“I wonder if you’ve realized that I change a bit every day. I’m at my most beautiful singing by your side.”
– From the insert song, “Wake Up My Music,” first featured in Aikatsu! episode 31
It is not rare for an idol show to touch upon family, particularly when said family is opposed to the heroine in question becoming an idol (hello there, AKB0048). In fact, family plays a role in nearly every idol series I’ve had the pleasure of seeing – and additionally, many magical girl series – although it’s usually to provide an obstacle for a character to overcome, much like Chihaya Kisaragi’s emotional character arc in The Idolm@ster, or the stories of both Nagisa Motomiya and Chieri Sono in AKB0048. In all three cases, family members are not present to offer support, but to give the would-be idol a reason to sing or, in the case of AKB0048, rebel against her family and become a member of a forbidden organization.
These narratives put the position of an idol as something removed from every day life. Even in the case of the school idol series, Love Live!, becoming a school idol automatically puts one in a different position as compared to the rest of the student body. The separation between family or a so-called normal school life, and being an idol is a distinct one. Likewise, the idol is all-to-often forced to sacrifice their family ties in order to become a true idol.
This is not so with the recent idol series, Aikatsu!, and I love it for that. Not only does it make the process of becoming an idol the every day life of its heroines, but it also incorporates family into that same narrative wonderfully.
“Your decision wasn’t based on something like me being an idol. I wanted you to forge your own path through life.”
-Ringo Hoshimiya to her daughter, Ichigo Hoshimiya, Aikatsu! episode 48
Aikatsu‘s leading lady, the ever-excitable Ichigo Hoshimiya, is given an idol pedigree from her mother, the enigmatic “Miya” from the famous idol duo, Masquerade. Unlike the family of Tomoyo “Tomomi” Itano of AKB0048, the Hoshimiya family is not a breeding farm for idol successors – as an aside, the Itano family offers another fascinating, if not creepy, look at the role family can play in ascending to idoldom – and Ringo Hoshimiya neglects to tell her daughter Ichigo about Masquarade until she feels that Ichigo has progressed enough on her own. As the quote above indicates, Ringo wanted Ichigo to find her own answers, rather than influencing Ichigo’s decisions directly.
Ichigo does forge her own path at Starlight Academy – a prestigious school for idols – driven by her relationship with her close friends, her admiration for the idol Mizuki Kanzaki, and continued support from her family. Known for turning her rice scoop into a microphone, a direct reference to her mother Ringo’s bento shop, Ichigo carries her family with her wherever she chooses to go. Her personality is a combination of her mother’s love of both music and food with her father’s love of adventure – Ichigo sounds exactly like her father, Taichi Hoshimiya, while recounting her adventures in America in episode 52 – and Aikatsu! makes it a point to show how traits from both of her parents are passed on, making Ichigo stronger because of them.
Where other series show friction from parental influences, especially when one of the parents is a more artistic-type traveler like Taichi Hoshimiya – Ami Mizuno‘s personal dilemma in Sailor Moon SuperS comes to mind along with the aforementioned narratives of Chihaya Kisaragi, Chieri Sono, and Nagisa Motomiya – Aikatsu! shows how familial support can manifest itself positively, allowing the heroine to grow while drawing a road map of where her personality comes from. The series never separates the every day from the act of becoming an idol, and achieves something that I had previously not seen as a viewer of idol shows: a warmth and love for family without sacrifice.
As the lyrics to the Masquerade song, “Wake Up My Music,” say, “I wonder if you’ve realized that I change a bit every day.” This is a song that Aikatsu! passes down from mother to daughter, as the latter grows into both her own personality and chosen career. It’s a personal journey that is simply lovely to watch.