So it’s been, as of writing, 175 episodes. There’s three episodes left, and then Aikatsu will be over. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ll probably figure out I like Aikatsu a lot. Writing is actually impossible and Aikatsu actually getting cut before Akari Generation gets its third year (Scamco delenda est) has shocked me to the core, but to watch Aikatsu Stars without feeling any resentment at it not being Aikatsu, I shall type out all of my feelings. I guess this is my very own Move On Now.
Aikatsu! is a four season long show with two movies, one more important than the other, and all of which I will go through in painstaking detail, but which all involve one girl admiring another and they do intense idol activities. Let’s get this show on the road.
Widely considered to be the best season of them all, it stars Hoshimiya Ichigo getting into the idol
hell world after getting watching a concert by the top idol, Kanzaki Mizuki. Enabled by her friend, Kiriya Aoi and joins Starlight Academy together. As she aims for the top, she meets friends and together they do the most intense of idol activities. This is the first season, so the CGI at the start is still rather shaky, but it gets good fast, and it’s probably the most focused of them all, as the cast hasn’t gotten huge yet. It’s really, really good. Honestly, even if you don’t want to watch all of the seasons, you should probably watch this one, it’s only 50 episodes long.
Season 2 picks up a year after Season 1 ends, and introduces a huge batch of new girls in the form of a rival academy, Dream Academy. Also, Mizuki becomes a supervillian. For a while, the season actually drags on. One of the units, Aikatsu 8 is kind of awful. While the DreAca girls are good, having such a huge cast (14 idols) loses the focus the first season does so well. Though, by the end, it really gets going and the final episode is really, really emotional, as it’s the first time you really feel like the girls you’ve seen for 101 episodes are graduating and you won’t get to see them again. By Season 2, the CGI has gotten quite good, as has the songs. It also introduces the main girl of Season 3, Oozora Akari.
After going through some hairstyle changes, Akari picks up the baton and gets her own generation. The first generation girls are still here, but in a much reduced state. I honestly feel this is one of the major reasons Akari Gen got some flack, especially at the start, people miss their original characters. However, I think it’s better to judge the season by its own merits. Much like S2, it starts off slow, with some episodes feeling like a rehash of S1’s, but it really gets going, with some very high points like the start of Soleil’s tour that rivals that of S1’s. The new characters do a very good job at being endearing, and by reducing DreAca’s role, it regains some of the focus of S1, thus going at least somewhat back to the development from that season. For example, Akari isn’t the Ichigo clone she was in S2, but she found her very own brand and became her a star in her own right. One thing I feel the season could’ve done, however, is increasing the role of the first generation’s trio. In S1, Mizuki tutored Ichigo very well, and it would’ve been a very interesting thing if the old trio tutored the new trio. Ichigo helps Akari occasionally, but all in all, it feels like a missed opportunity. Still, I think S3 holds up very well, and by S3, the CGI has gotten very, very good. On the songs front, S3 has some of the very best in the show
The movie really is something superb. From the starting performance to the ending medley, it’s really entertaining and shows the best of the show. Taking place after episode 112, it focuses on Ichigo reaching her final goal of becoming a top idol, with her friends helping her with her big show. It really shows off the individuality of every idol from S1 to 2, with Akari in a supporting role and smooths out Mizuki’s arc. She’s no longer a supervillain. And actually good. The Movie is probably one of my favorite things about Aikatsu, it’s really, really good.
And here we are now, at the final season. Here, it’s Akari’s turn to become the admired, rather than simply admiring. While on tour, she picks up two new girls named Nono and Risa, and they too become idols. Finally, the Akari Generation girls start the Starlight Queen Cup to see who’s the Queen. As the final season, it does its best to finish up everyone’s arcs, especially the Akari Generation girls. The main problem here is really the fact that for one reason or another, it was cut short. It really feels like something is missing, and another problem is once again, some things feel like rehashes of the first season. Even so, for me at least, it’s really doing a very, very good job at pulling at my heartstrings. And naturally, as the newest season, the CGI is at it’s very best, and even though there isn’t that many new songs, they are all pretty great. I explode every week.
For a show like Aikatsu, who has a performance every episode, it is very important for the songs to be consistently good, and Aikatsu really does have a lot of good songs, throughout all of the seasons.
