Aikatsu – Episode 5

Let’s friggin’ Aikatsu! Last episode saw Ichigo nabbing her very first job, starring as a takoyaki shop promoter along with Aoi. That’s not the most auspicious of beginnings, but hey, she’s just starting high school. Speaking of which, the show has only explored Starlight Academy’s functionality as an actual school in the most vague and incidental of ways, so I guess my hope for this episode is that we actually get to see more of these so-called aikatsu they’re so proud of. Either way, Aikatsu ho!

Episode 5

Ah, Ichigo’s a middle school student, not a high school student. That… doesn’t really help me with the premise

Is this the first episode that’s actually had an intro segment? Presumably the second and third did, since they were continuing stories and not standalones

It’s also a little odd that this show just doesn’t seem to have an OP at all. Generally these low-rent children’s shows happily spring for OPs, since they’re essentially another form of reliable bank footage

“Ran! Runway!”

“Idols are never late!” “And love is forbidden, you can never go to the bathroom, and you must go to sleep holding a teddy bear. Right?” “What decade do you think it is?” So they’re having some fun playing around with the strictures of idol culture. But is stuff like this actually old-fashioned at this point? It still seems like careers are tanked when the illusion of a “pure idol” is shattered by some idol acting in unacceptably human ways

Man, Starlight Academy’s architecture sure is nice. I like these little balconies extending from hallways just above the entrance hall

It’s the mysterious red-haired girl!

“Shibuki Ran. Thirteen years old, and a veteran idol who’s been performing since she was born.” SINCE SHE WAS BORN? HOW DEEP DOES THIS INDUSTRY GO

“Despite her age, she’s continuously polished her appearance and challenged the myth that child actors can’t be pretty…” Jeez, this episode is really working hard to push every possible “uncomfortable realities of the idol industry played absolutely straight” button it can find. Yeah, let’s talk about the theoretical attractiveness of child actors! That sounds like a time!

Yes, now let’s talk about her sexy image, awesome

Alright, whatever. Obviously this show and I have clear disagreements about how awesome it is to present children as sexual icons in a predatory industry that already denies the humanity of its stars. To make it brief: I think all of that is super bad, and I’m not thrilled by media that normalizes it, since it is a legitimate real-life issue that could actually affect the kids watching this show. But critiquing every single instance of that wouldn’t be particularly useful, so I’m just gonna put my take on this whole situation out there and get on with the episode

“Be careful not to disappear together.” Jeez, Ran is cold

But Aoi seems to be into that, so I guess it’s okay

“It feels like she’ll cut me straight down.” Didn’t figure Aoi for the type that wanted to be stepped on by a cute girl, but I guess that’s also Aikatsu

“I get the feeling that she’s always alone.” So along with Ichigo the upbeat lead and Aoi the bookish best friend, we’ll be filling out the trio with Ran the cool beauty. Three classic personality types, three primary hair colors

Aoi rightly points out that Ran might just prefer being alone

This episode’s pretty heavy on the faces, but Aikatsu doesn’t really have particularly good ones. They’re just kinda standard emoji expressions

I do appreciate that the whole class has pretty distinctive looks, even if they all stick to the same body type

They’re going to a fashion show audition! Looks like learning what they actually study here will have to wait

“Good job, me.” I luv u Johnny Bepp

Jeez, going to this school opens a shit-ton of doors, apparently

“The combination is vital.” This show is really insistent on the importance of chemistry between idols, which I suppose just naturally works with its “let’s make friends!” ethos

He stresses the combination’s importance and then… makes them apply via lottery. Way to go, Bepp

What the hell this girl’s hair is made of orbs

Ichigo and Ran get paired up, of course

I really love Ichigo’s “Aikatsu!” chant

Once again, these background colors are both lovely and totally incompatible with the show’s character art

Some of these shots are still quite pretty though. I like the mix of deep blue and green versus sunset reds here

Ran is just lurking around outside watching them train, as you do

Ran used to have a roommate, but she left for some reason, so now she’s distant. A classic tale

“Trying your best doesn’t ensure you’ll succeed”

A wild Mizuki appears with cryptic Ran advice

“Suddenly, it’s audition day.” Yeah let’s get right to this

Ran just decides to be a huge dick for no reason, talking trash about the etymology of “runway” and Ichigo’s selfish dreams

Ran introduces Ichigo to all the many professionals behind the scenes who make this whole scenario work

Alright, I can roll with this. Ran’s philosophy includes both the people behind the scenes and the fact that the people watching are all envisioning these models as carrying their own dreams. It’s a legitimately selfless view of her work

Wait, I thought this was a fashion show. Why are they wearing the same clothes they always do and dancing

Some alien interlopers in the backgrounds once again. This sure is the lowest-rent of all CG

Watching these CG performances really emphasizes how ridiculously skinny these characters are. They’re all stick figures

These performances actually feel creepy. This world is so removed from reality, and these CG models are so lifeless

Ran sort of praises Ichigo maybe

“The reason I step with my left leg first is because Mako used to.” THE LEFT LEG OF FRIENDSHIP

Aoi claims that her and Ichigo can from now on be “together in spirit,” thereby ditching her loser friend

Alright, after an entire episode dominated by faux-profound non-conversations, it’s really nice to see Aoi and Ran actually have a decent rapport

And Done

Welp, that episode… kinda sucked. It leaned heavily on a lot of the creepy assumptions of the idol industry that I’m already trying to handwave for the sake of the show, and Ran and Ichigo just never developed a particularly compelling rapport. The big emotional turn focused on everyone behind the stage also felt pretty damn undercooked, and more a perfunctory moral appendage than a meaningful turning point. Apparently the true Aikatsu is still hiding somewhere in the distance!

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