Creativity springs from familiar and unlikely places. As an artist, of any medium, one can fluctuate between immediate compulsive reactions to life experiences in addition to falling back on a comfortable style or source of inspiration. In painting, and additionally while writing for this blog, there are times where I work on crafting the familiar, and other times where I see something and am suddenly compelled to produce something.
Aikatsu! is a series that assigns inspiration to each of its characters fairly neatly, while accounting for both of these sources. Main heroine Ichigo Hoshimiya is a perfect example of this. She carries with her the love and support of her mother, represented by a rice paddle from her mother’s bento shop that Ichigo often brandishes, along with her own love of food. Initially, Ichigo is influenced after attending a Mizuki Kanzaki concert, but later finds out that her mother was also an idol prior to opening the bento shop. This revelation allows her to move forward with her own idol career, now using her mother as an additional source of motivation.
The first season of Aikatsu! focused on the performance aspects of idoldom. However, with the launch of rival Dream Academy, Aikatsu!‘s second season shifts focus to the offstage personnel that make the performance happen. Kii Saegusa of Dream Academy is a producer and a performance idol. Sora Kazesawa is a fashion designer first and an idol second.
“The teachers say that’s what it is, but I don’t think about concepts at all. I just make what comes to mind.”
– Sora Kazesawa, Aikatsu!, episode 61
When the headmistress of Dream Academy tells Sora to make her own brand, Sora complies with reservations. She takes her designs seriously, but approaches the idea of fashion as a career with cautious optimism. As she mentions to Kii and Seira, she doesn’t think of specific concepts. Instead, she creates whatever comes to mind, and the labels are assigned to her articles of clothing by others who see them. For example, when Kii walks into Sora’s fashion exhibit, she immediately calls out a specific style for each piece.
“I’m actually conflicted about how I should proceed. You see, I’ve always made clothes how and when I’ve wanted to. But if I started my own brand, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’d have to keep announcing new clothes periodically. Even if I had no inspiration, I’d still have to make something because it would be my job.”
– Sora Kazesawa, Aikatsu!, episode 61
Sora’s concerns highlight the fear of any artist’s attempt to transition from art as a hobby to art as a career. When one relies on periodic and compulsive bursts, producing at their personal highest level becomes a challenge, often fraught with self-doubt. This doubt is exemplified in Sora’s personal muse, Mimi.
Mimi formerly traveled the world, creating jewelry and accessories, and meets Sora when Sora is a child in Morocco. Inspired by Mimi, Sora asks if she can try making accessories, as opposed to simply receiving them. From that day on, Sora sits beside Mimi and creates her own accessories. Their relationship is reciprocative. Sora says that Mimi’s accessories give off a kind of magic that acts as a catalyst for her own efforts while Mimi tells Sora that she is inspired by Sora’s diligence and growth. Prior to befriending Sora, Mimi had said that she was stuck in Morocco because she was afraid to open new doors. In her parting letter, Mimi cites Sora as the reason for her renewed drive and ability to move forward, leaving her with a pink flower accessory that she wears, much like Ichigo carries her rice paddle.
Recalling Mimi’s story gives Sora the strength to advance in her own career as a fashion designer. The idea of a brand is one rooted in marketing. Everything branded under a certain title in Aikatsu! ties to a specific look, and additionally a set of collectible cards to sell outside of the series. In spite of this, Aikatsu! lovingly shows Sora as an artist who will not be able to escape labels assigned from others, but instead work within them to still create something that represents her personal influences, hopefully inspiring others like Mimi inspired her.