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AKB0048 – 02 »

AKB0048 – 01

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「消せない夢」 (Kesenai Yume)
“Eternal Dreams”

It’s hard not to be skeptical of AKB0048, both for fans and non-fans alike. We never asked for this. But this first episode of the genre blending idol-centric-dystopian-mecha-musical-science-fiction (whew) by the folks behind Macross does make a pretty damn good case for itself.

You can probably tell that I’m going into the series with a lot of cynicism, and for good reason. When industries try to cross, it’s often risky and alienating both to fans and non-fans alike. Just look at how long Hollywood took to bring comic-book movies into prominence! AKB48 already has a number of ventures in mediums such as TV dramas, manga and games. So initially, AKB0048 screamed of a poor marketing attempt to sell a show by attaching AKB48′s name, while reaching out to a rather niche market. And in this case, it’s a pretty damn big name indeed. AKB48 is arguably Japan’s most successful girl pop group, and probably one of the country’s last few remaining successes after the Korean pop sensation took the world by storm, causing the Japanese music industry to largely fade into irrelevance.

And yes, perhaps this whole thing is indeed an elaborate marketing attempt. But so was the Avengers, and against all odds, THAT managed to score with critics and fans alike. (Really, like, I was expecting it to be Michael Bay bad) So when I took a closer look at AKB0048, I began to get interested. Coming from this season’s highly entertaining Aquarion EVOL to take charge of this project is Macross man himself Kawamori Shoji, as well as Okada Mari, responsible for series composition and whose past works include stellar shows like Toradora and Ano Hana. You can bet that these people know a thing or two about getting galactic idols to work with mecha science-fiction.

And for the better part of the episode, AKB0048 seems to work. Animation-wise Satelight (Aquarion EVOL, Macross Frontier) has brought their A-game to this series, opening up the pilot with a spectacular concert sequence reminiscent of their work on the concerts in the Macross Frontier anime and movies. While last year’s IDOLM@STER wowed audiences with its completely hand-drawn musical numbers, copious amounts of CG are present throughout AKB0048’s as per Satelight’s usual style, which caused me some worry. The usage of CG in anime has garnered quite a bit of infamy for how bad it looks, due to its disorientating contrast with traditional animation. And while we sadly won’t find any particular improvements here, Satelight has smartly used the draw distance of the scene as a means to vary between traditional animation and CG, making the CG animation less jarring than I feared. Most of the close-up shots are beautifully hand-drawn, and combined with the CG makes for a spectacularly energetic scene. The ensuing fight scene was equally great, even if it felt too much like watching Aquarion or Macross with all that CG animation.

Despite the spectacular visuals, for a music-themed anime the score was largely forgettable in this first episode. Inserts were mostly standard J-pop songs courtesy of the actual AKB48 and should appeal to J-pop lovers and AKB48 fans. However, asides from the theme song “Kibou ni Tsuite” by AKB48 unit NO NAME, nothing about the audio particularly struck a chord with me.

On the subject of audio, the show mostly did away with traditional voice actors (They voice the supporting characters of the 5th generation AKB0048), and instead opted to defer to AKB’s own repertoire of artists for the voices of the main cast. It seemed like a bad idea, but my initial skepticism of this decision by the production committee was put to rest when these fresh faces in the industry proved capable enough at voice acting without sounding too awkward or forced. I did feel that certain voices didn’t quite match up with the characters they were playing, such as lead heroine Motomiya Nagisa, who is played by AKB member Iwata Karen. However, despite this minor complain, the voicework provided by the AKB48 members were more decent than I had expected, and shouldn’t sound unsatisfactory to anyone watching.

Plotwise, the first thing that should jump in your face is the orwellian setting of the series; Due to unknown events in the past, humanity’s governments saw fit to ban the general populace from any form of entertainment (music in particular), and in this totalitarian future, AKB0048 is a terrorist(?) organization rebelling against this, admittedly, stupid law by conducting guerilla live concerts. Yes, “What”? Much like Aquarion EVOL, it seems that Kawamori intends for the absurd premise of the series to be something only taken at face value, or perhaps as an analogy to some facet of the music industry, if Aquarion’s numerous references to mankind’s base instincts are anything to go by. (Or hell, maybe it’s his insane trolling attempt) While it works as a fun 20 minutes romp filled with spectacular vistas of the bleak planet Lancaster (and oh boy are the backdrops lovely), I have no idea where they intend to go with a premise like this, beyond the whole chasing-your-dreams motif that the second half of the episode seems to set. Furthermore, this seems too sanitized a series for any V-styled gunpowder treason or plot. I expect the power of music to be the revolution that topples this regime, but with the mechas, who can tell?

