January 6, 2013

Imagine the world without the Korean Wave. Now, imagine American Idol never existed. Or all those singing and talent reality shows on TV that you see, cease to exist. No girl groups, no boy bands ever. Heck, what if there is no music in the world! Can’t imagine that kind of life, eh? It’s like having all sorts of entertainment banned. The premise for AKB0048 may remind you of the Taliban’s strict rule but only difference is that you magnify and extend this ban thingy into an intergalactic magnitude. Wow. That is really terrifying. I know in space nobody can hear you scream but to ban all forms of music too?

This series is inspired and based on the popular all-girl idol group called AKB48. Their popularity has been growing in idol-crazy Japan and their influence is of course extending to other countries as well so this anime was somewhat timely to promote and further enhance their popularity. I think. I’m not really a big fan of AKB48 so when I did a little research on the group (via Wikipedia of course), I was overwhelmed with all sorts of information that explains their history, goal and workings. So much so I became ‘scared’ in trying to understand it all. Not to mention the terms such as Kenkyuusei (Understudy/Trainees), Senbatsu (Successors) and Graduates (ex-members). All I understand is that there is a big bunch of girls singing and dancing on stage much to the delight of their screaming fans and that they hold the Guinness World Record of having the most number of group members for a pop group. That’s a total of 64 girls, dude!!! How crowded can the stage get? It makes the Korean boy band of Super Junior look like nothing. And this is not counting all their other associate acts like SKE48, HKT48 and NMB48 among the oddly named groups that sound like some computer code. Well, I don’t mind if you’re crazy over them but for me, I think I’ll just pass and if I happen to like a particular song they sing, so be it. I’m not going gaga and obsessed over them. Maybe I’m too old for this.

Don’t be mistaken that this series is based on the real life and drama of the members itself. In fact it takes place in the future of the 21st century where mankind has migrated to several planets all over the universe after Earth has become uninhabitable. Because entertainment like music has been deemed to ‘disturb the heart’, any sort of that likes are banned. Of course, there will always be a group of resistance fighters to challenge that iron fist ruling and for this sci-fi series, who no other than AKB0048 who will come to the rescue and bring hope to the hearts of people and fans with their music. Labelled as heroines by some and terrorists by others, the girls carry on fighting with the title and the spirit of the original members. This is the story of a group of young hopefuls trying to achieve their dream amidst the dangers and obstacles as they try to become the next generation of AKB0048.

Episode 1
The entertainment ban is in full force on planet Lancastar. Looks like your typical gloomy industrialized dystopian planet. Doom is so the right word. But that didn’t stop a group of 4 young girls, Nagisa Motomiya, Chieri Sono, Yuuka Ichijou and Orine Aida from secretly attending a concert that will be held on the planet. The performance of AKB0048 was awe inspiring, enough to move the hearts of everyone. Despite the attack of the DES enforcers, the show goes on because the idols themselves kick ass! They’re not just pretty faces on stage, you know. While the main idols prance around, their backup Kenkyuusei members take on the DES enforcement. Seriously, a group of heavily armed men getting beaten up by cute idols? Never mind. I root for the idols to kick ass! Woot! At the end of the concert, the 4 friends are left in amazement and they vow to become part of the group one day. For Chieri, she receives a Kirara (cute little glowing blobs). Fast forward 4 years later. Nothing much changes. Lancastar is still a dystopian world but because of that guerrilla concert, pro-entertainment activisms have reached its peak and though the ban is still enforced, some form of entertainment is allowable. Nagisa, Yuuka and Orine watch a recruitment ad from AKB0048 searching for the 77th generation of Understudies. They are going to apply and make an audition tape of themselves. Not the best but you can see the determination they put in. But it’s going to be hard for Nagisa because her father is part of the government’s Entertainment Administration (despite its name, it is actually anti-entertainment) and it would be ironic for people to catch the daughter of such a bureau chief singing. Nagisa like a typical rebelling teenager didn’t like it one bit. Mama is caught in between but eventually couldn’t help her daughter achieve her dream.

Yuuka and Orine relay the good news that they have been accepted for the audition and have been sent a digital ticket for the next round. However Nagisa couldn’t go as she knows her father wouldn’t allow her. Besides, she isn’t confident in her signing. Yuuka calls her a chicken and their friendship is strained. Nagisa tries to convince her dad but he is sticking with his guns. He fears radicals and DES forces may show up and jeopardize everything. Looking for danger is a waste of time. I’m sure that guerrilla concert 4 years ago won’t be enough to convince him either. Nagisa runs out of the house in show of defiance. At the park, she stumbles upon Yuuka arguing with her boyfriend Mamoru Kouenji. She slaps him. He loves her but if she becomes an idol, he won’t love her anymore. I guess that’s the end for them. Orine lives alone in the factory where she also works (her parents were killed when she was young) and though sad to leave this place, she’ll come back to see them again (the machines, that is). On the early morning of their flight, Nagisa makes a last minute decision to attend. She thought her mom was going to stop her but instead was given a ribbon she made herself as support. The flight is about to being as Nagisa peddles hard to catch it. Can you outrun a shuttle? It’s a good thing that her friends pull her up in time into the shuttle but remember, don’t ever try this stunt anyhow. It’s amazing nobody got seriously hurt.

