Time for another versus but this is my first time doing one on idol themed animes. There are quite a number of idol themed animes over the years and I’m sure everyone who is into anime or idols can name a few. Or perhaps you don’t even have enough fingers to finish counting them all. Anyway today’s versus blog will pit female idol groups from the anime AKB0048 and Love Live! School Idol Project. Both these animes are so far the ‘most prominent’ female idol animes in my repertoire. Idolmaster? Didn’t watch that. Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream? Haven’t watched that yet. Aikatsu? Don’t think I want to watch it. Kirarin Revolution? That’s an idol anime? Lovedol? Abandoned it many years ago. Lemon Angel Project? So old that I even forgot about it. Uta No Prince-sama Maji Love 1000%/2000%? I said female idol groups…

Setting
AKB0048: In the future of the 21st century.
Love Live: Current present day.

Location
AKB0048: In between space and planets of the galaxy.
Love Live: Tokyo, Japan.

Realism
AKB0048: Futuristic sci-fi.
Love Live: More down to earth.

Main group in focus
AKB0048: No Name.
Love Live: Muse.

Members in that group
Coincidentally, both groups have 9 members each. Also, all members are voiced by actual members in the group.
AKB0048: Chieri Sono, Nagisa Motomiya, Orine Aida, Yuuka Ichijou, Suzuko Kanzaki, Sonata Shinonome, Makoto Yokomizo, Kanata Shinonome and Mimori Kishida.
Love Live: Honoka Kousaka, Umi Sonoda, Kotori Minami, Niko Yazawa, Maki Nishikino, Rin Hoshizora, Hanayo Koizumi, Eri Ayase and Nozomi Toujou.

Selection process
AKB0048: Potential candidates were thrown into the battlefield to protect the Successors as they are staging a guerrilla concert. Those who gave up are out. Of course, everything was just a big mock.
Love Live: Honoka, Umi and Kotori try to stage their first live performance to recruit more members. It was disheartening that they thought nobody showed up but slowly those who did will subsequently join them.

Seniors
AKB0048: The Successors of AKB0048.
Love Live: Nil.

Supporting staffs
AKB0048: Tsubasa Katagiri (manager) and Ushiyama (trainer).
Love Live: Nil. They only had themselves.

School/Academy
AKB0048: The mobile base and battleship Katyusha and home planet Akibastar.
Love Live: Otonokizaka Academy in Tokyo.

Oldest member in the group
AKB0048: Mimori and Kanata. They’re from the 75th generation Understudies.
Love Live: Nozomi.

Rich girl
AKB0048: Chieri.
Love Live: Maki.

Joker girl
AKB0048: Sonata and Makoto. Yes, nicknaming penchant girl and cowardly-cum-grumpy girl make them real funny jokers.
Love Live: Niko. Yes, her child-like appearance and aspirations to become an idol makes her a real funny joker.

Spectacles girl
AKB0048: Suzuko.
Love Live: Hanayo. However she substitutes them with contact lens.

The cook
Refers to the one who is very good in cooking.
AKB0048: Papa Cook.
Love Live: Niko.

Sisters
AKB0048: Kanata and Sonata.
Love Live: Honoka and Yukiho. Eri and Arisa.

Daughter of an important person
AKB0048: Chieri is the daughter and heiress of the giant Zodiac Corporation’s CEO.
Love Live: Kotori is the daughter of Otonokizaka’s chairwoman.

Ice queen
They usually ‘defrost’ and warm up later.
AKB0048
: Chieri.
Love Live: Eri.

Tsundere
AKB0048: Yuuka. Remember her feelings for Mamoru?
Love Live: Maki. Sort of.

Tomboy
AKB0048: Yuuko and Sae.
Love Live: Rin.

Miko outfit
AKB0048: The underground shrine where Sensei-sensei resides, Tsubasa wears one.
Love Live: Nozomi works part time as a miko priestess.

Song composer for the group
AKB0048: S-Quadruple AKA Sensei-sensei.
Love Live: Maki.

Choreographer for the group
AKB0048: Ushiyama.
Love Live: Kotori and subsequently Eri.

The biggest threat
AKB0048: Entertainment in the future has been banned. The heroines are considered terrorists for staging guerrilla concerts across the galaxy.
Love Live: The school is under threat of being closed down for good as the enrolment rate is declining and very low.

Main enemies
AKB0048: DGTO (Deep Galactic Trade Organization) and DES Enforcers.
Love Live: A-Rise. Well, I don’t really consider this as their enemy but more of their rival.

Initial resentment
AKB0048: Megumi Wanibuchi from the 76th generation resents those in the 77th generation because they seem to have higher chance of succeeding compared to hers who have been around longer than them.
Love Live: Eri wanted to save the school her way but doesn’t approve of Honoka’s method of forming an idol group. Niko wanted the group to break up as she feels they are a disgrace to idols that she holds in high respect.

Mascot of the series
AKB0048: Little light blobs called Kiraras.
Love Live: None that I can think of.

Collapsed from fever
AKB0048: Mimori. A sign that she will be inheriting a Successor’s name.
Love Live: Honoka. She overworked herself for the group’s first performance.

Spartan Training
AKB0048: In addition to singing and dancing, the members need to know basic combat and self defence moves and how to handle weapons as well.
Love Live: In addition to singing and dancing, the members undergo stamina and endurance training. Thank Umi for that.

Place of practice
AKB0048: In the studio.
Love Live: On the school’s rooftop.

Non-concert activities (selective)
AKB0048: Photo shooting events, hand shaking events with fans, variety shows.
Love Live: Part time maid job at a maid café, summer camp at Maki’s villa.

Beach episode
Some fanservice but don’t put too much hope on it.
AKB0048: Episode 10 of first season when the girls are there for a photo shoot.
Love Live: Coincidentally, also episode 10 when the girls are at Maki’s villa.

The competition
AKB0048: The General Elections that would bring back the Centre Nova position. Only Mimori and Chieri made it into the top ten.
Love Live: The top 20 school idols will compete in Love Live to see who will be the best of them all. Muse never got a chance to participate because they have to withdraw when Honoka got sick.

The centre position
AKB0048: After the General Elections, Yuuko took over Takamine’s spot. But in the end, it is Chieri who took that coveted position.
Love Live: Everyone will take turns singing as the centre.

Disappearance
AKB0048: Acchan. She went missing shortly after taking on the Centre Nova position. Subsequently it is Yuuko when she took that position.
Love Live: Umi. Erm… Actually she went temporarily went ‘missing’ because she had this fear of performing in public.

Low morale
AKB0048: Chieri after her father was mysteriously assassinated right before her eyes.
Love Live: Honoka when she blames herself as the cause for her group’s withdrawal from Love Live competition.

