As of 2013, tourism constitutes around 1 percent of Canada’s GDP, and this figure is expected to grow in the future. Canada is blessed with an incredibly diverse range of geographical features, ranging from the old growth rainforests in Western British Columbia, to the Rocky Mountains and East Coast; international visitors travel around Canada to experience these landscapes. Besides landscapes, there are also historical and cultural attractions to explore in Canada’s major cities. Canada probably won’t experience a tourism decline to the same magnitude as Nagarekawa, a problem that Nanako’s uncle, one of the municipal officers in the area, is tasked with figuring out how to rectify. He comes up with the notion of “Locodols”, or Local Idols, thus beginning Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita ( lit. “Normal High School Girls Tried Being Local Idols”, abbreviated “Locodol” for short), which sees Nanako Usami’s participation in the Locodol program together with Yukari Kohinata.
- I’m coming right out of a talk about how K-On! had a non-trivial influence on anime, and to drive that point home, I’ll kick off with a post about Locodol, which fits in with the artistic and stylistic choices that were so prevalent in K-On!. Besides music, the characters have a moé design to them, and their interactions are meant to give them an endearing feeling.
- Unfortunately, at this stage in time, I only know the names of the Locodols, and as such, I have no idea who Nanako’s friends are. Nanako is characterised by her shyness at times, but when she’s got her mind on something, she can also be determined, as well.
- Nanako’s mother and uncle are shown here: for the want of a swimsuit so she may attend the local swimming pool’s grand re-opening, Nanako agrees to help her uncle in promoting interest for the Nagarekawa region and kicks off the entire program.
- Yukari is one year Nanako’s senior and takes an immediate liking to the latter; Yukari comes across as giving off a mature aura not dissimilar to Lucky Star‘s Miyuki Takara and Girls und Panzer‘s Hana Izusu, all of whom have an elegant air about them.
- Despite getting stagefright and losing her place in a presentation quite easily, Nanako nonetheless manages to make the most of her debut performance. The two successfully captivate the pool’s attendees by singing Nagarekawa’s theme song. Compare and contrast this with Calgary’s theme song, which is one of the few cities I know of to actually have their own song.
- Yukari and Nanako’s first performance also marks the beginning of a new friendship. Locodol is a four-panel manga that began in 2011, and as such, it is hardly any surprise that it has the feel of a laid-back, easygoing anime. In response to those who believe that moé anime are harmful to the industry, I would say that as long as the four-panel manga format exists, moé anime will exist.
- This is because the four-panel format is intended to convey a sense of comedy, rather like Alfonso Wong’s Old Master Q comics; the Old Master Q series were largely about humorous situations, but also occasionally gave social commentary on Hong Kong society between the 60s and 80s. Returning to Locodol, Yukari comments that their role as local idols might be better seen as community service, as they are working towards promoting awareness of the Nagarekawa region in addition to entertaining audiences.
- One of the girls’ earliest assignments after performing at the pool’s re-opening is to review local cuisine; Nanako remarks that this could be fun and imagines herself with Yukari, reviewing upscale steak, before wondering about her relative lack of table manners. On the day of filming, she is shocked to learn that the vendor they’ll be reviewing first is someone she finds scary.
- Despite her initial reservations, Nanako thoroughly enjoys the sweets the vendor makes, giving him an honest, glowing review and bringing to mind Minami’s (of Wake Up, Girls!) excitement wherever food is concerned.
- Nanako pays Yukari a visit; because the latter’s never had friends visit before, she decides to go all out in making Nanako’s stay as enjoyable as possible. It is here that viewers find out that Yukari’s family has an affluent background, and during the course of the visit, enjoys conversation with Nanako.
As the first of the new reflections/review format, we consider what Locodol has done three episodes in, rather than immediately after the series starts, and at the end, decide if this is something I will continue following. Insofar, Nanako and Yukari have participated in some of the same things as WUG in Wake Up, Girls!, including reviewing local cusines and acting as the image for services in Nagarekawa. As an idol anime, Locodol plays things with a significantly more easy-going feel compared to Wake Up, Girls!: the latter presented a gritter take on the entertainment industry, but in Locodol, because Nanako’s uncle is the manager and director for tourism, the family and political connections means that Nanako and Yukari get to sing and dance at their own pace without the demands of a cut-throat industry. Thus, Locodol depicts none of the sleeze and challenges seen in Wake Up, Girls!, instead, falling back on comedy to drive things forwards. Between the comedy and propensity towards fanservice, Locodol manages to keep things interesting thus far.
