Can Japanese idols save politics?
This is the question proposed by Idol Jihen (Idol Incidents). As an anime viewer, we know that there is no shortage of cute idol shows out there, but the way that Idol Jihen tries to stand out is by using a premise that overlaps into government conflict. Luckily the citizens of Japan don’t have to worry too much because the Diet includes members that are full-fledged idols, complete with ridiculous hair and frilly outfits. This could have seriously been a great opportunity under the right hands, but I think we all know that very few of the writers in today’s anime business would be able to pull this off with intelligent humor. So yes, Idol Jihen is definitely not a show I would describe as intelligent.
The series starts by throwing out a lot of different girls into the mix, but the main two are Natsuki and Shizuka. Nastsuki is the over-the-top energetic, cheerful one, albeit naïve to the problems the real world has to face. Shizuka is the colder, stoic one and she has her own personal conflict with her father disapproving of her idol dreams. The two girls might bicker because they seem like polar opposites, but during the time of political crisis they might just be able to set aside their differences and work together for the greater good! However, this isn’t before the first half of the show’s episodes, which mainly focus on short nonsensical conflict involving things such as a location clearly inspired by Japan’s cat island and a holdup at a local school. The weirdest one might be the extreme bungee jumping contest. I think most viewers would do without these episodes that, despite their quirky sensibilities, can be found in numerous other comedy shows.
After this is cleared out of the way, we finally get to a more put together story arc about the girls sticking it up to the system. Unfortunately, the writing still isn’t very good. There is no specific political viewpoint that the writers want to discuss. There is a little hint of the direction the idols lean towards when Shizuka briefly mentions that the government officials they are butting heads with swing conservative, but that’s about it. It comes up around the time that the story slightly switches tone during a television interview the two main idols attend. Natuski is confronted with the fact that the good efforts she attempted may have actually ended up worse for the people that she tried to help in an example of the way political success can be looked at from different perspectives depending on how it’s spun by the media. In honesty though, this is fairly obvious stuff and comes across as shallow, which wouldn’t be as big of a deal besides the fact that the creators seemed to genuinely think they are making a profound statement amidst the dancing and singing and hijinks.
Being an idol anime, one that also happened to be tied in with a game, Idol Jihen has scenes with the girls just getting on stage and performing overly cute dance numbers. Unfortunately the songs might seem a little catchy in the moment, but the beats are rather bland and forgettable. You probably won’t be searching to add these to your mobile phone device. Not only that, but Idol Jihen goes down the Love Live route of rendering these stage scenes in CG rather than 2D a la idolm@ster which doesn’t do the show any real favors.
Other than the song interludes, the animation doesn’t really need to do much. This is a standard comedy in the end and for the most part requires minimal action sequences save for maybe some parts like the aforementioned “idol becomes a police officer for a day to save schoolkids” episode. Character designs are average except for maybe Natsuki’s hair which consists of not only twin tails but two braids falling by her ears. The hair is mostly pink except for a weird yellow ombre effect for the braids reminiscent of a color scheme for a sugar infused Popsicle. The politicians in the show are really ugly. This is likely done not just because the character designers don’t care for drawing men, but also because they are the villains in the story. They look like they stepped out of a Space Adventure Cobra episode.
As far as idol shows go, there are just so many better ones out there despite the fact that this is a genre which doesn’t necessarily reach for the most ambitious material. The rundown is pretty much Love Live seasons one and two are the best offerings, with the runner up being AKB0048. In fact, if you want political issues lightly sprinkled into your Idol show, AKB0048 is the way to go. Idol Jihen is just a mildly entertaining mess that hits a lot of sour notes.