This is an idol anime.
I’ve been watching Aikatsu, Sunrise’s multimedia ploy to part elementary school girls with their lunch money. With more than 60 episodes, it’s become my full-length, four-cour anime to complete for this year. I’m 14 episodes in, and it’s been a fun ride so far.
I picked Aikatsu up in the middle of Wake Up Girls, another idol anime. To adopt a dichotomy from mecha anime, Aikatsu is about super idols in contrast to Wake Up Girls’ real idols. WUG is an underdog plot about a ragtag group of novice idols led by a former top idol, and the tone of the show aims for realism, exposing the darker underbelly of the idol industry. Aikatsu, however, is about a girl trying to be the best idol she could be in a world where idols are the greatest thing ever.
Now that doesn’t sound much, so here’s the kicker: the main character, Ichigo (along with her friend Aoi) are ordinary girls who apply to a prestigious school solely for training idols. They get accepted, which means that they are walking upon the same ground as the girls they look up to. The start of the show is like a fairy tale, but it’s only the beginning: the girls’ wishes are yet to be fulfilled in the slightest. The message is clear–work hard enough and you can stand toe-to-toe with the people you admire.
It’s unabashedly optimistic, even for a kids’ show. I need more of this in my life–since this is a long anime, it can afford to be decompressed in its storytelling. I love watching anime that take their time to endear their characters to their audiences–this is western TV’s entire M.O., but since I don’t watch western TV at all, I can only turn to anime. Patlabor TV is my all-time favorite of the format, but Aikatsu might seriously contend for that spot as I continue to dig deeper.
Untouched by cynicism or the muddy compromise of the real world, Aikatsu presents an ideal world where idols can thrive by simply working hard and reveling in their work. It’s fascinating because the anime is only one facet of the franchise–there is the Aikatsu arcade game, which the show is essentially an advertisement for. The jaded fan in me would think that such a tie-in would compromise the show’s quality, but the writing is solid fun that keeps the show a worthwhile product on its own.