Synonyms: Idol ga Tsudou!, Aidoru ga Tsudou!, Aidoru Katsudou!
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Oct 8, 2012 to Sep 26, 2013
24 min. per episode
G - All Ages
L represents licensing company
Score: 7.721 (scored by 1106 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
No tags found
SynopsisIchigo Hoshimiya is a regular, ordinary middle school girl. But when her best friend, Aoi, invites her to join the idol training academy, Starlight Academy, her whole world is turned upside down. As she encounters all kinds of rivals and learns what it takes to be an idol, she uses her Aikatsu Cards to challenge countless auditions.
Related AnimeSequel: Aikatsu! 2
Characters & Voice Actors
When I was first taught about "idols" as a child, we knew them as false gods. Then I started watching anime and I realized it's practically the same thing for Japan.
Aikatsu! follows the idol trend of the past few years. These are shows about cute young girls singing and dancing that look like they're for young girls but are actually for grown men, only this time around it actually is for young girls (it has some periphery demographic, though). It follows a group of middle school friends led by Hoshimiya Ichigo learning to become idols at Starlight Academy through various "idol activities."
But what are "idol activities?"
Singing and dancing are definitely involved and, as one would expect, are the primary concern. But that's not all, oh no. Aikatsu! delves much further into the idol world than that which we see on the stage at concerts (and probably further than reality). These girls take long runs, chop down giant trees, scale mountains with their bare hands, and navigate trap-ridden haunted houses. I'm not even exaggerating here, all of those things literally happen in the show. It's no thriller, but there are a few surprising times where you wonder where these girls get the strength and courage to face these obstacles.
But being an idol isn't all about training your body, either. Being an idol is also an image and representation. When you become popular, you get fans, and you need to be sure you don't let those fans down; this fact is not ignored. There is a certain episode in which Ichigo becomes overly worried about making a good signature and being able to do it fast when it comes time for her to meet fans and sign things for them. The problem is that she forgets the "meet fans" part, and only focuses on the signing, a fact that is soon brought to her attention by a friend, making her realize that she had been letting fans down who not only wanted to get a signature, but also to simply see her face and talk to her a bit.
Further, there's an image to maintain. This is a fine line that could have easily fallen into the territory of shaming non-perfect body types, and even arguably toes the line at best. When Christmas break comes and it's time for Ichigo to go home for a couple weeks, she can't resist her mother's cooking; she eats and eats and gets...big. The people around her are disappointed with her, but not because of her new shape; it is because of how she let herself go, how she allowed herself to be lazy and leave her idol activities at the door step when she came in.
At 50 episodes, there's a lot of time to develop story and characters. As one might guess from the above, most of the story is episodic, but there is still a certain continuation to everything. New idols are introduced and have bigger roles in subsequent episodes, a lesson learned in one episode will continue to be put into practice throughout the show, and as our girls get ever more popular both in the academy and in the outside world, things get busier. There are times where we might see a string of slice-of-life episodes followed by a slightly more dramatic story arc, but these never come too suddenly to feel out of place. They start reasonably and end well, with the possible exception of one near the end where it seems as though idol units begin to grow on trees and the viewers are left wondering who belongs where and what this sub-group, should they actually exist, is even doing.
Lead protagonist is Hoshimiya Ichigo, with main support Kiriya Aoi and Shibuki Ran. Ichigo is a cheerful girl, always happy, but not always very smart. She decides she wants to do something and she goes and does it, no hesitation. Sometimes things work out great. Other times they don't. She doesn't take these moments for granted, but she doesn't let them get her down; she bounces back, taking what she's learned and applying it for the future. She's the kind of character who just attracts other people to her.
But she wouldn't be able to do that without such great friends. First up is Aoi, her childhood friend who showed Ichigo her first idol concert that made both want to be idols and convinced them to apply for Starlight Academy. Aoi is the "idol professor." She knows everything about idols. No, really. Everything. She's also an idol herself and Ichigo's #1 fan and as such, knows how to keep the peppy blonde in check...while occasionally succumbing to the craziness herself.
And then there's Ran, the most mature member of the trio. She is first introduced as being popular around the academy for her cold, no-smile demeanor, having a confidence built up due to having years of entertainment experience under her belt before having even entered Starlight Academy. Getting her to warm up to Ichigo and Aoi was not easy, but when she finally allowed them to break the ice with her, we see what is really a very calm and caring personality and an irreplaceable source of confidence, even if she is sometimes the one who needs it the most.
