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Anime / AKB0048

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"In a future where humankind has moved into space... the tears we shed become stars.
AKB0048. We will fly through space to see you."

AKB0048 is a 2012 Japanese anime television series based on the popular AKB48 idol group. The anime is produced by Satelight, with Shoji Kawamori as chief director and writer. The first season began airing on April 29, 2012 and ended on July 22, 2012. The second season started airing January 5, 2013 and ended on March 30, 2013. The series draws upon the real-life AKB48's repertoire for its soundtrack, with composer Slavek Kowalewski arranging some of it and contributing some original works for the series' incidental music.

At the start of the 21st century, an interplanetary war broke out. Earth's ecosystem was destroyed, and humanity was forced to flee the planet. In this new society, things that "disturb the heart" like music and art are forbidden. 48 years later, a legendary idol group is resurrected as AKB0048. Labeled as terrorists, they must take up arms to defend their careers and their fans.

Young Nagisa Motomiya, Yuka Ichijo and Orine Aida had lived their whole lives on Lancastar, a planet fully under the Entertainment Ban. Their lives changed completely one day when their new friend Chieri Sono took them to a guerrilla concert held in defiance of the ban by AKB0048. Inspired by the singers' radiance, the four girls vow to become members of 00 themselves. Four years later, they leave home to take part in the AKB0048 auditions. Once they get there however, they find that AKB0048 isn't all about singing and dancing and looking pretty. Dangerous and possibly fatal endeavors are involved when going up against the Entertainment Ban and its Destroy Entertainment Soldiers (DES). And within the group, there is more going on behind the scenes than even the members realize.

To the surprise of many, an English dub premiered at the Los Angeles Convention Center in July of 2013, with the release of the first season coming that autumn.

Also has two manga adaptations: AKB0048 EPISODE 0, a prequel that tells the story of Atsuko Maeda the 12th and serialized in Nakayoshi; and AKB0048 Heart-Gata Operation, which follows Kanata, Acchan the 13th, Yuko the 9th, and Kojiharu the 8th in a mission to protect the group from the thief Elixir's menace, serialized in Bessatsu Friend.

This series contains examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: Rather obvious 3D effects are used for the idol's performances, certain dance sequences, and the mech battles.
  • Abnormal Ammo: In keeping with their Technical Pacifist beliefs, AKB0048 LAS mechas will shoot an incapacitating gel substance at piloted enemy robots to take them out of the fight.
  • Ace Custom: Takamina's personal LAS has a ribbon over the cockpit, to signify it's her unit.
    • A manned DES mech in custom colors appears in Episode 8.
  • All There in the Manual: Things like the girls' ages, their homeworlds, and the Successors' real names are all in bonus material.
  • Amazon Brigade: As singers in a time where entertainment is banned, AKB have to be able to defend themselves.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series ends with AKB retaking Akibastar and determined to keep entertainment alive. However, despite the major setback, DES is still active.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Dualium. It's used in FTL transport, it's connected to various phenomenons related to the idols, and certain creatures are naturally sensitive to it. Just like the Force!
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When the 76th gen trainees dispute Tsubasa's selection of the entire 77th gen as stand-ins:
    Tsubasa: Can the 76th generation perform today's setlist? Though they weren't selected, everyone in the 77th generation practiced. What was the 76th generation doing?
  • Artificial Gravity: Used for the most part when in space but, much to the trainees' dismay, not their ship's sleeping quarters. They spend a lot of time floating helplessly trying to get to their sleep pods, where they have trouble sleeping still because they keep floating off the mats.
  • Ascended Extra: The mobile game AKB0048 Galaxy Cinderella features some other successors that are only shown for a few seconds on screen in the main series, like Haruka Shimazaki the 8th, Yui Yokoyama the 7.5th or Ayaka Umeda the 7th.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: This is believed to be what happens to Center Nova when they disappear. It's true. This also appears to be Mr. Sono's true goal, as he wants to "transcend time and space".
  • As Lethal as It Needs to Be: Mic Sabers can cut straight through armored mecha, but when used on DES soldiers they simply zap them into unconsciousness.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: How Team 00 make their entrance in Episode 2, by hijacking a ship's radio to announce their arrival.
