Originally intended to be one continuous two-cour series, due to production problems, the show's run ended early with episode 13. Re-airings of the original The iDOLM@STER anime aired in the rest of the purchased timeslots. The originally planned second cour returned as a second season July 18, 2015.
The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls is like the party of the most popular kid in class you get invited to even though you’ve never really talked to them before. When you arrive you realize, oh wait, you don’t actually know anyone there and everyone’s already talking to each other. So you start filling a plate with carefully picked food before walking over to lean on the wall that’s not too close yet not too far from the crowd to have people think you’re a loner while you begin slowly chewing away, trying to look busy.
As a big fan of the original iDOLM@STER who’s seen the original series and the movie twice and planning on a third time, you should’ve seen my face when they announced another season. It was still iDOLM@STER, even if only tangentially, and iDOLM@STER holds a special place in my heart. But this… this was just never quite what I wanted it to be. I couldn’t find the passion in it that drew me in to the original so quickly – it felt way more content with its character quirk busywork, and it never really lived up to its potential. And frankly, I’m not sure if it ever even wants to. It spent so much of its time trying to sell its characters to its rabid pre-existing fanbase, and what momentum it might try to build only ended up dithering away through its obsessive focus on keeping its one-note personalities as intact and samey as possible.
While the directors of this and the original iDOLM@STER do have very different styles, it really did feel like there’s a certain energy that was missing here. And it’s not quite that it was less upbeat (although it certainly was less upbeat) and more that it was missing this extra layer of creator personality. It felt like it was just going by the motions – like it was just being iDOLM@STER – what with it spending so much time on giving each character quirk its dedicated screentime. And, sure, you could make an argument that the original iDOLM@STER also went by its motions, but it felt like this show really ramped up the optimisation for Maximum Screentime Efficiency. The original iDOLM@STER felt like it was directed by someone who likes The iDOLM@STER, while this felt like it was directed by someone who just really likes anime.
And with the less creator personality in this show it also apparently comes without any of the cynicism present in the original – this really is just much more content with its characters quirking it out and letting the fans do the rest of the engagement work. Something from the original that really caught me off by surprise was during the Gero-Gero Kitchen reality cooking show where they deliberately show these small visual asides like a cameraman focusing their camera on Haruka and Chihaya when they fell over, trying to frame their compromising situations with an enticing spin. The show wasn’t going to make its quirks Super Nuanced Characters but it was moments like this along with how it liked to revel in some of its obvious ridiculousness that I thought really gave it an extra breath of life.
I bring this up because there was a scene halfway through one of the earlier episodes with three idols posing in police uniforms when one of them suddenly bursts open, revealing part of her chest. They give it a close-up shot and play it completely straight, with no cameramen zooming in or even any remarks from the audience.
And I was like, “what?”
It’s a small scene, yeah, but it didn’t feel like something The iDOLM@STER would ever really do. It almost felt like a sort of cynicism in its own way, like the creators were sticking to their market data studies and concluded they needed to add something like this every once in a while between all the quirk screentime to maximise its fan appeal. But it didn’t stop there.
I thought the biggest offender of this show’s constrained, passionless core was when three other idols ended up on a variety show and they play out their quirks without missing a single beat. Having them go on a variety show was fine, but having them go on a variety show and just letting their one-note personalities do all the work felt pretty darn lazy. It put the focus on their inherent character, but since they’re pretty much entirely predefined entities there wasn’t a whole lot of personality to them in the first place. Of course, you could draw the immediate comparisons to the original iDOLM@STER’s Namassuka!? Sunday, but that episode felt far more playful and self-aware. The show never really gives most of its expansive cast any particular nuance and it’s especially exacerbated by the very passive, self-contained writing – all the small moments of self-seriousness kept piling and piling but refusing to burst, leaving the entire segment feeling even less passionate than some of its busiest of busywork.
And I think it’s really a shame because this show’s more organic dynamics could’ve really worked well with the things it tried to do, and it didn’t have to compromise any of its own integrity to do it. The performances, while not entirely common, were fantastic visual treats, and they were great to see how far this show could stretch its creative muscles. Its dramatics had visual subtlety in spades, and it imbued a whole wealth of personality to even the smallest of gestures – a small hand movement or a slight sideways glance – that spoke quiet volumes by themselves and helped keep everything firmly grounded in the personal. I don’t think we've ever really had anything like this in the original iDOLM@STER outside of dramatic setpieces like episodes 20 and 24, so there were parts of this that almost felt like a completely different show.
