OP: 「歌え！愛の公約」 (Utae! Ai no Kouyaku) by SMILE♥X
「私が国会議員になっても」 (Watashi ga kokkai giin ni natte mo)
“Why Become a Dietwoman?”
Approaching Idol Jihen, I was hoping that it was either going to be completely brilliant or, failing that, completely terrible. Nothing in between. When you have a premise as absurd as ‘pop idol politicians’, you really need to go big or go home — whether it soars or bombs, at least it’ll be interesting. And, perhaps, Idol Jihen could have delivered some incisive social commentary along the way. Because, as ridiculous as the conceit is, I do sort of get it. Democracy is based on popular elections. Idols are popularity engines. Perhaps Idol Jihen is trying to say something by juxtaposing politicians and idols.
Or maybe it has nothing to say at all and is actually just stupid.
I don’t dislike ‘stupid’ shows, per se. Stupid shows have their place, and when they actively revel in their own stupidity, that’s where they shine. If we go one step further, that’s where satire comes from. Satire exposes the absurdity and hypocrisy of society by taking an aspect of it—like, for example, political campaigning—to the logical extreme, almost as a form of reductio ad absurdum. I had moderate hopes for Idol Jihen as a satire, especially since the way it opened uncannily reminded me of Excel Saga. Despite the anime’s best attempts to derail itself, Excel Saga had a definite satirical edge in its story of a group of incompetents trying to take over the world (starting small with their local suburb). Idol Jihen was poised to do even more. In a time when populism is on the rise—in America, in Europe, in South-East Asia—perhaps a cautionary tale about the dangers of populism would be more than apropos. The Rougai Party guy, before he was defeated by the power of song, had a point. These Idol Dietpeople are nothing but populists, have no substance, and have no policy grounding. And no matter how two-faced and mercenary we think politicians are, surely idols take that to eleven. They are of manufactured public personae, divorced from values and principles, willing to say anything necessary to increase mass appeal. They are already the logical extreme of the modern politician. The satire writes itself.
Instead, though, Idol Jihen, at least in this pilot, seems to shy away from its own premise, and the the ‘politics’ side is used very minimally. For the most part, it sticks to being the most generic of idol anime. You’ve seen it all before: there’s a genki one and a stoic one, there’s some arbitrary conflict, unwavering idealism wins the day. While Idol Jihen never takes itself too seriously, it still plays things far to straight by half to be considered any sort of parody. And it doesn’t even does the straight stuff very well. The characters are all stock, and the song and dance relies heavily on flowery effects to disguise the stilted 3D and the uninspiring choreography. If Idol Jihen were to market itself, it certainly wouldn’t be through the ‘idol’ part.
So what we’re left with is, unfortunately, little more than a bad Cinderella Girls or a non-subversive Utena. That is, Idol Jihen is, for the most part, skippable. Which is the shame, because there was actually some potential in the premise, and perhaps, just perhaps, it intends to ramp it up in future episodes. I’m not sure, though, that this unambitious start really deserves your giving it a second chance. It could have been ridiculously brilliant—that’s interesting. it could have been ridiculously terrible—that too is, twistedly, interesting. Any brand of ridiculous, really, I’ll accept. But plain mediocrity? That’s just boring all around.
Full-length images: 24.
ED: 「respect」 by with