Episode 2
On board the liner, the trio aren’t the only AKB0048 hopefuls on board. We have a glimpse of the very pessimistic Makoto Yokomizo (if she’s so scared, how the heck did she manage to convince herself to get onboard this ship?), the quiet Suzuko Kanzaki (seems to have a wide knowledge on AKB0048) and the stowaway bratty and child-like Sonata Shinonome (has a penchant for giving aptly weird nicknames to others). Of course, not forgetting Chieri who is very well disguised, careful not to let herself be known. Inevitably all the girls (except Chieri) meet and learn they are rivals for the audition. Sorry folks. No cat fight from the start. Instead, friendly interactions. Shouldn’t everyone be like that? They see Sonata hiding not only because she’s a stowaway, but failed the first round auditions. She’s that determined, huh? They see on the news that the daughter of Zodiac Corporation’s CEO is missing. That’s Chieri, right? An all-out search for her has been initiated and it is rumoured that she is heading to some audition. So her friends think she still hasn’t given up her dream and go to find her. Nagisa bumps into a kid (Chieri) who wants to know if she is going to turn Chieri over to the authorities if she finds her. Well, if she wants to pass the audition, she should hand her in. After all that means fewer rivals. Nagisa isn’t going to do that to her friend. However the kid signs off warning her if she doesn’t see others as rivals, there is a slim chance of her joining AKB0048.

When the girls regroup, DES enforcers storm into the liner in search of groups of girls heading to the audition. The girls make a run for it but Nagisa gets caught. It isn’t long before AKB0048 bursts in to save the day. And sing while they’re at it. Nagisa realizes her ribbon is missing and went back to search for it but gets caught again. Chieri unmasks herself to tackle the DES enforcer. Instead of happy to see her old friend again, Chieri chides her that she can’t even protect herself what more join AKB0048. Felt like a cliche when the chandelier fell over her. Nagisa won’t run and abandon Chieri and tries to haul it away. Seriously, can she? Now it’s Nagisa’s turn to reply back on Chieri’s question about rivals. True, they may be rivals. But they trust their friends and support each other. That’s the AKB0048 she wants to join. Kirara suddenly glows and as explained by AKB0048 member Yuuko, it is proof of the birth of an idol. Kiraras are testament to the presence of idols and are attracted to their aura while glowing in resonance. Yuuko lifts the heavy chandelier and guides the duo to the rest of the 77th generation candidates into safety on their shuttle while the rest stalls the DES enforcers. While catching their breath, Chieri notes that Kirara had always followed her ever since that day but it never glowed for her. She wonders if Nagisa was chosen.

Episode 3
The manager of AKB0048, Tsubasa Katagiri informs the candidates they will undergo a series of intensive selections and those who pass will only become Understudies and be invited to their home planet, Akibastar. Sonata gets the green light from Tsubasa to join the audition seeing her determination. I’m sure the girls never thought the audition will be about fighting robots and handling guns, eh? Is this what they signed up for? I mean, you can’t be an idol without being able to defend yourself especially from DES, right? Plus, Tsubasa informs they’ll be bodyguards for the upcoming guerrilla concert and will be trained to protect the current Successors’ concert. Until the end. Boy, this is going to be tough. If it’s not training, taking time off is also hell. The shower water is rusty, the food has lots of fats and they sleep in little space bunkers. Chieri chides everyone who complains and she goes off to practice hard herself. Nagisa and Yuuka go to find her and they stumble upon the Successors practising late into the night. Tensions are running high with one of them slipping up so much so Nagisa busts in to tell them not to fight. On the contrary, they weren’t fighting. It’s their way of letting others know how they’re feeling. A couple of girls want to confront Tsubasa about this combat training thingy but Yuuka tells them off about working hard. It made her realize how much she sounded like Chieri.

Preparations are made just before they are dropped off. While AKB0048 performs on stage, the candidates man their station on the lookout for DES troops. True enough, the robots came and start blasting them all! Wow. They came for an audition and not the kind of battle they expected, eh? How can you throw amateurs into battle?! They’re falling like flies! Tsubasa is observing them and makes a note of those who failed. Lots of them don’t seem to make the cut. Chieri is adamant to protect the concert and becomes the decoy for a DES robot to buy enough time for Nagisa to take it out with her grenade. But it’s not out yet and targets Nagisa. Chieri uses her body to protect her and got shot. The concert ends and as Nagisa holds dear Chieri in her arms, both girls are surprised to see Chieri alive. The blood is fake? As revealed by Tsubasa, this is only a test and training. Seriously, you think they would put amateurs in a real battlefield? Yeah, it was a way to weed out those who didn’t make the cut. Safe to say Nagisa and her friends all pass. The DES robots were made from captured from enemy crafts and this training is to also show that fighting with weapons only brings pain and hatred. However they stood their ground and protect their dream and most important of all, they showed they would be there to support for their friends no matter what. Tsubasa announces that they have successfully become the 77th generation of Understudies.

Episode 4
The girls arrive on Akibastar and they get to see the concert staged by the 75th generation Understudies. There are only 2 of them, Kanata Shinonome and Mimori Kishida. As mentioned by Tsubasa, they are the cursed generation. So many failed and pulled out and they are the only ones left. They have been Understudies for 2 years and none of them have succeeded in becoming Successors. But the girls feel the crowd isn’t really paying attention to their performance. When AKB0048 prance onto the stage, they become wild. After stage, the girls meet the 75th generation Understudies (despite their different generations, they are treated equally as Understudies). Sonata is happy to see her sister Kanata but the latter isn’t. She thinks she should go home and should not be here in the first place. They are taken around the place, the dorm and the kitchen handled by Papa Cook. There is row of pictures in the hallway of portraits of past centres. AKB0048 currently has a different centre for each song but in the past, one person took that position and led the group. It was last held by Acchan the 13th. After she graduated, the position was done away. Why? That’s what Yuuko wants to find out.

