Colloquium: Top 10 Anime Idols
As I experienced another lull in activity, I toyed with the idea of making another list to inject some life in the blog, and decided on a Top Idol list. Then the idea of collaborating with someone on the list springs to mind, so I asked a good friend and fellow blogmate, Leap (of Leap250’s Blog) and we decided on a Top 10 Idol list (we would do 5 each) not ranked consecutively.
10. Takami Chika (Love Live! Sunshine!!)
Leap: When Kai first approached me to do this list with him I told him right off the bat that there’s a good chance I will devote at the very least two of my five spots to Love Live! characters (ideally a character from each generation barring NijiGaku which has yet to have an anime). Of course, you’ll see that I ended up doing just that, BUT I did change up my choice for Love Live! Sunshine!!, where I initially planned on writing about Kurosawa Dia, to instead now having this orange girl here be my representative for the series. The idol industry, specifically Japan’s idol industry, is one that celebrates imperfection above almost everything else, and Love Live! Sunshine!!’s portrayal of Aqours encapsulates this idea beautifully and subsequently Takami Chika is pretty much the embodiment of this ideology. I mean, I wrote an entire post about her and her tribulations so that says something about how I see her as.
9. Nishikino Maki (Love Live!)
Kai: Appealing character design and a character of reserved nature and social clumsiness that slowly improves over the course of the series, a timeless archetype that still never failed to strike my fancy. Maki’s character is a masterful finesse of subdued tsundere. She also so happened to have one of the best singing voices in the group. On top of that, she writes the songs for u’s, plays the piano and is involved in arguably the most celebrated Love Live ship of all time. In all honesty, Love Live is a series where the charm of the characters come across more collectively rather than individually. Despite that, I was instantly zoomed in on Maki the first time I watched the show. Maki is good.
8. Yazawa Nico (Love Live!)
Leap: You’ll start to see a theme as I go through my picks here, but Love Live!’s Yazawa Nico is a character that I really turned a corner on over the years, specifically after the anime run of LL!SS!!. That being said, Nico is (still to this day I would imagine) a polarizing character that the majority of the fandom really either loves or hates, and whom everyone sees as idol trash; in an endearing (lol) sort of way or otherwise. While I’m not the biggest fan of her singing, or the many gimmicks associated to her, I do geninely like Nico as a character. Underneath all the antics lies a very real (and even relatable for some) narrative of obstinate devotion in the pursuit of a dream — which in her case was being “the number one idol in the universe”. A silly and childish endeavor, but at the same time pure and earnest; to the point where she’d lie to her siblings to keep that image, not to deceive them, but for them to see her efforts as not being in vain.
7. Ozora Akari (Aikatsu!)
Kai: There is one character trait in idols that I’m always a sucker of — underdogs. No matter how many times the idol anime genre runs through this template, give me a good underdog story and I will immediately become a fan. In Aikatsu, nobody scratches the itch for an underdog story better than Akari. In a show where it’s all about an ordinary girl inspired by the radiance of idols, Akari’s journey to become a top idol herself is somehow more riveting than the series’s original protagonist, Ichigo. Even after she became an established idol, she woke up earlier than everyone else, and worked in a minor weather broadcast program which really became her niche later on. Aikatsu may be a lighthearted show where the characters are mostly all smiles with twinkles in their eyes. But every time Akari smiles, and for every live she successfully performed — possess a certain weight and context to them that few of Aikatsu characters can measure up to. Idols are hard work; idols are dedication, and Akari is the paragon of that ideal. Akari is a character who has a lot of heart, almost as massive as the universe itself.
6. Kazanari Tsubasa (Senki Zesshou Symphogear)
Leap: I came in to Symphogear being first and foremost a fan of the people involved with the franchise more than anything, but as I soldier on with each season I find myself being more and more invested in the characters themselves. One of the characters that ended up really growing on me was Kazanari Tsubasa; the katana-wielding top idol sworn to protect mankind from the Noise. The only real action-oriented anime idol on this list, Tsubasa is resolute in whatever she does, often to a fault (where she ends up coming across as just plain stubborn). She also sees herself as a sword — as nothing more than a tool with no will of her own. All that changes over the course of the series, largely in part to her friends, all of whom eventually convince her that she too is entitled not only to dream, but to just be human like everyone else. Tsubasa’s “triple” life; of being and idol, an armor-clad crusader, and a regular girl — is one that is easily overlooked, given the nature of these kinds of shows, but I still really liked seeing her development throughout the show’s iterations.