  • Band Toon: Of the real AKB48, naturally. In a twist, the characters aren't the real-life members of the group, but people who aspire to be just like them centuries later.
  • The Battlestar: The battleship Katyusha, which serves as AKB0048's mobile base and transport; and the Flying Get, the mothership for their Cool Airship.
  • Beach Episode: Episode 10 has everyone going to a planet's beach resort for a photo shoot, much to Makoto's distress, since she'd recently put on a few pounds.
  • Big Damn Heroes: AKB0048 save the trainees and other passengers on a ship during a DES Space Marine attack. Later the WOTA members show up to help them drive off another attack during a handshake event.
  • Boarding Party: The DES have no qualm about forcing themselves into a civilian space ship by just smashing into it in order to capture Nagisa and company who are on their way to their second audition for AKB0048. For that matter, neither does AKB0048 itself have any qualm doing the same thing when rescuing Nagisa and company!
  • Brainwashed: The group is certain that DES brainwashing tactics are at least partly responsible for the people of Akibastar hating them after they were driven off the planet. For their part, the DES believe that the songs of AKB0048 brainwash those who hear them and use unmanned drone robots to prevent it.
  • Breather Episode: Right after the episodes where Akibastar fall to the DES, Yuko disappears in an explosion, Miichan is revealed as The Mole, and the group only barely escapes all that with their lives we get the episode where everyone is relatively safe, the girls get the chance to offer each other some moral support, Suzuko gets high on shrooms, Orine makes a cute little critter friend, and everyone gets to dance and sing with giant bouncing gorilla-bear monsters.
  • Bridge Bunnies: A trio of unnamed young women who operate the Katyusha and do all the usual readings and status updates.
  • Call-Back:
    • When they first meet on their way to their auditions, Sonata autographs Suzuko's soda can with the explanation that it would be worth a lot of money when she became a AKB0048 member. Later Nagisa asks Suzuko who she's a fan of and Suzuko holds up the old can and says she's a supporter of Sonati as an "early investment".
    • An early episode shows that Mimori answers all her fan mail and writes back to every letter sender. During her succession concert her fans brought lights and organized themselves so that glow spelled out "Thank You for the Letters!" from Mimori's vantage point, causing her voice to crack a little as she choked back her emotional tears.
    • When Makoto experiences a crisis of confidence after she botched an infiltration mission, a DES soldier and secret fan named Higashino inspires and helps her, only to stay behind to buy her time to escape. He's seen at the very end, as a member of the WOTA and riding atop a Mokoto-themed LAS.
  • Casting Gag:
    • EVERY single one of the Understudies is voice acted, at least in the Japanese version, by active and former members of the REAL AKB48 group.
    • Also semi-averted in one way. They didn't have Chieri Sono or Mimori Kishida voiced by the same person as they become in AKB0048. And Acchan didn't voice Nagisa either...
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Thanks to the dualium, or in 0048's case, the Kirara Drive, traveling from star system to star system is about as difficult as a plane ride from one part of a country to another.
  • Celebrity Toons: A bit of a subversion in that the actual AKB48 members don't appear in the shownote , instead talking about future successors to both the group and the members' individual names.
  • Conveniently Close Planet: The group makes a random jump while fleeing from the DES after being driven off Akibastar and come out right on top of a perfectly inhabitable world where they can rest and repair.
  • Cool Airship: That also serves as a mobile stage platform and an aircraft carrier!
  • Costume-Test Montage: After learning that they will be participating in a hand-shaking event the trainees go off to buy new clothes to look good. Their selections range from the average, the risque, and the downright bizarre.
  • Culture Police: The Destroy Entertainment Solders, or DES. As the name suggests, any entertainment driven media is targeted for destruction. Anti-entertainment radicals are also mentioned. And it is to serve the cause of a bunch of corporations who wants to control the monopoly on Faster-Than-Light Travel.
