AKB0048 Next Stage – 01
「少女裁判」 (Shoujo Saiban)
Finally. After six long months since AKB0048′s debut, we finally get the sequel to one of the most under appreciated series of 2011. And if there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s that if this episode is a sign of things to come, it’s going to be a spectacular ride—because this was a darn awesome way to start things off.
Continuing shortly after the end of last season, Kawamori gets the ball rolling right off the bat with two inserts (Shonichi – Opening Day and Niji no Ressha – Rainbow Train)… and some darn nice animation too. Some of the CG ain’t quite perfect (and shows itself in some of the screenshots), but the fact remains that AKB0048′s Next Stage is setting itself up with a high bar in terms of standards—in terms of drama, entertainment, and visual goodness.
As we move on, we get Tsubasa’s announcement that general elections will be re-established, along with the Center Nova position that Yuuko in particular is glad to have back. With the fact that fans can now vote for who they wish to perform the new single, it makes it so that even the understudies have a chance to shine now on the same level as the successors, and it just injects some nice intrigue to it all. There’s just that added element of both looking at each other as real rivals and also as teammates you’d risk your lives for in the background, and it’ll be interesting to see how it either solidifies or separates our heroines from one another. That and who ultimately becomes the first Center Nova since Acchan.
In the meanwhile, it seems like we’re getting the development of another large plot line too—in the form of DES and their increased vigilance against AKB0048 in general. And it’s here where Kawamori shows a bit of his dramatic genius, luring us in first with some concerts to set up a rather cheerful vibe, then suddenly shifting things to a surprise DES strike and subsequent “trial” of Chieri, Sonata, and Yukurin, who end up being captured and bought to Kasumigastar. Combine that with the inevitable rescue mission (and yet another insert in the song “Pioneer”) and things end up pretty epic considering it’s only the first episode of this sequel. As usual, there’s some suspension of disbelief involved in it all, but if you’re still watching this now, I don’t think it’s anything particularly surprising at this point.
Ultimately, what can I say aside from just stating that Kawamori does a darn great job here? Combining various aspects from the other sci-fi series he’s worked on (Macross Frontier’s borrowed aspects were particularly noticeable this episode), he manages to fit in quite a bit in this first episode while still making it work. New inserts, a dramatic new soundtrack, quality animation, and fights with DES on levels we haven’t seen before just come together flawlessly, and it was a darn joy to watch. Definitely feeling pretty good about making sure I had this series covered… and I hope you guys’ll join me on what looks like it will be quite the ride.
Full-length images: 21.
ED: 「この涙を君に捧ぐ」 (Kono Namida wo Kimi ni Sasagu) by NO NAME