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「アイドルの夜明け前」 (Aidoru no Yoake Mae)
“The Idols’ Dark Before Dawn”

IT’S TIME FOR GENERAL ELECTIONS! With even commentators for this event having successors, suitcases handcuffed to guards to prevent tampering of results, an innumerable amount of fans praying for their choice’s victory, and multiple insert themes (Beginner and the OP/ED themes from last season)—it’s no wonder everyone’s been riled up the last few weeks, as these elections are truly serious business. Admittedly, even I underestimated what a big event it would be… and what a spectacular episode it would set up.

To say the least, there was a bit of everything this week, and I’m just having trouble even putting all my thoughts into words at this point. Since the start of this new season, everything’s just on another level in all respects—and it’s just great to watch. For one, there’s the whole drama resulting from the re-establishment of the General Elections and Center Nova position. The competition is fierce, tensions are running high, and it just begs the question: how much pressure can our heroines take? The competition should bring them all to the top of their game (and also assist in investigating the Center Novae disappearance phenomenon), but as even Tsubasa mentions herself this week, there might just be a point where the whole scenario causes more harm than good. Granted, it’s highly likely that our heroines will succeed in overcoming this obstacle regardless, but the fact that they had this scenario—one that challenges each of them to do their best—shows that this series (and the life of an idol in general) isn’t all fun and games. There are things each of them are fighting off and trying to overcome out of the public eye, and this episode not only emphasizes this aspect, but uses it to propel the series to greater heights.

And what exactly do I mean by greater heights? I mean the fact that all of this General Election and Center Nova business gives the series a chance to really hone in on the individual characters. It’s obvious that each of the characters should all have their own unique personalities and/or reason(s) for doing what they do. Actually being able to demonstrate this though, is a whole other story. And this is what I mean. The above scenario gives AKB0048 this chance and the series just seizes it to give us an in depth look at the characters—a notion that just makes this series much better than it otherwise would have been. Heck, this episode alone had individual moments for Chieri, Takamina, Yuuko, Nagisa, and Mimori.

In the end, one can only imagine how hard it is of a task to give individual characters a focus in a series with such a large cast. You just have to tip your hat at Kawamori Shoji (that magnificant bastard!). He just has a knack for incorporating drama with music and sci-fi, and it’s definitely showing in AKB0048′s Next Stage. Looking back, it kind of even feels like he was just setting us up the first season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was at this point.

Moving on, another interesting aspect this episode touched on and really hammered in was the fact that what AKB0048 is doing is illegal. As such, they’re quite powerless to do much about people/businesses that use any of their members’ likeness, names, or performances to their own benefit. It just emphasizes how despite the occasional absurdity and the hoops you have to jump through for things like copyrights and what not in real life, they really do serve a protective purpose (usually). Notably, this whole business aspect leads into…

…our next big topic of discussion: the Zodiac Corporation. As we find out this episode, Chieri’s father (I WANT YOU TO JOIN THE DES ARMY!) is indeed influencing a variety of events in the background, having played a big role in having Chieri benefit from the public trial from two episodes back. Heck, he might’ve even instigated the whole thing himself. Either way, Chieri’s father is forcing himself into the conversation, and it’s undoubtedly not only going to have a big impact on Chieri herself, but also AKB0048′s continued existence as a whole. There’s still the Kirara experiments being run in the background too and there’s just a lot going on at the moment.

Suffice to say though, despite some parts feeling slightly rushed, the AKB0048′s Next Stage is really establishing itself as one of the better series this season, and it just pains me to wait a whole week just to watch the next episode. But alas… somethings you just can’t change, so to that end, I’ll catch ya guys next week.

Full-length images: 32.

 

ED2 Sequence

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ED2: 「希望について」 (Kibou ni Tsuite) by NO NAME

January 20, 2013 at 11:01 am
33 comments »
  • January 20, 2013 at 11:14 amCarVac

    I watched this in an airport this morning, and the very instant the spotlight hit the first girl to get elected, the sun rose over the horizon and shone on my face. The same exact time. It gave me the chills.

  • January 20, 2013 at 11:28 amSteve

    The moment the song played when Mimori won, I burst into tears.

    • January 20, 2013 at 1:43 pmWanderer

      Mimori’s in tenth place. Not quite the same as winning. Still a major event for a trainee.

      And the use of music there was awesome indeed.