  • Crapsack Worlds: Those worlds under the Entertainment Ban. When the Culture Police fires live ammo at both the idols and their audience, you know the planet has gone to the gutter. Comparisons can be drawn between the government in this anime and totalitarian governments both real and fictional. Nagisa's father won't be out of place working for the Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four. In fact, Nagisa's class has an off-color Union Jack on the front wall. Makes you wonder whether the people involved actually read the book.
  • Descriptivestar: The word preceding "-star" in a planet's name will probably give you an indication of what that world is like. Some are obvious, like Tundrastar being an ice world. Others are more subtle, like Akibastar being named after the city of Akihabara, where the Real Life AKB48 is headquartered.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The series received a mobile game called AKB0048 Galaxy Cinderella, produced by Namco Bandai... who also makes another very popular idol-training mobile game called The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls.
  • Dodgeball Is Hell: The girls on the team opposite of Kanata feel this way during a broadcasted game between idols, due to how good a player she is. Mimori rallies her wavering team and it turns out their fears were misplaced since the rest of Kanata's team sucked hard and lost.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The 77th Generation girls minus Chieri infiltrate a DGTO asteroid base to find out why so many officials and corporate bigwigs are gathering and go in dressed as custodians.
    • Disguised in Drag: Problem is, they were supposed to be boy custodians and thus keep addressing each other as "dude" and "bro" to keep up the charade.
  • Dystopian Edict: The Entertainment Ban which prohibits all forms of frivolous media. How dystopian a planet is, is reflected by how strictly they enforce the ban. Akibastar doesn't have it at all and looks like a lively and healthy city. Tundrastar enforces it rigidly and the first thing the group notices while waiting in a bread line is how lifeless and unhappy everyone is.
  • Earth That Was: In episode 25, it is explained the original AKB48 was born in Akihabara, Japan, before Earth was laid to waste.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The World Over Technology Association, aka WOTA.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At the very beginning of the series, Nagisa starts wearing a green scrunchie on one side of her head. All known successors to Atsuko Maeda have some kind of hair accessory on that side of her head. By the end of the series, This includes Nagisa herself, the 14th Atsuko Maeda...
    • On their day off, Yuko explains to Nagisa and Chieri that all the idols who achieved the Center Nova position mysteriously disappear. While throwing out ideas as to why and how she mentions offhandedly that the last Minami Minegishi had been seen wandering Akibastar. Sure enough, she turns up alive and well as their photographer in disguise.
  • The Future: Of the Space Opera variation. Taking place in the year 0048, it's features a space where people have conquered space traveling, managed to live on various different planets with ease, and the technology have become so advanced from hologram cellphones, to spaceship-like trains, mechas and also spaceships that can also fuction as a stage for AKB0048. On the other side of stuff however, music and many forms of entertaintment have been considered banned, and the iron gloved rule of the DES means that any planets are into a cold steeled no music dictation.
  • Grand Finale: Nagisa becomes Acchan the 14th and Chieri becomes the Center Nova, all in one episode. It doesn't get grander than that.
  • Hakuna Matata: The song, "Uhho Uhhoho", is just that, a song about forgetting worries and not letting life get the better of you. While sung to the pack of angry fungi to calm them down, it applies just as much to the singers who were still smarting over losing Yuko and being forced to flee Akibastar.
  • Heart Symbol: Every member of the AKB0048 has a heart shaped shine in their hair and in their eyes as well. This feature in particular seems to be a manifestation of the potential of a girl to be a future Successor, as it shows up the young Lancastar girls after they witness their first concert. It happens again to another set of young girls after they see their first 00 performance as well.
    • Former members have diamonds instead. Justified by the fact that there are tons of characters, makes it easier for people to just identify who is in and who isn't.
  • Hero Secret Service: The WOTA Brigade. Shall DES force raid an AKB0048 concert, they will fight back for their idols' sake. And they aren't some ragtag militia, they are armed with Humongous Mecha and Macross Missile Massacre.
  • High Turnover Rate: Some of the Successors don't last very long compared to others, judging by the generations of the current set. While the average indicates most of the Successors are around the 8th generation of their names, the last Acchan was the 13th! And by the end, they're on Acchan the 14th.
