***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Idoly Pride. Reader discretion is advised.***
In high school, Kouhei Makino (voiced by Haruki Ishya) was asked by his classmate, Mana Nagase (voiced by Sayaka Kanda), to become her manager. Mana was determined to make it to the top of the idol world.
Almost overnight, Mana’s dream was on the cusp of becoming a reality. Unfortunately, right before she could take her final step, tragedy struck. Mana was killed in a car crash, and the fallout from her death can still be felt.
However, Kouhei never had to say goodbye to his friend. Invisible except to him, Mana’s spirit lingers and accompanies Kouhei as he manages a new generation of idols, including Mana’s younger sister, Kotono (voiced by Mirai Tachibana).
I won’t deny that adding a ghost to an idol story was one avenue which allowed Idoly Pride to separate itself in an overcrowded genre. In this sense, this show was unique. Almost as a byproduct of that, if this is your first idol anime ever, then sure, it’s not a bad one to start with.
This series highlights all the usual tropes seen in this type of narrative. Hooray.
To ensure there are no misconceptions, I am not saying Idoly Pride was worth watching. All I’m getting at is this series was the textbook definition of a safe, let’s-add-one-gimmick-to-pretend-we-are-different-but-make-no-other-changes-to-a-beaten-to-death-formula idol anime.
With my pessimism on full display, I will try to think of some positive things to say about this show.
Of the characters, to which there were far too many, the best had to be Mana Nagase. I would even go so far as to say I would have preferred an entire series dedicated to her story. Of everyone, Mana portrayed a genuine drive to become an idol, or, at least, she was the only one who acted as though they wanted to be there.
Nearly everyone else’s motivations for becoming an idol felt more like something they needed to do rather than something they wanted to do. For example, several of the girls joined the group on a pure whim. One of them, Sakura Kawasaki (voiced by Mai Sugano), didn’t even know what building she was in when she applied.
Mana, on the other hand, was far more proactive in her career. It would have been interesting to see her use that energy to become the person this series was constantly referring to. Heck, to really mix things up, a Mana-centered story could have even kept her death. It would have made the whole event more meaningful.
Having Mana be a ghost already made it feel like two different stories were going on anyway. Her floating around and commenting on the other characters had little to do with what said characters were doing.
Granted, I am aware of the argument against what I am saying.
Having Mana be a ghost allowed for the two Nagase sisters to reconcile their differences. Additionally, Kotono Nagase, Sakura, and the other girls could use Mana’s memory as a rallying cry to help them push forward. In fact, it was good when this series decided to move aside the majority of the characters and only focus on two – Kotono and Sakura.
That should have been this show.
Idoly Pride could have been much better had its leading group not been a group at all. Why not have an idol duo? It was clear that this series was only interested in the progression of Kotono and Sakura; everyone else was merely background filler.
Kotono and Sakura had the makings to be memorable characters. Their stories could have struck the emotional cord they were trying to hit. However, that leads us to the biggest problem with Idoly Pride.
Despite having decent ideas and well-meaning intentions, this series could not help itself. It had to include every single aspect that has ever been associated with idol anime.
This show shot whatever confidence I had within the first five minutes of episode one. What Idoly Pride did was forcefully – and awkwardly – introduce every girl in the main idol group.
Kouhei Makino, the girls’ manager, went around the circle to each one before what appeared to be a final concert and asked if they were ready.
He checked on:
- Kotono Nagase
- Sakura Kawasaki
- Mei Hyasaka (voiced by Moka Hinata)
- Shizuku Hyoudou (voiced by Yukina Shutou)
- Nagisa Ibuki (voiced by Kokona Natsume)
- Rei Ichinose (voiced by Moeko Yuuki)
- Suzu Narumiya (voiced by Kanata Aikawa)
- Haruko Saeki (voiced by Nao Sasaki)
- Saki Shiraishi (voiced by Koharu Miyazawa)
- Chisa Shiraishi (voiced by Kanon Takao)
One by one, everyone had a chance to talk.
Why was this a problem? Well, in every other idol anime I’ve seen do this, that indicated the show would spend one episode centered around one of the girls. For this series, ten of its twelve episodes would have been dedicated to an idol’s background. This would leave the last two episodes with the task of bringing the team together.
Never once have I seen this work. Therefore, I feared Idoly Pride was already dead on arrival.
To my surprise, that’s not what happened. Instead, this series decided to give its attention to its two leads, Kotono and Sakura. They were the two who had the most growth and had the closest connection with Mana and her legacy.
If you think that indicates this show did something right, let me now ask this question?
Why were the other eight girls here?
I have a theory. Idoly Pride insisted on having an extensive collection of idols because other idol anime have extensive collections of idols. This show needed to fill the quota of cute girls singing and dancing on a stage.
Yes, this group was split into two teams: the Kotono led Moon Tempest and the Sakura led Sunny Peace. So here was another example of Idoly Pride suggesting it was different without actually being so.
This show did not need to have two idol groups. It only needed Kotono and Sakura. But this series felt it had to have two groups because it didn’t have the balls to make a choice.
Fair warning; I am about to spoil the ending of this show. If you don’t want to hear it, please skip to the end of this review. However, this finale pissed me off so much that I can’t stop myself from talking about it.
Frankly, I should have seen it coming. All the signs were blaring in my face, and I chose not to see them. First, this series, like I said, started with what looked like the girls making it to the final stage of a competition. If there were a tournament, which there was, they would make it through to the last round.
Second, the girls were split into two groups. In the back of my mind, I did find this odd since the first episode suggested that all ten girls were about to go on stage at the same time. How could that be possible when both teams were competing in the same tournament. Surely one would have to win, and the other would have to lose.
Third, when choosing who was to be the group’s center (when they were still one unit), Kouhei couldn’t decide whether to pick Kotono or Sakura. His solution, make two teams, shirk responsibility, and put his two top picks in charge.
This whole scenario culminated in, sure enough, an idol tournament – because we haven’t seen that before (*cough* Love Live). Except, this tournament was even stupider since there was this special AI program that could quantify an idol group’s popularity with actual numbers. While that was dumb on its own, it did play into the overall insulting nature of what happened.
Big surprise, Moon Tempest and Sunny Peace faced each other in the final round. Finally, we would see which of the two were the better, according to the data. The AI tallied the results, everyone was on edge, there was the grand reveal, and…
They drew. Moon Tempest and Sunny Peace got the same score. There was a draw. There were no losers; everyone was a winner.
THERE WAS A F@#$ING DRAW!
Why bother with anything then?
Why have the large cast? Why split the group? Why have a ghost? Why have some people see the ghost and others not see the ghost? Why introduce other idol groups? Why have a tournament? Why have an inexplicable computer determine the winner of the tournament?
Why bother with the motions of having an “emotional” awakening with these characters when nothing was ever on the line? And nothing was ever on the line because a tie was a possibility, a possibility, by the way, this show even admitted was unheard of.
I stand by what I said at the top of this review.
If Idoly Pride is your first idol anime, then it’s not a bad one to start with. It has everything synonymous with the genre. This show might even pique your interest to see what else is out there.
I hope it does because you will quickly see how bland, safe, and disappointing Idoly Pride really is.
When I started writing this review, I thought I would be able to come up with some generic praise to describe an otherwise middle-of-the-road idol anime.
However, the more I thought about what this series actually did, the more I realized how flawed it was.
This show tried to be different through gimmicks. Unfortunately, it succeeded in being different by having everything work out way too perfectly. And that was inexcusably maddening.
Idoly Pride can be skipped.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Idoly Pride? 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.