But there are a lot of characters here. Kanzaki Mizuki, the aloof and mysterious upperclassman and most popular idol at the academy who only very rarely shows a more emotional side (but don't worry, she does) is the most prominent support. She is the endgame, the goal everyone else is trying to reach, but a rival that always moving ever forward. A lot about her is left in mystery, but we're also given a lot of tidbits that show her to not be the 100% perfect being she's made out to be, and she never lets up, considering that, while she provides motivation for others, those behind her are also what motivates her to keep going.
But again, there are a lot of characters, many of whom don't really get a chance to be fully realized. The extra idols with recurring parts, which include Otome, Yurika, Shion, Sakura, and Kaede, largely fall into this group. All of them at least an episode or two dedicated to their development, but afterwards they occasionally may make things feel too crowded and will largely stick to their base personality for the rest of the show without ever really being focused on again. It's a bit of a shame, but it was a trade-off for the extra focus on the show's main group.
However, the show doesn't ignore any characters. There are multiple side characters who could easily have been left by the wayside but get their time in the spotlight, such as dance instructor Johnny Bepp (who, yes, does play a pirate in one episode) and Ichigo's mother, father, and little brother. These sessions are largely abrupt, but short and sweet. They really help to develop the relationships all around, giving all the characters more depth, all while not sacrificing the main focus of the show.
And what is the main focus of the show? What do you think is the main focus of a show about idols? Music!
Oh, we're definitely treated to music in this show. Every single episode climaxes in a concert scene. It's not a different song every episode, but it is changed up enough that by the time you begin to grow tired of a song, they start using a new one. Also, the first ED, Calendar Girl, is amazing and actually well portrays the show's eventual theme. Overall, though, while even Aikatsu!, like others of its kind, may seem to occasionally throw in more songs to advertise new singles, it never really feels out of place within the context of the show because most of what the characters are doing are related to their job as idols and leads up to the eventual musical piece.
But speaking of those concerts and advertising...there are some weird things going on.
One can't write a review of Aikatsu! without mentioning the forbidden fruit of commercial anime: cards. Aikatsu! too wants to sell you some cards. In the show, these cards are their outfits and are...generated?...in the Aikatsu machine for the concerts. Yeah, it's weird, but it doesn't tiptoe around it. Much effort is spent on matching up each member's outfit with everyone else and getting new cards for new outfits to fit a different occasion, including the special "premium" cards that are only given to the most worthy of idols. At the end of the day, it's hard to say if this was purely an advertisement gimmick, a legitimate-if-strange part of the story, or something in between.
There's also this thing they do during concerts called "special appeal." It's hard to even describe what these are since it really isn't grounded in reality at all, but it's this mid-concert thing that typically only takes a few seconds to do and ranges from spinning around wildly to shooting a heart with an arrow. They're supposed to be these things that make a concert and performer more impressive in some way, but it's never made clear what the actual purpose of them is or why they exist at all. There's even an episode focused on them, but all we really learn is that most idols can only do 1 per concert while Mizuki can pull off 3. Around the halfway point of the show they're never really brought up again, but they still appear in the concerts.
Things are very pretty (and pink) in Aikatsu! land, but a little rough around the edges. Character designs are distinct and animation is typically fluid, but at the forefront of every episode's concert is a sequence of re-used animation where the girls are inserting their Aikatsu cards into the Aikatsu machine. The concert scenes are all in CGI, which can be a bit daunting next to the 2d animation of the rest of the show (which sometimes even appears for the audience during concerts). A quick eye can see commonly re-used background characters, not really a problem in most cases since I also see the same people every day at school, but the worst offender is a particular scene where the headmistress is addressing an assembly of girls and the two halves, hair color aside, are mirrored, like each girl has a twin sitting in the same position but on the other side of the room.
At the end of the day, Aikatsu! is just a happy show. Its run time is used very well, as it doesn't have to crank out material before its inevitable end and viewers are given plenty of time to get attached to the characters without having to leave them so soon. Certain episodes later on in the show really wouldn't have even worked without the kind of run time this show had; the impact they made just wouldn't be the same in a short series.
Aikatsu! is also not for everyone. It is a kid's show and even fans who usually like idol shows such as Love Live and Idolm@ster may not be able to get the same enjoyment from this one. Feel free to judge this one by its cover; if a group of young girls in frilly dresses over a pink background doesn't seem like your kind of show, don't watch it. But if you do like this kind of stuff, or just feel like giving it a shot, you ought to like what you come in for.
