Thursday, November 19, 2015

Idol Dreams. vol. 1 by Arina Tanemura

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Idol Dreams vol. 1 by Arina Tanemura

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Office worker Chikage Deguchi is having an early midlife crisis. Her coworkers gossip about her behind her back and her high school reunion, at which she'd hoped to be reunited with her old crush, goes disastrously. She's about to give up on everything when she's offered a miracle drug that will return her to her 15-year-old self for a few hours at a time. Chikage begins trying to "do over" the last 15 years of her life, but ends up scouted by a talent agency. Now she's going to reinvent herself in many more ways than she'd originally planned.

What I Thought: Like Chikage, this manga has an identity crisis. It's clearly aimed at women around Chikage's age, who grew up on these wish-fulfillment stories ("girl gets a magic ___ that lets her become a singer/grow up temporarily/become a heroine" is a popular genre in Japan) and are now looking to put that magic back into their own lives. But it just can't quite agree on a tone. A magic drug that turns somebody younger is a cute, silly plot device that'd be right at home in one of those kids' comics - but feels out of place when the protagonist just debated committing suicide (which itself seemed rather abrupt). The whole first chapter of the manga feels rushed and disjointed as a result.

Once the first chapter has established the premise, though, the story finds its footing. It's still a very silly story and it still relies on familiar tropes for anyone who's read any one of these "magically transform and change one's life" series before, but Chikage becomes an appealing mixture of awkward and endearing and both of her apparent love interests, an old classmate and a fellow musician, are more likable than the domineering male leads of many girls' manga. Hibiki in particular (the 15-year-old superstar) stood out to me: instead of being a Jerk With A Heart of Gold, he's just a very talented young man who doesn't have the life experience yet to realize that things that come easily to him don't always go as well for others. This puts Chikage in a position to inspire and teach him because she's (secretly) older - maybe her life up to this point hasn't been such a supposed "waste", after all.

Not all plot points go down smoothly in this manga - I for one would be thrilled to never see a man attempt to kiss a sleeping woman again - but overall Idol Dreams volume 1 felt like discovering this genre for the first time. Feel-good, fluffy, and all-around fun for people who, like Chikage, want to rediscover their inner teen.

Readalikes: Absolute Boyfriend by Yu Watase for similar romantic triangle dymanics; Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura for another comedy set in the world of Japanese showbiz.

Or look this book up on NoveList!