Because the more I keep looking at it, the more I can see its very obvious strengths. The genuine heart I could feel from Producer's final "You had a nice smile today" despite his usually stoic and uninvolved nature brought the biggest grin to my face from all the shows I've seen in the past month, and it was a perfect reflection of both the Producer's and idols' journeys while very smartly playing to this show's talents as an organic and natural product. It's something unique to this show you could've only barely found with the original iDOLM@STER, because that was rarely going to try to be as grounded as this. It's a high-profile, high-budget, and high-effort franchise blockbuster that could've done things few other shows would've ever even dreamed of. It’s not over yet, and there’s still a whole second cour to go, so maybe this is when things will actually start kicking in and this show can finally be the star it’s always wanted to be. But for now all I can think about is how the ballroom's been packed for hours, yet it's been dead quiet - the ball's halfway over, and no one's really tried to dance.
It's difficult to view The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls in a vacuum. For a story existing in the same universe as the original iDOLM@STER series, it seems only natural that it should be judged against it. The formula is a bit different this time, but an idol anime is an anime; at the end of the day, there are going to be things that I want from it.
Unfortunately, however, it may in this comparison against the original series where Cinderella Girls falls the most. There are differences and similarities both: 765 Pro was a small agency, whereas 346 is a massive one; 765 was already together in its entirety before the series started, whereas Cinderella Girls devotes some time to the formation of the group as a whole; both groups started as amateurs, and the anime follows their climb to relative stardom. But throughout almost any comparison you can make, Cinderella Girls falls short to the original. The characters are less memorable and more underdeveloped; the plot is relatively dry and the pacing worse; even the music isn't as good. However tempting it is to use the original iDOLM@STER as a ruler to measure all successes and failures of Cinderella Girls, I will attempt to judge it by its own merits, to the extent that it is possible.
A note: This review will have minor spoilers. I'll try to not go into specifics, so you can still watch it with fresh eyes.
The story of Cinderella Girls may easily be the worst part about it, as a whole. There were relatively basic problems in pacing and escalation of plot. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that in a series with so many characters would spend the leading episodes building up personalities and relationships, then start to break some of them down near the end, adding drama and suspense, only to finally (because this is a happy happy idol anime!) bring everyone back together through the power of hard work and friendship. However, even in this regard, Cinderella Girls fails rather convincingly. The primary complication you'd expect from an idol anime is the whole "I can't do this! I'm letting everyone down! I don't want to be an idol anymore, I quit!" was used far too early, and it undercut all subsequent drama. At least let us get to know and care for these girls before trying to pull them away and make us care about it.
Moreover, the way that Cinderella Girls attempted to actually introduce each of these characters to us is rather odd. It's to be expected that the early/middle part of the series be devoted to giving us a view of each of these up and coming idols, developing character and personality. However, Cinderella Girls attempted to go about this in a way that didn't work for me; by dividing the group into subunits, and giving each solo, duo, or triplet group their own episode. Sadly, this quickly developed into a formulaic approach that was far more boring than it should have been. The asymmetric distribution of screentime also led to skewed views of the characters; it's far easier to understand the characters that got a solo episode than it is those who had to split screentime 3 ways (with the exception of the "main 3", I suppose).
In the end, the buildup to the climax was plenty believable. I don't even consider it to be a spoiler to say that, of course, the anime ended with a group concert. The leadup was well enough paced, with it being a relatively natural step up from their previous activities. However, the drama (because there has to be drama!) was really quite weak. Why choose the character we arguably know the least about to be the centerpiece for the conflict of the episode? That's not to say there wasn't some decent resolution: The main 3 overcoming their problems since early on was nice to see, and I adored Anastasia's role at the end. However, though the ending wasn't terrible, neither was it wholly satisfying. It just ended things adequately.
Nothing bad to say here. They've done a fantastic job of making the series looking great, like the original before it. The concerts have always been the high point of animation for the iDOLM@STER series, and Cinderella Girls was no exception; it's worth noting, however, that I felt the actual number of performances to be lacking. Songs overlapped dialogue often and fully animated dance + song sequences were limited. That's a small criticism, however, seeing as the art in general was very good. Overall, this is probably the strongest area of the anime, together with its music.
