Hello there. This is review number fifty nine. This is part of the Spring 2012 lineup and it’s that one anime I cringed a bit when I read the description. AKB0048. Its thirteen episodes full of singing, dancing and mic sabers. Yeah, you heard me right. Mic Sabers. What are they? You have to read the review to find out. So let’s read on.
In a universe where entertainment is banned, the AKB0048 travels to different planets and sings their hearts out while opposing the ban. The story follows four girls who once watched an AKB0048 concert and they were mesmerized by it. They promised to be part of the group when they grow up. Having been accepted as understudies; Nagisa, Chieri, Orine and Yuka are finally realizing their dreams but the road to becoming an AKB0048 is tougher than they imagined.
Taking the Pants Off
AKB0048 is an odd anime. There were elements that seemed completely ridiculous but there were also elements that were really well done. I’m not going to lie; my first impression of the anime isn’t that great. I honestly find it ridiculous. The idea of pop idols as radicals is absurd. I completely laughed my ass off on episode one where the girls were singing on this floating platform while they combat heavily armored soldiers with their ribbons and their magical staff. As an anime fan, I was a bit depressed that this is the trend nowadays. You get a bunch of pop idols, build an anime around them and then create a story to mix in. Unfortunately, as an anime reviewer, I know that you can’t trust first impressions. You can’t judge a thirteen episode anime on its first episode. You got to tough it out and discover what the anime has to offer.
I finished the anime and I can tell you that it’s great. The anime is about this group of girls working their ass off to become an AKB0048 member. This involves a lot of things and not just being able to sing and dance. The anime did a good job of giving an insight to what it takes to become a popular pop idol. It takes a lot of determination and hardships to reach your dream. You can often have to sacrifice a lot of things in order to achieveit. You often need to disregard what others say and you only need to listen to the passion burning within.
The whole pop idol experience is told pretty accurately by the anime. There are episodes dedicated to activities that a normal pop idol would do. There is a handshaking event as a meet and greet to fans. The girls surprisingly also have to do gravure photo shoots. Gravure is models in magazines that often display their sexiness in swimsuits. The pop idol experience isn’t complete without haters and hate mails. The anime did a great job of presenting it too.
AKB0048 members aren’t just accepted to the group. They need to succeed a current member and this member is forced to “graduate”. That’s the pop idol term but it’s really just a cheap way of telling the viewers they got replaced by a fresher girl. The girls in the anime clings hard to their position while the ones aspiring to enter the group works hard to succeed them. There is a cut throat feel to the anime that remarkably reflects real life. It’s a harsh depiction of the life span of an idol but it wasn’t directly told by the anime. It sticks to its “friendship” and “follow your dreams because they can come true” set up so the delivery was subtle. The anime decided to dilute that cut throat business point by having the girls develop a form of friendly rivalry.
The main characters of the anime are the 77th successors and there are characters from the 75th and 76th in the anime that is still trying to get into the group. The anime has some episodes where bitter people from this group would be jealous at how great the 77th group is. It’s another point of view in the road to becoming an idol where you realize people are better than you and you feel threatened. People who complain often feels mistreated but hard workers are rewarded for their effort. If this anime was a slice of life depiction of the trials and tribulations of becoming a pop idol then I would’ve enjoyed the anime but it’s not that simple.
Now that I’ve told you how great the “idol” aspect of the anime is. It’s time to talk about the other element of the anime. I can boil it down to one word: mecha. The anime had this set up that entertainment is banned because it disrupts the rebuilding efforts of a planet so a galactic council doesn’t want pop idols or any other kind of crap going on in planets with entertainment ban. There are fans in this planet who wants to hear the AKB0048 sing so the group holds concerts despite the ban in effect. This results in fights with heavily armored soldiers, tanks and mechas.
Yes, these girls aren’t just idols. They are also ass kickers. They are taught to pilot mechas and learn basic combat strategies. Their freakin mic doubles as a sword to create the dumbest invention ever, the mic saber. These pop idols don’t only work hard to follow their dreams; they also fight for the right to have entertainment. It’s pretty absurd and completely unrealistic. You expect me to believe that frail girls can take on a mecha that shoots missiles. It was hard to take seriously.
