Jul 19, 2015
Veronin (All reviews)
It says a lot about how charming and entertaining Aikatsu, a simple, unassuming slice-of-life series is when I am consistently finding it more appealing than all the big story-driven anime of today. It may not be anything amazing if you look solely at its story, but as far as pure entertainment goes, it is something quite special.

The main TV series has certainly seen its share of criticism over the past couple years, and I can't say that most of that criticism is wrong. But considering the main complaint regarding Aikatsu has been its repetitiveness over time, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that its movie is a far more exciting package than the typical episode. It is not constrained by the show's episodic formula, so there is much more freedom to explore the characters here. And it does so on a far bigger stage.

It also helps that it focuses primarily on a central group of characters (the Ichigo, Aoi, Ran trio) rather than the dozens of side characters, even if they do all show up for a brief amount of time. Aikatsu has always been strongest when it focuses on those three rather than the side characters who are more or less just walking catchphrases. That's not to say that all of them are that way (Seira is a pretty interesting character, for example), but I can't say I ever enjoyed it all that much when an episode would focus on someone like Otome rather than Aoi and Ichigo. They're still here, but not really. It's Ichigo's story.

The movie has its share of emotional moments as well. It isn't aiming to make anyone tear up, as it would rather deliver something heart-warming rather than sad or dramatic. It works best that way, too, I think. Compared to other idol anime such as Idolmaster which veer very much into drama territory at times (and largely fail at it due to the huge, jarring juxtaposition between happy-happy slice-of-life and the characters screaming in angst), Aikatsu feels far more honest with itself. It's precisely because the emotional moments are natural that they even feel emotional in the first place.

I just wish they could have done this without relying on the Ichigo and Mizuki rivalry. It was a nice way to give Ichigo a push into the idol world at the start of the series, but this late into the game it just feels unnecessary. Mizuki isn't a very exciting character in the first place: she's 'perfect', popular, everyone loves her, blah blah-- the typical shoujo rival who lacks any real personality of her own. I don't think I'd be alone in saying that the series would benefit from her disappearing for a while. Ichigo is so far above her at this point that I honestly have to wonder if there's something wrong with Mizuki's in-show fans.

Aikatsu's movie is oozing with visual charm, from its colourful art style to the girls' performance on the big stage. The movie's CG is a huge step-up from the TV series, and especially from its beginning episodes where it was genuinely distracting (and just a little bit creepy). It blends in just fine here. I'd even go as far as to say it looks nice. There's none of the usual stilted animation and abysmal frame-rate that you typically find from CG in anime; the girls move and dance naturally. There's also a few subtle details in the animation of the movie's quieter moments, like Aoi listening to a conversation and nearly spilling her ice cream, that add to the 'movie' feeling and help the characters feel more alive and authentic.

The only real flaw with regards to the movie's presentation is that the music is largely the same as the TV series. Considering the massive episode count of the TV series and the fact that the girls perform a song at the end of each and every episode, the music does get pretty stale after a while. There's really not much that can be done about this with regards to the TV series (a new song every few weeks would require an astronomical budget), but it would have been nice if the movie had an all-new soundtrack, or at least something a bit closer to it. The few new tracks that are there, however, are among the series' best.

I would not recommend watching this movie without having sufficient experience with the TV series, but I suppose it can be done if you're wondering what the hell the series is about and perhaps don't want to watch 140+ episodes in order to find out. Just do keep in mind that the characters are the source of the series' enjoyment, and without any attachment to them I'm not entirely sure you'll get all that much out of the movie.

Compared to most shoujo anime which focus on teenage drama and abusive relationships, Aikatsu conveys themes far more valuable: friendship, family, and bringing happiness to others. I don't think Aikatsu is necessarily something you'll be watching for its themes (they're subtle enough that you may not even notice or care about them), but these details do succeed in making it a much more positive presence in the anime industry than most of what gets shoved at girls these days. And guys, too. The anime industry needs more Aikatsu and less harem-teenagers-superpowers-savetheworld nonsense that encompasses half of the anime airing today. Aikatsu is not deep or brilliant or anything of the sort; it's simply excellent entertainment, which is more than even most 'serious' anime can say.

And really, Aikatsu is the kind of show that I could recommend to anyone without hesitation. Unless you value your masculinity more than anything else (in which case there might be some insecurity issues at play), Aikatsu being primarily aimed at 12-year-old girls shouldn't have any impact on your enjoyment of it. It's a better slice-of-life than just about anything that comes out these days, and the movie especially so. The idol aspect really isn't that important. Aikatsu is much more than that.

There's also Aoi, and Aoi is a blessing upon the world. Yep.