What’s it about? Wannabe idol Aido Seiya is aiming for the top, but it’s going to take a lot of heart–and unity–with his idol unit Fenyx Fire to get there. Thankfully, they’re part of Etoile Vio School, an academy that helps aspiring idols reach their goals. However, when Principal Kuma gives Seiya and his fellow idols-in-training an ultimatum that seems impossible, they have to ask one question of themselves: what does it mean to be an idol?
I want everyone who happens upon this article to know that I took this to save the Anime Feminist team from a potentially arduous male idol anime. I say this because I am pretty much exclusively a female idol fan, so… I really took an arrow here.
That being said, I★CHU kind of has the potential to slap, y’all. It’s not quite there, but… it could be. Maybe. I’m still undecided, even as I write this article. But hey, I’ve got hope… I think.
I★CHU is another idol mobile game adaptation, in the same vein as 2019’s Ensemble Stars and last season’s HYPNOSIS MIC was. In fact, I★CHU has a very storied history, though I’ll refrain from going too deep into it. Just know that it started as a smartphone game but grew to have a multitude of CDs, a stage play, and now, has an anime adaptation.
Production is being handled by Lay-duce, a studio known for Magi: Adventure of Sinbad and in-between animation on HYPNOSIS MIC. Additionally, Nanba Hitoshi is serving as I★CHU’s director. Nanba might sound familiar because he’s so prolific, serving as the director for Baki the Grappler, Gosick, and Golden Kamuy.
Narita Yoshimi (Futari wa Precure Splash Star, Yes! Precure 5) will be handling series composition, with music by Dewa Yoshiaki (Kino’s Journey -The Beautiful World-). Character design by Osawa Mina. Osawa is a standout, in particular, having worked on Summer 2019’s breakout hit, given. Finally, color design will be handled by Iwasawa Reiko, who’s previous work includes Code Geass, Mysterious Girlfriend X, and Wolf’s Rain.
I’d list some voice actors, but y’all, there’s just too many dang boys in this series! In fact, there’s eight units of boys, each with multiple boys in the unit. Episode one introduces like, sixteen boys that I immediately forgot about when I closed my Crunchyroll tab.
So, for my sake, and for yours too, I’ll just say that there’s quite a few notable names behind the faces of these high school idols. You can find an extensive list on the I★CHU wiki.
Episode 1, “The Colors of Songs”, kicks off with Fire Fenyx, a wannabe male idol group performing on the streets to… no one. In fact, everyone on the streets is just… passing them by. It’s actually a really nice scene, in large part because it shows the brutal reality of trying to be an idol.
I sense that part of the fun of I★CHU is the variety of units: there really is one for every kind of fan. If you like art, you’ve got the crafty boys. If you like straightforward, trope-y idols, you’ve got Fire Fenyx. If you like “international flavor” -the show’s phrase, not mine- then you’ve got I♥B. Based on the opening, I imagine there’s loads more archetypes and gimmicks to come, ranging from femboys to jazz boys.
The back half of the episode is spent getting into the main “conflict” for the beginning arc: making and selling CDs. This comes about when the school’s headmaster, Principal Kuma–and I want you to take that very literally because this is either a Japanese man in a bear suit or an actual bear in a bear suit–holds an end of the week check-in of sorts for all of the students.
After asking how they’re doing, he gleefully informs all of the students that they’ll need to make and sell three thousand CDs within the next three months. Principal Kuma even adds on a juicy tidbit of tension: complete the task or face expulsion.
It’s enough of a challenge, even if it’s kind of expected. Then again, this is an anime about boys becoming idols: if they didn’t have a “crank out CDs” arc, I’d be a bit upset. It feels like a kind of idol rite of passage at this point, enough that I get a little hype each time it comes up in an idol anime.
Still, that wasn’t enough to make this first episode “interesting.” It was enough to hint at some potential plot in the upcoming episodes. Whether that’ll be enough to take this show from “perfectly average” to “pretty okay” is still up in the air. This first episode didn’t really… go anywhere, at least not anywhere interesting enough to be completely engaging.
I’ll end with this thought: I don’t think anyone is going name I★CHU as their anime of Winter 2021, nor their anime of 2021 overall. Then again, that might be a bit presumptuous of me: I’m sure that someone will really, really like this series. Honestly, the wonderful thing about idol anime is that they come in a variety of flavors for lots of different fans with varying levels of interest and passion. I’m more than sure that a lot of fans have been waiting for this adaptation for a long time. I truly feel happy that it’s here for fans to indulge in.
While I★CHU is an idol series that I’m still on the fence about -at least from my initial watch impressions- I do think there’s an audience out here ready for this plethora of boys to rock their entire anime world. It’s great that this series exists, even if it’s not really going to be my thing. I’ll readily watch up to episode three, but… don’t expect to hear me talk about this series much past that.