The Documentary of AKB48 The Time Has Come is the fourth AKB48 documentary. Released in theaters on July 4, 2014 it covers from the end of 2013 up until Oshima Yuko’s graduation in June 2014.

Various events occurred during that time span but the focus is mainly on the AKB48 Draft Kaigi, the AKB48 Daisokaku Matsuri, the 5th and 6th senbatsu elections and AKB48 National Olympic Stadium Concert.

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The film starts off following the path of Team A draftee Nishiyama Rena as she makes her way to Tokyo to start her career as a fresh member of AKB48. Viewers see her and the other new members learn about the rituals and rules within the organization. I always wondered why members carried around notebooks all the time.

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Conversely, there is the other end of the spectrum and Oshima Yuko. The grizzled veteran in her late 20’s who guides and inspires the younger charges into developing into the idols of the future while at the same time preparing to make her grand exit from the group after announcing her graduation at the 2013 Kohaku Uta Gassen.

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The crossroads that AKB48 is now facing is at the heart of this documentary. With the graduation of many early generation members, can the younger ones step up to the plate? And what will be the fallout of Oshima Yuko’s graduation?

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Throughout the two-hour running time we find that there is a lot of introspective discussion amongst the members. Early on in the documentary a chat with Takahashi Minami points out that the older members have discussed whom their successors may be.

She points out that no one can be replaced and that something new must be built with the current roster of members. With that in mind attentive viewers may notice foreshadowing to events that have occurred recently in the AKB48 landscape.

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Of course the younger members also have their concerns as shown by Okada Nana expressing doubts about her own performances and whether they are up to par with everyone else and her own high expectations of herself.

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The most interesting segment I believe was about the reshuffling of the groups. Reactions of the various members while not unexpected seemed rather… Overemotional? At this point in time it should be expected that a shuffle could come at any time.

This means that some people are going to be chosen for movement or promotion whether they like it or not. Yes it sucks being torn away from familiar surroundings and/or friends but that’s how things are and any member should be aware of that fact.

While there were many tears shed on the day of the 2014 shuffle it did bring to light just how much external factors influence whether these girls decide to take the opportunity for a change of scenery.

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Even if a member wants to go to their new assignment family issues may deny her of the chance. This is evident with Iwata Karen who could not go to Nagoya with fellow transfer Sato Sumire; who defied her family’s wishes and accepted her transfer to SKE48.

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The most understanding family seems to be Fujie Reina’s. She mentions that her parents were supportive of whatever she decided to do and her father was even elated that they get to vacation in Osaka.

It was quite revealing just how much something like this affects the dynamics of each team and the psyche of the members. Something like this tends to weed out the mentally weak ones who cannot handle the pressures of an idol’s life.

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The other major focus of this documentary was the National Olympic Stadium concert series. AKB48’s mass concerts have become larger productions over the years and it’s always interesting to see the behind the scenes of how things are put together and the amount of planning involved.

Watching the members rehearse and not kill themselves in the rain is admirable. Although one has to question whether it was proper to be doing so in such a downpour.

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Olympic Stadium was where Oshima Yuko was to graduate in March. Due to poor weather the March 30, 2014 concert was cancelled. The frustration of not being able to move on and letting everyone down was evident as the announcement was made.

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But one must think of safety first and it would not have been proper to send Yuko off in such horrible conditions. Instead, Ajinomoto Stadium was where Oshima finally graduated on June 8, 2014.

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The last topic I would like to discuss was touched on briefly. And that was the attack at the handshake event in May of 2014. Having been in Japan during that time it was quite surreal to see the intense media coverage at the time. This segment did feel a bit tacked on and fairly short and didn’t really cover enough for my liking. But it was a nice lead in to the drama of the senbatsu election where Watanabe Mayu’s coronation as queen finally happened.

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In the end this lived up to the quality of the previous AKB48 documentaries. It certainly won’t be something that non-fans will care to invest their time as it will require some in-depth knowledge of the group to understand the bigger picture. But for those already indoctrinated into the cult that is AKB it will be worth going through at least once.

Documentary of AKB48 The Time Has Come (DVD)

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Documentary of AKB48 The Time Has Come (Blu-Ray)

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