Then again, lots of idol shows have good songs, so what sets Aikatsu apart? I say it’s the sheer variety that’s matched with quality and how they tie them in with the characters who sing them.
Starting with the first one, Aikatsu has songs that cross a lot of genres and that sound both very different and very good. Yurika’s Eien no Tomoshibi, for example, is a super electronic song that you wouldn’t really expect from a show aimed at small kids. Each song does its best to exemplify each characters theme and quirks, Juri’s Chica x Chica involves lots of clapping, Miyabi’s Light Pink Day Tripper utilises her traditional Japanese theme to the fullest, with the sounds of falling bamboo and flutes. Sora’s Kira Pata Shining is exactly that, something that sounds very Arabian, or at least what you would imagine something Arabian sounding like. It doesn’t shy away from more normal idol/pop sounding songs either, with Start Dash Sensation sounding like something straight out of Love Live.
Each character also has a singing voice separated from their character voices too. While some think they should just have one voice overall to solve confusion and keep them sounding like the same person, it really isn’t a problem, with most of the characters having singing voices that sound like their character voice. Apart from that, having a separate singing voice allows the singer to completely focus on the singing, something that is done very well.
Aikatsu is, more than anything else, about its characters, so having songs that fit them is a very crucial thing. Like discussed above, it has this. Though, in a discussion with a friend, he pointed out that the songs the characters sing aren’t specifically written for them, like how Umi writes the songs for µ’s in Love Live, so it loses a personal touch. At the time, I didn’t have a response to this, because it was true. However, now I do.
Yes, the songs aren’t written for or by the character. However, that doesn’t stop the characters from using it to their fullest extent. What Aikatsu does so well is that even if the song isn’t specifically for them, you can’t see anybody else singing it, at least in the way or as well as the character does. Once again using the example of Eien no Tomoshibi, Akari sings Yurika’s song once . In that performance, she feels much more like someone borrowing her song, because of course she does, it doesn’t at all fit her image, and after all, Eien no Tomoshibi is Yurika’s song. On the flip side to this, and using another song referenced above, Sakura sings in Miyabi’s song, Light Pink Day Tripper. They both share similar backgrounds, being yamato nadeshkos, so they can pull it off well.
Some songs, of course have to ‘feel’ available to everyone, so they follow a more default idol appeal, one that is inclusive and anyone can get into. Idol Activities and Du Du Wa Do It are just a few examples.
Naturally, the outfits they use in each performance matters as much as their song, and Aikatsu doesn’t flop here either, each song has its specific outfit. Chica x Chica has a very Spanish themed outfit to go with the song, Light Pink Day Tripper a very Japanese one. For group songs like Let’s Aikatsu, they share a uniform, with some minor differences like color.
Of course, in addition to the songs, the characters also dance, so next up is the CG performances that happen nearly every episode, and they are probably the part of the show that got the most consistent and the biggest improvement from the start of the show until S4. Here’s a comparison between the one of the first performances with an updated version 3 and a half years later. I’ll try to briefly comment on how much better it got, but for something like this, it’s much easier to let the pictures speak for themselves.
In the show, performances are done through holographic systems with appeals, auras, special backgrounds/stages and with special outfit in the cards the girls can collect, so they can do some really fantastical things, that in normal, more realistic idol shows would be impossible. Aikatsu takes this to the fullest.
The girls we see are the tip-top idols the idol world has produced, so if the performances doesn’t live up to that, it’ll show. However, that really isn’t a problem.
At the start, they’re pretty lackluster and honestly, look kind of weird. The not so good CG is inherited from the Aikatsu arcade game. However, they get better real fast. Here is a medley of 18 CG scenes from S1, from the first to the last.
S2, however, is the time when it gets really good. They look almost like they’re drawn traditionally, and the lighting has vastly improved, and is able to make nice shadows as the characters dance and sing. As the CG improves, the background does too. Precious, in particular, looks quite amazing.
S3 and S4 are definitely the peaks of the CG. Once again, it’s how well they use the lighting, and this is best shown in Sumire’s performances, where the light from the background shines around from her to the everything else and she dances in it. Juri’s Chica x Chica’s performance is quite excellent too, with its swords and crazy motions.
