Anime about idols–singing and dancing pop stars–are hugely in trend right now, both in Japanese and American fandom, and the anime genre has spawned a ton of new shows as of late, from AKB0048 to Wake Up, Girls! and everything in between. SHONEN HOLLYWOOD is another addition to the idol boom (this time about male idols!), but if you’re expecting a sugar-sweet fairy tale about singing and dancing your way to stardom, it’s…note quite that. Here are three reasons to pick up SHONEN HOLLYWOOD if you’re an idol anime fan… and especially if you aren’t. (But don’t take it from us—check out Anime News Network’s glowing reviews of the series and its realistic take on the subject matter.
1) When it comes to idols, it’s completely self-aware
Let’s face it, even ardent idol and idol-anime fans know that this whole business of crooning love songs while dancing with a bunch of other dudes in ridiculous costumes with feathers is… kinda cheesy. Lots of idol anime feature characters who buy into that—characters whose behind-the-scenes personalities genuinely match their idol image—but SHONEN HOLLYWOOD has no such illusions. In the first episode, the boys practice introducing themselves in typical overblown idol fashion—proclaiming their fans their girlfriends and make ridiculously sparkly gestures—and like real people with standards, the main character Kakeru gets horribly embarrassed by the show. If you’ve ever wondered if real life pop stars actually want to keep themselves pure for their fans and truly want to share their universe with each and every one of them, then spoiler alert: they don’t.
2) It give you a real glimpse into the world of Japanese idols
If you’ve never had a chance to watch Japanese television or experience a live event, SHONEN HOLLYWOOD’s idol gigs are all actually based on real, common idol activities that the Japanese public is familiar with. Two of the show’s episodes are actually full-length shows-within-a-show; episode 5 is a full stage play in half an hour, complete with theater acting and sets, while episode 10 is exactly like Japanese music television programs like Music Station, where different acts perform to promote their new works and then participate in some (occasionally awkward) back-and-forth with the hosts and other acts. Probably most insightful is episode 9, in which the boys take all kinds of random and weird gigs and variety shows for television. Being a pop star seems pretty glamorous, but in Japan, part of entertaining the masses involves self-humiliation for others’ pleasure to a degree, as anyone who’s sought out awkward Japanese game show videos can attest to. From wearing silly costumes to getting bitten by lobsters to enduring hot springs in tidal waves to manual labor, the boys go through the real idol experience. Perhaps this type of public humiliation is just to make idols look more human and endearing, or out of some sense of schadenfreude.
3) Entertainment is a dirty, messy world, and this show pulls no punches
The music world is supposed to be one of dreams, but unlike the world of most idol anime, nothing is so simple and clean. Nothing comes easily in SHONEN HOLLYWOOD; the boys don’t gain hordes of fans just from having pretty faces. When former child actor Kira makes his sparkly idol personality look effortless, it turns out that he’s undergone a soul-crushing amount of hard work and pressure to get where he is, all at the expense of his dignity. We won’t spoil exactly what he went though—it’s a shocker—but it turns out the boy who has the most squeaky-clean and sparkly demeanor has the most warped personality. Meanwhile, Shun, who scoffs at the idea of being an idol because he wants to be a serious musician, soon finds that “real art” is just as much a ruthless business as saccharine mass-produced pop idoldom, and image really matters more than talent. It’s a harsh reality that’s counter to our expectations—we think of idols being low art, but it turns out there isn’t much distinction between quality and mass entertainment.
And aside from those deeper reasons, SHONEN HOLLYWOOD still has cute boys singing and dancing, if that’s your type of thing. It’s also got cameos from idols from other media, including Miss Monochrome, the peer-produced virtual idol similar to Hatsune Miku, who has her own television anime; and Takasugi Chieri, an idol from a famous Japanese novel Harajuku Girls. And of course, as we’ve covered before, SHONEN HOLLYWOOD is a sequel to a Japanese novel itself, and has a real-life counterpart in idol group ZEN THE HOLLYWOOD.
Catch up on the series on funimation.com/shonen-hollywood!