idols

The business of The Idolm@ster SideM, Episode of Jupiter

“We aren’t singing so we can be used by you!”

-Touma Amagase to President Kuroi (flashback), The Idolm@ster: SideM, Episode 00

A minute into the pre-premiere episode of The Idolm@ster: SideM, I wondered why the venue pictured was so small. The three-man group of Jupiter is a well-known Idolm@ster commodity, after all. Presumably, they’re not even the stars of the SideM anime.

Instead, Jupiter are the end goal at the proverbial finish line for SideM‘s burgeoning trainees. These young men should be filling arenas like 765 Productions do later in this episode — or at least larger concert venues like the one in The Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls“Onegai Cinderella” performance — not performing in a hole-in-the-wall place that looks to be slightly larger than the average bar.

Another minute later, I quickly realized that the venue’s comparatively small size was the point of the entire opening. 

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[Four] When the outro ends, the intro begins to play, onto the next song — Aikatsu! Stars

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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.”

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Girlish Number’s Chitose Karasuma as the Modern-day Lina Lamont

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“Lina. She can’t act. She can’t sing. She can’t dance. A triple threat.”

-Cosmo Brown, Singin’ in the Rain

In 1952, the movie musical Singin’ in the Rain posed an interesting question: what would happen if a wildly successful and beautiful leading lady possessed a voice that would send audience members running in the opposite direction of the silver screen?

Set in 1927, Singin’ in the Rain takes place during the rise of sound in film and Warner Bros’. The Jazz Singer. It follows a movie studio making the painful process of milking their two most bankable silent film stars — Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) — in the brave new world of “talkies.” This premise is played for laughs, with Lina’s blithe ignorance stealing the show. Don Lockwood is Gene Kelly so naturally he adapts, able to sing well enough and dance spectacularly, but Lina has a shrill, screeching timbre that reaches dog whistle frequencies. Naturally, she believes that she’s brilliant at all things. Her gorgeous face and fanbase are not moneymakers that the studio wants to lose, so they secretly enlist talented newbie, and Don’s love interest, Kathy Selden, to dub over Lina’s voice lines and songs. Hilarity ensues.

While Singin’ in the Rain isn’t nearly as incisive of Hollywood as a film like All About Eve, its premise has more depth than a hearty chuckle at Lina’s expense. Lina is pretty, and her face makes the fictitious Monumental Pictures a tremendous amount of money, to the point where she is a household name. Her egotistical personality is cultivated by the studio catering to her directly because she is so beautiful. The lack of acting ability can be dealt with, so long as nothing damages her moneymaking face, and her voice wasn’t a problem until she was actually required to speak and sing.

We don’t yet know if Chitose Karasuma’s dancing is anything special, but Girlish Number has already made it clear that she has no natural voice acting talent, and also isn’t particularly good at singing. She’s at least, by Singin’ in the Rain‘s standards, a double threat.

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Summer Stock: Love Live! Sunshine

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“In this moment, I had the greatest epiphany!”

-Honoka Kousaka, Love Live!, Episode 1

Unlike The Idolm@ster, which already had a legion of fans from the original arcade game prior to the anime’s 2011 debut or the 2012 series AKB0048, which drew on the pre-existing AKB48 fanbase, Love Live! was still a relatively new multimedia project when the anime aired in early 2013.

Love Live! has always operated on a few different conceits than other idol series, even back in its first season when it was this weird and corny thing with janky computer generated animation. The Idolm@ster poked a bit at the exhausting lifestyle of an idol and AKB0048 prodded at the creepiness of it all while both sold their respective products and tie-ins, banking on the fact that audiences would resonate with one or two girls — or in the peculiar case of AKB0048, support them because of their real-life counterparts.

Meanwhile, Love Live! wants to charm you from the get-go, in the same vein of a hammy musical production. The latest iteration of the series, Love Live! Sunshine, is no different.

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Freyja Wion the First: Walkure and AKB0048

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In the wake of Macross Delta‘s spring debut a rush to identify its spiritual predecessor has cropped up. While a line of progression can be drawn from Super Dimension Fortress Macross‘s Lynn Minmay to Macross 7‘s Fire Bomber, it’s reframed a bit with the advent of Delta‘s Walkure: a highly-specialized military tactical unit. Song in Delta is unabashedly weaponized, not used as a surprisingly convenient source of confusion, or a reckless and unsolicited effort.

One of Macross creator Shoji Kawamori’s properties between Macross Frontier and Delta was AKB0048 — for all intents and purposes, a Macross series without variable fighters, solely focused on idol competition and wielding music as a weapon.

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