First Impressions – AKB0048 Next Stage

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The space idols have returned!

I can’t believe more Metateam members didn’t want to cover the new season of AKB. The first season was surprisingly good considering the description felt like Symphogear/ any other generic idol anime that involves fighting for no real reason. My hopes for this year? That we’ll finally get some answers to the questions they left floating around. They can’t just tell us that some unknown force of music dictates their lives and then leave us with that. Your thoughts, Hawt?
I have to agree, we demand answers! Thankfully Satelight has given us an entire second season to find those answers, including the identity of Sensei Sensei. Now, let’s get on to our thoughts on the show! If you’re new to AKB0048, the second season doesn’t really require that you’ve seen the first. You should get the gist of things after this episode, and if you want to know more feel free to check back at our coverage of the first season right here on Metanorn!

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It wouldn’t be AKB0048 without a flashy concert to start things off.

New Story Elements

 
 
 
 
 
karasp
Well AKB0048 certainly started off unusually intense. Between the Center Nova drama, the fact that they’re all going to be ranked (I’m not even that fond of Sonata, but I have to agree that the pessimistic blue haired girl is a depressing character) and the arrest/trial, the dorama certainly isn’t taking it easy. Both of the changes to the AKB job seem a bit dangerous considering that this is more than likely to divide characters, make some feel inferior and create even more drama, but I guess they’re necessary? I still don’t quite understand how their careers all seem to be controlled by the god of entertainment or whatever lives in the creepy shrine in the basement, but maybe they’ll explain that this season. There’s all of this career drama and on top of that, there’s the fact that Chieri’s father seems to be running for asshat parent of the year already. I don’t even know how he plans on using his daughter, nor why he wants to stop entertainment in the first place (maybe his wife died in a tragic microphone accident, who knows) but it can’t be good for the AKB.

General Election Speculation

Kara, you’re breaking my heart! Makoto’s pessimism is what makes her so lovable. But I digress, Next Stage is certainly kicking things into high gear without any breathers, already setting in motion the various plotlines that will likely persist through the rest of the season. First, the general election which is actually an incredibly popular part of the real life AKB48 idol unit in Japan. In 2011, over one million votes were cast, and Atsuko Maede (whom Acchan is conceived from in the anime) took first place. In relation to AKB0048, we can correlate first place to the “Center Nova.” This brings up an interesting question, is the winner of the “Center Nova” already known? If the general elections continue to follow the real world results, then we may be looking at Yuuko Oshima being the next “Center Nova” in the anime, due to her first place win in 2012. Of course, this is just speculation. After all, the understudies have no real world counterpart, so they have just as much chance as any. (If it wasn’t obvious already, I’ll be rooting for Makoto to win, even though she has absolutely no chance whatsoever!)  
hawtsp
 
 
 
 

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You probably saw it coming, but the results are anyone’s guess.

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Saving the day, idol style.

The Great Escape

 
 
 
karasp …The arrest this episode brings us to the fact that the anti-entertainment movement blatantly trashed a perfectly harmless hotel and kidnapped a bunch of minors. I hope they at least paid the hotel some money for damages. Personally, after seeing so many stories where the default punishment for every single crime is death, I don’t think 48 (ahaha I see what they did there) years in prison is that bad, but it’s definitely NOT good news of any sort for an idol. In the end though, they did get away and really, the fact that the anti-entertainment movement decided to broadcast it all over kind of backfired. From my view, the incident turned out to be a great publicity stunt for the AKB since impressionable audiences everywhere would be able to watch them preform where the AKB usually travel to select planets. …Plus, they made the entire anti-entertainment movement look like they were the ones at fault there.

Return of the Music

One of my complaints season was that overall it felt as though the quantity of music was lacking. That’s why it was a great comfort to see that there was no shortage of incredible music and BGM. First, we got another taste of “Shonichi” by the understudies, and it was wonderful way to start the episode. This first glance at not only the teamwork of the understudies, but their vast improvement from last season is very important. I’m sure you can picture my face when right after Shonichi we got “Niji no Ressha,” which paired with some really beautiful animation was easily my favorite of the episode. But it didn’t end there! “Pioneer” was an amazing choice as the rescue song during the final half of the show. It paired perfectly with the action filled scene, and there could have been no better choice! I think it’s safe to say there’s plenty more where this came from. hawtsp  
 
 

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My bets are on blue.

