Tentacle-Free Anime: "AKB0048" (2012) Review
- by Kazekun, 29 August 2016
The countdown to 100 continues! It's been a long 3+ years, and I still strive to bring you the best reviews and discussions that I can about anime and anime-related films and series. This time is no different, so don't turn the dial because I think you're about to find yourself pleasantly surprised by what's coming next. As the anime itself puts it, it's an idol girl apocalypse!
AKB0048 is a two-season anime that tells of the exploits of a large group of girls who sing and fight to bring entertainment back into the solar system where humans now call their homes. There are many planets explored in this series, most of which contain entertainment bans in order to keep order in society.
Another custom is the idea of sub groups. There are so many girls in the main group that either whole other main groups are made with a different name featuring different members, or smaller sub groups are made out of new members to try them out before succeeding a current member. I bring all of this up because this is a major part of the series. With such a large cast, AKB0048 must manage to follow our main group of heroines who are the new generation of members, as well as the current generation of members who aren't ready graduate just yet.
And so becomes our story following Nagisa, Chieri, Orine, and Yuuko as well as an ensemble of other girls who decide to go against their parents wishes and planet's laws in order to join AKB0048. What makes this series so compelling is in its premise, shrouded in bubblegum pop music and the hokeyness that is the power of song, the soul, and friendship is a show that makes you root for a terrorist organization.
Though they don't kill, and instead fight to bring peace and love to the worlds, their action are ultimately that of terrorists. Breeding young girls to fight with guns, swords and mechs (giant robots) while holding concerts on worlds where they aren't allowed. Going against a solar system of laws to do so, and recruiting young girls from their homes to fight for their cause. Thankfully, this isn't something the show just glosses over, and indeed there are plenty of episodes where we see the girls being treated as terrorists in front of the masses. The story still finds a way to make you root for the girls, probably because the show portrays many of those within the government as a faceless evil who simply hate the idea of fun.
Having said that however, never once does this anime feel like its making the story completely one-sided, and at some point we get see some of the faces calling the shots in this universe and some of their reasoning as to why they do. Though this series looks really bubblegum from the outset, thankfully there's a heavy dose of intellect and a deep story to keep one engrossed all the way through.
I also must mention the heavy amounts of mysticism going on in this story as well. As we're introduced to creatures known as Kirara's whom resonate and shine – literally – when a person is being true to their soul and the destiny that awaits them. These creatures are also tied to a mystical mineral called Dualiam and together these two things help shape the way AKB0048 as a group operates. I won't get into a lot of it because it's nice to get a bit of surprise where the story goes with this by watching it. But, unfortunately, you don't get all of the answers needed to fully understand everything going on by the end of the series.
The ending IS a satisfying one on its own, but personally I would have liked to have seen a movie at least that kind of gave us the epilogue many of these characters deserve, as well as answer any lingering questions left by the ending.
The characters, of which I mentioned a few earlier, are all fully dimensional. Even the ones that don't get a major spotlight cast on them, or an arc, do get little moments strung throughout that give us a peak into their personalities. I was quite impressed with the amount of attention given to many of the girls throughout the course of the series. What I was most surprised by, however, is that a lot of the secondary characters get the spotlight more often than many of the four main girls we're introduced too at the beginning of the series.
This happens simply because many of these secondary girls have bigger personalities and opt to do more within the story that's relevant to the plot. Chieri and Nagisa are ultimately the “two main” and still Chieri often gets more to do because her drive and proactive personality allows her to be more relevant to the story, where as Nagisa has a lot more hurdles to go through because she just isn't that confident in herself.
Though it was jarring at first, because I'm used to the main characters often getting the largest amount to do within a series, I was ultimately finding myself mostly happy about this outcome. Most things happen in this series because the girls themselves are confident and proactive in their fight to bring peace to the worlds as well further their own personal ambitions inside the idol group.
Nagisa, then, a girl who is shaped to be shy and withdrawn, doesn't have that proactive nature or confidence and so her arc is sort of to remain a background character in a way until she can find in herself the confidence she needs to come into the spotlight. And when that happens, it feels earned, not forced, and that to me speaks volumes about this series. To mention real quick as well, all of the girls within AKB0048 are treated as real girls. I love that.
AKB0048 is not a series that should've been as impressive as it is. There are so many idol anime that exist out there, and almost ultimately they all center around the same type of story. And to a certain degree, this show also falls into some of those trappings. However, it's elevated by its deeper story, it's reliance on strong characterizations, and ability to take the laugh out loud concept of girls singing and fighting battles against giant robots seriously while also making it work. There's also another anime out there that exists called ICE. That's an anime that was created to help promote a sub group of the real life AKB0048 and it was absolutely abysmal.
This series was a genuine surprise to me, and a show I found myself enjoying more and more as it introduced more and more into its world. While playing with the more aesthetic of modern day anime, as well as the modern day appeal of idols, AKB0048 blends that with a story more reminiscent of older anime from the late 90s/early 00s, which is the generation that helped shape many of my personal tastes in mature anime.
Definitely give this series a chance if you can. It really is quite the road trip through space and idols.
Final Score: 4 Generations of Idols out of 5
Have you seen AKB0048 for yourself? Let us know all about it in the comments!