Why Do People Like Idol Anime?

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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.

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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.

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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.

[FFF] Love Live! - 13 [B4EC1F66].mkv_snapshot_18.34_[2015.05.17_10.09.31]

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…

Did someone said “Thriller”?

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.

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This entry was posted by Kai.

18 thoughts on “Why Do People Like Idol Anime?

  1. For me, it really just depends on the show in question. I really liked AKB0048 for the setting and how it worked some the groups management philosophy into the series. It was really campy and euphoric, but still enjoyed that side of it along with the science fiction backdrop. For series like Chance Pop Session, Wake Up Girls, Love Live, and IDOLM@ster, it definitely is a combination of music and characters – more the latter that helps keep me around for the former. Not being that interested in J-pop and that realm of music like I use to, the characters and their interactions along with motivations make the music somewhat more accessible, but nothing I would like in my music library. The different mix of genres as you stated like slice-of-life do help with showing off the affable side of the characters and personalities and in turn helps with the emotional investment. If anything, I am more interested in IDOLM@aster and Love Live for the characters, even though the music and drama could easily carry it, but appreciate it more when it is more whimsical and lighthearted. Then again, in the case of Wake Up Girls as you pointed out, I do like it when the shows adopt a snarky and critical lens with examining the industry, but also keeps it fairly compelling.

    • I actually haven’t watch AKB0048, mostly because I’m actually not that interested with the real idols the anime is based on, lol. The anime does sounds pretty good from the few people I heard from, at least, from the ones who do like idol anime-so probably will give it a go soon if I can find the time. I’m mostly fine with J-pop, but I feel it was hard for me to like idol music performed by seiyuus (not exactly professional singers), unless some of these seiyuus are also exceptionally good singers, though still few and far in between. Most of my fondness for the music is mostly, aforementioned, through investment and fandom engagement.

      Yeah, characters also played a big part, it’s also the one reason why I find myself siding more with the Love Live camp than the im@s, the latter gives off too much of a professional feel while the former has a more down to heart feel with the concept of “school idols”, with also most of the setting taking place in a high school too. Wake Up Girls is certainly interesting in it’s realistic rendition, and shows that the idol industry isn’t all fun and games, although the show still come out looking optimistic somewhat by the end.

  2. I would say I just like idol anime for the performance aspect; I actually quite like the music because I feel like I know each of the individual performers. Going to see the movie this weekend so i’m really interested to see what the movie-quality CG effects are like ^_^

    • “I feel like I know each of the individual performers.”
      Yeah, I think this line pretty much sums it up :p Investment really work wonders in idol anime, and helps people gain more appreciation on things which they may/may not like in the first place.

      Have fun! I think the movie will be in cinemas here by October, but I’m going to skip it out. Would rather just watch it on my computer, lol.

        • Aww that’s too bad. I’m going to have to wait and watch to see what I think of it here, lol. Do you think the movie is pretty much just to milk money from the franchise? Seems to be a common problem from established franchises.

          • Given the amount of extra advertising and merchandise available in Japan, I wouldn’t exactly disagree with that. I thought the series was quite well done…the movie just doesn’t add anything to it.

  3. Yep, at one point this topic will come up again. While there were shows that mentioned idols or have idols that are not necessarily the main focus (Macros Frontier had them), yep the characters along with the fandom is what usually makes them popular, especially after shows focusing on idols started to come out. Sure, idol groups were popular before anime about them started coming out, but maybe it gained popularity in 2010 onwards.

    Aside from that, I do listen to Idolmaster music (not really that interested in the Love Live ones as mentioned before) and quite surprised with how diverse the musical styles they cover, especially when they have cover versions of various anime, video game or J-POP song out there (also true with Cinderella Girls as they started having cover version of songs for each girl who has a voice). The downside is that it’s not very accessible. Granted, you don’t need a Japanese XBox 360 anymore to play them since Bandai Namco ditched the XBox for the PS3 after they ported Idolmaster 2 to the Playstation 3, you need to know Japanese to fully enjoy the game. Of course, not everyone is going to teach themselves Japanese or take classes for it, unless you really want to learn it badly. Hopefully Namco will localize Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage (which is a good possibility since they already trademarked Cinderella Girls in the west) so at least there is some competition.

    The funny thing is the idol wars between the fandom. Sure, there was a live concert with the 765 idols and Muse voice actresses performing together, but of course the war is never over, at least for some fans.

    Oh yea, there is another popular idol franchise called Aikatsu, but it’s not that popular in the west considering the games are in Japanese and only on the 3DS, meaning it’s region locked aside from being a children’s show. Then again, this doesn’t matter since Namco Bandai has a near monopoly on 2d idols (they own Lantis, the company behind Love Live and also Aikatsu and Idolmaster). Wake Up Girls, AKB0048 and Pripara are non-Bandai Namco productions.

    • A bit irrelevant, but I feel like I should somehow mention Perfect Blue too. Awesome movie, though not exactly idol-centric.

      “Sure, idol groups were popular before anime about them started coming out, but maybe it gained popularity in 2010 onwards.”
      Do you think it’s because of the increasingly popularity of AKB48 and other Japanese idols?

