Okay, getting close to getting back on schedule, for the rest of this semester anime reviews are moving to Tuesdays instead of Mondays (since I ended up with more school work on Monday's than I initially expected, oops) and I'll try to stick to that schedule as closely as I can, sorry about all of this weirdness folks!
Speaking of weirdness, I had heard about this show when it was first airing and saw a lot of people talking about it and then again it popped up on people's end-of-year lists where people all seemed to be saying the same thing, this was way better than they ever expected. I had been put off by the premise (gurellia idol singers in a world where entertainment isn't allowed? Please....) but then I reminded myself that if I could sit through Shoji Kawamori's other recent work, Aquarion Evol, which requires a serious suspension of disbelife and weird sense of humor (or at least a strong tolerance for puns) then hell I think I could put up with this show.
Summary: Sometime in the near future humanity fled Earth and colonized other worlds and, sometime after that, many of the worlds banned all kinds of entertainment with harsh punishments for those found participating or supporting it. Not that this is going to stop some people and the mega idol group AKB0048 sees it as their job to go to these worlds and hold highly illegal (and dangerous) concerts to give the people there at least one chance to experience real entertainment. Nagisa and her friends saw an AKB concert when they were young and ever since it's been their dream to join the group themselves, something that proves to be much harder than they ever expected.
The Good: Yep, this was much better than what you would expect from a crazy premise like that and I think it's partially because the show (/the staff) know how crazy it is and just how far they can push people's suspension of disbelief. The show actually spends a lot of time showing the girls training to become idols and connecting with one another (which I think helps since all of that seems quite believable) and apparently a lot of the little details about the girl's lives are based on their real life voice actresses, something I didn't know until I did some research but thought was really neat. The show has a pretty large cast and while it doesn't give everyone equal amounts of screen-time most of the characters have enough, although weirdly enough there wasn't as much character development as I would have expected out of this show (one or two individuals got a fair amount but by and large most of the characters were static, I guess this is what happens when the majority of your cast is supposed to be around 13?).
The Bad: There was one episode I really had a problem with, the one with the hater (one of the girls gets a message from a hater saying she should kill herself and will never be good enough to be the successor to the girl she wants, which understandably shakes her) and the show ends with "hater just make you do better and should be thanked for it!" No, cut the crap writers, there is a big difference between criticism and a vile-spewing hater, even with mean, unwarranted criticism there's still a rather large line separating the two. Honestly the "sex scandal" about AKB that just broke (in short, one of the real life idols, with no ties to the show, had a boyfriend which violated the rules and had to shave her head and post an apology video for it) reminds me a lot of this episode, the idea that the fans are so important that you have to please all of them, even the messed up ones (which in the real world case insist on everyone being "pure," as if romance and sex are somehow dirty things). So, oddly enough considering how different the show is from it's real-world counterpart, the worst part of the show mirrors the idol industry quite a bit and sadly it's not of one of it's better aspects.
The Audio: As far as I can tell, the nine trainees (the nine girls in the promo piece above) are all voiced by girls from the various groups within the real AKB48 and the actual successors in the show are voiced by regular voice actors which is a bit of an interesting choice. Honestly I can't tell whose singing any of the songs and since the group members do sound alright as voice actors (not as polished but they also sound a bit more "real" than your standard anime voices) and certainly never drew me out of the experience I think the casting was done well. I also liked how well both the opening and ending song worked with the show, as I was watching I thought the lyrics worked really well and then both of the songs made appearances within the show itself later on (told you I couldn't tell who was singing or this wouldn't have surprised me as much as it did). So, thankfully for a show that's based more than partially around a group of singers the audio holds up here, I'm curious if they'll even try to dub the show in the US though (that and I still don't know how they managed to license this show and presumably most or all of it's music rights as well).
The Visuals: Quite honestly what first caught my eye about this show was just how colorful it was, then again I don't think I've seen a show from Studio Satelight that wasn't crazy colorful (even Croisee made good use of color, although I've only seen about half of the shows they've produced). The art looks good throughout although some people will probably be frustrated with the CGI used for the big dance scenes. The way I see it is that with CGI we're able to have scenes which would be far too complex to be well-animated by hand (that is, it's cheaper to do it this way, plus with all the constantly changing angles I have to wonder how on-model all the characters could stay) plus the dances look like real, choreographed performances, I wouldn't be surprised if they were based off some of the actual shows. So just, well, deal with it and know that you're forewarned if this isn't your thing.
So I'm giving this show a solid 3.5 out of 5, going to watch the second season when I have a chance (since I am swaaaamped with stuff to watch right now, curse you school!) and since Sentai has licensed this I'll probably pick it up sometime. Crunchyroll finally announced earlier today that their going to start putting the first season up on Sundays as well as the new episodes so unlike me you can avoid fansubs and head over there this Sunday to give it a whirl yourself.