I think the easiest way to judge this section is, truly, by comparison. Speaking honestly, I think the music in Cinderella Girls was inferior to the original iDOLM@STER, and to other series, like Love Live. That's actually not saying too much though, because in my opinion the music from those other series was phenomenal. The music in Cinderella Girls was good; it was well composed, and the performances were exciting to listen to. Perhaps not as memorable as some other series, but good nonetheless. Oh, and for what it's worth, I think the OP is the strongest song by far (other than, maybe, the solo idol's piece)
The voice acting was actually quite strong, especially in the cases where it might typically break down. Of course, we had the girl that it seems every idol anime needs, adding an excess of "nyaa~~"s into every sentence, but we also had a Russian girl speaking broken Japanese, a producer that had difficulty being less formal, and girl who's country style accent was fun to listen to. The voice actors did a good job of matching the characters and imbuing them with life.
I could talk about this forever, but I'll try not to. With 14 idols, it's impossible for things like this to not spiral into a discussion of "best girl". Certainly, some characters stood out more than others, but unfortunately, they often coincided with whichever characters were given more of the extremely limited screentime. As such, nearly all the characters seemed at most one dimensional, at worst simply walking representations of a single idiosyncrasy.
The "side" characters were actually some of the most interesting. Mika was a joy whenever she was on screen, and the Producer had just enough personality to keep it interesting (although the creeper/hentai jokes were a tad overused). The "from the sidelines" view of the other idols at 346 Production was fun to see, and of course I was delighted whenever a billboard or such would reference the 765 girls or Jupiter. Also, good ol' Yoshizawa~
(For what it's worth, my Top 3 "best girls" are Rin, Anastasia, and Mio, with Rika and Uzuki coming shortly after)
Boy did I try hard to enjoy this anime. As such, even a 7 might be somewhat inflated. The middle of it dragged on, and I found myself just starting to like some characters before they were wrenched away from the screen for 3-4 episodes. I held out for the songs, but having them performed almost exclusively by a small subset of the group was nearly uniformly disappointing. Then I held out for the end concert, and was only mildly disappointed; I came for the music and animation, and was rewarded in those, but was let down in the character department pretty heavily. It was hard to get behind the zany hijinks of this ragtag bunch, mainly because so much of the interpersonal antagonism felt surprisingly cruel-hearted. It'd be one thing of the pestering was lightly done, but often, in the cases of characters like Anzu or Riina, it actually was just pessimistic or mean.
I watched this anime because I really wanted more idol anime. I like the themes of overcoming odds through hard work, of friendship and unity helping a group become greater than the sum of their parts. I like the music and the spectacle of the performances. I like the sense of struggling through training and growing because of it. Cinderella Girls touched on each of these, and satisfied my desire for them on the barest of levels. I hold some lingering respect for the series because of its resemblance to the original, which I love, and some resentment because it wasn't able to live up to it.
I would not recommend this anime to anyone who isn't looking specifically for an idol anime. The plot is not engaging, the characters are not particularly amazing, and you can get all the music an performance you need by looking up the songs on YouTube. If you're like me and just need to watch more idol anime, whether because you're obsessed with forming best girl lists, or because you want to relive your high school days of performance (like me), then Cinderella Girls will pass. Barely.read more
As one of those clueless idol anime fans out there, I'll be honest here. I watched Cinderella Girls before I bothered to watch the original. Now, I was reluctant to watch the original after watching this because I thought to myself "wow, look at all these unique characters and great songs in Cinderella Girls", now that I look back at myself for thinking that, I want to slap myself as hard as I can this instant.
So some people are probably wondering what the huge hate on Cinderella Girls is compared to the original iDOLM@STER, now I'll put this example as a real life scenario. You all have seen those food commercials on TV or on your computer and said to yourself "Damn, that looks delicious" and you decide one day to go out and get that food you saw on the commercial to try for yourself and you see it as half the portion and not even relatively close to the food you saw on the commercial, this is what it exactly is like. A pile of misleading directions trying to sway on how you really want to think.
"Omg, why is this guy rating the story 5 for Cinderella girls while he rated it 7 for original iDOLM@STER?!?! Aren't they both basically about cute girls singing cute songs???" No, just no, this is the statement that refrains new-coming anime viewers to avoid anime with these kind of genres. Cinderella Girls is probably inferior in mostly every way compared to the original iM@S series. While the original was based on starting from the bottom, working together with friendship and hardships, going through fun times and the sad times, Cinderella Girls is the complete opposite. The way they produced this was literally half-hearted, they plopped the girls into one big room and forced them to mingle and that's how 346 Cinderella Girls was formed.