Oh, how I love this series…
Aikatsu is a cute idol anime, about a young girl called Hoshimiya Ichigo who, after seeing the performance of a famous idol, Kanzaki Mizuki, decides to join the special school for idols, Starlight Academy, together with her best friend Aoi, to become an idol like Mizuki.
Aikatsu can be comapred to Idolm@ster or Love Live, given they are all idol anime. However, Aikatsu is aimed at young girls, not older guys (I am very positive guys are the target audience for ‘moe’ idol shows), so Aikatsu has a different ‘feel’ to it than other idol anime – even though it mostly involves adorable school girls singing, dancing, training, and making friends.
Aikatsu isn’t a fan-service oriented anime at all. Instead, it feels very innocent and light-hearted – and it’s not afraid to be very silly and ridiculous. In this show, the girls not only sing and dance, but they also scale mountains in order to prove themselves to wear certain brands of clothes on stage, chop down giant fir trees in order to ‘save the magic of Christmas’ and partake in obstacle courses that involve them being blown away in severe winds or falling into mud. There’s a lot of ridiculous stuff in Aikatsu – but that is part of what makes the show fun.
Another good thing about Aikatsu is that, even though it’s a rather long-running series, and every episode ends with the girls performing some kind of concert with CG graphics, the episodes never feel like filler, and they never feel reptative (at least, to me). Each episode is structured in a very similar way – but each episode feels ‘fresh’, as they focus on different aspects of being an idol (e.g. practising autographs, going on a radio show, communicating with fans). There are also several slice of life elements thrown in, and the series focuses greatly on the friendship between the three main girls, Ichigo, Aoi and Ran. Aikatsu is full of fun and cute moments, and it doesn’t drag or get repetitive.
Along with the varied content of each episode, the characters are all rather fun – even if they’re not particularly new or special personality-wise. The main character, Ichigo, is the sweet and clumsy girl who can be found in a lot of shoujo anime; her best friend, Aoi, is something of an idol ‘nerd’ and acts as the intelligent and mature character; and Ran is an independent and strong-willed girl, who at first seems quite cold, but deep down is very loyal and caring. The series focuses mainly on the friendship between these three main characters – to good effect, as you really see their friendship developing throughout the course of the series, in a natural way, which makes certain episodes rather emotional. Moreover, because the series revolves mainly around these three girls, it makes the whole show feel very focused, and the side characters never detract or take too much screen-time and attention away from the main girls.
The side characters, too, are enjoyable. The other idols, Mizuki (an elegant princess-type who works hard, and is the ‘top idol’ in the Aikatsu universe) Otome (a cheerful genki girl), Yurika (a somewhat tsundere vampire-styled girl), Sakura (demure and graceful) and Kaede (a big-sister type, experienced idol, who likes magic tricks) are all fun, and add some ‘spice’ to the series. They are all introduced in staggered points through the series, with about eight episodes between the inclusion of each girl, which means – with the steady influx of new idols – the anime doesn’t stagnate, and it is fun to watch the series and wonder what type of new idol girl will be revealed next. Each girl has her own mini-arc of about two episodes, where some of her back story is revealed and she overcomes some trial to receive a super-special shiny outfit to use onstage, which leaves ample time to focus on the three main girls – at the same time giving the more periphery idols enough personality for them to be truly entertaining, instead of just ‘being there’. The only complaint I would have about the extra idols is that Kaede was introduced very late into the series (around episode 35), even though she appears in the opening of the very first episode – and she doesn’t seem to get as developed as the other idols.
The other side characters, such as Ichigo’s family, the headmistress of Starlight Academy and the rock band ‘More than True’, also add to the entertainment on the show – especially the dance teacher, Johnny Bepp, most likely modelled on Johnny Depp – who often talks in weird, warped English lines for comedy. I could probably watch a whole series just about that character, he was so much fun.
The animation in Aikatsu is fairly standard for kids’ anime, I guess – large eyes, adorable character designs, multi-coloured hair… I know people could critique the use of CG in the early concerts, as it does look noticeably very different from the regular animation in the first few episodes, but the CG does get better in the middle of the anime – and I quite liked the CG for the dance performances, as it meant the girls could wear some very, very intricate and elaborate outfits, that probably wouldn’t have been possible (or would have taken too long/cost too much) to animate regularly.