The Beauty of Teamwork

 
 
 
 
 
karasp
I don’t really care about the music in this anime (…I don’t know if I’m watching this for the right reasons or not), so I’ll leave that to Hawt. For the characters though, there have been some pleasant changes from the last season. For one, Chieri seems to be well past her slump and is one of the more inspiring characters now. I’m not really worried about her this season. Nagisa on the other hand, seems to have acquired some sort of precognition ability…? Her character kind of lost a bit of optimism in the last couple episodes of the last season due to daddy issues (though she did gain confidence back at the end) and it looks like it’s her turn to be a little weary about being an idol due to that unsettling dream. I guess having a constant competition is a rather large part of an idol’s career and I never got around to watching the rest of Idolm@ster so I don’t know if this was relevant in there or not, so seeing the harsh fact of the real world factor into this is a bit surprising. On the plus side though, it seems like the girls are perfectly good at being team mates and rivals at the same time. Or at least Yuuko has proven herself mature enough for that.

Beyond the Drama

 
Satelight has clearly upped their game in season two, in more ways than one. The most obvious of which is the increase in fanservice, with more boob shots than ever. That’s awesome for the audience it’s intended for, but for me the increased quality in animation is the biggest plus. There’s something about the CG dancing sequences that feels more fluid, not to mention the choreography in general is more diverse. Outside of the performances, both the general animation and background art are as detailed as they were in First Stage. Satelight is really doing a wonderful job building upon the setting and the dark, gloomy artwork creates the perfect atmosphere of oppression. I couldn’t ask for more, honestly.
hawtsp  
 
 

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Suzuko and Yukirin are planning ahead for the general election.

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So far, so good for season two. I guess last season could be considered the introduction? They certainly have moved past introducing everyone and what they do. I foresee a lot of angst (closely followed by friendship solving everything) in the future due to the new rules and drama, but as long as it doesn’t take up 90+% of the new season, all will be well. AKB has proven that it can deal with character insecurities without the theme being overbearing the last season and struggling always makes the reward seem worthwhile in these kinds of things. As for things I actually want to see, I’ve mentioned this 1437 times already this post, but I really want to know the deal with the unknown force driving this whole thing. At first I laughed off the notion as a joke about the AKB being kind of like a cult, but it’s turned into a really interesting issue for me. Of course, it makes the AKB seem a bit self-important since the anime is basically saying that the girl’s singing is the will of an all knowing entity, but I’d love to hear the plot explain where it all came from. I assume the Center Nova phenomena and graduation thing will be explained along the way as well. Another thing I’d love to see this season is as some sort of backstory as to why places think that little girls singing is dangerous. Entertainment seems pretty harmless unless the giant war that destroyed Earth was fought by otaku or something. …Oh lord, that had better not be the actual explanation.

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Well said Kara, and I completely agree. That mysterious entity (“Sensei Sensei” as it’s referred to) is definitely one of the most mysterious plot elements from season one. It’s connection to the kirara is something that definitely needs to be explained, right alongside the disappearance of Acchan. But, let’s not worry too much! We have a whole seasons worth of AKB0048 in front of us after all. Next Stage’s premiere was more than I could have ever asked for. It delivered in every area that made me come to love the first season: music, action, drama, and of course, Makoto! This season is going to be one hell of a ride, and thanks to this general election business the drama is more than guaranteed to hit new highs. Honestly, the general election/Center Nova far outshines the other new plotline surrounding Zodiac and Chiere’s father, but perhaps that’s exactly how I’m supposed to feel? Either way, bring it on AKB0048 we’re ready for you! Next week we’ll be getting into what’s called the “Variety Show” segment that helps boost the popularity of the idols. I’m sure it’ll be a humorous episode, but let’s hope it doesn’t let up on the action and music.

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His eyes scream innocence.

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22 Responses to “First Impressions – AKB0048 Next Stage”

  1. skylion says:

    Yes, wondeful Tag work, guys.

    Yeah, I went from a skeptic to a convert during the last outing, Next Stage is something I have been champing at the bit for.

    One of my biggest gripes from the last season was that the whole “anti-idol” thing felt tacked on; they didn’t develop this theme enough, and they told us about it, rather than showing us. I don’t think this first episode did much to relive my gripes; but I think they have shown willing to give us more background. There are some definite movers and shakers going on, and AKB is part of it, whether they like it or not.

