“The normal happiness, the pleasures of a young girl, all burned away to aim for a distant twinkling.”
-Giraffe, Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight, Episode 1
In the double-feature of IDOLiSH7‘s anime debut, hapless newbie producer Tsumugi Takanashi books an outdoor venue that seats three-thousand for her rookie group, IDOLiSH7. Despite hard work handing out flyers, and trying her best to drum up interest, only nine people show up. Tsumugi tearfully apologizes, only to have all seven group members laugh and say that’s about how many people they expected.
This is where I fell in love with IDOLiSH7.
At times as unrealistic as its idol anime counterparts, IDOLiSH7 excels in nitty-gritty business details like venue sizes and whether your favs are truly best friends behind the pretty smiles. The answer to the latter question is no, but that doesn’t mean they can’t care about each other deeply as business partners working towards similar goals. After all, no one besides your group mates will understand just how hot that one guerrilla live was, or what it was like to perform to a crowd of only nine people (twelve if you include your own staff). IDOLiSH7 also explores what happens when one member or subunit is significantly more popular than the group, and is never afraid to show disagreements between members, even over small, seemingly insignificant things. Some of the conflicts are melodramatic, but most are grounded in a reality that actively chips away at the veneer of being an idol group, especially one under a smaller company.
“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.
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.”
“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.