Idol anime...Anime about idols have nothing to do with religion, statues, or anything of the like. Rather, what it is about is the passions, dreams, and singing of cute girls, for the most part, and lots of catchy songs that are meant to get stuck in our heads and eventually lead us to our wallets to purchase one in every color and version. The concept of Idol anime is not necessarily unique to Japan, but Japan is where many an idol anime, for better or worse, are churned out. Full of cuteness, fanservice, and concepts that almost seem foreign in modern day society such as kindness, working hard, and friendship. Let’s take a look first as what they are.
Where Did It Come From & What Is Idol Anime?
Long before K-pop was relevant and the concept of manufactured artists was suddenly accepted, Japan was churning out these “idols” for decades. They were meant to showcase many different types of talents and personalities suited for excellent roles. It was the non-japanese singer, Sylvie Vartan who coined the term “idol” and before anyone could say it again, it was being applied to anything cute and female, though occasionally, men took the title as well. The 1980s is when the idol craze really took off and people were clamoring to follow major acts. The 1990s saw them die out a bit before supergroups Morning Musume & Speed suddenly jumped into the spotlight. Then they were singing anime songs, getting more and more exposure, deals, commercials, acting roles and more before taking off. The founding of Johnny’s also pushed male idols back into the spotlight tapping a market that women suddenly had massive amounts of money to pour into. Nowadays, you have supergroups like AKB48 which has a revolving door of members via their audition and research students along with their graduation, that have more or less taken over. However, there are still other groups like Momoiro Clover, S/mileage, and more, including “sister groups” to AKB48, that still manage to be popular and relevant to this day. Recently, in the last 5 to 10 years too, digital idols have really taken off. Groups like iDOLM@STER & Love Live! sell tens of thousands of copies of singles and their concerts, which actually use the real artists for them, are always packed to capacity.
Idol anime are the reflection of the good in idols. The anime feature girls, usually faced with some sort of issue, where singing can be used to overcome their problems or help them reach a goal to become top idols in Japan. Almost all idol anime feature songs with catchy beats, lyrics about love or supporting each other and loving their friends, and of course, a good dance number or two. The other good aspect of idol anime is that they encourage and foster new friendships by showing people growing together as well as befriending people who they normally might not approach or work together with all for the sake of music or through the power of music.
Love Live! Sunshine!!
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr. 2006 - Sept 2006
Chika Takami is just another girl. She has no real standout qualities and hasn’t really participated in anything with school. Sounds like the perfect person to form a club! After being inspired by µ’s, a group from the first Love Live!, Chika sets out to for a new school idol group and save her school, Uranohoshi Girls High School. Chika is having problems though until she meets Riko, a new transfer student who is extremely talented at the piano. While rallying against the student council president and supreme tsundere, Dia, Chika works hard to form Aqours with the goal in mind of not only winning Love Live! the competition, but also revitalizing her high school and her hometown.
We skipped over the original Love Live! School Idol Project, which is the precursor–but not the prequel since the stories are different–due to Sunshine!! being more well-received. Chika starts out with nothing but a dream, but before long, she is able to realize this dream with eight other girls who all share the same goal of boosting attendance to their high school as well as winning. Love Live! Sunshine!! does a very good job of keeping a very upbeat tempo while facing struggles and setbacks. Including a major one at the end of season one, and another towards the middle of season two. Even in the face of hardships that would easily discourage many, Chika and the girls put smiles on their faces while working even harder to achieve their dreams. This is yet another standout point of idol anime. Another final item is that each of the girls comes with a different personality stereotype, hair color, and even sometimes a catchphrase zura. Finally, something very unique about this anime is that through the influence it has had, it has actually revived the local economy to a certain extent as fans flock to see the real places captured in the anime.
Love Live! Sunshine!! PV:
It’s Not Always a Happy, Saccharine-Laden Story
Something that idol anime are often pegged for is an incredibly happy story with extremely unrealistic elements. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but when the biggest issue that idols face is maybe winning a contest or not, most fans don’t necessarily resonate with something that big. Idol culture is known for what we said above, but it also has a very dark underbelly on stage and off stage in reality. As real idols are expected to be these visions of purity with no experience with romance or sex and shy away from it, when real life ones are caught with a boyfriend or a sexual encounter, this leads to them being labeled a whore or slut–mind you, when male idols do it no one says a thing, but hey, sexism is alive and real, my friends–and then eventually dragged through the mud where they could be fired or pressured heavily into quitting. The auditions are rigorous and what you do not see is that for every group that has succeeded, there are about 50 in the background who did not. There is another anime that really shows how hard some idols do have to work just to be noticed not necessarily become a success.
Wake Up, Girls!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2014 - Mar 2014
Please note that there is a prequel movie to this. Essentially, Wake Up, Girls! is about the story of an entertainment company in Senai called Green Leaves Entertainment. While it was once a great gig, recently it has fallen on hard times. In fact, since the last group quit, they do not have even a single good act signed to their names! So what do they do? The boss has a manager go out and recruit girls. Anyone with a pulse would do if they seem cute enough. So they get a group together and get ready for debut. After a mediocre debut though, their agency’s president runs off with all of the money that the girls had worked to raise. The future of the group seems to be hanging in the balance until a mysterious person puts up the cash with very high stakes. From there, the stakes get higher and higher. However, their former president comes back and manages to get the girls back into the spotlight! Well… sort of. They end up working it out, only to have a rival group that stands up to them and creates massive drama over a former member of theirs who is now part of WuG!. Drama only escalates further for the girls, but can they manage to make it to greener pastures?
Wake Up, Girls! is brutal for an idol anime. Just the sheer fact of showing the girls not succeeding right out of the starting gate is a great look at how idol anime might not always be rainbows and happiness. In fact, the girls face a new crisis or problem every couple of episodes! Nothing is going smoothly for them and it really shows. Girls are placed in massive auditions, told to learn moves, given next to zero feedback before told “okay, you can leave now. Thanks, number blah blah.” It’s brutal and cutthroat and many people do not see how dark people can be to each other. It’s a great look at reality if you are interested!
Wake Up, Girls! Trailer
Not Just With Girls! Now With More Dudes!
The iDOLM@STER SideM
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct 2017 - Dec 2017
315 Production is a brand new agency that is looking to specialize in making idols out of people who have left or held former major positions. These new idols are former doctors, lawyers, surgeons, pilots, attorneys and more! They each have a reason for being an idol, and so now, they are going to realize their dreams!
Finally, we have a look at the other side of the iDOLM@STER franchise. The female one is booming and massive, and last year, producers realized that women have money as well and funneled funds into making a male anime. It’s literally like watching the female version of idol anime, except there are men, the songs are deeper and the lyrics are slightly different. However, the sales are through the roof because iDOLM@STER SideM is selling like hotcakes right now. Women ate this series up after it managed to capture their hearts with ridiculous drama, cute lyrics, and of course, appealing personalities and visuals. Nothing though, would capture their hearts more than seeing legions of cute boys and handsome men sing about their love for their female fans. Don’t take our word for it though. Be sure to check it out!
The iDOLM@STER SideM PV
These are just a few of the mega idol anime that we recommend for newcomers to see a range of shows. If you find yourself liking them, there are plenty more where they came from. Sekko Boys will leave you in tears of laughter, the original iDOLM@STER will capture your heart, and there are also shows like the original Love Live!, AKB0048, Senki Zesshou Symphogear, Macross, and more! If you have suggestions for newer anime fans that are must-see or excellent idol anime, then be sure to let us know down below! Till next time!