CGI effects
Both series uses the computer graphics imagery when the idols start singing in their performance. Very obvious…

Favourite insert song
Please note that this is based on my own personal choice and taste.
AKB0048: Cherry No Nagisa. And no, it doesn’t sound sissy, mind you.
Love Live: Start:Dash!

Number of episodes
AKB0048: 2 seasons of 13 episodes each. Total 26 episodes.
Love Live: 1 season consisting 13 episodes. A second season is being planned. There is 1 OVA released.

Studio production
AKB0048: Satelight.
Love Live: Sunrise.

Conclusion
I’m not a true idol fan so there is much that I am missing or do not know. Thus you may find this versus somewhat incomplete. It’s hard to choose from which is the better one because Love Live is more down to earth so you can relate to a lot of things easily. Whereas AKB0048 has some action and sci-fi elements to it so it makes things more exciting rather than being ‘mundane’. It doesn’t get better to see cute girls piloting badass mechas and kick ass, no? But it can be a little far-fetched sometimes. Both animes also have cute characters. That’s a given since you’re dealing with idol girls so you must have cute girls to appeal to the audience, right? Personally, I prefer those in Love Live as they are more anime-like whereas those in AKB0048 look a little bit cartoonish. Both sides also have their fair share of songs and dance moves but the ones in Love Live seem more unique. Because AKB0048 has more episodes and characters, there is enough for character development to grow and to drive the plot. Ironically, the main characters in Love Live have more individual personalities compared to their counterparts in AKB0048. It boils down to what kind of idol group(s) you support that determines which idols are the best. But with the glut of idol groups from Japan and around the world, looks like we won’t be getting short of any idol supply. As long as there are fans out there, idols will never die.

AKB0048 Next Stage

November 16, 2013

The fight for entertainment freedom is not over yet! We have the right to enjoy ourselves in the way we want and not become like some mindless robotic zombies whose purpose in life is to work, eat, sleep, repeat cycle before kicking the bucket! We demand entertainment! We want our idols! If that sounded really bleak in the event if the world ever came to that stage, be thankful now that a big part of the world can still enjoy their idols, be it those K-pop or American Idols whatsoever. This idol thing must still be a big craze in Japan. I don’t know, I’m not really a big follower but it must be big enough that the largest pop group in the world had their own anime adaptation and even a sequel: AKB0048 Next Stage. As if watching the big idol group of girls dance on stage wasn’t enough. As if attending all their special public events weren’t enough. As if getting to shake their hands at every handshake event wasn’t enough. As if owning every single memorabilia of your favourite idol from posters pasted right on your ceiling down to your floor and the bed you sleep on wasn’t enough. Well, it is never enough if you’re an obsessed fan. Very obsessed fan, that is. Yeah, it makes you sound like a creepy perverted stalker. Don’t give me that weird deep breathing either!

Now back to the sequel of this story, for those who have watched the first season would definitely have come to know that in this fictitious story that is based on this group, the intensity between idols and anti-idol organizations have increased many times fold as ever before. Our heroine group (or terrorist unit if you are anti them) has been going on the offensive by launching more guerrilla concerts to bring hope and entertainment to planets whose civilians are persecuted under the Entertainment Ban. DGTO have also stepped up their attacks on entertainment which forces AKB0048 to bring back the discarded General Elections and thus the enchanting but risky Centre Nova position, a position coveted by every AKB0048 member (because you get to be the centre of attraction I suppose). As if fighting against DGTO and DES machines weren’t enough. Now they have to ‘fight’ among themselves for that spot. Well, nobody said that the path to being an idol was easy. So are you ready to love your idols once more?

Episode 1
Nagisa dreams of climbing an endless stairs. Her fellow comrades start falling off when the stairs start breaking up. Acchan tells her that not only her Kirara shines but the radiance must come from within. Nagisa must have fallen asleep on the stairs after another one of those hard practising sessions. The Understudies are practising to put up another guerrilla performance. Needless to say it is another sterling performance but this time their Kiraras shine so bright like never before. Such flood of lights was never seen ever since Acchan disappeared. At the end of the concert, Tsubasa makes a surprising announcement. Due to the increase anti-entertainment efforts by DGTO, she is bringing back the General Elections. This means the Centre Nova position will also return. Fans get to vote for their favourite members regardless of their status and the top members get to be part of a new single. Some of the Understudies (especially Nagisa who is definitely against it) are torn about this General Election. Even if the battle for Centre Nova isn’t their goal, the election results will show who is top and who is bottom. There can be in-fighting to be the best. It can be quite demoralizing to know who is better or worse off than you. During the banquet, Yuuko makes her announcement that becoming Centre Nova is her dream and those who aim for that position to also do their best. When some of them are preparing to enter the hotspring, a DES machine ambushes the place. Chieri, Sonata and Yukirin are kidnapped. They are taken to Kasumigastar where the High Court is held and being put in a speedy trial. This is with the intention to subdue anti-government movement that idolizes them. News spread like wildfire throughout the galaxy that the trio are being charged in engaging in anti-government activities. During the trial when being read the charges, Chieri stands up and voices out that AKB0048’s actions are founded upon love and will never hurt others. At the same time, Tsubasa and the other AKB0048 members are preparing to launch a rescue mission. They are not amused that the trial is trying to make a spectacle of AKB0048. The lawyers try to convince Chieri if she admits she has been deceived, her sentence will be commuted. She stands firm on her dreams and beliefs. The judge concludes that they have shown no signs of remorse and sentences them to 48 years in prison. That’s when the AKB0048 girls bust in. However they did not use violence. Instead, they use DES’ attack as counter attack. Their own missiles destroy their own building. AKB0048 sing their way filled with love to rescue to trio. Back at Sagitarriusstar, the headquarters of Zodiac Corporation, Chieri’s father sees the trial as blessing. He relishes his daughter has become more useful than ever.

