Dazzling performances, adorable outfits and a loyal-to-a-fault fan following — this is the world of Japanese idols. While idol culture has long been a mainstay in Japanese entertainment, it’s the catchy music and aspirational stories that have made this setting all the more manga- and anime-worthy. Can’t get enough of Oshi no Ko? Neither can we. Here’s a list of six other idol-themed series to get your cutesy musical group fix.
The Idolmaster is one of Japan’s most iconic media franchises when it comes to idols. Starting off with idol simulation and rhythm video games, the brand now spans a variety of game spin-offs including audio dramas and anime. The 2011 series follows the journey of 13 wannabe pop idols who share the same ambition: to become the most popular idol in Japan.
The Idolmaster is not the first series from this franchise, though. Idolmaster: Xenoglossia, released in 2007, is an idol-mecha anime that reimagines 10 aspiring idols from The Idolmaster as pilots of mecha robots for the Immortal Defender of Legatee (IDOL). For an alternative look into the idol industry, there is also The Idolmaster SideM, yet another series that focuses on male idols and the people behind 315 Production. Later in 2023, there will also be an anime adaptation of the multimedia title, The Idolmaster Million Live! which added 37 more idols in addition to the 2011 series.
If balancing school work and fame sounds like an interesting premise, then Love Live! might be one worth checking out. Another multimedia franchise, it focuses on schoolgirls who become idols as part of an extracurricular activity. The name “Love Live!” refers to a school competition where only the very best groups within Japan are able to compete. Currently, four seasons of Love Live! anime are available, each one featuring a different idol group as the main character of the story. They showcase a variety of personalities as they tackle their own challenges of fame.
Wake Up Girls!
Can idols save a troubled Sendai-based production company? That’s the premise of Wake Up Girls! as an agency that once managed a variety of individuals ranging from magicians to fortune tellers, must now form an idol group in the hope of saving the company. Mayu, Airi, Minami, Yoshino, Nanami, Kaya and Miyu are tasked with embarking on the road to fame, all while overcoming their naivete, alongside their manager Matsuda, who lacks experience. company theft, scandalous photoshoots, gossip and rivalry are just some of the things they must prevail over, showing that becoming an idol and achieving success does not come easy.
This is AKB48’s foray into the 2D world of anime. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, planet Earth is no longer a viable place for living, so the Deep Galactic Trade Organization, which now governs the various populations across newly inhabited planets, has deemed music as the source of evil. AKB0048 is then formed. This is an interplanetary pop star group based on the original AKB48 members that once lived on Earth. Through their talent and strict training regimen, the girls have made it their mission to bring music back by performing across the galaxy. For better or worse, the anime does make a strong attempt to embody the spirit of the real-life idol group, going as far as to have AKB48 members as the voice actors behind the anime characters.
For those more inclined to gaze upon ikemen anime, Ensemble Stars could be your next favorite idol anime. This is also a multimedia franchise that began as a life simulation and gacha game made for mobile devices. The cult following that the game achieved led to spin-off stage plays, manga and an anime adaptation that aired in 2019. Set in Yumenosaki Academy, a performing arts school known for its boy idols, the story revolves around transfer student Anzu, the sole female student. Through a series of events, she becomes acquainted with her classmates Subaru, Hokuto, Mao and Makoto, the members of the idol group Trickstar. Together they lead the change against the school’s council and its unfair influence.
Similar to Ensemble Stars, Idolish7 (stylized as IDOLiSH7) is another rhythm game turned multimedia franchise. The plot of the anime revolves around Tsumugi, an inexperienced woman who becomes the manager of a new all-male idol group on her first day working at her father’s small production agency. After spending time with all seven of them, Tsumugi is inspired and goes against her father’s wish to cut some of the members, declaring that each of them has unique traits that improve the group as a whole. They go on to become Idolish7 and, with the help of Tsumugi, work hard with the aim of becoming a top idol group.
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