「初めての握手会」 (Hajimete no Akushukai)
Oh snap, AKB0048, you’ve just strung me along there, didn’t you? That’s BRILLIANT.
Kawamori’s gloriously trolltastic nature strikes again! The preview for episode 6 turned out to be a fantastic fake out, and where I expected copious amounts of sunlight, swimsuits and beaches, the show instead gave me a minute long commercial and then delivered its most disturbingly brilliant episode yet, touching on a topic few shows have ever touched upon, much less those in this genre. However I may scratch my mind, I can’t seem to recall any show featuring the angle of haters quite like this. (Not to say there aren’t.) If the idea was to capture attention with this curveball, from my perspective I’d said he more than succeeded. For fans and haters alike, here’s an anime episode dedicated to you all, as we’re treated to a good look at the extremities of fandom; the haters, through Orine’s situation, and the rabid, staunch supporters, through the Wotas1.
Much of the episode dealt with the emotions of Orine as she came to terms with her hater, understandably traumatized by the fact that the first ever feedback she ever got was a negative one. To even be afraid of not being seen suggests at the depths of her insecurities which are more extensive than any of the other idols, and the affair played on this well, probably more so than a neurotic character like Makoto ever would, whose endless worries seem more like a play on her personality. Orine’s developments felt sincere, especially when tearful validation came in the form of a child fan, and I really enjoyed her character’s maturation in this episode.
That being said, the conclusion to this little story arc felt too much like a wishful dream, and the hater himself perhaps far too good-natured; I’m not saying that it doesn’t work well in the context of this story, since the sanitized nature of the show naturally lends towards such a positive outlook. However, it is perhaps misaligned from what we would’ve come to expect of reality, and the show certainly didn’t dare to go near any of the extremes we see plaguing real-life idols themselves. In the end, AKB0048 is still bounded by these conventional constraints of the entertainment industry.
But even so, I really want to applaud the show for what it attempted. The sensitive topic of haters is something that hardly gets explored -being so closely tied to entertainment- which makes it a risky and possibly controversial idea to integrate. This is the case more so for AKB0048 than anything else airing at the moment, and I do know there is a camp out there that firmly believes the show to be nothing more than a shameless cash grab. Thus, Orine’s situation felt almost analogous to AKB0048’s own position in the eyes of the anime fandom, and I honestly had to wonder if the show -by extension the creative team themselves- was trying to validate AKB0048’s existence with this episode by directly addressing the skeptics amongst its audience. It certainly spoke more to me than any other episode before, with a sincerity unlike what I’ve come to expect of the show, and you readers surely know how I’ve hardly taken the series seriously up until this point. (Kawamori’s recent shows have a…tendency to make me do that.)
On the topic of extreme fans, the portrayal of the Wotas was hilariously brilliant. First robot androids, then guerilla idols, and now custom itasha2 mechs? Oh AKB0048, never stop being so gloriously over-the-top and entertaining. While saying that, it’s surprising how much tact this group was presented with, and AKB0048 took pains to emphasize the mutual respect between both the idols and these fans. One could almost call it borderline pandering when you consider the targeted audience, but that’s an extreme and biased way of looking at it. Plus, it sure does not diminish the awesomeness of an Ouendan-Captain3 firing off his
lazars glowstick missiles.
The fact that Chieri noted the peculiarities of the DES mechs was an intriguing tidbit as well. (After she, of course, single-handedly took it down with a micsaber. In casuals. That’s like, 10 kinds of badass right there.) Could her weapons-supplying father possibly have deeper hands in the DES raids so as to get at his daughter, than what 00 is aware of? Nagisa certainly seems to think so ever since she put two and two together, going as far as to relate Chieri’s choice of clothes to the abstract reason of wanting to hide her identity. (Oh girl, you’d think the interplanetary-broadcasted commercial would be a bigger worry, wouldn’t you?) Furthermore, while Chieri might not have lost her hard edge (…yet…), the show has started portraying her in a softer light; I certainly didn’t expect to see her standing between Orine and the hater, and seemingly berating Orine for her sake, after the distance Chieri seemed to have put between herself and the other girls.
