Idol Dreams, Vol. 5

Idol Dreams Volume 5 by Arina Tanemura

Idol Dreams is a fun, if a bit uneven, soapy series about a repressed office lady reliving her youth in the best way by occasionally taking magic pills that turn her into a teenage aspiring teen idol singer! People fall in and out of love and deal with show business shenanigans, but will Chikage’s teenage adventures translate into any newfound maturity in the real world? Indications in this fifth volume are promising!

Chikage is much more assertive and resourceful in her teen idol persona as Akari. She’s trying to gain more recognition through a sing-off battle and manages to dodge a series of mean girl attacks and come out on the other side victorious even though she’s just a slightly better known aspiring idol singer. One of the things I’ve been wondering about is when Chikage’s old classmate and magical teen pill supplier Tokita was going to get a bit more focus, because so far he seems to be mainly pining in silence. My patience was rewarded with this volume, as it focuses on him. The real world is much more complex than teen idolland, as Chikage learns that Hanami who one of her workplace mean girls is also Tokita’s girlfriend, and she’s been cheating on him. Chikage is able to stick up for Tokita in a way that she’s never managed for herself, but she doesn’t realize what her own feelings are for Tokita until it is far too late. There is more time spent on the characters’ backstory in this volume, especially Tokita, which was a nice change of pace. I’m a bit worried that Chikage is going to bury herself in her teen persona in the next volume to distract herself from her pain as an adult.

It is all breezy fun although I’m slightly terrified about what might happen with Akari and Hibiki. I think that the series would also seem a bit less disjointed if I was reading it all with less time in between volumes, where the quick pace of people falling in and out of love might be less noticeable in a larger chunk of story. Still, I’m always up for an Arina Tanemura manga, and I’m hoping that Chikage becomes a more self-assured woman by the end of the series, and I’m glad that she’s showing some signs of assertiveness, even though she still needs more self-awareness to match.

Idol Dreams, Vol. 4

Idol Dreams Volume 4, by Arina Tanemura

I’m always up for any Arina Tanemura manga, but I do spend a great deal of time while I am reading Idol Dreams mentally preparing for disaster to strike, as the storyline of a hapless editor with no self confidence and few social skills reliving her teen years as an aspiring idol singer named Hikari with the help of magic pills just seems fraught with traumatic situations. This volume definitely went somewhat into the danger zone, as Chikage in her 15 year old persona decides to go out on at date with her fellow teen idol Ru. The volume opens with Chikage telling Tokita all about her teen romance plans, and he doesn’t point out the inherent problems of Chikage dating someone half her age very strongly, but he does ask the pointed question, “Are you going to tell him that you’re actually 31?” GOOD QUESTION TOKITA!

Chikage is nervous about her upcoming date and gets some tips from one of her coworkers. Quite frankly, as a reader, I was nervous about this date too as it seems like a horrible idea, but my anxiety was blunted somewhat when Ru decided to cross dress so his fans wouldn’t recognize him. Chikage and Ru go out, looking like a couple of girlfriends. Really, the only possible happy ending for this manga is for Chikage to not emotionally damage any of the teenagers she’s hanging out with, and gain enough confidence to actually become a functional adult. There are some slight signs of progress with her adult life in this volume, as she shows how adept she is at dealing with an editorial emergency at work.

As Chikage learns more about Ru, she realizes that she can’t continue to go out with him, but she chooses to break up with him in a particularly cruel way. Chikage’s lack of emotional intelligence is leaving plenty of distress in her wake, but I’m not sure if she realizes what she’s doing. I do miss Tanemura’s more teenage-centric manga, but I’m certainly curious about what will happen next in Idol Dreams.

Idol Dreams, Vol. 3

Idol Dreams Volume 3 by Arina Tanemura

Well, I spent the first two volumes really hoping that Tanemura would be able to pull off the inherently problematic premise of a 30 year old heroine with arrested development suddenly being given the chance to relive her teen years through magic teen idol pills, but as the various love triangles start to develop with Chikage’s two personas I found myself wishing that the series would wrap up quickly before it starts to head into some uncomfortable territory.

One part of this volume that I liked very much is more time spent with Chikage as an adult. She runs into her long-lost crush Haru and they start to reconnect. Tokita keeps interfering in any situation where Haru and Chikage might become more intimate, even though he doesn’t really have a logical excuse for his actions. Haru has been a bit too mysterious so far, so it was good to get some of his backstory filled in, and see how it is clear that he really did care for Chikage when they were teenagers and he still has feelings for her. It was fun to see the teenage bonds of friendship resurface between Chikage and the two men as they hang out as a trio for the first time in years. Haru is very observant, and seeing how Tokita keeps reacting to Chikage, he decides to step back, but this is only temporary. What is more problematic is that Chikage really can’t relate to anyone intimately as an adult, and she reacts like a flustered teenager to Haru’s overtures. At this point, I’m convinced that she needs therapy more than magic teen idol pills.