Episode 2
Sensei-sensei is talking funny things. Guerrilla. Gross-out. Funny faces. Huh? Due to the trial, Chieri’s popularity has soared. As some of the Understudies fear, she is pulling in lots of votes and preliminary results are showing that there is a dramatic rise in number of downloads since the announcement. So Tsubasa has the other Understudies make their appearance on a variety channel. Look at it as celebrities doing various stuffs. Like bungee jumping. Yikes! Is this all for the sake of rating and increase in popularity? I hope they don’t make a fool out of themselves. The ‘funniest’ is when they had to imitate others. And Sonata imitated Makoto snoring!!! Totally embarrassing!!! Meanwhile Tsubasa feels disturbed. When they burst in and out of Kasumigastar, supposedly a very stronghold of the government, it felt too easy. Because the Understudies aren’t doing a very good job on the variety channel, Tsubasa summons them and chides them for not being serious. Sure, it isn’t fair to suddenly thrust the camera in their face and they would prefer to hold concerts than doing this. Tsubasa just tells them to carefully reflect the purpose why they are doing this. Late that night, Nagisa catches Chieri practising hard as usual. But Chieri is not sure if she is popular due to her own effort. Kojiharu and Yukirin note that Nagisa and Chieri are the only ones left who have not finish their General Elections poster. They decide to show them a video of Acchan at the last General Election. Her radiance was shining very brightly as Centre Nova that it moved everyone including Yuuko who was still an Understudy. Soon the Understudies realize why Tsubasa put them up with such variety shows. On planets where ban on entertainment ban is the strictest, holding concerts is next to impossible that’s why such broadcasts are shown instead. Even the broadcasts are received illegally via WOTA’s underground network. So the girls are fired up to do their best in their next variety show, which is penalty dodgeball. Nagisa and Chieri finish their poster and continue doing concerts. After a concert ends, Tsubasa pops up to do an announcement of the early results of the General Election. Starting from tenth place upwards, seems Chieri is now at 9th spot.

Episode 3
Ninth place is pretty good for an Understudy to secure but why the gloom face, Chieri? Aren’t you happy? To boost their popularity before the General Elections, there will be a handshake event. One of Nagisa’s fans will do his best to help her. She didn’t understand why he would want to do that. Simple. Because she is doing her best too. While Chieri is shaking hands with one of her fans, she hears him praise her I Girl Noodle commercial. She senses something amiss and rushes off backstage to watch it. The commercial had footage of her but it’s not that she acted in it (it was taken from the trial). Of course this is illegal but Tsubasa puts it, what they are doing is illegal in the first place and have no right to complain. However her fans aren’t aware of the foul play being used in the commercial. Yuuko and Takamina renew their rivalry for top spot in the General Elections. Nagisa is amazed that Mimori can remember every word her fan said. She admits she is a fan of her fans. Although she is never in the spotlight, they see her in the shadows and shower her with their love. On the day before the General Elections, the Understudies are still worried. But Mimori is upbeat and views everyone has an equal opportunity. Chieri makes her way to a diner to meet her old butler, Yasunaga. She talks to him about the commercial. I Girl Foods is under Zodiac Group. Furthermore, she noticed all the cameras at the trial were from Zodiac Corporation. What is going on? Wasn’t her father against her joining AKB0048? Yasunaga relays a message from her father, the company’s CEO. At first he did want her to return but he soon realized her radiance as an idol that kept growing. He will no longer oppose her membership and support her with all his resources. Chieri realizes that her popularity is not the result of her own skill. She has a message for him. Refusing to let him have his way, she is willing to sacrifice her dream. Chieri doesn’t want to have anything to do with the General Elections as she doesn’t want to bring down her friends via underhanded methods. And so the results of the General Elections are here. The stadium is filled to the brim. So serious the results that it had to be sealed in a suitcase and handcuffed to the security’s hand! At least no tampering. Are we excited after waiting with baited breath? At tenth place… Mimori!

Episode 4
So you are going to hear lots of emotional thank you speeches by some of the girls. The winners cry. The AKB0048 girls cry. The fans cry. Everybody cries. Unless you’re those anti-idol group. So if you’re the emotional kind, prepare a box of tissue papers. Mimori gets the tears rolling by thanking her fans and especially Kanata as her special friend. Chieri is amazed by Mimori’s speech but she is still in a dilemma. She told Tsubasa she will make her announcement of quitting AKB0048 if she is chosen. She feels her father earned her those votes and her popularity as a result of Zodiac’s interference. Tsubasa told her all the votes were from her fans and she is about to betray them. But winners are given a chance to speak on stage and she can say what she wants. She won’t stop her. In 9th place is Youko while Tomochin comes in 8th. This shocks many because in the preliminaries, she was ranked third. After so much heartfelt speeches, Chieri’s perception of the General Elections starts to change. The fans give them so much love and if they make it onto the stage, they can also return their love. Kojiharu takes 7th and while Chieri is still contemplating those votes don’t really belong to her even though she starts realizing that because of her father’s interference, her fan base grew. Suddenly her name is announced in 6th place. She couldn’t believe it. What can she say? She is so shocked that she starts hyperventilating! She’s having a hard time catching her breath as she limps towards the stage. When she manages to calm down, it’s time for her to make her announcement. She loves them all! Her Kirara shines the brightest and she vows to continue being an AKB0048 member. Mayuyu takes 5th followed by Yukirin in 4th and then Sayaka in 3rd. Takamina grabs 2nd and the overall winner of this General Election goes to… Drum roll please… YUUKO!!! Part of her heartfelt speech includes that winning this election and becoming Centre Nova is not enough since her rival is Acchan. She wants to stay in that position and glow more radiant. She vows not to disappear. In the aftermath of the event and at the backstage, the girls continue their emotional hugs and congratulations for one another. Nagisa congratulates Chieri and now realizes why she was against the General Elections. She was afraid in becoming a spiteful person with all the competitions and comparisons. But she saw how everyone sparkled and was amazed. She vows to do her best to stand on that stage. Both their Kiraras shine so bright that it catches Yuuko’s attention.

Episode 5
While those elected are busy with schedules, those unelected are so free. Makoto is sure grumbling as usual, isn’t she? She knows herself she won’t get elected even if it’s a miracle so why the long face? Sulking… Anyway AKB0048 must gear up for another guerrilla concert on Baltistar, another planet with strict entertainment ban. While the elected members will be on their first performance, Kanata and the 76th generation will provide the defence. Because there are reports of high profile people coming in and out of a nearby asteroid, Tsubasa has the 77th generation lead an undercover investigation. First, they infiltrate a ship filled with boys forced into hard labour and take over their identities. Meeting with the lieutenant of the asteroid base, they are put under the supervision of a stupid looking beaver teeth DES private, Higashino. Not thrilled, is he? Well, can’t say the same for the girls. They’re not built for hard labour. Except for Makoto who is going all out. Because she is still sulking over not being elected. When the guerrilla concert begins, all DES members go into full force to stop it. That’s when the undercover team goes into action. Nagisa’s team is puzzled to hear AKB0048 songs coming from a room. Sneaking in, they see a very posh place and lots of important people in some party. It is actually an illegal casino and they are making bets on AKB0048 on how long they can last, etc. So on the surface they look like anti-entertainment but they are just plain hypocrites, huh? Makoto wants to investigate further but slips. This causes her identity to be busted and the base on alert for AKB0048 intruders. The girls are cornered but flushed down the trash compartment. Thank Higashino for that. Once the girls relay the big news to Tsubasa, she realizes why some DES attacks were weak. It is part of some gamble to rake in profits. Makoto is a funny girl. She is so gloomy and lack confidence that she thinks she fits sitting along with the other trash. She’s calling herself a trash?