In many regards, episode 06 was a very unique beast, and keep in mind I’m saying this in a season which has already given us dozens of very well written and spectacular anime episodes. And if AKB0048 can bring it more of these things in, I might just start seeing the show in a vastly different light.
3Ouendans are japanese cheering/rallying squads, except with burly, manly men in place of cheerleaders. Wotas are noted to mimic these squads in their idol cheers, and you can see in the episode how they dress similarly. There’s also a video game on the DS featuring a traditional Ouendan. It is AWESOME. [Back]
- The handshake event in the episode are based on the real-life events of the same name, and are periodically held by AKB48; And yes, fans do come from all walks of life to attend these, with wotas, working adults, kids and even housewives all paying for a chance to shake hands with their favorite idols
「襲名キララ」 (Shuumei Kirara)
Watching episode 06 and 07 back to back seems to makes the lack of luster in episode 07 all the more painfully obvious, but in spite of that, there are interesting revelations to be had in this rather decent episode.
There was a healthy dose of development for Chieri in this episode, mostly stemming from her familial relations finally being brought out into the open. Tensions flared with the 76th generation Kenkyuusei group, and to see Chieri losing her Kuu and embracing her Dere in a tearful heart-to-heart with Kanata was touching and genuinely sincere, something I felt that the series has done well as of late with the presentation its cast. For Kanata, it was also great to see how far she had come into her own from the angst-filled episode 04, moving past her desire for revenge and maturing into the caring elder-sister-like leader for the Kenkyuuseis.
The one thing that bugs me was that I really wanted to see more of Nagisa’s reaction to Chieri being appointed as the stand-in for Yuuko, considering how she had previously declared her desire to succeed the idol. Chieri was supposedly fully aware of this fact as well, and I did feel the show missed a great opportunity there to further exploit the compelling tension of this situation, instead of glossing over Nagisa’s darker emotions and having them patch up almost instantly. It does seem to make her desire to be Yuuko’s successor little more than a red herring, and I’m constantly under the impression she’ll succeed anyone but Yuuko. Still, with Kawamori and Okada’s track record, who can honestly tell? Better to just enjoy the twisting ride than do things like trying to predict whose reincarnation is whose, right?
Perhaps the most interesting thing to take from this episode was the reveal of how succession works in the group, something which has intrigued me ever since I learnt of the succeeding generations. The anime has shown us certain unique cases, like that of the Tomomi persona being passed down within the family across the ages. And let’s not forget cyborg idol Mayu, who has probably been in the group for decades already. But what of the others who aren’t in such a unique situation, and made it normally through the auditions? Well, for those of you that predicted the Kiraras’ involvement, have for yourselves a pat on the back. The show takes the idea that these little space jellies can sense the idol spirit one step further, with a subspecies that can essentially point out who amongst the girls in 00 possesses the souls closest in spirit to that of the original, 1st generation members. And there you go, succession candidates get! It really makes you wonder, what exactly are these things? Will we ever get to know about the origins of the Kiraras? Or are they like the “cat” Shushu in Aquarion EVOL, anomalies that neither Kawamori nor Okeda will ever intend to explain?
While the sensibilities of the succession rules are suitably weird, they are definitely not far off what was predicted, and this also applies to the rule stating that a current successor must “graduate” in order to give the spot up to the next successor. For the show to even give an example in the succession of Takamina by Kanata, it seems almost certain that the show intends play this angle for some dramatic tension between the current successors and the Kenkyuuseis. This is something I’m honestly hoping for, as the successors are by far the most interesting bunch of characters in the show, and what little spotlight on them the show has given up until now has been something for me to savor, so an angle like this would definitely shed more light on them, and hopefully on the mystery of “graduation” as well.
- I was thinking, wouldn’t everything be solved if they just made a B/K group like the actual AKB48? But then, we won’t be having all of this sweet drama, now would we? Laws of the anime universe, and all.
- I did say I would get try to get it out on 14th, but I had clearly underestimated the time needed for my applications. So, please enjoy this long overdue post! And thank you for your continued patience and readership.