Our main character becomes the most embarrassing idol in the world.
I came into watching Shounen Hollywood with zero expectations. It’s an anime that’s intended to be part of a large media project made to promote idols and we all know how that can’t possibly go down well.
Except it did. Shounen Hollywood has done the unthinkable. It unveils the vulnerable areas of the idol industry but never resorts to a hypocritical jab. Shounen Hollywood does what Yamakan’s Wake Up Girls tries to do, but instead of trashing the same industry it functions in, Shounen Hollywood is aware that nobody likes a hypocrite.
Most idol shows were created for the sake of creating an illusion. As a viewer, it’s our job to mindlessly buy into their manufactured personas even if we know we’re being sold a lie.
Shounen Hollywood’s first episode gives us a look inside Tokyo Hollywood, a theatre in Harajuku that was once home to a popular male idol group: Shounen Hollywood. 15 years later and the theatre has attempted to recreate the original group’s success but to no avail. However, not all is lost. Five young men are made to form a new group in hopes that they can stand on the same pedestal as their predecessors.
The series opens with a still of the sakura tree, a well-known symbol of how beautiful yet fleeting life can be. Idols are supernovas that can rise as quickly as they fall. When Kakeru opens up the topic about what could’ve led to the original Shounen Hollywood’s break-up, Daiki refuses to listen. After all, he says: idols can only exist in the world of dreams and sparkles, frozen in time through video recordings and music albums. Even the director himself tells Kakeru that being an idol is just like attending elementary school and middle school, it’s just a phase that’ll eventually end.
Most of the episode is spent on these guys being made to re-enact cheesy, embarrassing catchphrases. Why? Because they themselves need to buy into the same act they’ll be selling to everyone else. The result is awkward and hilarious to watch. We really don’t have any idea why these guys are trying to be idols, but we can see that a lot of them are coming into this world without fully understanding what lies ahead of them.
It seems like the only one who has a more realistic grasp of what they’ll be dealing with is the oldest member, Makki. He confides to Kakeru how he thinks that people stealing glances at your or whispering about how cool you are isn’t too different from being bullied. Thinking about it, being bullied and being worshipped are simply two extreme ends on the same line. What Makki fears how he’ll be objectified and no longer be seen as a human being and he has every right to be worried.
That is the toxic nature of the idol business and whether or not the industry breaks them is something I hope the show touches upon, especially considering how the first episode makes you wonder why exactly the original Shounen Hollywood broke up.
The episode also ends with you seeing the boys go about their lives outside of Shounen Hollywood and hints on what may have driven them to seek becoming an idol.
The quality of writing present in this episode caught me off guard. It all flows so naturally without ever overselling the jokes. These characters feel real to me. Anime rarely excels in conversational dialogue but in here it’s exactly what makes it so good. Whatever comes out of their mouths tells a lot not just about what the characters are thinking but who they are as people. If this can keep this up, or even top itself I’ll be very pleased.
ZEXCS’ work isn’t to scoff at either, there are some gorgeous scenery accompanying some very respectable character animation. You can spot some CGI being used but it rarely takes away from the experience. This has a number of elements that could’ve made it a runaway hit but I do think it’s ultimately doomed to be a commercial flop due to the character designs. These character designs aren’t really popular among most female anime viewers, and some might be turned off by how subdued it is as opposed to your usual idol anime. It sounds like a shallow reason, but I don’t think I’m wrong. It’s sad because this is one of the biggest surprises for me this when it comes to season premieres. I can only hope that it’ll find a small sized following that can appreciate what appears to be a somewhat bittersweet drama about upcoming idols.
Also, did I mention that they keep an owl for a pet and have named him Cat?