Aikatsu – Episode 4

You know what, let’s watch some goddamn Aikatsu. It’s been a while, I’ve still got a fair number of funded episodes to get through, and I’m in the mood for some ridiculous idols. I recall the first three episodes of this show didn’t get into particularly strange territory, but the show has a reputation within my broader circle for truly absurd episodic shenanigans. And even if it just remains a pleasant idol show for a younger crowd, that’s also a pretty fine thing to be. Aikatsu ho!

Episode 4

“You might even have a fan or two now.” Our heroine is already cultivating an actual audience at episode four. The relationship between idols and their explicit fan community seems so fundamental to the “idol experience” that this makes sense

“This is the kind of footage that has to be preserved for all eternity. It’s like a kind of communication with your fans, and part of your highlight reel.” Yeah, the idol’s relationship with their fans is continuously emphasized. Which makes this a bit tough for me. The actual, real-life idol industry seems incredibly predatory, and the possessive nature of fans absolutely horrible. The idol industry encourages the kind of ownership and identity-tinted relationship with media that I consider pretty much inherently unhealthy, and it tops that off by setting its objects of worship not as media properties, but as actual people, or people playing a popular version of themselves. Seeing that process applauded in a show for kids isn’t the best

Welp, looks like we’re diving right into that can of worms. An episode about Ichigo’s first fan!

“For an idol, looking at the camera is the most basic of skills.” Aikatsu seems to embrace “idoldom as a business” more than most idol shows. Elements of the job that wouldn’t generally get focus are all tools for episodic drama. The fact that it’s a long-running episodic show lets it take an interest in basically everything

Aoi gets a fan letter! Let’s hope it’s not I HAVE YOUR DOG or something

“All I did was fall on my face.” It’s okay Ichigo. In the internet age, “falling on your face and videotaping it” is a perfectly valid career track

Some surprisingly nice backgrounds here. Aikatsu is generally a pretty sterile-looking show, but I like the soft colors of these interiors

They even chose promotional campaigns to work on. This is certainly a different approach to idols from Love Live, though obviously it exists in its own kind of fantasy world, where idoling is just another school track

It’s a classic trick, but I like how Ichigo’s ribbons echo her emotions

Working on concentration and leg strength to avoid falling down again

The backgrounds out in this park are equally nice. The show’s biggest visual weakness may actually be its character designs – not only do they seem designed to be easy to translate to CG, but their bright primary colors are just kind of garish as well

Ichigo maintaining her Ichigo appeal by falling right on her face

The fan arrives!

This is a uniquely awkward situation. They’re pretty much just fellow high school students, but she also has a “professional relationship” with him as an idol

“But I messed up! It wasn’t cool at all.” Oh Ichigo. How innocent you are to the ways of moe

“You got right back up even after falling. I admired that.” Clearly there must be a niche for me, the idol who trips immediately and then just cries on stage for the rest of the performance

But yes, “perseverance in the face of failure” is a legitimately excellent thing to admire about a performer. Idolmaster is pretty good about emphasizing that as well

Ichigo inspired this boy to keep trying at track. IDOLS ARE MADE OF DREAMS

More nice backgrounds, including an improbably beautiful old-fashioned movie theater. I appreciate that the faux-European aesthetic of Starlight Academy extends to the architecture of the surrounding town. This feels like a magical but largely cohesive place

I get the feeling the leads’ bright primary colors were chosen to appeal to young children, which makes sense, but they sure do clash with these soft pastel backgrounds

“I’m sure I’d win if our audition was for reviewing food.” I would also watch that show

Aoi and Ichigo have a very natural rapport. The show lets a lot of their lines simply articulate their friendship, instead of furthering the plot. You could imagine them having conversations about anything, not just whatever’s driving them at the moment

The girls try and push themselves to match Oota’s running pace. That’s not really a good idea! Stressing your body by running beyond your limits doesn’t demonstrate your determination, it just demonstrates you don’t know how to exercise properly

Though I suppose I shouldn’t expect this show to be educational in the same way Doremi is – it’s famous for its absurdity, after all

Goddamnit Ichigo says Oota looks like a cat and now I can’t unsee it

Ichigo can summon CG flowers on demand. Top-tier idol powers

“I need to convey my feelings to the people on the other side of the camera.” I’m afraid that won’t be possible for another few seasons, Ichigo. But don’t worry, the CG gets there eventually

Time to get to that handy bank footage!

I like how different the designs are for all of Ichigo and Aoi’s competition. They’re the only entrants from Starlight Academy

For successfully being chosen to act as promotional idols for a takoyaki shop, Aoi and Ichigo were given a golden takoyaki statue, of course

And Done

Well, that was perfectly pleasant. Aikatsu still isn’t really rising above “reasonably charming children’s show,” but it’s certainly watchable, and I do like the cast. Even among children’s shows, Aikatsu is pretty relentlessly upbeat, which works fine – it certainly lacks the emotional nuance of Doremi, but sometimes you just want a purely positive thing. And I’m sure we’ve got higher peaks waiting on the horizon.

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