Aniwords – Why Like Idol Anime?

This week’s Aniwords is basically a love letter to idol anime—a favorite anime genre of mine that you’re probably aware of if you’ve been following me for any length of time (especially on Twitter, where my idol-related convulsions are more…unfiltered than they are on here). The column’s really, officially started now, which is both exciting and a little bit scary!

Love Live!

Here’s the link!

In case you’ve missed them in the past, I’ve actually done some writing on idol anime.

My feelings on these two shows informed quite a lot of what I wrote in the editorial and I’m quite happy with both of them—check ’em out if you’d like!

I’m still working on figuring out some more substantial content I can offer; if you guys have any ideas of Aniwords related stuff you’d like to see me add to these posts every week, let me know!

11 thoughts on “Aniwords – Why Like Idol Anime?

  1. This is something that has me annoyed more so than before! This might be a two / three / four ? part question which has been gone over but with more resources available it kinda bugs me!

    Lately some Anime bloggers / Pro Reviewers diss anime that have an excellent adaption from the manga > Let me clarify they get ripped if they stray from the source but when they follow the manga they get ripped if it’s part of building the story . I want to scream knowing what is going on and the reviewer how essential it is to the story! I know people are busy but if doing like 4 or 5 shows to review don’t you think they should know what the deal is!

    Next part I recently saw a big summer preview and they dissed a show just reading like an ANN / MAL synopois which can be so far off ! Really especially when people who read the manga say something else! Happens more than you think! Ronja / Re- Kan for e.g.

    So when fans disagree with a review / not rabid fanbase ( but actual subjective viewers ) and the reviewer gets ripped and offended ( For valid fan reasons ) aren’t they subject to honest fans view ! Sometimes it seems like a chore for them and if dont like the anime drop it donr make it a vendetta ( In the same stroke fans gets annoying too a lot)


  2. Link seems to broken there, bless.

    I’ve found and read the piece, in any case. I liked SDF Macross and Perfect Blue a lot, but they’re not really the kind of stuff you discussed there I guess. There are one or two significant barriers that prevented me from ever prioritizing to watch pure idol show, but reading your take makes me want to sample one of them someday…I love passion-focused stories and a bunch of J-Pop songs.

    (also, at first I thought your last paragraph asked for suggestions on future Aniword themes, but upon re-reading that apparently you wanted to add blog-exclusive content related to the Aniword column? Something light-hearted and fun for you to do, like maybe idol rankings to go along with this week’s theme, might work).


    • Thanks for the heads up! It’s fixed now.

      Macross is pretty high up on my list due to Kawamori’s involvement. I’m pretty excited for when I eventually get around to being able to watch it.

      And yeah, I realize there are a lot of reasons not to watch idol anime—the otaku pandering subtext (sometime just regular text), the really ugly realities of the actual idol industry, the commodification that necessarily comes along with being an “ideal”…Yeah, it’s all there. I guess I just choose to focus on other stuff, because (obviously) something apart from all that connects with me at a very deep level.

      And I’m actually up for both! I trust you guys a little more for topical recommendations for the column than I do the CR readership, but yeah, I was thinking more along the lines of blog-exclusive content to accompany each column post. I like the fun and light-hearted idea. ^_^” Something relaxing, rather than stressful…


  3. This is an interesting subject. Personally, I’m neither a fan of idol anime, nor do I find them distasteful. I watched some but not others. I’m aware of the uglier side of the business, and there are some things I utterly dispise about it (especially when there’s no separation between the image and the person, which is reflected in no-boyfriend clauses).

    Anime-wise, I’m slightly uncomfortable with precisely the thing you seem to admire about it. I don’t like the unconditional and focussed enthusiasm; these shows take for granted that being an idol is a good thing, and they provide genki-armour: you can’t criticise the concept, because you make the cute little girl cry. It feels… emotionally manipulative to me. It’s easy enough to ignore while watching the show, though.

    As such, I really liked the character of Rin in the recent Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls anime; initially resisting being scouted she grows into the role, but you never have the impression that – should the carreer fail – she’d have her dream crushed.

    Cinderella Girls is also notable in turning the male producer stereotype upside down; I’m used to kind-hearted people who win over people easily but are having trouble asserting themselves. Here you have a professional introvert whose good at the practical aspects of his job, but he’s lousy at communicating with the girls.

    If you haven’t seen this one, I’d suggest you give it a try. It plays the usual formula straight, but has an unusual touch on occasion.

    Love Live… Let me just say that I tried to watch it twice, but I found myself quitting during the very first scene of the first episode, both times. Something in the presentation is turning me off, and I have no idea what it is. I feel, vaguely, that it is related to being an idol anime, but I can’t really tell. Chances aren’t good that I’ll ever watch this.

    AKB0048 was hilarious, but then it’s vintage Kawamori. I have yet to see Macross Frontier, but it’s on my list. I’ve read your piece on it now. About the motivation having little to do with performance: well, I think that comes hand in hand with the setting; if you have a dystopia, then your characters’ motivations will tie into it, especially if they’re sympathising with the revolution. Bascially, if your music is liberating people, you’ll attract idealists rather than performers. (It’s not mutually exclusive, but with story-telling imperatives, it’s harder to come up with a scenario to put performance issues as central conflicts, if you have all this freedom fighting stuff going on, too.)

