Normally, I do theories for anime that I like. But the idea to do a theory for this particular anime is all thanks to @Real_Cruiser, who asked about the effects of AKB0048’s universal entertainment ban. And now, here I am, doing a theory on an anime that displays members of AKB48 flying around in mechas and fighting off DES soldiers with guns that shoot out sticky stuff. Urgh, that’s over 12 hours of my life I won’t get back.
Let’s do this. *cracks knuckles*
Introducing the Entertainment Ban
In the future, due to its power to move people, a universal entertainment ban is in effect. A galactic council (I’m guessing there’s one like in Mass Effect) enforces the ban by deploying DES (Destroy Entertainment Soldiers) troops to take military action against all forms of entertainment. Cue AKB0048, an illegal idol group that wants to restore entertainment to the galaxy. They hold illegal concerts in an abandoned mine and fight DES troops day after day. That’s basically the plot of the anime and mind you, there’s a lot of plot in this anime (*wink wink*). This type of dystopian setting is fairly popular; you can find it in Orwell’s 1984 and the movie Equilibrium.
A bit of digressing here, but I’m pretty certain that the interplanetary wars caused by entertainment is just a joke referring to the brutal nature of people with different views on entertainment, specifically the idol group niche. It’s just like walking into a comic book store and innocently starting a rumble by asking “Who’s the best super hero?”
Anyway, the most important part of the entertainment ban (hereafter referred to as “the Ban”) is this: not all planets are affected. Assuming the anarchic nature of interplanetary society, the galactic council would have to have issued the entertainment ban in the form of a treaty. This means that only parties who have ratified the treaty are obliged to follow it. It is then up to the respective planet’s government to decide how stringent the ban would be enacted on the planet. For example, Akibastar is not affected by the Ban, meaning that it is not a party to the treaty. Meanwhile, Tundrastar enforces the Ban stringently. Lancastar also enforces the Ban, and it’s the main production site for DES weapons.
Entertainment Moves You
The anime’s underlying reason to ban entertainment is that entertainment has the power to ‘move’ people and thus, considered dangerous. Heck, it was entertainment which started the interplanetary war. So, does entertainment really have the power to move people? Or was it just a lie by the galactic senate?
But first, we have to understand, what exactly “entertainment” is. The word “entertainment”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was first used in 1940 and meant “to hold mutually; to hold intertwined”. But apart from the lexical definition, entertainment is a concept difficult to explain.
There are two approaches to define entertainment: objective and subjective. A rather crude definition of entertainment by Zillmann and Bryant is “any activity designed to delight and, to a smaller degree, enlighten through the exhibition of the fortunes or misfortunes of others, but also through the display of special skills by other and/or self”. That is an objective definition of entertainment. The definition only addresses entertainment as an object, and does not consider the people (who are subjects) in entertainment, hence, cannot be used to explain how entertainment moves people.
Now, let’s approach entertainment from a subjective approach. In the subjective approach, the empathetic model created by Vorderer, Klimmt, and Ritterfeld provides an explanation on how entertainment can ‘move’ people. Entertainment is comprised of five core emotions: exhilaration, fear and relief, sadness, sensory delight, and achievement. They also provide an example, as quoted in Bates and Ferri.
A woman reads the latest book by John Grisham in order to seek distraction. “She is ready to suspend disbelief about how unlikely somebody like the hero of her book might be in the social world.” She feels the fear of the villains who threaten her hero and feels “as if she is ‘there’ at the time and where and when the action takes place”. There are phases of suspense and relief; it is like being on a cognitive roller coaster.
Based on that example, we can see how just one piece of entertainment could induce a series of emotions inside an individual. But that’s just an individual, what about a group of people? Enter mass entertainment.
Mass entertainment, as the name implies, is a form of enjoyment that appeals to a lot of people in general. So, you don’t have to be genius to feel entertained by the entertainment. Due to the entertainment industry, today, we have access to many forms of mass entertainment like crappy movies directed by Michael Bay, crappy Justin Bieber music, and… yes you’ve guessed it, idol groups that make their living by dancing and singing in a synchronized manner. And since AKB0048 is an anime about an idol group, this begs the question: how does an idol group have the power to move society?