Sonata and Kanata are in another sisterly squabble. What else? Kanata is frustrated that their generation has never succeeded and at this rate she will never get revenge for her father. He was the leader of a pro-entertainment rebellion faction but was killed in action by DES. That’s why she doesn’t want Sonata walking the same path as her. She doesn’t care about singing and joined AKB0048 for revenge. She is going to be a Successor so that she can perform on the frontline and fight DES. The Understudies get their dancing lessons from the effeminate choreographer, Ushiyama. He’s strict. He is quick to point out if you’re doing it wrong. No better than combat training, eh? Ushiyama wasn’t impressed with Kanata’s motivation so he tells her off and wants her to switch positions with Chieri. But Chieri couldn’t do that and would prefer to observe older and more experienced members since she is new and will be counting on the seniors to set a good example. I don’t know how others view it as going too far since they’re not sitting well with her statement. Kanata runs off with Mimori chasing her. Mimori finds her sitting alone and starts singing. Kanata tries to shut her ears because she fears if she does so, she may start to like singing. What’s so bad about that? The more you like it the better. So Mimori weaves her magical words of encouragement, support, dreams and hard work for Kanata’s much needed motivation to get her back on her feet. And happily reunite with little sister Sonata too.

Episode 5
They’re getting used to life and routine at the dorm. Just a little bit crowded, don’t you think? Despite having their day off, Tsubasa reminds that how they make the most of their time will greatly impact their futures as the Successors’ lives are schedule down to the last minute. Chieri goes out shopping alone, Suzuko and Sonata take a bath together, Yuuka and Orine help out with Papa Cook, Kojiharu takes Makoto and Kanata under her wing to increase their feminine pheromones while Sayaka and Sae do the exact opposite of Mimori who is reeking of sexy pheromones. Nagisa follows Chieri and thought she was being tailed by an agent and goes to save her. Turns out that guy just wanted to point out the price tag stuck onto her skirt. Suzuko and Sonata try to find out more about S-Quadruple AKA Sensei-sensei (the one responsible for writing songs and lyrics for AKB0048) but was told by Yukirin that it is forbidden to do so or else… You’ll lose your belly button! Sonata believed it… However Suzuko couldn’t pass up this chance and decides to tail Tsubasa who gets a call to meet. Orine and Yuuka went to visit the house of Tomochin and oddly, everyone in her family resembles the Tomochin the 1st! Too strong the genes? Nagisa protects Chieri once more thinking some paparazzi is onto her. Turns out to be Yuuko. The girls talk and she tells them about Acchan who was an amazing person because all the glowing Kiraras would flock to her when she’s on stage. Also, all past centres have graduated under mysterious circumstances and it was believed Acchan disappeared during a concert shortly Yuuko got promoted as a Successor. Acchan took with her the centre position but that is not going to stop Yuuko from becoming a centre. Nagisa inspires to become Yuuko so as they practice their dance in the middle of the streets, it attracts the attention of the public. So all the Understudies get some words of encouragement of chasing their dreams and working hard. Suzuko and Sonata tail Tsubasa who is having a meal with Ushiyama at a roadside stall. Is this Sensei-sensei? Well, they got tired waiting and fell asleep. Apparently Tsubasa knew they were tailing all along and led them on a wild goose chase. After she brings the sleeping girls back to their dorm, she goes off to see Sensei-sensei.

Episode 6
The 77th generation just completed their promotional movie that will be broadcasted throughout the galaxy. Makoto thinks her waist was too fat… They will also be debuting in a handshake event. It is an important event for them to get to know their fans and get feedback. Their personality will impact their future. Oh, do pay attention to your clothes too. Though they didn’t buy anything suitable, Orine is surprised to receive a fan mail. Everyone is eager to see it but it turns out to be a hate mail! This kid doesn’t want her to succeed Sashiko and views her as an embarrassment and failure to this idol he loves. He tells her to give up or else he’ll bomb the event! Orine becomes shell shocked but it was too late for Tsubasa to snatch it away. She laments the screening of mails was lax and they get all sorts of mails. She points out the more popular a member is, the more haters it attracts. If they lose spirit over this, they don’t stand a chance. Besides, if you give into one hater, you’ll let tons of fans down. However Orine couldn’t focus on her practice and continues to slip up. Chieri once more said harsh words but it was for her better sake. Orine gets advice from Takamina that there will always be haters so Orine decides to attend the handshake event.

On that day itself, Orine is still shaken up but her friends remain supportive. Orine gets her first handshake from a fan in the form of a little girl, Yayoi. She gets the much needed boost to carry on the event. As the handshake gets underway, the hateful kid pops up. It’s that traumatic feeling once more. Chieri comes in between them and instead of telling him off, puts up a nice and polite gesture to welcome him to the event. Suddenly a bomb rocks the place and the kid insists it wasn’t him. The DES army is approaching and the Understudies will have to fight them off while the Successors lead the fans to safety. Orine tries to help that kid up and despite him shouting at her he’ll never accept her as Sashiko, Orine thinks back and remembers how his room is filled with memorabilia of her. He must really love her. Orine saves him from an incoming blast and wants to protect him. He is after all her first hater and if there is anything she lacks, please tell her. She’ll do anything to be Sashiko. Reinforcements for the girls arrive in the form called WOTA. Let’s say they are otaku people with armaments that can rival DES. You can’t beat their passion and love for the girls! In the end, DES is forced to withdraw and though the stadium is heavily damaged, there were no casualties. Yayoi is very impressed with Orine but for that kid, he just ran away. Soon, Orine gets another mail from that kid. Though he still doesn’t acknowledge her to be Sashiko (he notes her fighting is like a wimp), he admits her sincerity was like her. So polish up your skills and you might have some potential. Woah. A compliment from her very first hater. An experience for Orine filled with fear and kindness that she’ll never forget.

