When it comes to the Japanese idol phenomenon, I feel like I’m most familiar with the ‘multimedia franchise’ side of this particular culture. You know, the idol projects that are shown in many different forms such as within anime, manga, radio programs, live events, video games, and so on. I actually love this whole concept of showing off an idol group/series in various ways since it makes it extremely accessible and easy for people to get into. I’ve seen fans get into a certain franchise by playing the mobile game first, while others discover it through watching the anime TV series. And the best part is that most of these ‘media forms’ have a ton of content to display, even individually, so fans don’t necessarily have to feel overwhelmed by the vast ‘ecosystem’ it may present. I think that’s one big reason why well-known idol franchises like Love Live and The iDOLM@STER are so popular and loved.
Plus, with how widespread anime, manga and the ‘otaku culture’ are, especially outside of Japan, multimedia idol projects can be seen as a, sort of, ‘gateway’ to more general idol groups. While I myself am mostly stuck in this area of 2D/2.5D Japanese idols, I have definitely seen people first get into, for example, the Love Live series and later become interested in popular groups like AKB48, Morning Musume, Momoiro Clover Z and Nogizaka46, just to name a few (however, it seems like these idol series can, more notably, introduce fans to franchises that barely have anything to do with idols such as BanG Dream, D4DJ, Uma Musume, etc).
Today, I wanted to talk about a new multimedia idol franchise that I recently got into and have been heavily following: Idoly Pride. Like the post’s title suggests, this project has certainly exceeded my expectations (which, I will admit, were pretty low at first lol), and I just wanted to share what I’ve learned and my personal thoughts, as I truly believe that this is a series that deserves more recognition.
But first, what is Idoly Pride?
Idoly Pride (アイドリープライド) is a multimedia idol/music project produced by QualiArts, Straight Edge and Music Ray’n, whom are all subsidiaries of the digital advertising company CyberAgent. The project was announced and revealed on November 27, 2019, and has now grown into a full-fledged idol franchise, with it having an anime, manga series, multiple music releases, live events and even a mobile game currently in development.
The Idoly Pride series revolves around a small entertainment company by the name of Hoshimi Productions. After holding an audition for a brand new group, HoshimiPro gathers ten talented idols and helps them prepare for their participation in the Venus Grand Prix: an idol competition in which its judging system is purely AI-based. Along the way, they are put up against much more experienced idol units, such as the extremely skilled LizNoir and TRINITYAiLE. But despite their differing levels of talent and personalities, all three groups have one common goal: to become the top idol in the renowned Venus Grand Prix.
That said, the best way for me (personally) to precisely explain how ‘impressive’ Idoly Pride’s debut was is to break it down and discuss each element of the franchise separately. Like I sort of mentioned before, the various mediums of a multimedia project can be enjoyable and detailed, even in its individual forms. And I think that definitely applies to Idoly Pride as well.
Anime (+ Characters)
With anime arguably being the most popular form of Japanese entertainment, at least in the West, it’s natural for fans to start their ‘idol journey’ through the dedicated TV series. That’s pretty much how I got into other franchises like Love Live and The IDOLM@STER.
My beginnings as an Idoly Pride fan were essentially the same. I did hear about this project from a friend beforehand but didn’t think much of it at the time. However when the anime aired back in January of this year, which was produced by studio Lerche and animation company CAAnimation, that’s when I was actually introduced to the world of Idoly Pride.
The synopsis of the anime series is, for the most part, the same as what I said a few paragraphs ago when I gave a general overview of the franchise. But it does include a few things I didn’t mention. Hoshimi Productions, prior to the new group, was known to produce an incredibly talented and promising star named Nagase Mana. She had an amazing singing voice, was loved by many, and ultimately inspired people to become idols themselves. But unfortunately, while on her way to the Venus Grand Prix finals, Mana gets involved in a serious car accident and does not survive (I wouldn’t say these are spoilers cause this happens in the very first episode).
Years after the tragic death of Mana, HoshimiPro holds an audition in search for new idols, with the company later forming a brand new group that includes two unique talents: Nagase Kotono, the younger sister of the late Mana, and Kawasaki Sakura, a girl who strangely has a singing voice that sounds just like Mana’s (…stick with me here, folks). These two, alongside the rest of HoshimiPro, strive to compete in the Venus Grand Prix against their hard-hitting rivals, LizNoir and TRINITYAiLE, all while dealing with harsh adversity and keeping Mana’s legacy in mind.