The entertainment industry has had a long record for influencing people. Just like works of literature once moved people to become less ignorant, today’s entertainment industries have the power to shape public opinion, like how CNN shaped public opinion post-9/11. In AKB0048, the idol group’s goal is to lift the entertainment ban. By doing so, they are labelled as terrorists by the galactic senate. However, AKB0048 managed to influence other people to support them, thus forming the WOTA (lol wordplay). Now, recall the backstory of Nagisa Motomiya, Yuka Ichijo, Orine Aida, and Chieri Sono. These four young girls witnessed an illegal AKB0048 concert on Lancastar. After that, they decided to join AKB0048.
Now, just how did that happen? AKB0048 used their trademark entertainment to convey their message to the masses, thus influencing public opinion. This would require their songs and dances to be able to ‘move’ and inspire people to join their ranks. Their songs are of the cheerful kind, given that they are AKB48 members in anime form. Those cheerful songs remind people, especially those who have suffered under the entertainment ban, that there is a better place out there and that their planet sucks and they should join the fight to life the entertainment ban. This explains why Nagisa, Yuka, Orine, and Chieri were influenced by AKB0048’s songs. The songs are basically propaganda.
Remember me saying that the interplanetary war was caused by entertainment? It is highly likely that the cause was the entertainment industry conveying negative messages to the masses, causing public opinion to favour war against other planets, just like American media after 9/11.
Or it’s just satire referring to overly zealous fans (aka wotas) of AKB48 killing each other over who is the better oshi. Which brings me to…
Why Ban Entertainment?
In the galactic senate’s view, the interplanetary wars happened because people were moved by entertainment. This vagueness allows us to freely speculate what may possibly happen in the AKB0048 universe which may have led to the Ban.
Banning entertainment outright is a seriously stupid move by the government. For the government to function, it would require working individuals. To keep these individuals motivated, they would require an incentive in the form of a pay check. Then, the workers use their pay checks to buy food and pay rent. Biologically speaking, that’s the simplest way to maintain a government. But then, people are not just walking husks. They have not only physical needs, but also spiritual needs. This is why people crave for entertainment. Entertainment provides people with delight and gratification, and a way to escape their reality for a brief moment. If suddenly an individual was deprived of entertainment, that individual would suffer psychological damage and stop being productive. They won’t want to work, and without their power, the government can’t function. See? It’s completely counterproductive. Just take a look at Lancastar and Tundrastar in the anime. They’re desolate wastelands devoid of life and creativity. Therefore, governments would opt to regulate entertainment rather than ban it outright.
Which brings me to the reason why the galactic senate wants to heavily regulate entertainment.
The most possible scenario behind the Ban in AKB0048 is not to utterly deprive people of delight, but rather to replace all existing forms of entertainment with new entertainment that the government approves, hence increasing government control over the people. I refer to Orwell’s 1984, where the Party only allows Party Members to enjoy several forms of entertainment that is designed to keep them believing in Big Brother. Examples include the Two Minute Hate, the Hate Week, and even Victory Gin. Or Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, where the government only allows the people to watch crappy television in an attempt to keep them stupid and bans people from possession of books. The galactic senate may have a plan for “government-appropriate” entertainment, but only AKB0048 stands in their way.
Or it is possible that the Ban in AKB0048 criticizes an old law established back in 1948 known as the “Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Law” or the “fueiho”. This law regulates entertainment places, specifically dance clubs and the sex industry. It was just in 2011 that the law was regularly enforced in Osaka and Tokyo, leading to arrests and crackdowns in night clubs. Let me just point out that AKB0048 was aired in 2012. Let me point out again that AKB0048 capitalizes on singing and dancing. That’s right, dancing. Now, I’ll let you put two and two together and come up with your own theory.
AKB0048 may be AKB48’s self-promotion anime, but the message sent by this anime extends beyond the lovey-dovey crap and girls’ love undertone they have in their songs and dances. It might be that AKB0048 sends a message that entertainment is not something that the government should mess with. It may be an anime that stands for freedom in the entertainment industry. Fuck yeah freedom!
Anyway, it’s just a theory. An ANIME THEORY!