    • January 20, 2013 at 5:09 pmEric

      I’m with you, first came the goosebumps as he said “75th…”, and then the Manly Tears as he proclaimed “Kishida Mimori” to the tune of Kibou no Tsuite.

    • January 21, 2013 at 12:11 pmJohnHayabusa

      I am glad that another understudy managed to get in the Top 10 ranking. I am very ahppy for Mimori.

  • January 20, 2013 at 11:52 amZannafar

    No comment on the mockery by Chieri’s father at the beginning of his message? “Aitakatta, yes!”

    • January 20, 2013 at 12:36 pmZephyr

      Lol, wasn’t sure what to think about that actually. I personally laughed, but I don’t know what the guy’s planning. He could seriously be supporting AKB to further his goals… so it might not be quite the mockery per se… Dunno though.

      • January 20, 2013 at 1:14 pmacolyte

        idk.. His face screams evil..

    • January 21, 2013 at 1:15 amAngelus

      Given the emphasis on the steps they take to prevent vote tampering, I have a really nasty feeling that he will have somehow rigged the ballot so Chieri wins it.

      • January 21, 2013 at 7:11 amLin

        “Given the emphasis on the steps they take to prevent vote tampering, I have a really nasty feeling that he will have somehow rigged the ballot so Chieri wins it.”

        Lol No, the security measures are a reference to the general election in real life, in which they do exactly the same. As for rigging the ballot, it’s unlikely. It would be too suspicious, which might create a backlash against Chieri. Her father isn’t stupid enough not to realize this. Besides, he doesn’t need to do something like that because Chieri is already really popular.

  • January 20, 2013 at 12:15 pmcowazaki

    The real Senbatsu election is really similar and much more epic I have to say. And yes, even in the real election there are guards accompanying a guy with the suitcase handcuffed to him. I feel that as a fan you can only appreciate the election when you have a girl you are cheering for.

    But anyway great episode nonetheless. :)

  • January 20, 2013 at 1:13 pmacolyte

    Is Nagisa ever gonna go into the spotlight? =s

    • January 20, 2013 at 3:25 pmBenigmatica

      Worse, is the General Elections rigged thanks to Chieri’s dad?

      • January 20, 2013 at 4:22 pmNagisa

        No I don’t think so. It seems Zodiac was doing regular sponsor stuff for Chieri. Getting her a few solo jobs, the CM thing. That kind of stuff.

    • January 20, 2013 at 5:37 pmfragb85

      Probably not in this arc. Nagisa has made it very clear since Day 1 that she doesn’t care about the elections. She’ll probably be more prominent when the selection for the Center Nova picks up.

    • January 21, 2013 at 1:15 amVaans

      I’m rooting for Nagisa. Go, Nagisa!

  • January 20, 2013 at 1:40 pmSeishun Otoko

    Oh man, what a great episode, I got goosebumps when they announced that Mimori has made it to No.10. I can’t think of anyone else who deserves to be there as much as Mimori, her optimism and fluffy personality (and irresistible curves) have always been a huge win in my book. Ganbatte Mimori, I love you!!!

    • January 20, 2013 at 3:28 pmBenigmatica

      I think the chances of the understudies occupying the top 10 is 60% with 5 – 6 girls nabbing it.

  • January 20, 2013 at 1:48 pmWanderer

    Chieri’s refusal to be used by her father, and her subsequent visit to Tsubasa, suggests she may have chosen to drop out of the elections. If so, it could be a risky move for her career, although I admit I was afraid she was going to resign from 0048 entirely. It appears she hasn’t been driven quite that far… yet.

  • January 20, 2013 at 4:46 pmArbitrary_greay

    For anyone who MIGHT think that the Election drama is a bit overblown because it’s an anime, you’re dead wrong. The real thing is even worse: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xsj4ic_documentary-of-akb48-show-must-go-on-1-4_shortfilms (the election stuff starts at 9:48, although the entire thing is a great watch now that you guys are indirectly familiar with a lot of the girls.)
    Some of the popularity politics that go down during the election have repercussions that last for years, seriously!

    The only thing that could possibly cause more tears in the girls irl are team shuffles, but since 0048 is focussing on girls who haven’t even joined a team yet, and AKB is supposed down so many members, I don’t think the series is going to tackle that.

