3 out of 5
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Covers episode 1 – 20
I watch anime, but it tends not to be of the Pokemon variety, i.e. things I associate with toys / cards / games, and so assume the show encourages the same. Certainly I’ve experienced that kind of marketing in the cartoons I watched as a lil’un, way back when, but it’s been a while. I also tend not to watch “musical” shows such as Glee, or younger-geared fare that would hype singles by its featured actor or actress. So: no, I would not be watching Idol x Warrior Miracle Tunes!, a kids’ show that’s a packaged selling of toys and it’s musical act, Miracle² (aka Miracle x Miracle, or simply Miracle Miracle), if it hadn’t had Takashi Miike’s involvement as series director.
However, in the same way that the director enjoys taking on any given project, I’ve been able to appreciate steps into the beaten paths of other, I-normally-wouldn’t-care-for-this genres due to his presence, and for whatever I can pretend his impact is on this show, I legitimately ended up enjoying this 20 episode collection (which, note, is not even half of the first season – this stuff is hard to get ahold of in English!) to the extent that I can say I preferred character X over character Y and which songs I liked and that, most importantly, I kinda looked forward to watching it…
I see Idol x as sort of a “magical girl” type show: clumsy, affable Kanon (Asaka Uchida) loves idol Mai (Suzuka Adachi), and after auditioning for her – along with the surly Fuka (Yuzuha Oda) – the two find out that they’ve been roped into not only performing as an idol group, Miracle x Miracle, but also, secretly, as the “Miracle Tunes:” girls who use the power of, eh, “sound jewels” from “the music kingdom,” gifted to them by “The Goddess of Music” (Mai Hikimi) and some CGI-animated fairies to battle the negative energy of “The Demon King” (James Jirayu) and his henchmen (“Dokudoku-dan”). Y’know, normal kids show nonsense. This all translates to the same shtick every episode: Dokudoku-dan come to Earth with a “negative jewel” that influences someone to start spreading negative vibes, and so Miracle Tunes sneak out of their current show or audition, power up with jewels and get nifty outfits and face paint to match, and then dance away the negativity with different thematic styles or instrument themes – rock, techno, etc. Then CGI “Onpus” come and munch on the negativity and spit out positivity. Get dem sound jewels!
Here is where I look up, sheepishly, from tapping my toe along to whichever episode and cheering along our gals.
While deciphering Miike themes from this is daring, I would say that my experience with viewing a good slew of his flicks is that he takes them all rather seriously, even when they’re ridiculous, and that comes across here as well. Not “seriously” like Zack Snyder grimdark, but rather, even when some anime-based scenario is sinfully dumb, he doesn’t rush through it or spare it his craft. For Idol x Warrior, that means that the girls are treated like actual people, and the sparkly, dazzly songs – even when repeating the same footage episode after episode – come across as continually fun, and buoyant. Each of our leads have really engaging, fun performances coaxed out of them, and the scripts are balanced right between some background info – delving in to absent parents, for example – and working on the group dynamic, and then the necessary sing-the-bad-guy-away beats. Later addition of some other members adds some comparisons that suggests that the show lucked out with its lead cast: these other two girls are more “camera aware” and less immersed in the silly fiction, but after a few more eps, they too find their place amongst the style.
There’s an unfortunate stereotype with the girls’ effeminate makeup artist; I was trying to read up on sexual representation in Japanese media – the show is from 2017 / 2018 – to understand if this is the norm, or offensive there, etc., but it was hard to come across something clear or anything consistent. Miike’s characters, in his films, normally have something of a sexual fluidity, which is interesting, and the character here is openly gay, with the girls, at one point, “confirming” for all viewers that it’s a-okay to love who you want, regardless of gender, but there’s still humor had at the expense of the character’s unwanted advances towards other, presumably straight, men.
Idol x Warrior Miracle Tunes! is, otherwise, a pretty “standard” show for its youthy, toy- and single-buying demographic, reveling in repetition and excessive computer graphics to sell music and a general feeling of “fun,” except it is fun, and the music is pretty good. Without watching a handful of other shows to compare to, I cannot say if this series actually stands out in any way, but at the very least, I enjoyed it a heck of a lot more than I would have guessed, and a good part of that is because I felt like the actors and writers and directors (and series director Miike) were treating it with respect, and not as just a quick cash-in.