# AKB0048 Season 1
This was supposed to be the end of animé as we know it. One of our greatest living directors had revealed his next great project... and it was promo material for a pop group; commentators lined up to rehash *The End of the Creator-Driven Era in TV Animation*. But as on that occasion, *AKB0048* rather undermined such critics, by the simple expedient of being rather good.
Perhaps even more importantly, *AKB0048* is not afraid to bite the hand that feeds it. Idols are ordinary, flawed humans; they get jealous, fight with each other, and use the bathroom like anyone else. While the combat side of this show provides ample grounds for drama, it seems like just as much stress is coming from idol performances, their own management team, and even each other. Several incidents are apparently based on real-life events, often for the same member who is now voicing a character - the older members are voiced by regular voice actors, but AKB48 members play many of the leads. Other people have opined one way or the other on their performances, but honestly I couldn’t tell the difference.
I should mention here that the cast is enormous. Four characters are notionally leads, but get upstaged for a large chunk in the middle by a dramatic plotline focusing on the understudies’ leader, Kanata, and TakaMina, the girl she hopes to replace. Beyond these six I count at least ten more who get at least some backstory or development, dropping into and out of the limelight more or less at random. One real flaw with this show is that it tends to park its storylines until it needs them; there are perhaps four plots running concurrently, but we often see one arc take over (particularly Kanata/TakaMina), leaving everything else apparently where it was for two or three episodes until it's picked up. In the same way, *AKB0048* is remarkably short on fanservice until the fifth episode, then piles on the pandering before returning to the plot for another four - and then, as if by clockwork, episode ten is a trip to the beach.
But the plot, when it has time to run, is good, very good. The premise of a world where entertainment is banned is so ridiculous as to be unbelieveable. But the show makes it real, with characters and settings that bring the story to life. It's the little touches more than anything. The off-colour British flag in a Lancastar classroom (the name itself both an obvious reference and a subtler one). Kanata struggling to reconcile her upbringing as a resistance soldier with the cutenes demanded of an idol. Yuuka leaving her boyfriend behind, and his reaction upon their reunion - so normal, and yet so rare to see in animé. Perhaps it's not really the plot that I love, but the setting.
And the animators love it too. Akibastar has perhaps the most realistic future town I've ever seen (though *Bodacious Space Pirates* would be a close second), its architecture a glorious mishmash of places and times that still somehow manages to convey taste and refinement. Its monorail sways gently, just enough to remind us that this is a transportation system, not just a backdrop - and on the transport theme, the train/rocket from episode 1 must be the coolest vehicle ever. Other planets impress us with their differences - the siberian snowscape of Tundrastar, the smokestacks and soot-coated cottages of the aforementioned Lancastar - but the style remains continuous enough to convey an underlying shared culture. Everything from the mechs to the incredibly detailled uniforms seems to be drawn with a real sense of love.
Except, curiously enough, the performances. For these *AKB0048* opts to use some very visible 3DCG (even adding some generous camerashake (impossible with conventional animation) to show it off), rather remniscent of *Initial D*. Of course technology has improved since that show's day, and there's certainly enough detail in the CG scenes, but I know some viewers find that style inherently annoying. Oddly, the show also tends to adopt a low angle for some of these shots, putting an unhealthy focus on the dancing idols' bums.
Which is entirely unreflective on the show as a whole. If anything *AKB0048* is likely a more serious show than it presently seems, given that a larger underlying plotline has been pushed back to the next part sometime in 2013. With luck, it could pull together some of the various threads into a more coherent whole, making the three or four distinct plot arcs seem like more of a single show.
But for me at least *AKB0048* has made it already. The world is so glorious, so tangible, and the characters so interesting that I don't need anything to actually happen. In that respect I'm reminded of *Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere*, another show where plot took a back seat to worldbuilding - but the problem with *AKB*'s pacing is not too little action but too much. I know this lack of coherence will be an issue for some viewers, but this show has earned a place among my favourites, and anyone who considers themselves a fan of science fiction should watch it.
comments powered by Disqus