What’s it about? Takigawa Miu has no ambition to be an idol, until one day a mysterious letter from a talent agency arrives requesting she come to the zoo. There, she meets seven other girls and is taken to a massive underground complex dedicated to the girls’ professional development. Desperate to feed her family, Miu resolves to swallow her pride and become what she hates the most: the world’s best idol.
Content Warnings: Nudity (not sexualized), skeevy entertainment industry practices, and a possible cult.
The greatest paradox of 22/7’s inaugural episode is how much it wishes to tell you the idol industry is full of shit and how much it attempts to lionize the 22/7 group’s founding as a legendary idol unit.
The show hammers down the precept that “adults are liars.” They say whatever is convenient and segregate people based on whims. Miu hates this world and wishes to simply stay in her quiet, if a little dire, comfortable niche. She even lambasts the concepts of idols, calling them fools.
Yet at the end of the day, this is an anime about 22/7, their eventual success, and likely Miu’s triumph in finding a place where she feels truly belonging and comfortable. The show ultimately glorifies its idol unit, giving it an air that these girls were predestined for greatness and their activities as a unit is ordained by some kind of higher being. They have a human manager, an imposing man by the name of Gouda, but the true entity calling the shots is The Wall.
Yes, The Wall.
The Wall does not speak. It exists in the 22/7 unit’s lounge. The unit is to await periodic orders from The Wall while they are present for work. The Wall’s orders are absolute. Gouda does not understand what it is either. It simply is deemed essential to guiding this idol group to great success.
I spent half of this episode screaming at the eight young women to get out while they still could. Who would go along with a strange man in a black suit commanding young girls to become an idol unit? There was no audition, their office—poignantly—is under the zoo. All their idol activities are likely to be steered by some mystical glowing wall that spit out metal placards with text on them.
It’s surprising to me that only Miu had the good sense to run away whereas the other girls, Nicole Saito especially, simply plunge headfirst into the scheme to pursue fame and glory.
The idol industry is an industry that commercializes people. It manufactures them into objects of desire, and there are larger-than-life king- and queen-makers within them. It is also an industry known to dehumanize its commodity: people.
Thus 22/7 ends on a tongue-in-cheek note. Miu is fired from her job for not being able to smile at customers and work well with her coworkers. She is worn down and desperate when she swallows her pride to become an idol despite her awareness of what lies ahead. She exclaims “I have come here to do the job I wanted to do the least. And if I want to be an adult, I need to become good at it.”
Though the characters in 22/7 are fictitious, the idol unit is voiced by real-life idol unit 22/7, an 11-unit “digital voice actress idol group.” And it is worth noting the lore of the anime idol group differs from the actual idol group that portrays them. Saijo Nagomi voices Miu and Uta Kawase voices Nicole. Western fans may recognize Fujima Sakura as Sally Amaki.
Thus, it’s safe to assume this is by no means a conflation with the actual 22/7 group. Likely, 22/7’s actual producer does not literally think of himself as a god. But you can appreciate a sense of superiority and self-assured positive self-image exuded by its production.
Though 22/7 states the idol industry is foolish and adulthood is a horrible web of lies, I can’t help but feel 22/7 can only prove otherwise from here as a story. The unit will succeed. Miu will grow as a character. We will find it silly we ever thought Miu was not meant to be an idol.
The Wall was correct.