By Deanna Nguyen
Mics, cameras, idol anime! A group of handsome young men stand on stage, waiting for the music cue. Synchronized chants ripple throughout the concert hall, building up the anticipation. Glow sticks light up and wriggle energetically. As soon as the song begins, the costumed young men hold out their hands to the audience and allure them with their hypnotizing vocals and smooth dance moves.
If it’s your first time stepping into the dazzling world of idol anime, then be prepared for pretty voices and faces, character-driven stories, upbeat songs and fan service teases. Idol culture has evolved and crossed over to anime, manga and video games since its genesis in the ’70s, and the financial success is evident through the popularity of the characters and their voice actors.
Major idol-themed multimedia projects such as Love Live!, The Idolmaster, Uta no Prince-sama, Idolish7 and Hatsune Miku have shaped the idol industry through the ability to appeal to passionate fans in innovative ways. In Japan, music videos, live concerts and fan meetings are inclusive to fictional characters, and as more idol projects come to fruition, so do the potential fans who may find it difficult to discern all the different idol groups.
So, before you get lost in a sea of idol boy anime on Funimation, especially this season with series like A3! Season Spring & Summer, 22/7 (Nanabun No Nijyuuni) and SHOW BY ROCK!! Mashumairesh!! —this guide will help navigate your journey as you learn each idol’s name, pick your favorite to cheer on and learn the lines to every song!
Ensemble Stars! (2019)
Ensemble Stars! was first introduced as a mobile Japanese Card Collecting Game (CCG) before becoming an anime series. Similar to STARMYU, Ensemble Stars! takes place at a private academy that specializes in idol training for boys. While students take various courses, they also perform idol work and form connections in the entertainment industry.
Because Ensemble Stars! started as a game, the female player character had to be cast for the anime. Say hello to Anzu!
With vibrant colors, boyish facial features and extravagant costumes, the characters of Ensemble Stars! showcase their youth through endless energy and perseverance in the face of adversity. Fans of the mobile game will enjoy the 24-episode adventure, as well as the news of its top ranking as one of Twitter’s most discussed video games in 2019.
For those who compete against each other to reach the top, STARMYU adds just the right amount of spice as an engaging story about performing your best to join the elite.
Five students attend Ayanagi Academy in the hopes of joining the Musical Department, where only the best musical performers reside. The Kao Council — made up of the most talented students — pick which members they want to be on their Star Team, thus accepting them into the Star Frame Class. Idol stories that take place at an academy are very common because of the youthful setting and, of course, the uniforms!
With a star-studded cast of voice actors such as Hanae Natsuki and Kensho Ono, it’s no surprise that STARMYU reached critical acclaim as an idol boys anime with an original story.
SHONEN HOLLYWOOD -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49- (2014)
An idol’s path is never easy, and SHONEN HOLLYWOOD -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49- exemplifies the trials and tribulations that precede success. Based on a novel written by Ikuyo Hashiguchi, SHONEN HOLLYWOOD takes place 15 years after the novel’s events at a theatre called Hollywood Tokyo. A group of idol trainees struggle to look past their shortcomings, but with each other’s help they soon replace the old members of Shounen Hollywood and carry on their legacy.
The character designs in this series are more realistic compared to other idol boy anime and mostly opt for neutral colors. Because of this design choice, there is more emphasis on the characters’ voices and their backstories rather than appearances.
The show reiterates how one should stay diligent when it comes to chasing their dreams, especially when they don’t possess natural-born talent. SHONEN HOLLYWOOD -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49- takes on a more relatable standpoint by shining a light on the hardships of stardom.
TSUKIUTA. The Animation (2016)
TSUKIUTA. The Animation started as a character CD series before expanding into a vast array of multimedia adaptations.
A fictional company called Tsuki Talent Production manages many idol groups. TSUKIUTA. The Animation focuses on two of the company’s male groups: Six Gravity and Procellarum. Rather than a story about training to become idols, the focus is on each character’s backstory and their interactions with one another.
TSUKIUTA. sets itself apart with 3D animation in its opening sequences which switch between Six Gravity’s and Procellarum’s songs. The fluid and dynamic dance movements are impressive given that 3D animation can sometimes limit these types of movements.
The show warms viewers up to each character before presenting the finale, which is a joint 3D-animated performance between the two groups.
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