Naturally, not every performance has the same amount of shine and flair, and you can clearly see how much time the staff took to make each performance really shine, and it shows. Performances are naturally going to be repeated, but even so, each time you watch it, it’s a real flair. Each performance suits the character’s quirks and charms to the fullest, and as mentioned before in the songs section, even if the song isn’t their own, the characters make it feel like it is, and it is here the performances help the most.
For Sora, it is a LSD filled dance with illusions and bizarre clones of herself, with different colored filters. For Juri, it is a Spanish song with clapping, tap dancing and most flashy of all, swordplay.
Now, that’s good and all but, you say, it’s just a little girls show, what can possibly be so good about it? Well I’m getting to that. One of the show’s biggest strengths is its songs, yes, but there are other very good things to. It’s a classic, very fun little girl show, nothing new, but it does what it does very well. What I really want to get into are two themes and the fun characters that form the backbone of the show.
From the start, Aikatsu is a story of, and one driven by, admiration. Ichigo becomes an idol after seeing Mizuki and from that point on, she had admired her, and tried her very best to reach her. Akari is in the same camp, becoming an idol after seeing Ichigo. Throughout the series, admiration is a central theme for everyone. Not only about the who or the what they admire, but what they do to reach the person they admire.
What Aikatsu expresses through the characters’ actions in the show and the movie is that simple admiration isn’t enough, you need to act on those feelings and make it a source of power. I’m going to use one of Sumire’s arc as an example here, and I swear it’s not just because I am a huge Sumire fan. In Season 3, Sumire tries to get her first Premium Dress. To get to the designer who will give it to her, she had to answer who loved the brand the most. Sumire answered Yurika, but she also said that one day, she’ll love it more than her. From the start, Sumire had admired Yurika, not only for being the brand’s top idol, but her passion for the brand. In Season 4, 58 episodes later, she returns to the mansion where the designer and this time, said it was her who loved the brand most. Acting on her admiration, Sumire had managed to grow from a timid girl to one who dared to dream she would become Starlight’s top idol.
“Those I admired lead my first way forevermore” – Shining Line*
When you admire someone, you have a want to become just as, if not better than that person. In the show, admiration is not a one-sided thing, but one from which everyone can benefit. There are two sides, divided by lets say, a Shining Line. No where is this better shown than in Ichigo’s arc and the movie, where Ichigo aims for the top, to be even better than Mizuki, the one who she had so admired. And she achieves that goal. For Mizuki, there may seem to be no direct benefit, but there is. After Ichigo becomes the top, Mizuki feels inspired from her song and vows to keep being an idol, and if Ichigo ever relaxes, she’ll steal the top position back from her. For the admired, the admiration of a fan can keep one going strong.
And naturally, when you pursue something and improve yourself, someone will inevitably look up to you, as Akari looked up to Ichigo, and Risa and Nono to Akari. One can even call it a line of admiration. A Shining Line of Admiration, if you will.
For me, this is definitely the most relatable theme in the show. Whether in real life or on Twitter, we have people we admire. We admire them because of the things they do, or the way they act. Aikatsu tells us that we can become just like the people we admire if we act on our feelings and improve on it. One of the reason this post even exists is because of deepbluejeer’s post on Fate/Extra CCC. I had admired how well and eloquently he had put how much he wanted to inform the audience about what Nasu could really do in his post, and for me, it had become an inspiration, because for me, I want to tell you all about just how much I like Aikatsu.
If admiration was the thing that drove Ichigo and so many other characters, being your own star was what changed Akari, and for Season 3 and 4 was a very important theme. At the start, Akari was quite literally an Ichigo clone, dressing up as she did and acting like she would.
“I used to want to be like Ichigo-chan, however, I now know that I need to find my own light. This is my story!”
Before the Starlight Queen Cup, everyone was asked what kind of idol they wanted to be, and by then Akari had found her answer. She had no longer wanted to become an idol like Ichigo, but her own idol, and her goal would be to make everyone smile to the best of her abilities. She had become her own star.
Though this subtheme is definitely not as prevalent as admiration, it’s still there, compliments the theme of admiration. After all, when you admire someone, you want to be like them. However, if you take that too far, you’ll be a knock off.
Simply talking about characters, Aikatsu doesn’t do that. Everyone is very distinct, from their quirks to their songs, no one feels like a knock off. Except for Akari at the start, but that’s intentional and she grows out of it.
