Original Run: January 7, 2018 - May 19, 2018 Number of Episodes: 17 Genre: Idol, Music Based on the Video Game: IDOLiSH7
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for IDOLiSH7. Reader discretion is advised.***
As a new hire at her father’s production agency, Tsumugi Takanashi (voiced by Satomi Sato) is a bit nervous. She has just learned that she will be the manager of the company’s first attempt at promoting a male idol group.
Tsumugi, not sure if she has what it takes, gets a blast of energy upon meeting the seven boys she will oversee. They are:
- Riku Nanase (voiced by Kensho Ono)
- Mitsuki Izumi (voiced by Tsubasa Yonaga)
- Iori Izumi (voiced by Toshiki Masuda)
- Yamato Nikaido (voiced by Yusuke Shirai)
- Sogo Osaka (voiced by Atsushi Abe)
- Tamakai Yotsuba (voiced by KENN)
- Nagi Rokuya (voiced by Takuya Eguchi)
Although still a bit daunted, Tsumugi sees a charm in these seven and commits herself to turning them all into stars. With any luck, the Japanese idol scene is about to witness its newest sensation, and it will go by the name of IDOLiSH7.
I won’t lie. I put IDOLiSH7 on my review schedule because it was a low hanging fruit. I wanted something to bash and make fun of. I will admit, that isn’t the mindset I should have when starting any series. However, when I started this one, I didn’t have much faith left in the idol genre.
Can you blame me, though?
Most of these series are nothing more than large collections of one-dimensional characters that offer virtually no sense of engagement. They go for cheap jokes, thin stories, and some of these shows completely forget what they are and choose to only have one or two songs in what are supposed to be music-based anime.
So, yeah, I went into IDOLiSH7 with the lowest of expectations. I wasn’t going to like this, but I could at least have a good time writing about this show’s awfulness. I say that, but I also wanted to bash my head against the wall when I realized this series would be seventeen episodes, rather than twelve.
“Great,” I said to myself. Not only was this going to be a slog, but it was going to be an unusually long one as well.
Putting aside my pessimism, I am obligated to say: Yes, there was always the chance this show could have been good. But you know what? Let’s be real for a moment and take a hard look at IDOLiSH7’s “chances.”
The only possible way this show could have been anything was if it broke the mold. If IDOLiSH7 focused and explored the growth of an up-and-coming idol group, that would have been a decent start. Too bad, this series was going to need a lot more than a decent start.
There also had to be a strong emphasis on well-rounded characters. There needed to be setbacks, failures, and disillusionment that went beyond the short-term. There had to be moments of tension, worry, and triumph that were legitimate and natural, and not shoehorned in.
Adding to these potential problems, to my understanding, this show was just the latest in a much larger media franchise – IDOLiSH7 was based on a mobile game. Super. I’ve never seen this go wrong before, I think sarcastically. If this series really wanted to have a chance, it had to sell a story before it tried to sell merchandise.
Those were the obstacles that IDOLiSH7’s needed to overcome. The odds were not in this series’ favor. Technically, though, those odds weren’t zero. So again, it was indeed possible for this show to be good.
This was a one-in-a-million dice roll and, somehow, IDOLiSH7 managed to do it.
What in the hell? How did this show — THIS SHOW — find the way to get it right?
I can’t believe I’m saying this. IDOLiSH7 wasn’t just good, it was fantastic.
Oh my god, this was an actual cast.
All the members of the group IDOLiSH7 had personalities.
The guys of IDOLiSH7 had motivations that went beyond wanting to do right by their fans. I get that such a sentiment can be a real driver, but only having this is just dull. When other shows – Tsukipro – went no further, the results weren’t fleshed out characters. With nothing else, many idol shows are often left with nothing except paint-by-number husks to sell on cheap plastic folders for school children.
IDOLiSH7 gave more.
Not to get too far ahead of myself, IDOLiSH7 wanting to please their fans and that becoming the group’s primary goal was a thing in this series. But look at how I worded the last sentence. It became the group’s primary goal. It didn’t start out that way. The guys had to grow into that outlook; put the emphasis on grow.
For most of this show, the members of IDOLiSH7 had their own individual purposes.
Not to give too much away:
- Riku Nanase wanted to learn why his brother left him and their family behind.
- Mitsuki Izumi was following in the footsteps of his hero.
- Iori Izumi wanted to support his older brother Mitsuki’s dreams.
- Yamato Nikaido was trying to get back at someone.
- Sogo Osaka’s motivations were basically a giant middle finger to a particular group of people.
- Tamaki Yotsuba – holly Christ. Letting go of the fact that this entire show was one giant surprise, Tamaki’s story was something I was not expecting. Eat your heart out every other idol series out there. Even for the ones I haven’t seen, I doubt any of them pulled what IDOLiSH7 did.
- There was also Nagi Rokuya, but we’ll come back to him.
In any other idol anime, this is where I would typically end this section. After all, once you get done talking about the members of the titular group, who else is there to talk about? Naturally, that’s a rhetorical question because we’re long past the point of considering IDOLiSH7 to be like any other idol anime.
IDOLiSH7’s manager, Tsumugi Takanashi, was an excellent part of this show. She was as crucial to this story as the guys were. Along with the seven members, Tsumugi had her fair share of personal growth.
At the start of this series, Tsumugi was inexperienced and had no idea how to manage a music group. As things went on, she gained confidence and was instrumental in IDOLiSH7’s rise to fame. She always supported her boys, and the guys never lost sight of that.
One of the more enduring aspects of this show was how the group saw their manager. The members of IDOLiSH7 would often make mistakes, do something stupid, or damage their reputation. It didn’t matter how hard they chastised each other; that rarely got anywhere. Once someone realized how much unnecessary stress they had given Tsumugi, though, that was often enough for the guilty party to acknowledge they did something wrong.
