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 backgrounds are quite nicely done and vividly detailed, from the city where Nagisa, Orine, and Yuuka came from, Lancaster, to the home city of AKB0048, Akibastar.
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)
You mean ''banned?'' I've heard before in some plots that music is forbidden.