「その名前、誰のもの？」 (Sono Namae , Dare no Mono?)
“That name, to whom does it belong to?”
Succession dramas! Space battles! Death-flag trippin’! AKB0048 just seems to get better with every passing week.
While it didn’t give the impression amongst the hooray of AKB0048’s earlier episodes, the weird succession process was always one of the most intriguing facets of the show. With a proper explanation of how it actually works last week, episode 08 takes what we’ve learnt about the idol’s soul, and delves proper into the various implications succession has for our cast, looking from a good number of perspectives what this rule meant not just for the main girls, but for the members of 00 at large.
Naturally, much of this succession drama came from the fallout that was last week’s grand revelation; Takamina, upon discovering Kanata’s rights to succession as the idol possessing the closest spirit to that of the original Takahashi Minami, has a newfound awkwardness in dealing with her biggest fan. And Kanata, in the dark as she is, doesn’t want to let up and takes every opportunity to prove herself in front of the person she idolizes above all. Kanata’s drive makes for a great student-mentor relationship, except that the showcase of her abilities after the Kiraras’ revelation is making Takamina sink further into self-doubt pertaining to her rights as a successor. At this point, I’d honestly have to agree with you if you said our despairing captain was wading through a minefield of death flags. And for a second there, she comes close, ultimately surviving what seemed like a dead end in a space battle with DES…but for how long more? There is a growing air of animosity in the show, and I suspect it won’t be long before shit hits the fan and the realities of “graduation” are forcibly brought into focus. (Or they could make a B-team of Kenkyuuseis. Just throwing the idea out there. But that’ll be the ultimate copout, so I demand my drama!)
It’s not just in the context of a predetermined successor do we see this tension, as the show delves into the dynamics of a 76th generation Kenkyuusei who went ahead of her peers to succeed the Miyazawa Sae (Nakahara Mai) name. It brings into stark focus the competitiveness within the group –a reflection of the music industry at large- and the theme is reinforced by the 77th generation going ahead of the 76th as stand-ins for the successors. Sink or swim, that’s the message being conveyed here as we look at the emotions of those that failed, and those that were chosen. Playing on this idea, the show also does a great job at contrasting the collective ideals of teamwork, friendship and empathy with the incredibly individualistic succession process, the prime example being Yuuko’s advice to Takamina that while the ideals were important, an idol’s individual dream takes priority. It’s a message with much conviction -and perhaps truth- behind it, yet what of people like Chieri, whose dream is to stand atop the stage with her friends by her side? It is also here where we see how similar Yuuko and Chieri are; certainly, the personality of the extroverted Yuuko is vastly different from Chieri’s more introverted one, but here Yuuko shows the same stubbornness, conviction and silent concern we have seen from Chieri time and time again, making me wonder if Chieri being chosen as her stand-in was more than just a coincidence.
Banking on these examples, AKB0048 drives home the point that before, and even after they became successors, these paragons of entertainment were girls not all that different from our dream-chasing Kenkyuuseis. In her moment of defeat from the DES forces, we see this most clearly from Takamina in a heart-wrenching confession about her desire to continue chasing this fickle dream despite the self-doubt in her abilities.
It’s rare, and honestly great, to see a show exploring a single concept this well, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end there just yet, what with the succession of the main cast likely to be brought into question at some point of time in the future of the show. I’ve previously complained on a number of occasions how AKB0048 tends to rush towards a resolution of its dramatic conflicts without exploring the compelling possibilities of the consequential tensions, and this is the first time that they’ve really taken an idea and gave it a proper run over, so kudos to the team for finally delivering. (Admittedly, this is the theme that stands at the core of AKB0048’s drama.)
It was perhaps in lieu of the death flags that the space battle in this episode felt like a whole different ball game. I mean, blood! If there’s one that convinces me that shit just got real, its blood! Hell, even when the idol-wannabes were getting knocked around by explosions, all they got were bruises. But now, blood!
Okay, I’m clearly exaggerating there, but DES finally gave me the feeling of being a proper threat for the very first time, not only by holding out against the idols, but also successfully taking Takamina out. It helps to cast their previous incompetence in a new light, as if they’ve been holding back all this while. (That, or the writers just can’t keep power levels consistent. Hmm, that sounds more plausible.) They are, after all, the paramilitary organization that basically controls much of the known AKB0048 galaxy, and I’d at least expect them to show some competence on their missions.
AKB0048 seemed to have finally hit its stride with a direction it wants to settle on, and the dramatic moments have been improving not just in its acting and writing, but in the themes it brings out as well. Against all expectations I had at the start of the season, the show is cementing itself as one of the most fun series to follow in what has been a spectacular spring season, and I sure hope it doesn’t lose steam any time soon.