18 Best Idol Anime: A List Of The Top Series, RankedThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
The idol genre. This genre is perhaps fairly misunderstood due to it being primarily dismissed as simple music-themed slice-of-life series with “cute girls/guys doing cute things”.
While this is true to an extent, it is just but one facet of the genre.
Generally you don’t expect Death Note levels of plot development here. But there is so much more to the experience of watching a good idol anime than meets the eye.
And so for this article we’ve arranged a good selection of recommended idol anime that you might want to check out, whether you’re already a fan or if you’ve recently become interested in the genre.
But before we get into the list, its rules time for the ranking:
- The anime should present the idols as an official unit/group
- If not, they should be affiliated with a single organization (such as a school)
- Each series on the same franchise can be a different entry
- Both male and female idol anime will be on this one list!
Okay let’s get to it!
18. The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls
When compared directly side by side, the themes introduced by both the first iDOLM@STER and Cinderella Girls are quantifiably the same.
Nothing is wrong with enjoying that of course.
But other viewers might find this a bit unfulfilling if they are expecting a different flavor this time around.
Thankfully the really fun characters make up for this apparent monotony, as well as a good dose of fairly catchy songs that will (hopefully) endear you to their individual quirks.
17. Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love 1000%
If you want an easy-to-digest idol anime with good characters and inspirational musical themes, then look no further.
The special school setting may be utterly redundant even when it was first aired/published (as a game).
But the characters and their individual development throughout the series is well worth the trade. As for the songs, they are pretty okay.
Not the absolute best, but as mentioned earlier, very inspirational.
16. Wake up, Girls!
Most idol anime has only thus far shown very, very short glimpses of the reality of being a pop idol unit in Japan.
Understandable, since that’s not really what draws fans to idol anime.
This series turns this aversion a bit to its head.
There is a significantly higher focus on the drama elements (at least before Shin Shou was aired), as well showing just how cutthroat the Japanese pop idol industry can truly be.
Don’t worry though; you still get a very good dose of adorable interactions, and enough great songs to satiate your melodic appetite.
15. Aikatsu Friends!
There was a lot of pressure for Aikatsu Friends! to keep the level of presentation quality up maintained by the two previous series.
Sadly, due to this, the experience became a bit less than expected.
Don’t get me wrong though, it is still firmly Aikatsu in terms of quality.
But you may not want to hype yourself too much for it.
Song quality is still top-notch as usual. Every series here hits home with that!
Expect a lot of memorable moments when they are performed.
14. The iDOLM@STER SideM
Focusing on the group’s team dynamics has always been a fundamental part of an idol anime.
For SideM, this element becomes even more evident.
While the individual groups sort out their differences and goals, the agency itself also grows, inspiring the rest of the other units as well.
As a bonus, the huge discrepancy in the age of each member also contributes to the level of interactions the show can provide. It doesn’t limit the story much though.
Give SideM a shot sometime, and their songs should give you a pleasant surprise.
13. Macross Delta
As the first Macross anime to feature an idol unit as opposed to individual idols, this would be better suited for this list.
True, the series overall was quite lackluster compared to traditional Macross titles.
But it did introduce viewers to some really nice themes and insert songs. And when combined with its setting and cast of characters, allows it to plow its way through the 13th spot.
12. Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love 2000%
The second season takes off directly from the thematic conclusion of the first season.
The stakes are even higher, and the main male cast are already on their way into growing as an official idol group.
The songs for this season get a significant bump in terms of impression and impact, perhaps due to the evolved themes of following the story’s progression.
If you liked Maji Love 1000%, then chances are you’ll love Maji Love 2000% as well.
One would think that an anime based on an actual idol group would present even more slice-of-life elements to represent it in 2D.
But nope. AKB0048 dives deep into sci-fi of all things.
Think of Macross Delta (the setting, not the story), but more human-centric.
As an idol anime, it could feel a bit over-the-top in some points.
But the sci-fi setting, the represented characters, and even the “revolutionary” plot are all very welcome elements that complement the nice songs introduced throughout the show.
10. Love Live! Sunshine!!
The formula that eventually took the first Love Live! to mainstream fandom was undeniably good, and devilishly efficient.
Understandably, Sunshine tried the same formula again… but only in the beginning.
The series eventually takes a life on its own as different trials challenges Aquors.
