Leadership, Passion, and Idol Activities: Aikatsu Episode 32

Aikatsu!, Ichigo Hoshimiya, idol activities

“I just really like watching people have fun. Like when someone gobbles down a delicious meal I made for them, or when I just get to watch someone I’ve never met having a great time –– I really love that. Yeah, so when I watch Haru-nyan, it makes me really happy. It’s like, I don’t know, she’s just having so much fun, y’know?”

-Tsuruya, The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya, page 94

One of the most beautiful things that you will ever have the pleasure of seeing is someone doing what they love.

The idol anime Aikatsu! is, conceptually speaking, a weekly 20-minute commercial for a children’s card game. It has yet to sell me on picking up collectible idol fashion trading cards, however, it has me sold on everything else: soundtrack, musical performances, and most importantly, a wonderful attention to its characters.

Episode 32 shows the series’ lead, and budding idol, Ichigo Hoshimiya struggling with a well-worn problem. She has stretched herself too thinly by agreeing to simultaneous engagements that are each important to her future career. Naturally, Ichigo decides to tackle them both on her own in spite of the fact that it is apparent she won’t be able to succeed without help. Following this problem to its logical conclusion, Ichigo realizes that she’ll need to rely on her friends’ help in order to overcome this particular obstacle. The plot events leading up to Ichigo’s realization, and her recognition that she will have to trust in and rely on her friends, are all straightforward. It’s the way the series handles them in terms of Ichigo’s emotional development as a character that is exemplary.

“For everyone to be smiling. The reason I chose you was because I was certain that you would be able to deliver that wish to everyone.”

-Fashion designer Asuka Amahane to Ichigo Hoshimiya, Aikatsu! episode 32

The reasoning behind Ichigo’s personality as a lead character is very sound from a marketing standpoint. She’s not technically the best at singing or dancing, nor is she prodigious like her own personal idol, Mizuki Kanzaki. Just as the cards shown in each episode are colorful and varied to catch the audience’s fancy, Ichigo herself is an approachable, hard-working, and charming character with relatable flaws in order to appeal to a wide audience. However, the enthusiastic attitude with which Ichigo tackles every situation that Aikatsu! throws at her is infectious. She is shown to be truly enjoying everything she is doing within the series week after week, and her passion for being an idol touches all other characters that she happens to interact with. Naturally, in spite of her lack of excellence in any one aspect of her chosen career path, she ends up leading her group of friends simply by existing as her passionate self.

“It’s already been decided. Without getting caught up in anything else, unflinchingly pursuing what she wants to do most, what seems most interesting…that may be something only Honoka can do.”

-Umi Sonoda on who will be the leader of their idol group, Love Live! episode six.

Love Live!, another recent idol series, also addresses this when the lead group of girls are forced to think of who will be the center, and therefore default leader, of their newly-formed high school idol group. The realization that it will be the excitable Honoka Kousaka is a bit more ham-fisted than the way Aikatsu! presents Ichigo’s latent leadership qualities; however, both series set out to show their audiences how the manner in which their leads choose to set the pace for their respective groups is decidedly off-center. Rather than purposefully lead by example, or out of a sense of duty, neither character seems overly-concerned with leading at all. In the case of Honoka, she is completely unaware that the others have recognized her as the leader, and her informal appointment by her peers is inspired by the way she recklessly charges into nearly every situation with overwhelming enthusiasm.

Ichigo differs from Honoka in that she is a bit more subdued but far more passionate. Driven by her sheer enjoyment of being an idol, Ichigo strives to be the best that she can be. More importantly, whether through her close friends Aoi Kiriya and Ran Shibuki, her role model Mizuka Kanzaki, or top fashion designer Asuka Amahane, Aikatsu! chooses to continuously reiterate that Ichigo’s success comes not only from hard work but her passion. Her love inspires others to strive for equivalent or greater heights, and it is in this way that Aikatsu! proves, time and again, how excellent of a leader someone like Ichigo can be. Like Tsuruya, they (and us by extension) resonate with just how much fun Ichigo has while doing what she loves.

Ichigo Hoshimiya may simply be a character in a 20-minute commercial for a trading card game, but my goodness if she isn’t genuinely a joy to watch each and every week.