I’m gonna try to keep my thoughts about the anime as brief (and spoiler-free) as possible, since it honestly deserves its own dedicated post/review. But I personally thought it was great. Compared to other shows in the ‘idol anime’ genre, Idoly Pride definitely takes a unique route when conveying its narrative. Rather than showcasing each member of the group on a weekly basis, similar to how the most recent Love Live anime with the Nijigasaki High School Idol Club did their story, Idoly Pride puts more of a focus on our two prominent characters: Kotono and Sakura. We get to see how they both grow as they go through their own hardships and how their relationship with each other evolves. We also get a glimpse at the backstories of their rivals, the leaders of LizNoir and TRINITYAiLE, and how they can relate to these two newbie idols.
For the most part, I thought those things were done really well in this anime. It honestly made this whole journey and experience following Kotono, Sakura and HoshimiPro, very satisfying and the dramatic moments that ensued certainly toyed with my emotions at times. While there were some questionable and disappointing things about this anime, such as the sometimes really predictable plotline and choppy animation during the dance sequences, I still believed that this show was a very enjoyable experience. A solid 8/10, in my opinion.
Also, despite the anime not getting into much detail about the characters who were not named Kotono or Sakura, the writers still did a decent job at giving us brief introductions or ‘tastes’ to the other eight HoshimiPro members. There’s personalities like Narumiya Suzu, Hoshimi’s resident ojou-sama who acts silly and has a fond admiration for idols, especially for Mana; Shiraishi Chisa, a very timid and introverted girl who strives to depend less on her older sister, Saki; and Saeki Haruko, a helpful, older sister-type character who can also feel a little anxious due to the fact that she’s the oldest member of the group. So even though these characters didn’t get a ton of screen time, it was enough for us to see a glimpse of who they were and appreciate what they gave to Hoshimi as a whole. And the fact that this cast of characters is pretty diverse, personality-wise, I think people/fans can easily find someone who they like the most.
You might be wondering, “are voice actors really that important/notable in an idol franchise?”. And the short answer is: yes. Absolutely.
It seems that in recent years, a culture revolving around Japanese voice actors has really started to boom. There is a whole individual fandom for voice actors and actresses, and anime fans genuinely develop a separate appreciation for the people who provide the voices to our favorite characters, myself included. And at times, I just stop caring about the characters they’ve voiced and focus on the seiyuu’s own personality and quirks, since they’re THAT entertaining. Having said that, voice actor/actress culture is extremely prominent in idol franchises and I can guarantee you that these so-called ‘2.5-D idols’ are a major reason why people even continue to follow (and put money into) these projects. The individual charms and identities of these voice actors are things a lot of fans find to be really lovable.
In the case of Idoly Pride… it’s better if I actually explain it. Remember when I mentioned earlier that one of the co-creators of this franchise was a company called Music Ray’n? Well, Music Ray’n is a highly-regarded music label/agency, as they have produced two of the most popular seiyuu artist units in today’s industry: Sphere (Tomatsu Haruka, Takagaki Ayahi, Kotobuki Minako, Toyosaki Aki) and TrySail (Amamiya Sora, Asakura Momo, Natsukawa Shiina). From a normal anime watcher’s standpoint, these names may mean nothing (which is completely understandable). But when you’re dealing with voice actresses who have extremely large fanbases, are super talented and have constantly been in popular franchises like Sword Art Online, KonoSuba, K-On, Symphogear, the list goes on… just trust me when I say that these two groups are huge deals. That said, Music Ray’n decided that it would be a great idea to take their two popular seiyuu groups and cast them in the Idoly Pride series, as Hoshimi’s rival groups, LizNoir and TRINITYAiLE. It wasn’t just a ‘great’ idea… it was a GENIUS idea.
Let’s not kid ourselves; they probably did it for publicity reasons and to get fans (of those groups) to become interested in this new project. But baiting aside, Sphere and TrySail still do a fantastic job at portraying the characters of the two rival groups. The casting is actually perfect, as LizNoir and TRINITYAiLE are both very experienced idol groups, just like their real life counterparts. And while the actual voice actresses don’t act mean and cold towards the Hoshimi squad, it’s great to see Tomatsu Haruka and Amamiya Sora take on more serious and harsh personalities while playing the leaders of their respective groups. Having these veteran idols/seiyuu play Hoshimi’s rivals definitely helps convey the fact that they truly are skilled and professionals at their craft (plus they’re the perfect senpai for the Hoshimi VA group, I’d say).