    And I don’t mean to sound elitist for being a fan of the real-life group, but the 48fam various documentaries floating around show that not all credit for the character development can be credited to Kawamori and Okada, because any of it having to do with popularity politics has so much irl source material, with so many members to derive individual traits and stories from. (For all of the successor names included in the series already, there are so many more not that are still considered popular by fans, meaning that they’re distinct and appealing enough personalities to be worth supporting) Hell, they might be taking a lot of inspiration from the seiyuu themselves, since they’re members, and Watanabe Mayu being one of them, at that.

    The deft integration of the sci-fi elements of the show are to Kawamori and Okada’s credit, though. The plot with Chieri’s Daddy does deal with irl issues of “fairness” of some girls having richer fans that can buy them more popularity, but the Kirara and Center Nova issues, and Zodiac’s role in them, do have points that are unique to 0048. For example, 0048 having no legal grounds to sue anyone over copyrights, with that CM stunt this ep.
    (And heh, I just finished Rinne no Lagrange this week. DaddySono pulling a Dizelmine, anyone?)

    • January 20, 2013 at 4:54 pmArbitrary_greay

      Extra relevance of that documentary link I posted: a big theme of the thing is 48fam’s response to the Tohoku earthquake. Iwata Karen is from Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, and experienced the disaster herself. 13 at the time, she lived in a shelter before passing the AKB audition that April. As such, the documentary gives her a good amount of screentime. Iwata Karen is the voice of Nagisa, and her getting the role and being the overall MC of the series is kind of symbolic because of her origins.

      • January 20, 2013 at 5:00 pmArbitrary_greay

        (Last interjection. Damn, I need an edit option.)

        The 48fam performances charity concerts here are a real life example of how the idol conglomerate is really bringing joy to people. It may seem callous to draw a comparison to the Lancastar concert, (especially in the kids’ reactions) but there it is. The effect of the group on the people, and partially the mission of the group (other than making money) is still the same. Kawamori just cranked stakes up to eleven by including a political bad guy in DES and Zodiac, as well.

    • January 20, 2013 at 5:31 pmWanderer

      and AKB is supposed down so many members, I don’t think the series is going to tackle that

      You can see how many girls there are in this image. That appears to be all the trainees and the successors together… and I’m only counting 34 people. I am not an AKB fan (I didn’t even know they existed until I started watching this series), but from what I’ve heard that’s massively smaller than their modern-day membership.

  • January 20, 2013 at 5:35 pmfragb85

    Mimori placing 10th is a surprise. Must have been all the PHERMONES. Chieri’s dad singing Aitaktta was hilarious though. He’s not even trying, its so obvious he’s got ulterior motives and it seems Chierie could also see that.

    Has anyone noticed how Not!Chieri has spades on her hair? I wonder if that’s relevant (EVIL AKB?).

  • January 20, 2013 at 5:54 pmdimasok

    The series is great but the animation is so uneven! Even in these screen grabs, it varies from highly detailed faces to pure rubbish. Every anime has that in one way or another but here its just more conspicuous…

  • January 20, 2013 at 6:10 pmPringlesXD

    The scene with Mimori getting elected as 10th place was so strong I almost teared up. It had the kind of impact I only found on the first season’s final episode.

  • January 21, 2013 at 3:37 am†Croos†

    General Election = Cute in the outside
    but bloody in the shadow.

  • January 21, 2013 at 3:49 amMightnare

    Somehow I get the feeling something bad is gonna happen.

    Anyone realized that Chieri’s dad look suspiciously like Kawamori?

    • January 21, 2013 at 4:46 am†Croos†

      Everytime he speaks this guy appears in my head.

  • January 21, 2013 at 6:15 amThundershock81

    This show is amazing. Seriously.

  • January 21, 2013 at 9:10 amSherylfan

    There are 18 seniors to the juniors and 8 of them are the top successors so to speak, it’ll be interesting if more then one of the top eight don’t make it in, some more drama to be had there. It’ll be boring if all 8 make it and 2 random spot filled. But good job to mimori!

    Also I hope they do more katana stuff she is kinda back seat so far this season but that’s more with the potential of Chieri and nagisa rivalry/friendship being for front.

    Either way can’t wait. Also my gluttonous, Itano Circus inducing, canon wielding girl Mayu Watanabe better make it. I notice she is called mark 3 instead of successor name to the XXth. So is she a cyborg type deal or pure android (maybe that’s why she can eat soo much)?

  • January 22, 2013 at 6:14 amc2710

    I almost threw my phone at the screen when the results was announced at the end and using Season 1′s OP as the Ed was very fitting