The ridiculousness doesn’t end there. Their fans also fight with their glow sticks that double as missile projectiles. The process of selecting a new member is done by spiritual beings in a cave. The person that writes their songs is a malign being that hides in the shadows only speaking in broken sentences and, to top it off, if the girls shine too brightly then they disappear. How can you expect people to watch an anime with that kind of elements? I’ll give the anime points for originality though.
There’s something off putting seeing girls in combat when all they really want is to sing and be popular. Seeing them fall to the ground one by one while the others cower in a corner was really depressing and it was hard to enjoy a music anime where you know that the girls can die if pushed too far. None of them die in the anime though but I still don’t get the appeal of it. I think it mocks fan a bit. Hey, look! We have an anime about moe girls in loli outfits in mechas! Come on, all of your 30 year old virgins who live in their mom’s basement.
Despite all the ridiculousness though, the anime still works. The story was pretty solid and the pacing was nicely done. There was no boring moment on this anime and, after a few watching, the pop idol element and the mecha element of the anime would become very enjoyable. There’s also a very good reason why mecha is one of the genre of the anime. It’s actually the director’s own touch on the anime. I get it. A slice of life anime about being pop idols is too straight forward and mixing in mecha would certainly make the anime more interesting.
The director of the anime is Shoji Kawamori who is pretty famous for his mecha designs. He designed all the mechanical elements of the anime and not only that; he is a pretty great director. His works include Macross, The vision of Escaflowne and Aquarion no Evol. He’s actually pretty bad ass and this anime was in good hands. I’m not saying it justifies the weird combination of the anime but I get it. The anime works.
The characters in the anime are pretty generic and there were a lot of girls introduced during the first half that it was a bit hard to follow. The story did a great job in transforming some of the girls though. Majority of them are run of the mill from start to finish with a few brilliant moments from time to time but the main characters of the anime was develop pretty nicely. I counted four main characters in the anime. It wasn’t a straight forward story to begin with. There are four little stories in the anime that is told at the same time. The three girls who are aiming for their dreams, the 75th group getting their deserved reward after two years of sitting in the shadows, the manager of AKB0048 unraveling her friend’s disappearance and the current AKB0048 members having a hard time relinquishing their spot.
I really enjoy this anime because all the elements supported each other to deliver a really amazing story. It start off as ridiculous but, as the anime progresses, it becomes more tolerable. I suggest giving this anime a chance because a quirky one like this is very hard to pull off but it ultimately does.
Sight and Sound
I obtain a crappy copy of the anime so I couldn’t gauge the anime’s animation at first. The background is superb. The little things that most people don’t recognize stands out. The little decorations in the house, the accuracy of the facilities and the scenery really helps establish a futuristic yet rustic feel of the anime. The sceneries stand out and there were some really great ones in the anime. In some of its sentimental moments, the anime would often display some pretty stunning scenery.
The CG in the anime is a bit odd. It was present on the vehicles and all the mechas but it was also used when the girls are dancing. They would suddenly become 3d while they dance then they become 2d in split second scenes then 3d again. It was odd because you wish the anime would just stick to one. CG is stiff and most of the dances become stiff. The only really good CG dance scene was in the last episode.
The mecha design is impressive. The small details really make them unique and considering how short they appear, it was commendable that the anime put effort on the design. The character design is pretty normal. It’s your typical moe/loli with big heads and bug eyes. The 2D dance scenes were smoothly animated though.
I’m not an AKB48 fan but I did enjoy the music. It was one of the anime’s best points so I expect it to be superb. It was too pop for me though. I dunno, I’m not a fan of the “moe moe kyun” kind of music and that is what the music in the anime is mostly about. Realizing what the lyrics are about ruins it a bit for me so I often just ignore the subtitle while they sing. The songs have a nice beat to them and the rhythm was great. The lyrics were too cutesy for me though.
5/10 “Idols piloting mecha. It surprisingly works.”
The first impression on the anime is weak but the overall story is strong so I suggest giving the anime a chance. You won’t regret it. I recommend it.