Music Girls – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser July 7, 20180 Comments
Hanako watching as two of the music girls clasp hands

What’s it about? Hanako is the daughter of a musical prodigy, just returning to Japan after touring around Europe. She’s never seen an idol before, but she’s immediately captivated by the C-list group “Music Girls” performing in the airport. Hanako seems to be just what the group needs to catapult to stardom, picking up choreography instantly and noting each performer’s strengths and weaknesses. There’s just one problem: she’s can’t sing!

I’ll level with you, readers. My feelings on idol shows can basically be summed up with that one Hannibal Buress meme about pretzels. That’s not (much of a) knock—everyone has their comfort food genre, after all—but it’s just not something I find engrossing. So I’m not exactly primed to pick up nuance on the usual plot beats. All I can do is note that they exist.

Hanako holding her stuffed toy up to the window. caption: Look Dorudoru. We're in Japan

There are indeed many girls introduced in this first episode (12, including the protagonist), each with an archetypal trait so you can find your fave and start inventing headcanons.

There is the plucky underdog story, since these are hardworking performers looking for their chance to break into the big time.

There is a little bit of blushing exchanged between Hanako and tsundere Uori so that you have shipping fodder but the show doesn’t have to commit to making them a couple (okay, maybe this trend I’m a little bit bitter about).

Hanako watching as two of the music girls clasp hands

It checks the boxes fairly competently, although there’s something unsettling about how wide-set the eyes are on the character designs and Hanako’s attachment to her stuffed animal mascot has a bit of an infantilized edge to it.

Overall, though, it is An Idol Show. If that’s your jam, you might like this.

several men watching the stage. caption: Hmm...not bad at all.

One thing I can note that seems unusual (and unusually skeevy) is the group’s manager. If this is the kind of male character who crops up in idol shows, I think I understand why most of them are a completely dude-free zone. Mr. Ikehashi begins as an overly effusive irritation but hurtles straight into “total creep” when his assessment of what makes Hanako a perfect idol candidate involves a sparkly pan up her chest that stops just before her face.

The audience at the Music Girls’ show is also predominantly male. While we see a few women in the crowd when the original group is performing, by the time Hanako steps on stage it’s all older men. And there is something profoundly creepy about a bunch of middle-aged dudes sitting and appraising the physical attractiveness of this extremely childish 16-year-old.

Ikehara blushing with his mouth agape
Oh yeah, this is a man you want to put in charge of your child.

Idol anime are always in a dead heat struggle with the ugly side of the industry—the machine that churns through girls and spits them out when they get too old, the sexual abuse by managers, the possessive fans who put performers’ lives in danger—and the male characters here drag that ghost along with them. There’s a slim chance it could be deliberate, but I highly doubt it. Hanako is too effusive about the power of idols and their music, too unquestioningly adoring in a way that feels more mission statement than naivete.

The show’s not a total bust—there’s some solid comedic timing around the reveal of Hanako’s terrible singing—but for the most part it’s only interested in audiences already sold on the idol genre, and the overtness of the show’s male gaze might scare some of them away, too. Try it if you enjoy idol shows, but don’t be surprised if it’s still not to your taste.

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