While I didn’t expect that this show will let go of the cliff it hung all of us on last episode, I didn’t think it would be this committed to the succession drama of Takamina. On the one hand we have the current successor, Takamina the 5th who is the Captain and beloved leader of the band; and the other hand we have Kanata, the Captain of the understudies and the devoted fan of Takamina the 5th. The Kirara of Succession have, for about a year now, identified Kanata’s soul as the one closest to the original Takahashi Minami. Something’s about to give.
The thing about playing a role, like in theatre, is that you know you’re on borrowed time. It’s a zero-sum game. You get to play the role only for as long as you physically can, and there’s always an understudy waiting on the wings hungry to take over. That, or the show finishes its run. In the case of AKB0048, the role one plays is that of a reality show superstar. You stop being you. You suspend your identity for the number of years you get to play the successor to the original idol, and then you graduate.
And then what? Whatever fame you had, was borrowed. No one remembers your real name. You were great at becoming someone else, even though you’re just playing the part. You as yourself was never famous. We don’t know Takamina the 5th’s real name. She does tell us that she’s a mediocrity as a performer who found strength in playing Takamina’s role as leader of the band.
Worse, as a successor you’re told that the very essence of your soul is closest to – that is – most similar to the original idol. It’s not just a role you play, your very essence is practically that of the original… until such time someone else is better than you. You’re completely a copy, until you start failing as a copy – but not by coming into your own! You’re just bettered.
Even more cruel, is the coincidence in how Takamina the 5th is for all intents and purposes the mentor of Kanata – who would be Takamina the 6th. The whole succession process is withheld and kept secret from all the idols. This allows for “best case scenarios” like this, wherein the current successor can mentor her replacement, who already has her soul closest to the original. It isn’t like the creepy rivalry between prima ballerinas in Arnofsky’s film The Black Swan, but it can feel far more insidious.
As far as Yuuko’s concerned, ultimately they’ve got to think about their own dreams first. They aren’t there to enable their immediate replacements. They’re there to succeed AKB48. It’s their dream, and no one can blame them for living it for as long as they possibly can.
In the mean time, Takamina the 5th starts second-guessing herself as Takamina. If she’s not getting it right, who is she? Kanata is soldiering on, thinking nothing of the indignity the 76th generation feels and wants her to feel. As Chieri moves up, warms up towards, and begins to sparkle, she’s being proven right: they’re all rivals too.
This show has gotten better and better, far more than I was willing to give it credit for. I didn’t even get to talk about the killer mecha action this episode!