I finished the first season of AKB0048 only weeks ago, so my thoughts on it are still a mess. I’ve promised to write a collaborative post on it at some point, but that will have to wait until after I’ve seen Season 2. That said, a few things already stand out to me. Firstly, the series is a good introduction for someone who wants to start listening to AKB48 but doesn’t know where to begin. I’m now familiar with at least 3 songs – Beginner, River and Heavy Rotation – and seeing the show give context to the performances of these songs gave the songs more meaning. One thing that sets this show apart from other idol shows/games like Love Live and The Idolmaster is that most of the songs used in AKB0048 were not composed with the anime in mind. This, to me at least, made the performances feel very different from the ones in Love Live and The Idolmaster.
Another noteworthy thing about AKB0048 is that it’s also a very competent science fiction story. In particular, it’s soft science fiction. Sure, there are mechs, lightsabers, FTL drives and bionic arms, but the story is never about the technology. The story of AKB0048 deals with a world, a handful of planets that humans have colonised, where entertainment ranges from legal and encouraged(think the “eternal comiket” arc in Rolling Girls) to completely illegal(resulting in 1984-style dystopias). This is, in my opinion, the most interesting thing about AKB0048. It managed to scratch an itch that I didn’t know I had, and I think it’s worth watching for that alone.
And, lest I forget, AKB0048 is very much an idol show. I don’t think it’s as good at creating and developing compelling characters as shows like Love Live and The Idolmaster, but instead, it takes a very serious approach to what it means to be an idol, how an idol should present herself, and how difficult performing actually can be. I wouldn’t call it an extremely realistic portrayal of the idol industry due to the fact that it has some fantastical/magical elements and because the AKB0048 idols are put in life-and-death situations, but some of the aspects of the show feel very relevant to real life.