The genre of idol anime is usually defined by catchy songs and stereotypical yet funny personalities, and bright colors. With the exception of a few great titles like Zombieland Saga, Character development in idol anime is usually superficial, following familiar formulas such as people chasing musical dreams or performing for the sake of fans. Idolish7 is one of the few idol series that goes beyond the superficial to tell a character-centric drama that truly feels grounded, while maintaining the fun, positive tone of a typical idol series.
Idolish7 Follow the story of the newly formed male idol group Idolish7 and the journey of its seven members into the fierce idol industry of Japan. Each member has their own personal reasons for becoming an idol: some are tragic, while others are more ambitious. As the narrative progresses and more and more stories are revealed, we gain a better understanding of each character’s personality and motivations.
While Idolish7 looks like a typical idol series on the surface with lots of glitter and silly fun, it’s way more than that. Despite the lack of female characters (which is one of its weaknesses), this isn’t a reverse harem anime – the romance is mostly a subplot used to enhance the narrative. In the center of Idolish7 is its well-balanced cast of characters and their very moving, even melodramatic personal stories.
Although to call Idolish7 melodramatic can even be an understatement, there are so many examples of TV soap opera plots involving missing siblings, missing partners, missing legendary idols, and intense conflicts with families, teammates, other celebrities. and other talent agencies, etc. The series is never shy about its full adoption of overly dramatic elements, which makes the drama even more engaging to watch.
For example, one of the members of Idolish7, Yotsuba Tamaki, has become an idol so that his missing sister can find out where he is and find him. Yotsuba and her sister grew up in an orphanage because their father was an abuser who was partly responsible for their mother’s death. He agreed to appear on a TV show that promised to find his long-lost sister, but the show instead surprised him with his father. Tamaki completely loses his temper and hits his father, so the whole group must stop him and apologize for his actions.
While the whole situation of a cheating TV show Tamaki plays out in a melodramatic fashion, the real issue of domestic violence is incredibly serious. Idolish7 takes the problem seriously by showing the anxiety and pain that such a situation can cause. Tamaki’s reaction is perfectly understandable, especially given his brutal personality. But the series also doesn’t forget to show how Tamaki’s unprofessionalism has caused a lot of trouble for his teammates and even potentially jeopardizes their future in the industry. The combination of intense personal drama and realistic stakes increases the emotional impact of Idolish7 to a level that few animated idols reach.
Another aspect that Idolish7 done exceptionally well is to show the real growth of the character. The aforementioned Tamaki incident ultimately allowed her to learn to control her emotions and be more attentive to the feelings of others, and her growth never seems forced or unrealistic. Other characters experience similar growth, often through positive modes of communication like opening up about their issues and confronting their own shortcomings, whether it’s a lack of self-confidence, jealousy, or something. even more personal. There are still screaming matches and monologues to add spice to the drama, but the way issues are resolved is often refreshingly mature, even educational at times.
Idolish7 achieves a more nuanced narrative by portraying its characters as real people rather than just caricatures. This is why their reactions to strange or improbable situations can always seem justified and relevant. It’s easy to understand where each character is coming from as their actions are driven by well-established traits, not just what the plot forces them to do.
Even antagonists receive the care and attention they deserve. The entire first part of Season 3 (which has just ended) is devoted to presenting the rival idol group Zool. Even though their stories are yet to be revealed, it’s already clear that their reasons for targeting protagonists are personal, and that they’re not just evil backstabbers for the fun of it. The subtle tension that builds throughout the season makes Zool’s official introduction at the end of Episode 13 one of the most anticipated moments of the season, and it doesn’t disappoint.
The business angle of Idolish7 is another aspect that sets it apart. The marketing strategies showcased in the last episode alone – such as the pop-up style live performance and the use of QR codes on posters to promote song downloads – are smart tactics that real artists are using as well. Incorporating other serious business topics such as gossip and scandal manipulation, social media trends, supportive and toxic fan cultures, even unionization all add to a great sense of immersion.
According to Japan Oricon Ranking who measures media sales, Idolish7 is one of Japan’s most popular media franchises. His albums and singles often top the charts during their week of release. Hearing the songs, it’s easy to see why – most of them are incredibly catchy while the lyrics are sometimes tied to the plot or the emotions of the characters.
While the animation is not groundbreaking, the choreography and animation shows enough care on the part of the anime staff; for example, more recent performance sequences even take up a page of Idolish7live concerts, trying to recreate the movements and expressions of the voice actors in the animation.
In all, Idolish7 is a truly exceptional series that even people who don’t care about idol anime can enjoy. At its core, this is a serious character drama that takes place in a very competitive business environment. The stakes are surprisingly high and the struggles are outrageously intense, and there are some great songs to boot. So, ahead of the return of the second part of Season 3 in 2022, now is the perfect time to ride the emotional roller coaster that is Idolish7.
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