Idols! Lots of weebs love 'em! I...don't really like them.
God knows that this manga isn't making much of an argument to convince me otherwise.
DAYS OF COOL IDOLS! (Seikou Gakuen Idol-gumi!), by Mizuki Watanabe. First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2009.
Tsubasa Nagumo hoped that switching to the prestigious Seikou school would help him get away from his dark past. Before he has a moment to settle in, he's shanghaied into the school's Elite V class. These students live in luxury in trade for working hard as idols, and Tsubasa is being brought in to serve as a stand-in for the agency's top performer Yui Hoshino. Tsubasa has plenty of challenges before him: stalkers, jealous rivals, and his own crippling insecurities. Thankfully, he's got an band of boy idols ready and willing to support him at every turn.
Days of Cool Idols! isn't very good. Part of that may just be personal on my part, as a story all about idol culture isn't all that interesting to me in the first place. The other part may be that what story is here is rote, dull, and shallow.
I pretty quickly got tired of Tsubasa's constant sadsack act. There's never any real explanation as to why he hates himself so much other than some vague implications of bullying and depression, so we're just expected to feel sad for him simply because he feels sad in a generalized sort of way. There's simply no pathos to this kid, and that becomes a problem fast because most of the plot is about others making Tsubasa feel sad and guilty while others boost him with vague platitudes of friendship and support. He's also incredibly passive, as he's dragged along at every point by the plot and by the actions of others, which doesn't help things either.
It's not like the reader can distract themselves from the limp dishrag that is the protagonist by paying attention to the other boys in Elite V. Most of them are interchangeable, and those who aren't are distinguished by such endearing quirks as "constantly tries to sexually assault Tsubasa when he's not wearing his glasses." We're meant to be touched by their concern for Tsubasa, but if I can't even tell them apart then there's no way I'm going to care about if they like someone or not. Their collective blandness manages to puncture any sort of drama this manga has to offer. Who cares about what happens to a bunch of boring nobodies, regardless if they're in a band or not?
Its final failing is one that's all too common to music-related manga: manga doesn't come with audio. Idol music's main appeal is in the (ostensibly) catchy, perky music and the singers' dance routines. Manga can't replicate either of these things well, so what's left to offer? All there seems to be is the particulars of the boys' arrangement with their school, but that only begs more questions than it answers. In addition to the usual contractual stipulations about their public behavior, they are treated like literal assets. No joke; their agency is apparently supported by a fund where investors invest in any given performer, and any drop in their popularity or poor performance makes their value drop like a failing stock certificate. This is kind of dehumanizing, but because Days of Cool Idols! is so poorly written it doesn't even stand out.
The cast and artwork are equally bland here. Watanabe's characters are distinguished only by their dull, glassy eyes and ludicrously tiny mouths. The female designs are passable, while the male ones are so similar that not even alternating hair colors does much to visually distinguish any of the idol boys from one another. The weird thing is that she seems to do her best to crowd them off the page with tiny panels and lots of word bubbles and flatten them by not giving them much shading. Not even the mangaka seems to care that much for her own art!
Days of Cool Idols! doesn't have any glamour, coolness, or interest to offer the reader. It's just another no-name manga, just another bit of flotsam in the wreck of the 2000s manga bubble.
This book was licensed by Go!Comi. It is currently out of print.