I could honestly keep going on about many of the other characters from IDOLiSH7. For instance, the group had an outstanding rival in the form of the idol trio TRIGGER. Not only that, TRIGGER had their own dynamics that kept them interesting.
I could go into details, but why would I spoil that for you?
IDOLiSH7 had a solid story.
This series had stakes on the line. There was more at risk than losing an award or not performing at some live event. Something drove this group to earn what they earned. If they failed, each of the guys would have lost out on something they were searching for.
Another point IDOLiSH7 realized: All does not automatically equate to one.
In many other idol anime I’ve seen, the main group rose together. Each member was on the same playing field. There was never a disadvantage for a single person. That was not the case here.
IDOLiSH7 acknowledged that popularity was a driving factor. If one or two of the members had more people’s attention, from a business standpoint, it would be irresponsible to not promote the standouts.
As you would expect, this put a strain on IDOLiSH7, particularly those who were struggling to stand out. This was an issue that needed to be addressed since this was a significant source of friction that prevented the guys from reaching the top.
Adding to their troubles, IDOLiSH7 was up against someone who wanted to destroy them before they even had the chance to do anything. This was an idol anime that had a villain. I’m having trouble remembering the last time I saw such a thing – if ever.
This person was beyond over the top. You could say he was cartoonish. However, this was such a nasty individual, their awfulness led to one of the best plot points of the entire series. What IDOLiSH7 did was something I know I have never seen in an idol anime before. Other shows were too busy trying to be friendly with everyone. Thus none of them had the guts to see what would happen if you added a little dishonesty to the music industry.
Next, there was a point-of-view IDOLiSH7 chose to include that I would have typically had a ton of issues with. This time was different because it gave a face to something other idol series go on and on about without ever really showing it. We got to see how IDOLiSH7’s triumphs and failures affected their fans.
There were a few recurring characters who followed the group’s rise to stardom. This was important because this brought IDOLiSH7 out of its inner circle; proving their actions had meaning.
This focus on the fans also illustrated two different sides of fandom. There were those who wished the best for the group and supported them even at their lowest. Then there were those fans that were willing to cross a line for their own benefit.
Finally, there was a moment that was eerily similar to my most despised moment from Love Live Sunshine Season Two. In both series, the groups had just succeeded in obtaining something amazing, and in both cases, everyone couldn’t find the energy to get excited about it.
The difference was, Love Live Sunshine’s group, Aquors, were willing to give up and undo all the work they had done for two seasons. I believe they would have done so too if it weren’t for some last minute BS.
In IDOLiSH7, the guys were severely reprimanded, and they were treated like the kind of idiots they were acting as – wimps.
That was what made this show special. This series was willing to go places other anime like it wouldn’t dare touch. The payoff for such willingness was huge.
IDOLiSH7’s animation wasn’t good. There, I said it.
There was never a point in this show where it looked awful. However, the visuals always came off as cheap. And that was just the basic animation. All the musical moments retained the painfully obvious, video-game-esq visuals you should expect from the idol genre.
In fact, that was a big hit against this series.
The music of IDOLiSH7 wasn’t the most memorable. These were not the parts of this series that had my full attention. These moments were rather bland.
Granted, I will take a good story and strong characters over flashy, CGI performances any day. But one thing I will give the groups of other idol anime, even to the ones I don’t like, they felt more like actual idol groups than IDOLiSH7 ever did.
When other idol anime had a song, it was an event (even if there was only one performance in said anime). To give an example, Love Live, specifically Love Live Sunshine’s songs always felt like music videos.
For all intents and purposes, Sunshine never had a live event. Considering that, Sunshine went ham during these instances, and these were easily the best part of the entire series.
There was nothing like that in IDOLiSH7, and it was in a position where it could have taken advantage of it.
I mention this because if you are a fan of idol anime for the music alone, then even with this show’s better story, better characters, and better almost everything else, you’re probably going to be a bit disappointed.
As for something I hope we can all agree on: Nagi Rokuya.
Nagi wasn’t a bad character. He had a pretty decent story of his own. That notwithstanding, whoever decided Nagi needed a high-pitched, grating voice needs to be fired. Nagi was always infuriating to listen to.
The thing about Nagi that Japanese was his second language. Therefore, he always spoke with a strong “accent.” This was not necessary.
The only thing this did was make Nagi the worst character of the entire show.
For some of you, the type of character Nagi was is going to appear familiar. He was sort of like the male version of Love Live Sunshine’s Mari Ohara.
If you want to go ahead and cry rip-off, I won’t be the one to stop you. Actually, couldn’t care any less because I didn’t like Mari either for the same reasons.
Lastly, IDOLiSH7 left a few roads unexplored. Certain characters never got a resolution to what they were trying to achieve. The amount of personality everyone had backfired a little because their individual issues were a lot more interesting than the group’s success.
The point is, there were a lot of unanswered questions.
In principle, I don’t like it when shows do this unless there is a proclamation of a second season in the works at the end of the final episode.
Fortunately, this series will get a chance to fix this because IDOLiSH7 2 was given the green light.
I couldn’t be happier, and there is no one more shocked than me that I said such a thing.
I’ll be damned. This show did something I thought was no longer possible. Consider this proof that there is no such thing as a dead-on-arrival genre. Surprises can always happen.
This series knew what it needed to do, and what it needed to avoid. It had to focus on a story that was worth following, characters that were interesting, and proving that it was more than a simple cash grab. Across the board, I must say, this show was a success.
There are a few idol anime with second seasons that I am dreading. This is not one of them.
IDOLiSH7 is one I absolutely recommend.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning IDOLiSH7? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
Post Editor: Onions
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