「ランカスター再び」 (Rankasuta Futatabi)
“Return to Lancaster”
The girls are back to the place that started it all, as we enter what seems to be AKB0048’s final arc. And what a dramatic way it is to enter this last arc in such a manner! This episode threw out the developments left and right as the show starts setting itself up for what seems to be a grand finale concert on Lancaster, also the Kenkyuusei’s very first official performance.
On the 00 front, the major events were undoubtedly in Nagisa getting a solo for the performance – which is, curiously enough, called Nagisa no Cherry (Seaside Cherry) – and the understudies getting their own song as well, Yume wa Nando Demo Umarekawaru (Dreams are Forever Reborn), which has been serving as the show’s ED.
The question here is of course on why Nagisa was chosen. No, I’m not discounting the artistic cues or meta-logic, but rather, it is a questioned posed within the context of the story. Having Nagisa perform the Center Nova promotion solo is a rather arbitrary decision when she has largely been one of the more average performers, especially when even the characters noted comparisons to standouts like Chieri or Kanata. No doubt the fact that Chieri’s Kirara glows in response to her has some measure of influence, but are the mysterious S-Quadruaple and succession Kiraras still pulling the strings, or is it Tsubasa’s own agenda at work here after she confirmed the Kirara’s reaction in the previous episode? In any case, the girl is now a shoo-in for the succession of the Maeda Atsuko role, something which people have been suspecting since the start of the show. But what exactly is it about Nagisa that relates her to this vague title? The anime has done little to give us a proper exposition on the Acchan character, and I still can’t quite connect this passive girl that wants everyone to get along to the person that basically amounts to the heart of AKB, both in the context of the anime and reality. (Or is that the connection right there? That Nagisa is suppose to be the core that connects AKB?)
Speculation aside, what I did like about this particular development was the way it is executed, and the consequences that resulted. The decision to give Nagisa the solo is met with appropriate cynicism not just from her peers but also from herself, as Nagisa struggles with the arbitrary expectations placed upon her and the knowledge that there were better choices than her for this role. Even Chieri, the one person who believes Nagisa to be the better idol, cannot seem to connect the disparate nature of Nagisa’s unconfident behaviour with her own ideals of an idol, and becomes extremely cynical about it. It’s easy to empathise with Chieri here because I myself am questioning if Nagisa truly deserves the role in the place of other characters that have been established with much stronger ambitions and motivations. For one of these characters, we see from Yuuko an open hostility quite unlike anything we’ve seen before in the show, as she is passed up not only for the Center Nova solo, but as a successor, also for 00’s newest song in years. Playing on the competitive nature we’ve seen from 00, these snippets lend considerable weight to the magnitude of this arbitrary decision and its cascading effects, the result being something truly engrossing to watch.
There was a clear focus on Nagisa this episode even as the setting changed over the Lancaster, as we’re given a look at how much the situation on the mining planet has changed since the girls left the planet. Disregarding the color swaps that mark a clear change in tone from episode 1, Lancaster is (and I find this as weird to say as it is) even bleaker than what it was before, with some major Big-Brother vibes going for it. The planet is largely under the control of DES, and what little resistance remaining appears to be in pockets of the administration and the hollowed out ruins of the Lancaster trio’s old school. For those of you (Okay, let’s face it. It was all of us.) who predicted that Mamoru, Yuuka’s “friend”, was going to reappearkas a DES soldier for some assured melodrama, surprise! AKB0048 pulled a fast one on all of us, and the guy is now a staunch wota and Suzuko fan. Cue jealousy hijinks!
The heart of the matter is of course squarely on Nagisa, who finds out that her father has been arrested because of her associations with 00, and that she is largely the reason for the presence of DES on her home planet. The girl is already in an emotional flux thanks to 00, and here we have news that throws her further into turmoil. AKB0048 just loves trolling with them girls, don’t they? With the next episode seemingly setting up a reunion between father and daughter, I’m interested to see where the show plans to take Nagisa emotionally, and if she can somehow prove herself to truly deserve the promotion song.
This unique little series week in and week out gives such a good watch. Now we again being the waiting till next week.
Nagisa no Cherry…that’s clever. The way I see it Nagisa’s power always came from the simplicity of her ambitions. Everyone was always driven by an agenda, like trying suceed someone or performing on stage. All Nagisa really wanted was to fulfill her promise to be in AKB with her friends. She embodies the most idealistic kind of idol. And I do think she serves as the heart, Chieri would never have opened up to the others if it weren’t for Nagisa.
True. And that’s why she deserves to be the next Center Nova.
I don’t see why a simple ambition is better or should take priority. You said “driven by an agenda” but there’s nothing wrong with having a dream and doing all you can to achieve it. I don’t see Nagisa’s simple outlooks on akb as a valid reason for getting a promotion over people who have worked harder than her.
For now, all we know is that she can make the kirara glow (even though she was together with Chieri, but). No other reason has been given and I don’t think her ideals has anything to do with it. Heck, if that was the reason I would make Mimori the Center Nova, since she’s the one who’s really looking out for the others more than anyone. She helped Megu let go of her frustration, for instance.
