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The Stylish Boys of Idolish 7 at Anime NYC

by Rai Kelly,

Lately, the anime industry has been dominated by female idols, but there's another phenomenon brewing under the more mainstream surface: a male idol movement. A mobile rhythm game called Idolish 7, where you help a male idol group rise to fame, has become immensely popular. At Anime NYC, the Bandai booth sold out of Idolish 7 merchandise. Cosplayers of Riku and other Idolish 7 characters lined up for the screening of the first two anime episodes. Many came prepared with glow sticks. One fan even walked up to the podium to give guests Producer Sokichi Shimooka and Director Makoto Bessho glow sticks of their own.

Before the screening, these two guests were introduced to the audience. Producer Shimooka wore a “I love NY” shirt and yelled to the crowd “I LOVE NEW YORK!” while shaking the shirt. The more reserved Bessho introduced himself in a more conventional manner. As a surprise, they played a video where all of the seiyuu from Idolish 7 said hello to the crowd. As the different members introduced themselves, the room filled with squeals accompanying each fan's personal favorite. A screening of the first two episodes followed.

As a fan of female idols, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I must admit that I liked the anime more than I thought I would. The story revolves around Tsumugi, a newbie manager who has just been put in charge of a brand new male idol group. She tries her best to get the group noticed so that their first concert will be a success. The characters' different traits are what shined most brightly in the anime. Each character had their own unique personality, and watching their interactions was fun and interesting. Nagi was definitely the standout character. He speaks in a mix of broken Japanese and English, similar to Mari from Love Live! Sunshine!!. His quirky speech patterns and random actions were very funny. The other characters were also likable in their own ways.

The story in the first episode was a little muddled, however. From the beginning, the group is already threatened with disbandment, and auditions are held to see who can stay in the group. Since I was not yet familiar with the characters, it didn't really matter to me if anyone was cut, and I think a little more emotional buildup would have made this development suitably dramatic. The episode also didn't show the audition itself, which I found odd since I wanted to see how everyone danced and sang early on. Aside from this, the first two episodes were very good. The song during the group's live concert was very catchy, and the choreography was smooth. Like many idol shows, the dancing was a mix between CGI and traditional animation. Although their outfits were a little revealing, the anime was not filled with fanservice designed to appeal to a strictly female audience, making it more accessible to many different kinds of viewers. By the end, the audience cheered excitedly as the credits rolled.

Afterward, Producer Shimooka and Director Bessho took some questions from the MC and the fans:

Is there anything you would like to say to the crowd?

Shimooka: In this anime, I wanted to convey three things: the courage to move on with your life, the difficulties of being one's self, and the trust you have in others. Idolish 7 isn't restricted to anime or manga or games. It is a combination of everything. I feel that we have reached a significant point in expanding Idolish 7 into an anime.

What was it like to make this game into an anime?

Bessho: As you may might know, Tsumugi is the incarnation of the game's manager role. I had difficulty expressing her in the anime because in the game, the player is Tsumugi. I had to think a lot about how to express a male idol group because I don't have much experience with male idol groups.

In the first two episodes, what was your favorite scene to put together?

Bessho: I don't have a favorite scene per se, but there was one scene that I put a lot of care into, where Tsumugi talks to Ogami. This is because we wanted to maintain integrity to the game as much as possible, so I put extra care into that scene.

Who is your favorite character?

Bessho: As the director, I don't feel that I should have a favorite because that may kind of distort the way I express the other characters. But I would say that the funniest character is Nagi.

Shimooka: As some of you might know, my favorite is Mitsuki Izumi. The reason that I like Mitsuki is because the various characters have their own reasons for becoming idols. Mitsuki's dream is to become an idol, so his dream is already fulfilled, but then you would think that someone who fulfilled their dreams would be happier. In his case, he comes across a lot of hardships and difficulties, so I believe this side of him gives him lots of personality. That's one of the reasons why I like Mitsuki.

There are a lot of fans of Idolish 7 in China. Do you plan to hold any similar events or panels in China?

Shimooka: All I can say is look forward to it. There are tons of things I am not allowed to say at the moment.

What was your favorite part about making this into an anime?

Bessho: What I find most pleasing about turning this into an anime is getting to hear Nagi and his distinct phrases. Constantly.

Shimooka: For me, I was thinking about what would change the most when making a game into an anime. In that sense, I thought the live concert aspect was definitely one. But then there were other scenes like when Mitsuki goes to the washroom and there is a hand action. I thought that if that were an actual person, then it makes sense that you would have those kind of actions. so I thought those were well done too. So I had the most fun seeing what becomes different in the anime compared to the game.

Will the cast of Idolish 7 be doing any live shows?

Shimooka: It's secret!

Why is Kinako such a cute character? How did you portray him in the anime compared to the game?

Bessho: I wanted to make Kinako a character that provided a cute and fun experience.

Shimooka: When Kinako shows up onscreen, the scene changes over from serious to comical. That was the intention behind the cute appearance of Kinako.

How is music shared between the game and the anime? Will there be new original music for the anime?

Bessho: The game music is actually rearranged a bit when it's used for the anime. I kind of wished for people who watched the anime to say, “Oh wait, this song! I know this!” So I put care into the music. In regards to music in the anime, we did make things a bit more realistic. There are some elements that were cut in the game

How was Ei Aoki involved in this anime?

Bessho: He was in charge of the scenario, but he also comes in when we have some trouble with some scenes. He helped with the storyboards in the beginning, so those were some of his contributions.

I was wondering why Idolish 7 is made up of seven members, instead of only having three members like the rival idol group Trigger?

Shimooka: We thought that seven was the minimum for different characteristics to be distributed. And seven is also that magical number where you have a bit of everything. But also, seven is kind of regarded as a special number in Japan. We wanted to have that kind of special aspect to its use too. For Trigger, we wanted to have the rivals be cool, but we also wanted them to be one entity in terms of characteristics. You may notice that triangles have three sides and are geometrically very complete. In that sense, the triangle characterizes the group Trigger. Three is definitely less than seven, but it does have beauty to it and matches them as being strong rivals.

The crowd was upset when the last question was asked and everything was wrapped up. Luckily for fans of Idolish 7, the rest of the anime is premiering in January, and it will be seventeen episodes long. With any luck, it will please fans of male idols overall as well.

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