Top 10 Idol Anime
It’s no secret that music has a certain power to it that can be used to inspire joy amongst the crowds. This is the philosophy of the idol, singers within Japan that quickly become regarded as pop culture icons. Modelling, acting, singing, all of these fit within the role of an idol in Japan.
So what better way to take a look into this phenomenon than through anime. Whether it’s kids shows, science fiction nonsense or excellent character stories, the world of idol anime has a lot to offer. Here’s 10 standout shows that display the spirit of the idol in the best way possible.
- Episodes: 163
- Aired: October 2012 - Present
Starting off with the big shots, Aikatsu is one of Bandai’s vanguards when it comes to their hit franchises. At 163 episodes, Aikatsu is huge amongst younger audiences and is incredibly influential. When Ichigo Hoshimiya is invited by a friend to join the idol training academy, Starlight Academy, she enters into a brand new world of rivals, friendship and the wonders of idol life.
But Aikatsu is more than just fun and friendship. There’s some realities of the idol industry that’s explored really well, diving into PR, interviews and public image. Sure, this might be a normal thing for idol series in general but for something as hugely popular within a younger demographic as this, it’s impressive to see this level of information being delivered through the show.
9. Show By Rock!!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2015 - June 2015
Show By Rock!! is fantastic in the weirdest ways and it’s one that’s somewhat difficult to explain in a sensical manner. But I’ll try. A girl who is too nervous to join her school band gets transported into a mysterious fantasy world powered by the magic of music. She turns into a catgirl for some reason or another and joins a band. They turn into CGI animals when they perform.
Now you’re either hooked or confused by that summary but for those still with me, Show By Rock!! is an absolute blast. It’s hilariously funny, ridiculous and brilliant all at the same time, offering one of the cheesiest experiences I’ve ever had watching anime. And if Season 1 isn’t enough, a sequel has been announced!
8. The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: January 2015 - October 2015
Okay, so The Idolm@ster: Cinderella Girls may not hold a candle to the original, but that doesn’t stop it from being great in its own right. This is particularly true for its second half where it put unexpected characters together, exploring each of the cast’s personalities more thoroughly. It quickly gets into its stride, no longer relying on one-note characteristics and creating these moments that can be genuinely regarded as special.
It’s a whole new cast for the Idolm@ster franchise and there’s so much to explore here as the idols and producers try to make the Cinderella Project a big success. Much like the original series, it’s an inspirational journey within the idol industry as they must gain fame and recognition to achieve their goals on the main stage.
7. Uta no☆Prince-sama♪ Maji Love 1000%
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2011 - September 2011
Let’s try a different approach. Maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a story about idols in skirts and ribbons, but rather a story about camp men in fancy suits. Uta no Prince-sama is one of the most popular series within the genre of male idols as it captures us with its charismatic charm. Whilst the setup is certainly one of a reverse harem, even the female lead, Haruka becomes a key part of the idol group.
Uta no Prince offers something that is both familiar, yet distant to many idol fans who will have enjoyed other series on this list. Despite it being somewhat unappealing to the male viewer, I’d highly recommend it regardless as much of the interactions and basic structure you’ll be used to is still ingrained within it. Oh, and the music is actually really good too. That’s probably important.
6. Pretty Rhythm: Aurora Dream
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: April 2011 - March 2012
Much like many other picks on this list, Pretty Rhythm: Aurora Dream is originally based on a video game where the player must dance to the rhythm of the song. However, unlike many of the picks here, Pretty Rhythm isn’t just a game about dancing, with it also having a heavy focus on fashion. So with source material like this, it’s no surprise that this idol show takes a heavy focus on the public image side of being an idol.
