It is a little-known fact that the idol industry in Japan is huge. AS IN HUGE. You will never believe how massive the idol industry in Japan is. There are popular idol groups that we know of like Babymetal and AKB48, but that’s just scratching the surface. There are hundreds of idol groups that are completely unknown in the West but have huge followings Japan. And like any other entertainment medium, idols have reached out to other mainstream outlets like video games, manga, and anime. There’s one anime that arguably started the idol anime trend and that anime is none other than The iDOLM@STER.
There were a lot of idol anime since the 70s, but it was The iDOLM@STER anime that triggered the boom of idol anime in 2011. Long-running series like Love Live, Aikatsu, PriPara and small-time idol shows like Locodol and Idol Jihen have risen in popularity after im@s, so it’s hard to avoid not hearing people talk about idol anime in some form be it the mobile games or anime. If you’re one of the folks who did watch The iDOLM@STER and want to watch other similar idol anime, or least, anime that share some common elements, then we have two idol anime just for you!
- About The iDOLM@STER
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: July 2011-December 2011
765 Production Studio is the home and workplace of 13 young idols with different walks of life. Led by the 765 Pro staff, including the newly-hired Producer, the idols train hard, settle their differences for the group synergy, fix their shortcomings, conquer their fears and face whatever obstacles that come their way to become professionals in the booming and popular idol entertainment industry.
Liked The iDOLM@STER? Watch Love Live! Sunshine!! 2nd Season!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2017-Ongoing
Despite not making it to the nationals, Takami Chika and the rest of Aqours are all primed to try again in the next Love Live! event, next Springtime. However, things took a nasty turn after Ohara Mari gave the bad news — despite the girls’ efforts to overturn her father’s decision, their school, Uranohoshi High, will stop accepting new students and it will be closed down. Determined to keep the school running, Chika and the gang are tasked to recruit at least a hundred prospective students, and at the same time, they prepare for the upcoming idol event.
Three Major Similarities Between The iDOLM@STER and Love Live! Sunshine!! 2nd Season
1. Quirky Characters
The most important thing about any idol anime is the cast of idols. Everything fails if the idols are uninteresting, boring and poorly-developed. It doesn’t matter if the art style is fantastic or the music is well-made, if there are no good idols to express them, the anime is just not fun to invest time in. The iDOLM@STER does this well with a huge cast of idols with varying personalities ranging from the energetic twins Futami Ami and Futami Mami, the androphobic Hagiwara Yukiho, the always napping yet photogenic Hoshii Miki, and the beautiful but mysterious Shijou Takane.
The same can be said for the characters of Love Live! Sunshine!!. There are some serious moments in Love Live! Sunshine!!, but no matter how melodramatic the situations are, you can’t deny the entire cast of budding idols are very quirky and you get a lot of genuinely funny moments that make you laugh along and adore them. Their personality is so diverse that you’ll end up finding a couple of favorites like the chuunibyou Tsushima Yoshiko—er, “the little devil” Yohane or Takami Chika with her infectious positive aura affecting everyone around her, even after their school closing down.
2. Raisons D'être
Being an idol isn’t always about getting paid to sing, act or do a lot of stuff, it’s always the passion of doing the things you like be it bringing people together with her songs, make everyone happy with her dancing skills, or maybe as simple as wanting to be cute because people see you as a tomboy. Each idol in The iDOLM@STER has their own reasons to be an idol like Iori who out trying to best her father, or Hagiwara Yukiho who wants to cure herself of her cowardly disposition, or Takatsuki Yayoi who simply wants to support her family and bring food to the table.
In Love Live Sunshine S2, Takami Chika and her friends in Uranohoshi Girls' High School have made it big as school idol group Aqours face a new dilemma—their beloved school is closing down. But in order to keep the school open for another year, the girls must get 100 prospective students to enroll. And the best way they can think of is with their idol club and their idol group Aqours, but at the same time work hard to rise to the top in the most popular idol event of all the Love Live!.
3. Both are Massive Multi-media Franchises
The iDOLM@STER franchise is massive you see them in many forms like video games, mobile games, anime, manga, movies, novels, etc., and are featured in other video game franchises. If you go to, say, Akihabara, there’s a high chance you’ll see iDOLM@STER promotional advertisements, products, and stores dedicated to the franchise. Spin-off series were made, including the recent Cinderella Girls and the franchise went co-ed by introducing SideM, a series of games, manga, etc. for male idols.
Love Live! Is also a massive multi-media franchise that spawned two anime series, a sizable number of music albums, mobile games, radio shows, etc., but in terms of size, Love Live! is a lot smaller compared to its rival iDOLM@STER. But size doesn’t always mean it’s popular. If you go back to Akihabara, you’ll see more and more Love Live! billboards and other promotional ads than its closest rival. What does this mean though? Both franchises are successful, so we’ll see more sequels and spin-offs for years to come.
