What’s this about? Niyodo Yuuya is one half of male idol group ZINGS, but honestly, he’s the most unenthused performer in the entire Japanese music industry. Even though his partner puts 1000% of himself into the group, Yuuya half-asses it, and is on the cusp of being fired. That is, until he encounters a girl in a colorful idol outfit backstage: a girl dedicated to rising to the top and finding her way into everyone’s hearts through the power of music. Only something’s not right about who can –and can’t– see her.
There seems to be this new, ongoing theme in anime about misanthropic young folks –particularly cis men– just… really digging into Japanese society and the effort it takes to do things. Uramichi oniisan is the most recent example that jumps to mind, but honestly, it’s been a thing of the 2010s that I expect to continue through the 2020s and into the 2030s even.
Why do I bring that up?
Well, it’s because Phantom of the Idol, a show that threatens to blend Uramichi with Idoly Pride and adult ennui, is very much following in the vein of “dudes who just don’t wanna put in the effort because honestly, society sucks and they ain’t paid enough” which like… certainly has potential for appeal, but may come off as just kinda negative.
Full transparency: I’ve read volume 1 of the manga, so I kinda knew I’d like this series. That said, episode 1 is really solid, largely because it isn’t really about idols becoming idols, but more a story of grief undercut with genuinely funny bits: it mashes up a teenage idol –a.k.a. Mogami Asahi– who’s tethered to the afterlife as a ghost because of idol culture and her passion for music with a dude –a.k.a. Niyodo Yuuya– who prefers money made fast and honestly, couldn’t give a flip about being an idol.
When the premiere twist kicks in mid-episode, it’s clear that this series is going to be a pleasant blend of foibles and life lessons, and honestly? A low-stakes anime absolutely is what I need this summer. This is nice padding for some of the more anticipated titles: heck, it’s even nice padding for RWBY: Ice Queendom, offering a very easy to invest in show that just feels good.
It helps that the animation is pretty solid, as are the insert songs: they actually kinda slap. It’s nice to hear some pretty good male idol music after my struggle to find a crumb of decent boy idol anime in this world. The OP’s pretty good too: it’s a Do It Yourself song by our in-anime boy group ZINGS, and should be pleasant enough for the next three months.
In the end, Phantom of the Idol’s premiere is simple: it sets up a lot of what’ll come later (at least from what I know from volume 1 of the manga) and is very low-stakes without making much of a splash. It’s got decent appeal, though I imagine most folks will pass it over for more complex shows because honestly, watchlists only have so much space. Fan that I am, even I can admit that this is “pretty okay,” and doesn’t necessarily sink its hooks in you immediately. It’s not mediocre but it doesn’t necessarily wow.
There’s also Yuuya: either you’re gonna like him or you aren’t. He’s either a complete chud or a jerk with a heart of gold, and I do think reading the manga helped me perceive him differently. Perhaps I might have spent my review whispering, “I hate this dude” to myself, but honestly… I don’t know if there’s enough here to outright hate him, but I also don’t think Yuuya is immediately likable either. And since he’ll be the main point of view, I think you kind of have to make peace with that pretty quickly if you’re going to stick with this series, and that’s not going to be for everyone.
That said, I have high hopes for Phantom of the Idol as the darkhorse of Summer 2022. It’s definitely going to be on my watchlist this season. I’m looking forward to seeing the story develop and seeing where it goes and how it sticks the landing. Hopefully, Yuuya will find a little motivation: then again, one can only wish, right?