AKB0048: Fighting the power, or getting played by the man?

By now, you’ve probably either watched AKB0048 or decided that you were never going to. And if you have, you probably decided pretty quickly what your opinion was.

If your name is AJTheFourth, you really liked it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but piss on this parade. But isn’t something with “no idol” signs strewn about its world kind of asking you to put aside your seriousness and just enjoy the stupidity? I don’t care. I just can’t get around a couple things that offended my delicate sensibilities.

Let’s get one semi-ignorant one out of the way first: I don’t know a ton about AKB48, but I do know that they’ve gotten some heat for some of their more risqué lyrics and videos which their critics think aren’t fit for their young members, let alone the audience. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the audience probably isn’t that much of an issue because the glowstick-swinging idol fans probably lean more toward the male adult side than the little girls of the opening of AKB0048. Am I wrong? Feel free to correct that — with record sales like they have, somebody sure has to like them.

But this is a peripheral issue. More importantly, I’m having some trouble with the universe these characters inhabit.

Specifically, how far does the entertainment ban go? What exactly are kids supposed to enjoy doing? I suppose you can beat a stick against a tree like we used to do back in the day when I was little and electricity scared us. But this is a modern society with TVs (do they only show the news?) and the internet, not to mention space travel. And fashion. Look at Nagisa’s shorts, the little hussy, or any of the other girls’ outfits. They’re not exactly wearing burlap sacks, are they? So tell me about fashion. Does it fall under entertainment? Without entertainers, who’s going to distribute the styles to the masses? How do Nagisa and her friends know what’s hip and cool to wear if the veritable Beyonce isn’t out there flogging it?

Oh well, I suppose fashion is an easy tool with which to oppress the masses. Distract the people with recreational money-spending and empty occupation to keep them from asking too many questions.

You know what else is perfect for that?

Entertainment.

Pop music.

Especially idol pop.

You see where I’m getting at, as if I could make it any more obvious what I think?

I could say it’s ridiculous and ironic. But I could also get into some serious accusations: at best it’s disingenuous, at worst… downright nefarious. What better way to keep the kids in the theater seats and record stores than to associate the ultimate tool of their oppression with rebellion instead?

Now, I get that oppression is probably too strong a word, and I’m familiar with the idea that there’s “no devil in hell” consciously oppressing us, but this is a system that takes care of its own and runs itself.

So while you enjoy all the ironic ridiculousness of AKB0048, I’m going to be over here watching it through narrowed eyes, at least until I find some of Roddy Piper’s glasses from They Live.

Fuck these (13) Comments.

  1. kadian1364 says:

    A fictional totalitarian government that’s actually clever for once? I’ve never heard of such a thing!

  2. ajthefourth says:

    You bring up a lot of really interesting points here, so this was definitely an enjoyable read.

    One thing that pinged my brain a bit was your final accusation of marketing. I definitely can, although I don’t see it to the same degree as you do, agree with a your point that turning something so closely associated with AKB48 (the real-life group) into a thing of “rebellion” continues to perpetuate the cycle of commodification and capitalism.

    I suppose where my article’s optimism comes from is the fact that both of the entities that I bring up (AKB0048 and Do You Remember Love?) primarily exist in a vacuum to me. I have no pre-existing affinity for AKB48 the idol group so, although I’m aware that it’s largely a marketing vehicle, I don’t see this as well as I perhaps should. Do You Remember Love? is much of the same, since it debuted far earlier and in a different climate from when I saw it (although I’ve heard whispers about how it, and Macross, skyrocketed Mari Iijima’s career/ruined her life).

    Anyway, what does this all mean? Who knows? I don’t disagree with you, but I’ll keep my rosy optimism glasses on for the time being. ^ ^

  3. Scamp says:

    So if the lyrics for the AKB0048 song at the start were, let’s say, “throw off your shackles and take on the government”, would you have enjoyed the show instead?

  4. Pingback: AKB0048 and what power entertainment has | The Cart Driver

  5. Pingback: AKB0048 and why we need more idols | Anime Diet

  6. Erif says:

    ohay look a new blog~
    owait I know of one of the writers here. Oops.

  7. Balloon_Thief says:

    Honestly this shows premise just sounds so ridiculous. Of all the things they could choose, they chose idols as the basis for a resistance. Might as well have picked evil care bears. Oh wait, I believe that idea has already been taken…twice. But it worked because it was a comedy. From what I’ve read this show seems to be taking itself seriously. Which will be it’s downfall. I am not going to watch this.

  8. GuardMonkey10 says:

    The premise to AKB0048 makes a lot of sense to me. Entertainment in all its forms has always been getting banned for some reason or another by governments, moral, or religious authorities. Swing music was banned in Nazi Germany. Many places in the USA banned Jazz and Rock & Roll. Theatre. Art. Books. Music. Many of these are currently banned in Islamic nations under religious law. There will always be some busybody trying to ban something that you enjoy because they ‘know’ what is best for you. This seems to me no different. It doesn’t have to make sense. Kadian hits on a very valid point that can be expanded to real totalitarian governments. It doesn’t have to make sense. Governments have done weird things than ban Idols.

  9. shemi says:

    People who think banning idols is ridiculous should remember Soviet Union and World War II Germany. My country was occupied by both at different times, so I’ve heard many ridiculous stories about those times from my mother and grandmother. Since I was born when country had already gained independence, it was hard for me to believe that my grandmother had to hide from Germans just because she was a teacher. Her friends got sent to concentration camps just for being musicians. Later she had to hide her being Christian from soviets. When my mother was young, listening to foreign bands were banned. Her collection of Beatles tapes were illegal and she always feared that no one found out. There spies in schools, history and English teachers were kept under strict surveillance. There were curfews – people weren’t allowed to go out after certain hour. My father once told me that on breaks at school they weren’t allowed to do anything – they had to go around school building in circles until the next lesson. Those stories now seem ridiculous to me. Just how the first episode of AKB0048 had been when I first watched it. But when I think about it: if entertainment were banned, what would people do? Of course, there would be movements to rebel that ban. And it actually made lots of sense to me. The AKB0048 movement seems no different that what Lithuanian book smugglers did. (wikipedia link) I mean, smuggling books? Foreigners still don’t believe that our countrymen risked their lives and died just so they could bring books to people.

  10. Hamano Yumi says:

    sigh, this article is brainwashing , you make AKB0048 sounds bad. The anime is actually great and fun. And whats up with the comments above? They sound so old(don’t like school things on holiday…). AKB0048 is an Anime, ANYTHING can happen in it. As long as it interesting it would be great.

    • Man, bro, after all that brainwashing, I’m impressed that you managed to keep your rosy feelings for AKBnumbers intact! I know that after reading this, I just hate the entire damn thing, and want to burn down all of Japan because of it, UGH. Probably the people who like it, too.

      Didn’t you know? Everyone who reads and comments on this blog is olllllllllllldddddddddd as fuckkkkkkkkkkk, so that’s why they sound so old. They were probably all born before 1990, sheesh! They should just be put on chunks of ice and floated out to sea like the Inuits do, right?

    • otou-san says:

      don’t like school things on holiday…

      I apologize, it would be really tragic if you had to learn something.