IDOLS@SCHOOL! The MNL48 iSchool Review: Episode 1

Hello, and welcome to the inaugural IDOL@SCHOOL review! Just like the Hallo Hallo Café reviews that I do, this will cover every episode of one of MNL48’s YouTube miniseries: iSchool.

This is going to be different from my usual Hallo Hallo Café reviews as for one, this has a longer running time than the HHC episodes, so only one episode per review because reviewing two episodes in one sitting would be more time-consuming.

In terms of production quality, this was a step up from what they had with Hallo Hallo Café as for one, the video quality is consistent and I was able to download all 65 episodes in 720p and there are no weird camera angles, so they learned their lesson from early HHC for that one.

The “school” setting, on the other hand, is a bit quaint na parang they’ve just made a makeshift room in some real school in Cubao, more on that later, and with how the set is constructed, it looks like Channel Awesome made it and not HHE but then again, the budget HalloHallo allotted for iSchool isn’t $90,000 so HHE is still in the clear (if you want to know why I keep referencing Channel Awesome in these reviews, search for Pop Quiz Hotshot on YouTube and you’ll know why).

The format is pretty straightforward, PR specialist Anne-sensei will be the homeroom teacher for 8 of the oshimen and based on what I’ve seen here, they’re going to treat this class seriously as there are exams after each lesson just like, you know, regular school.

Today’s Lesson: I.D.O.L. Part 1

Anne-sensei made the girls give definitions on each letter of the word “idol” and these are what the girls came up with:

Uh, sensei… idol isn’t spelled with double Ds and double Os.

Inspiration Determination

Dedication Optimism

Obedient Lovable

This must be a gaffe on Anne’s part but I think that the I.D.O.L. acronym suffered from the Sports Entertainment Extreme syndrome. Coined from the infamous Vince Russo-led TNA wrestling faction, this is when, if you look at things, an acronym is spelled, intentionally or unintentionally, wrong to achieve the certain effect (hence the Extreme in Sports Entertainment is spelled with an X instead of an E thus making the acronym spell S.E.X. instead of S.E.E.). In this case though, it’s unintentional since dedication and determination are meant to be interchangeable (same goes with optimism and obedient) thus it becoming I.D.O.L. instead of I.D.D.O.O.L.

Now onto the acronym itself, it gives off that vibe similar to Weekly Shonen Jump’s “Friendship! Effort! Victory!” motto and at times, it represents what is wrong with idol culture.

Sure, being a role model to everyone and being determined and dedicated to reach your goals and having an optimistic worldview is fine and all and it doesn’t only apply to being an idol but in your everyday life but in obedience and lovability is where Japanese idol capitalism ™ comes in.

Going back to the “idols you can meet” concept, the companies who manage these idols can use their dedication and obedience to exploit the very people they manage and, due to their willingness to be lovable and a little bit of naïveté, the idols will be forced to accept everything with a smile. This is why the “love ban” thing is in place.

Also, to comment on what Ash said, in regards to “ang idol dapat palaging nakangiti”, has she seen Wink? The reason why I am asking the great Ashley Cloud if she has seen Wink is that the duo became popular in the 1980s and not even once they smiled (until their last year in 1996) and so as idols, they can choose not to smile if they need to but unless the management said so, they can’t do that.

There are some funny bits here like Tin’s facial expression when she got inside the classroom or how Ella was dared by Anne-sensei to make the whole class smile in three seconds or how Abby, for whatever reason, told everyone that they should obey the laws of the land (it’s funny because of what will happen with the political situation of the country in two years).

Anne-sensei can be cringy at times, dropping some hugots during the lesson (then again, hugots are not my cup of tea. See my review of Hallo Hallo Café episode 6) and at the same time, she can be a bit scary, in a strict teacher way not in a terror teacher type, must be the voice.

Her get up reminds and claims of being an idol herself, she reminded me of Ritsuko Akizuki of IDOLM@STER’s 765PRO group, giving that older idol look compared to guys like Sela and our friend, Alice.

The “school uniforms” remind me of the Kawaii5 uniforms in HHC, short plaid skirts and a pink blouse with a ribbon on the neck part. They could’ve copied a bit more of the Kawaii5 wardrobe because I’d think they’ll look even more gorgeous with a blazer on top of their outfit but I think considering the sweltering heat in Cubao, they decided to scrap that idea.

Great camera work, thanks Kurosawa!

Cliffhangers aren’t usually employed on shows like iSchool but with this one, with how they pulled it off was so amazing that it will leave you at the edge of your seats and it only took Anne-sensei’s words to do exactly just that kasi sinabi niya na dito malalaman ng mga oshi, and with the people who watch on YouTube, na either papasa sila sa exam or hindi and it can cost them their chances of being in MNL48. The only thing that ruined the allure of the cliffhanger for me is, the previews for the next episode and although it didn’t say much, it lessened the allure of cliffhanger bit.

The exams also gave us the best camera work HHE has done so far by giving us a time lapse of the oshimen taking the exam with a shot of a clock superimposed on it. Amazing piece of cinematography there and it’s only used on something as “small” as iSchool. Just imagine the camera work they used on ICYMI, which by the way, release the damn thing already on ABS-CBN and while we’re at it, give us all two seasons of Laugh Out Loud, and/or the first MNL48 concert.

I plan not to rate this episode alone in terms of the subject matter because of the two-parter but if I have to, for the presentation alone, it’s going to be a 5 out of…no, wait, this is a school themed miniseries, so let’s give it a rating suitable for a miniseries of this type.

MarksEnglish Translation
AVery Good

As for this episode, for the production quality and the presentation of the episode alone, the final grade would be A. How it presented the school in iSchool was handled quite well. Anne-sensei really felt like a high school teacher, teaching our oshimen how to become Jpop idols in a country dominated by Kpop, lo-fi hip hop and frat boy acoustic ballads and the camera work is great.

Decent enough but that frigging window! It’s sooo cheap looking.

What it aced in the presentation, it lacked in the production quality and when I say production quality, I meant, first and foremost, the setting. They could’ve made the classroom a bit better but don’t expect that to happen as for one, this isn’t something they plan on airing on national TV so the budget is pretty low compared to TV shows in PH and this is being produced every two days so there’s no time to fix the set.

That’s it for now! See ya next time for more IDOLS@SCHOOL and Hallo Hallo Café reviews. This Friday or Saturday (depending on when can I upload the next review), we’ll take a look on a pre-Evangelion, post-Gunbuster GAINAX OVA: the 1992 OVA mockumentary, Otaku no Video.

Sidenote: I did a reverse image search of the school, and it turns out HalloHallo used a stock image of Don Bosco’s yard and it’s not the school in Cubao that I think of when I saw the image for the first time (Roosevelt College). Good thing for them to censor Don Bosco’s name to prevent any “conflict of interest”. Click on the image to see the uncensored photo.

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