Idol Dreams, Vol. 1

By Arina Tanemura. Released in Japan as “31 Ai Dream” by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Melody. Released in North America by Viz.

There are bits of humor sprinkled throughout the first volume, but in my opinion the funniest part of Idol Dreams comes in the author’s notes afterwards, where Tanemura talks about how she landed this assignment. She’s no longer exclusive to Shueisha, so lots of companies wanted her, and Hakusensha asking her for a magical-girl manga for adults. This intrigued Tanemura, who signed up right away with Melody, Hakusensha’s hybrid josei/shoujo title. And then the editor urged her to get rid of all of the things she’s gotten so used to when working at Ribon – flowery SFX, lots of wacky gags, extensive drawings of clothing – to the point where the editor supposedly said “get rid of everything that makes it a Tanemura series”. I’m with the editor, though – Idol Dreams feels refreshing and new in a way a lot of her recent Ribon work did not.

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When I first read the description of the series, I had assumed it was some sort of “Peggy Sue” story, where the heroine would go back in time and try to do her life over again better this time. It’s actually a different genre altogether – as the editor said, it’s a magical-girl story for adults, and will be very familiar to those who recall early series such as Tezuka’s Marvelous Melno or Creamy Mami, which featured little girls taking age pills that magically made them into adult idol singers. Indeed, Tanemura fans may recall Full Moon, which also had a premise like this. In Idol Dreams, though, the lead character, as seen on the cover, is a 31-year-old office worker who’s on the verge of losing it – she’s basically staked everything on a happy high school reunion, only to have everything fall apart when the fact that she’s still a virgin is screamed out loud by a classmate.

It’s startling to see Chikage, after this and a couple of other humiliations, actually trying to kill herself by drowning in the local river. But ultimately it leads to a different kind of fantasy, as another high school friend (who has a crush on her that he still can’t quite blurt out – and a girlfriend, which makes it harder still) has some magical – sorry, unproven scientific – age regressing pills that will make her body like a 15-year-old for a few hours. What are the odds that she would be scouted immediately as a replacement for an idol? Or bond with the troubled young genius singer of a boy band? Or find herself in a forbidden romance (which she really should know better about, we’ll see how future volumes develop yet another of the popular ‘age-difference’ relationships)?

So here we have a magical girl heroine who doesn’t go home and do homework after her battles, but goes out and gets drunk instead. Despite what Tanemura and her editor said, this isn’t totally far off from her usual titles, but it’s taken in a slightly new direction and has that fresh feel to it. I look forward to seeing where she takes us.

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