Liked The iDOLM@STER? Then watch Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2107-Ongoing
Sendai-based idol group Wake Up, Girls! has finally made it to the top by beating their rival the I-1 Club at the Idol Festival, and they’ve become one of the most talked idols in the country. With the idol recession going on as of late, it has affected every idol and their production companies, and even the more experienced I-1 Club is also affected. The new top idols are living in tough times, but idol work still continues.
Three Major Similarities Between The iDOLM@STER and Love Live! Sunshine!! 2nd Season
1. A More Realistic Portrayal of the Idol Industry
Idol anime are usually aimed at young girls, so you often see shows that have mahou shoujo elements in them, school girls studying to become idols, transformation scenes in the form of the girls dressing up their idol attire, or maybe advanced technological devices which use holograms to create dazzling stages and anti-gravity that let the idols float and fly. It’s hard to find an idol anime that portrays the idol entertainment industry in a realistic way. There are certain anime that have this, but it’s very rare to find them in mainstream anime that don’t bring up controversies of manipulation, sexual abuse, drugs, etc..
The iDOLM@STER and Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou does this, though not as bold to tell the dark side of the idol industry, they, however, portray the idol industry in the most realistic representation. The management team has to deal with tight schedules, delays, equipment problems, dealing with bad promotional deals, fatigue of touring the country, internal conflicts between idol and staff, the well-being of the idols, and so on. This kind of portrayal does positively affect both anime because the more you understand their problems of being an idol, the more you appreciate their dedication in making people happy with their cheerful personalities and catchy, heart-warming songs.
2. The Token Guy In a Suit
Behind every great idol is a great production team. They are the ones working behind the scenes to make sure their idols get the best exposure, deals and promotions, the tools, facilities, and they also give the much needed moral support for this demanding industry. In The iDOLM@STER we have the Producer and in Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou, we have the manager Matsuda Kohei. The Producer is nameless and everyone calls him Producer-san. Now, there’s a reason for this to make it more closely related to the video games, but in the anime, he is given a personality. Producer-san’s job and Matsuda Kohei’s, is to ensure the success of their idol groups while giving them moral support and counseling when things get a bit dicey. Both guys are inexperienced, but very determined and… they both wear sharp suits. You can’t get more similar than that!
3. Rise to Stardom
The idols from 765 Production Studio are all rookies and in order to become professional idols, they have to start somewhere. We see them as very disorganized, doing live performances that don’t really get them anywhere, and how the idols rose to stardom wasn’t very straightforward. The quick and dirty rundown is the studio formed a group that got popular, and to carry the rest of the idols, they latch on to the popular group and perform together. The rest of the idols follow creating new groups, they form bonds and understanding with each of the girls’ strength and weaknesses and end with a stellar performance featuring all of the idols as 765PRO ALLSTARS. They became instant legends.
Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou is not really a good starting point because it’s the second season of a long-running series. One thing to know that the idol unit Wake Up, Girls!, lead by center Shimada Mayu and leaders Kikuma Kaya and Nanase Yoshino started out when the inexperienced manager Matsuda Kohei founded the group, after a few struggles, scandals and drama, the WUG team became the top idol after beating their rival I-1 Cub. In season 2, Green Leaves Entertainment are maintaining their idols’ position doing the usual stuff like concerts, talk shows, etc.. The production company has also recruited rookie idols to form Run Girls, Run!. With the guidance of Wake Up, Girls! and the production team, the rookie idols Hayashi Ayumi, Morishima Otome, Atsugi Itsuka begins their idol life as trainees. The new girls rising to the top has yet to be seen.
Love Live! Sunshine!! 2nd Season and Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou is currently the most popular anime this season, and for good reasons. Love Live! is a massive franchise and the spin-off Love Live! Sunshine!! is as equally popular, or even better, than the very first Love Live! anime with a more strong cast of new endearing characters, a compelling story, great music, and it’s the most similar to The iDOLM@STER. Wake Up, Girls! on the other hand is a long-running series that has a lot of rough edges, but became popular in its own right with its more realistic storytelling, a more serious tone, and a cast that you will either love or hate. Both anime are great recommendations for anyone who loves The iDOLM@STER. But… BUT! You need to watch the previous seasons and movies first!
In the shounen world, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece /was/ the Big 3. Yeah, the new Big 3 is different since Bleach and Naruto have ended and Boruto is still earning the title (eventually), but it was the aforementioned 3 shounen anime are the first things you’ll recall when hearing the term “The Big 3”. Do you think there will be an idol anime version of the Big 3? If yes, do you think The iDOLM@STER, Love Live! and Wake Up, Girls! are the Big 3 in the idol world? Let us know what you think in the comments below!