After just seven episodes, Aikatsu on Parade! pulls out the big guns and brings in the original Aikatsu! heroine, Hoshimiya Ichigo. I’m actually kind of surprised that they didn’t wait long, as I thought they’d save her for a climactic moment. Regardless, Ichigo (as well as Aoi and Ran) are a welcome sight, though what I like even more is how Ichigo’s presence also shows what makes Raki so different from past main characters.
Raki, Aine, and Mio first meet Ichigo and the other members of Soleil at Ichigo’s family bentou shop, where the latter are wearing Clark Kent-level disguises. But then off come the glasses, and their true selves are revealed. Ichigo, Aoi, and Ran come across as old friends with a casual yet rock-solid bond, and who accept that they’re accomplished celebrities but don’t let it get to their heads. This is especially the case with Ichigo, who despite being the top ranked idol seems more keen on being supportive.
Episode 7 is a fun re-introduction, but it’s actually episode 8 that really drives home why Raki meeting Ichigo is important. Raki meets Amahane, the designer behind the Angely Sugar clothing line that Ichigo always wears, and it fits in perfectly with her desire to become an Aikatsu fashion designer herself. Raki wants to support, and she’s supported by people who want to see her support.
In fine Aikatsu! tradition, getting to Angely Sugar involves quite a few hurdles, but it’s also here that the original series’s history conveys this real sense of weight. Raki wants to meet Amahane, and the one to arrange it for her is Ichigo’s mom, Ringo. As Ringo subtly hints at her own background as a legendary idol, an instrumental version of “Wake Up My Music”—her old unit, Masquerade’s hit song—plays. When she gets to Angely Sugar’s location, she has to do the classic cliff-scaling, only it’s shown that the original AIkatsu! wall climb is far harsher than in later series. In fact, there seems to be a lot more intense physical training to go around here, as if the original Aikatsu! girls are the equivalent of Pretty Cure’s Cure Black and Cure White in terms of raw physical strength. It makes Ichigo and the rest seem even more like idols from days gone by, but their humble attitudes keep everything down to Earth.
One other thing of note is that the CG is markedly improved over the first season of AIkatsu!, and it really shows with Ichigo, Aoi, and Ran. They just plain look better and move better, and it really highlights how far 3DCG has come in only a few years.
Ichigo’s return to Aikatsu! does not disappoint, and she surprisingly also doesn’t overshadow the new heroine, Raki. It looks like this won’t be the last we see of the classic heroine, and I’m eager to see what other interesting collaborations happen.