while. The OP's from AKB0048: Next Stage are not nearly as good. Satelight added a rock-edge to them that doesn't fit this particular idols' theme that was present from the first season. Overall, all the ED's sound good, period.
When the girls are singing it never gets annoying, even when it goes from English singing to Japanese (when watching the dubbed version like I did). I enjoyed the singing quite a bit and found it to be a boon for the series, which is important since it is an idol-themed anime after all.
I am familiar with many of the English VA's performing. They do a solid job at bringing some individuality to each character, even when they themselves were singing. That was fun hearing them do that. Where the biggest downfalls lie are in some of the written character dialogue, as well as some of written personalities of certain characters. I'll briefly explain in a bit more detail in the Characters section.
There're quite a few main and secondary characters in this series. The good part is that they are constant in almost every episode. The bad part is that because there are so many, sometimes some characters get washed out in any given episode.
What makes it worse is that too many of them too often are wishy-washy all the damn time. Not one character (with exception to maybe Kanata, Chieri, and Suzuko) is consistently tough and determined nearly all of the time. I understand the various challenges that are brought upon the idols, but you would think that there would be at least one or two of them that can maintain a consistent mental fortitude. Unfortunately, that's not the case here. On top of that, some of their personalities are just annoying because of their wishy-washy natures (i.e. Makoto, although she is funny).
The only other character that pulls it together consistently with determination in the latter episodes of the Next Stage is Nagisa. Her strength ends up being huge and important for the rest of AKB0048 in the most pivotal time of desperation. She has her moments of wishy-washy annoyance, but she is easily one of the better characters in the anime, along with Chieri and Tsubasa-san.
Conclusion (Overall): 35/50
For my very first Idols anime, I rather enjoyed it. The story was somewhat weird, but fun, interesting, and even a little stressful at times. The story and characters had their downfalls, but that problem lies with the writers and the director, not the VA's. I still found myself looking forward to watching one episode after the other, and that is always a good sign of being entertained by an anime. This is not the greatest thing you could ever watch, but it was worth my time and I would watch it again (in full).
ENTERTAINMENT SCORE: 8/10
1️⃣Weighted Average System Score: (18 + 7 + 8 + 21 + 16 = 70/100 points)
The season before this show aired, there was Black Rock Shooter, (BRS) an infomercial aiming to sell via name to its established audience. AKB0048 (AKB) was doing the same thing, made to cater the fans of the homonymous teen idol group. Another thing both of them had in common was how they were trying to have a pseudo-serious premise for attracting the unsuspected.
The story is of course completely retarded and no more than a piss-poor excuse for some conflict, other than cute girls doing cute singing, to exist. No matter how much they tried to spice it up by making the pop-idols a resistance group waging war against an intergalactic oppressive government that hates entertainment, it still plays out as your typical moe-flick where nothing of importance ever happens … even when it is supposed to.
Normally, I would have liked this show more than your typical pop-idol garbage because the stakes are higher than “Oh no, people didn’t like my singing, I guess I will have to find a different job now”. And yet I like it even less because everything is an afterthought. There is no actual tension since nothing dangerous ever happens to them, thus the dark setting is going to waste, and the premise becomes pretentious.
It’s the same problem I have with other titles such as Idol Master Xenoglossia and Bodacious Space Pirates. I love space adventures and giant robots blowing up shit, but when they become background decoration for generic moeblobs, I am angered by this disservice. There was so much they could have done with the premise. What if some of them where occasionally getting injured or killed? What if the girls realized they are sacrificing everything without an actual pay-off?
And none of that happens, it’s the same old coming of age nonsense where they spend most of the time training how to dance and sing about love, than trying to liberate the universe from the dystopian government. All you get is a bunch of cutely dressed pretty girls hovering in the air and singing J-pop songs, while the army is trying to capture them with nets and firework missiles.
Do I even need to point out how this is dealing with an industry that thrives on the dreams and hopes of young people by making it look like they are the saviors of the universe? Just look how they treat the girls in the show as if they are spare parts in a huge emotionless machine. 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, the goal is to replace the older generation of AKB instead of being individuals. Not to mention that mysterious leader figure of their planet. It looks like a demon who has 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.
