As Aikatsu Friends! inches ever closer, I find myself thinking about the longevity of Aikatsu! as a franchise. By this October, it’ll be a whopping six years old—a lifetime when it comes to children’s anime. Where other similar series have tried to compete, few have managed to hang on as Aikatsu! has. One of its closest competitors, Pretty Rhythm, eventually pivoted towards the male-idol-centric King of Prism series. Either by outlasting or outmaneuvering other idol series, Aikatsu! feels as if it’s conquered its own niche—though the exact nature of that niche is what I’m trying to figure out.
There are, of course, key differences between Aikatsu! and other idol character franchises. Series like King of Prism and Idolish 7 utilize male idols in a desire to capture a different market. Love Live! and The iDOLM@STER feel like they skew older. Macross Delta and Symphogear have idols as thematic flourishes as part of a greater science-fiction story. They cover various demographics, as well as various degrees of idol presence. Yet I feel there’s another element of difference that isn’t accounted for, as if Aikatsu! and Love Live! occupy different compartments of mental space, at least personally.
While this is only a tentative thought exercise for the sake of categorization, if I had to describe that difference it would be as the following: With Love Live! or The iDOLM@STER, I’m most interested in how the idols will react, but with Aikatsu! I’m most interested in the actions they’ll take. The way I phrased it makes it seem as if it’s a contrast between more passive characters and more active ones, but that’s not quite right. Instead, it’s more that the girls of Love Live! seem to draw their appeal from the way they behave and influence each other, while the girls in Aikatsu! feel as if they influence the environment around them.
Perhaps the reason I see Aikatsu! different is because of the fans and how they express their love for the series on social media compared to other idol anime lovers. Other series appear to celebrate cuteness and style. Fans of Aikatsu! revel in an aura of power and excitement. At the heart of this fan output remains the indelible images of Ichigo, that very first Aikatsu! heroine, as she climbs those cliffs and wields that axe. It’s as if Ichigo and her successors reshape and navigate the land while other idols move through it.
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That’s not quite correct. Pretty Rhythm is part of the shared multiverse Pretty Series (recently coined by TakaraTomy), which continues in PriPara, and will further continue in PriChan next season. King of Prism is (so far) just a two part movie sequel to Pretty Rhythm Rainbow Live. 🙂
The series are connected canonically and there is some crossover that occurs.
I should note that not only do the stories connect, but each arcade game has been backward compatible with the prior series, so you could import your Prism Stone items into the initial PriPara game, and PriTickets from PriPara will be readable in PriChan.
Thanks for the correction! I hadn’t realized those series were so closely connected. It does make me wonder why they went for the major name change though.
It was definitely a refresh. They already changed universes once before…but explained the way things are connected through the Prism World dimension in Rainbow Live. Sales were flagging though as Aikatsu came out, so they switched to a more competitive updated game format in a sort of arcade arms race that has gone back and forth since. As PriPara dropped the ice skating element and looked so different at the game centers, it was rebranded. PriChan is looking to do the same by adding social media elements into the game and anime where kids can create their own “channels”. Basically TakaraTomy’s trying to keep ahead of Bandai Namco’s Aikatsu Friends as both are starting in Spring. :)
There is a YouTuber doing a comprehensive and well researched set of reviews of every idol anime made who has some really great insight, and I can highly recommend her videos on each of the shows she has covered so far. Her overview of each Pretty Rhythm series and Aikatsu are particularly good. She hasn’t gotten to PriPara just yet though. Search for “The Idols of Anime” and I think you will find it really worth the time.