As the third installment in the Aikatsu! franchise, Aikatsu Friends! is the second spinoff/reboot title of the overall series following the heels of Aikatsu Stars!. The series began on April 5, 2018, a week after Stars! concluded its own anime run, and concluded on September 26, 2019 with overall 76 episodes.
Here, the story follows Aine Yuuki, a girl who is great at making friends and enrolls in Star Harmony Academy's general course. She quickly ends up befriending Mio Minato, the school's top idol, becoming an idol herself, and starting her own idol activities.
The series brings back units (called "Friends" here), an element that was largely missing from Stars!, as the main characters each form their own groups, and the protagonist duo is a pair unit.
April 4, 2019 saw a minor Time Skip for its second season, Kagayaki no Jewel, made to promote the game of the same name. With Aine and her friends now in high school, they face all new challenges with a new idol to face and the ever elusive Jewel Dress.
On October 5, 2019 , this series was replaced with a show called Aikatsu On Parade!, a spin-off to Friends! and multi-series Crossover, starring Star Harmony Academy’s New Transfer Student Raki Kiseki. and it was replaced with Aikatsu Planet! on January 10, 2021.
This series contains examples of:
- Alleged Lookalikes: Though Sakuya and Kaguya are twin sisters, their hair colors are reversed, they wear different hair accessories, and they have different personalities making it easy to tell them apart. Despite this, on first meeting with Kaguya, Mio is confused and believes she's speaking with Sakuya.
- Alternate Character Reading: The two main characters, Aine and Mio, both have first names that can be derived from the same kanji (愛音), translating to "love sound", further establishing their connection.
- Alternate Universe: Despite being advertised as a multi-series crossover, Aikatsu On Parade! takes place in the alternate universe of Friends!, where the new protagonist still exist. The characters and the universe of the original Aikatsu! and Stars! are actually an alternative version and not the main one. It doesn’t help that both Friends! and On Parade! share the exact same staff, notably the character designer.
- Bland-Name Product: Tomostagram (Literally "Friendstagram") and AiTube being thinly veiled Instagram and Youtube knock-offs.
- Central Theme: The Power of Friendship. Not like other Aikatsu! properties haven't relied upon it before, but the tagline for this series states that it's a series about "Aikatsu you can do with your Friends!" emphasizing its importance in the new story.
- Hair-Contrast Duo: Aine, having pink and yellow hair, and Mio, having blue and purple hair. Aine's inexperienced and just starting out on her journey to becoming an idol, while Mio's experienced and already well-known. They both form a pair unit together.
- Idol Singer: One of the series' main themes.
- Light/Darkness Juxtaposition: Reflect Moon and its members, Sakuya and Kaguya, have this type of contrast going on. Invoked in series as Kaguya's brand, Moon Maiden, was made as a direct complement to Sakuya's Luna Witch. Moon Maiden features outfits using bright colors like white and gold as a base, while Luna Witch emphasizes black and dark blue.
- Odd Friendship: The current three Friends units consist of three pairs of these.
- Aine is very outgoing and makes friends with everyone she meets easily. Mio's more reserved and keeps to herself.
- Maika and Ema have an episode dedicated to their unit being formed that shows them being unable to agree on anything, but this difference between them makes them a perfect match for each other.
- Karen is reserved, polite, and comes from a wealthy family. Mirai's got explosive taste, is heavily involved in social media, and is much bubblier.
- Revisiting the Roots: From a design perspective, the character design, logo design, etc. is closer to the original series than Aikatsu Stars!. The emphasis on the friends theme is also closer to the original series and wasn't quite as prevalent in Stars.
- Theme Naming: All of the members in Aine's family have a name that ends in 'ne'.
- To Be a Master: The goal of this series for the idols is to reach Diamond Friends status. Karen and Mirai have already accomplished this feat.
- The Worf Effect: The Brilliant Friends Cup had Baby Pirates, the previous finalists against Love Me Tear, and Pure Palette (Aine and Mio's group said to be quickly rivaling Love Me Tear) competing. Both teams are quite decisively defeated by Reflect Moon, consisting of Sakuya who only recently debuted and Kaguya who was debuting for the first time.