Chika Chika Idol

Director Hiroshi Nishikiori is looking for crowdfunding fans to fund his new CG anime short, CHIKA CHIKA IDOL. This will be the first film by Symphonium, a production studio created by Nishikiori and Yasutake Honjo in July of last year. The studio has hired a lot of talented designers, CG artists, sound specialists and voice actors to turn this Idol-centric project a reality. However, Nishikiori wants to expand upon the 4 minute promotional video that Symphonium has produced and create a 15 minute video that the studio hopes will become an anime series. Of course, this all starts with raising the $130,000 USD to fund the complete short which will introduce the world to the three wannabe Idols.

CHIKA CHIKA IDOL centers around the band Pâtithree as they try and breakout of the chika, aka underground, scene and into the spotlight of the Tokyo scene. The band is made up of three performers: energetic Tenka (voiced by Marika Kono), dedicated Sumi (Yuki Kuwahara), and over-curious Abigail (Rika Tachibana). The band is supported by their down-to-earth manager Hisame (Ayane Sakura) and Tenka’s chubby calico Yataro (Yuri Yamaoka). The short will follow Pâtithree getting ready for their very first performance and the hijinks and friendships that happen before and after their big night. You can see the cute interactions the band and their idol wrangling manager have in the promotional video. The annoyed older sister relationship that Sumi has with the more immature Tenka and Abigail is definitely going to be played for a lot of humour.

The good news is that if you find these characters interesting, Symphonium have translated a bunch of their manga that tells the story of how the members of Pâtithree first met. The official CHIKA CHIKA IDOL site has all the English pages collected here for easy access. The comic was put together by Mochiko Kagamino who also serves as the character designer of the project. He’s a talented man since the designs of the girls (and the cat) are quite eye catching and radiate with personality, especially in the videos.

Chika Chika Idol
Seriously, look at that CG cel-shaded art.

The cel-shaded CG style that is used to bring Pâtithree and their first concert to life is the most impressive aspect of this campaign. Takafumi Gorai’s direction mixed with Yu Wakabayashi’s DOP work and Koi Irie’s colors has created a vibrant world with an animation technique generally only seen in video games. And those cel-shaded games still look great today due to a strange timelessness that usually is reserved for stunning sprite graphics.

The music in CHIKA CHIKA IDOL is unsurprisingly well produced by sound director Hiroshi Nishikiori. Unfortunately only one song is available to listen to but it has that sugary pop energy that is to be expected from an Idol anime or video game. This track wouldn’t be out of place in Hyderdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection for instance.

Chika Chika Idol
Now that’s a band pic!

While a lot of the staff names working for Symphonium are unknown to my Western eyes, a few of the credentials of these talented individuals did stand out. For example the director of photography Yu Wakabayashi has worked on Ghost in the Shell: Arise while the sound production team Studio Mouse has worked on a favorite of mine, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. And with the voice cast, Rika Tachibana who plays Abigail here provided the voice of Sae Kobayakawa in The Idolm@ster Cinderella GirlsThe most interesting credentials in my eyes was from one of the founders of Symphonium Yasutake Honjo. The producer /screenwriter of this project has written some visual novels such as Resign and Seifuku Tenshi. More notably, the latter bishoujo game won the ‘Best New Brand’ in the Moe Game Award 2012. The fact that these awards exist in the first place is pretty awesome.

With just under two weeks left, CHIKA CHIKA IDOL still has a long way to go. It’s currently only raised over 10% of the $130,000 dollars on the Kickstarter campaign. Symphonium is also using a Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake and that version has raised about 21% of it’s 15,000,000¥ (approximately $132,500 USD) goal with 19 days left. The English crowdfunding page is offering rewards like $25 for the digital anime, $55 for the limited edition Blu-ray, $300 for solo tracks from all three members of Pâtithree, and $5000 for the ability to be drawn into the manga as a character.

Chika Chika Idol
The brash Sumi tells it like it is… for an Idol.

And while it does seem like a lot to ask for only a 15 minute short, director Nishikiori explains that because ‘anime is commonly viewed for free around the world, making Blu-ray and DVD sales (the main source of revenue for anime production) very difficult’. There will also be 30 minutes of bonus content for the short (hopefully showing how they make those beautiful CG cel-shaded graphics) and the completed project will hopefully pave the way for more Pâtithree. But you should watch the promotional short, listen to the music track and read the comic before you decide if you want to donate to see if this campaign is music to your ears. The Kickstarter will end on March 23, at 8:00 pm EST.

Leif Conti-Groome
Leif Conti-Groome is a writer/playwright/video game journalist whose work has appeared on websites such as NextGen Player, Video Game Geek and DriveinTales. His poem Ritual won the 2015 Broadside Contest organized by the Bear Review. While he grew up playing titles such as Final Fantasy VI and Super Double Dragon, he doesn’t really have a preference for genre these days except for Country; that’s a game genre right? Leif’s attention has been more focused on the burgeoning communities of niche Japanese titles, eSports and speedruns. He currently resides in Toronto, Canada and makes a living as a copywriter.