Idol Anime Explained: An Introductory Guide To The Genre & What It Means - VRGyani News and Media


Sunday, September 26, 2021

Idol Anime Explained: An Introductory Guide To The Genre & What It Means

For many people, idol anime is a hard sell. This is the case for a couple of reasons. One is that idol anime is a pretty small subgenre of music-based anime, and it’s often overlooked because it doesn’t usually receive the same advertisement as other genres do. Another is that many people look at idol anime and just see extremely pretty characters singing bubblegum pop songs and it comes off as unappealing because it seems like it lacks depth. Yet another is that idol anime can seem so expansive because many series include not only anime, but also manga, drama CDs, stage plays, and various other forms of media, and this can be overwhelming to people looking to maybe get into the genre and make them unsure of where to start. However, idol anime is a fun, energetic, and interesting genre, full of colorful characters (both literally and figuratively), catchy tunes, and a variety of stories. In order to make it a little easier to swallow, it’s important to understand what idol anime is, what makes it great, and which titles are the best to start with.

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Idol anime is an extension of the popularity of idols in Japanese pop culture. An idol is a young person with musical talent that also becomes cross-trained in acting, modelling, and dancing and is poised to gain a large fanbase and commercial presence. For this reason, most idol anime centers around high school and early college-aged characters, though there are a few exceptions, such as Ossan Idol. The genre saw a rise in popularity in the late 2000s with the successful debut of Hatsune Miku, and continued into the 2010s with the release of the Love Live! and Uta no Prince-Sama franchises. However, they weren’t the first series to use mixed media sources to build an idol franchise (that title of first is usually given to 1983’s Creamy Mami, the Magic Angel), but definitely aided in the booming popularity of doing so in the past decade.

Media mix marketing is usually a pretty important component of the idol genre. It’s rare to see an idol anime that is solely an anime series; usually, they also include manga, light novels, video games, drama CDs, stage plays, and albums. Basically, if you can name a form of media, the idol genre has utilized it at some point. This is done as a way for the franchises to be immersive and provide fans with plenty of content and connection to the series. For some people, this is a huge selling point of the genre. There’s no shortage of content, and it’s often put out pretty quickly. For example, even if you have to wait a year for a new anime season, there will most likely be a game or CD released during the waiting period. However, this can also be rather confusing, especially for people just getting into a series. Luckily, there are plenty of dedicated fans that upkeep blogs and wiki pages that can help sort out the media timelines of these series.

But let’s be honest. The history of the genre doesn’t particularly matter to most viewers. What’s more important is what the genre is about in terms of themes and stories. This tends to be the area where many people become uninterested in the idol genre. Admittedly, that reaction is somewhat fair. Prior to the recent boom in the genre, it was common for idol anime to be made as a way to promote real life idol groups or seiyuus that are also idols themselves, so these anime didn’t necessarily focus on having interesting or compelling plots. In addition, when looking at the cover of a manga or anime centered around idols, you’ll usually be greeted by bright colors and cutesy characters, and first impressions are everything. Idol anime requires looking past appearances at first to get to what’s underneath.

Most idol anime will center on a group of people that are aiming to become idols (or musical stars in general) and their hiccups and victories as they struggle to make their dreams come true. There’s often rival groups that they’re competing against to make it to the top, and along the way, they might collaborate or become friends. There’s always some force trying to meddle with their success, whether it be a person, an injury or illness, or a seemingly impossible performance. It’s a pretty standard formula that taps into a few common themes: friendship, teamwork, competition, perseverance, and the impact of success and failure. However, every anime naturally puts its own spin on this structure. Some use this plot as is to make for a fun, light-hearted show that’s enjoyable and easy, others add in more dramatic elements by providing intense backstories for characters, and yet others throw wrenches into the formula by adding strange worldbuilding. However, most of them stick to keeping characters cute and generally good-looking, with sleek and pretty outfits.

And, of course, the genre incorporates music into the anime. Characters perform numerous songs throughout a series, both solo and in groups, but it manages to not be overwhelming. It’s often only two or so songs per episode, and luckily, the music is usually catchy and easy to listen to. It’s true that most idol anime have a focus on pop music, but there have been quite a few that branch into other musical genres, such as showtunes, rap, rock, and metal. Regardless of your taste in music, there is likely an idol anime out there to suit your music tastes.

