765 Production Studio manages the unique talents of 13 professional idols as they slowly make their way to the top and become country-wide celebrities. But the girls' journey is far from just fun and games: hard work, sweat, and tears are some of the prerequisites needed to flourish in this industry—and for 765 Pro in particular, a watchful eye out for their rival, the infamous 961 Production.
As the girls' fame grows, however, their time together as a family diminishes, and now the very popularity they sought is threatening to tear them apart. A difficult balance of work and bonding must be achieved, or they risk everyone going their separate ways. The personal and professional ordeals of these idols can't be conquered alone, but with each other's loving support, any obstacle or hardship can be overcome!
When one gets to point where they begin disregarding anime because they have too many girls on their front poster, it's probably time to take moment and re-evaluate. Granted, I've forced myself to sit through so many generic harems, rom-coms and ecchis these past few years that it has almost become reflexive of me to steer clear of any anime which possibly looks like it may contain any one of the aforementioned three. It was only natural then when I saw the poster of The Idolm@ster, an ensemble of 13 cute girls gawking up at me, that alarm bells tripped off in my head like
fire sirens at a pyromaniac's convention. Only due to vigorous recommendations did I reluctantly pick up the series later on.
Proverbial justice looks down on the pretentiously knowledgeable, or so it would seem. My transition from skepticism to fanboyism was swift. Within episodes I was converted, all preconceived doubts I harboured for the series unfounded or long forgotten. I almost felt ashamed, my predictions of meaningless plot and mindless ecchi not only completely wrong, but also reflected the conceited critic that I had become. The Idolm@ster humbled me, never again shall I judge an anime at face value.
The Idolm@ster follows story of 765 productions, a small time idol agency and their road to stardom and success. The narrative of each episode are alike but flexible, each one generally focuses on the backstory of one character, but also contains plenty of interwoven exposition of various other characters so that no episode can really be considered standalone. The general theme of each episode often revolves around a character issue or weakness, some form drama arises from this issue, which is then eventually resolved with the character experiencing some kind of revelation or growth. In many episodes the show cleverly relates the story to a broader context; for example the episode "Everything Starts with One Courageous Step" refers both to Yukiho's small step in facing her phobia, and the day's events as 765 production's first step towards their future.
There are times where the structure of each episode feels a little formulaic, however this is largely offset by the large variety of different stories the show offers. The tone of the stories are what I like to call very PG-13 esque, many of the problems and struggles are grounded in realism, but airbrushed with a heavy hint of optimism. Whilst the drama does get quite heavy towards the later stages of the anime, you can always rest assured that there will be a happy conclusion. In fact, the entire overarching theme of the anime seem to revolve the simple ideas of happiness and optimism which it conveys well, sometimes to a fault.
The characters of course are, quite literally, the stars of the show. It quickly becomes apparent how unexpectedly deep the characterization for these girls go. Each character is unique and Idolm@ster goes out of it's way to make sure these girls all interesting and memorable, which it does a surprisingly good job of. Idolm@ster features an amazing ensemble of voice actors that do a fantastic job of bringing these characters to life, both on stage singing as idols or off stage exchanging playful banter with each other.
Ironically, the true unsung hero is actually the main protagonist. Given a largely clean slate, the nameless "producer" remains very undeveloped and uncharacterized, acting as a role of sorts for the viewer to jump into, (if one was interested in that sort of stuff). What it also meant was that the spotlight always on the girls, never stolen away to implicate or relate the girls with a largely support figure character, romantically or otherwise. Funny how irrelevant the titular character ended up being.
There are many standout qualities The Idolm@ster offers, but the gem of the glitter has to go to the cinematography. In many ways the cinematic progression of the show reflects the characters themselves. While 'offstage' the production value is reasonable at best, easy to look at but not spectacular. The anime goes about it's daily business, not hinting at the show that's about to come.
Then, as stage is set and the music cues, here's when you finally realize that all bets are off. Explosions of lights and sound ensue, magnificently choreographed sequences aided by thrilling transitions, zooms, pans and cinematic techniques I didn't even think Japan knew existed, all cumulating in an electrify experience that's really putting my vocabulary limit to the test. The contrast of onstage and off really allows you to appreciate the level of workmanship devoted into these few minutes of animation. And then there's the ED sequences, which being unique to each episode itself is already unprecedented, also offers some great imagineative style backed with wonderfully fitting music. I have nothing more to say about The Idolm@ster's production value, other than two giant thumbs up of approval.
The Idolm@ster is in many ways a neat little snippet into a prominent Japanese idol subculture. Though perhaps not entirely accurate and/or realistic, The Idolm@ster takes a risk with it's presentation, using what could easy come off as a simplistic and childish tone, and instead delivering on a show that has both enthusiasm, energy and character.
