The following review contains spoilers.  If you don’t want to know the details of these dramas turn away now.

Episode Synopsis

During the end of January AKB48’s series of dramas associated with their latest single So Long were shown on NTV.  These dramas featured the different AKB teams in one hour episodes telling tales of loss, sorrow, redemption and the bonds that bring humans together.

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Team A’s episode stars Watanabe Mayu as a loner AV (Audio Video, not porn) club student/ballerina who starts a relationship with a young man 8 years in the past via an exchange of cassette recordings.  Sounds like the plot for a certain Korean movie doesn’t it?  Except replace love letters with cassettes.

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Much of this story revolves around the past of the dance teacher played by Shinoda Mariko, and how the interactions between Watanabe’s character and the young man in the past shape the present for her.

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Team K’s episode features the UZA duo of Oshima Yuko and Matsui Jurina as rival sisters.  Oshima’s character is a classical pianist on the brink of giving up her dream to live the dull and boring life of an office worker.

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Matsui plays her younger sister who visits Tokyo to see her compete in a prestigious piano competition.  What plays out is the older sister being resentful of the younger for being spoiled and meddling in her not so perfect life.

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When the younger sister gets into an accident after an argument the family secret of her degenerative disease is revealed, and life-altering inspiration from the depths of despair commences.  Or something similar to that kind of thing went on.

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Lastly is Team B’s episode.  Kojima Haruna plays a teacher (yeah, pretty unbelievable already right?) who suddenly quits her job leaving her students high and dry.  Why? Well she has some sort of terminal disease. Which one? No one knows.  But she’s not feeling well and is determined to live her life to the fullest before her time is done.

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Her students lead by ponkotsu Shimazaki Haruka are determined to have their teacher present at their graduation as a thank you for all she has done for them.  There’s also a sub-plot featuring the rocky relationship between Shimazaki & Minegishi’s characters as a supplement to the teacher story line.

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Review

I am not one to watch many idol related dramas, and when I do they’re usually the horrible late night kind that no one would watch seriously sober.  So when I heard that AKB48 were making these dramas as a tie-in for their next single I was wary.

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After watching the entire series I was surprised at how decent these three shows were.  They’re not award winning material by any means, but you’re not going be scratching your head going, “What the fuck?” as you watch. Nor will you be fighting the urge to hit the stop button on your media player out of frustration.

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The question for the discerning viewer is which one should you watch?  That depends on what you are looking for.  Team A’s love affair across time probably has the most solid of story lines and perhaps may hit home with those who are fans of the Korean movie I mentioned in the intro of this article.

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Team K’s drama was more light hearted at the start and got heavy handed after the revelation of the younger sister’s fate in life.  It’s not as much as a tear jerker as Team A’s attempt but it should tug at your heart strings nonetheless.

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Team B’s story is probably the least cohesive of the dramas.  It felt more like two things crammed into one show. Paru as lead probably did not make things any better but I think some people will latch on to the themes of loyalty and friendship that are spread throughout the program.

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If I had to objectively pick one must watch I would say go with Team A.  That one had the most going for it and probably was the most watchable when thinking of this from an outsider’s point of view.  Otherwise go with my favorite one of the bunch, Team K.  Yuko is nice and all but I liked J’s free spirited character portrayal.

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The only lingering questions I have left after my viewing experience are these:

  • What modern teenage girl has a working Walkman cassette player in 2013 and uses it often over digital media players?
  • What dude in 2005 had a working Walkman cassette player and used it often?
  • Do kids these days even know what cassettes are and how to use them?
  • How much did HP pay to have their computers strategically placed in an AKB related drama?
  • Oshima Yuko looks damn fine in office wear doesn’t she?
  • Is going barefoot cool during piano recitals/competitions?
  • Would “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” improvised really have gotten past the first note in a competition?
  • Why was Watanabe Miyuki not in a badminton outfit fishing the viewers?
  • Anyone else thinking that maybe Miyuki should have shown her kohai how to stroke the shuttlecock?

I guess these are just a few questions to ponder. Don’t worry, there’s no test after watching this.

Conclusion

This series of dramas could have ended up being complete train wrecks (i.e. Episodes 1-7 of Majisuka Gakuen 3, the entire terror that was the Reina/Sayu math drama, etc.) so take this as mindless entertainment.

I’m sure you’ll notice that at least a few of the girls involved in this can sort of act or have potential to be better at the craft.

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As far as the idol related dramas I have watched are concerned, this series was above average.  They’re certainly not the best works of art but passable enough for viewing if you’re really bored or have nothing else to watch.