As for the voice actresses of the HoshimiPro characters, I can, without-a-doubt, say that they are a very talented group of ladies who are on the come up. Everyone on the Hoshimi cast is pretty much new to the industry and hasn’t gotten a ton of voice work yet (except for Takao Kanon, who’s been in a bunch of stuff including the ever-so-popular Genshin Impact). But just from what we’ve seen and heard so far within the anime and music, they are all a promising bunch of talents. Miyazawa Koharu does a great job portraying a polite, big sister-type character in Shiraishi Saki. Despite Tachibana Mirai being pretty much the complete opposite of her character, Nagase Kotono, Mirai’s fond appreciation for idols and voice acting allows her to depict Kotono’s character really well. And even the actress for Kawasaki Sakura, Kanno Mai, apparently has the ability to have absolute/perfect pitch, which would explain why she is able to replicate Mana’s voice to a T. Whoever did the casting for the Hoshimi seiyuu, they deserve a raise because these ten ladies were the perfect choices for this group. It’s nice to see that they’re already becoming comfortable with each other, as shown in their musical and personal activities, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their futures (within the Idoly Pride franchise and their own journeys) unfold. I mean, Aikawa Kanata (voice of Suzu) is already doing pretty damn well, given that she had the opportunity to voice the main character of the recently popular anime series Wonder Egg Priority.
(by the way, if you’re interested in learning a bit more about each Hoshimi voice actress, I actually talked about all of them on my Instagram so check out those posts by clicking here!)
Now this… this is where it gets good (if it wasn’t already lol).
Like with many idol projects, the music is arguably the ultimate shining star of the Idoly Pride franchise. I am not joking. The songs in this series have been incredible, and sometimes mind-blowing, to listen to.
First, let’s talk about HoshimiPro’s songs. Before the anime aired, the group debuted with two songs, “Shiny Purity ~Kagayaki no Jundo~” and “Sayonara Kara Hajimaru Monogatari”. And for a completely new idol group, these two tracks were pretty impressive and allowed fans to get a bit of a taste of what Hoshimi is all about and is able to do. I personally enjoyed “Sayonara Kara Hajimaru Monogatari” a lot more, since I prefer the upbeat atmosphere and it does a good job reflecting the beginnings of these ten idols.
And when the anime aired, that’s when we got more and more music being thrown at us, almost every week. A bit of a spoiler alert, in case you haven’t watched this show: in the anime, HoshimiPro splits up into two groups, Sunny Peace and Tsuki no Tempest, with Sakura and Kotono becoming leaders for their respective units. And most of the songs we hear in the anime come from those two individual groups, rather than Hoshimi as a whole. That may sound a bit odd at first but I thought it ended up being executed very well, as we got some incredible and unique tracks from each group. Like their names suggest, Sunny Peace gave us some really upbeat and bright songs that can put us in a good mood, while Tsuki no Tempest went down a more dramatic/melancholic route with an emphasis on violins and pianos. Because of that, it gave fans a bit of variety, music-wise, while following the whole narrative within the anime. And maaaaaaan, both groups’ songs were spectacular to listen to and it’s been difficult to get away from these tracks. Even their debut songs, “SUNNY PEACE HARMONY” and “Gekka Hakanabi”, do an amazing job at introducing and showcasing the nature of each group.
As for the music of Hoshimi’s rivals… ‘exquisite’ is a word I’d use to describe it. Similar to Sunny Peace and Tsuki no Tempest, LizNoir and TRINITYAiLE possess two very different identities from each other, which makes it really fun to just listen to each group’s unique-sounding music. LizNoir’s sound is very rough, loud, fast-paced and it almost feels like they mixed heavy rock and idol pop together. On the other hand, TRINITYAiLE is a lot more lighthearted and dream-like with a splash of electro/EDM added in.
And going back to the whole ‘voice actor’ thing, Sphere and TrySail (the ones who portray LizNoir and TRINITYAiLE respectively) feel like true naturals when performing the songs of their units. But an interesting thing I noticed was that while TRINITYAiLE is very comparable to TrySail’s overall style as artists, Sphere takes on the challenge of expressing a genre that is incredibly different than what they’re used to. And they seriously nail it! Even though the pacing and atmosphere sound so unusual, especially to a person like me who’s an avid fan of Sphere, they still do an absolutely fantastic job at showing off who LizNoir truly is through their vocal performances. Hearing Haruka and Ayahi’s deeper and more serious-sounding voices while Minako and Aki add in a bit of playfulness to the mix (due to how their characters act)… that alone shows why LizNoir is one of the more outstanding groups out of the four.
And lastly, we gotta talk about Nagase Mana. Given how influential and talented she was as an idol, Mana (voiced by the wonderful actress/artist/seiyuu, Kanda Sayaka) also has a few songs that are included in the Idoly Pride discography. Her most well-known track, “First Step”, is just a beautifully performed song that, not gonna lie, makes me tear up every time, due to the unfortunate circumstances she had to go through in the anime. I really love Mana as a character and when taking in account what happens in the TV series, her songs definitely hit different.