    As far as music goes, I am “meh” to the entire idol scene. When it comes to anime however? I can tick idolm@ster, Natsuiro Kiseki, and this the AKB franchise into my “Most Enjoyed” shows of the past few years. Perhaps it is the presentation? Probably. I wouldn’t find myself in a line for a handshake event, unless of course Kanata and Sonata were heading the bill ;-P

    Speaking of franchise: I kinda got that feeling during this episode. Satelite is aiming to make this a big deal years down the road. They have the pedigree for it in Macross and perhaps even (dare I say), Aquarion EVOL.

    All in all, I am a huge fan of the show and look forward to more; this includes more from you guys as well.

    • Highway says:

      Comparing the ‘idol’ scenes in the US and in Japan, I find I’m not really into the ‘idols’ as much as the animes, because they still tend to use more rock-based music in Japan and in anime. Perhaps I’ve just not been exposed to it (and thank goodness for that, really) but the J-pop idol group music I’ve heard isn’t just the ‘dance club’ electronica that the US pop music scene is. And that’s really what I like about the J-Pop and J-Rock music, that it’s not just pop dance club songs. Really, there’s not really an analog to them in US music. Find me some actual rock music played with distorted guitars, drum, and bass with a female singer in the US. The list gets really empty after groups like Paramore, old No Doubt, first album Evanescence, uhhh… I mean, there’s reasons I was listening to Nightwish and Lacuna Coil before I started listening to J-Rock and J-Pop. Rock music is just so dead in the US.

      • Hawthorne says:

        Have you ever tried K-Pop, I probably only know a small fraction of what Hoshi knows, but from what I’ve listened to it has a very distinct sound. There’s some great rock influenced groups, too!

    • Hawthorne says:

      I don’t think satelight will make us go another seasons with the details behind Zodiac unexplained. It should be an interesting story now that Mr. Sono is involved. XD

      I thought the handshake events were fictional not too long ago, but then I read a story about the … disturbing things some extreme fans do at the events and realized I was utterly wrong. OTL

      I wouldn’t mind more seasons after this, more AKB0048 wouldn’t be such a bad thing. It’ll probably always have a fanbase as long as AKB48 fans are out there, so I guess that’s good news for us!

  2. Highway says:

    I didn’t watch AKB0048 when it was out the first time, so I’m not watching this one right now, but I did try Love Live! and was really pleasantly surprised. If I end up liking this genre, I’ll probably end up giving these other shows a try, although having a lot of episodes is something that keeps me from going to a show. Two cours is about my limit.

    Any of you guys planning to watch or write on Love Live!?

    • CarVac says:

      I’m not a blogger, but in my opinion Love Live has somewhat better production values in some ways, but in its first episode it didn’t build atmosphere or develop a distinctive personality in the way that pretty much every one of the animes I consider “great” do.

      AKB0048 has lots of atmosphere, and the show as a whole has a very distinctive personality.

    • Hawthorne says:

      Kara and I will be tagging for Love Live, and the post should be out sometime today!

  3. BlackBriar says:

    Welcome AKB0048. You were very well missed. I’ve been expecting for their comeback the same way I was for Rinne no Lagrange season 2. Next week we should be able to see the new OP.

    The first season was surprisingly good considering the description felt like Symphogear/ any other generic idol anime that involves fighting for no real reason.

    Symphogear was fairly good with its action and singing and the characters were fighting to protect the planet. I say they’re on par with each other entertainment wise just like Girls und Panzer. I also heard a rumor that Symphogear has another season in the works.

    You guys weren’t kidding about this starting off intensely. It’s still amazing how serious the story takes this ban on all entertainment. Just what happened that it’s been taken into the form terrorism? The “justice system” is too harsh. These are kids we’re talking about.

    Bringing back certain rules to rise up from being understudies are only going to serve to cause tension. Sensei Sensei isn’t the only mysterious thing floating around. There’s still the question of how the Kirara make their choices among the girls.

    • Hawthorne says:

      I miss Symphogear. S2 needs to come sooner. :<

      This is speculation, but I was thinking that the Kirara may choose based on personality and motivation, since Kanata was going to replace Takamina because she lost her will to fight. That fighting spirit might be the crucial trait of all Takaminas. But, I’m probably wrong! This show is too hard to predict at times.

      All the understudies created their own Kirara now though during the last performance, so I wonder what that will mean for the future.

  4. Joojoobees says:

    Cool. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to follow up on what I thought was a pretty good first season, but reading this review has me excited to watch the first episode of Next Stage sometime this coming weekend.

  5. […] different flavor of music themed anime compared to this season’s other idol adventure, AKB0048, but Love Live’s simplicity might be what makes it so wonderfully entertaining. Fans of […]

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