After all, the characters of this series wouldn’t be recognized today for their different quirks if the anime really was exactly the same as the first series.
That, and their peppy songs also gave them that very distinct vibe.
9. Love Live! School Idol Project
Enjoying idol anime as a simple slice-of-life series with a musical twist certainly is one way to indulge in the genre.
Probably proven best by Love Live! and its quirky cast of
hobby weirdos colorful students.
But don’t let its light-heartedness fool you. Between its episodic theme song introductions and the entire school idol club doing their own things, the theme of overcoming setbacks and obstacles is still very much present.
And you’ll notice this theme applies both individually and as a group.
At times it’s even intense enough to hold your breath, which you can tell really draws you into the series.
There is just something about the cheesier themes of friendship that always attracts many audiences in one way or another.
PriPara represents that efficiently, with basic character development themes appealing to younger audiences, and cleverer (but still simple) plot quirks that would make older audiences chuckle. And of course, great songs that appeal to any audience.
Just a fair warning though: the “conflict of the week” style of this series might be a bit exhausting for some viewers that prefer a more linear story arc style of progression.
7. Love Live! Sunshine 2nd Season
While the first season struggled from being compared directly to the first Love Live series, the second season is the point where it finally completes its separate transformation.
No longer is it considered as fundamentally similar, apart from the “save the school” usual plan of course.
The girls now contend with different aspirations upon reaching the same goal of making it to the top of Love Live.
Of course, being a new season, there are also a good dose of new awesome Aquors songs for you to listen with.
You just know that a series is already worth watching when character interactions naturally flow with basic, real-life logic, despite being aimed at children.
And I’m just beginning to take a small dip out of the entire pool of goodness that is Aikatsu.
The songs in this show are just so beautifully arranged, both in composition and the timing.
It’s not just emotional and inspirational; it may as well be life-changing. Okay maybe that’s an exaggeration… but you get the point. Definitely worth a watch!
5. Aikatsu Stars!
Remember what I said about the original Aikatsu?
Now bring in some fresh characters, and then turn the dial two more notches up.
After watching the first, some might find the story progression of Aikatsu Stars! to be quite predictable.
However its themes are demonstrably a lot more mature, or at least the conflict could better appeal to older audiences than the previous one.
The songs are just as catchy and thematically sound as usual, although its occasional repetitive use might throw a few viewers off. You may find some songs here you really like though.
4. Zombieland Saga
Entertainment is the technical industry classification of being an idol unit.
However for this anime, the word becomes a completely different entity, with its rather unique take on the popular genre.
You’d either laugh your ass off or cringe very hard at each attempt by the girls to promote themselves and the prefecture that their idol unit represents.
Ironically, because the series provides this comical setting for the girls, it becomes a very easy introductory series to the idol genre.
3. Prism Rhythm: Rainbow Live
Perhaps taking to heart a lot of the notes written down from Aurora Dream, Rainbow Live starts off immediately with a bang.
It improves on a lot of previous series’ negative points, by introducing stronger themes and plot developments (twists) that frankly speaking, might actually be beyond the target age of the series.
But that is precisely what makes it really good.
That, and the characters get enough exposure with the extended number of episodes.
Although the wonderful songs may sound repetitive again as a result.
2. Love Live! School Idol Project 2nd Season
The first season of this anime certainly was interesting and introduced viewers to a new generation of idol characters.
The problem is that it didn’t exactly deviate much from the already established franchises.
The 2nd season changes all of that.
The stakes are higher. The motivations are stronger. Characters feel more genuine.
And the songs, perhaps due to the more inspirational themes of the 2nd season, have an even bigger impact as they’re introduced.
If you were previously disappointed by the first series, give this one a try.
At least you’ll definitely know afterwards if the idol genre is your cup of tea from this series alone(start at season 2 for sure).
1. The iDOLM@STER
Obligatory spot perhaps.
But looking back at this series, we can see the groundwork that has long been established by the original game, as well as other pioneering series that finally introduced the idol unit/troupe concept we know and love today…
The series is essentially a nice and comfy combination of drama, dynamic interactions (both within 765 and with other units), as well as very catchy music.
Most notable of all, it molded the trope of dealing with setbacks and eventually reaching your milestones within the industry it is based upon. A great series well worth checking out.