Additionally, the Idoly Pride staff GRACIOUSLY gave Mana a ‘cover collection’ where she sings popular Japanese songs, all which conveniently relate to her backstory as well. So far, they’ve only posted two amazingly done covers, Yorushika’s “Ghost in the Flower” and YOASOBI’s “Yoru ni Kakeru”, and I think a lot of fans are hoping that there will be more fun covers in the future (bonus points if it maintains the doujin genre!).
Plus, it’s great to know that most of these songs have been composed and produced by some talented and respected people around the industry such as PA-NON (lyricist for Uchida Maaya, Milky Holmes, Suzuki Aina), kz (famed Vocaloid producer), Ooishi Masayoshi (part of the group OxT, composer and arranger of many anime/idol songs) and Q-MHz (which includes the LEGENDARY Hata Aki!). No wonder the music in this franchise has been so good.
And you know, with how much variety has been shown in Idoly Pride’s music, I believe that this franchise provides something for everyone to enjoy. You like traditional idol music? Hoshimi or even Sunny Peace’s stuff might be up your alley. Want something with a much higher intensity? LizNoir is perfect for you. Enjoy tearing up while listening to music? Check out the Nagase Mana tracks… on second thought, that last one might only apply to me 😛
Other Media Forms
This post is getting pretty lengthy so I’ll keep this section short. While the anime and music take up most of the spotlight when it comes to this idol project, they have also branched out towards other entertainment mediums:
Idoly Pride currently has two on-going web/physical manga series, IDOLY PRIDE Beginning of Lodestar and IDOLY PRIDE Stage of Asterism. Stage of Asterism is essentially the project’s narrative but in manga form, while Beginning of Lodestar is a spin-off series that depicts Nagase Mana’s past and backstory. As of when this post is published, I haven’t checked out these manga yet but I’m sure it has its own charm compared to the anime. Plus, the art for each series (done by Asami Yuriko and Haruse Hiroki respectively) looks pretty nice.
Like with most otaku-related things, Idoly Pride has held various live events, ever since their debut back in late 2019. Livestreams have been the more prominent form of live events, as we get to see the Hoshimi seiyuu provide information about the project, do some drama acting, and just have fun as a group. A few streams even included the voice actresses of LizNoir and TRINITYAiLE, as these senpai had some friendly competition with their rookie rivals.
They’ve also held a couple live concerts in the past, with their most recent one taking place back in November of 2020. There, we got to see HoshimiPro, TRINITYAiLE and Nagase Mana perform a few songs live, which must’ve been great to see in-person.
It just wouldn’t be an idol project without the franchise getting its own mobile game!
Projected to release sometime in Spring 2021, the Idoly Pride mobile game is (what I assume to be) an ‘idol raising sim’, similar to the iDOLM@STER games, where you, the manager, help the idols of HoshimiPro grow into stardom. Take care of events, deepen your bond with them, etc etc. Alongside doing those tasks, you also get to see them perform on stage!
I obviously don’t understand any Japanese so unless this game miraculously gets a translated international release, I probably won’t be touching this (plus I don’t really play mobile games in general). However, I hope it’s fun for fans and I’m more excited about seeing the song performances, as they look incredibly smooth compared to what we saw in the anime.
As you can probably tell, I’ve been following this franchise VERY closely these past few months (lol). But it’s most definitely for good reason; the way they express the story of Hoshimi Productions and their rivals, whether it be through the anime or characters or music, has been SO fun to witness. It really seems like they aren’t messing around and actually strive to create an idol project that looks great and is executed well, and I am appreciative of their efforts in doing so. I honestly don’t think I’ve been this interested and involved with an multimedia idol series since learning about Love Live back in 2017, so I would consider Idoly Pride to be a special discovery. What we’ve seen so far is only the start for these idols and I look forward to seeing the future endeavors of this promising franchise.
I hope this post was informative to those who are interested in this project or those who have never even heard of this thing before. I would say that if you’re already neck deep in the depths of idol hell, Idoly Pride could be another series to consider checking out.
For those who want to learn more about the Idoly Pride franchise, these links may be helpful to you!
- Official IDOLY PRIDE Website
- Official Twitter
- Official YouTube
- IDOLY PRIDE Wikia (English)
- IDOLY PRIDE Introduction Thread – by Twitter user @ericathyz
- IDOLY PRIDE Music Playlist (Spotify) – compiled by yasuyuki-jp
- Music Playlist (Apple Music) – compiled by me
- List of Seiyuu Twitters – compiled by me
Thanks for reading!! 😀