The Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide Locodol
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team, Jul 2nd 2014
Review: So, this is another teen idol-themed anime about a normal girl from a small town who is fast on her way to becoming a pop star. She's (currently) in a duo rather than a larger group like in most of these outings, but that may change in the near future. Thanks to the success of Love Live! these kinds of shows are in vogue right now.
Unfortunately, I think I've seen too many of them done well not to be grossed out by this one, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, heroine Nanaka's appeal seems to start and end with "is coerced into becoming an idol to promote tourism to her nothing town and look how cute she is when she's in abject terror." Her embarrassment and resistance to being on stage in spandex is more fetishized than it is characterized as sympathetic. It's not being commentative and purposely uncomfortable like Wake Up, Girls! It's just meant to be funny (and hot?) for its own sake. Of course they start off her "idol" career by putting her in a swimsuit, and of course her embarrassment at this is also played up to kind of an uncomfortable degree. Blegh.
Then there's the "they" putting her in the swimsuit to begin with. Nanaka has a creepy uncle who not only tricked her into singing and performing on stage in a bikini, but also comments that he wishes her tiny childlike figure was even more flat-chested so her appeal could extend to fans of true lolicon out there. Gotta bring commerce to their hometown somehow! All of this is played for laughs. Blegh blegh.
Locodol probably just wants to be cute and funny. It is based on a 4-koma gag series, so fanservice might not have been the primary intent, but something about it, probably due in no small part to the transparent cutesy-ootsy-we-are-trying-really-hard-to-sell-you-something tenor of the execution, rings hollow and exploitative and just a little bit gross. The nicest thing I can say for it is that the animation is okay and the town song they sing is crazy catchy, far moreso than most clattery J-pop melodies. That song alone would get me to remember and want to visit their small town. The quivering little girl in the swimsuit, not so much.
Locodol is currently streaming on Crunchyroll..
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)
Review: What would an anime series these days be without at least one series about budding female idol singers? (Actually this is just the first of at least two, since PriPara is also coming out this season.) This iteration at least attempts something slightly different, though, as instead of having one of its two potential idol singers being gung-ho about it from the beginning, she has to get suckered into it.
The sucker is Nanaka, a girl who wants to attend her hometown's opening of a grand new pool facility but doesn't have a swimsuit for it beyond her school swimsuit, and nagging her mother about it is not getting her anywhere. In steps her enterprising uncle, a city official desperate to prevent the flight of young adults from the city, so his idea is to sponsor some “locodols” (aka “local idols”) to help give the city something distinctive. His bait is enough pay for an unspecified job for Nanaka to afford a swimsuit, and the hook is playing on her guilt after she gets paid up front. Nervous Nanaka naturally makes a mess of things, but the pretty and more cool-headed (and distinctly more curvaceous!) other idol, Yukari, helps salvage the situation and convince her that the experiment might be worth trying again.
For the most part the first episode is pretty mild and light-hearted fluff, although the problem that Nanaka's uncle describes and is trying to combat is hardly a joke; it is, in fact, a very real and pervasive problem in more rural areas of Japan. That gives the content an interesting potential undertone. Whether the writing will be gutsy enough to actually go anywhere with it is another story, as the opener suggests that two more girls will eventually step up, and that will not leave much room for anything else. How fan servicey the show gets will also be interesting to see, as it does not specifically aim for prurient shots but putting the two girls in bikinis right away is hardly an innocent attention grab. Stacked against the series so far is that the artistry does not impress, Nanaka comes across as too whiny, and Yukari shows little personality beyond being pleasant. But at least the song at the end is decent, it does have at least some humor to it, and so far it has not been a total slave to idol show conventions or glorification.
Locodol is currently streaming on Crunchyroll..
Review: Goddamn it. Why can't they just pump out a bunch of garbage idol shows so I can safely hate them? So I can be secure in my disdain, happy in my crotchety disapproval? Instead they have to turn out infectiously optimistic confections like Love Live and un-hate-able little comedies like this small-town charmer. Goddamn it. Well, at least I can be angry about not having enough to hate. They can't take that from me.
Locodol is evilly easy to like. The story of Nanako, a perfectly ordinary high-school girl who gets bamboozled by her desperate uncle into promoting her hometown as a local idol (“locodol”), the series has the rat-a-tat comedic rhythm of a 4-koma comedy (which it is) and the leisurely flow of a carefree small-town slice of life (which it also is). It finds easy good humor in the effortless comedic rapport of its cast, especially in Nanako's tendency to get caught up in the flow of events and her uncle's half-pathetic, half-brilliant attempts to manipulate her into extremely local fame. As the series' human anchor Nanako is suitably quick-witted and hugely sympathetic, while her uncle is plain great and her mother manages to be warm, strong, and drily tight-fisted all at once.
It also helps that Locodol dodges some common idol pitfalls, making no grandiloquent claims about the healing power of manufactured pop singers and draining away all the glitz and popstar ambitions by highlighting how totally two-bit the locodol gig is (her uncle's operation, put together to promote the local pool, is pulled on the fly from his own rear). Untrustworthy director Munenori Nawa gives the series an appealingly simple look and thankfully keeps the fan-service low-key (but totally effective). He can't seem to ratchet the humor up past a gentle smile, but that's okay. A gentle smile can turn a bad day upside-down.
Locodol is currently streaming on Crunchyroll..
Review: What is a “locodol?” It is not, as I had initially conjectured, a crazy doll, but rather a local idol who sings and dances and does other idol things in order to raise awareness of her hometown. So basically Love Live, but with a whole town instead of a single school. The heroine of this iteration of the high school girl becomes an idol genre is Nana, a young woman who almost immediately comes off as whiny. She wants a bathing suit. Her mother says she can't afford to give her any money. So Nana asks again. And again. And in the morning when the answer is still no, Nana runs off to school crying. The reason Nana wants the new swimsuit is so that she can go to the recently remodeled local pool with her friends and she'll just die if she goes in her school suit. Luckily for Nana, she has a creepy uncle who offers her a totally-not-suspicious job at the pool. He's a local politician who worries about the decline in youth population and he thinks that having a couple of local idols will boost interest in staying in town, or at least in moving to it. Of course, he doesn't tell Nana that this is the job; he just bribes her with a pre-paid bikini. Once she shows up in said suit, she's stuck – the taxpayers have already funded her scraps of cloth. Luckily Nana's not expected to go on stage alone, which is good, because she pretty much crashes and burns until the other girl, Yukari (who knew what she was in for) starts singing the local theme song. So Creepy Uncle gets a pair of locodols, Nanako gets a swimsuit, and we get a new idol anime.
Apart from it's truly gimmicky premise, which somehow feels more false than other idol shows like Love Live or Wake Up Girls, the main issue here is that Nana just isn't all that likable. Yes, she does try hard in school – we're specifically shown that she's the only one who cares about filling in the class book properly – and she does ultimately fulfill her bargain with her uncle, but she whines and cries her way through most of it. Yukari's gentle, big sister demeanor is too obviously a foil for Nana's personality, and really the whole thing just feels trite. We have no reason to want them to succeed, whereas other idol shows do give us that right off.
Visuals are almost entirely in pastels, and credit must be given to whomever it was who decided that every female in the show would have a different body type when wearing a bathing suit. (I even saw one audience member with a real honest-to-goodness stomach!) Animation can be very fluid and beautiful when it wants to be, and the song is appropriately catchy and pleasant to listen to. This isn't really a particularly bad episode, but it also doesn't stand out among the other, better entries into the genre we've seen in the past couple of seasons. It's far too soon to write the whole thing off, but this isn't a terrific start.
Locodol is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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