Last time, I talked about an anime about idols just starting their careers with realistic concerns. This time, we will be looking at a series about an idol who pushes her way to the top in the unusual, but “so typical” anime fashion. Now I will warn you that some of what I say still involves some critical discourse; but you may go ahead and say that I’m overthinking things, because I probably am.
This review is comprised of all three seasons of Miss Monochrome, a series that I personally grew to like over time. However, saying that I like it now implies that I actually disliked it before. I will attempt to remain true to all those feelings, for as I see Monochrome’s progression from beginning to end, she has come very far from being a poor android to a star worthy of competing against the top idols.
But let’s be honest: the real star of the show is Monochrome’s Roomba companion!
Miss Monochrome is an android who wants to become an idol. But not just any idol. She wants to become a super idol so that she can stand out much, much more! But when she kick-starts her career by giving an orphan she saved — Mana — an investment of 19.3 billion yen, Monochrome finds herself on the streets instead!
Seriously. There’s a lesson in not trusting a loli that the original novel could never accomplish!
Now that Monochrome has hit rock bottom, she has her work cut out for her to make it to the top! And in a span of three seasons, Miss Monochrome does everything (and I mean just about EVERYTHING) she can to get her recognized as the super idol that caught everyone by storm!
Okay I admit, Monochrome has no idea how to become an idol, and often gets caught in puns and gag routines before she can ever be successful. Her manager Maneo is the small-business manager… of a convenience store! She saved the world from aliens once… but no one ever noticed! She even reached the top of the world… on Mars!
Now I didn’t know this at the time, but Miss Monochrome isn’t always about Monochrome’s road to becoming an idol, and that’s perfectly fine. A lot of idols in the actual industry get involved in variety shows and other comedy routines on stage to fulfill the No. 1 thing on their job description: to entertain us!
I was not informed of this part of the idol community back when I watched the first season in 2013. After that, I came to realize that the animated short series is actually not super weird, but super normal for its audience.
But where Miss Monochrome struggles to find her way into the idol world, she meets some colorful characters to make her way to become a super idol. And by Miss Monochrome‘s second and third seasons, she gets support from an odd, yet energetic, quasi-legitimate team to help her go major.
Miss Monochrome‘s adventures are nothing short of funny and light-hearted. But in my tradition of turning reviews into thought pieces that probably don’t make a lot of sense, I want to talk about the real Miss Monochrome. Because let’s be honest, she’s not an android.
Miss Monochrome is voiced by the veteran voice actor and idol Yui Horie. The animation even pokes fun at this notion when Monochrome wants to sing a bunch of hit singles performed by the idol! Now I don’t have all the source materials for this, but Miss Monochrome the character is often referred to as Horie’s digital alter ego, and for good reason.
Behind this very series is the voice actor’s group of middle-aged idols who (on stage) refuse to grow up, aptly known as the “Seventeen-Years-Old Cult.” And in case you haven’t guessed, the group’s founder plays a very significant role in Monochrome’s narrative.
Miss Monochrome may want to become a super idol, but her main goal is to compete as top idol against Kikuko, an obvious allegory to “Kikuko Inoue, age 17″ herself (seeing how she is voiced by Kikuko Inoue). Now Yui Horie isn’t as old as her predecessor, but both seem to be as many veteran idols want to be: considerably young.
Whether you believe that they legitimately feel like they’re forever 17 or if you think that’s some marketing gimmick, the truth remains that the idol industry heavily favors younger girls. Being 17 is roughly the age when idols make their debuts; but give it a few more years, and most of them will move on with their lives and join the rest of us as boring citizens. Some may even use their idol status to get into similar industries, including adult entertainment. But for the “Seventeen-Years-Old Cult,” their strategy is to resist the industry standard. These ladies could say that maturity has its own beauty, but these ladies proverbially spit on that image instead, making the claim that they are still young! There is even a running joke that Inoue and Horie’s anime roles (including Kikuko and Monochrome here) are characters who deny that they are older!
Part of me wants to think that those who deny that they are past their prime is a little weird, especially when there is a push for claiming that they are teenagers. But then again, maybe our cultural norms are wrong into thinking that younger is better. And since we’re talking about an anime, being portrayed as forever 17 isn’t too far of a stretch!
We may be biologically older than we were, say, 5 years ago, or even 20 years ago. But when our common inclination is to think that we have grown up, some of us also want to believe that, in some ways, we really haven’t! To be young is to follow one’s own dreams. And while our perspectives may have changed from our past selves, it’s hard to say that we have to stop following them. We still follow our dreams, even if they are slightly altered or altered completely.
I may be getting older, but to forget what it’s like to reach for my previous goals — even if I achieve them — seems like an odd position to take. After all, anyone who has ever been successful had to start somewhere!
Miss Monochrome may have an advantage of being forever young, but she has come far from being an android who was conned of 19.3 billion yen. But despite her rapid changes and success stories, what makes Monochrome Monochrome remains the same. She still makes weird puns, achieves superhuman feats that even she doesn’t notice, and her favorite number will always be 4696 (because “shirokuro” is white-and-black). Having said that, I don’t like to think that veteran idols like Yui Horie or Kikuko Inoue are strange by claiming that they’re young anymore. In some respects, I think it’s pretty cool that they do.
But if there’s anything I shouldn’t forget about Miss Monochrome the animation, it is at the very heart of it, a parody series. And no parody series is without cameos. Now I won’t be naming all of them (seeing how there are a lot), but I should mention at least one who perpetually comes on the show, since he’s a character who comes from the same production studio.
Who is he? You’ll find out… in my next review!
So if you’re looking for an anime series about an idol who gets into all kinds of wacky adventures on her way to stardom, watch Miss Monochrome! And just when you thought and things would be black and white, things are going to get a lot more yellow!