This Week in Anime
What the Heck is Going on in 22/7?

by Steve Jones & Michelle Liu,

The world of idols is vast, ranging from underground groups trying to break into the limelight to giant productions with nearly half a hundred members. Standing out from the dancing and singing crowd is harder than ever, so what is it about 22/7 that has everyone talking? And just what IS The Wall anyway?

You can read our Daily Streaming reviews of 22/7 here!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Steve
Micchy, you might as well call us Pink Floyd, because I'm ready to spend a lot of words talking about The Wall.
Micchy
THE WALL
I just wanna start off by saying: at 9 episodes deep, I'm so glad we still have absolutely no idea what The Wall is.
The Wall is enigma, The Wall is omniscient, The Wall knows what you've been doing and may as well be God.
Is it real? Is it fake? Is it some ancient deity? Is it a repurposed carnival game? Is it a metaphor for the faceless and capricious combined forces of capitalism and fandom that drive the modern idol industry? Who knows! Well, it's definitely one of those things, but again, I'm glad 22/7 has at least managed to stay the path and not give up the most unsettling part of itself.
Gotta say though, of all the things to crib from AKB0048, I wasn't expecting the menacing non-human producer calling the shots from the shadows to be it. Yasushi Akimoto went from ominous voice in space to an architectural structure spitting out instructions via business card and I don't know how to feel about it. Seriously, though, the WALL
I do love The Wall (and its feline representative), don't get me wrong, but yeah, when it comes to 22/7 as a whole, I'm still kinda scratching my head about it. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, of course! It's certainly different, and I appreciate different.
I imagine a good portion of 22/7's international audience came in because bilingual idol and memelord icon Sally Amaki was attached to it, but honestly this show is way compelling even without that tidbit. It's weird and sometimes oddly ambitious for one of those seiyuu idol projects that mostly exist to promote a real-life group. But lest I understate Sally's achievements, I'd like everyone to note that Sakura Fujima is a dabbing VTuber.
I'd really rather not have known that, thank you.
Admittedly, the Sally Amaki connection was the first (and only) thing I knew about it prior to its debut. However, it landed with what was pretty inarguably one of the strongest premieres of this season! Bitter and moody, with strong scene composition and a deliberately un-idol-like protagonist, I was on board from minute one.

It's an impressively well-crafted show, so carefully designed that sometimes I forget it's supposed to be a tie-in thing for an idol group. Like usually they either try to sell us a shiny fantasy or go off about why The Industry Is Bad, Actually (which it kind of is, but I'm not gonna go into that too much). Here the idol stuff is almost incidental to the characters' stories; their conflicts are broad enough that the show could be about a secret magic school without changing the emotional beats much at all.
That's definitely one of my favorite things about it: the best episodes are primarily concerned with exploring its characters' backstories, home lives, and psychologies, and then secondarily concerned with drawing the connections from those experiences to their current lives as idols working for a magic wall.
I'm also partial to any show that lifts hairstyle tips from Mysterious Girlfriend X.
The only thing better than a fluffy unkempt anime girl is a fluffy unkempt anime girl who boops.
Boops are good civilization.
Not everyone is receptive of boops though.
Reika unfortunately finds herself on the opposite end of the Boop—Dads spectrum that I'm sure we're all familiar with.
Her dad kind of sucks though, for the record.
Reika's whole episode kinda sucks, and I guess it's a good place to bring up some of 22/7's shortcomings. By nature, it's an anime of contradictions, with serious character drama frequently rubbing up against bubbly idol shenanigans. Sometimes it's able to square that circle, but sometimes it results in total tonal whiplash.


Just wanna emphasize: all four of those screencaps are from the same episode.
22/7's at its best when it ties together the girls' backstories with their current lives and at its worst when discarding the melancholy to go "actually whatever, here's a beach episode" (with an extra dose of "get in the bikini, Reika"). Like y'all, "everyone does it" isn't nearly the foolproof argument you seem to think it is. It might be normal in showbiz, but that's really something you should examine if you're gonna have a focus episode on a girl's discomfort with being a teenage sex symbol.
Godddd, that's the worst part!! The "moral" of it all is that the rest of the girls alternately bully and gaslight her into putting on a bikini for the photoshoot even though she's VOCALLY against it. It's one thing to (very correctly) point out the disquieting nature behind how objectification plays a big role in the idol business, but it's quite another to conclude that the best answer to that discomfort is a literal shrug of the shoulders.
22/7 is uninterested in the actual workings of show business, for better or for worse. On one hand, it lets the characters live lives outside their work and explore emotions unrelated to their jobs as idols. On the other hand, when it does go full idol mode, it just shrugs and says "oh yeah, that's a thing" before moving on. For the most part, 22/7 doesn't try to sell us a fantasy that showbiz is great, nor does it trash a phenomenon that it itself perpetuates. I can appreciate that! But I do have to question why an episode centered around someone's relationship with celebrity and the norms surrounding idol culture is so determined not to challenge any of them.
Exactly! It's not like 22/7 is necessarily more egregious in its disengagement than other idol franchises, but when you kick off your show with your protagonist saying "idols suck," I'd hope for a little bit more thoughtfulness in your follow-through.
And it's not like I'm asking for a full-scale takedown of the idol industry. In fact, I'd argue that it's disingenuous to go on about how it's bad while also profiting off it (looking at you, Yamakan). Being an idol is a job—one with its own unique challenges, but a job nonetheless. And for most of the girls in the show, the job's not much more than a means to an end. But here 22/7 is trying to argue that Reika's not cut out to be an idol if she's not down for everything her management throws at her. She can't just work as an idol and accept jobs on her own terms. She has to be the platonic ideal of an idol. That just doesn't sit well with me.
It's a thorny topic that the episode totally fumbles in arguably the worst possible way it could.
"It was my fault for having reasonable boundaries. Here is my butt, by way of apology."
Just the WORST possible angle they could have chosen for that shot. But anyway, because 22/7 relishes in its contradictions, it then follows that one up with the best episode in the entire show so far, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Jun is such a little shit. I love her.
Trust me, I know "comic relief characters gets a tragic backstory episode" sounds like a recipe for mawkish disaster in the abstract, but holy shit does 22/7 pull it off with a stunningly storyboarded narrative driven straight through my heart.


