It's time for thoughts of succession to start forming in the minds of certain members of AKB0048's group of understudies, as rivalries intensify and some eyes turn towards the much-vaunted Centre Nova position.
Indeed, it's the rivalries within the group which occupies much of the early focus in this week's episode of Next Stage - Nagisa and Chieri's friendly but fierce rivalry is plain for all to see, while Yuuko looks on with burning ambition of her own. However, it seems that the Chieri and Nagisa's rivalry is perhaps a little too powerful, overshadowing any radiance you might expect from them and the Kirara that gather around them.
While all of this is going on, the real news is perhaps that of Mimori's rise to prominence, as her hard work sees her struck down with a fever. This is no ordinary illness however, but the pre-cursor to the Kirara choosing her as a successor. But to who? And can she make it through that night's performance in one piece? The answer to that could also give a leg-up to Nagisa, who seems to be growing in terms of her belief in her own abilities...
If nothing else, things feel like they're moving on apace in AKB0048 of late - for a while it felt as though succession and the like had been pushed onto the back burner, but now it's very much at the centre of the show once again as Chieri and Nagia's rivalry takes (with all puns intended) centre stage. The biggest question mark however continues to be the Zodiac Corporation's place in affairs - there are more vague hints as to their interest in what's going on but little more, and I can't help but feel that this is where the most interesting facets of the show's second half will come, entertaining though the more focused idol-based fare has been for the most part.