  • Hit So Hard, the Calendar Felt It: The war in the backstory started some time in the 21st Century. By the time it was done, Earth was rendered uninhabitable, prompting quick space colonization and the adoption of the Star Calendar. Coincidentally, the story starts in the year 0048.
  • Hologram: The Successors display giant hologram versions of themselves during performances so that the whole audience can see them. On a more individual basis, the futuristic phones the girls have all have holographic projection screens.
  • Hostile Show Take Over: What was supposed to be a high profile show trial to sentence captured 0048 members Yukirin, Chieri, and Sonata turns into a concert/rescue as the rest of the group pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment. Yuka and Orine even take the time to act as newscasters for the camera and promote AKB0048.
  • Humongous Mecha: Both AKB0048 and the DES have mechs. Those mechs can fight in outer space. And then episode 6 reveals the WOTA, an otaku group that has their own colorfully decorated mechs, who assist Sae.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The highly trained elite DES soldiers who have mecha suits and a huge numerical advantage can't seem to hit a handful of idols who are busy singing and dancing. Possibly justified as it's revealed that Papa Sono and the D.G.T.O. are using AKB0048 for their own sinister purposes, and the fact that they believe the idols use mind control, so instead of soldiers they tend to send unmanned mechs after the girls.
  • Instant Awesome: Just Add Mecha!: When riot police or other ground forces can't handle the job DES brings out the LAS, the Live Assault Suits. Fortunately AKB0048 helped themselves to a few of the enemy's LAS some time ago and thus fight and fly in mechas just as often.
  • Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: In an attempt to catch up to Yuko and Chieri, the popular candidates for Center Nova and Succession, Nagisa begins imitating Yuko's dancing style during rehearsal. Not impressed with her copycat, Yuko interrupts a rehearsal session to shout at Nagisa (and Chieri for a different reason) and call her out on her lackluster performance. Ushiyama then takes Nagisa aside and explains to her that stiffly mimicking Yuko isn't going to make her better.
  • Itasha: The WOTA mechs all have gaudy 00-themed paintjobs.
  • Last Episode Theme Reprise: In the first season, the Understudies sing both their opening and ending theme songs. The latter is actually considered their special song in-universe, while the former is actually a plot point when it causes the whole group to shine in the same manner Center Novas do before they disappear that Mikako starts begging them to stop singing!
    • In Next Stage the new ending is performed to get the DES ground forces to stop fighting and triggers Chieri's ascension to the Center Nova position. The original opening theme makes a second comeback as the final song that unites the power of No Name and forces the DES forces out of the system.
  • Kangaroo Court: Chieri, Sonata, and Yukirin find themselves in one after being captured by the DES in the first episode of season 2 which consists of almost nothing but blasting them for their alleged offenses. They are then sentenced, for the crime of "disturbing the heart", to almost half a century in prison. Fortunately, they're rescued by the rest of 0048 before they could be thrown into prison.
  • Laser Blade: The micsabers - microphones with laser swords springing from the bottom, as Nagisa found out when she nearly sliced her own head off.
  • Legacy Character: Individual member names in Real Life AKB48 have become titles (which also doubles as Nom de Guerre).
    • Special mention goes to Tomomi the 11th, whose family has invoked Generation Xerox to better pull this off for ten generations in a row.
  • Living Prop: You could be forgiven for not realizing there are 18 successors and not just eight since the other ten have no role in the story, no voices, and literally only show up when they need to fill in chairs. Most of the 76th generation qualifies as well.
  • Loud of War: The inevitable result of being a band of rogue singers who flaunt the law and are responded to with violence. While they do actually fight when confronted with opposition, the group while continue playing music and singing just to stick it to their enemies.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Narmtacularly, the missile has the "No Idol" sign on their head. This is from a studio that animated Macross Frontiernote .
    • The WOTA brigade in episode 6 deploys this with fingerheld glowstick missiles.
  • Meaningful Rename: Trainees inherit the names of the original AKB48 members they were chosen to succeed. And they're chosen by the Kirara based on how close their souls resonate with one of the original members.
  • Mega-Corp: The Deep Galaxy Trade Operation (or "DGTO" for short) who provides the DES with the weapons they needs in order to enforce it's FTL monopoly.
