I know quite a few people who love idols. Japan has a thing for setting very high standards for their entertainers, especially for those of the female kind (although there is also a push for male idols to meet similar standards). I admit I’m not one to follow idols as closely as others, but I do appreciate an anime like this one. And while this series didn’t get nearly as much attention in North America as it did in Japan, I think there’s a good reason for that. This anime is not just about the idols, but a group of girls from a small, suburban part of Japan who promote their town on a national scale, while never forgetting their traditions and roots.
Locodol (Futsuu no Joshikousei ga “Locodol” Yattemita) is set in the fictional town of Nagarekawa, a small part of Japan that’s known more for its local customs and small businesses than the upscale, widely known urban part of “Cool Japan” that foreigners are more familiar with. While the city isn’t so rustic as the rural parts of Japan, Nagarekawa still holds on to tradition, and everyone there seems to know each other like family. But with the demand of keeping up with the times, the city council funded a team of high school girls to become locodols (local idols), to become the very face of Nagarekawa.
The show is pretty easy to follow in terms of development. The idols Nanako Usami and Yukari Kohinata both promote local fares such as small businesses or do community service activities live on television, while Yui Mikoze and Mirai Nazukari switch out their performances as the city’s mascot Uogokoro-kun. Unlike regular idols, these girls don’t go through a prominent agency. Like any other civil servant, Nanako and Yukari make hardly anything for all the activities they do; and their manager Saori Nishifukai even doubles as their No. 1 fan and stalker!
But these girls love what they do, and they bring joy to others in a way that most of us may overlook, because they’re not on a national or multinational scale!
While the city is obviously fictitious, Nagarekawa has its own history that seems to come to life through the girls’ adventures. Whether it’s the promotion of small business or entertaining children just outside the local mall, the Nagarekawa Girls never fail to make people happy while continuing to remember how much the city has taken care of them.
One of Nagarekawa’s most unique site is Billiken, the Shinto-American god (no, really) who appears to be so small, his statue is even smaller than the Buddhist shrine standing right next to it!
But what’s most important about Billiken is not that he’s a small, unnoticeable god, but that he brings luck in very small amounts. The girls realize through him that it’s not how big or popular you are that makes a difference. Rather, it is the little things you do for others that make the greatest impacts in life.
Nanako worries about how much of an impact she’s making when working as a locodol, but for everyone else, it seems very apparent that she is the best example for what it means to be a real star.
Nanako may not see the effects directly, but with each person they meet, with each activity they do, she and Yukari have already made a difference in the lives of others by promoting their town. For all the things that they do, a new fan is made, in hopes that someday they would like to see the town of Nagarekawa for themselves.
Even when the girls go off for a national competition against other locodols and mascots, the strength of grass roots proves to be more valuable than any idol agency can provide when it comes to doing things on such a small scale.
The beauty of this series isn’t so much that it’s entertaining (albeit it totally is), but that the Nagarekawa Girls can do even the smallest things to make a difference for their city, never forgetting those who helped them along the way, and always find a way to bring joy to everyone they meet. The strength of a locodol isn’t so much how well they present themselves to others, but how they can draw a crowd to experience more of the things they love, beyond simply loving the girls themselves.
I worry sometimes that shows like this one rarely get any praise among fans where I come from, but perhaps it may be just as well. I appreciate others most who want to do something active with the things they love, and not just like it because everyone else is talking about it. Watching this series has reinforced my appreciation for my own heritage, in hopes that someday I can visit the real parts of Japan that most foreigners may never venture to. Of course if you liked this series even before I started discussing it, more power to you. For me, I loved how they can make something as unique as becoming a civil servant of an idol become a personal journey that I would like to someday take part in, albeit via some other path! That, I believe, is the true goal of any star.
But even so, Locodol doesn’t just highlight the impact the Nagarekawa Girls have on those around them. In fact, the Nagarekawa Girls are grounded in how much their very city impacts them! And when we can recognize that our identity is strongly rooted in the relationships we have with others, an even greater impact is yet to come!
You know what they say: “It takes a village to raise a child.” And it takes the entire set of everyone we meet to raise us to do wonderful things!
So if you’re looking for a heartwarming series that brings together the musings of idols and a local flavor, watch Locodol. And remember: it’s not the big things, but the little things that matter.