After a brief flashback that gives us some history on Akibastar's past and how it was rebuilt as a centre of hope and entertainment after being decimated by war, it's onwards to this week's AKB0048 Next Stage!
After bringing us into that flashback, it's Yuuko that dominates this episode - having seen her fellow understudy Mimori become the new Mariko, she seems more determined than ever to make the grade and thus spends every waking moment singing, dancing and practising as she strives to be the best that she can be, no matter what. It's a determination that some of the others recognise as being redolent of the group's last Centre Nova, Acchan - and this, ladies and gentlemen, is what they call foreshadowing.
With Akibastar all set to host another AKB0048 concert, we finally get to the bottom of the Zodiac Corporation's ultimate goal - a goal that includes the resources squirrelled away beneath the surface of the planet, as well as the power of the Centre Nova, a power that the corporation want to bring forth and capture. As it happens, the Zodiac Corporation knows exactly how to bring about the required environment to create a Centre Nova too - cue a massive assault on Akibastar which offers up some of the most spectacular fare that this series has yet delivered.
Having looked all set to be "just another episode" of AKB0048 (that being fun and steadily paced), the second half of this week's instalment was.... well, bloody fantastic actually. And by fantastic, I mean "it felt kinda like Macross Frontier". Blending its action and music against a dark and destructive backdrop worked wonders for the show, even when set up alongside its crazy weapons and ideas, and it was compelling stuff to watch as all of the parts of the show's puzzle came together in a visually engaging and gripping fashion. I just hope this isn't the series peaking too early given that there are still a few episodes to go, but if ever I need to pick out a moment to document why I've stuck with watching this show through thick and thin, the second half of this week's instalment provides justification in spades.