  • Mood Whiplash: While previous encounters with AKB0048 had already proven the job was dangerous, the combat training in episode 3 was portrayed more as humorous than dangerous up until the trainees were thrown into an actual battle again DES, complete with explosions, cannon fire, and bodies being thrown into the air like dolls. Whiplashes again after it's revealed to all be fake and a Secret Test of Character. All the girls are fine, save for a few broken bones.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The above mention micsabers, and Takamina's hair bow, which doubles as a tazer.
  • Music Soothes the Savage Beast: How else would a group of idols deal with a herd of giant wild monsters who think they're being hunted?
    Sayaka: We're not dealing with humans here, of course our words won't get through to them. But we have our song!
  • New Season, New Name: Each episode is called a stage so the second season is called, appropriately enough, AKB0048 Next Stage.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Only a few of the main cast members have acted in anime before this. However, they can definitely sing.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: How many series can claim that the only confirmed death in the entire series, considering the amount of space battles, was ONE person, and that was due to an assassination?
  • No New Fashions in the Future: The fashions of the next century are suspiciously similar to the ones worn today. And by "suspiciously similar" that is to say "exactly alike". Some of the clothes worn by the girls are actually real life outfits of AKB48 members, which is justified by AKB0048 trying to emulate their predecessors as much as possible.
  • Our Showers Are Different: The Katyusha has what looks like futuristic pod showers for the girls to refresh themselves after a hard day of practice, but then it turns out they A) Dispense water just like regular showers and B) Are all broken and spew out rust until you screw around with the handles a bit. Apparently plumbing maintenance isn't high on Tsubasa's budget list.
  • The Plan: Chieri's father is using footage of AKB's exploits to study the Kirara Effect.
  • Recycled Animation: The routine for "Beginner" is reused later in the series, which could be excused since a dance routine isn't supposed to change but they used the exact same cuts and camera angles. Sae's cockpit scene is repeated at least three times, with one instance showing it upside down for a variation in space.
  • Red Herring Mole: Chieri. Despite her aloof behavior, distance from others, and knowledge that her company created the weapons that the DES were using, she is not a DES spy.
  • Replacement Scrappy: invoked Defying this is the crux of episode 6.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Kirara; floating, glowing, baseball-sized creatures that come in a variety of colors whose only features are a pair of beady black eyes.
    • The Funghis before they grow up.
  • Running Gag: Everytime Tsubasa shows up in front of fans, she's greeted with shouts of "Mariko-sama!", much to her consternation. Tsubasa was the former Mariko Shinoda, and graduated after Acchan's disappearance to become AKB0048's manager.
  • Secret Test of Character: The idol trainees' first live firefight against the DES is in fact a mock battle designed to weed out girls who can't handle the chaos of the battlefield, complete with paint used as bullets.
  • Serious Business: Considering idol business is labelled an act of terrorism...
  • Shout-Out:
    • The katakana for the name of Nagisa's home planet can be rendered "Ranka Star", though it's officially spelled "Lancastar".
    • The DES Ace in Episode 8, who splashes Takamina, has a Skull emblem, another shout out to Macross note .
    • The English dub gives Sonata this little gem after infiltrating a DES base and taking down some soldiers:
    • Visually, the Flying Get is very similar to the Gekko from Eureka Seven.
  • Shown Their Work: There's a lot of little touches that diehard fans will appreciate. For example:
    • Chieri's outfit in her Episode 7 flashback was previously worn by Yuko Oshima for a concert.
    • Kanata's line of following Takamina to the ends of the universe ("Takamina ni tsuite ikimasu!") was also the title of a tribute concert to Takamina... that was supposed to take place in March 2011. The Sendai quake put an end to that.
    • They use a lot of the choreography from AKB48's stage shows when they're on a proper stage.
    • The battleship Katyusha is named after the AKB single Everyday, Katyusha; while the Flying Get is named after the single of the same name.
    • On their first appearance on stage, the successors sing "Aitakatta". It was AKB's first major single.