Chikage’s adventures as Akari in this volume were a bit more dynamic as she has to manage babysitting duties and breaking into a school in disguise. However, what I was hoping wouldn’t happen in this series happened, as Akari decides to date a 16 year old. I find this more creepy than anything, and I hope this is really short-lived. I’ve enjoyed Arina Tanemura series so much in the past, but now I’m wondering if I should just fill in some of the gaps in my Sakura Hime manga collection and going back and reading that instead. I’m still firmly team Tokita, as he’s clearly the only man that Chikage can actually relax around and be herself with. I hope that the romance swings more that way in future volumes.


Idol Dreams, Vol. 2

Idol Dreams Volume 2 by Arina Tanemura

I liked the first volume of Idol Dreams, with a few reservations so I was eager to check out the second volume to see how the story would develop. I was pretty convinced after seeing how the story was set up that the body-switching heroine Chikage is going to end up with the supplier of her youth idol pills, Tokita. The second volume starts out with a flashback of high school days told firmly from his point of view, showing how genuinely nice and popular Chikage was when she is a teenager. Her current repressed personality and the somewhat forced teen idol disguise really stand in contrast to Chikage’s natural charm back in the day. After reading the flashback, I’m more convinced than ever that Chikage is going to end up in an adult relationship, despite her newfound habit of hanging out with various teen boy band members.

We see some painful reminders of how socially awkward it is to be a repressed over 30 office lady, but Chikage’s idol adventures as Akari are not without peril as (say it with me!) A RIVAL APPEARS in the form of polished teen idol Yuko, who is nursing a mad crush on Hibiki. Akari learns some interesting facts about Hibiki’s home life that put his hustle, drive, and habit of appropriating boxed lunches into perspective. Truly, not since Tamahome have I seen a shoujo hero this dedicated to frugality. Akari and Yuko have to duke it out for the honor of singing Hibiki’s next single, and Akari needs plenty of extra training because she’s never performed for a studio audience before.


There are quite a few funny moments along the way, but one of the things I liked is how much support Chikage is getting to change her life. Tokita comes along on an extended teen idol outfit shopping trip, and when the outfit accidentally gets ruined, Akari’s fellow teen idols leap at the opportunity to help her out, instantly offering up their own clothing to save the day. Idol Dreams is fun and frothy, but I’m much more invested in the few scenes between Chikage and Tokita than any of the other men in her life. Tanemura is always good at shifting between more introspective moments and comedic effect freakouts from the characters, and that was definitely on display in this volume.

Idol Dreams, Vol 1

Idol Dreams Volume 1 by Arina Tanemura

I was curious to check out this manga, mostly due to the fact that it is a slightly older skewing shoujo title. Also, the premise, about a 31 year-old office lady going back in time to relive her youth seemed interesting.

The hapless office lady in question is Chikage Deguchi, who is bullied at work. She’s let her 20s pass her by while she’s stuck in a style rut, repressed, and unable to find a boyfriend. Her humiliation is complete when she goes to a high school reunion. She’s humiliated even more at a high school reunion. She manages to make incidental conversation with a classmate named Tokita who happens to be a pharmaceutical rep, but her encounter with her high school crush doesn’t go well at all. Chikage is depressed and determined to end her life, when Tokita rescues her and tells her all about an experimental medication that will allow her to replay her wasted teenage years.

Chikage clearly operates under different human subjects rules than most people in the pharmaceutical industry, as he supplies Chikage with pills that transform her into a 15 year old and then sends her on her way, with instructions to check in often so he can gather data. Of course, as soon as teenage Chikage steps foot on the street, she’s recruited to be a stand-in model opposite the most popular member of a boy band, and thus her career as a budding teen idol begins!

Teen idol Hibiki looks a lot like Chikage’s old crush from her high school days, and she finds herself getting swept up in the life of a teen idol. She’s determined to master the social skills that she didn’t pay attention to as a young teen. The situation of a 31 year old woman in a 15 year old’s body and a 15 year old boy being paired up has the potential for a great deal of creepiness. I wasn’t taking this romance very seriously though, because it is clear that Tokita has an unexpressed crush on Chikage, and he seems to be one of the few men her own age that she can actually talk to without becoming self-conscious. So, even though there might be a bit of a wacky love triangle developing (like the original Amethyst Princess of Gemworld with reverse aging) I’m fairly confident that the romantic resolution to this manga will be non-squicky. We’ll see what happens in the next volume though.

Tanemura is always at her best when drawing super cute people, and the contrast between older Chikage and young idol version Akari is pronounced. I enjoyed seeing the friendship develop between Akari and the other boy band members, but I thought that Chikage’s occasional encounters with Tokita were much more promising in terms of any romance developing. Overall, I thought that this was a promising start to a new series, with the potential for the romance plots to derail and become off-putting. I generally enjoy Tanemura’s manga, and a series set in the world of teen idols is the perfect excuse for her to break out all the stops with the flourishes and detailed costumes that she does so well.