Orine’s team hijack the main centre and discover a massive nuclear reactor in the asteroid centre. Shutting it down means cutting out all the power. The higher ups watching this are starting to make a bet if they can shut down the power in time. But with so many DES personnel around, can they make it? Orine’s team hijack a DES machine and go on a rampage. As usual, Makoto cowers out. Higashino recognizes that negativity. You can’t beat that, can’t you? This is what she comes to after he helped save them? He admits that he is a closet AKB0048 fan. But don’t tell on him. Makoto still feels useless so Higashino adds to that but tells her he voted for her in the elections. Four times! Even though she lost, it’s not about the numbers. It’s the love! Wow. She’s being told off by somebody like him. But why her? When he first saw her on TV, true to her nature she is useless and clumsy but she never hide it. He could relate it because he too feels the same way. In that sense, Makoto encouraged him a lot. So is that enough to get you going? Higashino leads her to the reactor and a switch beneath that will cut the power. For once Makoto becomes brave and even admits that although she can’t fly like others, she will fail with all her might! That’s like dare to fail, right? And she’s going to fall! Jump down, that is. She bungee jumps down into the reactor and true to her nature, she misses! First big failure? However that didn’t stop her and on the second run, she kicks the switch and breaks it! At least the power goes out and her Kirara shines brightly. Success! Sorry officials, you lost your bet. The girls escape the asteroid but since there is no power, somebody is needed to manual crank up the escape pod. Well Makoto, I’m sure you can learn something valuable from Higashino, right? He lets the girls escape and vows to always be Makoto’s fan. See Makoto? Even if you don’t believe in yourself, somebody else does. Now will you be more confident? Meanwhile Chieri’s dad isn’t fazed about the leaks revolving the illegal casino because he has issued a strict gag order. Even if AKB0048 has discovered this scandal, he is confident the data they received was worth the risk.

Episode 6
The Kiraras of succession suddenly shows the original Acchan. That means somebody is going to succeed her. Since the election, Yuuko has become even more popular. Chieri and Mimori’s popularity are rising too. Mikako becomes the group’s new camerawoman (probably it was hard for her to find a job due to the crackdown). Tsubasa still has reservations about her since last season she said something about using her power to stop bringing back the Centre Nova. Mikako assures she only said that out of spite. In the midst of the Understudies’ practice, Yuuko blows her top especially to Nagisa and Chieri because they are supposed to radiate more than this mediocrity. Ushiyama talks to Nagisa that despite her goal is to rival Yuuko, miming her won’t do and there must be a purpose to her soul. Likewise, Mikako talks to Yuuko and gives her hints about capturing radiance like snapping pictures on a camera. In addition to find clues to the next Acchan, Yuuko goes around taking pictures of her fellow comrades. Mimori’s face pops up at the Kiraras of succession. Shortly, Mimori collapses of fever. This is a sign that she will inherit a name because Tsubasa also experienced such symptoms. As standby, Tsubasa and Ushiyama choose Nagisa to replace Mimori. She must learn all the moves in a night in addition to her own performance. She’s up for the challenge. On the day of the concert, Mimori’s determination not to let her fans down has her performing alongside her elected AKB0048 members. She’s holding it out despite running a fever. Even so, her Kirara is shining brightly. During the break, Mimori is close to collapsing so Nagisa will have to take over from here. Nagisa is on par with the other girls as she sees the Kiraras of Yuuko and Chieri shining brightly. In that spur of the moment, Nagisa doesn’t want to lose out to their radiance and right in the middle of the performance announces she will shine as bright and will become Centre Nova. The crowd goes wild seeing her Kirara radiating as bright as the rest.

Episode 7
Mimori wakes up in the underground cave shrine but her fever has subsided. Ushiyama tells AKB0048 a change in their concert schedule. This time the Understudies will the one performing to mark Mimori’s debut as a Successor. Everyone is happy that Mimori has finally made it and now talk is rife on which name she will succeed. Her friends are also concerned if she would change into a different person. For this special event, we here the AKB0048 current Successors in an interview on their feelings when they succeeded. Elsewhere, we see Mikako reporting to Chieri’s father about finding the final piece required to initiate the Centre Nova phenomenon which she believes is in this next concert because the readings of dualium crystal readings were very high. A spy? Takamina talks to Kanata and learns that she long ago had such fever too but subsided. This prompts Takamina to ask what she would do if she had all the qualities to become a Successor. What she is trying to say is that, would Kanata drive her out to become a Successor? After all, because of Takamina holding on, she couldn’t advance. Kanata doesn’t know what to answer but she knows Takamina holds a special place in her heart. On the day of Mimori’s debut concert, she wows the crowd with her new hairstyle (she cut it shorter) and will now be known as Mariko the 8th. Her fellow AKB0048 girls are in awe of her beauty and performance as a Successor and are happy she transformed into a better person. Ushiyama thought Tsubasa was still the better Mariko so Tsubasa says the reason why she succeeded that name will only be known in time. But it proves that since Mimori succeeded that name, Tsubasa is still standing her (she went by that name during her gig as AKB0048). This gives hope that even though somebody will succeed Acchan, the original one must be somewhere out there. Mariko brings Kanata on stage to tell her this is where their dream begins. She hopes Kanata would be ‘greedier’ or else she won’t become a Successor. She hopes she can be one by Christmas and it will be the best Christmas present. Kanata makes her announcement that she too will become a Successor. Lastly, Mikako has determined the 3 vital factors for the Centre Nova phenomenon: 1) A concert involving combat; 2) Atmospheric disturbance; 3) Large quantities of high purity dualium crystals. Chieri’s father is happy that his Centre Nova research has made great advancement. He puts forth his plan by sending a message to DGTO headquarters to request for launch of DES mobile fleets. Their next target is Akibastar. War is coming…

Episode 8
Yuuko remembers when she was an Understudy, she protested she wanted to do more guerrilla concerts instead of boring Akibastar otherwise she won’t get the chance to stand on a bigger stage. But Acchan told her Akibastar was once laid waste by war. It took a long time to rebuild. It is a place where suffering and grief could be reborn as new hope and for all those who love entertainment. That’s why it’s not a boring space. It is the most precious and sacred than any other place. She wants Yuuko to protect Akibastar’s radiance. The Understudies could hear Yuuko practising by herself. Despite the noisy turbine sound, they could hear her singing. Chieri feels even though she was voted the best in the General Elections, it’s like as though she is not satisfied and crying. Yuuko even ditches Ushiyama’s lessons so she can practise on her own. I guess it’s not challenging enough for her. Takamina and Kojiharu worry for her and have this feeling that she is harder to approach now and is lonelier. Tsubasa tells them Acchan once had such aura. She talked to her and hoped she would rely on them more. Although Acchan agreed, she disappeared soon after. Meanwhile Mikako talks to Yuuko if she is willing to pay the great price to stand as position 0. At the same time, Chieri’s father has mobilized the DES army as they start attacking the space defence of Akibastar. He is targeting this planet because there are massive deposits of dualium crystals underground. Meanwhile Yuuko leads an AKB008 concert on Akibastar and is shining very brightly due to the advice she got from Mikako about accepting loneliness to become Centre Nova. Those who glow brightest are haunted by the darkest shadows. They’ll envy, target and try to manipulate you.