The point making I’m making is that Nagisa embodies the idealistic kind of idol in its simplest and purest form. In contrast, Chieri is very cynical which is why the interactions between Nagisa and Chieri plays off each other well. AKB0048 is a show that promotes idealism in all its unsubtle, cheesiness and Nagisa pretty much the best way to show that.
There’s no easy answer to “Why Nagisa?” I’m afraid. This situation is, both in the case of Nagisa and real-life Acchan, a case of Designated Protagonist Syndrome. Okada designated Nagisa to be the new Acchan, and then wrote this entire scenario as a replication of real life. It seems this is an instance of her fandom getting the better of her, and relying on knowledge of real-life AKB48 to convey the significance of the situation, instead of writing the anime as stand-alone.
But yeah, even acknowledging that it’s all about the real-life comparison doesn’t help, because “Why Acchan?” is not a question easily answered, either, especially when she was first picked as center. Basically, their dance choreographer at the time, who had previously worked with another idol group notorious for creating idol stars out of unlikely girls with very little performance talent, told the real-life Quad-S to make Acchan center. He didn’t see her appeal at the time at all,(the real-life Tsubasa counterpart described her as “a dull 14 year old”) but took her advice on faith and the rest is history. Now, it becomes a chicken-or-egg situation, as one wonders if the Acchan of today only became the way she is today because she was forced to become the face of the franchise.
So the real answer to “Why Nagisa and not Kanata or Chieri?” is “because Akimoto/Quad-S likes to make really arbitrary random decisions and see how they play out.”
At the same time, lots of people both in and outside of the fandom still ask “Why Acchan?” and make the same complaints, citing how the real-life Yuko, Takamina, Haruna, etc. are much more interesting personalities and better performers, that Acchan is boring and vanilla, etc. Point is, there may never be a satisfactory answer to “Why Nagisa?” because she is nothing more than an Acchan expy, and Acchan herself was not the obvious choice when they picked her.
The writing has really dropped the ball with regards to demonstrating exactly what “idol aura” is, and what exactly Nagisa does to trigger Kirara’s senses for it. My impression is that it has to do with “purity,” how true one is to oneself in expressing their passion for their dream. Yuko and Chieri fail in this respect because they’re trying to mold themselves into the perfect idol, and hiding away the darker sides to their ambition. Kanata and Takamina are trying to mold themselves into their perception of who the original Takamina was. Nagisa, on the other hand, professes to be a Yuko oshi, but hasn’t really tried to change herself to become what she thinks is Yuko-esque. Chieri on some level still sees the sweet and happy idol image to not be her own personality, so it rings false to Kirara. It probably follows her around because it’s still attracted to her passion for her dream.
“Yuko and Chieri fail in this respect because they’re trying to mold themselves into the perfect idol, and hiding away the darker sides to their ambition.”
I don’t think neither Yuuko or Chieri were trying to mold themselves. They’re just trying their best IMO. And I don’t think they were hiding away from the darker side of their dream. Quite the opposite, both Chieri and Yuuko acknowledged that pursuing one’s dream may end up destroying someone else’s. If anything, it was Nagisa who was trying to avoid that issue.
“Chieri on some level still sees the sweet and happy idol image to not be her own personality, so it rings false to Kirara. It probably follows her around because it’s still attracted to her passion for her dream.”
But why not follow Nagisa instead? If Nagisa really has something Chieri doesn’t, why does it stay with Chieri?
As an AKB48 fan, I must say, that was well said. To this day, inside of me there is a small part that questions, “Why Acchan?” Being a Takamina Oshi, I really don’t care who is center really. I’m really indifferent to Acchan; it’s the same feeling with Nagisa. But with Acchan’s graduation announcement, I actually felt sad she was leaving. I really do think the story is trying to reflect the real life counterpart of AKB48.
Heh. I loved that shot. Sonata is great for poses.
If Chieri had been chosen for the solo in Nagisa no Cherry (that’s where both Nagisa and Chieri’s names came from, in case you were wondering), she would have gone about it in the same, methodical manner that she does everything. She said it before herself: she takes everything seriously. But that serious, precise approach is not what awakens the glow of a kirara. I beleive Tsubasa may have been attempting to push both Nagisa and Chieri out of their comfort zones by putting Nagisa in the lead: to force them to be more “real” with their emotions, rather than treating this concert as business as usual. She knows Nagisa and CHieri together can produce a reaction in the kirara like that of a center nova, but that the two of them won’t be in the right emotional state to cause it if Chieri is in the lead (because that would be the normal state of affairs).
I worry about Yuuko and the rest of the successors. Yuuko isn’t necessarily wrong in what she wants or what she’s doing, but I do think she’s wrong in what she’s feeling while she doing it. She isn’t emotionally in harmony with the rest of the group. She’s angry, hurting… She can’t give her best performance like this. A lot of the members are badly shaken up right now, and unless something changes they’re not going to be able to give the concert that they need to. These kids all need help, before things go really bad.