The other thing about the story is its massive cast. AKB0048’s cast has two central groups of characters; the main cast which is a part of the Kenkyuusei (AKB’s trainees), and the other group being the 5th generation of AKB0048. Furthermore, the characters from the 5th gen are based off the more prolific members of AKB48, such as Maeda Atsuko and Oshima Yuko. It a doozy to take it all in, especially if you aren’t an AKB48 fan just like me, and it might take more than a few more episodes for any concrete impressions of the characters to form. Nevertheless, this episode give did give us a measured introduction to the first three of our main cast: Nagisa, Ichijou Yuuka (Sato Amina) and Aida Orine (Nakaya Sayaka). It’s a tricky thing to balance character exposition since the spotlight will inevitably shift towards other members in the Kenkyuusei. However, at least in episode 1, credit is due to the creative team for fleshing out these characters sufficiently without making them seem too stereotypical or annoying, a common pitfall for shows dealing with wannabe-idols. I am especially intrigued by Orine, an orphaned girl working for her own bread and butter while her friends go to school. It’s an interesting angle one does not often see, which leads me to wonder about the kind of developments AKB0048 intends to pull out.

For now, it seems that the development of our main cast as they grow from their Kenkyuusei positions to full members will be the major focus of the series. Judging from this first episode, AKB0048 does show some promise for a story that could be greater than what its premise entails. However, the AKB48 name felt unnecessary to the overarching story, unlike the manga AKB49 which explores the inner workings of the AKB48 group. Asides from the references and songs, there isn’t any significant contribution to be had from the AKB48 group in the anime.

My initial skepticism of the series has not fully vanished, but it’ll definitely been interesting to see the direction Kawamori plans to take this anime in.

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Full Length images: 0102

 

ED Sequence

AKB0048   ED01   01 AKB0048   ED01   02 AKB0048   ED01   03

ED: 「夢は何度も生まれ変わる 希望について」 (yume ha nando mo umare kawa ru Kibou ni Tsuita) by NO NAME

Preview

AKB0048   01   Preview 01 AKB0048   01   Preview 02 AKB0048   01   Preview 03
May 3, 2012 at 12:05 am
58 comments »
  • May 3, 2012 at 12:24 amNhelraios

    Intriguing plot and catchy songs drew me in but yea, the CG dance is bad and will take time to get used to.

  • May 3, 2012 at 12:34 amQwerty1

    I’ve watched a lot of shows with premises that were… out there…

    Something about this show though I’m just not able to shrug off and give in to the suspension of disbelief.

    Seeing those hearts every time you look into a characters eyes is creeping me out as well…

  • May 3, 2012 at 12:52 amGuardMonkey10

    I rather enjoyed this. Of course, the mechs have totally sold me on episode two. IDF for the win! The characters felt pretty good, at least so far. The main girl is tolerable if a bit typical. However, the other two I’m rather interested with. This is a bit on the strange side, but I dig strange.

  • May 3, 2012 at 1:06 amFencedude

    This show is really quite good. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but was very impressed.

    Now, I just need to make sure I don’t come out of this with an AKB48 obsession. That would be bad. Very, very bad.

  • May 3, 2012 at 1:21 amxRichard

    Let me tell you my experience with AKB0048,

    I went into this thinking “Ok, now I’m gonna watch this horrid piece of shit and laugh at myself for wasting my time in such a idiotic show aimed at man-children”. But then I left asking myself “What did just happen? Why was I entertained so much?”.

    I have the (sick?) idea that shows like Acchi Kocchi or Natsuiro Kiseki would be so much better if something horrible happened to the characters at some point in the story. Like one of the girls getting raped, having their parents get killed or committing suicide. Maybe I’m talking about tragedy elements: A thing that makes slice-of-life show so much enjoyable for me, like black pepper in my soup. (e.g. anime like Mushishi, AnoHana).

