Alright, let’s get back on that Aikatsu train. My most recent experiences with Aikatsu have been… well, less than spectacular. The fourth episode just wasn’t particularly interesting, and the fifth episode was actively aggravating, so our relationship is a little strained at the moment. The show’s aesthetics are just plainly not very good, and I’ve given up on expecting anything approaching Doremi’s thematic cohesion and character work, so it seems like I’m basically just here for whenever this show Gets Weird. Please get weird, Aikatsu. I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do with you.
Alright, that’s enough moaning and groaning. LET’S GET THIS AIKATSU STARTED!
Looks like they’re following through on the fashion magazine shoot they earned last episode. Continuity!
The exterior shots with no characters in close range are still quite pretty. Starlight Academy is an excellent cross between a traditional school, a stately European manor, and a Disneyfied castle, managing to make its star motif feel pretty natural. It’s just when the show’s characters get in the frame that things get awkward…
Dang, Ran’s photo shoot outfit is great
Looks like Ran has fully transitioned from being the stern, ominous mentor figure to blushing whenever Ichigo calls her “Ran-chan.” It happens to the best of us, Ran-chan
I guess Aoi is really just the “idol expert,” which makes her the “brainy” one in a show whose entire world revolves around idol activities. So there’s still room for Ran to be the stern/cool one
I like that Ran is conditioned to immediately strike a pose when called, whereas Ichigo just sticks to her ganbarimasu fists
Even Ran’s signature is cool!
“I don’t have a signature!” Jeez Ichigo, what a friggin’ amateur you are
“Lost in an Autograph” oh my god autographs are the topic of this episode. Okay, this is a reasonably ridiculous premise
And I certainly know the pain of possessing a doctor-level signature
Dang, we’ve rushed right through the photo shoot
Did Starlight Academy give Ichigo no training whatsoever in how to handle a photo shoot? Not really sure about their trial-by-fire academic philosophy
And of course, Bepp’s signature teaching style: mocking your students’ lack of experience and then laughing in their faces
“It’s nothing. Why?!” Oh my god Johnny Bepp. Okay, this is a good episode
“How can you call yourself an idol if you don’t have a signature?” Bepp really going hard on this “time to mock a student for something I never taught them” bit
I am totally fine with “whimsically terrible idol school” Aikatsu
Alright, looks like Bepp actually forgot to tell them to prepare signatures
And here are some actually great faces for the girls. Things are already looking up
Dang, this cafeteria is lovely
Diving into the aesthetics of autographs
“Something cute and cool.” Jeez Ichigo, don’t you know you gotta pick one
The way they’re treating Ran kinda just makes me wish Nico Yazawa was in this show. Idol shows are better with Nicos
Ran’s also a Mizuki fan
Dang, Ran is actually giving them solid advice. And this episode’s conflict is simple and understandable enough that anyone can probably relate to it, in spite of the fact that very few of us need to worry about our autographs
This episode really seems to have a more bouncy, propulsive pace than the last couple. I think adding Ran to the core group has helped a lot – she bounces off Ichigo very naturally, giving the show’s general conversational dynamic more natural punchlines
Both Ran and Bepp rightly point out that Ichigo’s signature takes way too long to draw. You gotta be able to toss that thing off!
And Ichigo decides that she’s just going to get insanely fast at drawing her ridiculous signature. Girl, you don’t need to make everything hard for yourself
Ichigo straps herself to springs attached to a tree, and tries to drag herself towards a table where she signs her signature. Yes, this is definitely the Aikatsu I was hoping for
“Is she ever going to need to sign something that big?” This sequence is wonderful
“I can’t break the twenty second barrier.” Key to this kind of absurdity’s appeal is the existence of internal logical – Ichigo’s drama here may not make any external sense, but it has its own internal rules, like “the quest to beat the twenty second barrier”
Ichigo’s on fire
A package arrives. TIME TO PUT THOSE SIGNATURE-WRITING SKILLS TO WORK!
Ran’s civilian disguise is excellent
Ichigo’s brother helpfully sets up an autograph session. Thanks, asshole
I guess they’re… already famous enough to warrant autograph sessions? Ran makes sense, but apparently Ichigo and Aoi are doing pretty well for themselves too
“Who are you signing for?” Once again, Ichigo has forgotten THE SPIRIT OF IDOLDOM. Caught up in her own speed-signing perfection, she’s lost sight of the people she’s signing FOR. Can Ichigo ever escape her own lonely drive?!?
Oh my god this show’s “moral conclusions” are so fucking stupid I love it
“You fought your heavy sign and won!” This scene is actually quite charming. Ichigo is ganbarimasuing as hard as she can
Ichigo gets an Angely Sugar Aikatsu set! This show is evil-good at what it does – this episode was an extremely effective advertisement for rare Aikatsu cards
Then Bepp just offhandedly mentions there’s an audition she’s perfect for. Gotta get that CG footage in, I suppose
I’m glad Ichigo has finally gained an outfit that isn’t her gaudy pink starter costume
Aaand they’ve already used this song before. Jeez, these performance sequences take bank footage to the next level
Oh my god the texture on her CG hair lol
“I didn’t come because I was worried about her or anything.” Uh oh Ran, that’s it. You’ve said the magic words, you’re That Character now
Well, that was a relief. After two fairly disappointing episodes, this one was propulsive, funny, and consistently absurd. The signature focus gave the episode a solid mix of actual dramatic tension and baseline silliness, and the show executed on both those threads quite well. Aikatsu certainly isn’t great literature or anything, or even great children’s television yet, but this episode was a wonderful time. With Ran having formally joined the main group, it looks like the show is finally ready to stretch its ridiculous wings.
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