Episode 7
Some of the Understudies may get their first chance appearing as stand-ins for their Successors who are away attending a peace ceremony. Those selected are Kanata, Mimori, Chieri and Megumi Wanibuchi. However Megumi is not pleased that a younger generation got selected instead of another one from her 76th generation. Tsubasa reminds her that seniority does not play a role in the selection and based on skill. Later Tsubasa talks to Uchiyama about Sensei-sensei. It seems he has been more proactive expressing his will lately and reacting to the 77th generation lately and writing more lyrics. The unselected Understudies think of what to do with their free time but I guess they can’t sit in the same room with the 76th generation. After practice, Chieri tries to follow wherever Yuuko goes and imitate whatever she does. Including doing some embarrassing sexy pose. Nagisa saw that. She congratulates her for becoming a stand-in and when they get back to the dorm, Megumi and her girls confront Chieri. They think she has something to hide. Her dad’s company makes those DES robots and they think she’s a spy. Chieri reveals that she tried to talk to her dad about the audition but he refused to budge so she secretly attended another concert and that’s when she saw her dad’s company logo on the DES robot. That’s why she ran away for this audition and had this feeling she knew she didn’t belong here. Nagisa rubbishes that but Chieri wants to be left alone. So when practice begins, Chieri isn’t around. Kanata wants to go look for her despite Ushiyama’s protest. He cautions her that Chieri has abandoned her duty and that Kanata is close to being promoted. But as captain of the Understudies, Kanata feels it’s her duty as that comes first before being a stand-in and goes off to look for Chieri.

Takamina talks to Yuuko, Yukirin and Mayuyu about Kanata’s skills at a Successor’s level. But since they don’t know how this succession thing works, they decide to go see Tsubasa. They tail Tsubasa entering a weird shrine underneath the concert hall. Was this place ever so big? Inside a cave, they see lots of glowing Kiraras. They reflect the original members that they are succeeding. However when it comes to Takamina, it wasn’t her face but Kanata’s. Kanata sees Chieri packing her bags. She feels guilty she took the audition without mentioning what her father does. But Kanata couldn’t care less about what her father does. Despite her father was killed by DES and she joined AKB0048 to avenge his death, that all doesn’t matter now because she wants to be a Successor. It’s your dream that matters. Well, that was enough conviction for Chieri to u-turn her decision. And shed some tears while at it. Kanata hugs her and Nagisa thought she saw something yuri. Tsubasa is surprised to find the quartet within the forbidden area. Takamina wants to know the meaning of this and as explained. The Kiraras here are the Kiraras of succession. So, they rely on these cute little critters to select the next Successor? Up till a year ago, the Kirara showed Takamina’s face until it was replaced by Kanata as her power increased. It’s because her soul is the closes to the original Takamina. Since the Kirara chose her, Kanata will be the next Takamina once she graduates. Of course this means if Takamina doesn’t graduate, she won’t get promoted. But as of now, Kanata may have grown close to the original Takamina. This doesn’t sit well with Takamina. Tsubasa hopes the rest won’t tell the rest. They won’t because Takamina is their irreplaceable captain.

Episode 8
The concert was a success and as usual awe inspiring. But the next guerrilla concert will be held on Tundrastar where the entertainment ban is in full force. Kanata, Mimori, Megumi and all of the 77th generation are selected as stand-ins. Megumi is not happy that her other 76th generation didn’t get selected so Tsubasa tells her off that the 77th generation were practising hard when they were not selected. What was the 76th generation doing then? Can’t answer, no? This later leads to a confrontation between the 76th generation and the rest. Though Kanata tries to give them hope, Megumi reminds her of her 2 years as an Understudy. Surprisingly Suzuko head butts her. That pain hurt her as much as it did to Suzuko. She wants her to apologize to Kanata. Yuuka writes a mail to Mamoru that she has become a stand-in but gets embarrassed when Makoto and Sonata read it out loud. Megumi is still bitter over everything. She meets Youko, a full-fledged AKB0048 who was from her generation before she got promoted. She’s the only one from the 76th generation to become a Successor. Megumi said they used to be together but they hardly see her. You know how busy a Successor’s schedule is? Tsubasa receives information from WOTA that there will be large reinforcements from DES waiting for them. They might not have enough members to fight back but Takamina will still go ahead with the concert. They’ll put down their lives for the people who are counting on them and not let a little danger scare them. Four DES robots are detected so the girls get into their station. Takamina is having doubts if she is acting like a captain. She couldn’t concentrate and got careless. Though she is saved by Kanata, she is badly wounded from the direct missile hit. Takamina wakes up in the infirmary with Yuuko by her side. She doubts her own abilities but wants to stay on and not graduate. However she is in a dilemma because if she does, Kanata will remain as an Understudy. That girl works so hard and adores her so it seems unfair that she is crushing her dreams for her own selfishness. Yuuko says though they care for the girls, it is her own dream that is most important. Everyone in AKB0048 is chasing the same dream but that dream means something different to each of them. Her dream belongs to only herself and there is nothing wrong with that. Kanata notes she needs to become stronger.

Episode 9
Takamina is injured and even so, she wants to perform. However Tsubasa doesn’t think she can give her best performance and replaces her with Kanata. Megumi feels Youko has gone distant between them. Mimori assures her that she is still by her side because their efforts will help the Successors shine on the main stage. Megumi feels bad she has been badmouthing them so why is she helping her still. Because she’s a masochist…?! On Tundrastar, Nagisa and her friends decide to take a look at a nearby town. Gloomy. Depressing. Miserable. This is what happens when you ban entertainment, eh? Yeah, nobody is smiling. Their hearts are frozen. They see a group of little girls secretly watching a video of AKB0048 in their igloo. Once they realize who the idols are, their eyes are beam with hope and happiness. This gives Nagisa an idea to perform for them right now. Too bad it is cut short when it attracted the attention of DES enforcers but the WOTA got them. Tsubasa has come up with an idea of holding multiple coordinated concerts. The concert starts and the Understudies start popping up everywhere all over town singing. This confuses the DES enforces because by the time they reach the girls, they’re already gone. Popping up at random places also messes their coordination as they are scattered throughout the place. The main concert is going to start in a few minutes and Kanata is extremely happy that she is going to play Takamina’s role for the very first time. However Takamina shows up and wants her to take off her dress. She is adamant she can still perform her best. Seeing her determination, Tsubasa allows her. I’m sure Kanata must be very disappointed with this last minute change. Oh well. Easy come, easy go. The main concert gets underway and though Takamina is in pain, she doesn’t give in and puts on a stunning performance while the Understudies and WOTA keep DES at bay. At the end of the concert, Takamina fever reaches burning point. Despite the crowd wanting an encore, Yuuko wants Kanata to bring her to the sick bay. She should trust her friends more. Takamina notes that Kanata may have been bitter not being able to perform. Despite of that, she puts the band and performance first. She thinks the title of Takamina should really belong to her.