That is what I loved in Looking for the Full Moon; the heroine there refused to sing the cheesy lyrics others wrote for her and was dead set on doing her own song. She had only one pop idol and yet she had a million times more characterization than these 47 cardboards. She was being active and was trying to change things. There is none of that here, it’s just girls singing shallow music before turning 30 and are kicked out for fresh blood. Or in the sleazy context of the show, they mysteriously disappear.
And it’s not like I hate everything about pop-idols; you can have a good dark story about the perils of escapism. Perfect Blue, and Millennium Actress are great with the theme. Hell, the very director of AKB is the same guy who directed the original Macross. The way he mixed singing with giant robots and space battles was amazing. Unfortunately he then sold out to the otaku industry and made this garbage, before moving to completely killing the Macross franchise with Delta. It’s sci-fi first and j-pop second, not the other way around. How hard is that to understand?
Anyways, this is not a show of mass appeal despite trying to make it seem like the fans of space adventures will like it as much as fans of coming of age. It was made specifically for people who dig pop idols; most won’t even give it a second glance because of the stupid story, and no amount of good visuals can change that.
I gave in to a DVD sale plain and simple, that's my only reasoning behind buying AKB0048….jeesh.
Story - 8/10
So I came into this series with very low expectations. As a series it checked all the wrong boxes, girl's idol group, cutsie, and fighting robots, because lets face it for every Evangelion and G Gundam, there's a thousand Gravions and Fafners. For the most part I only purchased it because I was looking for something new, it was inexpensive and I needed to spend a few more dollars for free shipping. Was I ever pleasantly surprised.
So the main story line follows a group of young girls training to join an idol group/ mech fighting force as they attempt to bring music and happiness to planets that are currently under a total or partial entertainment ban. But instead a majority of the show focuses on how these young girls deal with pressure, the thought of having to compete against friends, and the reality that being this type of pop idol isn't all fun and games.
This is a great example of not judging a book by it's cover. Sure there are the dance numbers, bad songs and the obligatory battles, but a majority of the series focuses on a great story with well written character interactions.
Animation - 6/10
For the most part the show is beautifully animated. The design and detail put ion the locations and different planets is some of the best in recent memory. They also did a brilliant job using shadows and accents to really make the visuals pop. This is what we've come to expect from the world of HD animation now and they didn't disappoint.
Unfortunatly the characters are very generic and typical for this type of series. Half the time it seems they just looked around at other series, like K-On or Kokoro Connect, and copied every female in them. I know they had a lot to deal with, having thirty or so characters, but even the slightest bit of originality would have been nice here, and seeing how they had that for the backgrounds you know they could have done it with the idols too.
While the character design left much to be desired, they use of computer animation left you wanting to turn the series off. While this is usually one of the aspects i use to nitpick series, so i'm not always just praising the art, in AKB0048 it really became and annoying distraction. They used the style whenever the girls would partake in a big dance number and it was always strikingly out of place. The dimensions of the characters were bad, the movement was somehow a mix of robotic and gelatinous, and overall it just was a poor choice.
I do have to highlight one specific scene for praise. It's not for the animation itself, but the content of the animation. Early in the series Nagisa is racing for the train that will take them to the AKB auditions. As she reaches the train it's already started taking off, the doors open and her two friends come out and grab to pull her aboard. Everything about that scene echo's the escape scene in the original Transformer's animated movie, where RC is pulled aboard by Springer. Now it might just be a coincidence, but it'd pretty awesome if they were giving a nod to one of the best animated movies of all time.
Sound - 4/10
I pretty much came in assuming the music was going to be bad, even for Idol standards, and it was. The show had to put out so many songs, so they went for the cookie cutter approach. The tunes were terrible and the lyrics were simplistic drivel.
On the bright side we got a great mix of all the female V.O. artist from pretty much every series that's been released over the last few years. They all were great in their performances, even if some did get a bit grating by the end. Not to mention there are very few things in the anime world as annoying as Nagisa constantly shouting out the name Chieri like an imbecile.
