「劇場への道」 (Gekijo e no Michi)
“The Path to the Theater”
With the finale to AKB0048 Next Stage approaching, its second to last episode focuses on setting things up—and what a set up it is. Because even as Chieri reels from her father’s assassination and the other AKB members want to give her some time to recuperate, the fact of the matter is they can’t afford to wait any longer. As Tsubasa puts it bluntly, there’s no time to hesitate—lest D.G.T.O.’s domination becomes complete—and even she gets riled up as a result. Needless to say, I didn’t think I’d see a moment where even she’d lose her cool, but it was definitely quite something to see—and something that ends up working like a charm, although not in the way she originally intended.
The next scenes in the “other world” and the “path to the AKB Theater” (a nice ode to the real AKB’s origins) were admittedly a bit funky/supernatural, but they end up serving nicely in providing some moments for character development/dialogue—giving us the much needed discussion between Chieri and Nagisa, a nice montage of scenes cuing back to some of our members initial joining of AKB0048, as well as some insight into what’s happened to Yuuko since her disappearance. As it turns out, her journey towards becoming Center Nova still isn’t complete… and one wonders how things’ll end up working out for her (if at all). To say the least, it’d be pretty tragic if she ends up being caught in between forever, so I’m hoping that things end up having some kind of positive ending for her—or that she at least ends up returning to the real world.
Continuing on that last point though, I’m wondering how the conclusion will wrap up that plot-line, the one regarding Chieri’s father’s assassination (unless this is already considered “wrapped up”), and the taking back of Akibastar in one episode. It’s do-able I suppose, but I’m definitely wondering if they’re not going to have a third season or something of the sort, because it certainty looks like there’s still a potentially long fight ahead even if they do take back Akibastar. It’s entirely possible that the take back of Akibastar deals enough damage to D.G.T.O. and DES that they won’t pose anymore of a threat—thus giving the series a permanent ending—though. I guess we’ll see how things work out. Either way, it looks like things are just setting up for another typical Kawamori ending—one filled with drama and epicness—and it should be an enjoyable ride to finish Next Stage off.
AKB0048’s Next Stage finale is finally here and it ends up delivering in a fashion only Kawamori could. You’d figure that after watching many of his series do the same thing—that is, end spectacularly on a dramatic high note—one would be used to it by now, but nope. Despite my high expectations for this finale and my prior experience with Kawamori’s kind of endings, I still couldn’t help but get caught up in everything—after all, how can’t you?
I mean, seeing all the members of AKB either depressed or outright crying… Nagisa getting things thrown at her and willingly not fighting back… all that propaganda from DES… there was no way not to get emotionally riled up from all of that. Combine all of that with multiple inserts, the return of Yuuko, a glimpse of Acchan, the rise of Chieri as Center Nova, and Nagisa succeeding Acchan, and you got the tools for an amazing ending—which is exactly what we got, along with the successful resolution of multiple plot lines as well.
Because as it turns out, those that rise to Center Nova status and disappear end up at the AKB Theater. There they continue to sing, protected from DES and other physical interference, providing a light/hope to everyone via the collective unconsciousness. And well, despite the kind of “out of nowhere” feel of this revelation, it admittedly works extremely well in the grand scheme of things. Not only does it answer why the Center Nova end up staying there, what they’re doing, and where they are… it also serves as a resolution to Yuuko’s situation and ultimately sets up foundations for what this episode (and arguably, this series) was about—hope.
See, every insert this week correlates to the notion of hope—of keeping it alive in yourself, the people around you, and in carrying that feeling over to the next generation. Rainbow Train (lyrics here), Kaze Wa Fuiteiru (lyrics here), Kono Namida wo Kimi ni Sasagu all have lyrics related to that notion (with Kaze Wa Fuiteiru being even more symbolic in how it was made as a dedication to victims of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami) and to me, it’s an exceptionally powerful message—especially so when you consider the dual connection to real-life and the series itself. What makes this notion even more notable, is the fact that it’s only one of many messages/themes the series seems to be sending in general, as it can be said that there’s a lot here about the whole concept of being an idol and the potential of using words to communicate differences, rather than fighting.
Indeed, AKB0048‘s finale ends up highlighting the fact that it’s two-pronged. On one hand, it can be enjoyed just as a casual series to watch. But on the other hand, there’s definitely something extra beneath the “fighting against an entertainment ban” exterior. Regardless, the verdict ends up being the same: the finale delivers spectacularly as expected, and there really ain’t much I can say, because there’s not much words can do to really capture the emotional high this episode delivered. Hopefully though, with pictures being worth a thousand words, the extra screenshots will do some of that for me. That and the final impressions (which you’ll find at the end of the post).
Full-length images: 43 (EXTRA!).
Author’s Note: Apologies for the delay regarding episode 12. Coming from PAX East drained me more than expected and work on the preview ended up taking most of my time upon returning, so I didn’t have much of an opportunity to work on this before the finales to my other series aired.
ED4: 「主なきその声」 (Aruji Naki Sono Koe) by NO NAME
Prior to the start of the season, I had mentioned how underrated the first season of AKB0048was. With Next Stage now over, I can say that the second season of AKB0048 also ended up under-appreciated (sadly) as well. Granted, I can see why people ended up staying away from the series—considering its over the top nature and outward appearance as nothing more than a marketing ploy—but it’s still something that makes me somewhat disappointed that more people didn’t give this series a try. Because in the end, this wasn’t a series that just tried to game the system by playing on the group’s popularity. It wasn’t just some amalgamation of songs and AKB concepts into animated form to sell products. There was an actual stand alone story here—and a decent one at that—and that I feel, makes all the difference.
Indeed, what Kawamori Shoji ends up doing with AKB0048 is nothing short of amazing, and it’s something I feel is a worthy addition to his creative portfolio. The end result isn’t on the same level as say, Macross, but what he manages to do here is worth mentioning nonetheless—as ultimately, I don’t think there’s anyone else out there who could’ve pulled off what he did with AKB0048. I mean, not only does he create an original story that combines much of the prior experience he’s had with sci-fi/mecha, he manages to also incorporate all the elements that make AKB what it is in real life, AND creates something that’s not only enjoyable and entertaining, but runs counter to what people expect from series that look like they’re purely for marketing. It’s an impressive feat to say the least.
Ultimately, if there’s one thing left to say, it’s that I’m going to end up missing this series. The over the top and dramatic Kawamori flair is something that can’t really be replicated by anyone else, and the fact that he consistently makes series in my favorite genres only contributes further to the void I feel upon realizing there’s no Kawamori series this spring. At least though, he does seem to be working on something new, so the wait for another Kawamori work may not end up being as long as anticipated.
On that note, I hope those if you reading this now enjoyed this series as much as I did, and I hope that my coverage contributed at least in part to that. Looking forward, I’ll be covering Suisei, Shingeki, and Date A Live next season, so I hope you’ll join me there as well. If not, I’ll bid you a fond farewell for now. In an ode to the episode’s final quote, “someday, we’ll surely meet again.”