What’s it about? Tsumugi Takanashi is starting her new job at the company Takanashi Productions. The name isn’t a coincidence—she’s the owners daughter, and her first assignment is to promote and manage a new male idol group. When she first meets the seven boys, she’s struck by how naturally they interact, despite having just met. So when her dad asks her to reduce the group down to three, she has a hard decision to make…
Well, this sure is a boy idol show.
Okay, sorry, that’s not fair. It’s not IDOLiSH7’s (boy that’s going to be annoying to type) fault that boy idol shows have become the new big thing these days. Still, the genre has quickly gotten overcrowded, and it’s going to be an uphill battle for any new one to distinguish itself.
The thing is? I think IDOLiSH7 has a chance.
When Tsumugi comments on the group’s easy chemistry, it’s more than just talk. While they do generally fall under broad stereotypes—the fiery lead, the flirty blond foreigner, the Sasuke—there’s a touch of humanity and heart that goes a long way toward establishing a likable dynamic.
It’s in veteran mangaka Arina Tanemura’s attractive character designs, the dialogue, and even the characters’ expressive facial and body language. It’s in how they’re contrasted with their rival group, TRIGGER, who are already successful but snipe at each other backstage. It’s in how some of them seem to be carrying baggage related to their wanting to become idols, but others just want to sing and dance on a big stage. It’s not revolutionary, but it deviates from the norm just enough for people to stop and take notice.
And, last but not least, it’s in their young manager and audience self-insert, Tsumugi. Nepotism may have played a role in Tsumugi’s employment, but she has plenty going for her as a manager. She is, of course, hardworking and devoted, as one would expect. But, like everything else about IDOLiSH7, she has just enough to her to make her interesting.
When her father asks her to cut the group by more than half, she trusts her instincts and advocates for what she thinks is best for her group. That doesn’t always pay off, though—her inexperience also causes her to seriously underpromote their first concert. In short, Tsumugi is a competent young woman who also has room to grow, so hopefully her journey will be highlighted as well as the group’s.
The premiere does have its flaws. When Tsumugi is looking to cut four members, she naturally decides to hold auditions, but those are never shown on camera. Instead, the show focuses on the boys’ anxiety and the tension between them as the members wait to hear about their fates. I understand the choice, but that forces the show to tell instead of show each members’ appeal.
There’s also a distinct lack of music, with only one number at the end of the double-parter. It’s a perfectly generic boy idol song, and the animation switches between cell animation, which looks great, and cell-shaded 3-D models that quickly slip into the uncanny.
It’s not going to be easy for IDOLiSH7 to set itself apart from the horde of boy idol anime. It doesn’t appear to have any interests in twisting or subverting the formula, either. However, by simply taking the concept and doing it in a straightforward but skillful way, it just may turn out to be something special.