Footloose meets American Idol meets The Facts of Life.
What They Say:
The year is 0048, and in the wake of the great wars, all forms of entertainment have been banned by the dystopian and iron-gloved rule of the anti-music DES. To combat this threat to intergalactic harmony, a group of bold young women have resurrected the legendary J0Pop band AKB48 and formed an all new Band of Sisters—AKB0048! But these rocking rebels aren’t simply singers! Trained in combat as well as choreography, these striking strike team members are equally home in concert halls and in the trenches. Under the leadership of the mysterious Sensei Sensei, they’re ready to lay down their lives in order to make the universe a safe place for getting your groove on! And as a fresh new team of singer-soldiers join the cause and enter basic training, the batons and battle gear are about to be passed to a new generation o fdaring divas! Get ready to polish your dancing boots and dive into danger with the latest hard hitting hits as the new recruits take the staging ground and the veterans provide the musical soundtrack to their own action pic in AKB0048!
Each episode contains two language tracks: English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0 with English subtitles provided. There was no directionality to the episodes that I could perceive, but overall the sound quality was solid. I could hear the language tracks, sound effects tracks, and music tracks just fine.
Each episode is presented in 16:9 aspect ratio and it’s a very nice looking series. The colors are bright, and the action easy to follow with no fading or other issues.
The front cover features Chieri, Nagisa, Sonata, and Yuuka standing on their platforms in their 0048 outfits, holding microphones and striking poses against a bright starfield. The show’s title rests at the top and above that in a white strip is written “From the creator of Macross and Escaflowne.” A similar white strip runs along the bottom detailing the number of episodes and discs along with the Sentai Filmworks logo. The spine is black with the show’s title occupying the top half and the girls Mimori, Orine, Chieri, and Nagisa facing forward, one on top of the other. The top fourth of the back cover shows the girls in their combat uniforms, all looking out, with large smiles on their faces. The AKB mothership hovers in the background, projecting stage lights. Beneath that is the show’s summary and beneath that are various screenshots from the show and the proclamation “They’ve got to fight, for your interplanetary right, to party!” The final fourth gives the show’s credits and DVD technical specifications. Moving to the inside, the season’s thirteen episodes are parsed over three discs. Two of the discs are housed in an inset and the third is set in the back cover. Overall it’s a good, fun design that does a solid job of conveying the silliness of the show.
The menu is bisected with various members of AKB0048 on the left side and the menu selections on the right. The options are clearly listed and a white arrow hovers to the left of the one selected. The show’s main theme plays on a five-second loop, which gets a little monotonous after a while, but other than that it’s a solid design.
There really isn’t much to talk about in terms of special features given that what’s here are the standard DVD fare, but I do have to say it was fun to see the Japanese promos.
On the planet Lancaster in a small mining community four girls: Nagisa, Orine, Yuuka, and their offworld friend Chieri, defy galactic law to view a guerilla concert by the rebel band AKB0048. Their planet—like most in the galaxy—suffered under an anti-entertainment law enacted by the government, and during the concert agents of the government attack. AKB0048 defended their fans while singing their songs and in the process ignited a dream in the hearts of those four girls. Years later the call goes out for auditions for the 77th generation of AKB, and Nagisa, Orine, and Yuuka leave their home in order to fulfill their dreams of being a “Successor”: a member of AKB that has assumed the name and position of one of the original group members. In order to achieve this goal, they must take singing lessons, dancing lessons, and advanced combat lessons. They must learn to work together as a group while at the same time compete against each other for their positions.
In many ways AKB0048 is a hot mess, but that’s all right because it’s also very entertaining. One of the aspects of anime that I enjoy so much is how over-the-top serious the shows can be about certain subjects. While I’m the first to argue that entertainment is an important element of life, this show takes that importance to the nth degree, positing a galaxy where entertainment is banned by the government and liberation can only come at the hands of mercenary pop stars. It’s like Che Gueverra or Fidel Castro fighting their revolutions with microphones and synthesizers instead of guns and grenades. It’s silly, but there’s also a sense of earnestness to the story and a genuine, non-ironic belief in the theme that keeps it from collapsing in on itself. The series throws crazy around like spaghetti being chopped up in a fan: you have microphone lightsabers, flying mini-stages for each artist that can transform into fighter planes; and ravers defending the concert from DES mecha with rocket-propelled glowsticks, but all of that is secondary to the theme and the characters, which makes them easier to take.
At first the story appears to be just that of the 77th generation’s attempt to make it as Successors, but there are hints spread out through this first season that there is something larger taking place. There is the mystery of Sensei Sensei, who is never seen but provides the lyrics for all of AKB’s songs and provides leadership. There is also the mystery of the Center Nova position, which was discontinued and the fate of the girl that held it previously is unknown. Being that this is the first season, the seeds of these mysteries are spread but not answered.
The only part of the show that I do not like is the use of computer animation for the dance sequences. I’m accustomed to computer animation being used for space battles and the like, but the mixing of traditional animation and computer animation is often a bit jarring, and I find that it takes away from the warmth of the character designs.
AKB0048 is kind of like Footloose meets American Idol meets The Facts of Life. It’s a big, fun, hot mess of a show that treats its subject matter with an earnestness that could be considered ridiculous but I find charming. If there were even a hint of Satelight being ironic with this series then everything would collapse in on itself, but thankfully that isn’t the case. What you have are pop idol guerilla warriors, anti-entertainment mecha units, and a group of girls just wanting to make their wishes come true. By this point the strength and charm of the characters, the fun of the concept, and the hint of greater mysteries makes me want to watch the second season. If you’re like me and have a high level of tolerance for absurdity then you should find this a fun show. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection