Last year, I closed with the sentiment that the content of what you watch is less important than who you watch it with, alongside the specific recommendation to myself that I should stop living in the place I was currently living. At the time, these felt like good pieces of advice to give, and I would like to take this time to reflect on these positions.
I’ll start with the specific recommendation: I have moved, and I very much like the new place I live. It is an improvement in a lot of ways. As examples, I have space for such amenities as a couch and a television and some form of guest sleeping space, it is not filled with mice, and I have not yet been burgled. I fully understand that there are any number of things that could go wrong with a move, but a bad place is a bad place, and moving out of a bad place gives you pretty good odds of a move being an improvement.
Conveniently for the narrative of this post, the other assertion of my post last year has also been reflected positively by my experience this year. I have been regularly watching a number of shows with people I like, which has been good. Some of them are shows I continue to wholeheartedly endorse; Mushishi, Ten Dark Women, and Pokémon Sun & Moon are all good shows that I feel comfortable endorsing without caveats.
I have also been watching, and enjoying, Aikatsu!
This is worth noting in particular, I feel, because it is a show that I definitely would not have put up with if I was watching it alone, and absolutely would not recommend in the way that I would recommend the shows mentioned above. Episode 13 in particular (which we will talk about in a bit) would have been a breaking point for me if there wasn’t someone there to pull me through it. In fact, the person I am watching Aikatsu! with explicitly refused to watch that episode with me, and I think continues to be upset with me for watching it at all, which at this point I completely understand.
Aikatsu! is a show which treats the modern-day idol industry as a kind of idealised point of inspiration. It is set centuries in the future, in a world where idols are given agency over their lives and careers, and are not held to the standards that many current real-world idols are. It has very material real-world baggage, but it chooses to set itself in a world in which that baggage has been lifted.
There are unexplored parts of this universe that I worry about. We see students of Starlight Academy fail audition after audition and still truck on, safe in the knowledge that they will have shelter and nourishment as long as they attend the school. Early on, the only well-represented alumni are either staff at the school or owners of cafés, and that’s only sampling the two most prolific students Starlight has ever had. Later, another very successful student starts their own rival school. Perhaps this is explored more in future, or perhaps I’ve missed something, but I worry about what happens to the less-successful students.
There’s also the atrocity that is the 13th episode, in which Aikatsu! takes a moment to berate fat people for deciding to be fat, and assures them that they have no worth, and all the other things that we already knew. In a show that otherwise aims to empower its femme audience, this is a pretty horrendous and unforgivable blip, and one that it seems Aikatsu Stars (the show, not the unit) has learned not to repeat. I do wonder if that episode had different writing staff or something.
There is also the potential for this entire thing to fall apart at the point where it intersects with real people. I have no idea how the people who perform at Aikatsu!concerts are treated and compensated, or to what arbitrary unreasonable standards they are held.
I worry a lot about these things.
The core of this show, though, and the reason I continue to enjoy it, remain. With a few caveats, it is fundamentally optimistic; it’s set in a world where people get to explore their creativity and identity without judgement, and with room to make mistakes. This is something I can get behind. The music’s not bad either.
Mostly, though, I like Aikatsu! because I enjoy the company of the person I watch it with.