Episode 10
Makoto seems to be enjoying fattening food till Tsubasa announces a gravure photo shoot in their swimsuits. Oh no. Now she’s changing her mind about those ‘treasure chests’? On the other hand, Nagisa notes how Chieri has changed a lot as she has grown closer to the other girls since their return from Tundrastar. So before the photo shoot, Makoto doubts she could make her appearance. The fats ended up in the wrong place even if they’re a few centimetres apart! Haha! Seeing she wants to shape up so bad, Suzuko is glad to lend her hand. That scream doesn’t sound good. Suddenly, yes suddenly flat chest Makoto has got boobs! What the?! Did she have such a nice body before? From what Suzuko did, she seems to tape all the fats around her body and squeeze it to her breasts. I don’t know how she did that. While the photo shoot goes on, Yuuko confronts Tsubasa about the place with Kirara of succession. It’s because of her dream as the Centre Nova. Noting that Tsubasa was once part of the AKB0048 known as Mariko, Acchan was always with her. She knows she was there by her side when Acchan disappeared. Tsubasa then quit AKB0048 to join the administration team to find out about Acchan’s disappearance. Makoto revels in her photo shoot but because Sonata is fooling around, her fake pads dropped off into the water. She quickly scoops them up till she realizes she just put in a jellyfish. It stings like hell! Chieri and Nagisa are made to pose close to each other. Too close…

That night Makoto skips out in joining the rest to bath together. So Suzuko joins her and reveals her dream was not to become a Successor and has no one in particular she wants to become. As each member had their own unique traits, some advance quickly while others took their time. She had low confidence level till she discovered AKB0048. She wants to become someone like Tsubasa, someone who works to support AKB0048. Nagisa and Chieri are seen talking together. Chieri says Kirara has never glowed once in her presence and glowed only for Nagisa. Since she was chosen by Kirara, she can’t win. Suddenly they hear screams from Makoto. Actually they were screams of joy. Because of the jellyfish sting, her boobs swelled. She thinks this is her chance to get some of her pictures taken before the temporary boobs disappear. Tsubasa goes to see Mikako Noono, the camerawoman who was also known as Minami Minegishi and was once the Centre Nova. She shows her a picture she took of Chieri and Nagisa together. Even though the sun is out, Kirara shone very brightly. Mikako denies she was Centre Nova because she ran away and if Tsubasa intends to bring that position back, she’ll do everything in her power to stop her. Tsubasa seeks answers about it but Mikako’s lips are tightly sealed. Nagisa reflects on what Chieri said about being chosen and refuses to believe that this is about winning or losing.

Episode 11
A big announcement pops up right after AKB0048’s performance. The Understudies will have their debut performance back on Lancastar. Tsubasa goes over the programme for their performance and for one of the few solo songs, Nagisa is surprised that she was chosen to be the lead singer while Chieri, Suzuko and Makoto act as her backup dancers. Nagisa didn’t have confidence to take on this role but Tsubasa tells her this is not a debate. Kanata talks to Takamina and though she feels jealous Nagisa got that part, she is now happy that her comrades are rewarded for their effort. Yuuka gets mail from Makoto but it’s not lovey-dovey reply. He doesn’t want her to come back. Still bitter? Uchiyama is not impressed that Nagisa lacks the vibrant to match the solo song while the other girls chide Kanata for being pro-Takamina. Takamina this, Takamina that. If that is not enough trouble, Yuuko barges in seeking answers from Tsubasa that Sensei-sensei has composed a new song and the ones who are singing it are the Understudies. So? Jealous? So what a new song hasn’t been written since Acchan’s disappearance. This song, Yume Wa Nando Demo Umarekawaru (Dreams Are Forever Reborn) seems to have its lyrics suitable for the Understudy girls. It shows that the girls have the power to move Sensei-sensei. Yuuko is going to practice this song too even if they don’t get to sing it. Sonata and Makoto discuss about Sensei-sensei’s song writing abilities. Sonata thinks he is lazy for him to come up with a song after so long while Makoto thinks it’s a burden if he writes songs regularly because it’ll be hard to remember all its lyrics as of now AKB0048 has already hundreds of them. Chieri continues to ponder what Nagisa has that she lacks and sees Yuuko performing the new song alone. It’s like she’s obsessed with it.

