I find it mildly amusing that the anime idol industry is just as saturated as the actual idol industry. I mean there has to be an extent to which too much is too much, right? Maybe I’m just thinking too hard about this; let’s just talk about pretty anime boys singing.
The I-Chu academy is a prestigious idol school that ‘s known to deliver some of the most promising boy group idols that (apparently) the world has ever seen. Here we’re introduced to the newest groups of I-chu, one of which being Fire Fenyx, a group of three hopefuls who hope to stake their claim in the idol world. But what stands in their way is not only about 20 or so rivals that all form about 6-7 different groups, but also the principal who stuffed himself in a giant teddy bear suit for the lols and tortures all of them with potential expulsion if they don’t meet the requirements. So just like how real idols work; glad this show’s got some real world parallels here.
Given this show’s origin as a mobile rhythm game, I wasn’t surprised at all with how the story of this show ended up. The story has pretty much only two different kinds of plot threads. Either we have a small overarching thread where all of the characters have to collectively pass over the hurdle, or we have individual episodes which focus on a small handful of the characters in an episodic romp that basically has no lasting consequence over the rest of the series. I’m sure this anime was made specifically just to advertise the franchise and sell the cute anime boys to the audience, but even on that front, I feel like they did the absolute bare minimum in order to try and convince the audience to try and delve further into the series. This is mostly because as a result of the story direction chosen, the show feels painfully generic and fabricated to the point that some episodes feel like there really wasn’t a point for them to exist in the first place. Often times while watching I just kind of zoned out because there really wasn’t anything on the screen that interested me, and the bloat of the cast really didn’t do the series any favors as a result. Of course this is nothing new to I-chu, as many mobile game adaptations have suffered similar problems, but I’d argue that it’s worse here since there came a point where I feel like the fabricated stakes meant nothing, and character moments just kinda got glossed over like they were just functioning off of a script.
And at the end of the day, there really isn’t much I can actually say about the story. The story is really just the framework that’s meant to give the characters the anime’s trying to sell you on a platform to stand on. Kind of like a fancy display box that moves. Now, could they have really put in the effort to deliver a good enough story to make this idol game better? Yes, but of course it’s not the story the show is trying to sell us on now is it?
The boys and all of their quirks both in their group and as individuals are pretty much the reason to watch the show/play their game. And I cannot remember many if any of their names. Cast bloat is a major problem I have with mobile game adaptations because they attempt to shove in as many characters as they possible can in order to showcase the wide array of different tropes that they have. I-chu offers a wide array of characters from spunky boys, to moody boys, child-like boys, cool distant boys, and basically traps. But because they’re all so one-note, all of them are hardly characters in their own right, with even fewer of them getting dedicated episodes in order to try an expand them. Which mostly just end up being reassurances that their only character trait is ok or some kind of other artificial reconciliation for something I didn’t think was even a problem, but hey, gotta fill up the time somehow. This problem extends further as more and more characters end up being put into the fold, thus homogenizing the cast into a variety of different faces that all end up serving the same role because barely anyone has any form of individuality that’s worth noting.
The other two characters worth any kind of mention are the Producer and the Principal, characters who’re really only there to help explain the plot to the audience and create the bastardized situations that the boys have to deal with. Sure the principal is eccentric given his speech pattern and willingness to torture the boys for the sake of ‘helping’ them, somehow, but I’d argue that’s not really much of a character, but rather the series’ conflict given form.
Lay-duce’s art for this series is probably one of the better aspects of the show if only for how colorful everything is and how nice the boys look. On a design level, all of the boys have a distinct look from one another which sure, while I don’t remember their names, at least gives everyone a distinct look reminiscent of the trope that each of them represents. Something that becomes more prominent when you look into the overall group dynamic of each idol group that the 30+ boys are put into. I’d argue this is a byproduct of the cast originating from a mobile game, but at the very least Lay-duce’s art for the characters and the look of the series on the whole is nice to look at. That being said, the amount of shine in these characters’ eyes are staggering. Everyone has like 4-5 white circles inside their pupil, and it’s actually kinda scary because it makes it seem like these characters have blindingly bright futures ahead of them despite being idols.
But of course since this is an idol show, the music plays a big part of the the series too. Which is what I would be saying if the show put in any effort to the music. All of the music in this show is representative of pop idol culture with the OP and ED each being sung by a myriad of seiyuus that voice this show.
Likewise all of the groups each have one single that they sing throughout the show. Meaning at no point in the series will one group sing anything else except the song that the first sung when they were introduced. Which is a little disappointing for a number of reasons. One because after a while it gets really boring to hear the exact same thing over and over again when idols should in theory have an entire playlist to pick from. And two because the plot often tries to have someone from one group demonize a member of a different group for not being ‘up to snuff’. Which leads to a mini character arc for the demonized character to better themselves. Only for them to later show the person or group that demonized them how much better they got by singing the exact same song again using most likely the exact same recording. Making it seem like there’s significant change when really it doesn’t sound like it at all. Leading to further artificiality with how the show presents itself. It’s all a bit disappointing at the end of the day because while I do think the songs are honestly not that bad, the enjoyment of hearing them starts to wear thin when this becomes the ninth time I’ve unwillingly heard “Jewelry Dust”, and Fire Fenyx has only sang “Jewelry Dust” throughout the entire series.
I wanted to try something new this season, maybe go out of my comfort zone a little bit by throwing caution to the wind and watch an idol show for no reason other than I can and I will. Was this a rewarding experience? Not really. While I was dead set on making fun of the show for one reason or another because of either the massive cast bloat, the fact that I had to take a giant stuffed bear as a school principal seriously, or the “power of friendship” trope through the power of song, over time I lost interest in even trying to have fun with the show because I-chu didn’t feel like it was trying itself.
I-chu is just so painfully bland and uninteresting from all angles that episodes could probably be summed up in one or two sentences with little to no loss on what was going on. The show also doesn’t have a lot of consistency about it since we practically jump from one group to another in a form of whiplash that I just kind of got used to because I didn’t remember anyone’s names in the first place, so it didn’t really matter if we went from the spunky shonen kid to the chuunis in the span of 15 minutes. Over time the cast actually got larger with about 3-4 new groups being introduced over the course of the series which feels pretty excessive considering by the time the show tried to solidify who or what we already had, we just got more idols.
All of this combined with the fact that the music side of all things felt like they put in the absolute bare minimum in order to make it seem like these guys were actually idols leads me to put this series in the bucket of ‘failed advertisement anime’, since I’m certain the only reason why this show exists was either as fanservice or as a way to potentially attract new people to play or try out the game. While I’m certain that I am nowhere near the correct demographic for this kind of show or genre, I can almost say for certain that if fans of this series wanted an anime adaptation, they should get something better than this. Cause more than anything, this show feels unmemorable. And that I think is a worse fate than just being a ‘bad show’.