[I have very little knowledge of the Japanese language beyond a few words here and there and am experiencing Idol Time raw and at the moment unsubbed. That said, if I waited until subs magically appeared for anything PriPara related I may never get a consistent schedule. A lot of my thoughts are informed not just by watching the episode but by thoughts other English speakers more experienced in Japanese than me have shared. So, if anything’s incorrect here, that’s why.]
Watching the things you love come to an end is hard. As it turns out watching the thing you love perform a soft reboot into something new yet familiar is even harder. I’m going to try to leave my PriPara baggage at the door when watching Idol Time but considering we’re still in the same universe here some comparisons are to be expected.
The first question here is: Does Idol Time do enough to establish itself as different from original flavor PriPara (which from here on will now be referred to as OG!PriPara)? Yes. And no.
I say yes because the aesthetic for Paparajuku PriPara is decked in pastel and the dreamy-cute style that our new co-protagonist Yui Yumekawa embodies. This PriPara is brand new, having just opened its doors and has yet to enticed the overwhelming number of idols that Parajuku, PriPari, and other PriPara’s we’ve seen are established as having. Rather than dream of being idols themselves, the girls of Avocado Academy would rather chase after the boy idols in DanPara (we’ll get to more on that later). The mascots are PreCure-style tamagotchi-like cutesy creatures rather than the scheming, underhanded stuffed animals we’re more familiar with. Instead of being able to perform a live anytime you feel like it, an idol has to fill up a gauge on her new watch transformation thingy (give me break here I’m not good with terminology).
All of this should be enough to differentiate Idol Time and OG!PriPara, right? And yet I can’t help but feel like something here is being retread.
Oh, yeah. Our new protagonist.
Ask me to describe Yui Yumekawa and my immediate reaction is to call her a cross between Mikan and Laala. If your first impression when meeting a new character is to be reminded of two other characters in the same universe is that much of a good thing? Considering in the course of three seasons of OG!PriPara we’ve had several major characters with very distinct, individual personalities probably not.
If Yui were the only protagonist we had for Idol Time being similar to another character wouldn’t be much of an issue. Putting her next to Laala in the same show, however, only serves to highlight how identical they seem to be at the moment.
Of course, Laala is in a different position than Yui. She’s the confident self-assured Kami Idol we watched her grow into (despite her resistance to aging), a far cry from the girl too self-conscious of her loud voice to sing her heart out. In fact, when Yui is afraid to start singing Laala tells Yui the same thing Mirei told her in episode one of OG!PriPara: if you love PriPara then it’s okay to sing with all you’ve got. Our Laala’s a mentor now and damn if that doesn’t make my heart sing.
I’m not going to write off Yui on her first episode. That would just be ridiculous. Besides, she wouldn’t be the first PriPara idol to take a few episodes to grow on me. Still I feel like something needs to happen soon to get Yui to stand out from the packed crowd.
Now, if that were the only similarity.
So . . . the Headmistress of Avocado Academy is Gloria’s apparently identical relative. An Ookando relative being basically an OC palette swap of Gloria isn’t new (see Let’s Go PriPari movie) but this decision leaves me scratching my head. Granted, this Ookanda doesn’t have the anti-idols and friendship sentiment that Gloria started with but it leaves me wondering why, when you have an opportunity to go somewhere completely different, you’d choose to have the Headmistress of your new school setting be yet another reminder of the OG!PriPara. She even uses a cleaning product as her inanimate companion of choice, for Jewlie’s sake! It’s not a deal breaker, it’s just baffling.
Now, I suppose its time to address the elephant in the room and the thing about Idol Time Pripara that brings me the most anxiety: male idols.
I should preface this by saying that when it comes to anime, I’m not much into boys. I filter my anime viewing experience to get as many female characters as I can. A spare boy here and there isn’t gonna make me break out in hives or anything (I’m no stranger to the occasional harem anime after all) and I welcome them in a good ensemble cast. And yet, when it comes to the male idol genre my indifference could not be any more clear.
When the Pretty Rhythm franchise that PriPara belongs to started the King of Prism movie it was no skin off my bones. It was a separate thing, one I could ignore to my hearts content. I guess I should have known that KoP’s success would only give Takara Tomy ideas.