Tsubasa receives report that DES and the radical anti-entertainment faction are making their move on Lancastar. Yuuka understands why Makoto told her not to come back. Nonetheless, they are going to hold a concert. Nagisa and her friends get permission to visit around town and promise to be back before their concert. The place hasn’t changed at all. Dark. Depressing. Gloomy. Miserable. Outside their old school, Yuuka is shocked to see Mamoru. He has a rifle in hand! Anyway they both start arguing till Mamoru’s teammate, Aoi breaks them up. Yuuka to her surprise finds Mamoru is a fan of Suzuko! Great. This just complicates things. Well, I don’t remember them breaking up officially. Oh, Aoi is Yuuka’s fan. They are brought into their old classroom which is now a base for Lancastar’s WOTA, which Mamoru and Aoi are part of. It’s such a pig sty but after seeing the Understudies, see how fast they clean up the space to welcome them. Yuuka is baffled because she thought Mamoru hated AKB0048. Apparently after she left, he researched on the group and gradually found himself addicted. Life is so ironic. Though Yuuka is happy, she can’t help wonder who this Aoi girl is since she is quite close to Mamoru. The WOTA leader informs that the anti-entertainment on Lancastar has grown stronger thanks to DES and many of the pro-entertainment officials have been detained. This prompts Nagisa to ask about her dad. He was arrested because his daughter became an Understudy of AKB0048. No use crying now. She defied him to go after her dream, right? Suddenly the place is under attack by DES. Mamoru wants Yuuka and her friends to escape safely so they can put up a concert and give the people strength to fight back. To confuse the enemy, they will split into 3 groups. Nagisa, Chieri and Orine are running away when Orine stumbles. Orine recognizes a mark from the factory she carved on the DES robot and becomes distraught.

Episode 12
Chieri cuts the DES robot with her light sabre and leads the girls to safety. Orine realizes she has been making DES robots without realizing it and indirectly tried to destroy AKB0048 she loves. Chieri feels she is to blame since it was her father’s company that ordered the factory to make those weapons. WOTA reinforcements arrive to help them to safety. Before the van departs, Nagisa wants to save her father because she feels it’s her fault she got detained. Kanata vouches for her since they’ve all been trained for combat. The WOTA leader notes how Kanata is like her father who was a hero to the liberation movement. The place where the girls first witnessed the AKB0048 is now a detainment facility. While the rest draw the guards’ attention, Nagisa, Makoto, Suzuko and Sonata will head in via secret pathway to reach her father. When Nagisa reaches her father’s cell, he refuses to leave. Since he is an Entertainment Administration official, he can’t risk it to be saved by an entertainer and traitor to Lancaster and will go talk to the higher ups himself. With a heavy heart, Nagisa is forced to leave empty handed since DES reinforcements are heading towards them. They seek shelter at Yuuka’s family restaurant. Nagisa still feels guilty it’s her fault daddy is in there. Yuuka’s parents say that though they manage to lie their way out, her father was pressured into making her quit AKB0048 but never gave in. Then they drive by Nagisa’s house and see it in ruins. The garden that her mom used to diligently take care off is now in shambles.

When they get back to base for practice, Nagisa seems to have lost her voice from the shock. The concert is tomorrow and they don’t have enough time. Chieri volunteers to take her place since she knows the lyrics and moves by heart. Tsubasa okays it and reduces Nagisa to a backup dancer. Takamina talks to Yuuko who is practising the new song. She hates it since it’s all about the new generation and it makes her feel that her generation is not good enough. Takamina is still in pain from her old injuries and thinks of graduating after this concert. Later Chieri confronts Nagisa and gives her a pep talk about graduating and not to quit until she has lost to her. Easy to say it to her now because she can’t talk back, eh? Before the main concert begins, Yuuka talks to Mamoru and promises to put on a dazzling performance. He says he has changed his mind. He loves the Yuuka in AKB0048 and no longer the one who isn’t in it. As long as she remains in AKB0048, he’ll be her fan. The Understudies head out for their debut performance and put all their heart and soul into it. DES is firing back with more firepower and is serious in taking down AKB0048 so much so Tsubasa had to initiate an emergency cancel on the concert. While Yuuka bids farewell to Mamoru, Mikako sees a new Kirara born.

Episode 13
The Understudies want to return to perform since their voice have not reach their fans yet. They fear they may not get a chance to return if they run but Tsubasa won’t hear any more of it. Tsubasa also reflects how she didn’t want to abandon her home planet. She thought her planet had no WOTA support and that nobody was there to see them. However Acchan thought differently, she wanted to go because she wanted to see her fans. Sonata is a little shaken up. During a fracas with one of the DES enforcers, she saw how scary his face at close up. He hated AKB0048 and Sonata thought AKB0048 was all about love and smiles. Suzuko says DES are a bunch of bullies and that they are wrong to hate them. Soon all the girls including the Successors plead to Tsubasa they want to resume their concert. Suddenly Acchan’s voice is heard. Noting their determination to reach their voices, Acchan casts a ray of light down from the ship onto Lancaster. The location will be at the detainment facility. What a better place to fight for the liberation of entertainment. Mikako leads the fans over to the spot as Mamoru frees Nagisa’s dad from prison and makes him come to watch his daughter’s debut performance. The other detainees are also freed to watch the concert. Halfway through the song, Chieri passes the mike to Nagisa and wants her to take the lead. She kept thinking of not wanting to lose to her but realized they wouldn’t reach anyone if they’re against each other. Nagisa sees her parents watching and gets her voice back to take over from Chieri. Well, papa doesn’t seem too impressed. For the encore, all the Understudies begin singing the new song. Tsubasa realizes all the Kiraras are shining in radiance. The kind that was last seen when Acchan was around. Chieri’s Kirara splits itself.

