Here it is doods and peeps. My last G-View of this decade! I thought about it for a bit and in the end chose another “first ever” for the site. You see, this will be my first ever review of an entry in one of the longest running idol series out there. I am referring to the third entry in the Aikatsu franchise, Aikatsu Friends! I will be reviewing the show as a whole, meaning both the first and second half, Kagayaki no Jewel/Shining Jewel. Let us take a look whether this show is worth looking up or not.
Note: This review is by someone who has not seen/finished the prior two Aikatsu anime, Aikatsu! and Aikatsu Stars! Keep this in mind while reading.
Genres: Comedy, Idols, Tournament
Themes: Music, Yuri-ish (More so in S2)
Number of Episodes: 76
- 50 (Aikatsu Friends!)
- 26 (Aikatsu Friends! Kagayaki no Jewel/Shining Jewel)
G-Rating: S1, 8/10. S2, 9/10.
Plot Summary: Aine Yūki is good at making friends, and is enrolled in Star Harmony Academy’s general education track. She befriends Mio Minato, the school’s top idol, and becomes an idol herself.
Put simply Aikatsu Friends! and other entries in the franchise fall under the “cheerful” branch of the idol genre alongside others like Love Live!, Re:Stage and Locodol, wherein idols are at times showcased as “goddess like” compared to other mortals. It is like becoming an idol grants girls superhuman capabilities such as stamina, intelligence, charm, willpower etc. None of the girls here show superpowers like the girls of Love Live! but what they are capable of after some training is clearly superhuman. Besides their powers they also have access to futuristic technology or the idol industry is such a profitable business they can afford such advanced tech to create virtual reality rivaling that of some isekai and even sci-fi shows. Idols in this universe are goddess like too because of how influential they are to worldwide events. Even more so than the ones from Idol Jihen.
I described what it is like watching Aikatsu but what is it about exactly? In short the franchise is about girls attending idol schools/academies to train and become the very best. It is, in a way, an idol sports series. Like many idol series the girls do more than sing and dance. They participate in multimedia activities and events such as talk shows, non-idol competitions, radio shows, modeling, charity events and so much more. Everything legally possible to help promote themselves and their respective brands they will do. Naturally when not training or competing the girls are having fun help out the community or strengthen their relationships with each other and their fans. The former is especially important in this entry of the franchise. This mainly being a kids show there are not as many jerks among the girls’ fanbases, which is for the best. When not working or helping others they are of course enjoying themselves however they can. Naturally some have the most fun while working.
As mentioned in the last paragraph the girls bonding with each other is very important in this entry because the name of the game is “Tag Teams.” Two idols come together to form “(Girl)Friends” who work hard to become “Best (Girl)Friends” and then try to achieve the main goal of becoming Tag Team Champions, aka “Diamond (Girl)Friends”. To become champions they of course participate in everything I said above, doing all they can, which of course means there is an “overworked” episode. Basically it is about finding your soul mate, working hard to become the very best and trying to achieve your personal dreams, such as Aine wanting to make a million friends Karen’s global project.
Before we continue let us go over the presentation as it is a great segway into the next topic. One thing I noticed about kids’ shows such as Pretty Cure, Kiratto Pricchan and of course Aikatsu! is that the better looking ones such as those have top notch and colorful animation. This one is no different. The character designs are a nice mix of simple and vibrant, especially seeing them in motion or performing (More on that in a bit). At times so much is going on it is candy to the soul. As longtime readers already know, I am not the best judge of animation quality. All I can do is tell readers how good, plain or not good shows look from my point of view so as always you will have to take my word that the animation in Aikatsu Friends! is excellent. I like most of the songs on the show. Favorites being the first ED (By Love Me Tear), the second OP (By Pure Palette), the 3rd ED (By Hibiki Senshou) and every song by Reflect Moon and I Believe, my top two couples.
Next up are the main draws of the franchise besides the other stuff mentioned, the performances. See, in Aikatsu! aspiring idols get special cards containing the costumes they will wear on stage. Like PreCure the girls have a henshin/transformation sequence. Like I said the animation is excellent, including the CG performances. As the girls gain more experience or prove themselves worthy, especially in S2, they get better cards/costumes. Because it is a long show expect to see repeated songs and performances, be they solo or a “Friends” unit, sometimes more than one in an episode. Sometimes the song may be one heard before but the dance and costumes are different so it does not risk becoming TOO repetitive. As I said the songs are good so it is not that big of a deal, unless you are not a fan of idol anime in which case I do not know why you would be watching this show.
A small but nice touch is the fairness of the tournament. In case some “Friends” do not qualify for the “Diamond Friends Cup” they are later given a “second chance” which involves more than singing and dancing. The madness of that competition was hilarious, including the mad host. Not hosts, host. The other host is less evil.
Like many other long running shows some episodes do not progress the main story much. Some can be considered “filler”. There was one in late S1 I could have done without. The rest of the these kinds of episodes are enjoyable. It may be because the “Diamond Friends Cup” main course concluded in the early 40s and the rest of the “leftover” episodes served to fill viewers’ bellies before S2 started. Again some were quite enjoyable like the long awaited Coco one.