5 comments

  1. Wow, I didn’t know anyone else watching Aikatsu! And I think you’ve nailed what I liked about this anime. Yeah, it’s a commercial for a card game I don’t play, but there are some really good messages in it and it’s the kind of wholesome anime I’d show to my kid.

    To be honest, though, I did enjoy Love Live a teensy but more than Aikatsu, but that could just be because Love Live was a bit more streamlined and a bit less repetitive. Still, your comparison between Honoka and Ichigo made me think a little. Ichigo’s frankly adorable and I love her voice actress. I think, to me, she comes across as more genuine than Honoka ever did, and I think that was the point of your post.

    I wanted to comment because the words at the top of the post really resonated with me. It IS a lot of fun watching other people have fun. And I think that’s why this post made me smile a lot, even if it was about about an obscure little kid’s show.

    1. I have a strong affinity for Aikatsu! (much more so than my feelings towards Love Live! although I certainly enjoyed that as well) due to its amazing character development. The nuance with which it pays attention to its own characters and their relationships with each other was definitely not something I expected to see. I definitely think that Ichigo comes across as far more genuine; however, that’s probably something that can be chalked up to the fact that she has chosen the title of idol singer as a career rather than something fun to do with her friends. The innate passion that she has for being an idol begets having fun with her friends, whereas Honoka is the exact opposite (by wanting to have fun with her friends first and foremost while being a successful idol is, at best, a secondary personal goal).

      For a bit more disclosure, I am a painter. I love painting and I truly believe that one is at their most beautiful when they are doing something that they are passionate about. Those are the things I love to paint. ^ ^

      Thanks for the lovely comment.

  2. After 32 episodes, there’s just so much that one could talk about regarding Aikatsu without ever mentioning the show as anything remotely close to being just a card game commercial. It has a remarkably large “main” cast that treats every single character as more than just a quirky personality that makes Ichigo stand out. It’s actually because every single character is explored in different angles, and experience their own idol activities in their own unique ways (and more interesting still, to varying degrees of success) that make them stand out in their own way, allowing for Ichigo’s straightforward approach to her own goals as an idol all the more fascinating when you see her progress the way she does. Each character is, despite their apparent strengths and weaknesses, is quite aware of where Ichigo’s ceiling lies, and even though they may or may not have realized what their own limitations are, they nonetheless continue to support Ichigo and at the same time chase her, because she brings out the best in everyone.

    When you’re around people who only want the best for people, and simply love what they do, you can’t help but want to follow their lead, which is why their steadfast support for Ichigo is paying off dividends for both sides. Ichigo is catapaulting herself towards superstardom, and the other girls are tagging along for the ride and going places where they wouldn’t otherwise reach if they were simply alone. It’s a strange little hierarchy that you see a lot in other anime and manga, specifically shonen series where there’s a clear lead character who will save the world; it’s just remarkably strange and amazing to see the same thing happen in an idol anime of all places.

    Love love love love LOVE this post, Em. Keep it up, You’re a joy to read each week.

    1. It’s a joy to write each week, so thank you. ^ ^ (It’s also a joy to draw each week; however, with my tablet stylus in Boston, that has been impossible lately…)

      Ichigo’s affect on her friends reminds me of a quote from the manga Twin Spica (which you should read, by the way), that goes like this, “Asumi’s always looking up at the sky, right? Anyone who’s with her ends up looking up too. You will too, I bet.”

      When anyone dares to look at the sky with such passion, they naturally inspire others around them to do the same. In the case of Twin Spica, it’s not the same sky, as Asumi’s dream eventually differs from those that her friends have; however, her continued persistence in pursuit of her own dream inspires all around her to achieve success however they are able to.

      Within Aikatsu! one sees the same thing occur with Mizuki Kanzaki and the people she ends up inspiring. For Mizuki, she is so prodigious that it’s hard for her to find worthy partners. Even Ichigo, whom Mizuki appears to be grooming as a partner or successor, is so very far behind from where Mizuki is. In spite of this, Ichigo continues to be very infrequently discouraged, instead choosing to focus on how much she loves being an idol, and incorporating that in to her hard work. Additionally, I’m interested to see if Mizuki’s former partners, who we were recently introduced to in episode 33, have progressed enough to impress Mizuki. With their insistence that they were so far behind Mizuki when all four of them initially entered Starlight Academy, I’m curious to see how they’ve developed simply by being inspired or pushed, by Mizuki’s efforts.

      Thanks for the comment, as always!

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