    AKB0048 plays with a bit of that tragedy in it’s dystopian setting. And that allowed me to digest this “Idol Anime” way better than IDOLM@STER. I’ll now keep track of this show, hoping to get more pleasant surprises.

  • May 3, 2012 at 1:23 amfragb85

    IDOLS…..IN SPAAAAACE!

    This premise is stupid AND awesome at the same time. I’m just fascinated by how anime takes the some of the dumbest premises ever and work it into something fun to watch. People will kill me for saying this but I did like Idolmaster Xenoglassia so I look forward to see how this series spins the whole Sci-Fi Idols thing.

  • May 3, 2012 at 1:43 amYoukai

    When I saw the no idols were allowed sign and the soldiers, I didn’t know whether to laugh or take it seriously.

  • May 3, 2012 at 1:48 amGhostalker

    Lot’s of good impressions on this first episode. AKB0048 was never in my list since the previews for Spring 2012 was announced but I’m very curious now, I’ll gonna watch this episode.

  • May 3, 2012 at 1:51 amRavin

    Was I the only one who noticed the bagger 288!

  • May 3, 2012 at 2:00 amcow

    Wow very well written; I had the exact same thing thoughts. The first episode was really bad at all. Being an AKB48 fan myself, I really wasn’t expecting it to be good. I do have some problems with the girls voice acting some of the characters; like you said some just doesn’t fit that well.

    I’m glad someone on RandomC picked this up and I’m looking forward to more :)

  • May 3, 2012 at 2:01 amDop

    Ravin, so that’s what it’s called!
    I noticed the humongous digging machine and recognised it as something I’d seen somewhere before.
    It’s a nice detail.

  • May 3, 2012 at 2:24 amc2710

    http://randomc.net/image/AKB0048/AKB0048%20-%2001%20-%20Full%20Length%2001.jpg

    Every time she appears…. I go “muginami-des……”

  • May 3, 2012 at 2:30 amRakkyo

    I checked out the first episode coz I read that a lot of big-name seiyuus are in it. Sadly, AKB0048 contains too much melodrama for me and I find idols singing while kicking police ass just awkward.

    If I wanted to watch an idol anime I’d watch Idolm@ster. If I wanted to watch some mecha action I’d watch Star Driver, Rinne no Lagrange or Aquarion. If I wanted to watch both of those at the same time… nah will never happen.

    Just my 2 cents…

    • May 3, 2012 at 4:27 amWhatsht

      The thing is, Macross is a perfect mix of Idol and Mecha, and now the creators of Macross are doing AKB0048.

  • May 3, 2012 at 3:25 amLuxor

    I loved IDOLM@STER and it’s the reason I was going to watch this, but I was afraid AKB0048 would end up being something like Xenoglossia—which looks like a horrible blend of mecha and just a tiny little bit of idol-ness. I kinda liked the way this debut episode went, so I’ll be waiting for next week to see how it continues.

  • May 3, 2012 at 4:31 amUnajuuphile

    Whoa….this was weird, but still gonna watch it.

  • May 3, 2012 at 4:33 am†Croos†

    ASOBI YOUR AWESOME!!
    You wrote this review pretty good. Far better than I expect it would. It was detailed.

    All I can say is that being an AKB0048 member is suffering. I bet this will happen.

  • May 3, 2012 at 5:00 amSekii

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  • May 3, 2012 at 5:02 amFel

    wow, hahaha
    totally didn’t expect it

  • May 3, 2012 at 5:07 amWhatsht

    The trollsubs from gg made this episode ridiculously funny.
    “Change is pointless, Look at America” I LOLed.

  • May 3, 2012 at 5:14 amSeishun Otoko

    Great episode, I was a big fan of IDOLM@STER the bar was set pretty high and I must say AKB0048 has certainly exceeded my expectations. Satelight’s CG work is definitely top-notch, the dancing sequences and mecha action are very beautifully animated. I’m guessing AKB0048 will probably shed some light into the selection process of Japanese idols so that’s something I’ll be looking forward to.
    I wouldn’t say Japanese music industry has faded into irrelevance. You gotta remember Japan is a much bigger & richer country than Korea (>2x the population & GDP per capita) so in many ways, Japanese entertainment is very much self-sufficient within its domestic market and there’s a less urgent need to branch out internationally.

