In Arina Tanemura's Idol Dreams, Chikage Deguchi's story involves not taking things for granted.
For a title serialized in Melody — a magazine intended for a shoujo (and a sort of josei) audience — there was that moment in Arina Tanemura’s Idol Dreams that made me think back to my childhood, or specifically, back to high school. You know, the time when we’re not sure what we want to be or do in the future? Where we push away what we really want to do until you have to make a decision on going to college or not — a decision we simply take it for granted, and then choose what seems to be appealing at the time?
The “me” at 15 was very much into video games, thinking he could actually get into the game industry through writing, and… mostly convinced about going to school in Redmond, Washington under DigiPen. (Remember DigiPen? Does that still exist?) I never really did enough to get myself into games, and most importantly, I didn’t think too deeply on my future at the time. While I’m not 31 like Idol Dreams protagonist Chikage Deguchi, I always think back, particularly in this job climate, “What if I did X differently instead of Y?” And sometimes wish I could do it all over again.
That’s essentially what it comes down to for Chikage, as she thinks back to her lost days as a 15 year old student. Unlike me, she was extremely popular with her class, serving as class representative and a standout beauty. However, her final moment at that age was rejecting the advances of a lot of boys, including the one she did somewhat like — Haru.
Fast forward I would assume 16 years later, in an age where Twitter and texting on phones is what we do, and Chikage is living literally the normal adult life. No longer is she popular with the boys or girls, but instead, she’s just a cog in the machine, one that does not stand out. That’s why a girl a bit younger than her, Hanami, can captivate some people, enough to hide the fact that she can’t really do her job, whereas Chikage can be blamed by her for doing a poor job, even though she actually is doing her job well enough.
Of course, having to deal with crappy co-workers is something we all have to deal with, so it’s not the biggest deal ever — what is the big deal is having to see your classmates again, and then telling them you’re a regular cog in the machine. Actually, for Chikage, it’s slightly worse than that; she ends up revealing — thanks, ironically enough, to a former delinquent — that’s she’s 31 and a virgin. In today’s society it’s not that big of a deal, but in this case, the big deal is that it’s a class reunion and her former crush is also at the reunion — and that crush laughs?
This is essentially where you start thinking what in general went wrong. Where in life did it all turn for you? Admittedly, there are enough things in the past where I think if I did X, it could change where I would go. For Chikage, 15 was her sweet spot.
So, thanks to her former best friend who also loved her, the hokiest thing happens, and she gets to be 15 again!
Granted, this moment was very dumb for me, but ignoring that part, Idol Dreams is actually a very entertaining manga that puts you on the spot, or is good at taking you back to try and fix what was once broken. Chikage doesn’t just become 15 again — she ends up getting mistaken for a lost model and is picked up by an agent, and subsequently has to be a stand in for a model who up and left. She then has to be in a commercial for one of the most popular idols in Japan, and not surprisingly, it’s a brat with an attitude problem. How exactly does she handle this moment?
She does it once, and attempts to give up on this happening again.
They do say that in life, you need to take risks. Risks can be essential in getting where you want to go. For Chikage Deguchi though, her risk was not over once she took the pills to turn into a kid — she has to keep going in order to figure out what she wants out of her life, or what she thought she wanted at 15, before she can proceed with being 31 any further. And so far, I’m interested to see if she finds out what she wants while attempting to learn how to smile after not smiling apparently for 16 years.