    Wake Up Girls!… Ugh. I quit after an episode or two, I don’t remember. This show left a bad taste in my mouth. It comes across all serious, but then, rather than actually engaging the problems with business, they go for a cheap beware-the-selazebag massege. I haven’t seen more of the show, so I can’t talk fairly about it. Idol shows work for me, because the entire thing is ridiculous but fun. You can’t go serious and still affirm what bothers me and keep me as a viewer. I might have been unfair to the show, but I dropped that very early on, and my memories aren’t pleasant.

    One of my favourite recent idol shows would be the underappreciated and rarely mentioned Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita. I didn’t expect much from the show; I thought it was going to be the usual idol show, with a city marketing angle. But instead the show was incredibly good at portraying the semi-professional nature of a lot of local productions. The concept, here, is to use idols to market your city. The scale starts out rather small, and it’s always clear that they’re basically the poster girls for what they’re supposed to sell. But it’s a semi-small city, so quite a lot of people know each other. The scale makes an interesting difference. The small-town sentimentality is thick in this one, but it felt never suffocating to me (and I’m the miner’s canary for self-aggrandisation in self-promotion). It’s a genuine and cute show with lots of charm, I’d really like to recommend.


    • In the end, I have to agree and say that the commodification of the individual by the idol system is an awful thing, even for people who choose it. And, in most cases, it’s driven by an inhuman corporation, which makes it even worse.

      Yet, somehow, the idea of the person-as-image is a really fascinating one for me. It’s still something I’m engaging with and thinking about, though.

      Incidentally, I have a lot of new thoughts about AKB0048 after having seen the second season. And I adore the second season, whereas I merely liked the first.

      iM@s has been in my backlog for a while, but Locodol has been rec’d enough to me in the comments on this piece that I think I’ll include it, too.

      Finally, thanks for sharing your thoughts on all these different idol anime. I really do like the genre, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like hearing dissenting opinions!


      • Easiest first:

        Bear in mind that Idolm@ster is a franchise. There’s the first anime (from which you took the gif in your post), and there’s Cinderalla Girls. They’re pretty different, and you can watch them independently of each other. (There’s also Xenoglossia, which uses the Idolm@ster girls (of the first anime/game?) in a mecha show. I haven’t seen that.)
        @”Person-as-Image”: This is a difficult and complex topic. For example, I’m not sure what you mean by “commodification”. I actually don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing; I just think that it definitely becomes one when society cannot buy the image if the person’s private life diverges from it. I have that problem not only with respect to idols. For example, I don’t care if a politician who promotes traditional family values is undergoing a divorce. That’s quite simply none of my business.

        The key problem I have is the systematically schizo demands: you have to be an ideal, but you also have to be genuine. Some people cope better than others. The problem disappears in anime, because the very environment is an ideal that springs from the same source. I don’t mind that at all. However, because Wake-up Girls broke that environmental idealism it felt more deceptive than indulgent to me. I don’t know if that makes sense.

        Oh, and thanks for fixing my formatting screw-up. 🙂


  4. You talk in your column about the characters reaching for dreams and ideals. Isn’t that, in its barest essence, also what’s at the heart of most shounen anime? I wonder if that’s part of why the subgenre is so popular with guys, since it’s giving us themes that we see all the time in boy-oriented shows and can relate to, but repackaged with (usually) lots of cute girls.

    Anyway, idol stuff is not and never has been my thing – as an amateur musician and someone who strongly believes in “write and play your own music!,” the whole concept of prefabricated pop idols offends me somehow. It’s not that the songs themselves are always bad – I’ll be the first to admit that “Baby One More Time” is still one of the catchiest damn pop songs I’ve ever heard – but you have songwriters, lyricists, musicians, and sound engineers busting their butts to put a song like that together, and then Britney Spears gets all the credit and all the love for it from the public and the music press when all she’s ultimately doing is singing and dancing to other people’s work. That’s what annoys me about the whole setup. Fortunately it’s not something I really have to worry about because the genres I listen to the most (prog metal and blues) aren’t popular enough to ever invite that kind of treatment.

    That said, the one exception is that I am a Macross franchise fan from way back – to the original series, actually, since I’m old enough that I watched Robotech during its first US television run. I guess since I’ve been watching it for so long the idol singers are just part of the franchise now, and it’d be weird to have a Macross series without one. And while Minmei always annoyed me even as a kid, some of the later idols like Sheryl Nome are great characters in their own right, not just glorified pop music vehicles.


    • You make a good point re: dream & ideals, although I think maybe replacing fantasy battling adventures with pop music dreams makes the theme even more relatable and realistic seeming than it is in other shows.

      I’ve been negotiating the whole pop idol idea for a while now, including this issue you raise about the popstar not being the “artist,” per se. Sometimes I think I’m not okay with it, and sometimes I think I am. Is the end product the most important thing? If its effects are good and everyone involved is okay with it, is it okay? I dunno. It’s quite complex, I think.


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