People who know me in real life and by my online handle know I love idol anime.
Idol anime are typically known for adorable or bold stage performances, frilly outfits, and cute vocals. But to me, it’s more than the stage costumes and music.
In terms of design, idol characters can be either over the top, with cotton candy colored hair and pastel costumes, or can be regular, everyday girls. I love the concept that anyone can transform into an idol, but even more so when your average girl can become one.
Hanayo from Love Live is a big example of your average anime girl becoming an idol. The design during her debut in the anime is simple, with short brown hair and a school uniform. She is passionate about idols, but is very soft spoken and shy. However, other girls, mainly her friend, Rin, encourage Hanayo and give her the courage to join Honoka’s idol group. To this extent and through Hanayo’s growth, her character can be relatable to some viewers. She gets in cute costumes but at the same time, is still the same girl, albeit with a stronger sense of confidence.
I love that there is a certain strength , determination, and power in femininity, where girls learn to build one another up rather than bring each other down. This especially shown in the series, Love Live, particularly through the rivals of the main characters such as Saint Snow and A-Rise The groups, for the most part, respect one another as they progress through the competition.
Units such as Love Live’s µ’s, function as one, but each member plays a vital part, whether it be an outgoing girl such as the protagonist, Honoka, or more introverted girl such as Hanayo. Rin, Hanayo’s friend, is an interesting case. She afraid to dress in a ‘feminine’ , but her friends help her find the confidence to express herself.
Although Love Live arguably helped revitalize the idol genre, Zombie Land Saga came out years after the idol boom and changed up popular cliches that are present in many idol series.I’ve been wanting to watch the series, Zombie Land Saga, which subverts some tropes in the sub-genre. As the title suggests, the anime focuses on a zombie idol group. The series gained attention online not just for turning some cliches of the genre around, mainly for humor. I saw clips of the main character being shut down in a humorous way. This was when the main character gave a typical speech about not giving up. Such speeches are common, perhaps even cliche in idol anime. It was hilarious to see a character be interrupted in a comedic manner.
Though the idol genre itself is not without its flaws when it comes to representation, especially in regards to plus size individuals.
Some idol anime, even Love Live, does briefly talk about dieting and weight. Some girls are shamed for eating foods such as bread and rice, with the notion that they will become fat, which may insinuate that they will no longer be appealing as an idol. This is one grips I do have. I have even heard that some idol groups in real life in Japan do not allow girls to date at all, mainly with the belief that if a girl is taken, it’ll disappoint fans.
As a writer and story teller, I want to see all kinds of idols. I want there to be more types of idols explored, rather than the one’s we are accustomed to seeing. Zombie Land Saga did make me realize that there is a lot more that could be done with this genre.
Only time can tell.