- This is the owner of the store from earlier; thanks to Nanako and Yukari, he’s seen a boost in business and is immensely thankful for their efforts. Strictly speaking, the concept of local idols would work rather nicely for small towns
- Uogokoro-kun is introduced in the third episode as Nagarekawa’s mascot, designed to evoke the area’s vast water resources. Despite appearing a little off-putting at first, Uogokoro-kun soon grows on viewers. A problem with the voice module means that the individual in this suit will sound a little funny, but on their first appearance, Yukari manages to pass it off as a cold, giving the children a solid impression of both the idols and Uogokoro-kun.
- It turns out that Uogokoro-kun’s operator is eighteen-year-old Yui Mikoze, who wishes to be an idol despite her fear of facing an audience. To this end, she prefers being in costume, entertaining audiences with her flips and later on, break-dancing.
- Despite being older than Nanako, Yui feels that because she’s been an idol longer, Nanako is the senior, even though at school, Nanako regards Yui as the senior. Upon closer inspection, note the washing-out and light texturing in the backgrounds, and how the characters are coloured normally with a greater intensity. This style could be deliberate to place an emphasis on the characters, who are the stars of the show (as opposed to the scenery).
- Nanako feels a little locked out of the loop after learning that they’ve now an official group name: “Nagarekawa Girls”. Originally set to be named “Nagarekawa Dynamite Girls”, it seems that Nanako’s uncle managed to talk his higher ups out of that to go with the simpler name. By this point in time, despite having performed at a few events, Nanako still seems a little uncomfortable with seeing her images over the local news.
- Nanako’s friends do not see her as being an idol: in Japan, idols are manufactured stars who have some talent in music and performing arts, intended to act as good role models for their audiences. However, lacking a uniform and the kawaii personality, Nanako feels more like an ordinary high school student; this is the series’ full title, and I look forward to seeing what the girls perform in the future.
- With a formal name and uniforms, Nagarekawa Girls finally begins to take shape: I will refer to them as such thence, since it beats typing out Yukari and Nanako’s names everytime; should the group grow, it will become even more cumbersome.
- The dark conditions do not arise from a capturing fault on my part: on the day of their performance, it’s overcast, and shortly into the show, the rain hits, prompting the audience to take cover from the performance. It strikes me as a little strange, but Yukari, Yui and Nanako have had minimal practise. Despite this, they put on a solid performance that captivates the viewers, at least until rainfall.
- Spurred on by the moment, Nanako strips to her swimsuit and does the same to Yukari; I’ve opted to choose the screenshots that are the most acceptable provided the blog’s aim to remain family-friendly, and as such, closeups of Yukari’s assets, however pleasing to the eye they might be, won’t typically be included. Readers wishing to see more of that sort of thing are always free to put in requests, and I’ll include more screenshots of such 😉
- By rising to the occasion, Nanako turns their performance around and raises the audience’s spirits. Even while riding under the stress of being funded by taxpayer money, Nagarekawa Girls nonetheless exceed expectations. Thus ends this post: next up will be talks on Rail Wars! and Deer Hunter 2014, to be completed before the week ends. As it stands now, I’ve fallen quite far behind in the Summer 2014 anime, so I’ll prioritise getting a talk out for Rail Wars! first, since those are pretty rare. Sword Art Online II and Aldnoah.Zero are this season’s heavy hitters and are reasonably well-covered, so I’ll wait until the dust settles before offering my own thoughts on those series. The timeline for those will be early August, which will also see a talk on Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket.
After three episodes, it does not seem likely that the entertainment industry’s dark side will make an appearance here, so Locodol will probably fulfil the role that GochiUsa held for the Spring 2014 season, acting as a friendly, warm series that brings joy to those who are seeking such an anime. Of course, one must wonder what is likely to happen in the future: logically, the scale of the concerts will become greater, and as episode three already sees the inclusion of a new member, Yui Mikoze, it’s also likely that additional idols could join. However, as Yukari mentions, the small size of Nagarekawa Girls is its current advantage right now, giving the group a more closely-knit feeling to it. Moreover, insofar, despite their jobs, Yukari and Nanako still feel like ordinary high school students, so it’ll be quite interesting to see how they adapt to their roles as idols. For the present, though, I’m quite content to continue following Locodol and seeing where things go.