Of all the plotlines in AKB0048, the one that I was most invested in was the drama of succession between Takamina and Kanata.
Competition between the idols plays a big part in the storyline of AKB0048. While all of the girls are friends, they are also all competing for the chance to perform, for popularity, and for the right to become a successor. Together they are a group, but they also have their own individual dreams which they must pursue. The General Elections, which puts all of the girls against each other in a contest of popularity, is one of the highlights of the second season because of the way it emphasizes this internal competition. AKB0048’s unique element of succession also provided many opportunities and becomes a major point of drama when Takamina sees Kanata in the Kirara of Sucession.
Takamina, who is the leader of the idol group and a kind of mentor figure to the younger generation, becomes torn when she realizes that as long as she holds her position, Kanata will not be able to become a successor. It is her dream versus Kanata’s, and unlike Yuuko who is able to put her own dream first even if that means separating herself from everyone else, Takamina is unable to simply disregard someone else. She can’t because she is deeply caring of others and desires to see them succeed, traits which are why she inherited the name of Takamina in the first place.
A personal favorite moment in the series is when Takamina talks to Yuuko while bedridden in episode eight. Takamina is both leader and support, but she also has her doubts. “My singing isn’t great, and my dancing is only so-so. I had no confidence and nothing to be proud of. But when I was selected as Takamina the 5th, I finally gained some self-confidence.” Here Takamina’s insecurities become clear and this moment won my sympathies for her character. It is painful to watch her struggle because it is not something she can simply get over through hard work and practice. And it becomes even sadder to watch when we realize that the one causing Takamina pain is someone who looks up to her and adores her so very much.
Admittedly, I was a little confused at first about the way the first season ends with regards to Takamina and Kanata. After the concert the Kirara of Succession shows the current Takamina once again which seemed to wrap things up too nicely. However, it makes sense because after the concert is when Takamina’s will is closest to that of the original Takahashi Minami. It was once she began considering others over herself again (such as telling Yuuko that she is thinking of graduating) that the Kirara of Succession reverted. Which is very close to the mindset that Kanata had which caused the Kirara to change in the first place.
Takamina regains her spirit and will to pursue her dream while Kanata remains blissfully unaware of the situation, but the question of what will become of Kanata still remains at the end of season one. And Takamina, because of who she is, still bears the guilt for believing that she is the only thing holding Kanata back from becoming a successor. The situation between these two characters, which provided such excellent drama in the first season, creates a lot of opportunities in the second season, but surprisingly the series chooses to leave the situation unresolved.
Season two re-directs the focus more towards the understudies who are quickly rising in fame after the success of their concert. Kanata’s desire for succession and self-doubt are brought up when Mimori, her closest friend and the only other member left in the “cursed generation,” earns a spot in the general elections. And not long after, Mimori is chosen to succeed the name of Mariko leaving Kanata behind completely. And Kanata’s self-doubts about why she is unable to keep up remind us of the doubts that Takamina had when Kanata was doing so well. It’s a great moment of comparison that works because of all the focus Takamina got in the first season.
However, instead of going anywhere with Kanata’s desire to catch up to her friend, she becomes significantly less important as the show focuses on Chieri and Nagisa. In fact, to my disappointment, the drama between Takamina and Kanata is largely forgotten in the second season.
The only time Season two does anything between these two is when Takamina confronts Kanata about her feelings directly. In episode twenty, after it is revealed that Mimori has been chosen to become a successor, Takamina, who still believes that she is responsible for Kanata’s situation, asks Kanata “would you be willing to drive me out to be a successor?” To which Kanata responds by saying “I don’t know. To me, both you and the name of Takahashi Minami hold a special place in my heart.” The answer is very much what you would expect from Kanata and by itself it is a great moment. However, this is the last time the narrative between these two characters is brought up as the show then turns its full attention to Nagisa, Chieri, and the Center Nova plotline.
I am a little disappointed that Season two did not do more with Takamina and Kanata after their drama proved to be such a big part of my enjoyment of the first season. However, I also did not want to see the story end in disappoint for either one of them. These two characters are the ones that I was most invested in and made the show for me. So I am okay with how AKB0048 chose to end because it means that both Takamina and Kanata can continue to pursue their dreams.