Friday, October 26, 2018

Aria the Scarlet Ammo Review

Aria the Scarlet Ammo Review

Warning: The following review may/will contain spoilers for Aria the Scarlet Ammo. If you wish to stay clear of what happens in this show's story, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched said show. Or, you know, you can take that warning with a grain of salt, and still read on anyway. Whatever floats your boat.

Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:

Boom, baby! I'm back! Getting back into the anime watching business is hard work when your burn-out is so bad and you don't feel motivated to start anything new despite the fact that it's summer and you have more free time.

Regardless, here is a life update: I'm in college now! It feels very weird that I've written reviews for four years and it followed the entirety of me being in high school, but alas. My growth throughout this blog's run is startling. It's strange to go back and see reviews from baby me, who didn't know that it was okay to use "fanboying" instead of "fangirling" and who wouldn't go into depth about really anything until the summer of 2015.

However, there are always good parts of going back in time and looking back on the things that made you happy, the things you wish didn't exist, and the things you want to look into since a prime opportunity fell into your lap and why not, right?

Case in point, Aria the Scarlet Ammo. I've known about this show since I realized liking anime could be a hobby. So, at the time of this review, we're talking about almost six and a half years. I'd seen it on the FUNimation website, watched bits and pieces here and there, but never had the time to sit down and give it a full watch. Luckily, Luke found the limited edition set we had seen getting unboxed many times back in the day at Half Price Books in June (HPB is LIT, just saying), bought it with some of his graduation money, and started watching it as soon as our first day of classes were over.

I wasn't expecting a lot out of this series, but I was still hoping it would offer something entertaining. Did it grant that wish? Or did it fall flat?

Well, yes and no. One thing the show has going for it is potential. But that potential barely reaches the point where the show could have been good. Some of the directions the story took were interesting but never really hit the ground running as the writing skimmed on key background development. Some of the characters were interesting, but developments were either barely shown or weren't well-written. The animation was good at points, but also looked very sloppy at others. The score was fine, but sometimes I'd prefer if it wasn't the opening and ending I was looking forward to every episode. These elements all mix together to where an average show is born.

Not gonna lie, I probably would have liked this show WAY more four years ago, but considering I've watched countless anime and kind of knew what I was getting into, I shouldn't be surprised at how this turned out. It's not trash, but it's not a five star meal, either. It lands awkwardly in the middle.

Let's start off with the story:


In this show's world, teens from Japan (and possibly beyond) are trained to become Butei. What are Butei, you ask? Well, they are agents trained to fight crime wherever it may appear. Trained in various fields, these individuals are allowed to possess any weapons they wish in order to capture the worst criminals around the world.

Our story begins with Kinji Tohyama, an E-ranked student at Toyko Butei High (for reasons I'll explain later) riding his bike to school after missing his bus (casually, as he does). However, this isn't an ordinary day. He starts getting chased by a hijacked Segway armed with a Uzi, which lets him know a bomb has been planted on his bike. If he slows down, it'll explode. If he jumps off to save himself, the Uzi will shoot him. He's definitely in a pinch, but luckily, a S-ranked girl named Aria H. Kanazaki saves him from certain death by shooting the Segway and accidentally falling on his face boobs first (oops). 

The two become unconscious after the explosion and roll into a storage unit, but luckily, they come to...with Aria's shirt rolled upwards from the fall. Yikes. From there, Aria and Kinji are able to fend off additional hacked Segways once the former inadvertently sticks her boobs in the latter's face (this time, not from a fall) and Kinji enters Hysteria Mode, a condition that is genetically present in his family, where he becomes seductive, suave, and his skill level is thirty times stronger than its initial level (it's compared to savant syndrome, which I will also talk about later). Impressed with his skill in this form, Aria not only transfers to Kinji's class, but moves into his dorm so he can become her partner. Well, she says slave, but partner is more respectful, so we'll go with that instead.

Together, they will investigate a hijacked bus, argue, find the people responsible for sentencing Aria's mother to an entirety in prison, argue, learn secrets about the people around them, argue, and most importantly, try not to get too worked up about the quasi-harem antics. Also argue. What will happen as their loyalty and partnership are questioned?

The plot for this show is a capital M for mediocrity. Aria the Scarlet Ammo has a variety of interesting influences and can be entertaining to watch at some points, but the problem has to do with how the writing for the adaptation (as well as the original light novels) handles everything. For example, this show STRUGGLES with balancing its action scenes with its romantic comedy moments. It's like the writers are walking back and forth on a tightrope trying to decide what they like best, but more often than not, the comedic "YOU PERVERT!" and misunderstanding drama seem to win out, especially if episodes focus on down time.

While the action scenes are intense and have high stakes, the flip side ended up making me cringe more often than not (unless you're this because it's absurdly funny). These gags put an unnecessary strain on Kinji and Aria's relationship because even though they work well together, there always has to be at least one misunderstanding per episode where Aria catches Kinji in a compromising position or hears about him getting into a comprising position with another girl in the quasi-harem for her to bring out her guns and shoot the whole place down. It's fine at first, but the more I got through this show, the more annoying it was. I was chuckling at how not hilarious the "comedy" was supposed to be at that point.

I think because I've gotten older and seen my fair share of harem type shows, the gags this show pulls aren't that funny because they're ones I've seen countless times by now and they aren't interesting the more I see them since they're done in very similar ways. Again, I would have probably liked this show more when I was younger, because this type of anime isn't something I'm akin to picking up now because of how many adaptations of them we've gotten.

Plot threads are left open or are horribly explained. Even after getting exposition about Buteis in the beginning of the series and what they do to protect the world from crime, I am still confused about them. I know Tokyo Butei High can assign them to missions based on their students' ranks, but what about missions taken on by happenstance or through other students? Do those count? Because aside from finding that lost cat, every mission Kinji and Aria are involved with takes place outside school.

There is also an organization named IU which is barely touched upon. I understand that they're suspicious and want to have as many people by their side as they believe someone's power will be more effective with them, but how did they start? Why target only teenagers? Who is the boss pulling the strings? What is their eventual intention? So much is left unanswered, and I don't know if it will get explained in the companion series.

Also, what was the purpose for including Kana? Wikipedia told me all I needed to know post series, but the way the show handled her was so bad that I never got a good grip on who she was (aside from Aria's assumption that she was Kinji's ex). It just seemed like another vehicle to provide romantic angst, and I wasn't here for it.

A fascinating subplot regarding several characters' backgrounds is revealed in Episode 4, when another girl who goes to Tokyo Butei High, Riko, announces she is the fourth descendant of Arsène Lupin, and Aria is the fourth descendant of Sherlock Holmes. The inclusion of characters being related to famous individuals from literary figures is always a fun plot twist, but this show did not handle it in the best way.

Not only is the reveal pretty random once you get past the initial surprise (or if you notice the Sherlock Holmes image in the opening WAY before I did), but as of now, it only really serves any purpose in Riko's arc at the end of the series. I would have loved for the show to go more in depth about how all of these descendants were able to gather together at one school (especially if they're scattered throughout the world), but that was probably asking too much for a show that likes to focus more on the romantic comedy side of things. It's a bummer, because as least with this, there was an extra spark compared to everything else in the story that misfired (ha).

At the end of the day, Aria the Scarlet Ammo struggled to make its story pop. With the inconsistency between its action and "comedy," lack of going into depth on key parts of its world, and a reveal that didn't click into place (oh look another bad pun), it made watching this anime more tedious than I would have liked. I saw what it was trying to do, but it never really payed off in the way I wanted it to.

Time to move on to the characters:


We've got a mixed bag here, folks. Some of these characters have okay personalities and can be enjoyable depending on the situation, but at the same time, there were a few characters I would have loved to get more screen time and actually matter to the story aside from the key moments where they felt "needed." But I think that's expecting just a bit too much from a show like this. Alas.

First up is Kinji:

Kinji is dead last in terms of ranking, but it's not because he's a crap Butei. He doesn't invest enough time into improving, as his goal in the beginning of the series is to quit being a Butei. This is because his brother supposedly died during a boat hijacking, where he put the safety of the other passengers first before disappearing off the face of the earth. The public outcry following the incident was bad enough to where Kinji wasn't willing to subject himself to that scrutiny.

Too bad for Kinji, however. Fate has a different story in mind for him, and he's actually a pretty good Butei...if his Hysteria Mode is triggered. A genetic trait that is common in the Tohyama family, it is activated whenever he gets sexually aroused. Once in this state, Kinji becomes a Smooth Dude that knows exactly what to say to the ladies to get them all embarrassed and flustered. He also becomes stronger and is able to be more precise with controlling weapons. It develops to the point where he seems to fluctuate between the two sides, unless you're Aria, because then even the slightest situation is going to cause this guy to get a little excited.

As far as standard light novels turned into anime protagonists go, Kinji was fine. He hit every box in terms of being a standard main character in this subfield, but at the same time, the writers did try to construct more of a personality for him. To compare normal every day Kinji to Kinji while in Hysteria Mode was pretty fun, and I did like how he eventually seemed to combine the two into one that could be suave when appropriate but also retain how he acted normally. The glimpse into his backstory was fine enough and gave him some depth as well.

I do have an issue with how the Hysteria Mode was presented, though. It is stated a few times that the Hysteria Mode is actually Hysteria Savant Syndrome, which sounds politically incorrect. Savant syndrome occurs when someone who is developmentally disabled displays a set skill that exceeds typical human ability. The skills savants display show up in five distinct areas and can develop from a neurodevelopmental disorder or an injury in the central nervous system. To slap on the term savant for something that doesn't match what occurs to someone who develops this seems like bad research. In a way, it feels like the original author of light novels was trying to find a way to romanticize, heck, even sexualize it, and that's a big fat NOPE in my book. If you're going to base a fictitious disorder or illness off of something that is real, do it right and not like what several YA authors have done.

Time for Aria:

The fourth descendant of the esteemed Sherlock Holmes, Aria is the titular character of this show (obviously) and by that standpoint, one of the better characters here. A transfer student from the Butei High in England, she is a rank S Butei (which is the highest rank wow surprising right?). She is also able to use two guns and two swords, thus earning the title of Quadra. Her skill is thanks to her training back in London. She may lack the deductive power her ancestor had, but she at least knows how to fight.

Aria is very short for her age, thus leading Kinji to mistake her for a middle school and elementary school student when he is in Hysteria Mode for the first time. This is because she was almost assassinated three years prior to the start of the series. Not only did the bullet stunt her growth (as its embedded in her back), but its special material turned her hair pink and her eyes red. Which is unlike many anime characters with unrealistically colored hair and eyes, but whatever.

A typical tsundere at first glance, Aria is short-tempered and will threaten to "pump (insert name here but most likely Kinji) full of holes" if she gets angry or uncomfortable. She does not like romance because she thinks it's embarrassing (which makes her naive about kissing as seen in the clip above), but since this is a cookie cutter adaptation of a light novel series, I'm sure you know that's going to change as she and Kinji work more together (and argue). Her main goal is to clear her mom's name and free her from prison after she was sentenced to a ridiculously high number of years as a result of being framed for several crimes relating to the Butei Killer. Until then, Aria needs to track down the criminals who got her mother in jail in the first place and see if she can stop referring to Kinji as her slave (because even though Claire did it to Kamito to Bladedance, I didn't mention it there. It's incredibly problematic and creepy when you switch the genders around in your head).

Though Aria wasn't my favorite character in this anime, I still did like her compared to the majority of the cast. I'm happy the writers touched upon her frustration about her mom being behind bars and how she wants to get her out, plus gave her moments where she was surprisingly vulnerable (and it wasn't for fanservice) and not yelling at Kinji all of the time. She was also pretty comedic at the best moments and though she wasn't a complete breath of fresh air compared to the general lead love interest in other LN properties (like Julis), I'm happy that at least the original author tried to give her a bit more depth and stuck with it throughout the series.

Okay, minus Aria calling Kinji a slave even after she drops it in Episode 5. Continuity clearly passed go because in that regard, it was nowhere to be found.

Speaking of continuity speeding past like a bullet train, let's talk about Shirayuki next:

I always get a bad feeling when shows have the Childhood Best Friend or The One Who is Super Close to the Protagonist trope. It's not always a travel on the bumpy road to Hell, but more often than not, these characters get annoying very quickly for me and don't get a lot of redemption. Unfortunately, Shirayuki is another character I can add to my list, which is frustrating because actual effort was given to her character before it got chucked out the window.

We'll get back to this later, but meanwhile, Shirayuki is Kinji's childhood friend who is deeply infatuated with him. How infatuated? Well, infatuated to the point where she calls him a fair amount, sends him a lot of e-mails, and will go out of her way to attempt to kill any girl who she feels is getting too close. And by girls, I mean just Aria. Though she does get irritated when Riko also attempts to flirt with Kinji, she doesn't like Aria for no particular reason outside of, "She's getting too close to Kin. THIS MEANS WAR!"

Outside of this comprising her entire personality, Shirayuki is a Rank A Butei who is enrolled in the SSR department and is the president of many clubs. Typically doting shrine maiden attire, she lives at a (you guessed it) shrine, where she is trained and expected to stay at when she gets older because of her great power. Believe it or not, but the white ribbon in Shirayuki's hair conceals her true abilities, one in which she is able to hold her own with her sword Irokane Ayame. In Episode 8, she also declares her true name is Himiko, with Shirayuki being a cover-up.

Now, this may sound incredibly badass, and it gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, Shirayumki's character would turn over a new leaf, but boy, was I giving this anime WAY too much credit, because not only did she go back to how she was at the start of the anime, she became even worse. Do you remember in my Kiznaiver review when I mentioned how Mari Okada threw most of Tenga's personality out the window when his feelings for Chidori were revealed? Whelp, it's like that, but if the debris got plowed by a semi and a van before flying into the nearest landfill.

After Kinji kisses Shirayuki in Episode 8 in order for her to regain her breathing, Shirayuki's love for Kinji grows to the point where she will...wait for, seriously, wait for it...strip her clothes off so that she can complete a "fait accompli" with him. AKA, she wants to have sex with him. The fact that this anime plays this off as a gag the two times it pops up (once in Episode 9 and once in the OVA, because after the former, Shirayuki is out of this series faster than me during the Black Friday CD sale at Best Buy back in 2016 when I bought both Dangerous Woman and Lady Wood for under ten bucks) is disgusting and made me question just what on Earth happened. It's not funny and just degrades this character to where the fact that she wants to bone the main character is her only personality trait. 

We deserve better than this complete character annihilation. Even though Shirayuki was far from the best at the beginning of this series, at least she had some personality compared to how she ends this series with. I have never seen this intense whiplash before, but I hope it never rears its ugly head again (I may have just jinxed myself. Don't quote me, though).

Let's move on to Riko:

Riko is a character I should have liked more than I did, but once again, the show's writing ended up getting in the way. Enrolled in the Inquesta department, she is also a Quadra and can easily access intelligence information, whether related to her fellow students (who she can disguise as if necessary) or just gossip. Despite being rather ditzy while at school, this is a front she puts on in order to hide her darker intentions. Guess who ends up being the first antagonist of this series? Ding ding ding. It's Riko, bitch.

Riko was the mastermind behind several hijackings at the beginning of the series, equipping bombs onto Kinji's bike and a bus in order to see how Kinji and Aria work together, before sneaking onto a private plane meant to fly Aria back to the UK and revealing a secret: She is the ancestor of Arsène Lupin and much like Aria, has not inherited the powers that made him as stealthy as he was. Because of this, she hate being referred to as the fourth Lupin and wants to find a way to surpass her great-great-great-grandfather by any means necessary.

This is due to living in a cell as a child under the hands of Tooru Sayonaki/Vlad the Impaler, who took her in after her parents died, only to throw her right into a cell. Used as an experimental subject and barely given food or water, Riko became used to being called a failure and only useable to create the next heir until she was released. Forever, she wasn't completely freed, as Sayonaki promises her that he will vanish from her life once she is able to surpass the first Arsène Lupin. Although Riko attempts to do this by asking both Aria and Kinji to steal one of the last gifts her mother gave her before trying to kill them post their mission, she fails because Sayonaki steps in at just the right time (wait, no. The wrong time). However, once he is defeated, Riko finally feels a sense of pride in the fact she was able to beat the man who tortured her for years.

Because we have a quasi-harem on our hands, Riko also has a crush on Kinji and is aware of his feelings towards Aria, which she tries to exploit in order to trigger Kinji's Hysteria Mode. Once, she imitates Aria's voice over an intercom system the three use while the former and Kinji are at Vlad's estate, giving Kinji permission to "do stuff" to her. Since Hysteria Mode Kinji is SMART, he realizes this is Riko and says she will get a spanking later (which is, well, extreme for a TV-14 anime series). However, she will also flirt with Kinji herself.

This is where things get complicated. I do have to hand it off to the writers for giving Riko a whiff of development rather than making her just one trope and having that one trope define her for the rest of the show, but at the same time, I didn't really like her that much.

I know, I know. Normally I like characters who get the amount of development that Riko does. It makes me understand why they are the way they are and I can also sympathize with them even if their actions are questionable. However, that was not the case with Riko, and again, it has to do with the writing. 

Unless IU highly trained her, I think it is illogical for a young girl about fifteen years old to be able to hijack a ship and cause only one "causality (because eventually we find out Kinji's brother is still alive)." It seems odd for her target to be that specific and to also claim said target was her lover, unless it was a ruse to make Kinji mad. Regardless, it's never really explained and because of that, my interest in Riko faded as fast as turning a TV off. 

For the rest of the show, she's either written how she was back at the start or as capital E for Evil and I don't think the writers could really decide what tone would work the best for her. As such, it makes me wary that she is back in Kinji's trust considering she's almost killed him and Aria twice and may have the potential to betray them again if IU comes calling. I don't know. Why does this show make its background development more complicated than it needs to be?

Last but not least is Reki:

Reki is a Rank S in Sniper department and serves as an ace, typically providing the last shot or additional body guarding when Aria or Kinji need it most. Her signature catchphrase is "I'm a single bullet," one which she always says before she fires said single bullet. She is very accurate and precise in how she fires, except when she and Kinji hunt after a white wolf creature Sayonaki created to distract everyone in the nurse's office. Riko draws Kinji there during Episode 10 in order to see how he reacts to Aria getting undressed (they were getting physical examinations. It's a long story). The bullet Reki fired only grazes it so that it is knocked unconscious. She later takes it in and names it Haimaki.

Reki is calm and collected, not displaying much emotion about what's going on in her surroundings. This can be traced back to her upbringing, where she was born into a tribe (referred to as the Ulus) located between northern Mongolia and Siberia. A genetic condition which only affects pregnant women causes only female children to be born, and Reki grew up with forty six others. As such, the tribe is on the lookout for men they believe could help produce stronger offspring with the women.

Obviously, the anime doesn't delve into this, and maybe it's a good thing they didn't, because when Reki eventually admits to Kinji that she has feelings for him, she hints that not only could the latter help with her offspring, but also with the other forty six women as well. Which seems creepy and odd and questionable.

Regardless, Reki didn't really get a lot of screen time in this series, but she ended up being my favorite character. Though we didn't get to know a lot about her, I did like how she was a badass and she made the show slightly better whenever she was on screen. She and Kinji had some good interactions as well. I don't ship them, but I can see how people would once Reki shows more emotion. In the end, this character clicked with me more than I thought it would.

Other characters include Jeanne d'Arc (otherwise known as Durandal), the main antagonist of the second arc who also works with IU and tries to lure Shirayuki into joining the organization because of the potential of her power (don't worry, she gets redemption), Goki Muto, one of Kinji's friends who (surprise, surprise) is a pervert (which the series falls back on for his appearances in Episode 10 and the OVA despite him also being good with technology), Ryo Shiranui, another one of Kinji's classmates and friends who doesn't have much personality to him, Mrs. Takamagahara, the homeroom teacher for Class 2-A, Mrs. Tsuzuri, the homeroom teacher for Class 2-B, who is known for her tough interrogations, and Tooru Sayonaki/Vlad, another teacher at Tokyo's Butei High who, as mentioned earlier, is the main antagonist of this anime's final arc.


The animation for this series was produced by J.C.Staff, who are also known for their work on shows such as Excel Saga, the Slayers franchise, and Taboo Tattoo.

Average is the best way to also describe how this series looked as a whole. At most moments, everything looks fine. The character designs look good and movement is pretty fluid. However, the action scenes are a bit disappointing. They didn't have enough intensity for me to really care about them, and the animation shifts during them could get distracting. Granted, Takashi Watanabe directed the first season of Freezing (which premiered the season before this show in 2011), but I felt those looked cleaner and had more effort put into them. There were also a few moments when the general animation would just dip and it didn't look pretty. I'm still thinking about Gumby Aria from Episode 1.

On a side note, the broadcast censoring for this is a TRIP. All twelve of the main series' episodes are available to watch on FUNimation's YouTube channel, and it is so much fun to see how much the animation staff overdid the censoring like in other shows to the point where you can only see fifteen percent of the screen. The fanservice is there, but you'd think with all the censoring, the final rating would be TV-MA instead of TV-14.

Look who was expecting too much out of yet another element to this show? Me. Oops. Again, this didn't look completely ugly, but I did think more needed to be done between airing it on TV and releasing it on DVD, because it lacked some polish.


The score for this series was composed by Takumi Ozawa, who is also known for his work on series such as Divine Gate and Okamikakushi - Masque of the Wolf.

Much like with Divine Gate's score, there were a few pieces I grew to throughout the series (also like the last time with an Ozawa score, it was the sadder or more dramatic pieces), but the overall background music ended up being forgettable. A lot of the comedic pieces blended together for me and there weren't a lot of elements that caught my attention. I would go back to at least three or four pieces, but not the rest.

The Japanese voice acting is fine enough. I love how Junji Majima and Rie Kugimiya are cast as lead characters following Toradora who eventually fall in love with each other, which mimics Satoshi Hino and Rie Kugimiya being cast together in the Shakugan no Shana and The Familiar of Zero franchises. Hino or Majima is the main hero while Kugimiya is the heroine who ends up being a tsundere who isn't sure about her feelings to the main protagonist until they grow over time. Want to know something ironic? All four series had their animation produced by J.C.Staff.

It's also ironic how both Hino and Majima are in the DRAMAtical Murder franchise, and I can't hear the latter's voice anymore without hearing Virus, but I'll move on now.

Majima, additionally, does a good job differentiating between Regular and Hysteria Mode Kinji, even as they blend together, and Kugimiya is great at the emotional moments. The side characters also have their chances in the spotlight, but particular standouts are Ayako Kawasumi as a badass Jeanne d'Arc and Masumi Asano giving the most iconic dramatic cough of all time as Mrs. Tsuzuri.

The dub, sadly, is not as strong. I remember not liking this dub primarily due to the quality when I watched bits of it at twelve and thirteen. Rewatching it, however, I noticed other problems. The Blu-Ray mix, in particular, is incredibly quiet. All of the sound effects are at normal volume, but I had to turn up the TV because I could not hear the characters with the volume set at 20. The script is not as engaging, with choices that feel cliche or a feeling that the writers didn't care enough (which is sad, considering Chuck Huber was the lead writer, and I haven't seen a lot of shows which he wrote). Finally, the acting feels wooden, as if most of the actors are going through the motions and aren't invested in what's happening. FUNimation has better dubs than this where this pool of talent sound more comfortable than they do here.

And yes, the quality still isn't good. But at least we have a fantastic performance from Colleen Clinkenbeard as Jeanne d'Arc to make up for some missteps.

Highlights from the original Japanese are Junji Majima, Rie Kugimiya, Mariya Ise, Kaori Ishihara, Ayako Kawasumi, Takuya Eguchi, Masumi Asano, Hisako Kanemoto, and Yui Horie.


Man, this was underwhelming. Even though I may have gone in with too high expectations despite thinking this series wasn't going to be as exciting as my younger self thought it was, I can't deny that this show is just mediocre. Series like these aren't easy to review because while they have good qualities, much of their potential is wasted on not expanding those qualities. In Aria the Scarlet Ammo's case, I saw directions where it could go, but it never went there.

As it is, I did find some enjoyment in what I got, but that ended up being in what this anime was doing wrong rather than right. That, sadly, is why this lands at the point where I go from "Eh" to wanting to rant. This is a show I'm not going to remember vividly in a year or so, and potentially, it's for good reason.

I would only recommend this series if you don't have anything better to watch, but aside from that, this is a show you could probably skip and not miss much.

Score: 6/10


Potential is there.

"It's okay, because I didn't get pregnant!"

Fascinating parts to some characters.

Every time Reki appeared on screen.

Solid Japanese voice acting.

Some moments of enjoyment.



Story can't decide if it wants to go in an action or comedic direction.

Plot points aren't answered or are dropped.

How Kinji's Hysteria Mode came to be.

Characters lack development or get it trashed.

Animation is okay.

Score is a bit forgettable.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

IDOLiSH7 Review

IDOLiSH7 Review

Warning: The following review may/will contain spoilers for IDOLiSH7. If you wish to stay clear of what happens in this show's story, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched said show. Or, you know, you can take that warning with a grain of salt, and still read on anyway. Whatever floats your boat.

Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:

Though I should extend that invitation to everyone. Just because this show is primarily catered to a female audience doesn't make it wrong for anyone else to want to watch it.

With that PSA out of the way, it's time to review another male idol show. IDOLiSH7 was one of my most highly anticipated anime series of this year. There is always a section of my heart that squeals with glee at a male idol show, though Uta Pri's decline made be shy away from some of them. I was worried about how they were going to turn out, especially when the characters felt one-dimensional or the drama turned from juicy to overblown really quick.

This show was not one of them, though. Based off of a rhythm game for Apple and Samsung devices with original character designs by Arina Tanemura (I read the first volume of The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross, though some of you may be more familiar with her through Full Moon wo Sagashite or Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne), it sounded appealing and I was into it. I held off on watching the first two episodes when Crunchyroll posted them (as they were previewed at an event in Japan) until the series itself officially premiered, but that didn't stop me from seeing snippets.

Let me just say I was impressed. Not only was the lead writer of this adaptation the writer of my favorite Uta Pri episode (the Ranmaru one, of course), but the studio producing it, the composer, and the story itself looked very promising. It was time to go back into a genre I had left for a time, but I didn't truly forget.

Did IDOLiSH7 prove to be successful? Or did it sour beyond those first few glimpses?

It proved to be the former in spades. Though not perfect, IDOLiSH7 has set the stage for the quintessential male idol anime. The stuff I've seen before is QUAKING in its boots. With an easy to follow story, amazing tension, characters you want to hug and protect, great animation, plus a top notch soundtrack and voice acting to boot, B-Project wishes it was IDOLiSH7. I'd like to do a rewatch one day to pinpoint what went wrong there outside of what I've brought up before, because the problems I encountered in the former didn't really occur in the latter outside of some not as strong character development.

Also, this show brought back the feeling of watching America's Next Top Model in its glory days, and I was LIVING. Thank goodness the drama was built in reality and not over something petty like a girl or unrealistic sabotage.

Let's move on to the story before I combust after revealing my best boy (some of you will be surprised):


Tsumugi Takanashi has been hired by her dad, Otoharu, to work for his company, Takanashi Productions. He has recently scouted seven boys who are all in the running towards becoming members of the next big idol group. Each represent a different color of the rainbow with their aesthetic (because there are seven candidates. Get it?) and also bring something unique to the table. Tsumugi first assignment is to hold an audition where four boys must be sent home. Otoharu only wants three in his planned group, and the rest will have to sashay...away.

After tryouts, Tsumugi believes that each member is important to the ensemble. Whether it's in their singing, dancing, or stage presence, cutting four of them might waste what the group has to offer. Because of her dedication to making this group the best it could possibly be, Otoharu reveals this was a test, and there will be no eliminations. The seven boys discovered will be the seven boys in the group. Their name: IDOLiSH7.

However, this group is recently established, and unlike other shows where guys have worked for years (or are at a school for promising talent with imminent success after graduation), becoming famous isn't going to happen overnight. These boys have to work to put their names on the map, and it's not going to be easy.

Whether it's their rivals, TRIGGER, an idol group formed two years prior to the story (and who are very successful) showcasing their talent, or their boss, Sosuke Yaotome (whose son, Gaku, is in TRIGGER), doing anything he possibly can to throw these new shining stars to the ground, or things not working out how they're supposed to work out, such as concert mishaps, lost gigs, and stolen music, or secrets that could tear down the foundation of what you thought you knew about these boys, being an idol is hard work.

Can IDOLiSH7 reach the point where they can consider themselves on equal footing with TRIGGER? Or is all this chaos going to get in the way of making their dreams come true? One thing's for certain, though:

I was not expecting to be so entertained by IDOLiSH7, not because of what it did wrong, but because of what it did right. It's interesting following an idol series from the ground-up. Uta Pri did that too in a way, but not like this series. These boys aren't going to a school to be trained at becoming performers. They have to do it all on their own because that potential just can't go to waste. Everything isn't going to fall into place. There will be setbacks. Yes, they will be painful to watch.

Another thing an idol series hasn't given me yet is MASSIVE ANXIETY. This did. This series is really good at motivating you to fall in love with these boys. They are each given a chance to have the spotlight and finding out about their backgrounds is fascinating. When something bad happened to them, or everything was crumbling to shreds around them (damn tabloids pinpointing their weaknesses), I became mega stressed. These boys are precious and deserve to be loved and protected. Why must there be pain, show?

Oh, right. Sometimes it creates drama, and OH BOY did this show have drama. There were so many secrets I didn't see coming and was shocked to find out. Part of what makes this entertaining is my exposure to other male idol anime and reality TV. What makes the "tea-spilling" here more engaging and less manipulative is how it's grounded in reality. 

There were a few inner conflict arcs I really enjoyed, because it took me back to the beginning of Uta Pri where the only things the boys had to worry about was Tokiya's other identity, Natsuki's other personality, and Haruka shutting down whenever faced with performing in front of her classmates or making it big with STARISH, baby. Nothing revolved around wooing the girl. Nothing revolved around silly pissing contests of who was the better idol. Nothing revolved around silly sabotage where the reasoning behind it came out of nowhere. And finally, nothing revolved around a band member going MIA to be anticlimactically found. It's so refreshing to finally watch an idol series and not have to roll my eyes so hard I see Mars whenever something dramatic happens (it's typically pretty implausible).

Going back to the secrets I mentioned earlier, prepare to be surprised. This series does not hold back when it comes to the dramatic reveals. Whether a pivotal point in characters' arcs or referenced once, they gave me so much life to the point where my breakfast went cold while watching Episode 15 and I didn't even care. Drama in my personal life? Sorry, can't talk right now. But drama in anime and TV shows that isn't forced or manipulated to make you feel a certain way? YAS sign me up. I love when a show brings me back to the good old days when my primary source of entertainment was America's Next Top Model and Big Brother.

Well, without the tendency to make certain girls and guys look bad or underlying racial tension that was both editor manipulated and very real (looking at you, Big Brother 15). The only rivalries in this anime are healthy ones. No need to bicker over the lead, boys! Your music careers are way more important and it's fun once in a while to have healthy competition when it comes to award shows!

If there is one thing I would have liked the writers for this show to work in better, it would be the formation of the duo unit MEZZO". After an underwhelming performance at Music Festa, Otoharu decides to hold off on a group debut until all of the members have enough confidence to survive the big, bad world of the entertainment industry. Instead, he decides to debut Sogo and Tamaki due to their popularity within IDOLiSH7. Iori comments about how their fans weren't the happiest with this decision, but like with some books, the show tells us this rather than shows us. Where are the angry comments, the disappointed reactions? It's delicious seeing the two members who can't get along work together and grow to like the other's company, but we've seen bits and pieces of IDOLiSH7's fanbase. So why not for this?

Regardless, I was having the time of my life when watching this series. It's nice to see an male idol series take a direction I haven't seen before in terms of set-up, building its own path along the way, and tackling gripes I've had with these kinds of shows in the past and making them work SO much better. Seeing this precious group grow and evolve made me so happy because these babies deserved it. Sadly, the road to fame isn't crystal clear yet. We have far more bumps in the road to come, and I am SCARED.

Since fans have commented about this franchise's foreshadowing being so damn good, there are going to be more plot twists that will shake me to the core. I just have this hunch. If this gets another season, you know I'll be there to watch it.

Character time:


Much like with my harem/reverse harem anime (even though THIS ISN'T A REVERSE HAREM, GUYS), I will be talking about the lead girl and all of the boys in the two respective groups. Be prepared for fanboying, massive GIF use, and the usual long AF descriptions that will totally not contain spoilers.

First up, Tsumugi:

I don't think I can talk about Tsumugi without bringing up Tsubasa from B-Project. While these two are very similar characters, how the writers handle them are very different.

Tsubasa, though technically a lead character, struggles to stay relevant despite being the A&R of all three groups, and essentially, B-Project. She's not really given anything to do aside from showcasing her keen observation to parts of music and nature. Her personality is very bare bones for the genre, and the one sign of something that could be used as development comes out of nowhere and doesn't click with the narrative, especially when you realize the writers never brought it up beforehand.

Meanwhile, Tsumugi may wear similar shoes, but IDOLiSH7 paints her as a much more competent person. She doesn't have composing skills of the gods like Haruka and she doesn't have the ear to find something off beyond the obvious like Tsubasa, but that doesn't mean she should be dismissed as a Special Snowflake. The further I got into the show, the more I realized Tsumugi wasn't shoved face first into any situation the boys founds themselves in. Her role is natural, supportive, and a clearly defined side character.

As much as B-Project tried to shift focus towards the boys, it didn't do it smoothly. It also doesn't help when your female lead has about as much personality as a paper sack. Tsumugi is such a breath of fresh air because it's not so much her story as it is the boys. She's just helping them along the way (so is Iori, but shh. Don't tell. It's a secret), whether it's by long nights working or promotion. I understand majority of the planning came from Iori's mind and not her own, but her care for these boys is so palpable and strong you just want to hug her. Otoharu believed his daughter could do this job, and she's doing a dang fine job of it right now.

Plus, you don't want to piss her off. That, in itself, is a win. More characters like this, please. It can only go up from here.

Time to move on to IDOLiSH7's established center, Riku:


This boy is just too damn cute for this world, enough said. Praised for what he adds to the group in terms of vocal ability, Riku is hard-working, ready to take on whatever comes his way, and has a fraternal twin brother who may or may be not the center of TRIGGER. Yeah, it's awkward.

Aside from that bombshell, though, Riku also has a respiratory disorder. When he pushes himself too much when performing or gets extremely nervous, his body begins to shut down to the point where he passes out. Because of this condition, Riku was not allowed to eat candy or other food loaded with sugar when he was younger or participate in gym classes and clubs at school. He was also a regular in hospitals to the point where he hates the smell of them.

Since he was doted on throughout his life, Riku doesn't want to be a burden to IDOLiSH7 and vows to keep his health a secret. It works until he collapses after performing in the rain for a few hours in Episode 5. Worried the other members will look down on him, Riku is surprised to find the very opposite reaction. Since then, Riku has tried to not push himself as hard to avoid going back to the hospital. With more practice and training, this seems to be working, and hopefully his illness doesn't come back and bite him where it hurts at a very important moment later on.

I loved Riku, primarily because he was so damn adorable and I wanted to hug him whenever he was on screen. He's very naive when it comes to the outside world due to his time indoors or in hospitals, so I liked seeing him navigate the inner workings of the group and become a fierce standout star. Part of his arc is to show his brother he can become a idol despite being held back, and at times where it failed, I was like, "No, my poor baby." This guy deserves all the bear hugs in the world and is such a good performer that I'm excited to see where he'll go from here. He is truly a star. If anyone hurts him, I will be sad until the end of time.

Next is Iori:

Iori is VERY smart. One of the two younger members of the group, he is also the younger brother of Mitsuki despite appearing older at first glance (this is due to the latter's height). Not only is Iori smart when it comes to planning and making sure everything falls in line, he is also selfless. He wants the group to do well as a whole to the point where at Music Festa he accidentally forgot to come in at a certain point during IDOLiSH7's performance.

Secretly a lover of cute things, Iori is almost always calm and collected except when things don't go the way they're supposed to. He doesn't overreact about the fallout, it's just more that the salty side of him will come out and it typically likes to target Riku.

At first, Iori initially joined IDOLiSH7 because it's been Mitsuki's dream to become an idol since he was little. However, through helping Tsumugi manage the group and working with them, he realizes it's his dream too. Discovering something you're passionate about is always a breath of fresh air, and it'll be interesting to see where Iori's development goes from here since the him helping Tsumugi secret is out.

Even though Iori is my least favorite out of this group, I still liked him as a character. I remember being shocked when I found out he was seventeen because he doesn't act like it. The way he composes himself plus his occasional sass doesn't make a person cocky if they are also a sweetheart. And deep down, that's what Iori is. I would have liked to see a bit more development in regards to his background since research is giving me something quite interesting, but at the end of the day, these characters aren't one-note and won't do anything for the sole sake of impressing the girl. That's all I need.

Time to talk about Mitsuki:


Mitsuki brings the most energy out of anyone in IDOLiSH7. This helps detract from the fact he's only 5' 4" (like Shoyo Hinata) and isn't the best dancer or singer, which has prohibited him from getting work in the past. Inspired by Zero, a powerhouse musician who went missing after rocking Japan to its core, Mitsuki has been aiming to become an idol for so long. Finally in a group with his younger brother by four years, Mitsuki occasionally questions if he deserves to be in it in the first place due to his past failures. Iori is stronger than him, and it does lead to tabloids latching on to the fact that if Mitsuki didn't have Iori by his side, he wouldn't have been accepted in the first place.

Ignoring the hate, though, it's clear Mitsuki has a place in IDOLiSH7. His personality can help fix or set the mood, he is a big brother figure to several of the members, and is literal sunshine himself. Be careful, though; he gets irritated just as easy as he can become happy.

A user on YouTube has made compilations of Mitsuki's lines throughout the episodes, and it boggles my mind they only hit about one minute and thirty seconds. Despite not having as big of a development arc as some of the other boys, what makes me like Mitsuki so much is his presence. Much like in the group itself, this boy lights up the screen whenever he appears and deserves about ten thousand hugs. He's always optimistic, wants the best for everyone, and at times can be a total goofball. Never forget the time he demonstrated the art of writing your name out in the air with your butt. ICONIC!

Above all else, Mitsuki's level of optimism is something I'd love to see in other people out in the world and from myself. Sometimes it's easy to be too negative about events going on in our lives we don't often look on the bright side. Mitsuki's looking on the bright side for the majority of his life and I love that. I do my best with being a ray of light in others' lives, but this boy makes me want to try more. That's always a good thing.

Nagi's turn now:

How do I best describe Nagi? This and this are all you need to know upfront before you dive deeper into his character. He is, upfront, a complete and total WEEB who is a big fan of anime and the fictional series Magical Kokona in particular. Half Japanese and half Northmarean (which is located in northern Europe in this world), he can not only speak eight languages but is a big flirt. His love for women is rivaled by his love of Japanese animation, but it's the latter that seems to win out in the end.

Underneath the grandiose, however, is a young man who deeply cares for his group members, as they are the closest friends he's ever had. He wants everyone to love what they do and make amazing music, which makes his secret all the more interesting. When still in Northmare, Nagi met Haruki Sakura, the composer and songwriter for Zero. As the latter grew ill following a still unsuccessful search for the famous performer, he gave his unreleased songs to Nagi, knowing he would find a home that could bring them to life. This lead to Nagi travelling to Japan and being scouted for IDOLiSH7.

Gotta love those twists of fate, huh? This bombshell is built up slowly throughout the anime, and it makes for an amazing reveal. What's also amazing is how fleshed out Nagi's character ended up being. Not only is he another boy who deserves the world and should never be hurt, he is iconic AF and comedic gold. Some have found him to be annoying until his development, but I've always thought he was art. Nothing takes me back to the good old days of weebdom like Nagi and puts a hilarious spin on it when all I want to do is cringe. What's nice is that this doesn't define him, and as such, he is one of the many reasons why IDOLiSH7 is as close as they are. I like the Nagi with a big heart just as much as the Nagi who EMBRACES THE WEEB.

Interesting story: Nagi started off this series as my favorite boy from the group. But over time, that changed. Which one out of the next three do you think it could be? Let's find out.

All right, it's now Sogo's time to shine:

Sogo is IDOLiSH7's Appointed Mom who reminds me of another famous anime mother who I LOVE, Koushi Sugawara from Haikyuu. He prides himself in following instructions and being organized. Despite being calm and collected most of the time, there is a limit. If you make Sogo mad, you will likely get this:

Or get this. Either way, the first screenshot is even funnier to me considering Sogo says he isn't mad and it brought me back to this ICONIC moment from ANTM.

Anyways, Sogo grew up in a family which valued absoluteness and order over anything else. His uncle was shunned due to working in the music industry, a career his relatives didn't approve of. However, Sogo held a lot of great respect towards his uncle that festered in his childhood and was made known following his death. Despite being the heir to a powerful entertainment company, Sogo decides to pursue his passion of becoming a musician, which led to his family becoming distant and the former dropping out of school.

Because of this history, Sogo feels the need to repress his desires and fears so that everything runs smoothly. This gets complicated around the time MEZZO" begins to relentlessly work alongside debuting with IDOLiSH7, which chips away at Sogo's stability until he breaks. How Riku finds Sogo curled up in a ball in his dark bedroom is a chilling ending to the twelfth episode.

Sogo's backstory was something that shook me. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but when he brought up abandoning his family in Episode 3 (though the opposite is true), cue the jaw dropping.

It was an interesting turn to an idol's backstory, and I was happy the writers didn't ignore this plot point. Some backgrounds regarding family disputes or tension have often been pretty vague, but IDOLiSH7 didn't let this go. It does disappear into the background, but like any juicy plot points, it doesn't stay hidden for long.

As for Sogo as a character, I really liked him. I think I'm just a fan of the mom types, because not only is he a radiant beam of holiness, but getting on his bad side is something you will regret. I like that a lot. What I also liked a lot was how he and Tamaki had to work together once they became a duo unit. At first, these two are like oil and water; they just don't seem to get along. This partially has to do with Sogo's tendency to follow the rules by the book while Tamaki is more lenient on them, just as long as it works out okay. But as the two spend more time together and Sogo experiences that mental breakdown, those flames are sent packing.

How did this anime know I like seeing two people who can't see eye-to-eye being forced to work together? I don't like it when it happens to me in real life, but I eat that s**t up when it comes to my media. Well, unless one of the people turns out to actually be awful, then nope, goodbye.

The point is, I saw these two characters were being shipped quite a bit while watching this anime. And after seeing it, I totally understand why.

Gotta love the power of friendship and, in the fanfic world, a burning romance!

Let me end this section by saying Drunk Sogo was the entertainment I didn't know I needed this year and I highly appreciated it.

Onto Tamaki now:


Yup, here's my best boy. Not only is Tamaki the youngest member of IDOLiSH7, he is also the tallest at 6 feet. His main passion is King Pudding, which is, you guessed it, pudding. Not only does King Pudding keep this guy going, but his dancing skills are above and beyond. However, Tamaki isn't the easiest to work with. His age definitely fits his personality, because at times he can be lazy and a brat. More likely to go with his gut than put more thought into his decisions, Tamaki is also good at sensing changes of emotions in other people. He can take critique whenever he does something wrong but does not take it well when it is served with a side of anger.

Growing up was rough for this boy. Born to an alcoholic father and a mother who passed away when he was three, Tamaki and his younger sister, Aya, were raised in a orphanage for the majority of their lives because the former parent couldn't support them. Two years prior to the start of the series, the two got separated, and Tamaki has been looking for her ever since. Becoming an idol did seem like a good plan. After all, he would be on TV a lot, and Aya could be able to track him down from that.

It doesn't take long for other people in the industry (and outside of it) to latch onto this bait after it has been cast. Sosuke Yaotome uses it to try to get the almost formed MEZZO" to work for him, a producer promises Tamaki that he and his company will find her for an upcoming special, and a young girl lures him away from going to a photoshoot (which he was already late for to begin with) by saying she knows where his sister is. Because Tamaki is willing to believe/do ANYTHING in regards to his sister, he is gullible enough to fall into these traps every single time.

If anyone wants to cause Tamaki so much stress to the point where he makes this face:

OKAY, moving on.

I was not expecting to love Tamaki as much as I did. At one point, he was tied with Nagi as my favorite once his backstory was starting to come out. It was around Episode 12 where my feelings began to shift, and slowly but surely, the color blue jumped ahead of the color yellow. My heart went out to this boy so hard. Not only is his backstory easy to emphasize with in regards to how he is now, but I saw bits of myself in him like I did with Nagi. He's at time a bratty child who is quite stubborn and not easy to work with, and yup, I remember a time where I acted exactly like that. Now, growing up has made me look back on life with a new perspective, and it's clear Tamaki wasn't granted that due to his upbringing.

Also, can we just talk about how cute this boy is? He deserves everything in the world because he looks cuddle-able, is extremely bad at explaining things (me AF sometimes), gives everyone nicknames (those characters always give me joy), and has a kind heart underneath his rough exterior. His determination to find his sister made me happy, but working together with Sogo without exchanging a few choice words made me overjoyed. Tamaki isn't the smartest tool in the shed, nor is he the most likable, but if you can make me drawn to a character who needs care and love and SUNSHINE while also developing him well, you create a winner.

Bonus points when he can scream "Shut up" into a microphone, which causes feedback, and it makes me laugh.

Last but not least for the I7 boys, Yamato:

The Appointed Dad and leader of the group, Yamato became an idol for one reason only: revenge.

The show has done a great job teasing us about going into depth on this, but it hasn't happened yet. My guesses are the reasoning is related to the show business or a rumor that came out alongside the rest of the tabloid fodder.

Regardless, Yamato is the eldest out of the boys, being twenty-two. Referring to himself as the big brother (oniisan), he presents himself as relatively easy-going and relaxed but is actually quite passionate about IDOLiSH7 once he gets himself further involved with it. At first, Yamato was very close to walking out of the audition once it was revealed four guys would be axed, but after being convinced to stay, it's clear he enjoys it and is liking his position as leader.

However, he still holds a dislike towards the entertainment industry due to something to his past, which makes him wary to accept a request to guest star in a drama. While he later accepts the job, something seems ominous when the show focuses on him watching it alone in his room, his glasses off and the top half of his face shadowed as he takes a sip of his drink. His own personal cleaning robot, Musashi, is even running while he sees himself on TV. Where will this go from here if we get a Season 2 or we read the next part's story?

Much like with Iori, I didn't like Yamato as much as some of the other characters, but he was still entertaining. At points, he can seem like a dirty old man (like when he jokes about buying Riku an adult magazine to celebrate after they sell out the concert venue they had their first performance at), yet at others, he's nice, sensible, and a good leader. After all, who can effectively lead the group huddles without him? I liked all of the teases of his past, when he dismissed his motive, or when he'd hint at what went done, but then go, "Oh, it's nothing." 


Or maybe it'll just make me anxious? IDK.

These writers are just so damn good at making me want to hear more about these boys and getting me invested in all this DRAMA. I've never felt so alive for an idol series in my life.

We're going to jump over to TRIGGER now, starting with their center, Tenn:

Tenn has three layers. We have one for public appearances, where he's as kind as you'd expect a celebrity to be anywhere. We have one when he interacts with IDOLiSH7 pre the former's debut song getting stolen by a songwriter for Yaotome Productions for TRIGGER where he prides himself on being as much of an asshole as possible. It's like he wakes up every morning and declares to himself:

But underneath that is a heart of gold that just needs coaxing to come out. He cares for both his group members and for Riku. However, he'd prefer to treat the former as a business partner rather than as a friend. As for the latter, he simply thinks Riku isn't ready to enter the entertainment industry due to his illness (however, if Episode 4 is any indication, I'd bet my money on the fact Tenn has the same thing, yet at the start of this series, he has better control over it). He cares for him and is jealous he didn't get to grow up alongside him.

Remember that twist with Riku I was referencing earlier? Well, here it is. Tenn is the one who is Riku's twin. While they initially lived together, Tenn was scouted by Yaotome Productions and asked to work for them. Without looking back, he accepted, abandoned his surname of Nanase and changed it to Kujo, plus eventually became a member of a currently successful idol group. Riku is bitter about this because he still doesn't know why Tenn left home and slipped out of his family's life. As the series goes on, this cold blows through, but what does the scene in the ending credits for the final episode tell us? Only one way to find out.

I loved and hated Tenn at the same time. He is such a tough cookie and quite complex for a character in this kind of show. He has a variety of different sides and it's hard to know which is the real Tenn Kujo because like a snack cake he's got SO MUCH FILLING. There were points where I wanted to slap him, points where I was terrified of him, points where I liked him, and points where he showed off his embarrassed side and I was like, "Aw, aren't you adorable?"

You see what I mean about layers? The characters that stick with you sometimes aren't the ones you adore, but the ones who are complicated. That, my friends, describes Tenn Kujo. Not that I hate it. His icy stare is gold and can be used to cut just about anything. Tyra Banks is gagging.

Then we have Gaku:

Me Reading Fan Posts: Wow, a lot of people think Gaku is attractive. I can see why, but I don't think he's my type.

Me After Finding This Photo:

Okay, Gaku stans. You were right.

Gaku is the son of Sosuke Yaotome, the president of Yaotome Productions. He was named the "Number One Man I'd Want to Hold Me Tight" by fans despite having a cold exterior. He's so serious to the point where the gossip train wonders just how bad the son of Sosuke really is. However, son doesn't match father in this case. Gaku is actually quite humble and wants to be more than his dad's son. He is the leader of TRIGGER, and in a sense, is part of the glue that holds them together.

I should also mention Gaku is a secret fanboy of IDOLiSH7 and wants to see them succeed, going behind his father's back to recommend them as a guest during Music Festa. Because of the tense relationship with his father, he values strong family connections and doesn't like those who dismiss their worth on their childhood. If there's anyone to ship Tsumugi with in this series, it'd have to be with him. It's canon that he has a crush on her, at least according to IDOLiSH7's Wiki and the source they got this information from.

While this boy was my least favorite in TRIGGER, this is IDOLiSH7. I can't hate any of these boys because the writers develop them with better care than other shows in this genre do with similar types of characters. Gaku was a bit boring to me when the series started, but that was because I didn't know about him. After all, who thinks this man with a Why So Serious disposition will get any meaningful development?

Surprises are in order once the hostility between Gaku and his father is revealed. From there, we get to see Gaku in more relaxed environments and cheering IDOLiSH7 on from the sidelines. Let's not forget he works for a soba delivery service (which is his favorite food), even though he insists he doesn't. You can lie all you want, darling, but the screenshot above proves otherwise. He's another inner softie you don't think is a softie. No wonder his fans want to hug him.

Last but not least, we have Ryunosuke:

Ryunosuke's image is much different from his personality. While he is presented as a total sexbomb, this man actually is quite innocent. I remember being so startled by this beer commercial he was in that when I saw it in Episode 11 (its one and only appearance), I was like:

Another interesting fact about Ryunosuke is that he's originally from Okinawa. Warned by Sosuke that his accent would cause people to not take him seriously, this man has worked hard to repress it, only reappearing when extremely angry, extremely drunk, or in his head (Vibrato's first (and at this time, only) episode showed this).

Ryunosuke's naivety comes from growing up with his brothers and in the country. Due to this, he is the Big Brother of TRIGGER, making sure Gaku and Tenn don't torch the house down whenever they get into a heated argument (which happens occasionally). He doesn't really seem to believe in his sex appeal, which leads to him trying to convince people (subtly) that he isn't the manboat of their dreams.

I feel so bad for Ryunosuke sometimes. He's very attractive as far as male idols go, but the gap between what he's actually like and how he's presented in the media is comically large. Sometimes it's funny, but other times I pity him. I have never seen an anime character contrast as big as this before, but it helps draw me in. Ryunosuke is a sweetie who not only has charm but also has heart. He has some infectious enthusiasm and I liked how he was the nicest outwardly TRIGGER member (since Gaku has a front and Tenn has LAYERS). His interactions with his group members were often entertaining in a comedic or dramatic sense, and I appreciated how his Okinawan dialect slipped out on a few occasions (if you watch the main series, it only happens once, and it is GLORIOUS).

Other characters include Otoharu Takanashi, Tsumugi's dad and the president of Takanashi Productions (like I mentioned earlier) who is kind, patient, and trusting of IDOLiSH7, Banri Ogami, who works for Otoharu and helps support IDOLiSH7 and its endeavors, Kinako, the mascot, Kaoru Anesagi, TRIGGER's manager who we don't see a lot of but is known to snap ball-point pens when angered, and finally, we have Sosuke Yaotome, our main antagonist of this arc.

Now, Sosuke is driven primarily by money to get what he wants, so much so this GIF comes to mind when I think about him:

I was curious to see if he could redeem himself after trying again and again to smear IDOLiSH7's reputation since he and Otoharu were involved in a love triangle with the latter's wife (*eats popcorn*) and using his group as scapegoats, but nope. He's still evil. To that, I say:

Ah, I guess the journey didn't bother him anyway. You were responsible for so many things, Sousuke, so you've got some learning to do about how to treat your clients fairly.

Oh well, at least we have this:



Better move on to the animation before I, again, overstimulate myself.


The animation for this series was produced by TROYCA, who are also known for their work on series such as Aldnoah.Zero (which was co-produced by A-1), Beautiful Bones: Sakurako's Investigation, and Re:CREATORS.

I loved how colorful this show was. I'm sure I say that about almost every show, but I mean it for this one. TROYCA's art style for this anime is very slick and polished, almost on-model all the time with gorgeous character designs which retain the charm of Tanemura's originals. The CGI used during performances isn't distracting or a jarring jump from standard animation, I liked the scenery and lighting, and how they captured emotion, either with the second screenshot in Tamaki's character section (accompanied by a shaky camera), or with more subtly. It made for a more entertaining experience. Let's not forget the occasional cute chibis!

If there was one episode I wished looked better, it would be Episode 9. It was obvious the staff was different on that episode, because the animation wasn't as good and the characters lost their distinctive looks on more than one occasion. Hopefully it got fixed post-broadcast, because while it wasn't horrible (worse episodes from A-1 come to mind), I still found it to be unnerving when characters shifted off-model every few minutes.

Still, for it being the first series I saw in full from TROYCA, it was pretty impressive. Now I'm more curious for how Re:CREATORS is going to look.


The score for this series was composed by Tatsuya Kato, who is also known for his work on series such as the Free: Iwatobi Swim Club franchise, Future Diary, and both seasons of Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere.

I've only seen one show in its entirety with Kato's composing (though I've seen him around a lot), being Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. In those reviews, I mentioned that while his pieces seem messy with a lot of influences, I still enjoyed what he brought to the table.

The same could be said for IDOLiSH7, but the ambiance didn't felt as jumbled. I felt like I was watching a reality show with this score. With ground-shaking electronic bops, funny comedic tunes, sad yet uplifting piano arrangements of insert songs performed by the idol groups, and dramatic pieces which gave me goosebumps, this score has it all and delivers every step of the way. Icy Smile, one of the tracks, is my s**t and I can literally imagine it in the context of a Top Model series. It's chilly, ominous, and plays whenever something shocking happens. It's everything I didn't know I needed once again and I was here for it.

Onto the insert music, which, okay, THIS IS WHAT I WANT FROM IDOL SHOWS! The production isn't cheap or flat, the lyrics aren't boring, and they stick in my head long enough to care about them. I screeched off-key on purpose when WiSH VOYAGE was sung in the opening, I did dramatic motions when the electronic synth breakdown came in during the main ending, HEAVENLY VISITOR, and I was enjoying myself when SECRET NIGHT came on (and when I listened to it on my own, though nothing will compare to hearing it in concert in Episode 4). It gives me incentive to look up more of this franchise's music because GODDAMN is it good. 

Here's the music video for DIAMOND FUSION, animated by the studio behind Pop Team Epic. It's homoerotic AF and you should totally watch it.

The voice acting is also great. Most of the seiyuu featured here are ones I've enjoyed from past anime or I've heard of but have heard little of in media. It made for a great combination since not only are they good actors, but they can also sing with minimal auto tune. Good news all around! Takuya Eguchi easily steals the show with Nagi's accent and how he pronounces the characters' names is beautiful (Iworee always leaves me with a stitch in my side). But I also really enjoyed Tsubasa Yonaga and Wataru Hatano as Mitsuki and Gaku respectively. Their voices match their characters very well and they bring something to their respective groups that never failed to make me smile. Nonetheless, I enjoyed mostly everyone here, which is always a good sign.

Let's also talk about the fact that Susumu Chiba is in this franchise. I've heard him in Sukisho (he played Matsuri, the other childhood friend), and I know he was in Papa to Kiss in the Dark (a yaoi OVA produced by the first studio behind Highschool DXD), but I haven't seen anything else where he had a role in. I'm sure he's in other shows, but holy moly. That's not something I see every day.

Highlights include Satomi Sato, Kensho Ono, Toshiki Masuda, Tsubasa Yonaga, Takuya Eguchi, Atsushi Abe, KENN, Yusuke Shirai, Soma Saito, Wataru Hatano, Takuya Sato, Susumu Chiba, Kazuyuki Okitsu, Katsuyuki Konishi, Mikako Takahashi, and Akari Kageyama.


IDOLiSH7 is a miracle in a field filled with shows that are getting too predictable or too stale. It isn't perfect, but it was still entertaining enough that I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. The drama wasn't blown out of proportion, the characters had more than one side to them, the animation was pretty awesome (minus one episode), and the music kept me enthralled. It was everything I wanted from an idol show these past two years.

Currently, the series seems to be doing well in Japan, so I hope it leads to another season getting greenlit. There are so many directions this series could be going in, but I'm excited about these boys and what they'll bring to the plot:



Score: 9.5/10


Nice story.

Entertaining drama.

Fleshed out characters.

Too many precious small cinnamon rolls.

Great animation.

Lovely score.

Awesome insert songs.

Stands out among its competition in its genre.


MEZZO"'s incorporation into the plot is tell, don't show.

Episode 9's broadcast animation.