      If they are covering songs outside of their own idolmaster franchises, then that’s cool, and brings the fandom engagement to new heights. I never really know this since I’m only listening to the music they performed within their own franchises, lol. I think just even bringing some of the idolmaster mobile games to the West would help tremendously (unless they already did, haven’t been keeping up with them lately). Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage looks awesome, not even sure if my phone can support it though, lol.

      They performed together? For some reason, I have a feeling that wouldn’t end well, lol.

      Well if they localize it, I may try it on my 3DS :\ I had a quick look and saw that there’s an anime for it and had been pretty much be ongoing for years, lol. Kinda funny how some other idol franchises ended up picking more steam in the West at a much shorter time.

  4. The only one that I like is Love Live, because there is a bunch of potential waifus duh. The songs are great, and the mobile game on iOS and Android isn’t bad either, I’m still playing it regularly everyday. I like most of the personality the character have, and the performance are pretty good as well. Aside from that, the the original Idolmaster isn’t bad either, but I prefer Love Live! of course. Cinderella girls on the other hand are pretty much meh after seeing the second season. Personally I was never interested in watching any Idol anime, but Love Live was good, and kinda get me interested in watching a few others.

    • “The only one that I like is Love Live, because there is a bunch of potential waifus duh”
      Indeed :p

      I had been slowing down on LLSIF lately, and pretty much only just returning for Maki events or if I can luckily catch some random SRs/Love gems giveaways, lol. But yeah, it’s a pretty fun game. For the original idolmaster, I just can’t feel attached to any of the characters, but I’m very easily warmed up to Love Live’s. Cinderella Girls is kinda weird that I ended up liking the Producer more than any of the girls. I haven’t watch the second season, what’s wrong with it? No spoilers though :p

      Same man, I think with how Love Live being set in school and the concept of “school idols”, it helps “humanize” the characters away from the professionalism of idols and more to innocent, high school environment, which also makes it more accessible for people who had never watch/never like an idol anime before.

      • Yeah the attachment just isn’t there for Idolmaster, even Cinderella Girls are pretty much the same. That’s why I guess LL is pretty much winning in Japan. Season 2 of CG, well shit happens, and drama. I doubt when it end, i’ll be satisfied with anything, it’s just me though. Season 1 was just better imo.

        Yeah that’s about right. School environment and stuff is a lot more fun, then being professional. I’d like a take on college idol next, that would be cool. Aide from that, i’m playing that new Starlight Stage for Idolmaster, it’s pretty much the same like LLSIF, but I like that it had more stuff in it and pretty much improved.. I’m like thinking of spending 40usd atm, just for 1 time fun. Didn’t spend real money on LLSIF, but somehow felt like spending some for Starlight Stage, because of the effort they put into the free game.

        • Idolmaster still seem pretty popular in the West though, although I’m just judging this from my twitter timeline, no actual statistics or proof, lol. Drama huh… well I can enjoy some good drama, Mio’s character episode in season 1 was pretty good imo, but I have to actually start season 2 to see what you mean, lol.

          College idol… that’s actually an interesting idea, and might even work better since I think time would be more flexible with a college environment, at the very least, you’re not studying from morning until late afternoon like in high school, lol. I had seen some brief gameplay videos for Starlight Stage, from what I can see, seems like LLSIF with actual performance animations, look really cool, but not sure if my ancient phone can support it, lol. What phone are you using?

          “I’m like thinking of spending 40usd”
          Think we talked about this on twitter, but yeah… it will turn into 1000 usd :p

          • Probably not as popular as Love Live maybe. Then if you like drama go for it. Good good, tell me if you are happy with the direction it’s going in the anime, lol.

            Yeah college would be great, more drama and stuff probably, and some love interest and etc, could make one hella a good anime, which is different from the rest of the idol shows.

            Starlight has 3d animation yes, but it eats a lot of your battery juice, there is also 2d moving chibi or not moving ones to save battery. Yeah if it’s an ancient phone, maybe it might lag a bit. I’m using 6+ atm, so not much of a problem yet.

            Not gonna spend anymore I’m sure of that. That’s like the 2nd time in my life that I actually pay for mobile gaming, first one being Neko Atsume just to support them. Same thing could be said for Starlight stage, if I like a game, I’ll just fork some money just to show a little bit of support.

            • Yeah, it’ll be interesting when I get to it.. lol.

              I’m thinking yuri, actually, but standard love interest can be good too, I guess :p.

              6+ huh… I guess you wouldn’t have any problems lol. *looks at my ancient Note 1*

              Never heard of Neko Atsume so I had a quick look, looks like a cute game, and does make sense that the Japanese would come up with something like this, lol. A bit unrelated, but do you think Fate/GO would get localized?

              • I doubt it for Fate/Grand Order, even Starlight tbh. It’s the same thing that could be said for a lot of Idolmaster games on mobile as well as on console. They’ll make money out of it sure, but the time to invest managing might be the part where they are not interested in. As well as translation.. Starlight has a lot of story dialogues for example, not that that of LLSIF, 10x more for each story.

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  6. Pingback: Why Aikatsu is awesome and why you should watch it (By Kai) | The Yuri Nation

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