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Friday, June 15, 2018

Selah's Manga Mania: Idol Dreams, Vol. 1 by Arina Tanemura

by Arina Tanemura
November 3, 2015
192 pages
Shojo Beat
Volumes: 4 (ongoing)
Genre: romance, YA, fantasy
At age 31, office worker Chikage Deguchi feels she missed her chances at love and success. When word gets out that she’s a virgin, Chikage is humiliated and wishes she could return to the time when she was still young and popular. She takes an experimental drug that changes her appearance back to when she was 15. Now Chikage is determined to pursue everything she missed out on all those years ago—including becoming a star!

So one of the interesting things about English translations is that sometimes the ratings get a little jumbled. At least at my library, I’ve found Josei shelved with shojo and sometimes it doesn’t really matter. Other times, eeeeeeeeh. This series isn’t all that explicit, but the subject matter falls into the same kind of uncomfortable that Big and Thirteen Going on Thirty fall into. Yet somehow more so. This week, we take a look at Idol Dreams.

Chikage is an office worker and is 31. A lot is made of the fact that she’s mousey, an introvert, so of course she’s a virgin, because apparently getting de-hymenized is a cure-all for everything that ails ya. She feels embarrassed and alone, and reminisces about how popular and confident she was at 15, and how great it would be if she could be that age again. Through an old friend, she takes an experimental drug that zaps her back to 15 for a set amount of time each time she takes it. And she ends up inadvertently becoming a pop star because of course that’s a thing that happens.

So okay. While I don’t overtly despise this as much as Black Bird, this is also a hard one for me. I’ve made it through four volumes of this…thing, so let’s break it down point by point.
The good: The story itself, if divested from a lot of social issues, is not that bad. I like the interplay of 15-year—old Chikage accidentally stumbling into being an idol, the triangle set up between her and the two male idols she falls in with.

The bad: it’s also freaking creepy when your brain snaps back and you realize that this woman is actually 31 and is developing legit feelings for these boys. She thinks about them while at her office job. It’s kind of tempered with a nostalgic aspect, but still….lady, you are 31. You should not be dating minors, I don’t care how old you are after you take a pill.

The good: You see Chikage slowly try to resolve her adult life and relationships/exchanges as she has more positive interactions as a 15-year-old.

The bad: few of these people get that she’s talking about 15-year-old boys when she mentions relationships. Also, one of the two adult men she’s in a triangle with is kind of a jerk, and the other has a girlfriend but still carries a torch for her. This is the damn weirdest, most convoluted setup.

The good: you have the obligatory ‘oh no I’m changing back moments’ that are some fun comedy

The bad/eh: there’s really not a lot of them, though? A lot of this is more the emotional effects these experiences are having on her, and as of volume four I’m getting the vibe that she just wants to be 15 forever even though she has no one in her life to look out for her anymore and would basically be at the mercy of the music industry.

The other big problem: I get cultural differences, but can we just say that at this point in time, no one should be ashamed to be an office worker at 30. Some people strive to be that. Chikage is obviously making enough to live on her own, which is an achievement. So what if she’s an introvert? So what if she’s shy and a workaholic? She’s showing that she has good instincts in the publishing firm she works for as of volume four and that there are people who appreciate her. Really, to show that she’s a “loser” we get the obligatory comparison of her vs the stacked gorgeous coworker who goes through men and flirts her way through life.

I’m not saying either one are bad, btw. But they’re two very cliché types and they’re played in the worst possible way.

Plus there’s the whole loser if you’re a virgin thing. Seriously? It is 2018, do we not have any other cliché trope to toss around by now? Is sexual status still the be all end all? It just seems a really weird thing to make a core aspect of a character who is not determined to be a nun from birth, and it’s especially disappointing to see it used to negatively. 
The ick: Really, my biggest beef is that both Chikage plotlines suck you in…as separate things. If it wasn’t the same person, it would be fine. They could be cousins, sisters comparing notes and learning from each other, anything. I truly don’t get the need for the age changing other than it’s a trope often played for laughs. I enjoy both storylines, but the moment I remember they’re the same person or see Chikage at 15 thinking about her adult suitors or Chikage at 31 thinking about her teen suitors it just…ew. As a whole, I don’t find any of this romantic or uplifting. And I’d blame my age, but josei is kind of meant for my age bracket. Given that I’m within range of the lead character, I just find it all particularly a bit lazy and creepy. She’s not old. She’s not used up. She’s not a loser. If you reframed a lot of this there would be no need for her to take the de-aging pills. There’s no need as it is – she just needs some confidence and to be around some men who aren’t committed or aren’t jerks and to work in a publishing firm that appreciates her. Plus, you get the sense that she isn’t fully doing this for herself…or if she is she’s doing it to make other people like her or to get to a point where they will, which just plays into the whole ‘be a certain way so dudes will like you’ thing. So romantic, this title.

Rating: This is a hard one, because I do get invested in both aspects of the story. I think more fun is had with Chikage at 15, but I feel for older Chikage. If it wasn’t for the underlying creepiness of the story, I’d give it a much higher rating. As it is, I’m going to have to go with 2.5 sheep.

About the Author:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

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