Characters - 8/10
With so many characters you'd think it would be impossible to give them backstories. Heck there are shows like Towa No Quon, The World God Only Knows and K-On! that have a limited amount of characters, and hours and hours of show, and yet we learn nothing about them. Somehow AKB0048 finds a way, even in just simple terms, to give us enough information to at least know why the girls are here and what they are trying to accomplish. The series shows that things don't have to be overly complicated in order to give us decent characters, something many newer series can learn from.
Now with that said, there's not a ton behind who these girls are. There's one group who, in their early youth, saw 0048 perform and decided they wanted to be just like them, bringing joy to the worlds that have a complete entertainment ban. Of those girls, Nagisa and Chieri stand out as the two main characters in the series. They've grown to be quite opposite of each other, with Nagisa just wanting to make the band with her friends and Chieri determined to just become the best, which at first seems like her way of trying to protect these other girls from the reality of being in the band, but as the show progresses she just appears to be a generally terrible person. (which we know will change in season two because things always have to end on a positive note)
As is common with these shows the characters who play a supporting role often become much more likable than those main characters, and here it's no different. Characters like Kanata, who wants to avenge her father's death at the hands of the DTGO, and Sonata, who wants to be like her big sister, prove to be developed much better than our stars. Others such as Makoto, Suzuko, Mimori and AKB member Yuko aren't as fully developed, but their characters bring the comedy and heart to the series, while Minami fills in a secondary villain roll as another selfish and unlikable member of AKB.
They even managed to make many of the secondary characters likable, despite very limited screen time. Mr. Ushiyama, Papa cook and the WOTA members (a military force that fights along side AKB) all do their part to make sure the show isn't as generic as it could have been.
Overall - 7/10
While the rewatch-ability isn't high for someone with my tastes, I can say this is a show that should be given a chance. With favorites such as FLCL, GTO, X and Trigun it would seem this series would score a zero for me, but they went far beyond the outward look of "Girly Fluff" and gave us a pretty solid series.
Even with the simplistic songs and all too neat ending I wasn't disappointed. I can honestly say I look forward to popping season two in my DVD player and seeing where they decided to go with the mysteries behind AKB0048.
I didn’t care for this anime. I was intrigued by the story at first, but it moved away from all my favorite aspects of rebellion and saving the world. If you like idol anime, then you may enjoy this one.
I'll start this off with a disclaimer: I've only seen the two episodes that have aired so far. This is solely based off of those two episodes.
Normally, I would break this down into catagories and give detailed descriptions. However, I will simply give a brief overview of what I saw.
First, a heart-shape seems to be the recurring theme here. All the idols' eyes and hair have a heart shape in them when they catch the light. Personally, I find this to be corny and...well...stupid.
Second, I think this anime is another one of those magical-girl wannabe's that's disguised as a "friends are important, let's all sing" anime. Honestly, I think most people are going to hate it. I mean, it's so damn corny that I can't help but hate it.
Third, the sound quality and animation are it's only redeeming qualities. The insert songs are a little cliche but the CGI is well done, for the most part. If nothing else, at least they put the effort into the animation. I think, secretly, the artists wanted to make sure that at least SOMETHING good came out of it.
Fourth, I see no story here. I see a premise for a story...but no actual story. Again, this is only based off of two episodes so far but I don't really hold much hope for any kind of plot development.
This anime is like watching a train wreck: It's horrible and gruesome and it pains me to watch it but you can't help it once you start. Thank God there are only two episodes out right now or I would have put myself through hell finishing it.
Feel free to trash this little review if you want. As I've stated previsouly, this is only my opinion. I will finish watching it to the end and update as I need to. As usual, the overall score is an average of the 4 subscores.
UPDATE: After suffering through another four episodes, I can safely say that this series is not worth watching. The "story" is not well developed at all. This may be based on only watching six episodes but I can't see that it will improve at all. The fact that the animators saw fit to throw hearts into everything that catches a glare and the staff thought it would be a good idea to make this show as corny as humanly possible means that this show is suitable only for ignorant little children who don't know what real anime is.