So, what are some of the big names in idol anime? Well, any list of popular idol anime would be incomplete without mentioning Skip Beat, which began as a manga in 2002 and received an anime adaptation in 2008. Skip Beat follows the story of Kyoko Mogami, a girl who follows her childhood friend and crush Shotaro Fuwa to Tokyo to help him pursue his dream of becoming a musician. After hearing Shotaro complain about her to his manager, Kyoko becomes angry at him for not appreciating all the sacrifices she made to help him. She vows to become an idol even more famous than he is to get revenge, and the series focuses on her journey to stardom as she begins to let go of her dreams of revenge and starts to truly love music and acting. The series has become beloved by fans inside and outside of idol anime circles for its story and characters, and holds up as a staple of the genre.

Another well-known title is Love Live!, which is a pretty expansive multimedia project that focuses on groups of girls from various high schools who have extracurricular clubs devoted to becoming school idols. They perform various activities during club time, such as writing songs, practicing choreography, and making costumes, as well as performing for audiences. These clubs all aim to perform in and win Love Live, the most prestigious school idol competition in Japan. You’ve likely seen the characters of the series before, particularly Nico Yazawa, whose “nico nico ni!” catchphrase has become a common meme. The series includes anime, CDs, and a popular mobile rhythm game, among other things, and has become a phenomenon both in Japan and overseas.

Uta no Prince-Sama is another popular multimedia idol title that consists of video games, anime, and a popular mobile rhythm game. It revolves around Haruka Nanami, who dreams of becoming a composer so she can write songs from her favorite idol. To do this, she enters a prestigious music school where she meets a plethora of boys aiming to be famous idols. This one has a bit more focus on romance because of its roots as an otome game, but it still focuses mostly on Haruka and the boys’ struggle to become music stars. One of the draws of this series is its vast array of characters and its music, so there’s a little something for every fan in this one.

Newer on the scene is Idolish7. Made by the same company as Uta no Prince-Sama, Idolish7 consists of video games, anime, manga, and novels that center most on the main group, Idolish7, and their inexperienced manager Tsumugi Takanashi, as they navigate the entertainment industry and try to become famous. The series has introduced multiple other idol groups as rivals and friends and provides plenty of characters to fall in love with. It bears a lot of similarities to its predecessor, Uta no Prince-Sama, but improves upon a few aspects, such as the representation of female characters, which Uta no Prince-Sama fails in.

Of course, idol anime doesn’t just include big names. There are plenty of lesser known titles that try to shake up the usual formula a bit more, and these tend to be where the genre shines. One of these titles is Zombie Land Saga. The series follows Sakura Minamoto, who is killed by a truck on her way to submit an idol application. Ten years later, she is resurrected along with six other girls by Kotaro Tatsumi, who plans to turn them into a zombie idol group called Franchouchou. It’s a fun take on the genre that mixes comedy and horror with the usual idol anime formula. Similarly, Sekkou Boys challenges the idea of what an idol group is. This series focuses on recent art school graduate Miki Ishimoto as she tries to manage an idol group with rather unusual members: four Greco-Roman statues. It’s on the sillier side of the genre, but still sticks to the usual themes.

Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle focuses not on idol groups, but on small division crews that are battling it out after an authoritarian government takes over and bans all weapons other than hypnosis microphones. It has stayed true to the media mix tactics of large name idol franchises by incorporating albums, manga, anime, and rhythm games. Starmyu also moves away from idol groups and instead focuses on a group of high schoolers that want to star in stage musicals. It centers on Yuta Hoshitani’s journey to become a musical star after seeing a high schooler dancing in the rain on the way home from school one day. With no previous formal training, he struggles to keep up with his teammates, but he begins to improve as he grows closer with his team and earns his chance to perform with the high schooler he admires.

Idol anime can seem overwhelming and boring at first. Between its bright, cutesy packaging and often expansive collection of media, it can be hard to know where to start or if you should start at all. However, it’s much more than what it seems on the surface. The idol genre is full of stories about friendship, teamwork, diligence, and perseverance that not only make the viewer feel good, but also make them feel connected to the struggles of the characters and root for them. It also contains musical genres beyond just the pop music that people often associate with idol anime; many titles use rap, showtunes, rock, metal, and other genres to round out the sound of idol groups and make songs that can be enjoyed by many different types of people, regardless of their taste in music. There’s no shortage of idol anime to choose from with a wide range of characters and stories, from Skip Beat to Zombie Land Saga to Starmyu, so queue one up and explore the magical, musical world of the idol genre.

KEEP READING: The 7 Best Songs in 'Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle: Rhyme Anima', Ranked

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