The character designs are all enjoyable, and fairly standard (though I really liked Yurika’s twin drills, and her vampire fangs) – but the clothes are probably my favourite part of the design. The girls wear a wide variety of outfits, and (as I mentioned before) the CG allows for some of their performance clothes to be very spectacular – even if some of them are slightly over-the-top. The fact the girls unlock new outfits as the series progresses is also quite exciting, and also helps stop the show feeling stale; I actually got really excited to see the girls gain more outfits, and wondered what outfits they would wear during the insert songs at the end of each episode…
The songs, too, are mostly cute, enjoyable pop numbers – though there are a few slower paced songs. The songs were fine – and, as it is an idol anime, there were a fair amount of them; a new song being introduced every four or five episodes.
But, my absolutely favourite about Aikatsu, would be that, despite being an idol show for children, it actually feels a lot more ‘mature’ than Idolm@ster and Love Live. This is because, even though Aikatsu is filled with far more ridiculous and unbelievable things than the latter idol animes, Aikatsu has a very, very good way of approaching the topic of ‘working independently, and finding your own way in life.’ Although the girls in Aikatsu are all close friends, they are all idols, and – as the second ending song suggests – they are all ‘rivals’; competing for the most attention and the most fans. The girls, despite being friends, often work alone; sometimes are split up into different idol groups; and they are unable to always be together. However, unlike Love Live and Idolm@ster, where the main character inevitably dissolved into tears in the finales of both series with the cry ‘I won’t let my friends go their own way; I don’t want us to split up!’, Aikatsu takes a more mature, and more selfless, approach. When the girls in Aikatsu decide to go at something alone, trying to become more independent, they are only ever supported and cheered on by their friends – never held back. Even though the girls in Aikatsu become dejected that their friends will move on without them at some point, to further their own careers, it is always handled gracefully, and with mature understanding – not whining, tears, and a selfish ‘think about how much I’ll miss you!!! You should halt your career because of my needs!!!’ attitude that Idolm@ster and Love Live both had.
Aikatsu could be criticised because it is not only an idol anime, but a way to market ‘Aikatsu cards’ – a popular arcade game in Japan, where buying cards in real life can be used to unlock more outfit in the arcade game. The fact Aikatsu is trying to sell you stuff is never lost, as the girls constantly chant ‘Ai-katsu, Ai-katsu!’ whilst running and exercising (a ‘subtle’ reminder to ‘buy Aikatsu cards, buy Aikatsu cards…’) However, despite the fact this show was plainly made as a means to advertise and sell /stuff/ to young kids, the show is still able to stand on its own two feet as a genuinely enjoyable, and actually rather mature, children’s show.
(Apart from one episode, where Ichigo suddenly gets fat, even though she doesn’t even look that different from usual, and then everybody mocks her… That one episode wasn’t particularly great – and probably could be viewed as somewhat offensive. But other than that one blip, the rest of the series was very sweet-natured.)
It won’t appeal to everybody, but if you like shows with cute girls, made for cute girls, with a strong focus on friendship, featuring an amazing and diverse outfit designs, and with some surprisingly mature writing despite its sillier moments, then you should watch Aikatsu. It’s a very, very fun show, I looked forwards to watching it every week, and whenever in a bad mood, it always cheered me up. It's by no means a /great/ show, but for what it is, it's incredibly enjoyable. read more
Opening Theme#1: "Signalize!" by Waka, Fuuri, Sunao, and Risuko (eps 1-25)
#2: "Diamond Happy (ダイヤモンドハッピー)" by Waka, Fuuri and Sunao (eps 26-50)
Ending Theme#1: "Calendar Girl (カレンダーガール)" by Waka, Fuuri, and Sunao (eps 1-25)
#2: "Hirari / Hitori / Kirari (ヒラリ/ヒトリ/キラリ)" by Waka, Risuko, STAR☆ANIS, Fuuri and Sunao (eps 26-50)
#3: "Alice Blue no Kiss (アリスブルーのキス)" by Rey (ep 44)
Which fansubbers do you like the best? Click + to approve of their subs for this show. Click - if you don't think they did such a great job.
Related ClubsTwenty (12) Anime , ~Toyonaga Toshiyuki FC~, Aikatsu, Aikatsu! Fanclub, Minako Kotobuki FC
Recently Watched By