Even though the art for the original and Cinderella Girls are basically the same and made from the same studio, Cinderella Girls didn't give the same feeling as it did in the original. In Cinderella Girls it had those very lazy intros to each characters, such as just putting a caption under the character with their name on it rather than in the original where they zoomed up to each characters face trying to catch the viewers attention, it was a very half-hearted thing to do. They also had very awkward moments when they dressed up different, I'll take Rin for an example when she was dressing up for Mika's TOKIMEKI concert. Her face and her clothing were very awkward looking when she looked at herself in the mirror.
Why am I giving this a 10 if I said that this is inferior to the original in mostly every way? The keyword there was mostly. I'll be frank here when it comes to the song, it was very catchy indeed, the group songs were honestly better compared to the original group songs IMO (I have downloaded majority of the original iM@S Live The@ter series, the 765 Allstars pros, and their Solo Collection, same with Cinderella Girls, I downloaded all the Jewelry albums and some of their solos. I have to say that the group songs for Cinderella Girls is more pleasing to me while the solos for original is better, but that's just me. As far for how the characters sound, they all fit their character basically. Each character getting assigned to their personality with a specific Japanese artist, nothing too special.
Why are the characters such a low rating? Think of it this way, you go to your local Free Market just to see what's going on and you see a pair of Nike knockoffs that were smuggled in to be sold for a cheap price, let's say 20 dollars whilst you saw the same design of those shoes at the mall for 150 dollars. That is how you describe these characters, majority of them are just a half-baked knock off of the original characters while adding some new personalities to jazz it up and not get repeated. I'm not saying this is a bad thing because I love the Cinderella Girls characters also, but they just don't feel that attachable if you get what I'm saying. Each character has such a rushed development and doesn't make you feel that attachable to them. The main issue in this series were the separative groups such as Candy Island, Love Laika, and New Generations. This was a huge mistake in an anime such as this, I honestly think that this is what enraged some of the original series fanbase because the original had them all work together and go through the hardship together while in Cinderella Girls if they had an issue within the subgroup, it was their issue to deal with as the other girls just shrugged it off not trying to get involved with them.
Now I realize I sound hypocritical after saying at the beginning on how I watched this before the original series, but hear me out. I would've honestly given this an 8 or a 9 and the others a much higher rating if I never watched the original series, but this felt so inferior compared to the original after I watched it. They add melancholic drama to Cinderella Girls that shouldn't even exist. For example, when Mio got sad when she realized she performed in such a small crowd. I thought to myself "You fucking selfish bitch, you still performed in front of people tat a god damn mall, how do you think 765 felt when they got turned down from local auditions and had to perform in a country side full of middle aged people and elderly?!?!". This part is what infuriated me when I didn't even watch the original series at first, but after watching the original that specific part in Cinderella Girls just infuriated me even more. So for those who don't want to read this scumbag rant of mine I'll write a TL;DR below here
THE ORIGINAL IS BETTER THAN CINDERELLA GIRLSread more
My experience with the idol genre of anime can be summed up with “Love Live”. Based on that being the most popular entry in the genre, I didn’t hold out much hope that Cinderella Girls would blow me away. That being said, despite some preconceived notions upon starting, Cinderella Girls proved to me that the idol genre is basically a giant game of best girl and the only reason anyone watches anime of this type is to bitch about the crappy characters and gush over the good ones. So, in other words, Cinderella Girls cemented what Love Live had already taught me.
But Cinderella Girls is actually a much better series. The focus here is on a large variety of girls and their backstage shenanigans. There’s no school life or anything like that, this is about training, promoting, and doing shows.
The initial episodes introduce us to a trio of characters who I guess we can consider the main girls. Rin, Uzuki, and Mio are picked up by a producer to join an idol project known as Cinderella Girls. From there we are given a bevy of other characters who are put into units and gradually make CD debuts. After we get an idea of the overall dynamic, an episode is dedicated to each of the units which is then followed by the entire group coming together again. It’s pretty well done pacing, though suffers initially because of how boring the first three characters are. Once you get past that hurdle, the series is a lot less rocky and much more entertaining.
There’s not a lot of story to be found though; no running thread or immediacy to the plot. Cinderella Girls plays out a lot more like a slice-of-life. While there is the occasionally painful drama piece (Mio walking away was ridiculously forced and underdeveloped) the lack of story gives the huge cast air to breathe and develop. I’m sure the second season is where we’ll see an actual plot given that the viewer is now pretty well acquainted with each cast member.
Something I enjoyed and found unique was that there was a male main character, the unnamed producer. While he’s not the most exciting person, being very stoic through most of the season, he does have moments of tenderness and comedy. I hope we see him open up more in the second season.
