Why Do People Like Idol Anime?
Chikorita’s post a little while got me asking myself-“Why do people like idol anime?” so I had been wanting to try delving into this topic. Of course, this question itself does not apply to anyone, since I know not everyone likes idol anime. Even the following points I made, are ones I taken only from my own experience, but yeah… it’s odd how attached to idol anime I had become, compared to back then when I was initially more reluctant.
Before I go on however, I want to talk a bit on emotional investment and fandom engagement-two elements which played a significant role in shaping up the state of idol anime. When I first watched im@s, it was hard for me to feel any sort of attachment to the characters, at the time, I marathoned and watched it just I did with any other shows, I had completely missed the other side of idol anime-fandom engagement. Admittedly, I didn’t play im@s’s games (seems extremely inaccessible anyway), but it wasn’t until Love Live that I finally got this right-I engaged frequently in the fandom-playing LLSIF, discussions on the characters, retweeting Love Live pics, appreciating my OTP MakixNico and also yelling “MAKI BEST GIRL” whenever I see fit. Love Live’s characters are extremely likable, and these make them easily translatable to fandom engagement, and quite honestly, I wouldn’t be as knee deep in the Love Live rabbit hole as I’m now if I only just watched the anime, however good it was.
Love Live aside, this also apply to other idol anime. For some reason, most idol anime has a tendency to develop a strong connection with it’s fandom, almost all idol anime, or at least the more well-known ones, had been piling up in my twitter timeline, whether or not they are anime screencaps, memes, games, fanarts, AMVs and so on. It’s a loving sight to see and while I’m obviously more on the Love Live camp myself, I’m sure this sense of fandom engagement must have effected them positively with their respective shows, just like how I did myself with Love Live.
As for the musical sides of things, I’ll be the first to admit, idol music isn’t technically the best, but there is an odd, unexplainable, captivating charm to them. It could be a form of Stockholm Syndrome and an appreciation of the overall franchise which helps one to appreciate the music themselves in the process. It could be the acceptance that idol music isn’t meant to be serious, sappy stuffs, but just mindless fun and entertainment-or it could be combination of both. It could also be one’s appreciation of the voices behind the animated singers-the seiyuus. Personally, I always felt a peculiar sense of satisfaction when I can actually notice these idol songs from their respective anime-when I’m listening to them, I’m, at the same time, also remembering the live performances in the anime, and the story along with it-it’s a sort of emotional investment which one wouldn’t normally attain for hearing other songs.
Also, I also see frequent discussions on people’s favorite seiyuu who did the singing voices, their favorite songs, their favorite Character songs and so on, which also goes a long way in bolstering fandom engagement. Overall, idol music goes hand-in-hand with emotional investment and fandom engagement. They shouldn’t be viewed as a separate element, but together with the franchise, should be regarded as one big picture.
Idol anime is an overarching genre which oddly encompasses different genres and themes, and this helps the show being accessible for people who is fond of certain genres. For example, I like slice of life, cute girls doing cute things and yuri subtext; which easily cemented me into a fan of idol anime, with a bonus of attractive live performances. At the same time, idol anime also gives an empowering vibe unlike typical slice of life. Being an idol group, the sense of hard work, practices and camaraderie is almost akin to a sports team from a sport anime, which is extremely refreshing to see. “Achieving your dreams” is also another major theme in idol anime, and when done right, can be extremely feels-inducing.
The other interesting thing is that idol anime can also be pretty flexible with their genres. Because they encompass several genres and themes, it’s like they can be omnipotent and specifically tailor to any type of shows they want to. For example, Locodol, is a nice change of pace from all the lengthy, exhausting practices, becoming a more down-to-earth rendition of idol anime-focusing on the slice of life theme aspect of the genre; while titles like Wake Up Girls! paints a more darker and realistic tone behind the idol industry. There’s also AKB0048 with it’s sci-fi settings, and hell, there’s even a zombie idol anime in the form of Francesca, not that I had watched it. Maybe they will be dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller or something…
To that end, I think why people (and me) like idol anime is because of a number of different reasons. It is a slice of life, cute girls doing cute things, but at the same time, an awe-inspiring, optimistic show about achieving your dreams. There’s meaning, there’s cuteness and there’s music. Last but not least however, and the most important of all, is the aspect of fandom engagement, which bolster fan’s emotional investment to the franchise. Idol anime shouldn’t be engaged as a standalone, but as a franchise. Idol anime is greater than the sum of its parts.