Shaenon rings in the Holiday season by delving in to the terrifying work of "extreme horror" manga artist Suehiro Maruo.
Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Mar 29th 2003
The world is ruled by idols, with Yuri as the President. When she retired, she selected six idols, known as the Excellent Idols, to be her successors. This year at the Starland Festival, another person will be given the chance to become an idol and hold Yuri's famed Golden Microphone. This audition is the opportunity of a lifetime for a high school girl named Mimu, who wishes nothing more than to be able to reach millions of people with her singing and become as successful as Yuri. During the festival, however, people from the Tropical Dimension kidnap Mimu and the Idols. Why were the girls abducted? To save that world through skills that they excel at--like singing competitions and swimsuit contests--naturally.
For all the fans out there who enjoy cute and bizarre series, Idol Project is the one for you. Comprised of a short OVA series, the first DVD includes two episodes of this wildly creative and unique show. With the entire focus of the show entirely about idols, it pokes fun at the Japanese obsession with their idols as well as the frivolity and pettiness that many often associate with the lives of pop singers and movie stars. With such a short and undeniably erratic series, it's a little unclear as to the point of the show. Within the first episode, the notion is established that the show could potentially be just an exercise in cuteness and extreme wackiness. The Excellent Idols are introduced to the viewers much like they would be introduced in a television show, with a brief beauty shot and a message as to their role as a popular culture icon. Outside of their brief scenes, not much else is learned about the idols, which is a shame as the series would have benefited from something other than just a shallow portrayal of them.
On the surface, the series seems much like the idols themselves—shallow and petty. However, when the messages of the idols are taken into consideration, as well as the minute lessons milked from each of the scenes, it seems as though the series is trying to portray a serious message about the qualities it takes for someone to succeed (in reference to the immediate situation) in either the entertainment industry, or just life in general. Masked as it is by near chaos, the messages that the show imparts of working hard to achieve goals and trying one's best give the show an almost touching grounding that allow viewers to relate to Mimu, if even in a slight, off-handed way.
With an entire OVA series based on a world governed by idols, viewers would expect a large bundle of pop songs to back up the soundtrack. Sadly, this is more untrue than true. While there is a wide variety of music, this mostly exists in the subdued background or in brief snatches. In fact, while the music is definitely there, it's hardly distinguishable from the rest of the background music. Of the defined bits of song in the series, two of them were the introduction and ending themes. The intro is definitely cute and catchy enough, but it's nothing spectacular that would make it stand out. The ending, on the other hand, is nothing you would expect from a cutesy series about idols. Sung by the voice actresses themselves, it's a rather discordant and biting song with awkward lyrics that take a while to get used to. As for the instrumental music, it's standard fare for just about any anime starring a wild cast of pretty girls, ranging from jaunty ditties to more pumping “chase music.”
The art in the series is drawn rather well, although it's nothing spectacular. The character designs afford the most interest, with each different idol sporting her own stereotypical look. The aliens in the Tropical Paradise are also interesting to look at, especially in a large crowd. In fact, one of the nice things about the art in Idol Project is the attention to human detail. Whenever there is a large crowd portrayed, each individual in the background is carefully drawn, rather than just the ambiguous ovals with eyes noticeable in many other anime series. The backgrounds weren't as flashy as the character design but served their purpose well enough. The animation, on the other hand, is merely mediocre. While it was certainly fluid enough, many of the scenes tried to sneak by with just action lines rather than character movement.
The voice acting, for the most part, wavers between good and mediocre. The Japanese voicing cast delivers their lines well, inserting the proper emotions that suit each of the idol's characters, as well as the requisite peppiness required for such a production. Each character is able to have a radically different personality from everyone else and this definition is helped by the actors, who throw themselves into the roles, which are the stereotypes of the different kinds of idols there are in Japan. The subtitles are done well, although there were some phrases that were left untranslated. These were normally tiny euphemisms and background dialogue, though, so it's not a heavy loss. The English cast also performed well for the most part, but they didn't quite show the same kind of enthusiasm as the Japanese cast. The more frantic and hyperactive scenes felt a bit strained, resulting in temporary voice alterations that made the actors slip out of character momentarily. The English script was written adequately, though the accuracy slips at times and changes some of the plot points. Ultimately, the story remains largely intact, but many of the more humorous bits are lost through the translated dialogue.
Idol Project is by far one of the most creative endeavors released this month. The story is unique, and the way that the themes of the story are presented is done so in a subtle yet bizarre manner. When viewers watch the episodes for the first time, it's hard to gather anything from the story other than the outer-level cuteness and utter randomness of the characters, as well as the absurdity of the plot. A second viewing, however, gives viewers a better perspective on the series. This is a series that will definitely appeal to any fans of hyperactive anime as well as those who want to see a skewered and twisted take on the Japanese world of idols. If anything, it's worth the rental just for the experience.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Wildly unique and energy packed
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