Suddenly the red alert is sounded for everyone to evacuate underground. DES forces have broken through their defence. All AKB0048 members go into action to engage the enemy. Chieri’s father relishes the second condition for Centre Nova activation: A concert in stormy weather. Well, somebody hacked the weather on Akibastar and turns it into one. AKB0048 face their greatest war yet because the girls are no match for DES. Mikako fears this is not what is agreed on and reveals Zodiac is after the dualium and Centre Nova. This prompts Tsubasa to get her girls to protect the shrine because if anything happens to Sensei-sensei, Akibastar will be done for. Akibastar is turned into a devastated war ruin when Mikako tries to activate a concert because she feels AKB0048 radiate the most during concerts. This is when they are strongest. AKB0048 hear the song and start singing and fighting their way. Chieri’s father is amazed Mikako has played into his hand because the last condition to activate Centre Nova is a life or death battle concert. Now all he needs is a torrent of emotion that surpasses it all. Tsubasa realizes they can’t win this and with a heavy heart announces they must abandon Akibastar as the enemy is after them. Yuuko is still concerned of being position 0 so she defies Tsubasa’s orders and flies straight to the stage where only the true Centre Nova is allowed to stand. After all, she made a promise with Acchan and will become Centre Nova even if it means being alone. DES forces fire at her but her glowing Kiraras protect her. They glow even brighter as it opens up a portal from above. Tsubasa realizes this is part of Mikako’s plan to open the gate so they can bring Acchan and the rest back. Yuuko’s bright light soon engulfs the entire area. When it’s over, she disappears.

Episode 9
DES has taken over Akibastar, Yuuko is confirmed disappeared and the whereabouts of AKB0048 are unknown. At least not officially. They have barely escaped via hyperdrive on the main ship. Mikako is locked in the store as some of the girls go to ‘interrogate’ her. Why is she doing this despite being an ex-Centre Nova? She didn’t think she was one to begin with. When she was about to become one, she chickened out because she saw strange aliens from another world trying to get her! She believes all the disappeared Centre Novae vanished into another world. Those who didn’t, graduated normally. However if their ambition for radiance falters for even a moment, they will lose all the radiance they had. After Mikako graduated, she became a camerawoman to stay by their side and protected them from disappearing. But inviting a DES attack? Mikako met Chieri’s father and was told about the mysterious substance called dualium that holds a certain power. He believes it can link 2 worlds. He also knew she had a glimpse of the other world when she almost became Centre Nova. Those aliens are actually Kiraras. As Kiraras react differently to humans will and amplifies their power in response, in ancient times, entertainment was somewhat a communication ritual to the Gods or other worlds. DES was trying to capture AKB0048 alive and the Kiraras for military purposes since a Centre Nova makes the Kiraras glow brightly. But didn’t what Mikako did is a contrast to what she said about protecting them? She couldn’t answer.

Later Tsubasa tells the girls that Mikako’s intention was to save the disappeared Centre Novae by opening the gate to the other world. She thought of using them to do that and help Zodiac but she was double crossed instead. The girls still have doubts on Mikako but Tsubasa understands how she feels because she wants to see Acchan again. She thinks Sensei-sensei might have the same thinking since he brought back the General Elections. There is one way they can save them and is to create another Centre Nova. Nagisa wants to take up this challenge and save Yuuko. Suzuko finds that there are no more websites on AKB0048. Have DES clammed down on it and fans bowed to their pressure? Suddenly the red alert goes off. A DES mothership has found them when they tried to established connections with Akibastar and were traced. DES launches its mini robots to attack them. The main ship is still damaged to it will take time for the hyperdrive to start up. The ship takes lots of damage and in a way it frees Mikako. She doesn’t hesitate to steal an LAS to fly away and escape. The rest are shocked that she intends to betray and report everything back to Zodiac but she buys time for the hyperdrive and fights back the DES machines. How can a single woman like her kick ass? Maybe it’s because she has a glowing Kirara and is singing. You don’t see DES doing that, right? That’s why all their missiles can’t reach her. Haha. But Mikako eventually takes a hit and resigns to her fate. Before she is going to be blown away, Takamina rescues her. Although she hasn’t forgiven her, they need all the allies they can get. With all the other girls lending their moral support, Mikako goes back with Takamina in time before their hyperjump.

Episode 10
The gang has landed on an alien planet. While the ship undergoes repairs, Tsubasa wants the girls to find out more about this planet. Nagisa talks to Chieri who is still bent on confronting her father. Nagisa tells about her own experience whereby her father initially was against her joining AKB0048. She showed how serious she was and now he is supporting her. She believes Chieri’s father will be like that too if she tells him her feelings. Orine and Yuuka are somewhat lost when a little alien creature (I thought it was Pokemon) fell into Orine’s arms. It takes a liking for her so Orine names it Mofufu. That night when everyone is sleeping in their camp, giant monsters attack them. However they leave the girls alone and only took back Mofufu. Orine wants to go save it but Tsubasa reminds her about their situation. They are running away from DES and once repairs are complete, they will leave this planet and thus not to do anything rash. However Orine won’t listen and goes off to find Mofufu along with her Lancastar friends. They see the aliens and at first Orine thought it was going to eat Mofufu when suddenly the place is under siege by DES. More precisely, Zodiac machines. Orine realizes that monster is Mofufu’s mother as it was trying to protect it. The girls research and find out this planet, Funghistar is inhabited by those peace loving monsters called Funghi. Because Funghistar has lots of dualium properties, it has become Zodiac’s mining ground. They did hideous tactics like taking Funghi offspring hostage to lure the adults out. They don’t care about the creatures and are just here for the crystal. It is no wonder they are aggravated when they see humans. AKB0048 reach the core that has a massive dualium crystal. It also serves as a healing place for the Funghi creatures. Orine tries to talk to them that they want to help them out. Seriously? Those Funghi don’t speak human language, girl.

