As one-half of the idol group ZINGS, Niyodo must put in the practice, effort, and love that will please the duo’s fans and lead them to popularity. Unfortunately, he refuses to do any of it. After all, Niyodo only became an idol because he thought it would be easy money; he doesn’t care to put in any work to become better, nor does he have any thoughts to spare for his fans. Unfortunately for him, that means he’s going to be fired. What Niyodo needs is a helper, someone who has all the motivation and energy he doesn’t. What Niyodo really needs is…the ghost of a former idol superstar? Well, that’s one way to do it! Can Niyodo, the “dirtbag” idol who stoops so low as to get the audience to sing his parts when he forgets them, and Asahi, the energetic and kind phantom of a girl who now drifts from venue to venue clinging to her beloved status as an idol, find common ground and perhaps a partnership that will help both? Also, can this series—which adapts a manga I’ll be reviewing in next week’s Readers’ Corner and which (spoiler alert) I loved—live up to the original?
The charm of episode one is how entertaining the main characters are, both as individuals and as a duo. Asahi, who loves everything about being an idol (especially pleasing her fans), is peppy and optimistic without approaching the level of annoyance. Her sweetness and altruism are already heartwarming, even this early in the series. Meanwhile, Niyodo is droll and hilarious as an idol who is so lazy that he’d rather be fired than put any work into his craft. Fumiya Imai, who is a relative newcomer as a seiyuu, channels Niyodo’s lack of energy so incredibly well, not only in his frequent exasperated asides but also in breathy, wordless complaints. His Niyodo is a perfect foil for Asahi, played by one of my favorite voice actresses, Nao Touyama (Yui Yuigama, Oregairu), whose busy summer season also includes roles in The Devil is a Part-Timer 2 (Chiho), Classroom of the Elite (Ichinose), and Rent-a-Girlfriend 2 (Ruka).
But the elephant in the room for episode one, something that I noted originally when watching the trailer but told myself, “Certainly this won’t actually make it to air,” is the horrid CGI that the series slips into when ZINGS performs a song. The animation is already less than stellar to begin with but feels incredibly awkward during the concert, which looks like an early episode of RWBY or maybe a VOCALOID performance. It’s a shame too, because the song itself is appropriately poppy and cute for an idol group, and deserving of a better-animated sequence. There are other places in the first episode, including in the OP and ED, where it likewise feels like animation shortcuts are being made. Disappointing choices—but I’m still bullish on the show, with this first episode making me laugh frequently while also giving me the warm fuzzies, and with the knowledge that this will continue for at least the next few episodes that cover the volume I read. So despite the poor animation, I’m all in—even if Niyodo isn’t.
Phantom of the Idol is streaming on HiDIVE.