Getting into the huge cast of girls would be a pain in the ass in the typical format. So I guess it’s time to play the biggest game of Best Girl this site has ever seen!
15. Miku Maekawa- The prerequisite cat girl who says nyan after every sentence annoyingly, Miku is a cancer. All she does is bitch and cry, treat other characters like shit, and continually do that terrible cat girl thing. She’s the worst girl and I’d fire her ass on the spot if I was the producer. She ruins the dynamic and really brings the entire cast down.
14. Chieri Ogata- The crybaby moeblob piece of shit. Go away. You’re useless.
13. Kanako Mimura- The fat one who eats and bakes a lot of sweets. This is when we move from bad characters to plain boring ones.
12. Uzuki Shimamura- Why do idol anime have to have a super girly, clumsy, and entirely uninteresting main character? She’s basically the exact same as Honoka. A “let’s do it everyone” attitude may be inspiring to younger girls, but to me, is way overdone and doesn’t create a compelling lead.
11. Kirari Moroboshi- Super tall and super unexciting.
10. Miria Akagi- The youngest girl. She’s cute but not very entertaining.
9. Minami Nitta- Neither here nor there. She’s just boring.
8. Rin Shibuya- She started pretty great but gradually became another bland character with little emotion. The hesitance to be an idol is quickly forgotten and she becomes the straight man.
7. Mio Honda- Her drama portion was shit, but her character isn’t bad. She’s preppy and tomboyish. The best of the main three by a longshot.
6. Rina Tada- Rina’s a rocker girl who wears typical British-punk clothes and has a collection of head phones. She’s obsessed with rock and trying to be a rocker. While not the most developed girl, nor the most exciting, she is fun.
5. Anzu Futaba- A seventeen year old who looks like the youngest girl in the show, she’s a NEET with very little ambition. Her portions, at first, aren’t that great but she grew on me as the show continued and some of the funnier moments of the latter half came from her.
4. Rika Jougasaki- The kid sister of popular idol Mika, she’s trying to emulate her sister however she can. She’s one of the most fun characters of the show.
3. Anastasia- A Russian girl who is still learning to speak Japanese, Anastasia is really freaking adorable. She enjoys looking at stars and that’s about as much as we get of her. But what we did get I enjoyed. I loved her.
2. Mika Jougasaki- A very caring big sister who is also the most popular idol who gets any screen time, Mika is really fucking hot. She loves looking sexy and being the center of attention but wants the best for the new idols. Not the most solid character but one of the most memorable.
1. Ranko Kanzaki- Seriously one of the most adorable goth girls in any anime I’ve ever watched. She’s a chunibyou who speaks like a total weirdo but only does it to hide a very cute interior that hates horror movies and is secretly in love with the producer. She develops a lot in the show, maybe more than any of the other girls, as by the end she’s speaking like a normal person and is a lot warmer than she was initially. She may not be the most complex or even the cutest character but she is definitely the best combination of both and my favorite character of the series.
For the most part, pretty solid. A lot of the characters don’t look unique enough to stand out while a couple (Ranko and Mika) are really memorable. During movement the animation is fluid though characters can look kind of strange. Even during still shots characters in the background can look a little derpy. But there’s nothing offensively bad and, thankfully, no CG during dance numbers.
I appreciated that, much like the cast, there was a huge variety in the music department. Each group got their own unique song and there was a new song for more minor things like training montages. While the music itself is vapid and sounds much like the rest of the idol J-pop of every other series, there are some decent ones like Ranko’s song.
It took a couple episodes before I really got into Cinderella Girls but once all the characters had been introduced, I found that this was a fun little ride even if most of it was vapid and pointless. Each episode did something new and the few really good characters brought a lot of charm and cuteness. I don’t think it’s a show that can be marathoned without getting bored, but it is a good distraction between watching other series.
At the end of the day, Cinderella Girls isn’t anything special but it does provide a more engaging and varied experience than Love Live, though not an overall more memorable cast. That’s the problem with having such a huge group of characters: some are bound to be tossed to the sidelines and never get enough development to be likeable or anything more than a facsimile of a singular character trait. So in that regard, because Love Live has a smaller cast, it does have the advantage in characters and development (well, that and it’s had two seasons so it’s unfair to really say that).
But Cinderella Girls has a few wonderful characters, pretty decent animation, some good songs, and a few memorable episodes. If you liked Love Live, I’d definitely suggest giving The Idolm@ster: Cinderella Girls the viewership it deserves.read more
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