Watch Idolm@ster with an open heart, and you'll quickly discover the sparkle that is perhaps one of the most underrated anime this season.
There are some anime series that you desperately want to love. You’re either drawn in by the premise, one of the characters will strike your fancy for some reason and you’ll begin a furious Pixiv binge in search of any fanart of them to the point that your computer crashes and you’re declared legally dead, or you see some shimmer of pure gold underneath that thick sheen of shit and mediocrity and want to see if it’ll be more evident later on. The Idolmaster was one of the latter series, and it left me feeling entirely unsatisfied from start to finish.
The premise is simple enough:
Twelve girls of questionable talent with single-note personalities and insecurities all vie for the chance to become idols with the help of their talent company and their ever-faithful producer. This single idea takes them all over Japan as their popularity inexplicably soars and they learn important things like trust, friendship, and synchronized dancing. Say what you will about the overall quality, it sticks to this premise throughout without ever losing the spirit of the idea. If you’re not in the market for a show all about the power of friendship or supposedly catchy pop music, there won’t be much for you here.
For me, the most important thing in any show is how the characters develop and interact. Something with a fantastic plot or great production won’t leave much of an impression if the characters don’t; see Madoka Magica. Unfortunately, this is the first and gravest misstep that the Idolmaster makes.
Though it really can’t be helped with such a large cast of main characters, there isn’t much gravity to how the characters develop or interact. One minute, soliloquies are dropped regarding what problems a certain character has on their rocky road to idol stardom, the next the plot tousles them on the head, tells them to move on with their lives, and it’s never brought up again. While I understand that everybody is supposed to develop, it still feels awkwardly crammed in when it shouldn’t be.
This would be acceptable if all of the characters were memorable in some way, but some quite simply shine over the many others, leading to some intimate moments feeling resolved much too quickly in order to get back to what the Idolmaster perceives to be the most important characters. Haruka and the Futami twins seem to take up the most time, leaving the likes of Azusa and Makoto in the background for all but a few scant moments when they could have been fleshed out and humanized much more.
These overly-sentimental bits are punctuated every so often by the meddling of a rival talent company, 961 Pro, led by the conniving Takao Kuroi, which essentially play out the same each time. While they’re a welcome distraction from the slew of halfhearted character developments, these scenes could have easily been left out without the series suffering in any way. Don’t get me wrong, these were the only episodes in which I believed that the 765 Pro girls would come out more mature and fleshed out in the end, but I acknowledge their overall pointlessness. They take away nothing from the experience, but they add very little in return.
Where the Idolmaster came closest to breaking out of mediocrity was in the last few episodes, as Haruka dealt with everyone’s newfound success and consequential estrangement. It’s well paced and actually competent, leading to a complete departure from the episodic format of before.
Story and character-wise, the Idolmaster falls a bit flat for me, even with the competently strung together drama in the final episodes. However, if there is one area where it shines, it’s definitely the production. The animation is crisp, the character designs are pleasing to the eye and soft by comparison, the dancing is wonderfully choreographed, the music could actually be confused for something thrown onto the market to be bought by thousands of impressionable Japanese teens and otaku of all sorts… in short, the Idolmaster went all out to bring the games to life, and that’s something to be admired.
Yet, for all the dazzling displays and occasional moments of interesting storytelling, the Idolmaster fails to be anything more than a flashy series that’s ultimately completely forgettable. Yet I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is the best adaptation of the game series that anybody’s ever going to make. I tried to like the Idolmaster for what it was, and I did enjoy it every now and then, but overall it was a disappointing experience that I wouldn’t in good faith recommend.
The Idolm@ster is an ecchi anime with tons of fanservice but don't worry, your parents won't get mad because there is never any sex! A Producer enters a world with tons of lonely models and they get into many panty-revealing, nose bleeding adventures. The harem increases one by one and soon, all the girls just want the producer to touch their boobs. If you are a man, I definitely recommend this anime. Why should we ever bother with hentai anymore? That's all Idolm@ster is about....
....Or so you thought.
Well then, sorry to disappoint you but I lied. For some reason, Idolm@ster tries to sell
itself in a way that strays from its true focus. It's probably a conscious decision for the director to choose a poster that screams "ECCHI". However, it doesn't stop there because while Idolm@ster is a fun slice of life that tosses around cliche characters with smiles and jokes that make you feel warm it, ultimately rolls out two of the most intense drama arcs I've come to enjoy.
At a first glance, the characters seem to be the strongest point of the show. The show emphasizes this by dedicating episodes to each of them. Yet the characters are where I have my most complaints. Each idol represents a typical character trait - from a friendly klutz, to playful twins, a prince who tries to be a princess - we've seen them all. Also, some of the characters just feel less important, which is understandable because there are 13 main idols, but not really an excuse because you wouldn't attempt such a show if you didn't have the confidence in developing 13 characters.
