Aikatsu – Episodes 1-3

Hey everybody! Today I’ll be powering through the first few episodes of what’s become something of an odd favorite in my twitter circles, Aikatsu. Aikatsu is a long-running show based on an arcade card game, and is definitely far more Serious Idoldom than relative “crossover hits” like Idolmaster or Love Live. I’m not really expecting high-quality production or anything, but lots of people seem to find this show very charming, so hopefully I have a good time! I’ve also been stretching myself pretty thin for those megasized Nichijou notes writeups, so this one will be scaled back – I’ll point out interesting stuff when I find it, but I’m also gonna try to just enjoy the ride. Anyway, that’s enough preamble. Let’s get right into Aikatsu!

Episode 1

Ichigo, our hero

Aikatsu

Between the energy of the lead and the perky music, I can already see one reason why people might like this show – it just seems genuinely positive. Genuine positivity is a pretty great quality

Her family runs a restaurant

This show passes the lettuce test – its lettuce looks like lettuce

Nice poppy OP. A shame this CG is a crime against humanity

The choreography actually looks pretty realistic compared to some other shows, though. They look like relative beginners. Which I suppose makes them more relatable to this show’s actual target audience?

Aikatsu

“I can become an idol?” a question I too often grapple with

Some nice color work, though the character designs feel kinda flat – unshaded and low-detail. Maybe simplified for the sake of the CG sequences?

“Welp, you’ve been a main character for four minutes, Ichigo. It’s about time to follow your dreams!”

Kanzuki Mizuki, the TOP IDOL

Aoi is the blue-haired girl. Already an idol fan, kinda spunky. I assume she’ll be the proactive, supportive one, in contrast to the more reserved red-haired girl. They’re not obeying the hair color personality rules!

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Aoi seems very powerful

“Idols… are they really so great that you can’t fall asleep?” promptly falls asleep

An insane idol megadome for the dancing CG creature

Idols can teleport!

The classic idol show problem – the performances that are supposed to demonstrate the magic of idols are generally the worst parts, courtesy of both the ugly CG and the fact that most idol music is very generic and underwhelming

The idol just… blew a kiss that turned into a giant floating spade which she then flew through? Idols are extremely talented

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Ichigo hears the call!

Eyecatches advertising cards for the Aikatsu game. It is a little uncomfortable to think this is a show that actually is selling the idea of becoming an idol to kids. All these very nice shows centered on this frustratingly poisoned industry

TIME TO EXPLAIN THE AIKATSU CARD GAME

Aoi is a friggin’ idol drug pusher

Starlight Academy entrance exams! So this is basically the Hunter exam, I will immediately assume

“Ichigo has the scent of an idol!” Keep it in your pants, Aoi

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Give up on the bento shop, Ichigo. IT’S TIME FOR IDOL DREAMS

Welp, Ichigo decided in half an episode what Love Live takes a full season to do. And now, training montage!

“There are about 1000 applicants.” Fortunately, at least half of those will be cut down in the battle royale

“I told you, didn’t I? You’ve got the scent of an idol.” Guess we just have to wait until the idol-detecting dogs elimination round

“Choose your cards carefully!” Ichigo thoughtfully assesses the board and then takes the three pink frilly things

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This pink CG box ain’t exactly Utena’s stairs, but it’s still a vehicle of transformation

“Quite a nice coord.” SHE JUST CHOSE THE THREE PINK THINGS

Ooh, I like her singing voice. It actually has more depth and personality than her speaking voice. Or am I an idiot and they just aren’t even the same actress?

Ichigo summons a giant heart and then rides it around the stage. Idols must not be underestimated

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“I hope they enjoy the short time they can remain friends.” Red-head ISN’T HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS

Episode 2

“After we become famous, these photos of our early days will be really valuable.” Aoi is pretty great

The school’s giant gate. The school is framed as a massive European castle, and idols as magical transforming princesses

“No matter what happens, we’ll always be friends.” Looks like we’ve got the first conflict all plotted out

Aikatsu

No. I refuse to accept bedhead can form into the shape of a heart

“This one will be rare, too!” It’s interesting how even Aoi’s focus on pictures of their early days reflects her treating this like a business. Aikatsu is actually more grounded in that way than something like Love Live – idols knowing they have to be self-promoters

Also interesting how the role of “producer” in something like Idolmaster is here turned into a game for the idols themselves, through their selection of clothes and whatnot. A simplified version of production for a very different game audience – younger kids who just want to pick cool clothes

And the current headmistress is a former idol. Idol isn’t a permanent career option!

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Even a kid’s show accepts the ephemerality of success. That feels like a cultural assumption you don’t really see in American shows. Also ties in to the usual focus on nostalgia

Laying on the “we’ll be rivals soon” extremely thick, but hey, kids’ shows

Time to give them their Aikatsu phones, sacred icons of Starlight Academy students that are also available at all major retailers

Their teacher’s name is… Johnny Bepp

He seems nice

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An audition to become Mizuki’s temporary manager

So here’s the “only one of you can get the job.” Meaning it actually seems pretty likely “but we’ll still be friends” will be resolved just within this episode. I wonder if that will be the standard structure

“That one day, the two of us would have to compete against each other.” Aoi, it’s the second episode

EXTREME HANDSHAKING

Aoi explaining how she used to have respectable hobbies, but then got sucked in by idols

Aikatsu

“Her charm point is her large mouth!”

Dual transformations using this terrible stock footage

The idols stand before a sea of CG golems, rigid smiles plastered on their unblinking faces

Ichigo fell on her dang face

Looks like Mizuki’s doing more teleporting again

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“For every idol shining on the stage, there are dozens of people suffering because they couldn’t make it.” Damn!

Episode 3

Ichigo’s color scheme is kinda unique for a main character. Blond hair and red eyes, sticking very closely to the strawberry theme

Sharing an oreo. Pretty adorable

Aoi was definitely the more appropriate choice to become a manager

Mizuki disappeared for a year, apparently

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“I wonder how Mizuki-chan is normally?” Also drawing attention to the distance between performance selves and real selves

Mizuki gets her own private dorm? Damn

Kinda getting fatigued with this show at this point. Three episodes in, basically nothing interesting has happened, and the aesthetics are very low-tier

Her interior decorating kinda sucks

“Model walking first thing in the morning” is pretty close to “decanting from such a height”

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Why does Ichigo think an apron over her regular uniform qualifies as a disguise

“Let me hide behind you for a bit.” A reasonable request

They find Ichigo stowing away, but Mizuki takes mercy on this commoner

This show is offering a surprisingly grounded take on daily idol activities, at times

Mizuki so far has been perfect at everything. That actually is a shoujo archetype, but I wonder if they’re going somewhere more complex with her

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Mizuki offering frank takes on current politics. Idols for president

“Mizuki isn’t the kind of girl you two think she is”

Whoa damn, Mizuki’s got a whole first edition set of coord cards

This main song is such elevator music. It’s the kind of pleasant noise you’d hear in the menu for a Katamari Damacy game

“Step confidently and kiss your heart.” Excellent advice

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Mizuki works herself like crazy

A good, if incomplete message here – the best aren’t just prodigies, they work damn hard

And that is that! There’s basically nothing for me to critique in a fairly standard children’s show like this, but I didn’t really mind the ride. I’m told this show eventually gets pretty wacky, but I don’t really feel invested enough in any of the existing variables to power through. Cya later, Aikatsu!

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