It's not secret that many anime fans enjoy picking on the idol show: the symbol of the perceived decline of serious anime. I've been a fan of anime since the early 2000's and I couldn't disagree more with this consensus. In fact, some of the shows I've enjoyed most in this past year were just that: Idol shows.
I've had a rough year in seasonal anime. I've had some good shows and some bad ones so, to maintain my sense of sanity, I was heavily relying on the marathons I was running on various shows. I end up judging an anime (or a game for that matter) based on if I feel like I wasted my time with it. This last year, I felt like I really was wasting my time with shows like Magical Warfare, Aldnoah.Zero, and Majestic Prince. They all had some large drawback to them that I'll never let go.
On the other hand, I enjoyed shows like Macross Frontier, Tokyo Ghoul, and, yes, AKB0048. I never once thought AKB0048 was wasting my time. There's several reasons that the idol show has nearly always resonated with me, which AKB0048 did very well.
You can always count on an idol story being an underdog story. We'll follow the life of at least one girl (probably more) as they become an idol. We'll get to see all the old team-building plots in the coming episodes; the endless Aesops about teamwork, perseverance, and the payoff when you're done; the relationship and character exploration between the characters; and generally have a fun time riding along on their journey, however cheesy it might sometimes be.
The idol show is basically one of Japan's counterparts to the American sports drama (the other just literally being sports anime, duh). It's a word-for-word genre pull, just with music instead of American football.
When you watch as much anime as me, you start to get the feeling that the writers and directors are out to get you. They slather on the darkness, "edginess", and deconstruction with as much strength as they can muster. It's ironically a very, very welcome breath of fresh air when a show decides it's only goal is to be a fun Aesop-filled, feel-good journey without any curve balls.
AKB0048 in particular was one of my favorite shows that I watched this year strictly because it was so unabashedly lighthearted and fun. There's something distinctly uplifting about a show that doesn't care how ridiculous it is (both visually and in subject matter).
All idol shows have hints of this with me. Even Wake Up, Girls!, which is a deconstruction of the idol show, has its uplifting moments. An idol show is usually a welcome departure from this season's Terror in Resonance or Black Bullet.
I don't consider myself much of a J-Pop fan in the slightest, but one can't deny that the idol show and shows like it out of Japan can bring their A-Game to the table. Macross is practically only known for this quality.
The soundtracks can feed into that uplifting spirit of the show. It's especially prevalent during the concert episode at the end of each season. The show follows the dramatic structure right up to the big climax: the big concert. It's the big payoff of the season where everything comes together. Some idol shows do this better than others; Wake Up, Girls! and AKB0048 spring to mind when it comes to shows that did this particularly right.
All things said and done, I really do enjoy the idol show for its unflinching dedication to just being fun for a change. It's something I rarely see these days outside of comedy shows and the occasionally good sports anime.
The idol show has its place in entertainment. In my opinion, it's a very important place since nothing quite fills the void that I feel after forcing myself through another attempt to be the next Evangelion or Attack on Titan. The premise might be cute girls doing cute idol things, but there's a lot to just enjoy here if you just let that go. A show like AKB0048 isn't what I go around advertising to my friends as a great anime, but it is one of the shows that I felt never overtly wasted my time.
That's something of a feat of its own if you know me.
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