22/7 – Episode 1 Review

Title: 22/7
Length: ? x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Drama, music, idols
Year of release: 2020

A-1 Pictures have a storied history in idol anime. While their iDOLM@STER series has excelled with tremendous animation and a gung-ho attitude, 22/7 is a far cry from that more standard optimism. Where other shows would pick new voice actresses to kickstart careers, 22/7 is a show that deftly selects novice voice actresses for a down-to-earth touch that more trained, experienced actresses cannot replicate.

Miu Takigawa is, currently, 22/7’s protagonist, and is a far-cry from the usual extreme hard-workers and idealistic main characters that idol anime usually get. On the contrary, she’s acutely depressed, and the shuddered, almost mute delivery of her thoughts are filled with a menial dread. Monotone, but with a subtle edge, Nagomi Saijou presents the face of 22/7 as she mopes from day-to-day in a bleak daze.

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A group of girls, including Miu, are blindly called to audition, meeting in front of a Gorilla Pen at a local zoo. There’s a whistle-stop-tour of the cast as we get to meet the girls, and their charisma jumps out. Sakura, played by the already famous Sally Amaki, is the one I’d link most to classic idol protagonists, who has a high pitched but not overtly nasal voice, a naive but not overdone faith in others, and the thought to send compliments with sincerity. I particularly liked the way she drew attention to Ayaka’s skirt’s length, asking if she is not cold though first hitting with a compliment to her legs as Jun gawks that they are ‘sexy’, only for us to learn that Ayaka is merely trying to make a strong impression at the audition. It’s a brief scene, but the characterisation is laid on thick and fast. Perhaps too fast, but I foresee these characters sinking into memory as the show goes on.

The idol aspects are bizarre, though. A towering suit-clad gentleman escorts the candidates to an underground building, and while it’s decked out with high quality decor, it’s undoubtedly an idol production dungeon… yeah, why is anybody going along with this? What’s weirder is this idea that The Wall on the lowest floor is supposedly delivering orders that the entire business must obey. I’m not really sure what was going on here. AI driven idol production? Is this an attempt to expose the shallowness of the idol industry?

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Considering Miu’s cynicism this episode, it might just be. Her depression pushes her away from the idol gig until she loses her job at the warehouse, so she goes back as a last resort. I’ll leave her reasoning she gives up to your imagination, but it’s an impassioned moment, and perhaps the best drama out of Winter 2020’s premieres full stop. Financial security rarely comes up in idol anime – off the top of my head, I remember a few idols doing it for money, but not the assertion that they have no other choice.

22/7 is that rare breed of anime, satirising with strong characterisation and boldly stepping over the toes of its contemporaries. A-1 brought their A Game from iM@S with more complex lighting, more nuanced character designs, and far, far more interesting things to say.

Rating: A

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