Hi! Another Robert's Too Late Reviews to be had here! Get it while it's hot! This entry is interesting as its a continuation of the Idolmaster series, which, if you missed my evaluation of the first round, was a fairly pleasant ride through watching a group of girls blossom as idols. This time we go down this similar path, but instead with a few new wrinkles thrown into the mix. While rated overall the same for me, Cinderella Girls is the inferior of the two groups, but nevertheless is an entertaining ride. I do recommend giving the girls a try if you like this genre, but don't expect the moon and you should have an enjoyable time. Will there be new pics/plastics on the RTLR wall/shelves of glory? Let's rock this bad boy.
The basic premise remains intact, in that there are girls who are vying to become idols and the story focuses on them and their issues as they come up the ranks. Last time the girls become quite popular and the show struggled with the idea of keeping the 'family' together, so to speak, after fame hits. This time, however, we're dealing more with the struggle of actually breaking through to fame a great deal more. There are many other similarities that will be immediately visible to returning Idolmaster fans. The producer still does not have a name beyond Producer-san, though this guy is quite creepy to the point they make jokes about it, whereas the last producer was personable and, well, not super creepy. Even though the poor new producer is mistaken for a suspicious character everywhere he goes, he really does give his all for the girls of the Cinderella Project. There is also tv shows involved, and the girls have to promote themselves in various ways. They also hold a handful of shows before the primary 'main' event, though these meet with some rather disastrous results.
There are some notable differences as well. The girls are all almost immediately broken down into trios, duos, or soloists instead of focusing on the overall group and then single singers like in the first season. First time around, we really only had one trio that held any show time, them still being just a note on the side. These duos and trios are where the bulk of the emotional and character based troubles are produced, and where the growth is truly found. Another major change is that where 765 Pro was a small company, the new production company is huge and has a full stable of idols in operation already, and are not just relying on the success of the main cast. A final difference of note is that the antagonistic elements of the story originate from inside the company instead of outside. Last time they had to deal with the boys from the rival company. This time it's a new president of the company that wants to ruthlessly cut any performer that isn't just perfect. Her eye falls on several of the Cinderella Project girls, and only through the fierce fighting of the producer are they given a chance to prove themselves and become successful.
Even though most of the girls are cheery and happy, they learn quickly and early that becoming an idol is not an easy road, and some of the girls take it very hard when they're not just instant stars, leading to struggles in keeping the individual units together. One group might have a girl attempting to drop out for foolish reasons, and another might have clashing personalities in their setup and have to learn to live in balance with each other.
Later the new studio president comes along, rips everyone's idol status from them, and then completely reorganizes the entire cast lineup, completely doing away with some of the trios and duos, and forming new matches that didn't exist before, tossing a liberal dose of chaos to the poor girls who weren't on that great of footing to start with. This situation causes all kinds of personal drama and issues for the girls as they struggle to keep their heads above water and off the president's chopping block. The producer decides to go all in on the girls, proposing to the president a concert he calls the Cinderella Ball, where his girls can have a chance to sing and shine. The president grudgingly agrees, still expecting failure. She's particularly hard on a single girl, breaking the girl's confidence and leading her to question her abilities and why she's even in the program at all. The end run is the girls coming together for the Ball, and whether or not the bummed girl can find the confidence to shine even when others doubt her. The Ball comes, and only the stroke of the metaphorical 'midnight' can tell if the girls pull through to shine together.
The show looked about like the last one, not any real major improvement from my seat here. Not that it was needed, it's not as detailed as Love Live! or other anime out there, but the look is perfectly serviceable, and the colors are nicely done. I did not find anything distracting or overtly bad.
There is one interesting thing, however. There's no overly unusual hair colors. No pinks, purples, greens, or even blues. The first season had several blue haired girls, but no such thing on this season. There's one girl with silvery/white hair, but that's about it.
There is, like in the first season, lots of music to be heard through the series, and as long as you're okay with the styling of the pop music (and if you're not, I doubt you would want to see this) you'll hear some nice tunes. The girls all have little numbers that go along with them and sound appropriate for the personas of the performers.
The opener and closers all sounded exactly as expected, but are not as catchy as some of the tunes in season one. The background music also is properly done, not sticking out too much, and filling in where needed for emotional moments and what have you. Good music for an idol show, who'd guess it?
The voices are fairly well done. No one sticks out as overly terrible, save for the meowing girl. I cannot STAND the meowing cat girl types. Now they can dress all catty, and act silly, but start meowing when they speak, and I'm just outta there. The 'mysterious' girl this time around sounds a little weaker than the 'mysterious' girl from season one, but not by much. You should expect a handful of teen girls, and they sound exactly like that.
The girls are all fairly varied and interesting, with a few holdover types from the previous season. Again we get the always sleepy girl, and there's another mysterious type chick, and of course the required girl full of determination chanting 'let's do our best!' for the whole show. They are varied enough to be interesting, but none save for one or two stand out enough that I'll remember their names now that I'm done watching the show. Varied enough to work in the show's framing, but not memorable enough to stick with me, save the best girl.
The producer is pretty funny, in that everyone thinks he's a pervert or creep just because he looks kind of caveman-ish. He's a caring, protective producer, but cursed with scary looks. He's all about management with care, giving the girls room to shine before casting them aside. He wants each girl to have the time and training she needs to do her very best before being judged.
This is in conflict with the new studio president. She believes in ruthless efficiency and that every girl that isn't immediately a sure bet should be released. She rules with a bit of an iron fist, but her intentions aren't truly evil, they are just a bit severe. She wants whats best too, she just is more than prepared to trim the 'fat' wherever she thinks she sees it. It takes the producer to remind her that even diamonds come in the rough and need to be polished before they can truly shine their greatest. She openly admits she disagrees with the producer, but allows his Ball to be put on, and even sends him the papers for a new set of girls once the Ball is over and everything is said and done. Fire and ice, those two, but it seemed to bring out the best in everyone.
I did enjoy the series, and it had several moments that were tense and I worried the girls were going to break under the strain of what they were facing. Because the show did shuffle characters around in different musical configurations, it made me think a lot of things were possible as to who made the final curtain call. It isn't as sure of a ride as the first season where it was more than evident that all the girls were successful, in fact that was the plot point for that season, instead this time we were left to wonder if all the girls were even going to make it as idols at all. The resolution, and what happens after the stroke of midnight for the Cinderella Girls was satisfying and pulled everything together nicely.
Best Girl: Ranko. She's not quite as good at the mystery air as Takane was in season one, but she's still pretty goth and always saying strange things, which I just loved about her. She's also the only girl with anything close to un-'natural' hair, a silvery white that accented her black gothic outfits and her strange sayings perfectly.
To close, I liked Idolmaster, and I think if you like these kinds of shows, you will too. It's not the top tier anime in the genre, but it's a solid entry for sure. There's no new entry for Cinderella Girls on the RTLR wall, but Best Girl Ranko scored a spot on the Idolmaster shelf, alongside the 13 girls from season one (in their Beyond the Shine concert outfits). So give it a try, maybe the glass slipper will fit on you too!