  • Single-Biome Planet: If their names are anything to go by, most of the planets shown are this. Tundrastar, for example is an ice world and it's mentioned that Kanata and Sonata are from a desert world, Saharastar. Akibastar, with the exception of the underground city, is a total wasteland as the result of war.
  • Space Is Noisy: While actual music is shown to be coming from speakers, the roar of engines or the sound of lasers and explosions goes through space just fine.
  • Space Marine: The elite DES soldiers who comb the ship for AKB candidates. Clad in Power Armor, they are really rank and file above their planet-bound counterpart. They are prone to violence. They will open fire at little girls. Yes, that's as terrifying as it sounds.
  • Space Opera: Or perhaps it should be called a "Space Idol Show" instead?
  • The Spartan Way: Idol training is pretty brutal. Not only do the idol trainees have to learn to sing and dance, but they must undergo combat and pilot training to defend against DES attacks, culminating in a brutal mock battle against DES forces.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Warhammer 40,000. Major spoiler! The Center Nova phenomenon is basically a daemonic ascension: the person become an immortal entity inside the galactic collective consciousness, and able to magically influence people in the real space. Furthermore, said ascended person become able to manipulate warp transport and goes through solid. But instead of creating vicious cycle of violence and hate like Chaos cults, AKB0048 instead focus on making the world a pleasant place. Mari Okada wrote most of the script, and the 'entities of collective consciousness' is also used in another anime in which she wrote the script: Black★Rock Shooter.
  • Stealth Pun: In episode 3 the rifles used during training are AK47s.
  • Storming the Castle: The entire AKB group storms one of the most heavily fortified Anti-Entertainment planets in order to rescue Chieri, Sonata, and Yukirin.
  • Stylish Protection Gear: The group's combat uniforms serve as body armor, though they don't look like it. At one point, Chieri stops a bullet with her sleeve.
  • Technical Pacifist: The DES practice this to a certain extent as they aim to capture Idols while the Idols and WOTA practice it completely with even their guns being set on stun and tranquilize.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Frequently invoked by 00 members. Minami even starts playing music during the invasion of Akibastar, because AKB shines the brightest at concerts.
  • Touched by Kirara: The real meaning of being a Center Nova. They retain existence as dimensional apparition, which may or may not be an awful thing.
  • Training from Hell: Episode 3 reveals that standard idol training involves some serious heavy combat programs.
    • Training Montage: Including swordsmanship, hand-to-hand against robots, rifle practice, Zero G maneuver training, and broken showers.
  • Underground City: The part of Akibastar we see is actually underground, the sky is actually a projection from the domed ceiling whose giant frameworks are clearly visible from below. The surface of the planet was ravaged by war, making it dark and desolate.
    • Elaborate Underground Base: And even deeper than that is the temple under the AKB0048 stage where Tsubasa communicates with Sensei Sensei.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The entire population of Akibastar, after AKB is forced to retreat when DES attacks. Admittedly, considering the DES uses brainwashing and propaganda, it's understandable why.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The DGTO's Modus Operandi for banning entertainment is specifically this. They control the resource Dualium which allows FTL, idols attract Kirara which also produces FTL travel power. They started a war to justify that.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: The DGTO resorts to forced child labor in order to take care of all of the mundane chores in its bases.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Episode 20, where Mimori becomes Mariko the 8th and Mikako is revealed as a mole working for Mr. Sono. Also, after finally figuring out the conditions to initiate a Center Nova effect, Mr. Sono orders the DES fleet to mobilize and attack Akibastar.
    • Episode 21, where DES attacks Akibastar in full force, wrecking much of the city in the process. In order to fight them off, Yuko becomes the next Center Nova but disappears (read: self destructed) soon after.
    • Episode 24, where Chieri is on the verge of reconciling with her father, until he is assassinated by a sniper.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never do find out who assassinated Chieri's father. However, this is lampshaded by Tsubasa pointing out that if the D.G.T.O. were responsible for it, then the full truth will probably never be known.
  • World of Action Girls/World of Badass: Asskicking idols and their fans.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The eponymous group, for the crime of "disturbing the heart". They really are armed fighters with a political message to broadcast, but they aren't firing at anyone unless they are attacked first. Even then they only deal in non-lethal damage.