Sayaka starts singing because if their words don’t reach them (obviously), their feelings through their songs might. When the girls start singing, I thought the Funghi seemed more aggravated than before. But when they see the little ones jumping in joy, the adults also join in and it feels funny to see them support the girls like idol fans. Zodiac machines are seen approaching and ready to attack so the girls get ready to fight back. Their singing causes the dualium and Kiraras to glow even brighter and more powerful. It is responding to their song and everyone becomes one with the planet. So great that a barrier is created and disables all of Zodiac’s machines! Tsubasa couldn’t believe her eyes when she thinks she saw Sensei-sensei in the dualium’s core. Orine now seems to be able to communicate with the Funghi. At least she knows what they are saying. They consider them their friends and give a dualium crystal to them. Tsubasa, Ushiyama and Mikako rewatch the resonance video again and realize it is the same power that Yuuko gave off. They realize the dualium reacted to their emotions to create a powerful barrier. If every member learns how to achieve maximum resonance with dualium, taking Akibastar back is possible. But when AKB0048 return, they say Nagisa and Chieri are missing. The duo have snuck on board a Zodiac ship that is returning to Sagitarriusstar. Chieri is taking up Nagisa’s advice to tell her father how she feels.

Episode 11
They sneak into Sagitarriusstar and Chieri knows moving around freely for them is impossible. So she calls Yasunaga and he drives them back to Chieri’s residence. The duo wait and relax in Chieri’s room while Yasunaga makes arrangement to see her father. Chieri somewhat knows they won’t see him soon because he has always busy with work. It’s the same when her mother and big brother died. She was always alone in this mansion and had servants as companions. Chieri first discovered AKB0048 when she accidentally peeked into her father’s PDA. She was enthralled with the footage and with Yasunaga’s help, she manages to obtain more of their clips. Chieri’s father one day took her to Lancastar as part of a routine inspection. That’s when she first met Nagisa and co. They become her first friends as she lets them know about AKB0048. We also saw them attending the guerrilla concert then and that was when Chieri wanted to become part of it. But after the concert in which a Kirara started following her, upon returning, her father knew she had attended the concert. Since she said it stopped glowing after the concert, her father dismisses her as no talent, reminding her that entertainment is prohibited and AKB0048 are terrorists. She tried to plead to him but was given the cold shoulder. When he is swamped with work, Chieri sang outside the room but breaks down since he totally ignored her. Her words didn’t reach him. However she had one fond memory of him. When she fell asleep outside after that, she noticed her father picking her up and bringing her back to her room. She felt his warmth. Although she was told that Yasunaga was the one who did it, she still believes it was her father. Suddenly Zodiac SPs barge into the room to take them into custody to see Chieri’s father. Do they need to do these to a pair of harmless girls? Well, AKB0048 is considered a terrorist unit, right? But as pointed out, this is to keep them in their custody so DES won’t find them.

Meanwhile Nagisa’s dad is brought to see Chieri’s father (recently he was given a position transfer to mining dualium). He read his report which is supported with facts that planets that do not enforce the Entertainment Ban have higher productivity than those without. He finds it fascinating. So after all that arrangement, Chieri only gets to talk to her father via video conferencing? Anyway, he has been observing her growth and is impressed with her talent. Chieri knows he only wants her to become Centre Nova so he could use her. That’s why he interfered and increased her popularity. He shows AKB0048’s ship hovering above Sagitarriusstar and can easily request for DES attack. Chieri warns her father not to lay a finger on Nagisa or AKB0048 and will do as he wants to become Centre Nova. He wants her to show her radiance and she will show her feelings to him. On her way, she sees Nagisa’s dad. She talks to him and feels envy the understanding parents Nagisa has. However he cautions her not to get the wrong idea. He never approved his daughter to join AKB0048 and believed the paths they walk were different. Despite so, they’ll never stop being a family. He tells Chieri that her father is a lonely man and doesn’t realize it. Despite hearing his twisted expression and revelling how his daughter will become Centre Nova, he feels he is just looking for somebody to walk beside him. Outside the door to her father’s office, Chieri starts singing as her radiance glows brighter. This is the radiance he has been looking for. Suddenly a gunshot is heard. She feels something is wrong. When Chieri opens the door, she is devastated to see her father lying in his own pool of blood and a bullet hole in the window. Nagisa and Chieri return to AKB0048’s ship as Nagisa consoles the latter, obviously very shaken at what happened.

Episode 12
The assassin still remains free and news spread about Zodiac’s CEO’s assassination. Chieri’s mental state is unstable and thus Tsubasa excludes her from participating in their operation to take back Akibastar. Kanata can understand what Chieri is feeling since she and Sonata lost their father. However this is no time to let emotions run high. They need to stay strong so each can achieve their Centre Nova radiance and make the dualium and Kiraras glow. Mamoru’s WOTA forces are hiding in Akibastar. The atmosphere is gloomy and the life from everyone’s eyes has vanished. Because they can’t afford to get into any skirmishes with DES, Kojiharu takes them underground where the rest are hiding out. Tomochin is sick as she notes how the people of Akibastar hate them thinking AKB0048 have abandoned them. She starts to glow. Tsubasa is furious seeing AKB0048 practice and gets riled up they can do better than that. She even starts dancing to show how it’s done. Everyone is amazed the Kiraras glow but for an old lady (sorry), she doesn’t have the stamina anymore. This gives the girls motivation to do better. So much so they radiate so much and they find themselves riding a train. They see a revitalized Akibastar. When they return back to consciousness, they realize this is the key to take back Akibastar. However Nagisa is still unconscious. And Chieri too. They are still on the dream train. Nagisa sees the familiar flight of stairs and on it is Yuuko with a very broken spirit. She is depressed that even though she saw Acchan and the other Centre Nova before her, she laments she can never reach them.

They wake up and tell the rest what is happening. Tsubasa thinks they must have seen AKB48 Theatre. Before Earth was destroyed, this small place in Akihabara, Japan was where AKB48 was born. Mikako suspects Yuuko didn’t complete her journey. Although she met the requirements to initiate as a Centre Nova, she failed to do so for disappearing as one. Say what? That important condition is a frighteningly powerful sense of unity that exceeds time and space. It is a sense of becoming one with everything. The way Yuuko disappeared was as if she was feeling alone, seeking refuge in isolation. Tsubasa prepares to jump back to Akibastar and signals to WOTA and the other AKB0048 members about their timing. Tomochin tells Tsubasa that she received a message from Sensei-sensei. The key to this operation is No Name. Nagisa apologizes to Chieri for being unable to do something for her. But Chieri has made her peace, realizing the thing she always wanted behind the door will never open if she gets consumed by darkness. With her composure back, she is confident to become Centre Nova to see what is behind that door. When AKB0048 ship jumps into Akibastar, the elected members right away go into concert mode. However all the people start throwing stones and telling them to leave, calling them traitors. Scary. I know DES’ brainwashing propaganda was swift when they take this planet but this is how far their loyalty goes? The girls are afraid and getting them to radiate seems tough now. Mikako realizes amplifying and uniting emotions also lie in the people’s heart so the dualium and Kiraras won’t react via the members alone. Everything will be futile if they can’t reach the people’s hearts. AKB0048 is sad that the once friendly people of Akibastar are now turning against them but Nagisa can’t stand and watch to end like this.