Up until now boys in PriPara consisted of Reona, Meganii, some mascots, and goat costumes. I suppose that kind of paradise could only last so long so now we have DanPara, an idol theme park exclusively for males.
Please, if you would, imagine the sound of a record scratch because that’s exactly what popped into my head the minute they announced this stuff.
Of course execution here is important to any story decision. Right now, the execution is lacking.
Ignore the fact that a PriPara just for boys comes completely out of nowhere because that’s the kind of implausibility you have to brush aside when it comes to long-running kids series that go with the flow of trends. The problem for me comes with the exclusionary part. PriPara has long been established as a world where a girl can be their ideal idol even if that girl is a boy who prefers to wear feminine clothing. Putting boys in PriPara in itself does not bother me but segregating them into two different groups certainly does.
I get that trying to draw girls into PriPara is going to be a major part of this story moving forward but it hurts to see a show that celebrates girls of all kinds have characters who’d rather watch the boys play than try to get into the game themselves.
Like everything else, I’m going to give it all some time to play out but right now I’m not very confident.
OG!PriPara has a lot of memorable music by this point so how does its successor fare here?
Okay, I admit I’m biased towards my girls i☆Ris and their PriPara openings but even putting that aside I’m still underwhelmed by Wa-suta’s offering. There’s no immediate get up and dance emotion that the usual PriPara OPs fill me with. It’s no Make it! which is the kind of song you can blast in a room full of PriPara fans and have everyone start singing.
Visuals fare a little better. Once again, there’s the Idol Time aesthetic front and center. We’re introduced to every one who will have a hand in Idol Time going forward even if they aren’t immediately present in the series itself. The little chibis of Yui and Laala getting ready for night/daytime is cute and in the opening shot you again get the sense of Laala’s new status as mentor. Watching Yui and Laala go full magical girl transformation in the opening is fun even if its undercut by the same animation being used in the episode itself.
Since I tend to almost never skip the openings there’s a good chance of this getting stuck in my head anyway but right now: 6/10
There’s a quick bit of what I assume is one of WITH’s songs but there’s not much to go on so for now I’ll refrain from judging.
Okay, I spoiled myself on Yui’s debut song by listening to the arcade version first so it’s not a total surprise here. The time motif is very consistent throughout the song and it fits Yui perfectly. It’s fun, bubbly and, dare I say it, dreamy.
That feeling also carries over to the choreography, complimented as usual by top-notch CG work. The Let’s Go PriPara Making Drama returns again this time with SoLaMi Smile in their Kami Idol dresses as the statue at the end which is a nice touch.
Seeing Yui possibly inspire her fellow classmates into idolism always helps soothe over some of my fears a bit.
Overall, I’d give it a 8/10.
Now, that’s a little more my speed. My gold standard for PriPara endings is PriPara Dancing a song that’s the best for singing along and stumbling over Japanese words with. Idol:Time doesn’t quite meet the heights that song set but it comes real darn close, even evoking it in some ways. There’s even a dance for the little kids to try their hand at! Not that I would ever, haha. Ha.
In the end I give it a 9/10. With PriPara Dancing being an 11.
Bits and Pieces
- So, Laala can’t fully transform in PriPara because she bent her ticket. After running like an idiot in the halls and smacking into Yui. This is why you need Mirei, Laala.
- No word yet on the status of our other OG!PriPara idols though apparently the new PriPara fanbook says each SoLaMi Smile member is helping out at a different PriPara as part of their Kami Idol duties. Still, not having any mention of them for the episode seems like a misfire.
- A lot of this episode felt very Aikatsu Stars! which I suppose is to be expected considering the two franchises long established rivalries but as a result the inherent PriPara-ness is a little lacking.
- The running gag of Yui not believing Laala when she says she’s the Laala Manaka risks getting old very quickly so I just hope that we’ll get fixed soon.
- Can the real plot of Idol Time be about solving the mystery of why Laala never ages?
- A quick and dirty ENG subtitle file done by a tumblr user can be found here
In the end, Idol Time PriPara has a lot to live up to and whether it can do that remains to be seen. As a first episode it didn’t stumble out the gate but it didn’t exactly blow it out of the water either. With some time and distance I can see myself embracing Idol Time with open arms but right now I just miss my OG idols.