As I’m working on my summer anime schedule (yes I work really far ahead!) I noticed I had two shows in my backlog that had second seasons airing this upcoming season. I decided to put up a poll on the Blazekick, and my own, Twitter pages to see which people would like to see me review, The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls or Non Non Biyori with the first season done now and the second when it finishes. iDOLM@STER was the only one to even get votes and I went into it pretty much completely blind. Let’s see How I felt about it coming out!
Many anime fans out there can probably tell the premise from “idol” being in the title but in case you can’t, the story starts off with a girl named Uzuki Shimamura taking part in some sort of dance class. We learn she went to an idol audition but wasn’t able to make it when a tall man in a suit with glaring eyes enters. He introduces himself as the producer (the only name he ever gets by the way) of he Cinderella Project. This project aspires to take girls living normal lives and turn them into idols. He says they ended up needing 3 more girls than they thought and he liked Uzuki from her audition and came to ask her to join. From what we know of her personality and goals (as well as the OP spoiling it and her being the first introduced character) she jumps on it. The weird part is, she’s the only one of the 3 Producer gets this way.
The second girl is Rin Shibuya (who helps Uzuki pick flowers to celebrate a big change) and Producer pretty much picked her off the street then followed her until she agreed to join him. If you’ve ever seen K-On! you’ll probably be instantly comparing Uzuki to Yui and Rin to Mio (at least I did). Uzuki is a lot smarter than Yui and Rin isn’t easily scared but other than that the almost fit perfectly. The last of the main trio (even though all the girls are considered main I’ll say these are the main trio because they get the most focus) is named Mio Honda and is got by holding another audition! Why all the girls weren’t either gotten through this method or the method used to get Uzuki I have no idea but it all obviously works out in the end.
Something I normally hate is when anime has a large cast of characters all introduced at once (I dropped Kancolle for that reason). If too many characters are introduced at once I have issues telling who is who. Aside from our 3 main idols and Producer, we have the entire cast introduced pretty much right at once and, while I groaned when it happened, I actually didn’t have too much issue with it. Not only do they all clearly get something that sticks out about them but through-out the show they each get significant screen time as well. Just going through quickly here we have Anastasia (Anya) a Russian girl who isn’t very good at Japanese and speaks softly, Miria Akagi she likes to talk a lot and I found her to be quite hyper, Anzu Futaba, a lazy girl that sleeps a lot, hates work and looks the youngest at first but is actually 17 (one of the oldest!), Rika Jougasaki, another hyper one, she has a sticker collection (that I don’t recall ever actually seeing), Ranko Kanzaki, a middleschooler currently going through the “chuunibyou” (middle school syndrome) faze that can draw really well, Miku Maekawa, again hyper but really likes cats, Kanako Mimura, likes making, eating and sharing sweets, Kirari Moroboshi, super tall and “older sister” type personality, Minami Niita, the leader, Chieri Ogata, the only one I can’t think of anything for (neither can MAL apparently) she appears to get scared of things easier but I wouldn’t say that’s a personality trait for her, and finally Riina Tada, obsessed with rock music. That’s a lot and get used to them, they all have quite a bit of screen time!
My main issue is this show doesn’t seem to want to know what genre it wants to be. While I have no issues with putting other genre’s moments into your show I don’t feel iDOLM@STER did a good job of it. We start off slice-of-life, go really heavy drama for 2 episodes then back to slice-of-life. It’s almost off-putting. I also didn’t like the repeated use of Producer being arrested for “looking creepy” as a plot point. Off the top of my head it happened 3 times and all except maybe one could have had the same result without relying on the police. I also really wish Producer actually got a name. Aside from that the order and way the idol units debuted was weird. Why were the main 3 (also the newest) debuted first? Why was Ranko alone? How did they even decide how the groups were split up? How did the lazy girl who always sleeps become an idol (why’d she even audition, was she picked up off the street like Rin?) I actually would have liked to have seen some of the behind the scenes for this stuff. One last thing is I found it weird the girls continued going to normal schools after even debuting. The building is huge with a spa included so why not a classroom? I know the culture is different but imagine your classmate releases a successful CD and stays in your class and from what I can tell none of the schools we see are particularly fancy or expensive.
Now good things! I really liked all the characters. I can’t think of a single one I didn’t even somewhat like, and that’s including anyone who showed up in multiple episodes. I also liked the comedy. I felt all the jokes worked well and even if I didn’t laugh at every single one none of them were awkward. Something else I liked and was also surprised by was each idol unit got its own episode leading into its debut and they were all different. One final thing is how each episode that focused on an idol unit changed the credits song to their song. It was a nice touch.
The visuals are nice to look at with everything being nice and fluid. They aren’t anything special though. There is nothing particularly special about the visuals in the show. That being said, they weren’t bad. I did like the costumes although again, some of them were kinda, lacking? It felt really weird having a 14 year old on stage dancing around with very little clothing. The costumes were well designed though.
In an anime based almost entirely around music this category now takes almost top priority. If you don’t like the music you’re likely not going to like the anime. Luckily for me I did like the music. It was all very J-pop so if you don’t normally like J-pop you probably won’t like it here. The singers also did a good job. I haven’t gone through and listened to any of the songs they did outside of the anime (I’m assuming more as the last episode advertised CDs by a couple of the groups). The voice actors all did a good job in both the singing and acting part. Actors that have been in previous shows I’ve seen sounded different and I couldn’t say “That’s ___ from ___” for any of them (keep in mind I haven’t seen every show they’ve been in so you might not have this experience). What especially surprised me was Producer’s actor is actually younger than me born 1997.