Episode 13
Despite it is a very demoralizing situation, AKB0048 still have hope in the people because it is their warmth that brought them this far. They continue to sing even if the people continue to tell them to leave. Meanwhile Yuuko sees Acchan. The latter explains all Centre Novae were summoned by Sensei-sensei, more accurately the collective unconsciousness of all living things channelled through Kirara and integrated through dualium. If entertainment disappears, people’s hearts will remain in darkness. That’s why the collective unconscious formed through dualium resonance has gathered the Centre Novae in this space outside time so that the depths of humanity’s unconsciousness will never be lost. They are the light of hope and if that light disappears, people’s hearts will be swallowed by darkness. Acchan wants Yuuko and the rest to defend that in reality but Yuuko feels she can’t do it otherwise she will never be able to sing by her side or surpass her. Acchan hugs her and shows what is going on at Akibastar now. Despite all the abuses the people hurl at Nagisa, she tries to tell them that all they want is to sing and show their love. Even if they hate them, please do not hate songs and entertainment. Nagisa suddenly radiates so bright that everyone thought they see Acchan in her. Nagisa starts having fever, the kind when there is going to be a succession. DES enforces break through the barrier. While WOTA keeps them at bay, AKB0048 continue to keep singing. Everyone is surprised that the portal opens and Yuuko comes flying out to join them singing. Yuuko communicates back to Tsubasa that Acchan told her the disappeared Centre Nova are illuminating the shadows of the heart. It is now their job to illuminate the present. She has Mikako project all her photographs she took to the audience. It is then the people realize they love Akibastar. Nagisa notes even if everyone hates them, AKB0048 will never hate them. Nagisa’s Kirara shines so bright that everybody returns to support AKB0048 while calling Nagisa as Acchan.

DES forces continue to attack. A DES member almost raped Suzuko but she was saved by Chieri. At first she was brimmed with anger thinking how her father was killed. But she calms down and starts singing. The DES member who was afraid of being cut down by her sees her light and starts believing in her! Woah! She converted him just by singing! That is a much effective way and what AKB0048 is about, right? They’re here to sing and show their love. We get a rare moment between Yuuka and Mamoru (before we forget there was romance between them). Yuuka was blown out of the sky but Mamoru catches her. He vows to always protect her and almost kissed. If it makes her radiate greater, he will always watch over her. Chieri’s singing continues to convert more DES members to see the light! So great her radiance that she is giving off that resonance of a Centre Nova. The main DES battleship receives orders to capture her or eliminate her before her power grows big. The battleship crashes into Akibastar ready to capture Chieri at all cost. Chieri says they are going to use everyone’s emotions to stop DES. Chieri and Nagisa fly towards the battleship as they could feel not only the people’s emotions but those throughout the universe resonating inside them. The DES crew are stunned to see the beauty of their radiance. So now do you believe in them? Not just a single DES battleship but every one of them retreated! All hail the power of idols! Thanks to the emotions of the people who love peace and entertainment, bolstered by countless nameless emotions, the girls sang with radiance and will herald in a new era. All the Kiraras light up Akibastar like a starry filled sky and form the constellation of hope. In the aftermath, peace has returned to Akibastar and the place is rebuilt. Although the battle with DES continues, AKB0048 continues to sing with their hearts to their fans. Chieri has become the new Centre Nova while Nagisa has officially succeeded Acchan.

The Brightest Star In The Sky: Idols!
I guess this season was pretty decent although I felt the ending could have been better. Really. I thought I would see AKB0048 turn DES into an idol loving and supporting organization but I suppose it would be unrealistic to defeat an organization that big and with so many anti-entertainment people around, it is going to take a long time even if they can pull off a miracle. Let’s look at it this way. It would be cool and a happy ending for everyone in the universe if entertainment lovers and haters would end this silly war and start enjoying the shows idols put up. But without DES around, the idols wouldn’t probably have worked so hard and pushed themselves to radiate as brightly as we see them. Not to say that they will slack or laze around without DES, but there won’t be that motivation and fire to push themselves to the limits. You know, humans work best when they are pushed to a corner and during strife. It brings out the best and also the worst. That’s why it is partly thanks to them that AKB0048 exists. Thanks to them, people under such strict laws know the meaning of hope in which otherwise many would have taken granted for.

Even so, this season is still entertaining in its own right because we have the short trial of a handful of AKB0048 members, a stray visit to an ancient planet with equally strange native creatures (watching them dance along with the idols was pretty hilarious – it’s like watching your pet dog or cat getting jiggy with it, no?) and an all-out battle between AKB0048 and DES enforces on Akihabara. It was shocking for a while to see that the fans for the moment started turning their backs on AKB0048. I know they’ve been brainwashed by DES but I thought all the love that they have built up was just washed away in that instant. It is understandable they may have felt ditched and that they may have not understood the situation of why AKB0048 had to flee and look like cowards abandoning the people, but doesn’t that show how shallow their belief and faith for them? So what you’ve been a Chieri fan for ages, attending every event, getting every memorabilia on her and even gotten up close to shake her hand whenever there is such chance. Their sudden return at the wrong time when the mood is gloomy may be provocative. But can’t they tell which is better? To have the idols doing their lively performance or continuing to live with the gloom? The people of Akibastar should know better. They’ve been living on a planet that is never short of idol entertainment and to reject them means they prefer the harsh Taliban-like conditions of DES? Come on. Think, man. And entertainment believed as some sort of ritual to the Gods? Wow. I don’t think I ever saw that coming. But I can understand a little better why Shamans or native Indians do some crazy dance every time they need to communicate with the other world. I hope my stinky lame dance didn’t just summon some sort of mischievous or perverted God…

Although there is no word if there will be another season, it isn’t really the end for AKB0048 and the rest of the aspiring idols. With Chieri now as the new Centre Nova, does this mean Yuuko has relinquished hers? I suppose so because as far as I can see, there can only be one Centre Nova position at one time. Unless you’re telling me by some miracle there are two. That would defeat the purpose, right? I also guess that to end the season so as not to let Chieri hog the limelight, they gave something to Nagisa too seeing that from the start of this series, I have a feeling that it would have something to do with both of them. So whether you are a fan of Chieri or Nagisa, I guess both end up having good tidings with the former as the new Centre Nova while the latter succeeding all-time fan favourite Acchan. Even though I am satisfied with the explanation of the disappearing Centre Novae, it’s not that I fully understand. So let me get this straight. They didn’t really vanish into the other world. More like, they become one with the universe and everything and are everywhere. So even in the deepest darkest of shadows, they’ll be singing and giving hope to everyone. Just one problem. Why didn’t their voice reach DES and all those anti-entertainment people? Maybe their hate is too strong? But as shown by Chieri, it is not impossible to convert those whom they have directly come into contact. Even Nagisa’s dad is seen cheering for her at her concert in the end. So all is not lost. People do change and can change. Although some may need more convincing than others and maybe there has to be the need of contact. Seeing is believing. In that case, AKB0048 should hold more guerrilla concerts at DES headquarters. Nip the problem in the bud, I’d say.