And since it’s here, that naturally means it has to relate to me. Though you might say Kiwi, how can this relate to you, you’re already amazing, well, it can. Because before I met the folks I did on Anitwitter, I just kinda did what was cool, even if I didn’t think it was particularly cool. Then I met some folks and they told me to watch Aikatsu. Not many folks have a brand that’s only idol stuff is Aikatsu.
To tie this theme with the way the songs are used from above. Even if the songs aren’t written for them, it’s very hard to see others perform the same song as well as them. It’s because of their uniqueness and the way they each have their own identity that they can use their songs so well, even if it wasn’t written specifically for them, the characters bend their songs to their own image.
Finally, it’s time to talk about the characters, who are the backbone of the fun. Aikatsu is mostly a sequence of events that lead to tournaments, so there needs to be a fun cast to make everything work, and thankfully, there is. However, the cast by the end is rather large (finishing at 28 main and side idols), so I’ll limit myself to talking about the three characters who appealed to me the most, not necessarily in order: Sumire, Aoi, and Yurika.
First off, Hikami Sumire. For the record, I have been the biggest, and staunchest defender of Sumire and see, what really separates the Sumire fan from someone who merely likes her is you need to be able to explain her arc and how she grows.
At first, you might call her boring, and sure, I can see where that come from. She just goes うん, acts super adorable and serves tea (which, you’d think, would appeal to a certain British). However, as the show progresses, she no longer just gets dragged along by Akari and Hinaki, she finds her own motivations rather than just doing suggestions from her sister and learns to both be more independant and rely on her friends when she needs to.
When Kurosawa Rin appears in S3, she learns to be a good senpai and mentors Rin well and grows more assertive. Also, she gets over her fear of dead fish. It is in the late S3 where she really develops, where she is much more involved with her friends and saves a lamb. Also, when she puts on the twin braids, she teases people with spooky stories about green lizard monsters. Sumire is good. Sumire is not boring. She is fun. Along with having some of the best performances in the generation, the show also displays how Sumire supposedly has the best singing in Akari Generation by giving her the most songs.
Next is Aoi, the idol professor, the Naughty Detective and Ichigo’s best friend. Aoi is the more direct kind of fun, much more active than Sumire and knows about all the idols. Appearing in all four seasons, she always adds excitement because of how excited she gets. This sense of excitement is infectious, to both the other characters and to you. You can’t help but get excited when you hear her talk about other idols, you want to experience it for yourself too. Quite odayaka janai. There isn’t much to say, just that she really is a super fun character, people like her for a reason.
Finally, it’s Todou Yurika, the thousand-year old vampire. The chuu2 kind of fun, it really is entertaining to see her keep of her persona in the face of literally everything that the show throws against her, even while skydiving. Her vampire persona never really gets old, and when that side is off, you get a cute glasses girl who tries her best to be the vampire princess she read about. Also, she has a sweet pairing with Shibuki Ran, and it’s the best pairing, naysayers be damned.
For me, Aikatsu really was not only a really good and fun show with great music, but an inspiring show. From the energetic opening themes to how the show encourages you to do your best, I sincerely find it a show that motivates – a passionate show that inspires. Anything could realistically be your very own Aikatsu if you just put in enough effort, and for me, that was writing this post, my RT-ing activities on Twitter and encouraging people to watch the show. I hope that by watching it, you too can find your own Aikatsu.
That’s.. about it. I’m sure there’s a lot more that can be said about different parts of the show and about the characters, but that’s all from me. In the end, I’m just a super big fan of Aikatsu who livewatches it with friends every Thursday. I hope through this post, I can spread some of the happiness I felt while watching the show, and to those who are on the verge of picking it up, I hope you all watch it, and to those who dropped it, I hope you pick it back up, because once you get past the slow start, it really is a good show, and I’m sure you’ll find at least a few things to like about it. It hasn’t ended yet, there’s still another three weeks, but I really want to thank the show for all the fun it provided, so to Aikatsu, thank you for all my precious days.
For Aikatsu Stars, I’ve come to accept that it’s going to be a thing, and whether it’s good or bad, I’ll probably keep watching. To me, it’s still a replacement, and Aikatsu shouldn’t have ended before Akari Generation finished its three years like Ichigo’s generation did, but let me take a page out of one of Aikatsu’s Aphorisms:
Even as a replacement, give it your all!