5. Maruyama Aya (BanG Dream!)
Kai: Okay, I cheated (lol). This technically isn’t from the anime, at least, I never watched it and all I described here is from Pastel Palettes’s story arc in the game. But in the aforementioned group, Aya has always grasped my attention the most, because you guessed it — underdog character. But Aya’s a little different in that while Akari’s tackle of the underdog story is more simple and optimistic; in that hard work will pay off, Aya’s story arc in Bandori has a more skeptical approach that question the efficiency of hard work itself. After all, not everything can be accomplished with hard work alone. But at the end of the day, Aya believes that her hard work is her very identity as an idol, that all her diligence can never be denied even in the cutthroat world of idols where effort isn’t necessarily rewarded. In a way, having the ability to still maintain that childlike mindset of the ideal idol despite the cold and harsh reality of the idol industry takes considerable willpower. Against all odds, Aya never lose her way.
4. Kirigoe Mima (Perfect Blue)
Leap: Okay, to be fair, Kirigoe Mima wasn’t really any sort of exceptional anime idol nor were her appearances in the highly acclaimed Perfect Blue all that remarkable, but she makes it on my list because of the narrative that revolves around her character. Based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, the Satoshi Kon classic served as a sort-of looking glass representation of the world of Japanese idol and celebrity and its at times seedy underbelly. While a lot of the film’s depiction of the darker side of idol stardom can be chalked up as being rather exaggerated, it is by all acounts still to this day arguably one of the realest takes on the industry in terms of the socio-cultural. Without giving too much away (if in case you haven’t seen Perfect Blue yet /I highly recommend that you do btw), the crux of Mima’s character is that of audience reception and perception — which, to me, is one of the most fascinating aspects of idol viewing culture in the first place.
3. Kisaragi Chihaya (Idolm@ster)
Kai: Few characters in the idol anime world match the eloquence and emotion in Chihaya’s story arc. Idolm@ster, especially the first season, was an idol show I always described as the be-all and end-all of idol shows — a rudimentary, but serious depiction of the idol industry, and with characters and stories that reflect the real life industry to some degree. Chihaya’s character arc in the story revolves around a scandal, something which would reveal her strikingly complicated feelings towards singing and her career as an idol; and of a past that would limit her outlook of the idol industry, and also guilt that makes her hesitant to dream like any other idols. At the very least, not all idols view that idol stage as a grand and glamorous dream worth pursuing, some idols perceive it with a colder take like Chihaya, but her huge change in the arc was one of the most heartwarming things I have ever seen. Indeed, Chihaya’s character arc is one of the best anime idol narratives in my opinion, which also birthed one of my favorite idol music “Yakusoku”, a ballad that expresses just as much raw emotions as the actual story itself.
2. Lacus Clyne (Mobile Suit Gundam SEED)
Leap: I’ll always hold Gundam SEED near and dear to my heart as being really the first Gundam series that that I completed from start to end. I mean, it’s not the best one out there (xD) but it did ease me into the franchise with the whole romance angle it had going on, as well as the character dynamics that these relations resulted in. Songstress Lacus Clyne’s actions in particular was interesting to follow all throughout the show the more she began to develop, both as her own person, and in how she interacted with others. Over the course of Gundam SEED we see Lacus go from being ditzy and almost completely clueless at times to being one of the series’ most politically savvy and influential figures — all the while being, in many ways, a symbol of peace thanks to her status as a well-renowned pop idol.
1. Ranka Lee (Macross Frontier)
Kai: As one of the series’s crucial characters, Ranka was involved in most of the story’s major plot points, even more so for the movie versions and she was a huge factor in alleviating the hostility towards their adversaries and instead, in traditional Macross fashion, saved everyone with the power of music, love and culture. Ranka Lee is perfect — her cuteness and sweet songs have stopped wars, conflicts and even saved the universe; literally saving the world with the power of moe and music. While Ranka lacks the grace and confidence that comes with being the top idol, she makes up for it with her earnestness and integrity which eventually became her own unique charm in contrast to the cool and elegant Sheryl. Did I mention her brother likes Fire Bomber as well? Anyone who likes Fire Bomber is never a bad guy. I also can’t not mention this — Ranka’s fang! Ranka’s fang is perhaps the most powerful artifact ever known to mankind, no doubt also played a pivotal role in Ranka being the savior of the universe. Embrace her, to the ends of the galaxy!