The only thing that still bugged me was who shot Chieri’s father. Was it an act orchestrated by DES? It is confirmed that he is really dead (and not a hoax – Yasunaga was paying a tribute at his tomb in the final end credits) and though it is heart wrenching for a daughter to see her father die before her eyes, I’m glad Chieri grew stronger out of it. Whether or not Zodiac had her hand in skyrocketing her popularity, one thing is for sure. Her fans love her true blue and this is something she cannot deny. With each of the idols having their own set of fans, the love between idols and fans are reciprocal. They exist because of each other. How can you be an idol without fans? How can there be fans if there is no idol? You love me, I love you. There’s lots of love to go around so don’t be too stingy with it, eh? ;p. Besides, an idol’s job is to sing and entertain her fans and not to fight against authority. Leave it to WOTA for that part.

Animes with too many characters and shorter number of episodes would definitely have a hard time trying to flesh them all out. So for this season, I think they try to give some decent time to the rest of the Understudies. For instance they focus the spotlight on Mimori and turning her into a Successor. Last season Kanata took most of the spotlight share at the end so from what I can see here, she is just minor. Same case I feel for Suzuko, Sonata and Yuuka. It felt they were just negligible. Then they also give single episode focus on Makoto and Orine. Despite that, I still feel that it is just so that Chieri and Nagisa do not hog all the screen time. After all, the Understudies of No Name did start out as the 9 of them. I still love Makoto and forgive me if I sound like a sadist because her clumsiness and pessimism gives her character and is what makes her funny. Because she is not ‘afraid’ to show those negative traits, it gives other losers inspiration and hope. So she’s not all that useless as she think she is. So being a negative clown too has its advantages. Hey. Am I turning into a Makoto fan? Just her antics… The other amusing Understudy is Sonata because of the way she gives her weird nicknames. Put her together with Makoto and you’ve got a manzai comedy duo. If only Sonata had more impact in this season…

The other characters are also okay. Yuuko is given more prominence among the rest of the Successors since she became Centre Nova but had to shortly disappear temporarily after that. Because of that, I felt the rest of the Successors are there just to show face. Like I said, too many members, not enough time for them to show us their love ;p. Tsubasa and Ushiyama play great support to the girls but of course the idols shine because of their own efforts and determination. Casting Mikako initially as a villain, I thought it was just a slight distraction. She’s not actually a bad person, just that she is misguided and obsessed in bringing back Acchan and the rest from the other world in which they are not familiar with. Chieri’s father may also seem like a villain since he is obsessed with making his daughter shine so he could get his hands on the dualium, it is sad that we don’t get to see father and daughter reconcile or if ever deep down in his heart he sees Chieri as a daughter and not an object. As cold as he is ever, Chieri believed he once display the warmth of a father even though it was for a short while. We would like to believe it too. But seeing the way how it tragically ended, let’s just keep believing it was like that.

As we have seen, despite the strict entertainment ban in some of the planets, there are those in the top levels who flout the rules in secrecy. And they do it without shame. I guess it’s to make us feel disgust and even more hatred for these kind of low lives. Then again, you can’t stoop too low to their level and return that hatred with hatred. It might be a long shot but it is not impossible to fight hatred with love. If only these people knew the warmth and love like these idols have shown, maybe they would come to understand better. So seeing that they enjoy entertainment in secrecy, why not stop being a hypocrite and abolish the entertainment ban? I figure that if entertainment is like a rare commodity, it can only be truly ‘appreciated’ if it is enjoyed by a selected few and not by everyone of the public. Where would the ‘fun’ be if everyone enjoys the same thing? There is also this great feeling of being in power and ultimate control when you see others in misery while knowing in the comfort of your own seat you are enjoying something that others can’t. That’s why it won’t be surprising even in the real world to find leaders being caught red handed in some scandal, a total opposite of what they preach.

Although this season features much more songs from AKB48, somehow I just don’t them as appealing as they were as from the first season. Take for instance, the opening theme, Aruji Naki Sono Koe by No Name. Although sounds like their trademark typical pop, it lacks the oomph and excitement that I heard in the first season’s Kibou Ni Tsuite. I believe my taste in music is not that sophisticated either. Similarly, this season’s main ending theme, Kono Namida Wo Kimi Ni Sasagu also by No Name, despite being a slow rock, I feel it doesn’t do better than last season’s Yume Wa Nando Demo Umarekawaru. But it isn’t that bad. Just that I didn’t find it appealing enough for it to hum in my head for days or weeks (and on and off a few months down the road) as much as its predecessor themes. Although some insert songs of AKB48 like Heavy Rotation, Beginner, Aitakatta and Shoujotachi Yo that were featured in last season are also featured again here, there are more new insert songs like Blue Rose, Chance No Juban, Korogaru Ishi Ni Nare, Oogoe Diamond, Pioneer and Ue Kara Mariko. As usual, I’m not a big AKB48 fan so they sound just rather okay. Typical lively idol songs that almost sound the same. Please don’t hate me.

The ultimate lesson of this story is perhaps love conquers all. Even so, do it in moderation. Because too much love turns you into an obsessed stalker and that is just plain creepy. I would really love to see the day when we could really stop all the fighting and wars just by singing as a ‘weapon’. You move hearts and emotions with the power of words and love instead of force and bloodshed.  If you can’t change the heart, then probably you can’t change the mind either. Till then, idols for the time being are just perhaps through a cynic’s view, some money making phenomenon or fame seeking opportunist. So many idols produced today but how many can live in our hearts memorably for the rest of our lives and for many generations to come? Is this what entertainment for the future has become? By the way, the ticket for a concert still costs a bomb. You got to break your bank just to attend one of those concerts. No money = no idol love :'(. That’s just sad and tragic.

AKB0048

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.