Pretty Rhythm is charming in its own special way as these superidols known as “Prism Stars” aim to become “Prism Queen”s and conquer the stage in this fun series. Yes, it’s another combination between the slice of life and idol genres, but through its lovable cast, it’s capable of supporting itself on its own merits through character interactions and the performances themselves.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2012 - July 2012
Idols are forever, as AKB0048 clearly demonstrates. During the 21st century a world war breaks out, leaving the planet Earth devastated. With no other choice, the human race escapes the planet to settle across the galaxy and find a new future. But with this comes conflict and corruption as some planets start to regulate the entertainment industries, including idols when the world needs them most.
So, the sci-fi successor group AKB0048 must travel the stars as a rogue group, fighting against corrupt governments with the aim of reaching the people’s hearts in an attempt to reunite humanity. It’s definitely strange and by no means even remotely realistic, but it takes these leaps of logic to create something genuinely special and different. There’s many ways to create an anime about the hit AKB48 band, but this was certainly out-of-the-box.
4. Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita. (Locodol)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 - September 2014
Locodol is a very very easy show to love. Take away the spectacle, the bright lights and the fame from your typical idol show and what are you left with? Locodol, of course! Focusing on local idols, Nanako and Yukari, they’re not performing huge stage shows or acting in advertising campaigns for huge corporations. They’re helping out their local stores, putting a wide smile on the faces of local residents and promoting the town to those that might choose to visit.
It’s incredibly humble and it does so much to make this story stand out as a new direction for the genre, despite other shows being very much focused on the flashier side of this world. It even dives into the idea of local mascots acting as PR for regional towns with cheesy theme songs and family friendly events. It’s just lovely in every definition of the word and is highly recommended.
3. Wake Up, Girls!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2014 - March 2014
Wake Up Girls is an idol show that is entirely aware of what it’s out to achieve. By presenting itself as a more grounded series in comparison to its competitors, Wake Up, Girls isn’t afraid to show both sides of what the idol industry really is. Occasionally a wonderful place but ever so often, a sickeningly dreadful one. After the prequel film that showed the group being set up, the series is very much focused on telling character stories and giving cause them to grow as people.
Whilst Wake Up, Girls doesn’t deviate much from standard idol tropes and ideas, it very much has its own agenda when it comes to its tone and how it delivers its narrative. Just these small things give it so much plot direction with the characters starting as rookies and some having their own personal troubles. There’s really something special lying within Wake Up, Girls and I strongly recommend you take the time to find it.
2. Love Live!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 2013 - March 2013
Love Live! is arguably one of the most popular idol series out there. With Sunrise taking its next idol venture away from kids series and into the late night realm, Love Live appealed very quickly. Presented as this very oddly structured slice of life and idol show, Love Live captured audiences through its cast of 9 diverse characters, each with their own jokes and character dynamics, leading to it becoming a global success.
Through the concept of “school idols”, where students represent their high schools through competition, Love Live seems to have found the ultimate blend and has capitalised on it big time. With a second season releasing the following year and then a film with a global theatrical release earlier this year, there’s plenty of Love Live to go around and don’t worry, it’s not too late to jump into the franchise now.
1. The iDOLM@STER
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: July 2011 - December 2011
The Idolm@ster is the best idol series yet and for very good reason. Everything that we expect of a series of this genre, Idolmaster gifts beyond our expectations. With one of the best casts in anime, every single character dynamic within this surprisingly large cast works exceptionally well. With groups splitting off from the larger studio, there’s plenty of opportunity for new interactions to arise and there’s rarely cases where it feels at all wrong.
Whilst it is the typical, “Group of girls try to become more popular idols” story, it’s always presented in new and unique ways, turning what should be boring PR events into something the viewer really wants to get involved in. Nothing feels obligatory or forced, every part of this puzzle piece finely fits into one of the larger stories, creating moments that can genuinely be regarded as standout all the way throughout.
So there’s some great idol shows that you really need to be checking out. Whilst some of them may fit under the tag of ‘generic’, there’s some really special shows here that expand beyond the definition of “Idol anime” to create new stories. If there’s anything that I missed (There probably is), let us know in the comments section.