  • May 3, 2012 at 5:19 amBenigmatica

    This collaboration work between Akimoto and Kawamori is promising, if not downright crazy, especially on Akimoto’s part…

    Still, this is better than Symphogear. Although partnering with Encourage Films almost derailed the series last Winter 2011 (Jan – March 2012).

  • May 3, 2012 at 5:34 amstarss

    Why does every marketing show feel the need to “add random mecha” to it? It has nothing to do with the band, and the story can be just as good without it.

  • May 3, 2012 at 5:45 amSherylfan

    So far so good. Can’t wait till next week ep. It’s entertaining so far. That’s all the show has to do. If any one can pull this mash up together it’s kawamori.

  • May 3, 2012 at 6:48 amnameless

    It was good, I guess.

    But I can’t help but wonder about the ages of the members at the start. I mean if the four girls watched the concert at a young age, shouldn’t the other AKB48 members have aged as those girls grew?

    XD or maybe I didn’t watch the whole thing properly

  • May 3, 2012 at 7:14 amLZ

    enjoyed the first episode,

    As to banning music as a premis, there are countries that do ban a lot of music… as a hook it isn’t the worst I’ve seen.

    What made me :/ is the weird quasi-religious moment for selecting the members for audition…

  • May 3, 2012 at 9:36 amWingZeroZXT

    Im confused. Why does everyone hate Michael Bay?? the main battle in Avengers looked like the last battle in Transformers 3 and i liked both. What did Michael bay do to be come the guy everyone says is rubbish.

    • May 5, 2012 at 8:02 pmAsobi

      Well, as a storyteller, he’s about as subtle as a raging transformer himself. He directs some of the best action sequences in the hollywood industry for sure, and that’s always a fun spectacle to watch, but his plots feel little more than threads used to string one action scene to the next. Much of storytelling’s vaunted principles are absent in his films.

    • May 7, 2012 at 12:03 pmItachizame

      Dont forget about the explosions :p

  • May 3, 2012 at 9:42 amPtolemaios00

    There were 4 girls when they were young. What happened to the 4th?

    • May 3, 2012 at 1:51 pmFencedude

      Why does “plotpoint to be explained later” confuse so many people?

    • May 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm†Croos†

      Maybe she went to another planet when she was young and applied for the AKB0048 as well.

    • May 3, 2012 at 9:56 pmTre

      We don’t know what happened to her yet, but her name is Chieri Sono. She will appear in the next episode, as seen in the preview. Here is the link to the preview, since it wasn’t available in many raws:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7riZEqxnvNY

  • May 3, 2012 at 9:59 amTingster013

    Erhhh, why are they singing and kicking ass at the same time, and it is just totally weird but entertaining. Song wise, I dun really like it, my personal opinion, Macross song are much better… I am looking forward to the next episode, attracting, action scene, not so much…

  • May 3, 2012 at 9:59 amWuz

    Yes, i know i suck at photoshop. But i just had to get this out of my mind. Sorry. D:

    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/135/akb004801large04d.jpg/

    Other than that, the show seems promising, to say the least. I think i’ll give it a shot! Any involvement of the peeps behind of Macross, and i’m in.

  • May 3, 2012 at 10:26 amv3000

    It’ll take guts and an open mind (a rare thing within the anime fandom, I think) for anyone to watch this that the classic “3-episode rule” will have to followed.

    In case you haven’t known, according to a magazine interview, Starchild exec Toshimichi Otsuki first hatched up this idea, then came to Kawamori and asked if they could pull it off. Sometimes later they came to Yasushi Akimoto (he ain’t friggin Johnny Kitagawa, who is entirely a different, Svengali-like creature) and presented the idea, and much to their delight Akimoto gave them the green light.

  • May 3, 2012 at 10:34 amJulio

    It’s weird how it was horrible and yet great first episode at the same time.

