I’ve written a few times on this blog about Aikatsu! but not nearly as much as I should have. Aikatsu! is an utterly charming children’s series — far more than a vehicle for selling an idol card game should be.
With a fitting end to Akari Oozora’s emotional narrative, the regular franchise of Aikatsu! ended this past March after four seasons. Succeeding it was a near-impossible task. The spin-off sequel, Aikatsu! Stars, with a brand new cast of idol hopefuls in a stricter, boarding school setting was met with general disinterest compared to previous seasons.
Yet, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of Aikatsu! Stars just as much, if not more so, than the original franchise, and not solely for its amazing ending song, “Episode Solo.”
The episode that cemented my appreciation for Aikatsu! Stars is the simple and unassuming Episode 4, where lead Yume Nijino has to work backstage preparing for an upcoming concert.
In the original Aikatsu!, Ichigo Hoshimiya is a prodigious talent. Her successor, Akari Oozora, works her way up through the ranks from nothing — she’s first introduced as an Ichigo superfan who has to attend aikatsu bootcamp in order to catch up to her peers.
By contrast, Yume is a bit of a slob. She’s presented as a girl with extraordinary talent from her first performance, but doesn’t know how to make the most of her abilities. She constantly tries to take shortcuts. She spaces out in and out of class. She double-fists bagel sandwiches while on lunch break.
These qualities help make Yume sometimes obnoxious, but also endearing. Deep down, she does care about her own career as well as the careers of her closest friends. She proves to be a caring and hard-working person, albeit a selfish and lazy one at times. Yume is a very relatable character, set in an Aikatsu! universe where her school’s stars seem both distant but their places attainable — unlike the complete domination of Mizuki Kanzaki in Aikatsu!.
Although Stars was subject to more criticism for being too different than the original Aikatsu!, I’ve thoroughly appreciated my time with Stars, and wish that I had more time to catch up — right now I’m still on Episode 19. As the ending song says, when one song ends, the next immediately begins, and I can’t think of better successors to the spirit of Aikatsu! than Yume and Aikatsu! Stars.