A stray missile hits the centre stage but Kanata doesn’t want to directly fight back because they’ll leave it to Takamina and the rest to handle the defence. What they’ll do is go into spatial formation to decentralize their attacks. The Understudies split up and get close with their fans. Takamina is impressed with Kanata’s decision and feels the need to lend their radiance to their performance. After all, AKB0048 doesn’t fight. They show love. Okay, maybe disarming the DES guys is an exception. They don’t kill, right? Tsubasa sees a video of the holy grounds. To her surprise, the Kirara of succession replaces Kanata’s face back with Takamina. Her strong desire to protect the members and concert may have caused her soul to reflect closer to the original Takamina. Sensei-sensei suddenly starts murmuring about Centre Nova and all the pictures of the Understudies pop up. One of them or all of them? While singing and fighting against the DES enforcers, the Kiraras serve as a barrier to protect AKB0048 from heavy missiles. The Understudies could feel they are resonating as one and are shining brightly than ever. Mikako fears they will disappear and pleads for them not to shine anymore. To her surprise at the end, all of them are still around as they take their last bow. She notices sparkles in the sand and realizes it is dualium. The reason why the Centre Nova phenomenon occurred here. Nagisa has an emotional reunion with mommy but apologizes to daddy. He tells not to unless her conviction is that weak. More DES enforcements are arriving and since they can’t risk putting more danger to fans, they have to retreat. Daddy tells Nagisa that since she has abandoned this planet once, if her feelings are strong, make sure she doesn’t falter this time. Move forward and don’t look back. I guess that’s the green light for her to achieve her dream and bring hope of lifting the entertainment ban on Lancastar. The Understudies bid farewell to their loved ones, fans and even had time to sign some autographs before taking flight. Tsubasa informs the good news to Takamina and you can see how happy she is that she’s staying put. I guess Kanata will have to wait, huh?

Idols Save The Universe!
Not over yet! Looks like the path to being an idol is a long and treacherous road ahead. So much so we’ll have to wait for the sequel in early 2013 as announced right at the end of the final episode (which is right now at the time of this blog!). Certainly there are lots of things still left unexplained like who in the world is this Sensei-sensei, why was Chieri the only one to get her own Kirara from the start and it never really shone for her ever since, what really happened to Acchan and the Centre Nova position that was done away with. Hopefully the sequel will answer some of these questions and more. Yes, you could say that I would be very much inclined to catch it when the time comes. Provided if I haven’t lost my interest in AKB0048 then. Keep your fingers (and mine) cross. Not to say I am a convert and turned into a crazy fan of AKB48.

I guess the storyline is pretty decent. What more can you expect from an idol themed show? Not to say that I have watch lots of it but I guess what better way than to show the struggles and friendship among the girls in their quest to fulfil their dream. It is pretty ironic that despite they are all rivals among each other, in the end they are one big family and help each other out when needed. So the bottom line is that they’re all friends at the end of the day. That is the true spirit of friendship and what it takes to be in a group. Especially for a big group. Otherwise you would be going solo and even so, you can’t succeed without background support, right?

I thought this series would be focused on Nagisa and Chieri seeing that initially I was given the impression that they will be the stars of this series. Along the way, it takes a little detour to focus a bit on Kanata and see how she changes from one who sings for revenge to just one who sings because she loves and enjoys it. As proven, she could be the next leader for the next generation once the current one graduates but from what I see that isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future unless the Kirara change their mind again. Chieri also has learnt to open up a little. She learns that it isn’t important who outshines who but rather if they don’t work together, neither of them is going to shine. Makoto is easily an amusing girl because of her pessimism. Ironically that pessimism has brought her this far but not without the help and support of the rest. It’s good that when it’s time to shine on stage, she doesn’t chicken out or wilt under pressure. She just does it fine like the rest. Suzuko may not talk much but her knowledge of AKB0048 is something to be revered. Even if she doesn’t dream of ending up as part of the front line singers, this debut helps her understand better how to support future members in the future. What better way to know things work by going through them yourself. I find Sonata annoying because she’s bratty. Asking her to grow up wouldn’t be right of me because she is after all the youngest in the group. Because of the extensive members in the group, it’s hard to give the rest their fair share of time. Like those from the 76th generation. They are a forgettable bunch if you don’t think much about them. I wonder if it’s appropriate to use the term of too many cooks spoil the broth here.

As we have seen, the path to become an idol isn’t all rosy and cushy. First of all, you’d never expect to see the idol wannabes to undergo combat training, right? Even if it looks very odd to see cute idols flying machines and fighting heavily armed robots, there is a good reason why idols should learn basic and ultimately advance self defence moves. Of course it is to protect themselves, duh. Even in real life this is a must because to take precautions from obsessed and maniacal fans. Though we don’t see any crazy fans here (Orine’s hater wasn’t one to a point where he would physically harm others), it is much different in real life because there are sick stalkers lurking just about everywhere. You can’t rely on your bodyguard (provided if you have one) for 24/7 so it is always best to rely on yourself. I know military training for idols seem like pushing it but for this sci-fi series, I think I’ll make this an exception. So dealing with outside threats isn’t the only obstacle to become an idol. There are threats that are within your circle too. For this series, there is a little rivalry and aversion between the 76th and 77th generation. It’s like survival with different camps. Despite the band having boasts the largest number of members at a single time, however keep in mind that the places are still limited. You definitely don’t want to be spending year after year as an Understudy and watch younger and newer generations pass you by, right? It’s like being a university ronin, no? Fortunately this series keep the cat fights to the minimum and mounting to nothing serious. Even when the b*tches dig up dirt on Chieri about her father’s company making DES robots, a little heart wavering here and there, some little talk here and there, before you know it, everything is back to normal and the issue was as though never brought up in the first place. And the most important of all for an idol to keep her place in the team is to practice, practice and more practice. Slip up a little and you’re out. There’s a bunch waiting in line who would be eager to take your place. Despite the rosy picture painted of an idol’s life, it’s still pretty much a dog-eat-dog-world.

I don’t really have qualms about the art and drawing of this series. Cute wide eyed girls, your typical bishoujo anime style. Even some of the background and scenery of some planets really give out that gloomy and miserable feel. See? No music, no life. However something really bugged me ever since I laid my eyes on the characters. They have this heart shaped as their pupils and also the heart shape mark on their hair. It’s nothing bad actually but I can’t seem to take my focus away from it. Like as though some force is making me stare at those hearts and can’t avert my eyes away. Maybe I need lots of love? Also, I find that the faces of the graduated members of AKB0048 to have that one-kind look. They look odd. Weird. Another odd thing is that during the concert performance, the animation shifts into CG so it feels a little odd to see the ‘3D’ girls dancing and prancing around on stage. I don’t know. I thought it felt a little lame and hence it would’ve been better if they kept it at 2D.