  • May 3, 2012 at 11:06 amThetruthisintheaxe

    So….. It’s footloose, right? But with j-pop from outer space instead of dancing? Good luck with that, surprisingly detailed far future!

  • May 3, 2012 at 1:19 pmelmaton04

    I’m probably going to watch the first 3 episodes then drop it since I just want to see what happens next after episode 1. I have no other interest this show has to offer.

  • May 3, 2012 at 3:33 pmsealouse

    They’re all a bunch of sell outs and you know it.

    • May 5, 2012 at 10:01 amv3000

      What about ALL types of pop music, not just j-pop? Most musicians and singers have to sell out in order to earn; one doesn’t play or sing on an empty stomach.

  • May 3, 2012 at 4:38 pmCrunchie

    I got too used to how amazing IdolM@ster’s dance animation was. This CG thing looks quite ugly. And Nagisa’s voice actress needs to learn when she’s allowed to scream. But, we’ll see how things go from here~

  • May 3, 2012 at 4:46 pmThe Moondoggie

    My initial reaction was “Damn, this is too cheesy for me.” But on the second half of the show I got curious and is now officially hooked.

    But still: The opening was cheesy. I knew it would be something like “Idolmaster Xenoglossia + LilPri.”

    I’ll be looking forward for the next episode.

    • May 4, 2012 at 6:23 amronelm2000

      :O Someone actually knows LilPri! XD

      Anyway, LilPri’s art design does look quite similar to this (without the plain back cover), so I’m not complaining. :3

      It’s a great ep, can eaily get you hooked, and it certainly has the capacity to turn into a deconstruction, something that would be surprising, yet good.

  • May 3, 2012 at 10:02 pmFuuka

    I, also laughed off this series until I saw Kawamori and Okada attached to it. I knew Kawamori would give us a good show. If he can make Aquarion, and all it’s insanity, entertaining… he can make an AKB48 anime entertaining. I have gotten use to the CG from Macross and Aquarion. But yeah, it can be a little off putting.

    • May 4, 2012 at 7:21 amSherylfan

      I usually don’t mind CG when it’s mostly machines and mecha or background like in frontier and aquarion, it’s just odd when the idols/characters themselves are 2D one minute then CG 3d next minute, it is starkly distracting. I Love the crazy animated sheryl concerts in macross F but was disappointed in the music video and movie versions of F when they started randomly using the CG animations for ranka and sheryl instead of 2d animation just like in this ep. Especially when what they did show of the 2D animation dance numbers was very smooth and well/beautifully animated, adding random ugly CG character models in between is just very distracting. I guess it’s to save time and money but still.

  • May 4, 2012 at 12:17 amLEO

    wE SHOULD RENAME THIS ANIME AS Macross AKB 00048 LOLOL

  • May 4, 2012 at 7:32 amgrss1982

    So what happened to Cheri (green haired)? I thought there was four of them?

    Also, Nagisa sounds a lot like Megumi Nakajima using her Ranka voice.

    • May 4, 2012 at 6:06 pmFuuka

      That was what I was thinking! “There were four girls in the beginning…” I think she is going to be the antagonist of the series. You know, the friend that got “turned” and now the others have to bring her back.
      Nagisa totally gives off the Ranka vibe down to her short hair style. Kawamori’s favorite character was always Ranka, so making a new show with a character like her is not surprising.
      I’m actually looking forward to this series now. Very strong and capturing first episode. Damn, after all those years trying to not like AKB48…

    • May 5, 2012 at 9:55 amv3000

      Her hair is blue.

  • May 4, 2012 at 11:56 amelle

    CG concerts aside I really liked it. Reminded me of Macross. Will keep watching for sure.

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    • May 5, 2012 at 8:11 pmAsobi

      Hi, thanks for the comment!

      I didn’t have the same problems you had with IE, but I’ll look into it. Thanks!

  • May 7, 2012 at 12:07 pmItachizame

    So Asobi are you planning to blog the rest of the series or just this one episode? I just seen it and i can get into it. Though i never heard of the real AKB48 until a month or so back when the promos to this series started coming out. I find it interesting to see that some of the actual members are voicing characters.

  • May 7, 2012 at 2:04 pmelior1

    the girl with the blue hair you talking about will appear in episode 2