I mean, just look at the lighting and color composition too! It's unbelievably gorgeous and totally blindsided me.
Absolutely unfair that the goofy episode about the asthmatic comic relief gremlin broke my heart like this.
Not to mention they still find time to lovingly exploit present-day Jun for all the hilarity it's worth.

She goofs off because she's seen death firsthand and doesn't want to let life go to waste, and because she's a tiny trash gremlin with a powerful impression game.
She's so good! And she was barely even a character prior to this point! But this episode in particular is uncannily adept at adjusting its tone from light and humorous to tender and devastating. It's going to be on my mind for the rest of the year.

Oh yeah, 22/7 radiates some real gay energy, I'm sorry but it's the truth.
And so much of that gay energy is generated by Sakura specifically. It's not like she's shy about it either.

One thing I do find interesting is how the characters were tweaked to better fit with their actresses' backgrounds. Early in the project, Nicole was described as the one who was born overseas; Sakura only spent a few years in America. But in the show Sakura's American-born and a native English speaker. Incidentally, Sally Amaki yells pretty often about cute girls on Twitter, and while I don't have proof that Sakura's incessant flirting is a reference to that, I gotta wonder a little.
Oh that's neat! And I'm not gonna lie, I actually thought Nicole was the Sally character at first lol (tho her being Sakura def makes more sense).
Sakura's not even the character she auditioned for! It wasn't until Sally went viral that Sakura's bilingualism became a major part of her character.
Dang, I know less about her than I thought. However, I'm very glad that ANN's resident Sally Amaki Expert is here to clear things up for me, thank you!
Lol, I'm nowhere near wota; I just happen to watch 22/7 streams sometimes. Their in-character Let's Plays are also pretty fun! They're the only reason I remember any of the characters' names.
I still have trouble with some of them, because to be honest, the show hasn't exactly been consistent with how well it's fleshed out all of their characters. To wit, I legit forgot who Ayaka was, and was consequently very confused at the beginning of this week's episode. But I felt better when Miu agreed with me.
I actually forgot her name and missed when it flashed on-screen, so I spent almost eight whole episodes waiting for someone to mention it. It took eight episodes for someone to address her by name, that's how underused and underwritten she is.
I know they all can't be Juns, but still.
I mean, Miyako is pretty powerful too.
I was literally just about to bring her up as my second favorite character, the co-gremlin-in-chief. Also known as Gremlin but Osaka.

Also known as "god I know that feel now."
I really like how they took her initial shtick of "speaks Kansai-ben" and turned her into a real whopper of a gremlin mom friend?
I love that she's from this big working-class family with a four-times-divorced disaster mom, so she had to take on a lot of the responsibilities of raising her siblings. She kinda feels like a more grounded version of fellow gremlin Nico Yazawa, which would also explain why I love her so much.

In general 22/7 deals frankly with a lot of families who don't fit into the stereotypical nuclear mold, and I like that aspect of it a lot.
Single moms, raised by grandma, and then there's Miu's mom who might as well be already dead
Ah, it's always rough when you're diagnosed with the maternal side ponytail of mortality.
Not the only great anime tradition 22/7 pays respect to. Consider: the Misato beer milk chug.
And, of course, the hilariously bullshit cliffhanger™!

When The Wall tells you that you can't be an idol anymore. You hate to see it.

Who knows, maybe The Wall is telling them to develop solo careers? Maybe that's where the ending songs are coming from.
I guess we'll have to wait to see, and despite its flaws, I do wanna see how 22/7 chooses to continue and conclude. It's not my favorite show of the season, and I don't even know if I could call it my favorite idol show of the season, but it's an interesting, character-driven take on the genre, and its highs have so far outweighed its lows.
It's a neat show! As long as it doesn't take Sakura's advice in addressing the big questions.
But on the other hand, I hope it does take her advice here.

Comrade Sakura, tear down this wall.

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