I’m pretty harsh on idol shows, because my favorite show is too, an idol show: Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Macross 7, Macross Frontier, Macross Plus, Macross: Do You Remember Love? These shows give interesting idol contexts, phenomenal music (relative to pop idol fare), and are love triangles set against the backdrop of great battles. I remember some fanboys trying to convince me about the awesomeness of Idolm@ster characters. Better luck selling refrigerators to walruses.
Thus, I approached AKB0048 with a view of at least finding one idol to approximate one of the least of Macross’ roster: Ranka Lee. The second episode showed me that the search would be challenging but not because all the candidates are of poor stuff. Conceptually at least, the AKB0048 roster of idols are necessarily awesome.
What I mean by this is that the idol role requires the incumbent not only to have song and dance skills, but also combat, hostage rescue, ship-to-ship assault/raiding, and space fighter piloting (basically, some kind of Mylene Jenius). These abilities must be held together by a high level of teamwork that overcomes the competitive nature of maintaining roster spots… as careers are short by design (because loss of appeal increases exponentially with age).
A whole bunch of characters get introduced here, but the high contrast that tells the theme of the episode if not the show as a whole is between Chieri and Nagisa. Chieri is the runaway rich girl who is not only talented, but also the most combat-ready among the hopefuls. She is also the most cynical among them and is the caricature of the “we’re all rivals here” attitude. Nagisa, suffice to say, is her opposite.
Predictably, Chieri is made an example of by the story. She’s the one who has that mascot character (see Gubaba from Macross 7, Ai-Kun from Macross Frontier), who is revealed to be some kind of “idol validator” – it glows when there is a “true idol” in its presence. Obviously this is Nagisa who spiritually embodies what AKB0048 is about – teamwork and comradeship (towards making the galaxy a better place by making people free to entertain themselves).
Ranka didn’t have anything as inspiring or cheesy, but she’d never have these combat skills either (she won’t need to because she’d have either the SMS/NUNS behind her, or LOL the Vajra swarms); she didn’t even have to fight along with her band (Lovely Bomber) – she just needed to get them space lolicons serving their prison time all hot-blooded. So, if I inserted Ranka in this episode, would she have stolen the show? She’s prettier than everyone so there’s that, but unless she sings Aimo out of context or something, that’s not quite going to happen.
I won’t be able to keep the Symphogear girls away for long.