AKB0048 Next Stage Episode 13 [Final]: Maeda Atsuko
“But…even if you hate us…please don’t hate songs and entertainment!”
The kenkyuusei return to the stage with Niji no Ressha, refusing to give up and attempting to win back the hearts of Akibastar’s residents through their songs. With groups of the audience converted, they decide to push forward once more with Kaze wa Fuiteiru, and to everyone’s surprise Yuuko appears from beyond the gate, having returned from her state of limbo. However, it is when Nagisa makes her heartfelt plea that many audience members recognize her spirit, acknowledging her as Acchan the 14th.
“Even amongst all this hate and abuse, you’re still…”
It really hurt to see all the Akibastar fans throw all their hate at 0048 – despite loving them in the past, their sudden hatred towards the group’s “betrayal” was a real curveball that I didn’t see coming. The anti-entertainment factions are real bastards for trying to blow that up even further, broadcasting the live guerilla concert all over the galaxy to show everyone the kind of hate AKB are getting. Worse still is the irony in that statement – what should have been a free, legal concert on Akibastar has been interrupted by violence instigated by DES, made even worse by the audience members keeping up their booing. Nagisa’s father has got it spot on – even amongst all the hate and abuse, Nagisa and the rest of the kenkyuusei are remaining strong with Niji no Ressha, and still have the will to believe in kindness the Akibastar residents have shown them in the past. And their efforts paid off – everyone shone so brightly that the audience slowly started to respond to their feelings.
“Did Chieri just go Center Nova?”
As the new Center Nova, Chieri was very cool indeed – managing to convert even a DES army member, after she’d managed to convince him to put down his gun and watch her sing. It was very heavily implied there that DES was behind the death of Chieri’s father, yet instead of killing that soldier she bravely sung to him instead. Both him and the DES commander got the full force of Chieri’s emotions – who stopped DES in the way a Center Nova does best! Even DES’s Kirara Drives reacted to AKB’s radiance…and they went from trying to capture the new Center Nova to quickly retreating, leaving Akibastar free again. What helped that effort quite a bit was NO NAME – both the kenkyuusei’s idol group as well as the countless, nameless emotions strewn across the galaxy to audiences watching the live. From the little boy who once hated Orine to Nagisa’s mother back on Lancastar, you could sense the emotions felt by each and every one of them – and none more than Mamoru and his reunion with Yuuka. Man, that was bittersweet…Yuuka doesn’t get much character development as it is, but I easily felt a lot of pain with their near-kiss. I wondered why they stopped until I remembered AKB’s rules against love, which makes it even more painful as Yuuka and Mamoru don’t even get much contact time in the first place ;_; Damn, last time they met during Oogoe Diamond in the S1 finale, and that ended in tears too.
Another resolved plot point came in the form of Yuuko’s return to the real world, after failing to make it up the ethereal glass set of stairs – having met the 13th Acchan within that limbo. It’s still pretty vague, but it seems that the AKB Theatre (which exists in real life, in Akihabara) acts as an outlet for all the Center Nova to continue singing forevermore, lighting up humanity’s unconscious existence and preventing despair. While their emotions may be suppressed consciously with a ban on entertainment, all the Center Nova gather outside of DES’s reach in the AKB Theatre to protect the subconscious and retain the hope within mankind. I don’t know how I feel about an existence like that…no matter how I look at it, something seems a bit ominous about all the Center Nova singing endlessly in a cycle, over and over. As for Yuuko, she only wanted to sing alongside Maeda Atsuko, but apparently Acchan’s right by her side – and that was the last bit of foreshadowing we needed.
“Acchan! Acchan! Acchan!”
I’ve been bursting to talk about it, but I thought I’d save the best till last xD It’s been hinted at so many times throughout the show. There are these instances where her eyes change, and have a wiser, almost ethereal look – and this episode, the clincher was Nagisa’s heartfelt plea that those who hate AKB shouldn’t hate songs and entertainment. The real-life Acchan has made a similar statement before, as she was practically the “face” of AKB before her graduation last year – she accepted that she had haters, but urged them not to hate AKB as a whole. With a quick fever of succession, Nagisa’s turned into Acchan the 14th – and without needing Sensei-sensei or anyone else to say it, the audience can instinctively feel that Acchan’s spirit is standing before them. She’s so cool…and she’s come so far! From starting out as an inexperienced KKS unsure of what she wanted, she’s developed and matured – succeeding Acchan and finding her own goal to work towards.
We’ve solved a fair number of plotholes with this finale, and the series as a whole was something I looked forward to each Sunday without failure. This season seemed to have an increasing militant focus compared to last year’s Season 1, which had more of an introductory slant in hindsight. It’s still a very fun show nevertheless, and there’s always many feels involved with each episode. With the end of this particular arc, it’s the start of a new era for our idols, and I’d really like to see more of what that era has in store for Acchan, Chieri and the other KKS (I’ve been dying for the opportunity to call Nagisa “Acchan” for a while now xD) While there wasn’t a clear S3 announcement, imagine if we had an AKB0048 Final Stage series one day! Scenes from both S1 and S2 in the final credits roll suggests that this is all we’re getting for now, but I do hope Kawamori decides to revisit AKB0048 in the future. I’d love another sequel.