Still, despite the flaws, Idolm@ster somehow is able to make each character memorable and fresh. The way they react with each other is extremely important in achieving this. Yayoi's episode would not have been so enjoyable if it wasn't for Iori. Chihaya and Haruka's relationship is a joy to watch and Miki's relationship with "Honey" is very fun. They are just side stories that continue throughout the whole series even though the series is episodic. We end up with a very heartwarming series as the characters support each other to achieve their dreams.
I also quite enjoyed the variety of ideas. Sometimes we get almost pointless episodes like Hibiki's and Azusa's that just make you laugh but then we suddenly get serious ones like Miki's. The most important episodes are the last 4 towards the end of the series where it unravels into a melodrama that really pulls some emotional strings. The directing was also varied as the first episode was all shown through a camera all the way through and episode 15 was a whole show that the idols were hosting.
Yet what I love about this anime most is how everything seemed so simple, so happy, but there were tons of rather dark and complicated moments. The president's background with the antagonist president was enough to get you thinking. The whole introduction of " Ryūgū Komachi" made me feel extremely uncomfortable, because I just couldn't help feeling how jealous all the rest of the girls must have felt which was most apparent in Miki. The Futami twins episode made me feel even more uncomfortable because while it looked as if Mami was unhappy because she wanted to be with Ami, I really felt a bit of jealousy in her tone. The foreshadowing of Chihaya's past in many of the episodes really piqued my interest. It's funny how even in a beach episode with 13 idols, you get a small scene which ends up with a discussion about what if fame doesn't end with what you actually wanted. Haruka's feelings in her last arc, are actually quite dark. Realizing that what she wants is selfish, she keeps it all to herself but in the end it's too much for her. And don't forget about Iori's blackmailing. There are many hidden emotions that never are being said, most notably Chihaya's anger towards Miki for abandoning practice even though she was the one who kept the group together when they all were worried. They are all little things, but when you put them together, you realize that this is no coincidence and they were scattered throughout the show on purpose. It adds an extra layer.
I'm not that great in talking about animation and sound but I feel this anime definitely deserves some sort of recognition for it. The music was definitely fun and fitting but it really wouldn't have made an impact if it wasn't for those live performances. Those music videos were gorgeous. There is something special about the camera angles, the lights that explode, the choreography and uniforms, its just plain eye candy. They really put a lot of effort into making them - the details to the flying hair, few recycled scenes - I loved them all.
You see, Idolm@ster sells itself as a simple slice of life but if you pay enough attention, you'll notice the complex ideas hidden away in the story. Its easy to compare Idolm@ster to K-On!, as both seem to be a character-focused shows about girls having fun, yet I feel Idolm@ster tries to trick the watcher into thinking that while it dashes small hints of jealousy and sadness in the background. Its almost like a real show, because your idols are gorgeous on stage, but they are just humans behind the scenes.
Story: 3 (no impact. Mostly episodic, and while episode 08 is the only one that i like, the rest was boring for me)
Art: 8 (moe-moe cute girls)
CHaracter: 2 (annoying and childish)
Overall: 2 (don't bother this at all)
Before proceeding to review sentence, allow me to apologize for my harsh overall ratings.
The Idol Master has potential to be the most entertaining idol anime because it was adopted by A-1 Picture that notably has abundant budget to create appealing animation, art, and music/OST. Unfortunately it falls apart from the expectation due to that it diverges its way from being realistic in idol topic...or not
so serious if you like. The reason i prefer idol anime to be more serious nuance is because idol anime heavily involved in, not only in character development from childish to more mature idol-like person, but also frequent engagement in business commercial that may connect to political things.
Below is a quick bird view for screening purpose. If you don't want to see those things, please see the other two idol anime out there.
Things that are lack of:
- Very little internal conflict exists within group members and individual
- Very little competition, and thus conflict, between idol group
- No idols scandal at all
- Mediocre Lack of management, marketing, networking story of how to lift the idol group to the top
- Although there are some internal problems needed to be solved by idol group member, most of problems are trivial, which don't need to have manager for that. It is just as if the manager and director in idol master is represented just for the sake of completeness, without further development.
- No interesting characteristics or traits of idol members. Worse, most characters are annoying as hell
Idol Master could be said to be similar just like school club activity (slice-of-life), except it was flavored with idol taste. So it's just sad that, while art and choreography are sparkling, it's not be complemented with more mature and non-mediocre story, the things that i'm looking for, hence ripping off the balance of interesting dimensions of idol topic.