Time for the main event. I already introduced two of the four main (Girl)Friends so before going into detail on them let us introduce the others. First up are the champs, Love Me Tear! Their thing is being the pinnacle of Aikatsu “goddesshood” but even so they do not settle down despite being three time champs. To them their path to greatness had only begun. Mirai is my favorite of the two because she oozes with charisma and sex appeal. Karen is a neat ojou-sama with an infinite wallet and many talents but there have been more entertaining rich girls before and after her.
Next are the twins Sakuya (oldest) and Kaguya (youngest). A most fascinating twincest duo. Well mannered with a pinch of naughtiness between the two, especially Kaguya, their Gothic style and elegance is what makes their performances my favorites in the series. They are more my kind of ojou-sama than Karen despite not being mega billionaires. Also they use fortunetelling, one is better than the other, are from the moon, gain mystical energy from lunar rays and a portion of their DNA is part space bunny. Anime Idols are awesome.
Now back to the first two. Honey Cat are the spunky couple of the four. Their gimmick is being complete opposites with Ema being the sporty girl and Maika being more into modeling and using her sexiness to her advance. Of the four couples they bicker the most with each other but the reflecting afterward shows how much they mean to each other. They get the least time in the spotlight compared to the other three S1 couples but when they do it is always a treat.
Lastly before moving on to S2 we have the main couple, Aine and Mio. As mentioned earlier her goal is to make a million friends and because of this she is very energetic, outgoing and friendly. She especially loves helping people in need and rarely backs down from a challenge. No wonder her signature pose is pumping her chest and proudly saying “Bring it on!”. Mio on the other hand is the opposite. She may be very intelligent, perceptive and assertive getting “idea sparks”. She was the one who first approached and on multiple occasions makes it clear she wants her taco. However, other than her hunger she is less open about her feelings, which clearly means her character arc involves opening up more to others, especially her #1. They get the most screen time. There are side-couples as well but they are used sporadically.
That is the gist of Aikatsu and what to expect from S1.
Let us talk about S2…
After the events of S1 Aine and Mio meet a mysterious beauty who fell from the sky. Said beauty, Hibiki Tenshou, heard of the duo’s reputation and had an important request: Help her get back together with her ex-girlfriend Alicia Charlotte.
Take almost everything I said about S1 and amplify it by 10, specifically the challenges, competition, tournament, character arcs, how the girls get new costumes and more. We get a frickin’ awesome Double Dash homage for Pete’s sake! Double Dash is one of the best of that particular series so any well executed tribute/homage to it gets two thumbs up from me. Sadly the veterans didn’t get many new songs. Since the show is about half the length of a regular season of Aikatsu! there was little time to waste. While this meant more hard hitting episodes one newcomer did not get to shine as much as she could. I will not say who she is but think of her as an apprentice. Although she did not get to shine as brightly as she could have were she given more time in the spotlight she took advantage of what she got as best as she could, becoming a game changer of sorts. Honey Cat got shafted also. Poor dears cannot catch a break. Like the apprentice they did what they could with the time they were given.
Not much else to add. Shining Jewel is essentially Aikatsu Friends! on steroids.
According to Aikatsu! yuri fans this is the gayest entry in the franchise by far. If for some odd reason S1 was not convincing enough, wait till you get a load what S2 has in store for not only the new main couple but the already established ones.
While everything I said played a big role in making S2 great it is the new main couple who catapulted it to awesome status. Hibiki and Alicia, as readers can clearly see in this image are a Fire X Ice couple. Their presence was hinted in S1 but it is in S2 where they make their debut…or near the end of Episode 50 to be precise. Hibiki is a fiery redhead who I can best describe as “outrageous”, or as my good friend Rory cleverly retorted, “outrageously awesome!”. She arguably has even more charisma than Mirai which explains why they are eternal rivals, duking it out every time they see each other. As mentioned in the summary Hibiki’s goal is to get back with her ex and she is willing to go to the ends of the Earth for her…which she technically does. The other couples’ devotion to each other is mighty but Hibiki’s love for Alicia takes her devotion to a whole new level. Alicia, naturally, is the frosty beauty counterpart to Hibiki’s blazing sexiness. The reason Alicia broke up with Hibiki makes sense and the reason she plays hard to get…also makes sense but requires patience from the viewer. Trust me when I say their relationship is all the incentive the interested need to give S2 a go. Lastly their solos and duets are fantastic. Like I said “I Believe” and “Reflect Moon” are my favorite couples.
Overall Aikatsu Friends! is great, especially the second season! The main cast are all great and a majority of the side-characters rock (with obvious exceptions). The featured songs, like many idol anime, will either please or displease viewers depending on their tastes. The performances are still pretty cool. Both the regular and crazy idol activities/shenanigans are entertaining and the main couples all have their appeal. This entry was touted as the gayest in the franchise and having seen it myself I can agree despite not having seen the previous two entries. The interested are free to look up the show. However, like the majority of Pretty Cure you will have to look a bit harder to find this one.
PS: When exercising by myself I’ll try to shout “AI-KATSU!” as much as I can.