Phantom of the Idol Volume 7 Review

Yuya Niyodo is possibly the least motivated idol ever. But since his fateful encounter backstage with the very lively ghost of Asahi Mogami (probably the most motivated teenage idol ever, even though she’s dead) the fortunes of the idol duo ZINGS have changed dramatically for the better. Or should that be idol trio? Because whenever Niyodo is possessed by Asahi’s ghost on stage, his lacklustre stage personality disappears and he wows the fans with his (her) bubbly performance. Now inspired by Yakumo-san’s dedication and his earning power (see Volumes 5 and 6 in which they star together in a TV drama) he’s decided that maybe it’s time he put more effort into being an idol.

Which is why we rejoin ZINGS giving a concert at a regional charity event (in Shinomi) that also showcases the vocal talents of Chikage Yura, once in the same group as Asahi but now striking out on her own as a solo singer. The concert’s a success but when the festival committee organizer comes backstage to thank the performers, who should it be but Haruka Niyodo: Niyodo’s mother! However, she’s the complete opposite of her son: lively, energetic, pushy. It’s not just Niyodo who wants to run away when his mother appears. It turns out that ZINGS’s agent, the formidable Hitomi Shinano, knew Yuya’s mother way back when (high school) and her memories of Haruka’s forceful, driving personality are far from happy ones. Up until now she hasn’t realized that her onetime schoolfriend is her client’s mother as Niyodo’s father completed the agency paperwork for their son. But what follows is totally unexpected as Niyodo’s mother says to him in front of everyone, “Yuya! How about you quit all this idol stuff?”

Oddly enough, this motivates Niyodo to go against his mother’s wishes. Nevertheless, she’s soon in touch with Shinano, with the offer of a starring role in a commemorative mini-drama to celebrate Shinomi City’s fiftieth anniversary. Who better than Niyodo to take the part? And Niyodo reluctantly agrees (especially when his acting in the earlier TV drama is praised).

Niyodo finds all this extra work exhausting and in a meeting after a particularly gruelling ‘Talk Session’ with fans, on hearing there’s yet more to come, falls off his chair, hitting his head. But it’s not until much later when he’s alone that he realizes that Asahi is not around. Sure is quiet, he observes to his empty apartment. He’s unused to being on his own and finds the silence without Asahi around unnerving… Has he become totally dependent on her?

Meanwhile, Asahi doesn’t understand what’s gone wrong either. She’s still there but Niyodo seems to be totally unaware of her presence. Panicking, she goes off to see if she can communicate with anyone else (she’s had limited success before with Yura). Is the end of the unique partnership between live idol and ghost?

Phantom of the Idol continues to hold the reader’s attention (as well as being a fun read) as it reaches its seventh volume. This is mostly down to Yuya Niyodo, Hijiki Isoflavone’s unwilling and unmotivated (except by the cash) idol and his ‘unusual’ relationship with the phantom idol, Asahi, who is unable to pass on to the next world because of her passionate love of performing. Add in Yoshino, Niyodo’s good-hearted but much put-upon partner in ZINGS, Asahi-obsessed (and perversely, now, it seems, Niyodo-fan) rival idol singer Setouichi from CGrass, and Chikage Yura, and you have an explosive mix of personalities, bound together (or driven apart) because of their desire to perform. It’s difficult to know how accurate a portrayal of life behind the scenes for a young idol singer in Japan this is but – because we also see ZINGS though the eyes of their most dedicated and long-suffering fans – it often ‘feels’ very authentic.

Mangaka Hijiki Isoflavone’s graphic style has gradually become more refined (in a good way) over the course of these seven volumes and this makes the story easier to follow (in Kodansha’s smaller mass market paperback format, panels felt crowded early on). One of the best features of the manga is Isoflavone’s portrayal of the many tortured expressions of Niyodo when being exhorted to do his best – although Asahi and Niyodo together still deliver some of the best splash pages. Which makes the last chapters of this volume especially poignant. What will happen if they can’t communicate anymore?

Volume 7 is ably translated by Max Greenway and lettered by Michael Martin for Kodansha as before. There are lots of extras: a bonus chapter entitled Exclusive! High Schooler Niyodo Lullaby and a generous helping of bonus 4-koma, as well as Afterflavone, the mangaka’s distinctive take on the usual afterword, fully illustrated. Add in two pages of helpful translation notes and the mangaka’s promise that Volume 8 will follow (not yet out in Japan but maybe this summer?) to complete the package and there’s lots of fun – and drama – to be had in this volume.

Our review copy from Kodansha was provided by Diamond Book Distributors. 

8 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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