Action isn’t the biggest forte of the series but I guess it is pretty cool to see the girls kick ass. It must be embarrassing for those DES people to have spent trillions of dollars making those anti-idol machines only to be easily destroyed by the idols’ power of love. It shows you can’t beat that with violence, eh? Funnily, all of the missiles have this strike-out, no-idols logo. They really hate idols, do they? And the most amazing part? Nobody dies! Think about this, when the DES fires indiscriminately at AKB0048, the screaming fans below are no doubt caught in between. No stray missiles? No debris? Perhaps thank the Kiraras then for protecting everyone. And shouldn’t the ordinary people be running helter-skelter when the missiles start raining? They must really believe in their AKB0048 to brave the dangers and cheer them on, eh? After all, life is already so dead with the ban, so it’s better to die at a live performance. Shouldn’t people in oppressed areas just download music (legal or not is another story) instead of risking their lives to attend guerrilla concerts? Well, attending a live concert is definitely a totally different experience. The atmosphere, the crowd, the performers in the flesh. You can’t have that with a piece of mp3 file, eh?

Thus the biggest feature of this series would be the music that is AKB48’s style. Since I’m not a fan and have not heard of them prior to this anime so I can’t really compare and comment. To me they just feel like any other idol groups. Since this show is based on AKB48, it only makes sense that the seiyuus come from the real group itself, namely AKB48, SKE48 and NMB48. These real members voice the Understudies whereas the veteran seiyuus take on the role of the successors. They include Ryoko Shiraishi, Yui Horie, Mamiko Noto, Yukari Tamura, Ayako Kawasumi, Akemi Kanda, Kana Ueda, Mai Nakahara and Miyuki Sawashiro. It was a delight for me to able to spot many of the veteran seiyuus though it is a shame that many of them only had a few lines to speak throughout the entire series except for Ryoko Shiraishi since her Takamina character had the most screen time among the Successors. I also find it funny Daisuke Ono playing as Ushiyama. After hearing him voice so many gentleman-like characters, hearing his voice as an effeminate character just really feels odd. Many of the insert songs featured such as Aitakatta, Shoujotachi Yo and Beginner are sung by the actual AKB48 members. The opening theme, Kibou Ni Tsuite and the main ending theme, Yume Wa Nando Demo Umarekawaru on the other hand are credited to No Name (made up by the seiyuus of the 9 Understudies in the anime). Maybe it’s because the group are a mix of AKB48, SKE48 and NMB48 so it’s not appropriate to credit it to a single group and thus the new unit group is formed to sing this song written for this anime.

The idea that music as a tool to save the world may seem far-fetched but that can’t be help since this is an idol genre. But indeed that it is true that despite whatever language you are speaking, music is universal. Sometimes you don’t even need to know a language to like and enjoy a song. You can sing a song flawlessly memorizing all the words of another language without having to understand what it all means but still love singing it. Take my case for anime songs. I think up till today I don’t even understand 3/4 of what I’m singing. But that didn’t stop me from belting it out right? Despite I know how horrible I sound. No wonder I can only dream to be an idol. Well, keep dreaming. So if you want to say that music heals and changes people, this might hold true in this anime because as we see how the oppressed people light up just to know that AKB0048 has descend to bring you a delightful performance. DES enforcers were so obsessed in just taking AKB0048 down that they just leave the ordinary people alone. What can they do? If they were to ring in everybody who attended the guerrilla concert, the entire planet would have turned into a giant prison. Many of the characters also changed because of music. Kanata, Mamoru and ultimately Nagisa’s father. Not that he is totally accepting entertainment but at least he sees them in a more favourable light. So his decision to stay put in jail and not get busted out was right because it would’ve send wrong signals to authorities that AKB0048 is indeed a terrorist group. All the group ever needs to do to spread the love is just to perform and sing. That’s it. Leave the military combat and defence to the WOTA (some melee combat can’t be helped if the DES enforcers get too close). Here’s a thought.

While the ban on music may seem harsh and oppressive, if you think about it, there is a good reason why this entertainment ban came into effect. Entertainment is like art. And art is subjective. What constitutes art? So for instance when wild rock concerts go spiralling out of control with the crazy fans running amok, smashing things up and rioting, who are the ultimate losers eventually? Property broken and people injured, in order to stem such atrocities, a blanket ban is imposed. It is both good and bad. Thus it depends on which side you are and how much you can tolerate this entertainment subject. So what are the chances that the same kind of riot will break out at an idol concert? Sometimes too much love can be a bad thing. Too little love is also a bad thing. Therefore the lesson here is to do things in moderation and find the right balance and mix. It’s okay to like an idol but to a point that it is just creepily obsessed that an idol must conform to your standards and so and so, that’s not good. Idols are humans too. They may be the admiration of many but they certainly aren’t your property. It doesn’t give you the right to own them even you have bought all their CDs and memorabilia.

I won’t be catching on the AKB48 craze wave any time soon. Not going into Korean Wave either or American Idol (in fact I haven’t watch any season of it). Everyone has their own taste and pace in enjoying music though I have to thank this show for reigniting my passion to sing all those old anime songs that I once used to karaoke many years back. Ugh. This is what I sound like after long periods of no practice. Horrible. Not an idol material in the first place. At least I’m satisfied listening to them as they’re music to my ears. It’s a good thing that there is no total entertainment ban in almost every part of the real world. If that happens, the idols will have to come to see you. Right now with freedom of music, we have to go see them perform. Just one problem, though. The ticket is going to cost a bomb.

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